June 17

The Health of Strangers – Lesley Kelly

The Health of StrangersNobody likes the North Edinburgh Health Enforcement Team, least of all the people who work for it. An uneasy mix of seconded Police and health service staff, Mona, Bernard and their colleagues stem the spread of the Virus, a mutant strain of influenza, by tracking down people who have missed their monthly health check. Now two young female students are missing, raising question after question for the HET. Why were they drinking in a biker’s bar? Who are the mysterious Children of Camus cult? And why is the German government interfering in the investigation? Mona and Bernard need to fight their way through lies and intrigue, and find the missing girls – before anyone else does.

My thanks to Keara at Sandstone for my review copy

 

Meet the North Edinburgh HET.

The HET?

Well that would be the Health Enforcement Team, an agency set up in the aftermath of a viral outbreak which has caused the loss of millions of lives around the world. More on that in a second…

The Health Enforcement Team are our focus in The Health of Strangers and they are an endearing dysfunctional lot. Mona was a cop who was offered the opportunity to move to HET to make a name for herself but was she perhaps shunted off to keep her out the road?  Her colleagues Bernard and Maitland also have secrets in their background or their home life so collectively they may not come across as a well-oiled unit.  The conflicts and insecurities in the team does give Lesley Kelly plenty of opportunity to get some great dialogue going between her characters – love a bit of bickering between colleagues to lighten the mood!

So the virus – a flu strain which mutated. The first wave contaminated many of the population but lots of people recovered (albeit after much discomfort). But the virus mutated and the next wave claimed many lives – those that had contracted flu in the first viral wave developed an immunity but it also meant they saw friends and loved ones die when  the virus returned in its mutated form.

Society changed, some people turned to religion (new Chapters within the churches were formed), pregnancy increased the risk of dying from the virus, different countries adapted better to controlling and containing the spread of the disease. But everyone is now required to attend regular health screenings to ensure they are not unknowingly carrying the virus – miss a screening and you are reported to the HET who are expected to find you and take appropriate action to minimize any potential contamination risks.

I really enjoyed The Health of Strangers. The dystopian setting is nicely balanced not too bleak but Edinburgh is clearly a changed city. There has been an horrific event but life still continues – but it continues differently for the survivors.  People are adaptable and the human resilience shines through but they will be suffering and their grief will channel rage and distrust – characterization will make or break a story like this and Lesley Kelly has absolutely nailed it.

I realise that I haven’t even mentioned the missing girls – the ones that have missed their Health Check, the girls that the HET are tasked with finding. The missing girls will the team busy (and frustrated) and this is the crime story at the core of the book, the investigation is well constructed and there are all the distractions and unreliable witnesses to challenge the team.

So The Health of Strangers is a crime thriller in a dystopian and ravaged Edinburgh with a great cast and the pages which virtually turned themselves.  I bloody loved it.

 

The Health of Strangers is published by Sandstone Press and is available in paperback and digital format. You can order a copy here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/d/Books/Health-Strangers-Plague-Lesley-Kelly/191098566X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1497565274&sr=8-1&keywords=lesley+kelly

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June 17

The Cigarette Boy – Rebecca Cantrell

Cigarette Boy (Hannah Vogel Collection)Berlin, 1931.

Sexy cabaret star Ernst Vogel navigates the increasingly fraught world of Berlin in the last years of the Weimar Republic. Nazi Storm Troopers and Communists fight in the streets and in his club. Wealthy Jews and intellectuals think of fleeing. Desperate sexual and social outcasts cram the famous nightclubs to wring out one last dance.

Ernst makes a promise to help the new young cigarette boy, but the boy disappears while Ernst is on stage. On the way home, Ernst finds his bloody body in an alley. After realizing the police don’t care about the death of one young hustler, Ernst determines to find justice on his own.

His search leads him into the dark heart of Berlin, where he encounters the truth about the boy’s death, and fights to save his own life.

 

My thanks to Chantelle at 22 Literary for a review copy and the chance to host a tour leg.

Longer ago than I care to remember a 17 year old me sat in a classroom in the Highlands of Scotland reading about Germany in the 20th Century.  Not the Great War, that had been covered in depth since I was 14. Nor was I reading about the Second World War – I declined the chance to study those years.  Instead I concentrated on the years between those two great conflicts and life in Germany during the time of the Weimar Republic. I was such a cool 17 year old!

