October 20

The Fallen Agent – Oliver Tidy

Jess Albion has recently started a new life on the other side of the world with a new identity. She used to be MI5. Then a job went bad, someone died and she was made an example of in the British courts. But MI5 look after their own. Or they did until rumours of a planned Al Qaeda biological terror attack on London started circulating. Now someone in the British security services is giving agents up in return for information. No price, it seems, is too high to save London from the ultimate threat.

When Jess’s fresh start is compromised she has a choice to make: run and hide and spend the rest of her life looking over her shoulder or go looking for the threat and snuff it out. On her own, she’d run, but she has Nick on her side.

The Fallen Agent is a story of love and hate, of loyalty and betrayal, of revenge and callous disregard for human life in the pursuit of satisfaction.

 

My thanks to Caroline Vincent (Bits About Books) for the chance to host today’s leg of the blog tour.

 

My earliest memories of reading books I considered to be “spy” thrillers came from my teen years when I was devouring as many books as I could get my paws on at the time. Most of the espionage thrillers were Cold War tales set in Berlin or Russia where there were it seemed everyone was frantically trying to outmanoeuvre the next person – I got a bit scunnered with those quite quickly and returned to crime and horror tales.  Had those “spy” books been as exciting and fast paced as Oliver Tidy’s The Fallen Agent then I would have read many more.

The Fallen Agent is described as a Jess Albion thriller as I had not read any of Oliver’s books prior to this one it was nice to have that wee steer as to which character I should be looking out for.  Chapter One and I am picking my jaw from the floor and wondering what the Hell is going to happen next as all my preconceptions of what may happen in The Fallen Agent had been shattered.

Well there will not be any spoilers over what did happen next but I can assure you that this was a great read. I tore through it in one single sitting and loved every twist and turn along the way.

British Security chiefs are worried about a potential terror attack on London and are willing to do whatever they can to protect the city. When a potential information source makes an offer to trade his knowledge of the upcoming attack for details of where he can find Jess it seems there is an easy choice to make. There will be no loyalty shown and Jess will be sacrificed to protect millions of others – her location will be revealed to the man who wants her dead.

But Jess still has at least one friend in the Service (Nick) and he embarks on a race against time to find Jessica and alert her to the potential threat against her life.  With so much at stake, the action in The Fallen Agent comes thick and fast. Oliver Tidy has a fabulous writing style which keeps the story zipping along and kept me hooked throughout.

An absolute treat: The Fallen Agent comes highly recommended.

 

The Fallen Agent is available in digital download and you can order a copy here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Fallen-Agent-Jess-Albion-Thriller-ebook/dp/B075QHKG8P/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

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October 14

The Angel -Katerina Diamond

THE TRUTH WON’T STAY LOCKED UP FOREVER

When a burned body is found in a disused signal box, suspicion falls on lonely teenager Gabriel Webb. There’s no doubt he was at the scene of the crime, but does he really deserve what awaits him in prison?

DS Imogen Grey is certain there’s more to the case than meets the eye. But while she struggles to convince those around her of the truth, her partner DS Adrian Miles is distracted by his own demons.

When a brutal double murder is reported, their investigation is stopped in its tracks. Is the body in the box even who they thought it was? The duo realise Gabriel might have been locked up for a crime he didn’t commit. But with enemies watching Gabriel’s every move, they may be too late.

 

My thanks to Sabah at Avon Books for my review copy and the chance to join the blog tour.

Imogen Grey and Adrian Miles are back – they are called out to investigate a fire in an abandoned signal box but on arrival at the scene they find that their arson case has had a tragic outcome – the body of a homeless man (who must have been sheltering from the elements) is found under the main signal room where the fire started.

Grey and Miles manage to track down Gabriel Webb, he had been in the signal box with his girlfriend and a couple of other local kids.  Gabriel had started a small fire to keep them warm but had not wanted to be in the signal box and wanted nothing to do with the drugs which he was offered.

When confronted by Grey he confirms he started the fire (for warmth) but he had no idea that it had spread to ignite the whole signal box and he is devastated to learn that someone died.  His world shattered Gabriel finds himself in prison – pending trial.

The Angel keeps us updated on Gabriel’s story while in prison and I loved those scenes. We see how he moved from lonely and uncertain then started to accept his situation and adjust to his new life. What he had not anticipated was Asher – a fellow inmate who has his sights on Gabriel and more than a little power in their confined world.

