November 28

One To Watch: The Girl Before – JP Delaney

the-girl-beforeJane stumbles on the rental opportunity of a lifetime: the chance to live in a beautiful ultra-minimalist house designed by an enigmatic architect, on condition she abides by a long list of exacting rules. After moving in, she discovers that a previous tenant, Emma, met a mysterious death there – and starts to wonder if her own story will be a re-run of the girl before. As twist after twist catches the reader off guard, Emma’s past and Jane’s present become inexorably entwined in this tense, page-turning portrayal of psychological obsession.

 

Sneak peak thanks to Quercus!

 

I had the opportunity to read a sampler of JP Delaney’s The Girl Before and I wish I hadn’t picked it up.  Not because what I read was bad…quite the opposite!  I reached the end of the sample chapters and found I was not ready for the story to end. 

 

The extract I read from the final novel introduced us to two couples who were flat hunting. Their stories do not run concurrently, a “then” and “now” timeline, but both couples are looking at leasing the same flat. The flat in question has been designed by an award winning architect and it is minimalist to the extreme, however, there are a LOT of very unusual conditions attached to the lease and prospective tenants must agree to them all before they can even be considered. Mysterious.

 

Although it is couples who are flat hunting, the focus of the story appears to be on the women in each couple. Emma and Jane are both recovering from traumatic experiences and it is their vulnerability which looks to be a key element of the developing story. They are driving the house move and it is their determination to move into the peculiar (but gorgeous) house which we follow in the early stages of the book.

 

I seldom give an early warning of a book which I have not read in full, however, The Girl Before looks to be one to watch.  Out in January – more on this when I can read the full novel.

The Girl Before will be published by Quercus on 26 January 2017 and you can order a copy here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Girl-Before-JP-Delaney/dp/1786480298/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1480294447&sr=1-2&keywords=the+girl+before
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November 27

Holding – Graham Norton

holdingThe remote Irish village of Duneen has known little drama; and yet its inhabitants are troubled. Sergeant PJ Collins hasn’t always been this overweight; mother-of-two Brid Riordan hasn’t always been an alcoholic; and elegant Evelyn Ross hasn’t always felt that her life was a total waste.

So when human remains are discovered on an old farm, suspected to be that of Tommy Burke – a former love of both Brid and Evelyn – the village’s dark past begins to unravel. As the frustrated PJ struggles to solve a genuine case for the first time in his life, he unearths a community’s worth of anger and resentments, secrets and regret.

 

My thanks to Hodder & Stoughton for my review copy which I received through Netgalley.

 

If you have never lived in a small village it is unlikely you will have experienced the sensation of your life being constantly observed, scrutinised and discussed. It sounds quite sinister (and more than a little creepy) but in remote communities your friends and neighbours will see everything you do when you leave your home and they will pass comment on it to their friends and neighbours.  Villages are not packed with an army of super-snoopers, there is just little variation in day-to-day life so EVERYTHING is noted and when neighbours chat they will comment on what (and who) they have seen. Your life becomes someone else’s distraction.

This is why stories set in in villages are always laced with secrets and when someone comes along and starts to unpick those secrets it can cause massive ripples through a small community.  This is why Graham Norton’s Holding was such a fun read – he has placed his tale in a small Irish village and one chance discovery is about to change half a dozen lives forever!

The key player in Holding is probably the local Guard – Sergeant PJ Collins.  He has had a quiet time of it thus far in the village of Duneen, however, a local work crew have uncovered some human bones as they excavated a field.  PJ is called for and quickly realises that he is totally out of his depth, he must call in the more experienced detectives from Cork and that is going to make him look inept in they eyes of his neighbours. I say the key player is “probably” PJ, however, there are a number of other strong characters in Holding who will have valid claim to be the main focus of the story…Brid Riordan is one such character.  Her marriage is on the rocks as she is a bit too keen on a glass of wine before breakfast – the discovery of the body in Duneen will have a dramatic impact on Brid but not in any way that she could have expected.

The discovery of a body is not something that will be kept quiet in Duneen and soon everyone is speculating over who the unfortunate victim may be.  We will learn of lost loves, jealousy, bitterness and friends and family will lie to the police to protect their loved ones.  It makes for fascinating reading, I love when an author starts to unpick the secrets in a village as you are never sure what may be uncovered – Graham Norton does it rather well brings a great deal of empathy to his writing as he sets about destroying the hopes and dreams of his cast.