But that period of German history is fascinating – not least due the rise of one particular political party which would become a symbol of fear and hatred around the world.  The problem with school textbooks and other source material is that it can make for terribly dry reading.  What I would have given at the time to have had the chance to read Rebecca Cantrell’s fantastic Hannah Vogel series instead.

Spin forward to 2017 and everyone has the chance to spend some time in 1930’s Germany.  The first three in the Hannah Vogel series have been collected into a single volume and are joined by a short story (The Cigarette Boy) of which more shortly.  Books One to Three are A Trace of Smoke, A Night of Long Knives and A Game of Lies.  We will be introduced to Vogel and learn how she manages as a widow of the Great War, working as a crime reporter and frequently coming into opposition against the National Socialists as they grow in power and influence.

The treat for readers who pick up this collected volume of is that Rebecca Cantrell has included a new short story – The Cigarette Boy – which features Hannah’s brother (Ernst).

Ernst is a cabaret singer – the star of the show – and The Cigarette Boy is mainly set within the club. We see the club manager, the pianist, the guests and of course The Cigarette Boy (he has his own aspirations of success).  There is a powerful pull of the theatre and important people want to be seen – knowing what we do of the Nazis it was something of a surprise to me that some of the top generals and ministers are frequenting the cabaret and seeking the attentions of the young starlets.

At the end of one evening Ernst learns that the Cigarette Boy has left the club and taken his tray of wares with him.  Certain expulsion from the club beckons after-all there are a string of young hopefuls waiting to fill his shoes and try to gain success on the stage. But as Ernst heads home he stumbles across the body of the Cigarette Boy – brutally murdered and left abandoned.  Ernst believes he can work out the killer’s identity but it means laying a trap and further lives could be in danger possibly his own.

Having read The Cigarette Boy I am now determined to read more of the Hannah Vogel series.  I loved Rebecca Cantrell’s writing, the detail in the setting brings the story a vibrancy and the story captures a feel of the time.

If you are already a fan of this series then the opportunity to read The Cigarette Boy is a cracking reason to pick up the collection. If you are new to the works of Ms Cantrell I always advocate reading a series in order – here are the first three books to consider.

Rebecca has put an extract from The Cigarette Boy on her website – you can read that (and browse her other novels) here.

 

The Hannah Vogel collection is available now and can be ordered on the links below: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Hannah-Vogel-Box-Set-Collectors-ebook/dp/B01ADW23MC/ref=la_B001MOS172_1_20?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1497647357&sr=1-20

 

 

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June 15

Exquisite – Sarah Stovell

ExquisiteA chilling, exquisitely written and evocative thriller set in the Lake District, centring on the obsessive relationship that develops between two writers…Bo Luxton has it all – a loving family, a beautiful home in the Lake District, and a clutch of bestselling books to her name.

Enter Alice Dark, an aspiring writer who is drifting through life, with a series of dead-end jobs and a freeloading boyfriend.

When they meet at a writers’ retreat, the chemistry is instant, and a sinister relationship develops… Or does it?

Breathlessly pacey, taut and terrifying, Exquisite is a startlingly original and unbalancing psychological thriller that will keep you guessing until the very last page.

 

My thanks to Karen at Orenda for my review copy and to Anne for the opportunity to join the tour.

 

Bo is a writer, she will be running a writing class in the Lake District and is scanning submissions from hopeful candidates. One piece stands out from all the others, it is raw it is angry and edgy and it calls to Bo.  The author, Alice Dark, receives an invitation to attend the course and she gets her fees paid which makes it possible for her to attend.

For Alice the invitation to travel from the South coast to the Lake District gives her the chance to make a break from the rut which she has found herself in.  She is living with an artist, he is 10 years older than Alice and seems content to spend his time slapping out some touristy pictures to keep himself in beer and fags. He will drop everything to find a party and shows no sign of responsibility.  Staying with him has been the easy option for Alice but she recognises life is slipping by.

