April 27

22 Dead Little Bodies – Stuart MacBride

22 Dead Little BodiesA short novel featuring Aberdeen’s finest investigative duo, Acting DI Logan McRae and DCI Roberta Steel.

CID isn’t what it used to be…

It’s been a bad week for acting Detective Inspector Logan McRae. Every time his unit turns up anything interesting, DCI Steel’s Major Investigation Team waltzes in and takes over, leaving CID with all the dull and horrible jobs.

Like dealing with Mrs Black – who hates her neighbour, the police, and everyone else. Or identifying the homeless man who drank himself to death behind some bins. Or tracking down the wife and kids of someone who’s just committed suicide.

But when the dead bodies start turning up, one thing’s certain – Logan’s week is about to get a whole lot worse…

 

My thanks to Killer Reads for my copy which I won in one of their fun (and frequent) competitions.

It is a new Logan McRae story and it is as good as I hoped it would be. McRae and Steel are back in fine form and 22 Dead Little Bodies brings their on their stories in this short novel.

There are two central investigations running through the book: a suicide ‘rescue’ in Aberdeen makes McRae a YouTube star, yet the man that he is trying to save has caused some problems for Police Scotland’s finest – they cannot locate his family.

McRae then has an unfortunate encounter with a serial complainer who wants the police to arrest her disruptive neighbour. Investigations reveal that the there is a deep rooted fiction between the warring neighbours – can DCI Steel really resolve months of fighting just by raising her voice to them?

Fans of Stuart MacBride can rest assured that this is a great fun read. There are the usual combination of laugh out loud moments and genuine moments of dark horror as Mr MacBride revisits the bleaker side of life too.

22 Dead Little Bodies is exactly what I enjoy reading and reminds me that I still have The Missing and the Dead waiting for me.

 

22 Dead Little Bodies is published by Harper and is available now in Hardback and digital format.

Stuart MacBride is on Twitter: @StuartMacbride

www.StuartMacBride.com

 

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April 26

Hidden – Emma Kavanagh

HE’S WATCHING

A gunman is stalking the wards of a local hospital. He’s unidentified and dangerous, and has to be located. Urgently.

Police Firearms Officer Aden McCarthy is tasked with tracking him down. Still troubled by the shooting of a schoolboy, Aden is determined to make amends by finding the gunman – before it’s too late.

SHE’S WAITING

To psychologist Imogen, hospital should be a place of healing and safety – both for her, and her young niece who’s been recently admitted. She’s heard about the gunman, but he has little to do with her. Or has he?

As time ticks down, no one knows who the gunman’s next target will be. But he’s there. Hiding in plain sight. Far closer than anyone thinks…

Hidden

My review copy was provided through Netgalley.

Hidden opens immediately after an horrific shooting incident within a hospital. We are watching the action through the eyes of a local newspaper reporter (Charlie) as she surveys the injured, the dead and the dying. She is beside her friend, firearms officer, Aden who has been badly wounded and Charlie is willing him to live as his life ebbs away.

It is a powerful start and it creates a gripping scene which makes you want to keep reading.

The narrative then jumps back one week and Emma Kavanagh starts to outline the events which led us to the shooting in the hospital. We see Charlie and Adan, a friendship which is threatening to develop into a relationship. We meet twins Mara and Imogen – they are intrinsic to the story and their lives will overlap with Charlie, Adan and that of the shooter’s too.

The mysterious shooter – we also get to see some of the narrative through their eyes too. The hospital was not a random location at which to unleash carnage, the shooter has been prowling round the hospital. Hospital staff are concerned that they have spotted a hooded figure carrying a gun and the police have been notified.

I enjoyed the powerful opening to Hidden and the mystery identify of the shooter was a nice touch. The central figures of Charlie and Adan are engaging characters, I enjoyed Charlie’s story in particular – there are potential problems at her work, she finds herself reporting on the death of an old friend and is facing pressure from a victim’s family to print their side of a story (which may not necessarily be a true reflection of events).

The week of narrative leading up to the shooting covers the lives and relationships of the key players. I felt Emma Kavanagh delivered a strong human drama and her characterisation was great. Perhaps too great for me as I found that I really didn’t warm to a couple of the cast and as a consequence I found their story an unwelcome distraction from the characters I did like. This is purely a personal observation and I have read many reviews to know that I am in a minority in this area, however, it was a factor.

I also guessed the identity of the shooter halfway through the book. Only to find I was totally wrong at the end of the book – I like when this happens.

Hidden will appeal to thriller fans. Great characterisation and a nice mystery of the shooter’s identity running throughout. My score of 3.5/5 reflects a strong story but with a couple of characters who didn’t captivate me. The real acid test for any novel is whether I would read more books by the same author and in the case of Emma Kavanagh I certainly would.

