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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September 13

The Kindred Killers – Graham Smith

Jake Boulder’s help is requested by his best friend, Alfonse, when his cousin is crucified and burned alive along with his wife and children.

As Boulder tries to track the heinous killer, a young woman is abducted. Soon her body is discovered and Boulder realises both murders have something unusual in common.

With virtually no leads for Boulder to follow, he strives to find a way to get a clue as to the killer’s identity. But is he hunting for one killer or more?

After a young couple are snatched in the middle of the night the case takes a brutal turn. When the FBI is invited to help with the case, Boulder finds himself warned off the investigation.

When gruesome, and incendiary, footage from a mobile phone is sent to all the major US News outlets and the pressure to find those responsible for the crimes mounts.  But with the authorities against him can Boulder catch the killer before it’s too late?

 

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

We were first introduced to Scot in exile, Jake Boulder, in Watching the Bodies and from the off I loved the new character introduced by Graham Smith.  So when I discovered Boulder was returning in The Kindred Killers I was more than a little excited – I always favour recurring characters and I love to watch their story build across multiple titles.

The Kindred Killers takes a much darker tone than Watching the Bodies – for a start we have murder victims with a very close link to Boulder. Boulder’s best friend, Alphonse, tracks Jake down after Jake has had a heavy night. Too drunk to recall what has happened Jake wakes to find a strange girl in his bed, his knuckles bruised from fighting and his best friend banging on the door of his room (angry with Jake for failing to come to his assistance the previous night). Jake would do anything for Alphonse so his sense of remorse at letting his friend down will drive him into action.

Alphonse explains that his cousin is missing (along with his cousin’s family) but when Jake and Alphonse reach the family home it is clear that there has been a struggle and that the family have not left willingly.  It is not long before 4 bodies are found…all four family members have been tied to a cross and set on fire.  The killings appear racially motivated and their murders have all the hallmarks of a Klan killing, but Jake is not convinced as something about where the bodies are found does not seem typical of the KKK.

Knowing the local police are not capable of conducting a murder investigation on this scale (and not wishing to be kept on the sidelines) Alphonse and Jake are on the trail of the killers. But we readers get to see that the murder of a single family is just the start of things and there are more potential victims unknowingly facing a grizzly fate.

As previously stated, The Kindred Killers is much darker in tone this time around. I found the murders (and their methods) to be quite unsettling. I deeply dislike bullies in stories and I also dislike people being singled out because someone may feel that they do not “fit in” – as such there were elements of this story which greatly rankled with me. This should reflect well on the author, creating the characters which will anger me as a reader, drawing me into the story and making me will the bad guys to fail. I wanted them to change their ways or to be brought to their knees.  I shouldn’t get angry at made up people but I did! Boulder is on the case but how many will have to suffer before he can track down the guilty and see that justice is brought down upon them.

If you enjoy a vigilante story, enjoy tales of the investigator who is not restricted by the rules of the police and a hero that will swing a punch to end a disagreement with the bad guys – Jake Boulder is the guy you need to discover.

 

The Kindred Killers is published by Bloodhound Books and is available in Digital and Paperback format. You can order a copy here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Kindred-Killers-Jake-Boulder-Book-ebook/dp/B0759FD5ZH/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

 

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April 27

Watching The Bodies – Graham Smith

Watching The BodiesWhen Jake Boulder is asked by his PI friend to help investigate the vicious murder of Kira Niemeyer, he soon finds himself tracking a serial killer who selects his next victim in a most unusual manner.

As the body count rises, Boulder has to work with the police to identify the heinous killer before more lives are taken. What ensues is a twisted game of cat and mouse, that only Boulder or the Watcher can survive.

 

My thanks to Sarah and the team at Bloodhound Books for the chance to join the blog tour.

 

Having enjoyed Graham Smith’s previous books, Cumbrian crime thrillers featuring DI Harry Evans of the Major Crime Teams, I was already keenly awaiting his next venture. I was not expecting Smith to make a jump to the US for Watching the Bodies. Nor was I expecting his new protagonist (Jake Boulder) to rocket into my list of favourite characters. But he did. And he did.

First up – Jake Boulder, living and working in Utah but a Scottish Brawler. Fast with his fists, peacemaker (in that he ends the fights other people start) and living a simple single life (much to the frustration of his mother!)

Watching the Bodies, dumps you straight into the action.  I say “dumps” as this is exactly where we begin…at a spot where a killer has dumped his victim. We (and the killer) witness the discovery of the body. Great intro and I had to know more but there was to be no let up as we switch straight to Jake Boulder. We meet him for the first time as he is about to get into a fight and we soon realise that our lead character is not one to be messed with.