I picked up Holding with no concept of what to expect, I had not read the description and avoided any reviews I was keen to take the story as I found it. I was very pleasantly surprised over how much I enjoyed it. I tend not to read what is commonly referred to as “cosy” crime and Holding is much lighter in tone than many of the more graphic and action packed books I have read recently. But it is absolutely perfectly pitched for the setting and the characters are all totally believable.

Good fun – Good Read.

 

Holding is published by Hodder & Stoughton and is available now in Hardback and Digital format.  You can order a copy through this link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Holding-Graham-Norton/dp/1444792008/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1479939562&sr=1-1&keywords=holding+graham+norton

 

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November 27

Zero – Matt Brolly

zeroNo crime will go unpunished

A zero tolerance policy results in the death penalty for all crimes, no matter how minor.

When a judge is kidnapped, and a ransom note demands the release of all prisoners awaiting execution, kleptomaniac Detective Inspector Kate Swanson is put on the case.

But soon her boss also disappears. Under increasing pressure from her superiors, and caught between the security services and the growing social unrest, Swanson must race to find a man whose murdered wife and daughter link the missing men.

Can she find him before it’s too late?

 

My thanks to Darran at Edpr for the chance to join the Zero Blog Tour

 

The Zero in the title is for the zero tolerance policy towards crime in this dystopian thriller from Matt Brolly. Society has moved to a stage where all crimes are punishable by death, those convicted of committing a crime are held in prison until they can be “podded”.  Those sentenced to death are  placed into a pod which then slowly travels through the land for a month so that everyone is able to see the fate that awaits law breakers. They are given no food, water is withdrawn after 5 days and the only way out is death.  Prisoners will die of dehydration, unless they elect to take their own life by the push of a button which will fill their pod with toxic gas.  If this option is selected then the pod fills with red gas (so those outside can see the prisoner elected to end their own life).  The pods continue to journey with the body inside until the month is over…it is a bleak concept!

As the pods are such a controversial punishment there are opposition groups who are campaigning to have the pods removed.  The judges will send most offenders to the pods, the police will place criminals in front of judges and this means many people will fear and distrust the judicial process.

At the opening of Zero a judge is kidnapped and the police are called in to investigate. We meet Detective Kate Swanson for the first time and soon come to realise how much of a role the politics of this society will play in police-work. There is a fine balance of investigating and keeping within the political constraints that are placed upon her for Swanson – to get things done she is going to have to reach beyond her authority and tread on a few toes.

Readers get to see who has kidnapped the judge and we learn that there is more than one target.  A bombing at a podding site will cause confusion for Swanson…are the events linked or is the bomb detonation just coincidence?

There is loads going on in Zero and it was not until I reached the end that I was able to fully to fully appreciate what a good job that Matt Brolly had done in balancing the different plot strands in the story.  I noticed that this was the first book in what appears to be a new series – while reading I did feel that some plot lines were being set up for future development (pleasing).

Swanson is an interesting lead character and I would love to read more about her. The society depicted in Zero is bleak and it will be interesting to see if (in future books) a political edge to the stories remains and the podding process is challenged or refined.

Zero is an intelligent and thought provoking thriller and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  The “no spoilers” rule is fully applied here but the kidnapper’s motivation and how he executes his plan (including a nasty end-game) is really well depicted – I must admit that in a book of unsettling ideas the end-game was particularly grim.

Really, really enjoyed this (though the podding idea is so very bleak).

 

Zero was published on 21st November by Canelo price £3.99 as an ebook: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Zero-Detective-Kate-Swanson-Mystery-ebook/dp/B01KTUS7KA/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1480246178&sr=1-1&keywords=zero+matt+brolly

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November 22

The Girl Who Had No Fear – Marnie Riches

the-girl-who-had-no-fearAmsterdam: a city where sex sells and drugs come easy. Four dead bodies have been pulled from the canals – and that number’s rising fast. Is a serial killer on the loose? Or are young clubbers falling prey to a lethal batch of crystal meth?

Chief Inspector Van den Bergen calls on criminologist Georgina McKenzie to help him solve this mystery. George goes deep undercover among the violent gangs of Central America. Working for the vicious head of a Mexican cartel, she must risk her own life to find the truth. With murder everywhere she turns, can George get people to talk before she is silenced for good?

 

My thanks to Avon, Harper Collins for my review copy which I received through Netgalley.

 

After a cliff-hanger ending at the end of The Girl Who Walked in the Shadows, Marnie Riches returns with the 4th George McKenzie thriller: The Girl Who Had No Fear. I was more than ready to pick this book up and re-unite with my favourite criminologist.