 

Hidden is published by Century and is available in Hardback and digital formats

You can read an extract from Chapter One here: http://www.deadgoodbooks.co.uk/index.php/extract-hidden-emma-kavanagh/

Emma Kavanagh is on Twitter: @EmmaLK

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April 22

Sarah Hilary Q&A – No Other Darkness

Today sees the publication of Sarah Hilary’s No Other Darkness. Last week, with publication day fast approaching Sarah kindly took some time to answer a few of my questions, I am delighted to be able to share our conversation:

 

NoD-blogWe are just a couple of weeks away from publication of your second Marnie Rome novel – No Other Darkness. Are the nerves kicking in yet or have the early reviews been reassuring?

Ive had some incredibly encouraging early reviews, its true and from readers who loved Someone Elses Skin so thats helped the nerves a little. But these are Second Novel Nerves, so I wasnt expecting to get off scot-free. No Other Darkness is such a different story to Someone Elses Skin, but I think readers are going to enjoy following Marnie and Noah down this new path.

At the end of Someone Else’s Skin both Marnie and her colleague, Noah Jake, had been put through the wringer. Can you bring us up to speed as to where we will join them at the outset of No Other Darkness?

Six months have passed since the end of Someone Elses Skin. Noah has recovered physically, and he and Marnie are a closer team nowthey wont make the same mistakes they made in that first story. Marnie is starting to open up to Noah, and readers will see some great teamwork between them in this new book.

Apologies if this is a little cryptic for those yet to read No Other Darkness. I have two sons who are 5 and 8. For reasons I am sure you can appreciate I found certain elements of the book very tough to read. Were you specifically targeting a parent’s fear as you wrote?

Not specifically, no. That said, Im a parent myself and it was tough to write some of the chapters in the book. But I feel thats what good books should do challenge the writer and the reader, and provoke strong emotions, from fear to relief.

I felt that DS Jake played a larger role in No Other Darkness than he did in Someone Else’s Skin. Was that my imagination or was there greater focus on his character in this book?

There was. Partly, I think, because Marnie is learning to trust him and involve him more closely. She relies on his instinct a lot in this new story, and Noahs instinct is pretty damn good. He has a kid brother too, so the story affects him at a personal level.

Did work begin on No Other Darkness before Someone Else’s Skin went on general release? If so, did you have to adapt your work in progress once reviews and comments started to appear for the first book?

Id finished the first draft of No Other Darkness before Someone Elses Skin was published, but a lot of the editing went on while reviews were coming in. In particular, it was interesting to see how readers reacted to the characters of Marnie and Noah. Those reactions have had a definite impact on the third book, Tastes Like Fear, which Im working on now. Im a great believer in the collaborative nature of writing/reading. The story comes alive in the hands of readers, so their responses are always hugely important and inspirational for me. (No pressure, readers.)

In my review I made a slightly glib comment that you had a Big Book of Horrible Things and suggested you were working your way through this book to unnerve your readers. Is it coincidence that your first two novels tackled issues which could be considered chilling? And I am aware that my question indirectly makes it sound like a simple ‘murder’ story could be considered humdrum and commonplace?

Thats very interesting because quite a few readers have said that they find Someone Elses Skin chilling precisely because the crime seems so commonplace. I think its all in the telling. Any story can be scary if its told in a particular way, if you choose to get under the skin of your characters or to take your readers inside their heads. The Collector by John Fowles is a great example of how to be supremely chilling by digging into the depths of the mundane.

Someone Else's SkinAm I correct in thinking that Someone Else’s Skin is being adapted for broadcast? Are you (or do you expect to become) involved in any of the process such as casting or scripting?

The series rights have been sold, yes, and its in the early stages of development. Im not directly involved in casting or scripting, but Im working collaboratively with the team which is very exciting. And of course Im dream-casting all the time. I desperately want Jason Watkins (from Being Human, and The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies) to play one of the protagonists in No Other Darkness. Youll probably be able to guess which one.

Are you a fan of horror films and books? The dark edge that I now associate with your books make me wonder if you are influenced by scary stories.

Yes, yes I ama huge fan of horror, especially films. I love being scared, really love it. George A Romero is a hero of mine, and I can still remember the thrill of seeing John Carpenters The Thing for the first time. I used to haunt the Scala cinema in Kings Cross during its All-Nighter days back to back zombies in a building that was Londons first (and last) primatorium. Happy days.

No other darkness tpb.inddExpanding on the last question, who would you cite as your influences?

Writing-wise, Id say everyone from PG Wodehouse and Muriel Spark to Patricia Highsmith and Thomas Harris, by way of Georgette Heyer and Stephen King. I love all things Gothic too, from Dracula to Gormenghast.

Will we see Marnie return or have you plans to tackle something else first?

Marnie will be back in book three, Tastes Like Fear, early in 2016. After which Ill be working on book four in the series. No rest for the wicked, thank goodness.

One of my favourite questions and I would be keen to know your thoughts on this: why do you believe readers of crime fiction enjoy a serial killer story when the reality is such a terrible concept?

