January 13

The Cover Up – Marnie Riches

Watch your back. Everyone else will be.

How far would you go to protect your empire?

Manchester’s criminal underworld is reeling from the loss of its leader, Paddy O’Brien. In the wake of her husband’s death, Sheila O’Brien takes charge of the city, and for once, she’s doing things her way.

But she hasn’t reckoned with the fearsome Nigel Bancroft, a threat from Birmingham who is determined to conquer Manchester next.

As a power tussle begins, Sheila is determined to keep control of the empire she has won – even if it means she has to die trying…

 

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

 

Marnie Riches takes us back to Manchester as we revisit Sheila O’Brien. Following events in Born Bad Sheila now heads up the criminal empire built up by her late husband. However, keeping control of the drug supply, the prostitutes and the protection money is going to prove challenging – particularly when Birmingham crime lord Nigel Bancroft is looking to expand his territory into Manchester.

The housekeeping…The Cover Up is the second book in the Manchester series – reading the first book (Born Bad) would certainly help introduce the characters and explain their background but it is not essential. I have a total goldfish-memory and I struggle to remember character names and relationships across all the books I read; but Marnie Riches deftly interweaves the backstory you need into the narrative of The Cover Up to ensure new readers will enjoy the latest events.

And what a treat lies ahead!  Sheila faces constant challenges to her authority and she will need to show that she has the mettle to take her late-husband’s place. She relies heavily upon his former right-hand-man, Conky, who has also replaced his former boss in Sheila’s bed. While juggling attempts to establish a legitimate business empire and keep her criminal activities ticking over we see Sheila trying to bring friends closer to ensure she can trust those in her closest circle. What I had not been expecting was where some of her new alliances may be formed.

The Cover Up has many strong personalities all pushing for dominance and all seeking to eliminate their competition. There are are traps and dangers, subterfuge is rife and nobody can be trusted. It makes for enthralling reading and the story zips along at a cracking pace.

If you enjoy a dark thriller and like strong characters who will do whatever it takes to survive and protect those closest to them then The Cover Up is perfect reading. I loved this book and flew through it in quick time, once I started reading I did not want to stop.  More of these please Marnie!

 

The Cover Up is published by Avon and is available in paperback, audiobook (narrated by the author) and digital format.  You can order a copy here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Cover-Up-Marnie-Riches/dp/0008203962/ref=sr_1_1_twi_pap_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1515835942&sr=1-1

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March 9

Guest Post: Marnie Riches – Born Bad

Manchester’s musical inspiration by Marnie Riches

Born BadManchester has a world-class music scene, and I’m lucky to have been a teen before and during the Madchester heyday, when the cool kids went to the Haçienda. I used to go there almost every Wednesday and Saturday to dance my little cotton socks off, praying that I might clap eyes on New Order, who co-owned the place. I was also an aspiring rockstar in my early twenties, when I returned home for a year after university and an abortive first stab at London life, trying to get a band together. In 1996, you could say I was a contemporary of the upcoming (as they were then), Elbow, and if you’re an Elbow fan, you’d be interested to know that I tried and failed to bag off with the legendary Seldom Seen Kid at a party, shortly before he sadly passed away. I remember him painting the railings of The Temple bar just outside where I worked at Manchester’s Training & Enterprise Council. We’d chat about being in bands and the struggle to get signed and “make it”. I migrated back down to London a couple of months later to immerse myself in proper trainee rockstardom. Three years of close-but-no-cigar followed, playing the Britpop wannabe circuit in Camden and Islington, but alas, my excellent band had missed that groovy gravy train… We were always in the right place at the wrong time.

But sod that! I’m now a best-selling crime writer, so all’s well that ends well.

It will come as no surprise to you, then, given my musical past, that I have a soundtrack to all the novels I write. For Born Bad, it comprises quintessentially Mancunian classics. Here are my top four tunes with thoughts on why I’ve chosen them to describe musically a story about Manchester’s gangland and gritty underbelly:

 

Isolation by Joy Division

IsolationI was always more of a New Order fan than a Joy Division fan, but Isolation’s industrial sound and effortless lo-fi cool makes me think of Manchester. When it plays in my car – the only opportunity I really have to deafen myself with my favourite music, nowadays, since I work in silence – I envisage bleak, grey streets on council estates. I feel the urban anti-chic of the city pulsate through me with every beat, putting me in mind of Born Bad’s Leviticus Bell, living in his crappy high-rise council flat on the Sweeney Hall estate. He is isolated by his poverty, lack of opportunity and desperate situation at home. But he’s street-smart and authentically urban-cool. He’ll do for me!