The housekeeping first – it is the 4th in the series and The Girl Who Had No Fear does pick up on quite a few plot threads from the previous books (not least that cliff-hanger). However, the author does ensure that the reader is kept informed of the past events. So if you were to pick up the series for the first time on book 4 then you would not find it too tricky to keep up. That said, I would urge you to read the first three books – they are brilliant!

In The Girl Who Had No Fear we are back in Amsterdam with Chief Inspector Van den Bergen who has an unwelcome problem on his hands. Dead bodies are turning up in the canals with an alarming frequency. Initially investigations had been hampered by the length of time the bodies had been in the water, however, a newly discovered body reveals that a contaminated batch of crystal-meth may have found its way into Amsterdam.

Van den Bergen recruits George and his colleague “Elvis”  to work in the clubs of Amsterdam to see if either of them are able to identify the source of the drugs – one name keeps cropping up and it will take George and Van den Bergen across Europe and over to Central America.

Aside from this investigation we are in Central America where we follow the exploits of the big-bad of this story, a human trafficker and drug dealer known as el cocodrilo. He is a particularly nasty individual and brought a really dark edge to the story, always nice to have such a despicable villain in a story as you know that at some point your heroes are going to cross his path. If you have read the previous books you know that there is no guarantee Marnie Riches will allow all her key players to come through any such confrontation unscathed!

I found the pacing of The Girl Who Had No Fear to be perfectly judged, the story had me hooked and I found that I was reluctant to stop reading at the end of each chapter – I had to keep going to see what may happen next.  I particularly enjoyed the extra focus on Van den Bergen’s younger colleague, Elvis. With no spoilers allowed in my review, Elvis does not have the best of times in this story and in a book with many standout moments, his scenes were probably my favourites.

Just so I can be clear – reading The Girl Who Had No Fear was an absolute treat. It is dark, enthralling and delivers shocks a-plenty. Another belter from Marnie Riches who is going from strength to strength.

 

The Girl Who Had No Fear is released on 1st December 2016 and you can order a copy here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Girl-Fear-George-McKenzie-Book-ebook/dp/B01GNSR5M8/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1479755287&sr=8-1&keywords=the+girl+who+had+no+fear

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November 19

Night School – Lee Child

night-schoolIn the morning, they gave Reacher a medal. And in the afternoon, they sent him back to school.

It’s just a voice plucked from the air: ‘The American wants a hundred million dollars’.

For what? Who from? It’s 1996, and the Soviets are long gone. But now there’s a new enemy. In an apartment in Hamburg, a group of smartly-dressed young Saudis are planning something big.

Jack Reacher is fresh off a secret mission and a big win. The Army pats him on the back and gives him a medal. And then they send him back to school. It’s a school with only three students: Reacher, an FBI agent, and a CIA analyst. Their assignment? To find that American. And what he’s selling. And to whom. There is serious shit going on, signs of a world gone mad.

Night School takes Reacher back to his army days, but this time he’s not in uniform. With trusted sergeant Frances Neagley at his side, he must carry the fate of the world on his shoulders, in a wired, fiendishly clever new adventure that will make the cold sweat trickle down your spine.

 

My thanks to Patsy Irwin of Transworld for my review copy.
When we first met Jack Reacher in Killing Floor (20 books ago) he had served his country, left the army and was starting his nomadic lifestyle. As it became clear  that Reacher was a highly decorated officer, readers realised that they had missed many of his early adventures and had not had the chance to learn what made Reacher into the man he was. The Enemy was the first book to jump back to Reacher’s army days and now Night School is giving  another welcome return to “retro Reacher”

Plucked from his normal duties he is being sent to school to learn how the army can co-operate better with other agencies. Reacher is not happy, he has just been awarded a medal for successfully completing a rather unpleasant piece of “housekeeping” for his employers and now it seems he is being side-lined. But all may not be quite as it seems and it is not long before Reacher and (very pleasingly) Neagley are back doing what we love best – tracking down the bad guys.

Night School has a bit of a different feel than most of the previous books in the series. Reacher is very much working as part of a team this time around (not his tight group of Special Investigators) but a bigger entity which includes the army, the FBI and the CIA.  There are more factions to juggle and the lines of enquiry are much bigger than Reacher taking down the few bad seeds in small town America.

I enjoyed the change of pace and the bigger scale of the story. The threat that the investigators are chasing down is a big deal, an international crisis and large parts of the book is set in Germany – putting Reacher right into the heart of the action.