Elsewhere a brutal murder of an elderly couple commands all the attention of the police. The seemingly unmotivated killings shock Grey and Miles but when they start their investigations they uncover some strange connections which suggest that this random incident may actually be part of something much more sinister.

Although they may not initially be aware – the double murder is going to have a huge impact upon both Miles and Grey. Katerina Diamond expertly spins a story and I was completely hooked on The Angel – Gabriel’s situation was compelling but the personal dramas which her cops encountered lifted this from a “great” book to a “fantastic” book.  I utterly loved it – reading late into the night as I did not want to stop.

The housekeeping bit – The Angel is the 3rd book and there are references to past events. But the good news for new readers or for those (like me) that have “goldfish” memories then The Angel can be enjoyed as a stand alone – really enjoyed, really, really enjoyed.

Katerina Diamond is now firmly established as a must read author, her books are all brilliantly written, paced to perfection and have that dark unpredictability which I always welcome.

The Angel is out in paperback and digital format now – treat yourself, I am going to be recommending this to everyone.

 

The Angel is published by Avon Books and you can order a copy here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Angel-shocking-thriller-Imogen-Adrian-ebook/dp/B06XB3R3PV/ref=la_B01C0H1GOE_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1507970935&sr=1-1

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October 12

Guest Post: Mason Cross – Serial Heroes

The last day of this run of Serial Heroes and I have been looking forward to sharing this with you.

When I ask someone if they would like to take part in this feature they generally agree first and only then do I ask which author or series they would like to discuss – I love that!

When I asked Mason Cross which author he would consider writing about for Serial Heroes he immediately asked about Michael Connolly…I have been looking forward to reading this post ever since.

Serial Heroes – Harry Bosch

 

Everybody counts or nobody counts,” is a recurring theme in Michael Connelly’s long-running series starring Hieronymus Bosch (Harry for short). It sums up Harry’s philosophy – he’s an unfashionably moral cop in a literary LA crime scene often defined by bad men versus worse men, like James Ellroy’s protagonists.

Which is not to say he’s by-the-book, exactly. In fact it’s Bosch’s drive to never take the easy way out, to always get the job done right, that often puts him in conflict with his superiors, and sometimes even his partners. Maybe that’s the secret to his success as a series hero: he gives you all the rule breaking thrills of a standard-issue maverick cop, but underneath that he has a moral code as unshakeable as Atticus Finch’s.

The Bosch series started off in 1992 with The Black Echo, which introduced Harry and made use of his backstory as a Vietnam tunnel rat in a story that sees him on the trail of some of his fellow veterans, who are planning a bank vault heist using their tunneling expertise. Bosch has aged in real time, so by the most recent installment (The Wrong Side of Goodbye) he’s been retired a couple of times already and has still managed to find a way to unretire himself. Like other long-running characters such as Ian Rankin’s Rebus and Lee Child’s Reacher, this longevity is a big part of the enjoyment for a reader. You get to see how the hero evolves (or doesn’t) as he ages and the world changes around him.

Just as Rebus’s Edinburgh has changed a lot over his tenure, so has Bosch’s Los Angeles. When The Black Echo was published, the LA riots were a few months away, and OJ Simpson was famous only as an ex-football player with a minor film career. Bosch has seen a lot of changes in his hometown since then.

As a reader, I’ve always loved LA crime, from Raymond Chandler’s classics through more recent masters like Walter Mosely, Robert Crais and James Ellroy. I even had a go at writing one of my own, in The Samaritan, which is the only one of my novels so far to be almost entirely set within one city. While you can make a good case for New York and San Francisco, LA is simply the classic noir city for me, exemplified in films like Chinatown, The Long Goodbye, LA Confidential, Collateral, and even Blade Runner. Connelly’s books are very much rooted in the modern world, but each one channels the history and atmosphere of noir in the City of Angels.

That’s a quality that the Bosch TV show has sensibly taken and run with. Although they’ve changed a few elements (Titus Welliver’s version of the character has been de-aged and made a Gulf War vet instead of Vietnam), they’ve kept the core of the character exactly intact, and made use of some underused but cinematic parts of LA. Like the books, it glories in the incidental details of LA: getting a burger at In-And-Out, or the numerous ways the darker side of Hollywood crosses into the underworld.