Alice scrapes what she can to get to the course, she is considerably younger than the other attendees but her natural charm and easy going nature ensures she is welcomed by the other attendees (particularly the males). But it soon becomes clear to the reader that Bo and Alice are going to click – even if Alice is slightly slower to realise the extent of Bo’s fascination with her until the course is drawing to an end.

The writing week ends and the two women part, for the present, but narrative of Exquisite switches to a series of email communications between the women. We see their lives continuing and watch pondering what the other may be doing but through their email we read of a developing relationship.  Bo is married but when her husband is due to leave on a business trip for a few days she implores Alice to return to the Lake District – uncertain of what the future may hold (and aware Bo is married with young children) Alice makes the trip.

What follows is a love story which then starts to spiral out of control. Bo’s husband is the “jealous type” so she asks Alice to keep their relationship a secret, delete emails and keep a low profile.  How each woman will handle the time they spend apart will dictate how the story unfolds, it’s no surprise that the path of “true love” will not run smoothly – but is it even love?

The reader will see both sides of the story. There are power-plays, manipulation, anxiety and many, many tears. Shall we say this is a bit of an emotional rollercoaster?

I am seeing lots of love for Exquisite and I can understand why – it is a troubled love story, brilliantly constructed and the writing is top notch – plus Sarah Stovell has thrown in some nasty twists for her characters.  I personally found it swung a little too far towards a love tale but didn’t pull it far enough into back into thriller territory. This means we are falling out of my comfort zone of reading and I find those books harder to consider objectively and comment upon accurately.

As I read I was looking for comparisons and two films sprang to mind (and when I name them you will realise how little I get to see films these days)…Single White Female and The Hand That Rocks The Cradle. Now I loved both those films – strong stories and formidable characters and I consider them good stories to be compared to, I don’t have a comparable book reference.

So Exquisite – loads going for it and it will be loved by many (but I don’t think I am a typical representation of the target audience).

 

Exquisite is published by Orenda Books and is available from 15 June in paperback and is already available in digital format. You can order a copy here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Exquisite-Sarah-Stovell-ebook/dp/B06Y661QRC/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1497477225&sr=8-1

Exquisite blog tour poster (1)

 

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June 1

The Suicide Plan – Emma Clapperton

The Suicide PlanStanding up and welcoming everyone to the spiritualist church is something Patrick McLaughlin does most evenings. Most of the faces in the audience are familiar to him, except one. David Hopkirk walks into the West End Spiritualist church in Glasgow and slits his own throat in the middle of a demonstration. Buy why?

Patrick is then catapulted into a case, which sees the death of a child, a failed court case and a family torn apart.

Soon Patrick will have all the pieces of the puzzle but will he be able to fit them together in time?

 

My thanks to Sarah at Bloodhound books for a review copy and the chance to join the tour.

The Suicide Plan was a wee gem of a read. I don’t normally (well don’t ever) read short stories or novellas but I quite liked the sound of this one so decided to give it a go and I am glad I did.

The story was quite harrowing in places and Emma Clapperton is not pulling any punches as she puts her characters through the emotional wringer.  The story opens with a man who felt he had no one left to turn to for support. He takes his own life in a crowded hall in the presence of a spiritualist in the hope that his suicide will lead to his plea for help being heard from beyond the grave.
As shocking and traumatic as that incident may have been for the spiritualist, Patrick McLaughlin,  he reaches out to the deceased man to try to understand why he would take his own life. Some communication is possible and Patrick starts to look deeper into past tragedies.
No spoilers are allowed but The Suicide Plan is a cleverly delivered tale which I rather enjoyed. If you enjoy a supernatural twist to your crime stories this is one to pick up.
The Suicide Plan is published by Bloodhound Books and can be ordered here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Suicide-Plan-Emma-Clapperton-ebook/dp/B072C5294G/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1496299531&sr=1-1&keywords=the+suicide+plan
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May 31

One To Watch – Rachel Amphlett

One To WatchSophie Whittaker shared a terrifying secret. Hours later, she was dead.

Detective Kay Hunter and her colleagues are shocked by the vicious murder of a teenage girl at a private party in the Kentish countryside.

A tangled web of dark secrets is exposed as twisted motives point to a history of greed and corruption within the tight-knit community.

Confronted by a growing number of suspects and her own enemies who are waging a vendetta against her, Kay makes a shocking discovery that will make her question her trust in everyone she knows.