Perhaps because its such a terrible concept. I do my best writing when Ive become obsessed with an idea not always a crime, sometimes a human condition, or a social or psychological phenomenon and I have to write through it to satisfy my curiosity, or my terror. Im often motivated by fear, or rather by the need to confront the things that scare me. Theres the vicarious thrill aspect too, of course. The how would I survive?. And lets face it, there are some extremely stylish and compelling stories out there. Hannibal is a prime example, as was True Detective something about these stories attracts storytellers and creative geniuses (designers, editors, actors) perhaps because of the challenge involved. Its hard to look away from the spectacle, apart from anything else. Im working on an idea of this kind in Tastes Like Fear, and the story has me adrenalisedthe closest Ive come to the notion of a story that tells itself because of the momentum involved in trying to keep pace with a serial killer.

Finally, you seem to be in my neck of the woods later this month for the Aye Write festival. Then much closer to home you will be at Crimefest. Does the fun at a festival outweigh the inconvenience of travelling and of disruptions to your work and home commitments? James Oswald suggested the biggest problem at some events seems to be ensuring the bar does not have any booze left at the end of the night!

James speaks an imperial truth. I do love a festival, especially if I can work alongside other writers. I had the best fun at Gateshead Library with Mari Hannah and David Mark earlier this year, despite having a stinking cold and having travelled six hours on a train to get there. Spending time with other writers and readers is a great way to remind myself of how lucky I am to be doing my dream job.

 

Many thanks to Sarah.

No Other Darkness is published by Headline and is available now in paperback and digital format. My review can be found here: http://grabthisbook.net/?p=468

Sarah Hilary has worked as a bookseller, and with the Royal Navy. Her debut novel, SOMEONE ELSE’S SKIN, was the Observer’s Book of the Month (“superbly disturbing”), a Richard & Judy Book Club bestseller, and has been published worldwide. NO OTHER DARKNESS, the second in the series, is out in 2015. The Marnie Rome series is being developed for television.

Sarah Hilary is on Twitter: @sarah_hilary

http://sarah-crawl-space.blogspot.co.uk/

 

 

 

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April 21

Huntress Moon – Alexandra Sokoloff

The Huntress/FBI Thrillers Book 1

FBI Special Agent Matthew Roarke is closing in on a bust of a major criminal Huntress_Moon_TM_CVR-FTorganization in San Francisco when he witnesses an undercover member of his team killed right in front of him on a busy street, an accident Roarke can’t believe is coincidental. His suspicions put him on the trail of a mysterious young woman who appears to have been present at each scene of a years-long string of “accidents” and murders, and who may well be that most rare of killers: a female serial.

Roarke’s hunt for her takes him across three states…while in a small coastal town, a young father and his five-year old son, both wounded from a recent divorce, encounter a lost and compelling young woman on the beach and strike up an unlikely friendship without realizing how deadly she may be.

As Roarke uncovers the shocking truth of her background, he realizes she is on a mission of her own, and must race to capture her before more blood is shed.

 

My thanks to Alexandra Sokoloff for giving me the chance to read Huntress Moon.

 

I think I will need a thesaurus for this review. I would open it to the word ‘Brilliant’ and then apply a number of superlatives to Huntress Moon. It was that good!

FBI Special Agent Roarke is witness to a colleague’s sudden and unexpected death. The deceased agent had been working undercover and was due to rendezvous with Roarke but was killed by a speeding vehicle. Just before the incident Roarke spotted a woman standing beside his colleague she vanished when Roarke’s line of sight was broken but her presence unsettled him.

The reader then gets to join the woman. She is on the run, not that she fears capture – she is escaping a crime scene and has a code to follow. She has clearly done this many times in the past. At a truck stop the woman is confronted by a trucker, it ends badly for him but the woman leaves an unavoidable mess.

We now have a fabulous set up. We follow Roarke and his investigations into the mystery woman. We follow the killer as she tries to blend in and establish a cover story. As the story develops we learn more about our mysterious killer and see how she constantly lives on the fine edge between fight and flight. The FBI investigations also progress and it becomes clear that the mystery woman will not be able to remain a mystery for long.

I found Huntress Moon to be a compelling read. I enjoy reading FBI ‘manhunt’ novels and the added bonus of seeing how the hunt unfolded from the point of view of the killer was a nice twist. By the time the story was entering the Endgame I was genuinely torn as to how I wanted events to unfold.

LACMA.best.DSC_6246-2There are moral implications to consider in Huntress Moon. If a killer is targeting victims who they perceive as immoral, or if the victim was engaging in criminal activities, can their death be justified? One for the reader to consider and one of the reasons I was torn over how I wanted the book to end. I don’t have an answer to that question.

Huntress Moon is a stand out book for me. I liked Roarke and his FBI colleagues (who were all well developed and made to feel real). I found the killer to be fascinating, her motives are clear to her but what triggered her obsession was disturbing.