Returning readers will enjoy some unexpected cameo appearances and there are lots of classic “Reacher” moments – the analysis of how a fight may unfold, Neagley being the best at everything and Reacher doggedly playing reasoned hunches.  Night School is another great read from Lee Child and already I am looking forward to the next.

 

Night School is published by Transworld and is available in Hardback and digital formats. You can order a copy through this link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Night-School-Jack-Reacher-21/dp/0593073908/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1479573922&sr=1-1&keywords=night+school+lee+child

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November 17

Book Chains – SJI Holliday (Fifth Link)

the-damselflyHaving placed the future of my Book Chains feature entirely into the hands of my guests, I am very grateful to Daniel Pembrey for nominating Susi Holliday to join me and keep my chain of Q&A’s going.

Susi, writing as SJI Holliday, is the author of the Banktoun series which began with Black Wood and Willow Walk and will continue in the forthcoming The Damselfly – which releases on 2nd February 2017.  Each book can be ordered by clicking on the title.  I will have a LOT more to say about The Damselfly in the near future, however, trust me when I say you *need* to read this book!

By sheer chance (before I discovered that Daniel had nominated her) Susi and I had been discussing a Q&A around ghost stories so there is a bit of a supernatural theme to my questions.

 

G – Will I start with the easy one… what, for you, makes a good horror story?

SH – It’s not any one specific thing. It’s something that scares you, but not just on the surface. Not just someone jumping out of your wardrobe in the dark and shouting BOO! in your face (although that works, obviously – did I give you a fright?) It’s something that stays with you afterwards. Something you can’t get out of your mind. Something that slithers under your skin and stays there, hiding in your subconscious, ready to reappear whenever you let your guard down.

G – What do you enjoy? Is it a ghost story or perhaps a haunted house?  Monsters? Psychopaths?

SH – Enjoy is an interesting word, isn’t it? Can you really enjoy horror? I don’t really know how to describe it. I do enjoy being scared, but only when I know that ultimately, I am safe. If the horror is behind a screen, or in the pages of a book, then it’s ok to enjoy it, I think. The Ring, though … when she climbs out of the TV? That’s too much. That’s breaking the fourth wall. Or those people who get paid to jump out at you on horror attractions. Sickos. I love ghost stories. Haunted houses. Psychopaths too. Monsters, not so much. Many a good psychological horror has been ruined by the appearance of a less than convincing monster.

G – Which stories have stood out for you? My personal favourites are Phantoms (Dean Koontz), The Magic Cottage (James Herbert) and always Stephen King’s IT.

SH – Excellent choices there, for multiple reasons. IT is a perfect example of my monster-hate. I loved that book (and the film) until the big reveal. Keep it in the shadows! That clown was good though. Creepy as hell. I took a photo of a storm drain when I was in the US last year. I half expected to see Pennywise’s face poking out when I downloaded it from my camera… They all float… The Woman in Black is a standout horror for me. It’s quite a short book, but written with such an air of menace that you can’t help but feel tense throughout. The Exorcist, too. They made a bit of a cheese-fest out of the film, but the book was genuinely terrifying. Religion is a great influence in horror. All that symbolism. Myths and legends. I also love Misery. Isolation. A deranged captor. A modern classic.

G – Could you recommend any stories/authors which you think more people should be reading?

SH – I don’t read enough contemporary horror. I get scared more easily these days. Alison Littlewood is brilliant. As is Joe Hill (Heart-Shaped Box, in particular). And Josh Malerman’s Bird Box is a terrific dystopian horror. That book should’ve had a lot more fanfare. Everyone should read it. EVERYONE.

Willow WalkG – I can remember scenes in both Black Wood and Willow Walk which were chilling and hinted the potential of a supernatural element (particularly in Black Wood). Could we see a ghostly tale from you one day?

SH – Absolutely! I scared myself quite a bit when writing certain parts of Black Wood (more about that later!) I have several horror ideas up my sleeve. Ghost stories, creepy critters… and more! I’ll get to them eventually.

G – Can you remember any of the early stories you read that made you think that you wanted to read more creepy tales? My local library had a collection of short stories: The Armada Book of Ghost Stories which I tried (and freaked my young self out) but I ordered in more books in the series.

SH – I remember that book! I read a lot of scary stuff when I was young – my mum had loads of really trashy 70s/80s horror. The ones with the scary covers! I don’t think I could read one of those now though. I seem to scare far too easily these days!

G – What scares you?