 

My thanks to Emma Mitchell and to Rachel Amphlett for my review copy and the chance to join the blog tour.

 

If you are not reading Rachel Amphlett’s books yet – you really should be.  One To Watch is the third in the Kay Hunter series and my favourite thus far.

At a private party the guest of honour is found brutally murdered. Her close friend knows the victim had a big secret which she was going to announce to her family the next day but could this secret have been the reason she was killed?

I don’t say this lightly but there were shades of Dame Agatha in One To Watch.  We have a small group of potential suspects:  the Lady seeking to protect the family name and ancestral home. Her husband, who has a more down-to-earth outlook on future prospects.  There is the American Businessman, he holds aspirations of joining the gentry. Their children, their minister and a rogue “bit of rough” that has invaded their idyllic life.

As you would expect the first impressions of all of these characters may be misleading and at various stages in the story you will start to doubt what they are telling the police. Some will seemingly have a very good motive for killing Sophie but did they have the opportunity.  As Kay Hunter and her colleagues start to unpick the lies and half-truths it becomes clear that some secrets will be revealed and they will have devastating consequences for those involved.

The pacing of One To Watch matched the feel of a Golden Age crime story too. There is no need for a series of high-octane set piece scenes as everything is investigated and discovered with careful shrewdness. This is a story driven by the characters, how they live, the choices they made and how they interact with those around them.

Where One To Watch also excels is when Amphlett returns to the ongoing problem that has spanned all the books in the series thus far – someone is out to get Kay Hunter.  While the “no spoilers” rule is very much in place I can hint to some incidents in One To Watch which will further develop the ongoing story arc that someone is trying to undermine her position at work and to possibly end her career permanently.  It is a delightfully eerie shadow which will hang over the whole book and I loved that.

I inhaled One To Watch and read it in two sittings. Very much the kind of book that I can get utterly lost in – a 5 star read and I immediately start looking forward to the next one.

 

One To Watch publishes on 8 June and you can order a copy here: https://itunes.apple.com/gb/book/one-to-watch/id1232535445

 

One to Watch BT Banner(1)

 

 

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May 25

Don’t Wake Up – Liz Lawler

Don't Wake UpAlex Taylor wakes up tied to an operating table. The man who stands over her isn’t a doctor.

The choice he forces her to make is utterly unspeakable.

But when Alex re-awakens, she’s unharmed – and no one believes her horrifying story. Ostracised by her colleagues, her family and her partner, she begins to wonder if she really is losing her mind.

And then she meets the next victim.

So compulsive you can’t stop reading.

So chilling you won’t stop talking about it.

Don’t Wake Up is a dark, gripping psychological thriller with a horrifying premise and a stinging twist . . .

 

My thanks to Emily at Bonnier Zaffre for my review copy and the chance to join the blog tour.

 

When books are battling for my attention and I can have half a dozen (or more) on the go at any one time then what I really need is to pick up a book which will grab my attention from the first page.  Big love for Don’t Wake Up for doing just that – the opening chapter was chilling and I wanted to keep reading.

Alex Taylor is a doctor. She had been about to meet her boyfriend but she wakes on an operating table. A strange man is standing over her wearing surgeon mask and scrubs – she doesn’t recognise the room she is in nor does she recognise the surgeon. She is absolutely terrified over what may be about to happen to her and the man forces her to make an horrific choice. The next time Alex awakes she is back in familiar surroundings and there is no evidence that anything untoward has happened.

Alex cannot make anyone believe what has happened to her and it starts to impact upon her work. Liz Lawler has done a great job of building a world around Alex and then she starts to pull it apart around her. We see Alex desperate to find a sympathetic ear, her colleagues cannot trust her judgement and as she becomes increasingly frustrated.

At the risk of exposing too much detail (avoiding spoilers) another “attack” victim will cross paths with Alex and the police will become involved. As a reader I started to wonder if I could trust what I was reading – was Alex a reliable narrator or was much of what was happening to her just a figment of her imagination?  There were times I was frustrated with how she behaved and one character (who was dismissive of everything Alex tried to explain) made me “pure raging” at several times during the book. I don’t always get that emotional involvement with characters so this is a definite plus for Don’t Wake Up.