Huntress Moon is the best crime thriller I have read for many months and it easily scoops a review score of 5/5. I am now lining up the next book: Blood Moon

 

Huntress Moon is just £1 on Kindle through April 2015.

Alexandra Sokoloff recently visited the blog to discuss Serial Killers. The interview can be found here: http://grabthisbook.net/?p=696

 

Visit the author’s website at AlexandraSokoloff.com

Follow Alexandra on Twitter at @alexsokoloff

Huntress Moon:  http://amzn.to/1wEwxZo

 

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April 18

Black Wood – SJI Holliday

black-wood-72Something happened to Claire and Jo in Black Wood: something that left Claire paralysed and Jo with deep mental scars. But with Claire suffering memory loss and no evidence to be found, nobody believes Jo’s story.

Twenty-three years later, a familiar face walks into the bookshop where Jo works, dredging up painful memories and rekindling her desire for vengeance. And at the same time, Sergeant Davie Gray is investigating a balaclava-clad man who is attacking women on a disused railway, shocking the sleepy village of Banktoun. But what is the connection between Jo’s visitor and the masked man? To catch the assailant, and to give Jo her long-awaited justice, Gray must unravel a tangled web of past secrets, broken friendship and tainted love. But can he crack the case before Jo finds herself with blood on her hands?

 

My thanks to Black & White Publishing for my review copy

 

Black Wood is set in Banktoun, a small village on the outskirts of Edinburgh. If you have ever lived in a small village you will understand that there is a community spirit, that everyone knows everyone else and there CAN be a feeling of claustrophobia (especially if you aspire to escape to pastures new). A small village is also a perfect setting for a tense thriller. A predator in our midst causing fear for the residents, a snake in the garden, one rotten apple in the barrel. Except that everyone has secrets and all is never as it seems.

Cut straight to the chase: I loved Black Wood. I loved the characters, the setting, the mystery and Susi Holliday teased out the secrets brilliantly over the course of the novel.

The story follows Jo. Some 20 years before the events in the story she and her friend Claire had a life changing incident on the edge of Banktoun. The impact of events still resonate for Jo and Claire and we learn that Jo has had a somewhat troubled time in the intervening years.

Elsewhere local policeman, Sergeant Davie Gray, is hunting for a balaclava wearing man who has been seen lurking around a disused railway line that runs beside the village. Unfortunately the lurking is escalating to more threatening behaviour and it is not long before an attack occurs.

Sergeant Gray is another star in the making for me and I want to read more about him. He knows Jo of old and promised Jo’s mother that he would help watch out for her daughter – this protective side creates an interesting dynamic between the two characters and the scenes with Jo and Davie Gray were high points.

One memorable moment for me was when Jo returned to her Grandmother’s house (the titular Black Wood). An unexpected incident appeared to be taking the story in a direction I had not expected. As I am avoiding any Spoilers I cannot elaborate but the sequence suddenly heightened the tension, added a new dimension to the story and made Jo appear significantly more vulnerable than I had initially envisaged. I love when an author can catch me unawares in this way.

Black Wood is one of my favourite books so far this year. A brilliant story in which the characters shine and the mysteries kept me hooked as I poured through the book desperate to find out how events would be resolved.   More from Banktoun please, I feel we need to know it better.

All that remains is to reconfirm my love for Black Wood by scoring it 5/5 and urging you to read it.

 

Black Wood is published by Black and White Publishing and is available in both paperback and in digital format.

You can follow Susi Holliday on Twitter: @SJIHolliday

Or visit her website at http://sjiholliday.com

 

 

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April 15

Hidden – Emma Kavanagh Blog Tour

I am delighted to have the chance to host the latest leg of the blog tour for Emma Kavanagh’s “Hidden”.  Emma has a favourite question that she asks of other authors and is sharing this with us today:

Hidden

HE’S WATCHING

A gunman is stalking the wards of a local hospital. He’s unidentified and dangerous, and has to be located. Urgently.

Police Firearms Officer Aden McCarthy is tasked with tracking him down. Still troubled by the shooting of a schoolboy, Aden is determined to make amends by finding the gunman – before it’s too late.

SHE’S WAITING

 To psychologist Imogen, hospital should be a place of healing and safety – both for her, and her young niece who’s been recently admitted. She’s heard about the gunman, but he has little to do with her. Or has he?

As time ticks down, no one knows who the gunman’s next target will be. But he’s there. Hiding in plain sight. Far closer than anyone thinks…

 

Emma Kavanagh: My Favourite Writing Question

One of my absolute favourite things to do as an author is attend literary festivals and conferences. Writing is a pretty isolating career, and so events like this offer a fantastic opportunity to get to know others in the same business. We get to celebrate together, commiserate together, drink together…what? who? I didn’t say that.

Anyway.