It’s no mean feat that I’ve never read a bad Connelly book, given he’s written more than thirty of them. Most of those star Bosch, but Connelly has created an interrelated universe of characters who drop in and out of the various books, and some who star in their own series, like Harry’s half-brother Mickey Haller, The Lincoln Lawyer. Haller is almost the opposite of Bosch: cynical, charming and driven by money and success, but he keeps a similar innate sense of justice carefully concealed beneath the flash exterior. Reading the pair’s meeting in the latest book, I couldn’t help but wonder if Connelly will be tempted to put Haller and Bosch on opposite sides of a murder trial one day.

It’s tough to pick a favourite in the series when the books are of such consistent high quality, but if you held a gun to my head I might plump for the first one I read: Lost Light. Or maybe The Drop. The Black Box was pretty great too. Damn it, you might as well pick all of them. They all count.

 

Mason Cross is the author of the hugely popular Carter Blake series. You can find all his books here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Mason-Cross/e/B00FWO52KC/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1507490732&sr=8-2-ent

Sign up to the Mason Cross Readers Club and he’ll tell you when the next Carter Blake book hits the shelves. You’ll also be the first to know about news, exclusives and competitions.

@masoncrossbooks

facebook.com/MrMasonCross

 

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October 12

Guest Post: Angela Clarke – Serial Heroes

I am still hunting down authors who will be willing to chat about their favourite authors – the series which they look forward to reading. When scouting for potential guests for this feature I scour through Social Media posts and look to see who may be championing the work of other authors. Today’s guest had me re-evaluating my methods!

Angela Clarke is the author of the fantastic Social Media Murders series. My concern: if I could track Angela down and make random blogger requests after reading her Twitter and Facebook updates then what sort of impression may that have made?

I was delighted that Angela agreed to join in with Serial Heroes but my worry returned when she immediately embarked on what seemed to a quest to do as many different activities as possible in a three month window.  I am beyond grateful to Angela for finding time to share her thoughts on the books of Jane Casey.

Serial Heroes: Jane Casey

By Angela Clarke

By a strange quirk of fate, and because publishing is quite a small industry really, I met Jane Casey before I read any of her books. At the time, I’d just published a humorous memoir of working in the fashion industry, and my reading material had a distinct romantic comedy skew. But pitching up to support a friend on a crime panel hosted by a law firm, (no less), I saw Jane for the first time.

That is beginning to sound like my own romantic storyline: I first saw her through a crowd of solicitors, the light from the preponderance of tie clips worn in the room sparkling in her eyes. But I think that speaks more of my later developed obsession with her characters, than Jane herself. Not that she isn’t aces. Jane’s quick wit, and talent for hooky thought-provoking storylines were deftly displayed during the panel. And she made me laugh in the pub after. (Yeah, still sounding a bit obsessive stalker-ish, Ange. Bear with me). Anyway, I believe that if you attend a book event (for which the author has almost certainly not been paid for their time or travel), then you should buy a book. So, I did. I bought the first in the Maeve Kerrigan Series: The Burning. And it changed my life.

But first, I carried the book home, popped it on my shelf, and forgot about it. This is no disrespect to Jane or her storytelling skills, it was indicative of my life and my to-be-read list at the time. I was prioritising books that I had to read for work. I was prioritising work. And then I got sick. Properly lie-in-bed-for-months-on-end sick. And my writing changed. Instead of the upbeat fun fashion pieces I’d previously been writing, my work grew darker, more twisted. Death started cropping up, and shortly behind it, the police. The only problem was, I knew nothing about the police. I was moaning about this stunning lack of procedural and legal knowledge to my friend, the one who’d also been on the law firm panel. And she reminded me of Jane. Explaining Jane’s partner is a criminal barrister, and her writing has an unsettlingly realistic feel. Well, I’d rather read fiction than a dry dusty legal tome any day, so I had someone fetch The Burning from my study and bring it to me in bed. (It was almost certainly Mr Ange, but it sounds cooler, like I have a charming secretary who perches on the end of my bed and reads to me, if I describe it this way).

The Burning is a fantastic serial killer thriller, with a twist. It’s about a murderer who likes to watch his victims burn. With four women dead already, the press talking hysterically about ‘The Burning Man’, and a fifth victim just found, The Met’s murder task force throws as much man power at solving the case as possible. Which gives ambitious young DC, Maeve Kerrigan, a chance to prove herself. As she spends more time with the fifth victim’s friends and family, Maeve becomes increasingly determined and desperate to stop the killer.