 

Bizarre Love Triangle by New Order

Bizarre Love TriangFrank O’Brien in Born Bad owns the world-class super-club, M1 House. Though I’m not stretchy enough to go clubbing more than once or twice per year now, M1 House is an amalgam of all the great clubs in Manchester, past and present. The DJs play the best music. The kids have the best time, obviously blighted by lethal gang violence – not that Manchester clubs are immune to being occasionally caught in the crossfire. Bizarre Love Triangle played in the Haçienda during its finest hour. I can remember standing in the lofty foyer, by the full-height, industrial plastic flaps, ringing wet with sweat from dancing on the packed dancefloor, listening to the track booming from the sound system. I revelled in how marvellous it was to be a Mancunian, listening to one of Manchester’s biggest bands in one of the coolest clubs in the world at that best of times. The clean electronic sound, with Hooky’s distinctive bassline over the top, embodies Mancunian artistic endeavour and the need to dance the blues away. Listen to it and understand Manchester.

 

Fools’ Gold by Stone Roses

Fools GoldThough I was never a mega-fan of the Stone Roses, I always loved Fools’ Gold as a song that epitomised Mancunian cool. Its shuffling backbeat and Mani’s iconic, super-funky bassline represent everything that’s effortlessly, timelessly stylish about Manchester’s music scene. Since it was used in the soundtrack to Guy Ritchie’s gangster flick, Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels – a film I must have watched at least twenty times for its slick dialogue, complex story-telling and sharp humour – Fools’ Gold has also acquired gangland connotations for me. In fact, the Manchester series with Born Bad as its first installation, is all about the pursuit of a villain’s fools’ gold – dirty cash you can barely get away with or enjoy spending because those ill-gotten gains might bring the law and the tax man down on you. The track brings to mind Manchester’s mean streets, its glittering new buildings and the clean crispness of freshly laundered money. Scratch the surface and you can see how really filthy it still is beneath!

 

How Soon is Now? by The Smiths

the-smiths-how-soon-is-now-rhinoThe Smiths are a long-standing love of mine, musically – the early Smiths, that is. Morrissey and Marr are undoubtedly one of the best songwriting duos ever and the pair encapsulated a working class desperation and loneliness like no other band has managed to do. Their sonically brilliant songs represent true Mancunian misery, black humour and poetry at its best. When I wrote about the hopeless life of Leviticus Bell in Born Bad, How Soon is Now? might have been his personal soundtrack. There’s nobody who truly loves him – even his own mother, Gloria. The chugging Bo Diddly-style guitar of Johnny Marr creates an impression of the grind of urban life with a searing, whining guitar-sound layered above it that puts me in mind of emergency service sirens, whizzing by in the night. But in among the canon of work by the Smiths, there are tracks that bristle with humour and hope, just as this book boasts the darkest and the lightest of moments, introduced by Gloria and the eccentric henchman, Conky McFadden. So, The Smiths had to be on my list!

 

If Marnie’s choices have made you want to revisit these classics then she has very kindly pulled together a Spotify playlist which you can access here: https://open.spotify.com/user/1142057371/playlist/0DgbSgJtWpOF14WgYiJC0e

 

Born Bad is published by Avon and is available now in paperback and digital format and you can order a copy here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Born-Bad-Marnie-Riches-ebook/dp/B01KTKEX2Q/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1489098471&sr=1-1

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December 12

Guest Post – Marnie Riches (The Girl Who Had No Fear and Born Bad)

the-girl-who-had-no-fearI am delighted to welcome Marnie Riches back to Grab This Book.

The 4th George McKenzie novel, The Girl Who had no Fear, released a couple of weeks ago and plunges George into a whole new level of peril. But not content with putting our favourite criminologist through the emotional ringer, Marnie has also been working on a new series which will kick off next year when Born Bad releases.