SH – I was going to go deep here, and say things like ‘something bad happening to someone I love’ and ‘the state of the world’ but I’m going to go more surface-level and say rollercoasters. I have no idea why anyone would want to put themselves through that. For fun! Madness. Pure madness. I’m also scared of seeing someone standing at the end of my bed in the middle of the night, hence why I will NEVER watch Paranormal Activity.

black-wood-72G – Have you had any supernatural experiences?

SH – When we lived in our old house (a VERY old house, c1900), we were getting loads of work done and one day when I was in there alone, writing scary bits in Black Wood, one of the workmen came round to tell me about what he was planning to do next, and he asked after my daughter. I laughed, in a slightly confused way, as I don’t have any children. I asked if he had maybe heard the neighbour’s grandchildren. Nope. He went quite pale then. Pointed into the dining room. ‘She was playing down there on the floor.’ He literally backed out of the house. I was then, of course, terrified. Attempting to dispel the unease, I jokily mentioned it on Facebook, without mentioning that it was a girl or that it was in the dining room. A friend who had visited a few months before sent me a message: ‘Was she in the dining room? Don’t worry, she’s happy.’

Reader, we moved out.

 

G – And I am now too freaked out to continue with that…let’s do some quickfire questions.

Greatest Album Ever? Can I have two? Nirvana’s Nevermind & Pearl Jam’s Ten.

Which is best: sushi or chilli? Chilli. Sushi gives me the boak.

What advice do you give your 15 yo self? ‘They’ll all stop talking about it eventually.’

What was the last book you read? Watch Her Disappear by the incredible Eva Dolan (out in Jan 2017)

Is Trainspotting correct to say “It’s Shite Being Scottish”? Only when people ask you about politics.

SJI HollidayWhich one concert would you have liked to attend (any place and time). I need two again. Queen with Freddie & Nirvana with Kurt. Both legends. Actually I need another one. Wham! Before I found out that George Michael didn’t like girls (a sad day).

Are you a cat or a dog person? I think cat. Theoretically. But I like some of those little terriers too. I’m not really a pet person.

Which one reality TV show would you like to appear on? I really hate it, but I’d quite like to be on The X-Factor, with the rest of The Slice Girls. I think Simon would love us.

 

Now the Book Chain question. Daniel asked you:

Maverick, Ice or Goose? The definitive, character-led answer, please. (I have no idea but I always liked Meg Ryan’s character – I’ve seen it once)

SH – SIGH. It’s Maverick, obviously. Brooding, arrogant but damaged and in need of the love of a good woman. Ultimately he would have loved to be Goose, but Goose was too nice and that’s why he had to die. I still cry at that scene. Funny story, actually. Craig Robertson flatly refused to believe that Meg Ryan played Goose’s wife. Not even sure he believed photographic evidence. This isn’t why Daniel asked me this though. He asked, because, well… there was talk of a new Top Gun with crime writers cast in the lead roles. It was possibly going to be X-rated. Daniel is obviously Maverick, so clearly this is the answer he wanted. I feel the need… the need for speed!

 

I’d like to nominate Mark Hill to go next. His debut The Two O’Clock Boy is fantastic. I’d like to ask him…<<REDACTED>>   

Susi – thank you!  Though I suspect I am going to have weird dreams about dining rooms…

 

The Damselfly is published in February 2017 by Black & White Publishing and you can pre-order your copy here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01M7RBU7W

 

 

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November 14

The Bone Collection – Kathy Reichs

the-bone-collectionA collection of chilling tales featuring forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan – including the untold story of her first case.

The No.1 Sunday Times bestselling author Kathy Reichs is renowned for suspense and fascinating forensic detail. Now she brings that same artistry to her first volume of collected short stories.

In First Bones, a prequel to Reichs’s very first novel, Déjà Dead, she at last reveals how Tempe became a forensic anthropologist. In this never-before-published story, Tempe recalls the case that lured her from a promising career in academia into the grim but addictive world of criminal investigation.

Three more stories take Tempe from the low country of the Florida Everglades, where she makes a grisly discovery in the stomach of an eighteen-foot Burmese python, to the heights of Mount Everest, where a frozen corpse is unearthed.

No matter where she goes, Tempe’s cases make for the most gripping reading.

 

My thanks to Kate at Penguin Random House for my review copy and the chance to join the blog tour.

The Bone Collection gathers four Tempe Brennan stories into a single volume. Of the four novellas gathered in this collection I believe that three have been published previously as stand-alone purchases, therefore, if you have been collecting the Kathy Reichs releases as they have come out then there is a chance you may already own 3 of the 4 stories in the collection.