Jane’s writing is authentic, her comprehensive knowledge of procedure feels as natural as it does in those authors who used to be cops: it’s just there. It is. It’s real. It’s a masterclass in pace, and a faithful portrayal of the complex realities of modern policing, with seductive writing and a plot that reels you in and twists in a way I didn’t see coming. But it is not for any of these, (albeit excellent), reasons that I finished The Burning in a matter of hours, and immediately ordered every other book in the series. No, I did that because of Maeve.

Jane’s eager, hardworking, justice-hunting, sometimes spikey, feminist kickass DC Maeve Kerrigan is the kind of woman I’d like to be mates with. Except she’d probably find me a bit too girly. At least until I’d won her over with white wine. And god I would try. She’s the real deal. A rich, complex character with often conflicting passions and drives who believes she is every bit as good as the men on the team around her (the reader knows she’s often better). Maeve forms an unlikely and often humorous work partnership with her sexist, obnoxious, tart with a heart, superior DI Josh Derwent. With this reader wishing they would get closer. He’s a bro with outdated ideas of what women are capable of and how they should be treated, and its testament to Jane’s skill that she has turned a man I would on paper find abhorrent, into a heartthrob. And all without betraying either my or Maeve’s feminist principles. It’s also testament to Jane’s astute understanding of character. Humans are complicated, multifaceted creatures. Just as ‘baddies’ are not two dimensional stereotypes, neither are the ‘goodies’, or everyone in between. Life and life experience is messy, and it moulds every one of us into shapes, emotions and people we thought we could never be capable of. Good and bad. Jane’s nuanced characters, and their relationships continue to grow across the books, eliciting laughter, gasps, and tears at times. They are like friends. And I am in love with them. Seriously, what are you waiting for? Add Maeve Kerrigan to your must-read list.

 

 

 

Angela is The Sunday Times bestselling author of the Social Media Murder Series, including Follow Me, Watch Me, and Trust Me – which can be ordered here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Trust-Me-Angela-Clarke-ebook/dp/B01MRGTMK6/

Follow Me was named Amazon’s Rising Star Debut of the Month January 2016, long listed for the Crime Writer’s Association Dagger in the Library 2016, and short listed for the Dead Good Page Turner Award 2016. Follow Me has been optioned by a TV production company. Angela’s humorous memoir Confessions of a Fashionista is an Amazon Fashion Chart bestseller.

Angela featured on CBS Reality’s real life crime series Written in Blood, appeared on the BBC Ouch’s Edinburgh Festival Stage in Tales of The Misunderstood, and hosted the book show Tales From Your Life on BBC 3 Counties in 2017. During 2015, she hosted and produced the current affairs radio show Outspoken on Radio Verulam. Angela also features regularly as a panel guest on BBC 3 Counties, BBC Radio 4, and the BBC World Service, among others. Angela has given talks and masterclasses for many, including City University’s Crime Writing MA, Noirwich Crime Writing Festival, Camp Bestival, Panic! (in partnership with Create, the Barbican, Goldsmiths University and The Guardian), Meet a Mentor (in partnership with the Royal Society of Arts), Northwich Lit FestSt Albans Lit FestBeaconLit, and the London College of Fashion.

 

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October 10

Guest Post: Ian Skewis – Serial Heroes

Serial Heroes – I am 43 years old and there are two heroes that I have loved for as long as I can remember. Their adventures are known to millions but perhaps you may not immediately associate either of them with books?  The first is the Web-Slinger…The Amazing Spider-man, the hero who should not even be a hero. “Just a Kid”, “How Can a SPIDER be a good guy”?  But of all the costumed crime fighters I love to read about, Spidey is the undisputed champ.

But I mentioned two heroes and now I am passing the baton over to my guest, Ian Skewis, to explain why my other choice is a true Serial Hero….

 

Doctor Who.  

Just those two words conjure up images of wide-eyed geniuses, battered police boxes and terrifying villains; unconvincing special effects, dodgy performances and endless corridors that all looked the same. And Daleks. Always Daleks.