I have a question I ask all authors I meet – in appropriate forums, I mean. I don’t tend to jump out at them from behind bushes in order to fling it at them.

Are you a plotter or a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pantser?

So, I’m going to answer my own favourite question. Just for you. Aren’t you lucky?

I am a plotter. I am so much of a plotter that sometimes I begin to worry that I have some kind of problem. I begin my writing with the kernel of an idea, a rough notion of characters, a general arc of where I think the story is going to go, what the ending will be. Then I do my research, delving as deeply as I can into the world into which I am entering.

Then, I plot!

This is not something I take lightly. I have a spreadsheet and everything. (Actually, I have several, but lets not dwell on that too much, eh?)

I then draft out the novel, chapter by chapter. This is all well and good for the firstEmma Kavanagh 2014 © Matthew Jones dozen or so chapters, these are often pretty easy to foresee. After that, though, things get murkier, and I often can’t really tell what each chapter will look like until I get closer. My timeline shifts constantly and often doesn’t take its true shape until I am nearing the end of the first draft. Even then, sometimes the editing process means that chapters will move, be added or sometimes lost.

My plotting doesn’t always work. Sometimes I have to change course. But, having attempted to be a pantser, I have discovered I simply am not cool enough.

Spreadsheets it is then.

 

Hidden will be published on 23rd April 2015 by Century.

You can read an extract from Chapter One here: http://www.deadgoodbooks.co.uk/index.php/extract-hidden-emma-kavanagh/

 

 

 

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April 14

The Ghost Fields – Elly Griffiths

Norfolk is experiencing a July heatwave when a construction crew unearths a The Ghost Fieldsmacabre discovery – a buried WWII plane with the pilot still inside. Forensic archaeologist Ruth Galloway quickly realizes that the skeleton couldn’t possibly be the pilot, and DNA tests identify the man as Fred Blackstock, a local aristocrat who had been reported dead at sea. When the remaining members of the Blackstock family learn about the discovery, they seem strangely frightened by the news.

Events are further complicated by a TV company that wants to make a film about Norfolk’s deserted air force bases, the so-called Ghost Fields, which have been partially converted into a pig farm run by one of the younger Blackstocks. As production begins, Ruth notices a mysterious man lurking close to the Blackstocks’ family home.

Then human bones are found on the family’s pig farm. Can the team outrace a looming flood to find a killer?

 

My thanks to Quercus Books for providing a review copy through Netgalley.

Last year I was introduced to the books of Elly Griffiths when @BookaddictShaun asked if I would like to do a guest review of The Zig Zag Girl for his blog. I jumped at the chance to read about The Magic Men in The Zig Zag Girl and my review can be found on Shaun’s blog here:  Zig Zag Girl

I was aware that Elly Griffiths wrote a series of books featuring forensic archaeologist Ruth Galloway but The Zig Zag Girl was a stand-alone novel so for me it was a great introduction to a new author. By the time I had finished reading I knew it was just a matter of time before Ms Galloway and I would become acquainted.

Spin forward a few months and I have the new Elly Griffiths novel to read: The Ghost Fields and I get to meet Ruth Galloway. As I have not read the preceding novels featuring this character I need to address the issue of whether jumping in at The Ghost Fields without knowing the back story will impair enjoyment. In a word – NOPE. The author positioned the characters perfectly. No prior knowledge (it appeared) was assumed and everything that I needed to know was made clear for me. For returning fans the characters you will already love are back and The Ghost Fields does appear to bring on personal stories in a way that I suspect you will enjoy.

The Ghost Fields was a fun read for me. The lead character is likeable and very believable, the murder mystery element was fascinating and with the historic linking back to events of the Second World War it added a dimension that set The Ghost Fields apart from many of my recent reads. There were lots of light hearted moments through the book which kept me amused too which I always welcome in a book.

The central focus of the investigation was the Blackstock family. Much of the action takes place in their ancestral home and on surrounding lands. The old fashioned feel of the local aristocratic family, several generations living together in the family house gave the book a real Agatha Christie feel. As you read you cannot help but feel that a murder is about to occur and that the finale will involve all the cast assembling in the drawing room. No spoilers so you will have to read for yourself to find out if any of these things happen!

Ruth Galloway and Elly Griffiths have a new fan here at Grab This Book. Elly Griffiths writes with a very readable style and the book was well paced. Ruth Galloway has just the right amount of neurosis to be engaging and I warmed to her very quickly.

 

Visit Elly Griffiths at: http://www.ellygriffiths.co.uk

Elly is also on Twitter as @ellygriffiths

 

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April 8

A Place Called Winter – Patrick Gale

A Place Called Winter 2A privileged elder son, and stammeringly shy, Harry Cane has followed convention at every step. Even the beginnings of an illicit, dangerous affair do little to shake the foundations of his muted existence – until the shock of discovery and the threat of arrest cost him everything.