Remember all those books demanding my attention?  Well they were all ignored while I read Don’t Wake Up. It was sufficiently nasty in places, had some good twists which I did not see coming and I realised that I had to find out what was going to happen to Alex.  Well worth hunting this one down – there’s a link below so you won’t need to look too hard.

 

Don’t Wake Up is published by Bonnier and is available now in digital format – paperback shall follow later in the year. You can get a copy here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Dont-Wake-Up-terrifying-thriller-ebook/dp/B01NBFD4YR/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

Dont Wake Up Blog Tour Poster[2819]

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May 20

The Spy Who Chipped The China Teacup – Angie Smith

Spy Who Chipped The China TeacupArms dealing. Murder. Corruption. 

In Africa, Taylor Hudson reaches the stark realisation that she is in imminent danger.

Time is nearly up when, out of nowhere, she is thrown a lifeline.  Left with little option, she places her trust in a complete stranger. But who is this stranger and why the interest in saving her?

The answers lie 6,000 miles away, deep inside the British Secret Intelligence Service, where a former, disgraced, senior officer is attempting to work his way back into the heart of the organisation. But what are his real intentions?

What ensues is a deadly game of bluff, double-bluff and triple-bluff.

Can The China Teacup survive this time?

 

My thanks to Sarah Hardy and the team at Bloodhound Books for my review copy and the chance to join the tour.

 

The Spy Who Chipped the China Teacup is certainly one of the more unusually named books I have read this year, however, the story is what I was really interested in and it is every bit as intriguing as the book title.

A spy thriller with a decidedly dark edge to it. There are some really not nice bad guys in this book and they make a lot of money through gun running. To ensure their operations remain hidden from the eyes of the authorities they are prepared to kill anyone that threatens their business. Teacup features some really unpleasant murders and Angie Smith is not going to sugar coat the experience for readers, be warned!

From the opening pages the action kicks in and the book is an adrenalin rush of a read. We meet Taylor Hudson – she is married to the main bad guy and she wants out. Taylor knows this will not be easy and the reader joins the story just as one of her husband’s henchmen finds her in the remote African wilderness. Fortunately for Taylor the man sent to kill her is actually an undercover operative that is looking to bring down the gun running business.

This may sound like a major spoiler, however, as it covers the opening few pages I am reasonably comfortable using it to illustrate one key element of The Spy Who Chipped the China Teacup – everyone in the book seems to be working to a secret agenda.  There are bluffs, double-crosses, lies, red herrings and falsehoods at every page turn. Be prepared to have to pay attention to this book as there is loads going on and you need to keep track to get maximum enjoyment.

The action spans the globe as the South of Africa, beautifully depicted, houses Hudson (the arms dealer) but it is the British Intelligence Service in London who are actively working to end his business deals. Players in this dangerous game of cat and mouse are zipped around from location to location and we see how events in Africa  can have an immediate impact on the agents working in London.  When nobody knows who they can trust it makes for a tense reading experience and Angie Smith exploits the uncertainties and duplicitous alliances with deadly efficiency.

Long ago a spy thriller would make me think of characters having clandestine chats on a park bench, leaving a coded message in a newspaper for another agent to recover. I tended not to read spy novels as there was frequently not enough going on to hold my attention.  With The Spy Who Chipped the China Teacup I can see that I need to re-evaluate my opinion of the genre – this is full on action and I had to slow my reading to ensure I was not missing any of the twists.

Great fun. It’s sneaky, twisty, shocking and a storming page-turner.

 

The Spy Who Chipped the China Teacup is published by Bloodhound Books and is available now in paperback and digital format.  You can order a copy here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Spy-Who-Chipped-China-Teacup-ebook/dp/B0725LHQRR/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

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May 19

The Fact of a Body – Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich

The Fact of a BodyBefore Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich begins a summer job at a law firm in Louisiana, working on the retrial defence of death-row convicted murderer and child molester, Ricky Langley, she thinks her position is clear. The child of two lawyers, she is staunchly anti death penalty. But the moment Ricky’s face flashes on the screen as she reviews old tapes, the moment she hears him speak of his crimes, she is overcome with the feeling of wanting him to die. Shocked by her reaction, she digs deeper and deeper into the case, realizing that despite their vastly different circumstances, something in his story is unsettlingly, uncannily familiar.