I first saw the legendary Time Lord on television in black and white (we couldn’t afford a colour telly at that time) in 1974 when Jon Pertwee regenerated into the wonderful Tom Baker. The giant spiders in that story gave me the creeps and the materialisation of one of them in the centre of a circle of followers is still one of my earliest memories. I hid behind a cushion (not the sofa) when the following year Davros, creator of the Daleks, made his debut. From then on I was (and still am) hooked.

But other than the TV show itself and all the related merchandise there wasn’t much scope for reliving the excitement of what was on the screen. We played at being Daleks in the school playground. We talked avidly about the latest episode. We even saw the occasional repeat. But that was it. Those were hungry days.

Then my dad bought me ‘Doctor Who and the Daleks’ by David Whitaker – and I was hooked all over again. It was published in paperback by Target, who would go on to publish loads more in their successful series. It was amazing to be able to read this story, which was legendary, as it hadn’t been on television since 1963, and this was the only way to get a sense of how exciting it must have been to see something so close to the programme’s genesis. And it marked the debut of the Daleks themselves. I loved it. The story had me in awe from the first page; the atmosphere of the dead planet, soaked in radiation and filled with all sorts of hazards; the claustrophobia of the metallic city and the description of the squat and machine-like Daleks with their battle cry of ‘Exterminate!’

This extract is from when one of the Doctor’s companions, Ian, (I wish it had been me!) wakes up from his first trip in the Tardis to discover that he has arrived on a desolate planet, which we later learn is Skaro – planet of the Daleks!

‘White, dead-looking trees, a kind of ashy soil, a cloudless sky. The heat fanned my face as I stopped at the doorway of the ship. I heard Barbara make a small sound in her throat beside me. Somebody touched me on the arm and handed me my shoes which I put on, only half aware that other hands were tying the laces. I heard Susan’s voice telling me I ought not to walk about in stockinged feet, because there was no telling what the ground would be like. I didn’t do any of the conventional things that one reads about, like pinching myself or rubbing my eyes. I just stood there and stared about me, a dead horror of total realisation creeping through my body.’

One other thing that made these books so attractive was the beautiful front covers, which were designed by the artist Chris Achilleos. They truly are works of art and I still have some prints of those covers on my wall, (see photo) some of which are signed by him. The books were also illustrated with black and white drawings inside, though the drawings were dropped some time later. I read that first book many times over. In the age before video it was the nearest we could get to repeat viewings, something alongside DVDs and satellite TV that we now all take for granted.

I wanted more. Of course I did! In the ensuing years I managed to get hold of many Target titles. Terrance Dicks was the most prolific writer of the series, and I think I have pretty much all his books from the Target range.

Then they released An Unearthly Child in book form in 1981 and that was truly amazing. If memory serves it came soon after the BBC repeated some episodes from the early years, including the very first episode ever made. It was fascinating to watch it in creaky black and white. I still believe that it is the most monumental debut in television history. The book version was equally good – with its description of the junkyard containing the old battered police box that also happened to be a transcendentally dimensional spaceship that travelled through time.

But the TV series and the books were changing – for the worse. Doctor Who began to go off the rails a bit. I still watched it avidly though and I still read many of the book titles that were released too. In 1989 the series was finally taken off the air and so, with the exception of the maligned movie in 1996 the books once again became an important source of food for us hungry Who fans. We had video and DVD by now but the books, now published by BBC Worldwide, were becoming more mature and exploring adult themes which the series could not.

A perhaps rare and early example of this can be seen with Ian Marter’s gory version of The Ark In Space. It should be noted that he was also famous for playing one of the Doctor’s companions, Harry Sullivan, and he wrote several more Target titles. This sequence from The Ark In Space is particularly memorable:

‘Slowly Noah turned his head fully towards them. The whole of the left side of his face was transformed into a shapeless, suppurating mass of glistening green tissue, in the midst of which his eye rolled like an enormous shelled egg. As they stared at him horrified they could almost detect the spreading movement of the alien skin.

‘It… it feels near… very near… now,’ he croaked.

As he tried to speak, a ball of crackling mucus welled out of the dark slit that was his mouth and trickled down the front of his suit. He stumbled forward. ‘Vira… vira… ‘ He threw the paralysator at Vira’s feet. ‘For pity’s sake… kill me… kill me now,’ he pleaded, his voice barely intelligible. Then he reeled back with an appalling shriek into the airlock as, with a crack like a gigantic seed pod bursting, his whole head split open and a fountain of green froth erupted and ran sizzling down the radiation suit, burning deep trenches in the thick material. The shutter closed.’