Forced to abandon his wife and child, Harry signs up for emigration to the newly colonised Canadian prairies. Remote and unforgiving, his allotted homestead in a place called Winter is a world away from the golden suburbs of turn-of-the-century Edwardian England. And yet it is here, isolated in a seemingly harsh landscape, under the threat of war, madness and an evil man of undeniable magnetism that the fight for survival will reveal in Harry an inner strength and capacity for love beyond anything he has ever known before.

In this exquisite journey of self-discovery, loosely based on a real life family mystery, Patrick Gale has created an epic, intimate human drama, both brutal and breathtaking. It is a novel of secrets, sexuality and, ultimately, of great love.

 

Thanks to Georgina Moore @publicitybooks for sending me an advance copy.

 

I was very fortunate to receive a review copy of A Place Called Winter earlier this year. For the last few weeks I have delighted in seeing the steady stream of support and adulation for Patrick Gale’s extraordinary story. The praise is richly deserved too as this is a compelling read and I defy anyone that joins Harry Cane on his journey not to be moved by the events that define his life.

Patrick Gale has done a phenomenal job of capturing the spirit of Edwardian England. I loved his depiction of Harry’s home life and then his awkward courtship. There was a real sense of history leaking off the pages as I read and it was easy to imagine Harry travelling around old London and finding his way in the world.

As I was reading with my ‘21st Century Head’ on it took me a while to grasp that I was reading about something scandalous. But the penny soon dropped and Harry’s story was heading in a new direction – to Canada and a life overseas. To avoid arrest and a public humiliation for his family Harry elects to leave London to strike up a new life for himself on the wild frontiers.

Once he leaves London Harry makes new acquaintances and forms essential alliances. These encounters will give him the opportunity to learn the skills he will need to establish a new life working the land to survive. However, not everyone is acting in Harry’s best interests and there are adversaries to overcome too. I loved reading how this shy character was able to overcome the obstacles to forge new friendships and force himself to meet the people he needs to rely upon – Patrick Gale created a charming hero for his tale and gave him all too real traits which give Harry a constant air of vulnerability.

A Place Called Winter has an appealing charm and tells an absorbing story. Personally I found the elements of the story recanting how Harry learned to work the land and build his home the most interesting. I suspect, however, that the majority of readers will be entranced by the compelling drama surrounding Harry and his evolving relationships with his family and friends. Quite simply, A Place Called Winter is a beautiful story and reading it will enrich your life.

 

A Place Called Winter is published by Tinder Press and is available now in Hardback and digital formats.

Patrick Gale is on Twitter as: @PNovelistGale
The author’s website is here at: http://galewarning.org/

 

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April 7

The Doll’s House – M.J. Arlidge

Dolls HouseA young woman wakes in a cold, dark cellar, with no idea how she got there or who kidnapped her. So begins her terrible nightmare.

The body of another young woman is discovered buried on a remote beach. But the dead girl was never reported missing – her estranged family having received regular texts from her over the years.

For DI Helen Grace it’s chilling evidence that she’s chasing a twisted monster who is clever and resourceful – a predator who’s killed before.

As Helen struggles to understand the killer’s motivation, she realises she’s in a desperate race against time…

 

My thanks to Penguin/Michael Joseph and Netgalley for my review copy.

 

M.J. Arlidge’s third DI Helen Grace novel – my introduction to the character. As there is a back story from the first two books (Eeny Meeny and Pop Goes The Weasel) that plays a significant element of The Doll’s House then I would suggest that it would be beneficial to read the books in order. However, I had not read books one and two and I still really enjoyed The Doll’s House – I just had to accept that I was reading spoilers from two books that I know I will read in the future!

In The Doll’s House we are introduced to Ruby. She wakes to find herself locked in a cellar and at the mercy of a shadowy figure who seems intent to keep her entrapped – his objective for capturing her are unclear and Ruby is left pondering her fate.

Meanwhile on a nearby beach the body of a young woman has been uncovered. She has been in the sand for some time yet her family are still receiving text messages from her. A really clever twist from the author – we are in ‘communication’ with people on a daily basis but is anyone really who we think they are? How do we know the person we are texting is actually our spouse/friend/lover or parent? Using digital communications as ‘proof of life’ shows that we start from a flawed misconception and allows a killer to fabricate a life – chilling and brilliant.

As The Doll’s House progresses we learn more about why Ruby may have been singled out and we discover how the body on the beach relates to her predicament.

DI Grace has a murder investigation to conduct, however, she finds she is facing a challenge to her position from within her own station. Police politics are a nasty business and if not everyone is pulling in the same direction will Ruby become a pawn that is sacrificed to allow someone’s career to advance?

In summary: The Doll’s House is highly recommended. A girl in peril. A body in the beach that is still ‘talking’ to her family and a lead character fighting to retain her professional credibility. For M.J. Arlidge fans this is likely to be a gripping read. If, like me, you are new to the series there is a great story here – but it would be even better if you take the time to read the first two books before entering The Doll’s House. Review score of 4/5.