Boulder’s friend is a PI. He wants Jake to help him track down the killer, the victim’s father is an influential figure in the town and has no faith in the local police to find out who killed his daughter. This will not be an easy assignment for Boulder as he and the victim, Kira, had been friends and as they begin the investigation into her death Jake will realise that he actually knew very little about the lifestyle Kira had chosen for herself.

Before Boulder’s investigations yield much progress another body is found and it becomes increasingly clear to him that there is a serial killer at work. But there appear to be too many inconsistencies between the crimes for it to be the work of a single killer and, even if it were to be a single killer, how were the victims selected? As Jake digs deeper he will uncover more than he could have ever anticipated.

I have always been a sucker for a serial killer story and in Watching the Bodies I have found one of the best serial killer tales that I have read for a long, long time. I loved this. The killer’s motivation and clues to their identity are gently teased out through the story so that by the time you are approaching the endgame you know exactly what is at stake and how much peril certain characters will be in. It works fabulously well and I was utterly hooked.

A thumpingly good first outing for Jake Boulder and I really, really hope that there will be more to come. If you like a dark and twisty serial killer story then Watching the Bodies is a book you simply must read.

 

Watching the Bodies is published by Bloodhound Books and is available now. The links you need are below:

Links:

Graham on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/grahamnsmithauthor/?fref=ts

Graham’s Website: https://www.grahamsmithauthor.com/

Here on Twitter: https://twitter.com/GrahamSmith1972?lang=en-gb

And the all important link to order the book: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Graham-Smith/e/B006FTIBBU/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1491159376&sr=8-1

 

 

Graham Smith is married with a young son. A time served joiner he has built bridges, houses, dug drains and slated roofs to make ends meet. Since Christmas 2000 he has been manager of a busy hotel and wedding venue near Gretna Green, Scotland. 

An avid fan of crime fiction since being given one of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five books at the age of eight, he has also been a regular reviewer and interviewer for the well-respected website Crimesquad.com since 2009.

He is the author of four books featuring DI Harry Evans and the Cumbrian Major Crimes Team and one book, WATCHING THE BODIES in a new series featuring Utah doorman, Jake Boulder.

 

 

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October 12

I Know Your Secret – Graham Smith

i-know-your-secret-book-cover“What would you do if your most intimate secrets got into the wrong hands?”

Set in modern day Cumbria, I Know Your Secret is a police thriller in which a priest is found crucified to the stone floor of his church. Fearing more attacks on the clergy, DI John Campbell and his team of misfits race to find the killer before he strikes again.

Meanwhile, DI Harry Evans, spends his days attending the trial of his wife’s rapist and his nights interfering in the investigation.

Can they catch the killer before he strikes again?

 

My thanks to Caffeine Nights for my review copy

DI Harry Evans has featured in two previous Major Crimes books and also in Graham Smith’s Snatched From Home. He is very much master of his home patch in Carlisle but is facing the prospect of imminent retirement and with that he may well lose the last thing that is important to him.

As the description above mentions Harry is also having to contend with the trial of his wife’s rapist. Previous books outlined events leading up to this confrontation but you do not need to have actually read them to keep up with the events in I Know Your Secret, it stands up well as a jumping on point for new readers.

I Know Your Secret opens with a very powerful murder. A priest is crucified on the floor of his chapel. Cumbria’s finest are called to investigate and Harry’s replacement (DI John Campbell) is leading the team.  I like Campbell, he is battling against the demands of being a supportive new father, battling the influence of the outgoing Harry Evans who does not want to give up his patch and battling against the constant pressure of understaffing and minimal resources.

Graham Smith balances the central characters well. We switch between Campbell’s investigation, Harry’s interventions, the court case and….did I mention a Killer and Blackmailer? As you may have guessed from the title I Know Your Secret is a tale about secrets. With secrets comes knowledge and with knowledge comes power – or sometimes blackmail.

There is loads going on in I Know Your Secret and Harry Evans is determined to be at the centre of everything. It will take its toll, physically and mentally Graham Smith is putting DI Evans through a personal Hell – it makes for intense reading.

Dark in all the right places, I Know Your Secret is a nicely constructed police procedural with some clever twists that caught me off guard.