A far cry from the transmitted TV version where all of the above was achieved with some bubble wrap and green goo!

Of course, since then Doctor Who has returned and is as successful as ever. Books are still being published in relation to the series – but I’ll always have a fondness for those old Target paperbacks.

And for that hero of mine, The Doctor – A hero for all times…

 

 

Ian Skewis is the author of the No 1 Best Seller: A Murder of Crows. Ian worked as a professional actor before moving his focus to writing.

 

You can find Ian at: ianskewis.com  or on Twitter as @ianskewis

You can order Ian’s No 1 Bestseller A Murder of Crows here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Ian-Skewis/e/B06XX5C8BK/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1507407754&sr=8-1

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October 9

Guest Post: Jane Isaac – Serial Heroes

Knowing that one of my favourite authors is about to release a new book is always an exciting time. I love that anticipation and will count down the days until I can catch up on the latest adventures of a much loved character.  But I am also on a quest to find out from the authors I enjoy reading which books they look forward to!

I am exceedingly happy to be able to welcome Jane Isaac to Grab This Book today. This is the 4th Season of my Serial Heroes feature and I initially contacted Jane when I was compiling the 3rd Season! Timing has been against us but I am extremely grateful to Jane for her patience during the long hiatus that this feature has experienced and I am even more grateful that she has introduced me to a new series to enjoy.

Jane Isaac

There’s definitely something special about discovering a new series. Getting to know the characters, watching their lives unfold amidst the storyline and develop as each book passes. Holding out for the next release to track what the character will do next.

I’m always looking for something original and different in our wonderful genre of crime fiction and, last year, I was delighted to discover Linda Castillo’s Kate Burkholder series, quite by accident at a local book fayre.

The first book that introduced Kate Burkholder is Sworn to Silence. Kate is Police Chief of Painters Mill, a settlement in the heart of Amish America and, formerly Amish herself, cultural differences play a huge part in this series. I like to learn something new from a book and the author certainly does her homework here, evoking a great sense of Amish life and how a crime affects the community. I was immediately gripped.

Each book has a strong hook, a tight plot and maintains a high tempo throughout, with a generous portion of suspense thrown in for good measure. Burkholder is relentless in her pursuance of the bad guys, and the ebb and flow of her ongoing relationship with Agent Tomasetti provides a nice addition and sub plot as the series progresses.

With travel being a passion of mine, I do find that the location of a story is particularly important to me. It doesn’t really matter whether it’s real or fictional, as long as it evokes a unique sense of place, so much so, that I can almost feel myself there, and Castillo certainly does that with Painters Mill.

I was delighted when I realised that I was a relative latecomer to this series and, consequently, these have become my ‘go to’ books when I need a treat. Sworn to Silence was first published in 2009 and I’ve just finished the sixth, The Dead Will Tell, in (currently) an eight book run, safe in the knowledge that I have at least another two full length titles to look forward to!

If you are looking for something unusual, an original angle on a murder mystery coupled with a nail-biting thriller, I’d urge you to give this series a try.

 

 

Jane Isaac is the author of the DI Will Jackman series and also the DCI Helen Lavery novels. Jane can be found online at www.janeisaac.co.uk and if you sign up to her newsletter you will receive updates on events, new releases and she hosts giveaways too.

You can find Jane’s books on Amazon here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Jane-Isaac/e/B007H9UUCK/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1507409293&sr=1-1

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October 9

Guest Post – Graham Smith: Serial Heroes

Two years ago, almost to the day, I discovered that authors are just like real people and that they enjoy reading books too! I blame Douglas Skelton (which is always a good starting point) who confessed his fondness for Ed McBain’s 87th Precinct novels. As I was a fan of this series too I enjoyed listening to which elements of McBain’s books had appealed to Douglas. Then I got to thinking – could I ask other authors which series of stories they enjoy? And why?

It turns out I could ask and they would answer!

This is the 4th “Season” of a feature I dubbed Serial Heroes. If you type Serial Heroes into the search box to the right of these pages you will find all the contributions thus far. Guest posts from Sarah Hilary, Steve Cavanagh, Angela Marsons and many more.