 

About the Author

M.J. Arlidge has worked in television for the last fifteen years specializing in high-end drama production, including Torn, The Little House and, most recently, Undeniable, broadcast in spring 2015. His debut thriller, Eeny Meeny has sold to publishers around the world and was the UK’s bestselling crime debut of 2014. It was followed by the bestselling Pop Goes the Weasel. The Doll’s House is the third DI Helen Grace thriller.

Follow M.J. Arlidge at @mjarlidge

 

 

Category: From The Bookshelf | Comments Off on The Doll’s House – M.J. Arlidge
April 1

Serial Killers a discussion with Alexandra Sokoloff

In my recent conversations with David McCaffrey and Karen Long I posed a question asking why they felt readers loved a story about a Serial Killer.  I had planned to ask the same question of Alexandra Sokoloff but she suggested that she would have LOTS to say on that topic.

LACMA.best.DSC_6246-2This was too good an opportunity to pass up! I asked Alex if she would be interested in answering a few questions just on the subject of Serial Killers and I am delighted to share our resulting conversation.

I shall start with my established opening gambit: why do we love a serial killer story?

I think the serial killer has become an iconic monster, like a vampire or werewolf or zombie (maybe replacing the pretty much defunct mummy!). This icon is of course a very idealized version of what a serial killer actually is. And I think it was Thomas Harris who mythologized the serial killer to classic monster status, although Stevenson’s Jekyll/Hyde, Stoker’s Dracula (supposedly based on the real-life Vlad the Impaler), and various depictions of Jack the Ripper were strong precursors. We are fascinated by the idea of pure evil in a human being.

However, the other component of why we love a serial killer story is because most authors (and screenwriters and filmmakers) who write about serial killers are dishonestly romanticizing them and leaving out the unmitigated, repellent malevolence of these men. About which more in a minute.

And there is also an unfortunate percentage of the population that gets off on reading about rape, torture, and murder.

Was Jack the Ripper the first recorded serial killer or has he just become the most famous?

There were certainly recorded serial killers before Jack the Ripper. The Harpe brothers in the US in the 1700’s, Gilles Garnier in France in the 1500’s, Thug Behram in India in the late 1700’s, just to name a few. Military campaigns have always provided an outlet for serial killers, as have the institutions of slavery and the Inquisition.

Huntress_Moon_TM_CVR-FTWhen I hear the term Serial Killer I automatically assume that it is an American phenomenon – I put this entirely down to Hollywood. However, am I right and does America really have the lion’s share of the known Serial Killers?

Well, of course America is going to have a greater proportion of serial killers simply because the US has a larger population than most countries. The way I understand it, the seeming rise in the number of serial killers in the late twentieth century was due to the increasing number of people who owned automobiles and the increasingly transient nature of the American population. People started moving long distances to find work, for example, and started changing jobs frequently, and so it was easier to kill and move on, making it easier to avoid detection. A serial killer is by definition a successful one, at least for a while.

Is it likely that there are serial killers operating undetected right now? If so would you care to hazard a guess at the numbers that may be involved?

According to the FBI, absolutely. The Bureau estimates, some say conservatively, that between 35 and 50 serial killers are operating in the US in any given year. I figure they know what they’re talking about.

Taking the last question a step further, do you believe a ‘successful’ killer could cover their tracks multiple times for a long period of time?

Yes, there have been killers who have managed that. The Green River Killer, for example, who for years was able to hide an increasing number of bodies in the vast forested areas of the Pacific Northwest.

Keeping this question on a fictional level, do you have favourite serial killers from books or film where you liked the angle that the writer(s) adopted?

There’s really only one author for me in that department – Thomas Harris with Red Dragon and The Silence of the Lambs. Harris did a completely brilliant thing, there. In the 1970’s Special Agents Robert Ressler and John Douglas of the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit (now called the Behavioral Analysis Unit) began a series of interviews with incarcerated serial killers to see what made these men tick and hopefully develop strategies for catching them. The agents, along with Professor Ann W. Burgess, compiled their findings into a textbook and started to train agents as profilers. This new department got a lot of press and media attention and a large number of authors jumped all over that research. But judging by the books that resulted, very, very few of those authors seem to have actually read those interviews.

Thomas Harris, though, took the same research that was available to everyone, and used a combination of absolutely precise fact and police procedure and a haunting mythological symbolism to create those first two books, Red Dragon and The Silence of the Lambs (and then Hannibal sort of went off the rails, if you ask me…). The result was two of the best horror/police procedural blend novels ever written. The killers Jame Gumb (Buffalo Bill) and Francis Dolarhyde were both more and less than human. And Lecter, of course, is a mythic archetype of the evil genius.

And then everyone jumped on the bandwagon and there are now hundreds of Lecters-lite, if you will.