I caught up with Marnie to chat about her busy year and what we can hope to see in 2017…

 

It’s been a busy 2016 for me. In addition to writing The Girl Who Had No Fear, I have also penned the first book in my brand new Manchester series, entitled Born Bad. I’m extremely excited about it. Not only am I playing god over a killer cast of new characters, but this is my first foray into print as well as e-book. As digital-first acquisitions by Avon’s imprint, Maze, the George McKenzie series (aka The Girl Who series) is not yet in print, though it has been both award-winning and best-selling. I do think we will see George in print at some point, but not yet, which makes the release of Born Bad on 9th March 2017 a real milestone for my career as a crime writer. I’m hoping it’s going to be, like, EVERYWHERE (as my teenaged daughter would say).

Born Bad is set in my home town – Manchester: the most violent city in the UK. Though I’ve lived in London, Cambridge, Huddersfield and Utrecht, I’ve spent most of my life in Manchester – my formative years until the age of 18, and also the last nine years. I have great civic pride in this melting pot of a city, with its world class music and culture. Anyone born in Manchester has a little bit of grit running through their bloodstream, and of course, a little webbing between the old fingers! It being the most violent city in the UK, of course, means that Manchester is constantly abuzz with criminal activity. What better place therefore to set a series all about the (fictitious) villains that run Manchester’s criminal underworld – a story about north vs south and men vs women? I can reveal that the series has some incredible, surprising anti-heroes, feisty heroines and an entertaining army of quirky, mentally unstable muscle. I’m told readers of Martina Cole and Kimberley Chambers will love it but I think anyone who likes a good yarn about bad guys in a gritty setting will love it too.

I wasn’t in any way ready to take a break from the George McKenzie series, and in fact, I’m contracted to write a fifth book, which will be released in early 2018. While readers still clamour to read George stories, I’m clamouring the write them. There’s always more for George to say and do, and The Girl Who Had No Fear opens the door to a whole new dynamic in George’s extended family. It was my publisher that suggested I might like to write something set in Manchester. I jumped at the chance to have two series running concurrently. What fun to write! And long may the two series run…

Juggling the editing of one novel in a series at the same time as writing another novel in another series was a bit of a challenge logistically, but I got there in the end, thanks to some good time management and long hours. Fortunately, the manuscripts I deliver are, in the main, in pretty clean shape already (Solid graft. Nothing more), so the work wasn’t too extensive. It does require some mental agility to leap from one world and set of characters to another and then back again, however! It’s my pleasure to be kept on my toes in this way.

Thinking about it, writing about Manchester and Amsterdam makes perfect sense. Both are rainy, cold cities, roughly on a par geographically. The Dutch are very forthright. Mancunians are very forthright. Both cities have a big club and drug scene. I guess many readers of the George series will find something to love in the new Manchester series, if only it’s the bad weather and trafficking theme.

 

The Girl Who Had No Fear is available on this link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Girl-Fear-George-McKenzie-Book-ebook/dp/B01GNSR5M8/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1481494069&sr=1-1&keywords=the+girl+who+had+no+fear

You can read my review here: http://grabthisbook.net/?p=2223

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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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June 30

In Conversation: Ava Marsh & Marnie Riches

It has been a couple of months since I last had the opportunity to share a chat between two authors, so it is with no small amount of pleasure that I welcome Ava Marsh and Marnie Riches to Grab This Book.

Marnie has a series of writing credits to her name but most recently has written the fantastic George McKenzie novels (The Girl Who trilogy). Returning readers will know I am a bit of fan of Marnie’s books (a slight understatement) and I am always thrilled when I can persuade her to share a little of her precious time to chat with me.

Last year Ava’s debut novel, Untouchable, topped my reads of the year.  I loved how she wove a thrilling story around the world of high class escorts and managed to make the story the star without sensationalising the work that characters chose to do.

Both Marnie and Ava take a no frills approach to writing about potentially taboo areas and they also have complex lead characters who operate in challenging working environments – I wanted to know more:

 

ExposureG: Ava – In Untouchable you wrote about prostitution and now Exposure is set around the porn industry – two areas which many readers may consider taboo subjects. Are you challenging that concept of taboo or are these simply areas which are (mainly) overlooked but offer so much potential as a backdrop for a thriller?

AM: Fair to say it’s both, Gordon. Yes, I thought those areas were rather under-exploited in terms of backdrops for a thriller, but I’m also interested in how society regards people working in the sex trade, particularly women, who tend to be marginalised, ignored, and barely considered ‘normal’ human beings. I’ve known several high class escorts, and they were very intelligent, university-educated women who enjoyed what they did – and not just the money.