Crime, even the darkest and most unspeakable acts, can happen to any one of us, and as Alexandria pores over the facts of the murder, she finds herself thrust into the complicated narrative of Ricky’s childhood. And by examining minute details of Ricky’s case, she is forced to face her own story, to unearth long-buried family secrets, to reckon with how her own past colours her view of his crime.

As enthralling as true-crime classics such as In Cold Blood and Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil and broadcast phenomena such as Making a Murderer and Serial, The Fact of a Body is a groundbreaking, heart-stopping investigation into how the law is personal, composed of individual stories and proof that arriving at the truth is more complicated, and powerful, than we could ever imagine.

 

My thanks to Rachael at Pan Macmillan for my review copy – received through Netgalley

Non fiction – sometimes (well almost never) I read non fiction. The few times I do make a departure from my comfort zone of “made-up stuff” it has to be for a book that really captures my interest – The Fact of a Body was that book. The synopsis (as outlined above) grabbed me – why would someone so firmly against the death penalty suddenly have such a dramatic change of heart. What could one man have done to shake the fundamental belief of an educated and intelligent young woman that would make her wish him dead?  That is the kind of non-fiction story I cannot look past.

Langley arrested
Langley arrested

Ricky Langley was a paedophile who murdered a young boy and hid his body for several days before his crime was finally discovered and he was arrested and subsequently sentenced to death. The Fact of a Body will explore Langley’s story, his crimes are unflinchingly documented, his motives and behaviour will be considered and it will frequently make for uncomfortable reading.

Langley’s background and the events leading to his conviction will told by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich – a lawyer who travelled to Louisiana to work on death sentence cases during summer recess from Law School. The author tells the reader Langley’s story and cold facts are fleshed out into an absorbing narrative. At times I did feel I was reading a work of fiction such was the level of detail and the recreation of conversations that are used to build up an accurate recreation of events.

Author picture by Nina Subin
Author picture by Nina Subin

Interwoven with the Ricky Langley story is that of the author herself.  This is her tale too and Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich will give an equally unflinching account of how her life was shaped. From her first introduction to law, the fascination of arguing cases and the desire to pursue a legal career we also get her personal story. The no spoilers rule if firmly in play here but if you read through the description at the top of the review it should be clear that Langley’s case will cause the author to confront some close-to-home events in her own life.

The Fact of a Body is a compelling read. It is the story of families and the secrets they keep, the struggles they face and it is the story of a man who knows he has a problem which he cannot control, yet was allowed to live and work in a community unchallenged by the authorities until it was too late to prevent a tragic death.

I found The Fact of a Body more unsettling than many thrillers or horror stories I have read.  I put this down to knowing that the crimes I was reading about were based on fact – someone died, mistakes were made and the grief we read about were real tears shed by grieving survivors. That said, I was very glad to have read The Fact of a Body as it was such a powerful reading experience. As the blurb said…if you watched and were hooked by Making a Murderer then The Fact of a Body should be an immediate addition to your bookshelves.

 

The Fact of a Body was published on 18 May 2017 by Macmillan and you can order a copy here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Fact-Body-Murder-Memoir/dp/1509805621/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1495228425&sr=8-1&keywords=the+fact+of+a+body

 

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May 19

Need You Dead – Peter James – Guest Post – Black Widow Cocktail

Need You Dead. HB. High Res JacketToday I am delighted to welcome Peter James back to Grab This Book as the Need You Dead blog tour draws to its conclusion.

Need You Dead released on 18 May and details of the new Roy Grace thriller (along with a handy link to order your copy) follow at the foot of this post.  However, before we get there Mr James is going to wind down after a 12 leg blog tour with a wee drink…

 

The Perfect Cocktail Recipe

A vodka martini is the favourite tipple of Detective Superintendent Roy Grace. And when the protagonist of the Love You Dead, Jodie Bentley, meets her next target, wealthy Walt Klein, in a bar in the Bellagio in Las Vegas, he is happily knocking back martinis – rather too many for his own good! It also just happens to be Peter James’ drink of choice!