 

I Know Your Secret is published by Caffeine Nights and releases on 17 October and can be ordered by clicking here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Know-Your-Secret-intimate-secrets-ebook/dp/B01LSVRL5G/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1476224783&sr=8-1&keywords=i+know+your+secret

Follow the Blog Tour:

ikys-blog-tour-poster

 

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September 5

Matching The Evidence (Major Crimes Vol 2) – Graham Smith

Matching the EvidenceCarlisle United are playing Millwall and the Major Crimes Team are assigned to crowd control as punishment for their renegade ways. Typically, DI Harry Evans has other ideas and tries to thwart the local firm’s plans to teach Millwall’s notorious Bushwhackers an unforgettable lesson.
Meanwhile an undercover cop is travelling north with some of the Millwall contingent. His mission is to identify the ringleaders and gather evidence against them.
Three illegal immigrants have been transported to Carlisle and are about to meet their new employers.
Nothing is as it seems for Evans and his Major Crimes Team as they battle to avoid a bloodbath while also uncovering a far more heinous crime.

My thanks to Graham, Caffeine Nights and the indefatigable Noelle Holten for the chance to join the blog tour.

 

Last summer I reviewed the first volume of Graham Smith’s Major Crimes Team (Lines of Enquiry) and despite not being a fan of short stories I found that I liked that collection which were bound by a common thread.  Lead character Harry Evans had a tough time of it in that book and it seems that life is not getting easier from him.

Between Major Crimes volumes 1 and 2 there was Graham’s Snatched From Home events from Snatched and Lines of Enquiry are mentioned in Matching the Evidence and some spoilers will present themselves for those who plan to read all three books. However, Matching the Evidence can be read and enjoyed as a stand-alone.

The bloody football and the clever title may have been a clue that there is a football theme to Matching the Evidence. A North vs South head to head with notorious Millwall fans heading to Carlisle intent on causing a ruckus. As punishment for events that took place prior to MtE Harry Evans and his team are roped into duty to thwart any trouble. With his soon-to-be replacement shadowing his investigations Harry has his work cut out to identify and locate the local football socials who feel they need to show their Southern counterparts that North is better than South.

Away from the football we read of three illegal immigrants who have arrived in England for new employment opportunities.  This was the element of the story I particularly enjoyed, their journey and employment prospects made for concerning reading and I loved how Graham Smith handled their predicament and reflected their excitement at a fresh start in a new country.

Two very different stories in one nicely worked book.

 

Matching the Evidence is published by Caffeine Nights and can be ordered here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Matching-Evidence-Major-Crimes-Team-ebook/dp/B01JJ5D1AC/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473101031&sr=8-1&keywords=matching+the+evidence

MtE2

 

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June 13

The Major Crimes Team: Lines of Enquiry – Graham Smith

Lines of EnquiryThe Cumbria Major Crimes team is under immense pressure to get results. DCI Harry Evans and his subordinates, DS Neil Chisholm, DC Lauren Phillips and DC Amir Bhaki must juggle cases while tragedy stalks them. Up in Glasgow, DI John Campbell is preparing to replace Evans, whose renegade ways have brought enforced retirement.
Together they must investigate a man killed in his own home, a vigilante group chasing a suspected paedophile, a river dammed for no obvious reason and a woman whose cries of ‘wolf’ turn to ‘rape’. Meanwhile DC Phillips goes undercover off the books.

 

Thanks to Caffeine Nights for my review copy

 

Lines of Enquiry will not be the longest book I read this year, at 108 pages I managed to read it in two train journeys. This is not a criticism but if you were picking up a copy online you should probably be aware that this is a small (but perfectly formed) treat.

Lines of Enquiry introduced me to DCI Harry Evans and the Cumbria Major Crimes Team. Through 5 short stories (though there is a thread running through the whole book) the focus shifts between different personnel and a different crime/incident is covered. Although I not normally a fan of short stories, Graham Smith held my attention throughout and I felt I had to keep reading to find out what was going to happen to Harry.

As an introduction to the various characters this was a fun read and I would be keen to read more as I liked the author’s pacing and style. One story in particular, Dealing With Drugs, was unexpected in the direction it began but it is nice to see something differing from the norm – too cryptic?

Graham Smith gets added to my TBR pile as I want to see what else is to come. One to watch out for as, based upon Lines of Enquiry, there are some interesting times ahead.

 

You can get a copy of Lines of Enquiry through the Caffeine Nights website: http://www.caffeinenightsbooks.com/store/p159/The_Major_Crimes_Team_Volume_1_-_Lines_Of_Enquiry.html

 

 

 

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