Today I am delighted to welcome Graham Smith to Grab This Book. When I first approached Graham to sound him out about contributing to this feature he knew instantly who he wanted to discuss…

 

I first came across the writing of Craig Russell through my role as a reviewer for Crimesquad.com when I received a review copy of The Valkyrie Song. When shortly after I was the lucky recipient of the first in a new series, Lennox, I thought all my Christmases had come at once.

With Jan Fabel, we have a series of drilled down police procedurals that are about so much more than the solving of heinous crimes, whereas with Lennox we are transported back in time to another world to accompany Lennox, the sardonic inquiry agent who stalks the meanest streets of 1950s Glasgow. By comparison, Fabel’s stomping ground is contemporary Hamburg.

For me Russell’s greatest strength as a writer is the way he can bring two disparate worlds to life in a way that triggers all five of my senses and yet still manages to hold my attention like a breakdancing unicorn.

Characterisation is another of Russell’s great strengths as Fabel is serious where Lennox delivers one liners with the confidence of a seasoned stand-up comedian, yet it is Lennox who lives and operates in the underbelly of society while Fabel is only compelled to walk those streets to better improve the lives of others in his search for justice. At heart both men are decent, but Lennox’s dark past marks him out as the kind of man Fabel pursues.

It isn’t just the lead characters who capture the imagination of his readers, but the minor characters who inhabit a page or sometimes less also stick in the memory

As a former police officer, freelance writer and creative director he’s got first-hand experience to lend authority to his writing and he’s got too many award nominations and wins to his name to mention them all, although I will say he won the 2015 Scottish Crime Writer of the Year and is the only non-German to ever receive the highly prestigious Polizeistern (Police Star) from the Polizei Hamburg.

He even stepped away from his usual crime fiction persona and wrote a fantastically intelligent and insightful thriller which was part time-slip, part high-concept and part human-discovery called Biblical under the pseudonym Christopher Galt.

Russell’s descriptive passages are a joy to behold and a particular favour is ‘he shook his Easter Island head’ which for me demonstrates his ability so say so much with so few words.

When I was but a budding writer, I learned so much about the craft of writing by reading Craig Russell’s books, I cannot quantify the influence he’s had on my career, through my own osmosis of his tradecraft. I was once fortunate enough to read out a piece of my own writing on the same bill as Russell and it wasn’t until after my reading that I confessed to him, that my twist at the end was inspired by a particularly memorable character of his.

I’ve been lucky enough to meet Craig Russell on several occasions and I’m proud to now class him as a friend. We share similar tastes in films and every time I talk with him, I leave his company feeling more educated than I was before the meeting. To me he’s a friend, a writer I can only ever dream of emulating, a gentleman and an author who deserves a far greater readership than he currently enjoys.

One of my proudest achievements as a writer is that he saw fit to blurb one of my books. When someone who counts the great Michael Connelly as a fan does that, it’s a little bit special.

 

 

 

Graham can be found online at grahamsmithauthor.com He is the author of the fantastic Jake Boulder series (the latest of which The Kindred Killers I reviewed here) and also the DI Harry Evans Major Crimes stories.

Visit Graham’s Amazon page here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Graham-Smith/e/B006FTIBBU/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1

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October 5

Quieter Than Killing – Sarah Hilary

It’s winter, the nights are dark and freezing, and a series of seemingly random assaults is pulling DI Marnie Rome and DS Noah Jake out onto streets of London. When Marnie’s family home is ransacked, there are signs that the burglary can have only been committed by someone who knows her. Then a child goes missing, yet no-one has reported it. Suddenly, events seem connected, and it’s personal.

Someone out there is playing games. It is time for both Marnie and Noah to face the truth about the creeping, chilling reaches of a troubled upbringing. Keeping quiet can be a means of survival, but the effects can be as terrible as killing.

 

My thanks to Katie at Headline for my review copy and the chance to join the blog tour

 

Quieter Than Killing is the 4th book by Sarah Hilary to feature DI Marnie Rome. Each book can be read as a stand-alone novel but what you need to do is make sure you DO read all four books – they are all fantastic.

We readers are blessed with choice when it comes to police procedurals and crime thrillers, yet – for me – the Marnie Rome books stand head and shoulders above the others. Rome is a determined and focused detective who lives in the constant shadow of personal tragedy and it makes her own story utterly compelling.