I love those two books of Harris’s for their mythic resonance. But I have a real BloodMoon_TM_CVRproblem with the way most authors portray serial killers because it’s so incredibly dishonest. They romanticize and poeticize serial killers – portraying them as evil geniuses that play elaborate cat and mouse games with detectives and law enforcement agencies. Yeah, right. These men are not geniuses. They don’t leave poems at crime scenes or arrange their victim’s bodies in tableaux corresponding to scenes of great art or literature. They are vicious rapists who brutalize their victims because the agony of those victims gets the killer off, and a large number of them continue to have sex with the corpses of their victims because they are that addicted to absolute control and possession.

That’s evil. But the serial killer subgenre as a whole has perpetrated a very unrealistic view of what these monsters really are. Most authors who write about serial killers don’t show the sexual correlation. They skirt around the issue of rape. The worst ones sexualize the violence – fetishizing women’s bodies, sexualizing the torture of women, conveniently ignoring the fact that many of these killers rape and torture and kill men and children as well, and basically avoid portraying the pure horror of what these men actually do.

I’ve always found it extremely troubling and that’s been a big motivator for me in writing the Huntress Moon series. I’ve set out to shatter a lot of myths, there, and to counter all this glorification of violence.

Without seeking to glorify their actions are there lesser known serial killers that you are surprised are not better known given the extent of their crimes – for example a European who is not known in America?

Yes, as I’m doing more research into UK crime and criminals, I’m learning about killers that I hadn’t heard of, or hadn’t heard much of. The US is very ethnocentric!

I enjoy the Hitman books by Lawrence Block and I suppose that by broad definition a Hitman is a serial killer, however the two are generally considered very differently (certainly in fiction). Is this perhaps simply down to money (Hitman) over personal agenda (serial killer) or is there a more subtle distinction?

I think there are very unsubtle distinctions. Serial killers are most often rapists who have graduated to murder as they crave more and more control over helpless victims. Hitmen are not serial killers, but mass killers, which is a very different psychology than sexual homicide. For hit men the motivation is usually financial, for contract killers; or organizational, as when members of the Mafia or a gang kill on order from a higher up in the organization. (Other mass killers also have financial motivation, like the Black Widow killer, who marries or mates and then kills for the spouse’s or lover’s insurance money or property). But there are similarities, of course – a lot of hitmen and contract killers are sadists, as are a large percentage of serial killers.

Do you think some killers are born with a disposition to kill (a Natural Born Killer, if you will)? Or is it likely they are a result of environmental circumstances and external forces?

ColdMoon-â„¢-CVRI think scientific studies have made it pretty clear that it’s a combination of both. According to Scientific American, there’s a certain enzyme, monoamine oxidase A, that is linked to increased aggression if it’s below normal level, and certain genes that predispose people to low levels of this enzyme. There are also genes that determine how serotonin is processed in the body, and a certain variant of that gene seems to be a predictor of hostile behavior. There are other studies that point out that people with these genes who are raised in stable environments are less inclined to act out violently.

Childhood abuse can contribute to violent behavior: many serial killers had abusive childhoods. But many children who were abused don’t grow up to be abusers. It’s also clear to me from the FBI reports on the role of fantasy in the development of rapists and killers that exposure to violent media can be a factor.

Overall, the more interesting question to me is, why are there so more men than women who either are born with the disposition to rape and kill, or who develop the urge to rape and kill?

The proportions of violent men to violent women are so overwhelming that it makes me wonder why we’re not studying that question.

 

My profound thanks to Alexandra Sokoloff who I hope will return to the blog in the near future to discuss her forthcoming book Cold Moon.

During April 2015 both Huntress Moon and Blood Moon are just £1 on e-book through Amazon.co.uk (links below).


AlexandraSokoloff.com

UK  Huntress Moon  http://amzn.to/1wEwxZo
UK Blood Moon  http://amzn.to/1CPG4Uw
UK Cold Moon  http://amzn.to/1xBtA2U  
US Huntress Moon  http://amzn.to/1z3pSh5
US Blood Moon  http://amzn.to/1EqoKax
US Cold Moon  http://amzn.to/1ymNA6b

Alexandra Sokoloff is the bestselling, Thriller Award-winning and Bram Stoker and Anthony Award-nominated author of eleven supernatural, paranormal and crime thrillers. The New York Times has called her “a daughter of Mary Shelley” and her books “Some of the most original and freshly unnerving work in the genre.”
As a screenwriter she has sold original suspense and horror scripts and written novel adaptations for numerous Hollywood studiosShe is also the workshop leader of the internationally acclaimed Screenwriting Tricks for Authors workshops, based on her Screenwriting Tricks for Authors workbooks and blog.
Her Thriller Award-nominated Huntress Moon series, following a haunted FBI agent on the hunt for a female serial killer, is out now from Thomas & Mercer.
Twitter: @alexsokoloff

 

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