So with that small public information announcement out of the way I can turn to the stories. First Bones is the “new” tale in the collection and we learn how Brennan made the decisions which forged her career. The jump from academia into criminal investigation is positioned brilliantly, a situation in which doing “the right thing” seems the only option. We meet a much younger Tempe than we are used to seeing and the author can play with some character flaws and insecurities that time and experience have smoothed over for the Brennan we know so well.

The opening novella in the collection is The Bones in Her Pocket – a great reminder of the skill of the author and the informative detail that Kathy Reichs can work into her writing. She writes with a precision and a clarity but never sacrifices the entertainment element of the story so you feel you can become absorbed into Brennan’s world and easily keep up with the discoveries she makes. In this particular story the discovery lies in a heavily wooded forest where a body which had been submerged in deep water makes an unexpected return to the surface – a complicated confusion of bones will tax Brennan’s skills.

My favourite story in the collection was Swamp Bones – a story set in the Florida Everglades where Brennan will encounter alligators and examine a python which seems to have feasted on something or someone that should have kept out of its way.

The collection is rounded out with the engaging Bones on Ice – Brennan finds herself with a frozen corpse on Mount Everest.

Each of the stories are tightly scripted and highlight the undoubted talent of the author. For readers who may be finding the Brennan books after watching the tv show Bones then this collection of stories is a great introduction to the books.  Fans of the novels who may not have picked up the novellas in the past should leap at this chance to read more Kathy Reichs stories.

While I normally don’t enjoy short story collections I found I could not put The Bone Collection down.  It has been a couple of years since I last read a Kathy Reichs book and I was reminded just how much I enjoy her writing. But more importantly the stories are were a good length that kept me reading and the continuity of the lead character (Brennan) made the collection feel less like a random assortment of tales and more cohesive as a single volume.

Highly recommended for fans and a great “jumping on point” for new readers.

 

The Bone Collection is published by William Heinemann and is available in hardback and digital format.

You can order a copy through this link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/d/Books/Bone-Collection-Four-Novellas-Kathy-Reichs/1785150952/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1479160834&sr=8-1&keywords=the+bone+collection

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November 11

Crash Land – Doug Johnstone

crash-landSitting in the departure lounge of Kirkwall Airport, Finn Sullivan just wants to get off Orkney. But then he meets the mysterious and dangerous Maddie Pierce, stepping in to save her from some unwanted attention, and his life is changed forever.

Set against the brutal, unforgiving landscape of Orkney, CRASH LAND is a psychological thriller steeped in guilt, shame, lust, deception and murder.

 

My thanks to Laura at Faber & Faber for my review copy and the chance to join the blog tour.

 

I love reading books set in Scotland, mainly down to the fact that I have lived, or spent time, in virtually every corner of my homeland and the locations I know so well can really lift a story. But despite having heard so many wonderful things about the Orkney Isles I have not yet ventured that far North. Now that I have read Crash Land I really want to make that journey. Doug Johnstone has made the islands sound so remote, beautiful, secluded and packed full of historical intrigue that I need to experience the place for myself…

But it is not just the location which makes Crash Land such a wonderful read – the story of Finn Sullivan’s chance encounter with Maddie Pierce (and all the consequences thereafter) is a thumpingly good and surprisingly dark page-turner.

Finn is leaving Orkney to return to his home on the Scottish mainland. He is killing time in the bar of the airport departure lounge when he spots Maddie – she is hard to miss.  Maddie is travelling alone and attracting the unwanted attention of four boorish oil workers so she moves to join Finn who she perceives to be less of a threat. The typically inclement weather delays their flight so the two get chatting and we see that Finn has become quite enamoured with Ms Pierce. However, Finn has done most of the talking and soon realises that he knows very little about Maddie.

The two board their plane and set off on a journey which will change their lives forever. What follows is a delightfully tightly plotted story where you will never quite be sure where the truth lies. Trusts will be broken, many lies told and friendships (both new and old) will be tested to their limits.

Doug Johnstone has taken a very small cast of characters and built a gripping story around them. Finn is caught up in the centre of all the troubles and will need to decide where his loyalties lie. His mental and emotional limits will be tested and he will face predicaments from his worst nightmares. Reading Finn’s story and watching him try to continue to do what he believes is the right thing was a treat – though often I got frustrated with the decisions he was making!