So I wanted to break down some of the taboos, and show what might lead quite ordinary people to sell sex for money. I dislike the way we tend to lump all women working in the sex trade as ‘prostitutes’ or ‘porn stars’ and regard them at best as exploited, at worst as ‘dirty’ or immoral. While many prostitutes are exploited, it doesn’t hold true for all, and I’d argue that none are dirty or immoral. You can be a good person working as an escort or porn star, or you can be a very bad person working in politics or business, or some other ‘respectable’ profession. Yes, I’m looking at you, Boris.

G: Marnie, you have Amsterdam as a key setting in your George McKenzie novels. I’ve never visited the city but one of the first things it brings to mind (after canals, windmills and tulips) is the Red Light District.  

I know that it has featured in your books but not to the sensational OTT extent that so often gets used when an author is trying to put their hero somewhere ‘unconventional’. Is it just another part of the city that’s actually been over-hyped by those that don’t live there? How do the Amsterdam residents view that side of their city?  

MR: Ava, obviously much of my series is set in the red light district for the same reasons as you’ve outlined. I was interested to explore the motives of those women who had chosen to work in the sex trade, like George’s housemates, Inneke and Katja. In The Girl Who Broke the Rules, much of the action is also set in a Soho strip club. Predominantly, women have opted to work in these places because they offer good pay and flexible working hours. I believe there are girls working in strip clubs throughout Europe who are funding university education. But there are also plenty of trafficked women coming from all over the world, who have had their passports taken from them by unscrupulous trafficking rings. That promise of a better future and guaranteed paid work in Britain has often turned out to be slave labour in a backstreet brothel or nail bar. For me, the sex industry throws up all sorts of different stories and is an obvious starting point for a crime-thriller. What other motivations do criminals have beyond money, power and sex? Not many. 

Marnie 2When I lived in the Netherlands, I found it a very different country once I got outside of Amsterdam. While Amsterdam was laid back and had a genuinely liberal feel to it, in the neighbouring satellite towns, the attitude of the locals was fairly conservative and judgmental. It is, after all, a Calvinist country with a small population – even Amsterdam has less than a million inhabitants – so, seen through my jaded, big-city British eyes, there is an old-fashioned primness that underpins Dutch society. I think there are many citizens who are opposed to prostitution and legalised drugs. In fact, there are posters in shops and cafes around the country that say “No drugs here, please”. It’s a far more conservative country than people realise, as is Belgium, with plenty of racial tension that can produce fertile ground in which religious extremism can flourish. Obviously, for someone interested in writing about race issues, corruption and hypocrisy as much as describing historic, beautiful settings, Amsterdam offered itself as a perfect location for a thriller. I guess Amsterdamers have grown used to the Red Light District. It is, after all, a healthy part of the city’s tourist industry. 

G: Marnie, I had no idea that any element of Dutch society was prim – the media based perception I have is clearly totally different. 

Intolerances are very topical at the moment, in light of Brexit and it seems everyone has declared an Open Season on voicing discord and unpleasant viewpoints. As for Trump… 

Do you each feel that you have a responsibility when you write to challenge or even undermine intolerant voices or opinions? 

Ava Marsh SilhouetteAM: Yes, fascinating insight into Dutch society, Marnie, and I felt that came across well in The Girl Who Wouldn’t Die. To answer your question, Gordon, I am indeed deeply interested in reflecting political and cultural concerns in my books. In Untouchable I wanted to tackle issues of inequality and corruption, for instance, while in Exposure, I was more concerned with sexual politics and the misogyny inherent in the porn industry.

I guess one of the main ways we do this as writers is to create characters who embody attitudes, morals or values we dislike or want to oppose, then show how those characteristics play out within the plot and how other characters respond to them. So in Untouchable, Harry represents a wealthy elite that believes itself to be, well, untouchable. In Exposure, Victor embodies a certain kind of man who works in the porn industry – in fact he was directly drawn from a real-life character who makes very violent and sadistic porn movies under a pseudonym. To this day no one is entirely sure who he is.

G: It is actually really disturbing to learn Victor is based upon a real character, when he pops up in Exposure I actually started to feel anxious about what was about to happen (even his presence was chilling). 