In Quieter Than Killing, London is in the grip of a bitter winter and Marnie and DS Noah Jake are on the hunt for a violent offender. Someone has targeted three people for a vicious beating – disfiguring injuries have been inflicted and the only obvious link between the victims is that they have each (in the past) served time in prison for violent attacks of their own.  Are Marnie and Noah looking for a vigilante?  If so then how are they selecting their victims and what possible motive could they have?

Elsewhere the reader gets to see Finn.  He is 10 years old and has been plucked from the street and locked into a house from which there seems no escape.  His captor, dubbed Brady by Finn, has “rules” which Finn must obey…cooking and cleaning is expected and noise or disobedience are not tolerated. Finn is convinced Brady is a pervert who is planning to murder him, but Brady is keeping his distance and has been keeping Finn alive for several weeks. What does he need with the young boy and how much longer must Finn endure his captivity?

I got to enjoy Quieter Than Killing in audio and I need to give a massive thumbs-up to the narrator Imogen Church who voiced Marnie almost exactly how I had imagined her.

As with all of Sarah Hilary’s books the story is gripping, the clues well hidden and the entertainment is to the max. If you are not already reading these books you damn well should be.

 

Quieter Than Killing is published by Headline and is available in paperback and digital format. You can order a copy here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Quieter-Than-Killing-D-I-Marnie-ebook/dp/B01INGSU68/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1507232613&sr=1-1&keywords=sarah+hilary

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October 2

Sleep No More – P.D. James

The acknowledged ‘Queen of Crime’, P. D. James, was a past master of the short story, weaving together motifs of the Golden Age of crime-writing with deep psychological insight to create gripping, suspenseful tales. The Mistletoe Murder and Other Stories contained four of these perfectly formed stories, and this companion volume contains a further six, published here together for the first time.

As the six murderous tales unfold, the dark motive of revenge is revealed at the heart of each. Bullying schoolmasters receive their comeuppance, unhappy marriages and childhoods are avenged, a murder in the small hours of Christmas Day puts an end to the vicious new lord of the manor, and, from the safety of his nursing home, an octogenarian exerts exquisite retribution.

The punishments inflicted on the guilty are fittingly severe, but here they are meted out by the unseen forces of natural justice rather than the institutions of the law. Once again, P. D. James shows her expert control of the short-story form, conjuring motives and scenarios with complete conviction, and each with a satisfying twist in the tail.

 

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

 

One of my earliest memories of crime drama was watching Shroud for a Nightingale on tv with my mum. Shroud was a PD James story and I still remember being gripped by the story and being particularly disappointed when it ended.

I picked up all the PD James novels I could find once Shroud had finished and I spent many happy hours catching up on the stories of Adam Dalgliesh. I was a firm fan by then and over the next three decades I would always seek out a new PD James novel on release.

Now, many months after her death I get to read a new collection of stories – six in all – gathered in a new book from Faber & Faber: Sleep No More. As soon as I started on the first story I was caught up in her world once again. Her writing style feels so formal against modern books yet the tales she tells seem timeless.

The six stories collected in Sleep No More are:
The Yo-Yo
The Victim
The Murder of Santa Claus
The Girl Who Loved Graveyards
A Very Desirable Residence and
Mr Millcroft’s Birthday

My favourites were most certainly the 3rd and 4th in the above list. The Murder of Santa Claus a very nicely worked murder tale which was almost certainly mirroring the style of an Agatha Christie tale.

The Girl Who Loved Graveyards was the darkest of the collection. While each story has a murder to consider Graveyards was the “unfiltered” tale and the author did not shy away from the crime, it was vividly described to shocking effect.

Short stories are exactly that – short. This collection comes in at around 170 pages in length and if I were ordering the book online I’d like to have known that ahead of time. It is a cracking collection of cleverly written tales, which I read in a couple of hours.

But the treat in Sleep No More is the class of the author’s storytelling. I loved reading this one and the variety of approaches was a treat. A twist, a clever narrative, that shocking ending and the clever reveals which have you flicking back to see where you missed the clue.

She was one of the best at what she did, her work lives on and Sleep No More only enhances my appreciation of her skills.

 

Sleep No More is published by Faber & Faber and is available in Hardback and Digital formats – you can order a copy here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Sleep-No-More-Murderous-Tales-ebook/dp/B0721NSJZW/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

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