Maddie, was a mystery. I was never quite sure where she was going or what was driving her…Doug Johnstone dripped her story out with expert pacing and I cheered for her and booed her in equal measure.

Crash Land is a cracking read – I thoroughly enjoyed it and have no hesitation in recommending that you read it too.

 

Crash Land is published by Faber & Faber and is available in paperback and digital  format. You can order a copy here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Crash-Land-Doug-Johnstone/dp/057133086X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1478817373&sr=8-1&keywords=crash+land+by+doug+johnstone

 

Catch the previous legs of the Tour:

crash-land_blog-tour-graphic_

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November 9

Talking Books with Steve Worsley

Earlier this year I had the opportunity to chat with AK Benedict about audiobooks. She had just released her fantastic new novel Jonathan Dark or the Evidence of Ghosts and had also written a Torchwood audio play for Big Finish productions – she was telling Captain Jack Harkness what to say!  Our chat covered what it was like for an author to pass their work to a team to turn it into an audiobook. You can read that interview here: http://grabthisbook.net/?p=1419

Now I am delighted to be able to bring you the other side of the story. Today’s guest, Steve Worsley, is a narrator of audiobooks and has spent hours in a studio to give a voice to the books we listen to. Down the years I have listened to many, many audiobooks so I was keen to learn a little more about how the audiobooks come together.

My first question is never actually a question, this is where I ask you to introduce yourself and give you the opportunity to get a few plugs in!

I am Steve Worsley. I’m a Scottish actor/singer. Originally from Aberdeen but now living in Falkirk with my wife and step children. I sing with a rat pack vocal trio called Ocean’s 3. I also perform improvised comedy with an Edinburgh improv  troupe called Men With Coconuts. We perform at the Edinburgh Fringe, Prague Fringe and currently have a residency at the Scottish Storytelling Centre in Edinburgh.

 

shatter-the-bonesHow do you become the voice of an audiobook?

For me it kind of happened by accident. I was working with another actor who specialises in voice over work. He mentioned that he had been asked to narrate an audiobook. It was Shatter the Bones by Stuart MacBride. He said he didn’t really fancy it as he was from Glasgow and the Stuart MacBride books were set in Aberdeen (my home town). I jokingly said I’d do it if he didn’t fancy it. He took me up on the offer and helped me record a short demo to be approved by the publisher (HarperCollins). To my surprise they did and before I knew it I was off to a studio in Manchester to record my first unabridged audiobook. On the back of that I approached another publisher, who as luck would have it had just listened to Shatter the Bones. I was immediately offered another audiobook. The rather wonderful crime thriller The Blackhouse by Peter May. Due to reader popularity I have now become the voice of all the Logan MacRae series of books by Stuart MacBride. Since then I have gathered together all the equipment needed to make a wee home studio, and now produce my own audiobooks through an online company called ACX where writers submit their novels, and narrators can then audition for the roles.

 

I know all books will vary in length but if you have narrated a story with a 10-hour running time how long may you have spent in a studio to get that recorded?

I usually spend about 3-4 days in a studio, reading from 9-5 with regular breaks. My longest book so far is The Missing and the Dead by Stuart MacBride which came in at just over 17 hours. That took about 4 days in a studio in London. That was a real challenge to complete as the studio had booked me for 4 days but then found out that the book was about 150 pages longer than estimated! Luckily I’ve been told by several sound engineers that my sight reading rate is unusually high. I can comfortably read about 150 pages in a single day. Of course home recording is a different matter as I not only have to read but edit the whole book myself. And I can only record when the kids are at school! It can take me up to 2 months to produce a home recording.

 

the-blackhouseDo you need to be able to voice different accents?

 Oh yes! The Stuart MacBride books were great for me as they are all set in my home town. Until I took over on book 7 his books had never been narrated by a native Aberdonian (except the two he did himself). But even in his books there are loads of different accents. Some of them particularly specific. One character spoke with a mix of Aberdonian and Brummie!!. I’ve also had to do American, regional English accents and few others from around the world. In The Blackhouse by Peter May the whole book was set in Stornoway and was littered with Gaelic phrases and names. That was a real challenge! Not to mention reading different gendered characters as well.

Is a book recorded sequentially? 

Yes. You start at chapter 1 and keep going to the end.

 

(I think I know the answer to this but…) Can you just show up at a recording session and start reading or would you expect to have read the book beforehand?

I always read the book at least once (twice if possible) and allow time to makes notes. Unfortunately that it not always possible. Particularly with the big publishers. In the past I’ve received a manuscript on a Friday or Saturday and been in the studio on the Monday!