It was one of my favourite authors, Ernest Hemingway, who allegedly said, ‘Write drunk, edit sober…’ and another of my favourites, Raymond Chandler, famously took that to extremes, pretty much binge drinking himself to death.  I know many current writers who never touch a drop of alcohol until their day’s work is done, but equally I know several global best-selling authors who have a rocket-fuel boost to their work – either massive doses of caffeine, or booze, weed or cocaine.

My own writing day is back-to-front – I made a “me-time” for writing in the days when I worked full-time in film and television, and that was 6-10pm at night, and that today is still when I do my best writing.  My sessions start with a ritual, and that is making my Martini.  The whole process kicks some Pavlovian creative response off in my brain.  And of course that first, delicious, ice-cold bite – and kick.  The key is not to have too much – these are truly powerful cocktails!  One sip, music blasting from my speakers – Van Morrison or maybe the Kinks, and I’m hammering away on the keyboard as happy as Larry.

The Perfect Vodka Martini … This serves 1

Ingredients

A proper, clear crystal martini glass of decent quality.  No other drinking vessel can be substituted.

Grey Goose vodka (or brand as preferred, this is mine)

Martini Extra Dry

Four plain olives, pitted.

1 lemon

1 cocktail stick

1 cocktail shaker

Cubed Ice

 

Peter James author photoMethod

Fill martini glass ¾ with vodka.

Using the cap of the Martini Extra Dry bottle as a measure, tip two capfuls of Martini into the glass.

Now pour the mixture into empty cocktail shaker.

Fill the glass to the brim with ice cubes and leave for 5 mins.

Pour these cubes plus fresh cubes into cocktail shaker.

Secure the top carefully then shake hard for thirty seconds and pour into glass.

Now you have a choice.  A twist or with olives – or both.  My taste alternates!

 

For with a twist:

Cut a lemon in half.

Peel a thin strip of rind three inches long, and drop into the glass.

Cut a lemon wedge, make an opening in the centre, and run this all the way around the rim of the glass on both sides.

 

For olives:

Spear four olives with cocktail stick and place in glass.

 

For the combo:  The four olives as above, but wipe the rim of the glass with a wedge of lemon.

 

Enjoy!  But remember Dorothy Parker’s caveat:  “I like to have a martini, two at the very most… after three I’m under the table, after four I’m under my host.”

 

My thanks to Peter –  Slàinte

 

NEED YOU DEAD

Lorna Belling, desperate to escape the marriage from hell, falls for the charms of another man who promises her the earth. But, as Lorna finds, life seldom follows the plans you’ve made. A chance photograph on a client’s mobile phone changes everything for her.

When the body of a woman is found in a bath in Brighton, Detective Superintendent Roy Grace is called to the scene. At first it looks an open and shut case with a clear prime suspect. Then other scenarios begin to present themselves, each of them tantalizingly plausible, until, in a sudden turn of events, and to his utter disbelief, the case turns more sinister than Grace could ever have imagined.

 

Need You Dead is published by MacMillan and is available in Hardback and Digital Format. You can order a copy here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Need-You-Dead-Grace-Book-ebook/dp/B01N557W15/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

 

 

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May 17

Death’s Silent Judgement – Anne Coates Q&A

Today I am delighted to host the latest leg of the blog tour for Death’s Silent Judgement. It is a thrill to welcome Anne Coates to Grab This Book – Anne has kindly agreed to answer a few of my questions about her new thriller.

Before we get to my questions here is a quick look at Death’s Silent Judgement:

Deaths Silent JudgementDeath’s Silent Judgement is the thrilling sequel to Dancers in the Wind, and continues the gripping series starring London-based investigative journalist Hannah Weybridge. The series is very much in the best traditions of British women crime writers such as Lynda La Plante and Martina Cole. Following the deadly events of Dancers in the Wind, freelance journalist and single mother Hannah Weybridge is thrown into the heart of a horrific murder investigation when a friend, Liz Rayman, is found with her throat slashed at her dental practice. With few clues to the apparently motiveless crime Hannah throws herself into discovering the reason for her friend s brutal murder, and is determined to unmask the killer. But before long Hannah’s investigations place her in mortal danger, her hunt for the truth placing her in the path of a remorseless killer…

 

First question is never an actual question, could I ask that you introduce yourself and give us a quick overview of Death’s Silent Judgement?