 

Dsteve-worsleyo you ever meet any of the authors or get feedback from them?

I’m good friends on Facebook with Peter May. He lives in France. My wife and his daughter are also now best friends as they are both artists. Most of the authors I home record for live in the States but again we stay in touch through Facebook. I’ve been lucky enough to have had some lovely things said about my work from the authors. Which is not only an honour but a huge relief!! It can be pretty nerve-wracking being entrusted with someone’s baby!!!

 

Are you a reader? If so then what types of books do you enjoy?

I love to read when I can find the time. I like a bit of everything but have been a lifelong Stephen King fan. He truly is one of the great writers of the last century. I also love Clive Barker (I do love a bit of horror). And of course The Lord of the Rings gets an outing every few years. And if I am in the mood then you can’t beat Matthew Reilly for just pure entertainment and non-stop action.

 

Have you have to narrate books which you really didn’t enjoy (and I am not asking you to name them) but would that make the experience seem longer?

All I will say is yes and YES! However so far I have been very lucky to have read some wonderful books by extremely talented authors.

 

Steve – thank you! I have spent hours/weeks/days of my life listening to audiobooks have not given much consideration to all the work that goes into making that possible. As a skim reader (who doesn’t like to say much) I am in awe of how much work you have to do to bring us these audio delights.  

 

You can find Steve’s audiobooks on the Audible website here: http://www.audible.co.uk/search/ref=a_pd_Crime-_tseft?advsearchKeywords=steve+worsley&filterby=field-keywords&sprefixRefmarker=nb_sb_ss_i_0_8&sprefix=steve+wo

More information about Men With Coconuts on this link: http://www.menwithcoconuts.com/

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November 7

Spare Me The Truth – CJ Carver

spare-me-the-truthDan Forrester, piecing his life back together after the tragic death of his son, is approached in a supermarket by a woman who tells him everything he remembers about his life – and his son – is a lie.

Grace Reavey, stricken by grief, is accosted at her mother’s funeral. The threat is simple: pay the staggering sum her mother allegedly owed, or lose everything.

Lucy Davies has been forced from the Met by her own maverick behaviour. Desperate to prove herself in her new rural post, she’s on the hunt for a killer – but this is no small town criminal.

Plunged into a conspiracy that will test each of them to their limits, these three strangers are brought together in their hunt for the truth, whatever it costs. And as their respective investigations become further and further entwined, it becomes clear that at the centre of this tangled web is a threat more explosive than any of them could have imagined.

 

I love thrillers like Spare Me The Truth. We have three seemingly unconnected characters and we follow their stories knowing that somehow their paths will cross. Three central protagonists also heightens the possibility that not everyone will come through the story unscathed. Will they all turn out to be victims?  Is one of the characters going to cross another?  What if one character can only achieve the outcome they want at the cost of misery to another? But as a reader, what I really need to know is: can the author juggle three big storylines and keep me reading?

Well if that author is CJ Carver then the answer to that last question is most certainly YES. Spare Me The Truth was an absolute blast to read.

From the opening chapters I was hooked on the dilemmas and confusion that Grace was facing. She had just lost her mother but a stranger approached her suggesting that her mother owed a lot of money – Grace had to make good on the debt. Grace realised that she knew little about the life that her mother may have led and now has to find a way to contend with a huge problem that she has inherited.

Dan Forrester is a tragic character. He lost his young son and the trauma of the incident has also robbed Dan of many of his memories – a defence mechanism to allow him to cope with the tragedy.  Dan is getting by and slowly rebuilding his life until one day a chance encounter with a strange woman will lead him to question much of what he believes to be the truth.  The woman clearly knows Dan well but he has no idea who she may be – how much faith can Dan place in the memories that his family and friends have helped him to rebuild?

Also integral to the story in Spare Me The Truth is Lucy Davis. A cop with a troubled past, she is keen to rebuild her reputation and regain the faith of her colleagues.  Lucy believes she is on the trail of a killer, can she find the evidence she needs to prove she is correct and can she ensure that there are no more innocent deaths?

Spare Me The Truth was perfect escapism.  I got drawn into the story and did not want to stop reading, this is exactly what I look for in a book!

 

Spare Me The Truth is published by Zaffre and is available in paperback and digital formats.

You can order your copy here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Spare-Me-Truth-explosive-Forrester-ebook/dp/B01AC2JERU/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1478545908&sr=8-2&keywords=cj+carver

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