Thank you, Gordon. I’m Anne Coates, live in south London and have always worked in publishing/journalism. My seven non-fiction books have concentrated on parenting and education, plus I have also published short stories. Death’s Silent Judgement, my second crime thriller, begins with the murder of a dentist giving free treatment to the homeless in Waterloo. What seems a motiveless crime turns ever more sinister as Hannah Weybridge follows leads that eventually put her own life in danger.

 

Death’s Silent Judgement sees the return of Hannah Weybridge – Hannah also appeared in Dancers in the Wind. For new readers could you outline something of Hannah’s background?

Love to. Hannah, in her mid-30s, is a single parent and freelance journalist. Previously she had a staff job on a woman’s magazine. When we meet her in 1993, she is struggling financially but has recently been commissioned to write for a national newspaper. In some ways she is isolated – an only child whose parents have just moved to France – and as a single parent and therefore is vulnerable. Almost by accident she begins to investigate crimes.

 

In Dancers there were prostitutes disappearing, their battered bodies subsequently found. Now in Death’s Silent Judgement Hannah is investigating why her friend may have been murdered. Hannah is a journalist but could both stories have been told with Hannah as a police officer?  I wondered if her being an investigative journalist gives you more scope or, perhaps, you decided that you didn’t want to write a “cop” thriller?

I think both books would have been totally different if Hannah had been a police officer. It is because she isn’t a law enforcer that she can tread more varied paths when she’s digging for information. She isn’t answerable to anyone – except her editor. She also makes mistakes and is naïve at times and takes risks. I’m not saying that a police officer wouldn’t be similar but the whole premise would be different. There are police procedurals where an officer goes “off piste” but that is often more difficult to justify.

 

dancers-in-the-windWas it always your intention to feature Hannah in more than one novel or did you write Dancers and decide you liked the character and wanted to bring her back?

After I wrote Dancers in the Wind, many years ago, I went straight on to write the first three chapters of Death’s Silent Judgement so, yes my intention has always been that she would feature in more than one book.

 

Are you a crime fiction reader?  I am often surprised at how many authors say they tend not to read crime novels or thrillers.

I’ve always read crime novels –who hasn’t read Agatha Christie? I love Wilkie Collins, a contemporary of Dickens, and one of my early favourites was Minette Walters so it was interesting to read that she’s written a new book after a long hiatus but has given up on crime. Twitter has introduced me to a whole range of new crime authors and I particularly like police procedurals although I’m not sure I’d ever write one. I am amazed at the range within the crime/thriller genre. People are often snobbish about what they call “genre” fiction. If it’s a good read, category shouldn’t matter.

 

Leaving aside the element of commercial success, which book (or books) have you read which made you think – “I’d have loved to have had that idea” or “I wish I’d written that”?

Recently I read and was totally bowled over by Sealskin by Su Bristow. It’s beautifully written and totally engrossing.

 

SealskinWhen you are not writing how do you escape the keyboard and the edits?  What distractions can you look forward to?

I love going to the cinema and theatre. We have a local Picturehouse, only a few minutes’ walk away which is an interesting place to go to apart from the films. I nearly always bump into friends there. Theatre is a luxury but I am sometimes offered press tickets and I belong to a theatre club, which gets comps from time to time. Meeting up with friends for a meal or a drink is always high on my list of distractions.

One last question, dare we ask if there is a new project underway or are you taking some time to enjoy releasing Death’s Silent Judgement into the hands of us eager readers?

No rest for the wicked – I am currently halfway through the first draft of a new Hannah Weybridge thriller – so a long way to go yet and I need a title. I’m also toying with writing something completely different in the first person and at some stage I’d like to explore a character who haunts me, crying out for her story to be written.

Thank you very much for inviting me to be cross-examined on your blog!

My thanks to you Anne I had fun coming up with the questions and loved your answers.

 

Death’s Silent Judgement is published by Urbane Publications and is available now in both paperback and digital format. You can order a copy here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Deaths-Silent-Judgement-Hannah-Weybridge/dp/1911331353/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1495055776&sr=1-1&keywords=deaths+silent+judgement

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