Ava, would you say there was an acceptance in both the porn industry and amongst escorts that “that’s just how it is”?  Is the ‘norm’ of that lifestyle so firmly established that even highlighting the worst of conditions will make little practical difference? 

AM: Interesting question, Gordon. I think the situation is much worse in pornography than it is in escorting. Independent escorts commonly define exactly what they will and will not do on their websites, and so have rather good boundaries, in that sense.

Porn girls on the other hand are trying to make a name for themselves in an industry that is predicated on novelty. The problem with sex is that any stimulus often repeated soon becomes boring, so men quickly tire of seeing the same girls doing the same things, especially given there is no emotional context or ‘story’ to embellish what they’re watching on screen. This creates a constant pressure for something new, something exciting, and that tends to escalate what girls are expected to do. I am not sure if there is any solution, and while I feel escorting at the higher levels is relatively harmless – assuming the woman has gone into it willingly – porn damages all of us in subtle ways. Lots of things many women now do routinely – such as shave off their pubic hair – began in porn flicks. There has also been much written about how porn is shaping young men’s attitudes to sex, and how that impacts on the girls they hook up with; in the same way violence on screen has been shown to desensitise us, pornography does too.

MR: If I could respond belatedly to Gordon’s point about assuming a responsibility to challenge intolerance, I’d say yes, I feel a responsibility – not so much to be didactic in my novels but to portray both extremes and the stuff in-between fairly. Two big issues in my George McKenzie series are sexual and racial politics. So, I portray sexist men – at the lesser end of the scale, men like Vim Fennemans, who intimidate and prey on vulnerable young, female students, and at the extreme end of the scale, men like The Duke and the Italian traffickers in The Girl Who Broke the Rules who see women and girls as sexual commodities only – in all their rather unpleasant true colours. I then portray the likes of George McKenzie, my heroine, as a woman’s woman, who eschews things like shaved pubes and body fascism and traditional notions of femininity. Van den Bergen, of course, makes a good stab at being a male feminist! It’s obvious whose side I’m taking. Similarly, racists in my novels are portrayed in detail with backstories of their own that explain their racism, but it doesn’t mean I side with them. My heroes in the George McKenzie series are, after all, predominantly Black.  

George BooksIn my forthcoming Manchester series, issues of racism, sexism and also criminality are explored in the story (Manchester is a real racial melting pot with people of many ethnicities living together harmoniously, at least superficially). As with the George McKenzie series, I’m interested in the shades of grey, not the black and white. Everyone has a price for which they will be corrupted. Everyone is capable of intense hypocrisy and self-preservation at the expense of others. Everyone is guilty at some point in their lives of manipulating situations to their own advantage through the use of sexuality. It’s always fun to explore those dynamics between characters. In the Manchester series, which are criminal-led stories rather than police procedurals, I try not to judge.    And I agree with Ava that pornography has become damaging in nature. I toyed with the idea of doing a PhD in feminism and violent hardcore porn, in a similar vein to George’s PhD studies. I found the subject too depressing in the end and abandoned ideas of the PhD in favour of working in Soho – but not in a titty bar! In a music publisher’s! 

G: One last question before we wrap up: do you each find it hard to get into the head of your more unpleasant characters?  

AM: It depends on how unpleasant they are! Some are so very bad – Harry, Victor – that it’s simply a question of portraying that. You don’t really need to understand or like them. For someone like Alex in Untouchable, his psychology was more opaque, and I had a lot of fun working out how he ticked, and I have to confess I liked him an awful lot.

It’s Kitty in Exposure, however, who gave me the most grief – it took me a long, long time to work out who she was and what she was doing, and to understand what was behind some of her more ‘challenging’ behaviour. The thing to remember is that even the bad guys think they’re good, or at least justified in what they’re doing, and to some extent they are right: it’s all a matter of perspective.

MR: I particularly enjoyed your character, Stella in your first book, Ava. I thought she was very well drawn. Character is really very important to me in my series, and I have quite a large cast in each book – villains as well as heroes. In fact spectacularly bad baddies are my bread and butter – the story springs from them. I adored writing creepy fetishistic anaesthetist, Silas Holm in The Girl Who Broke the Rules, though I have no personal interest in his niche, murderous pastimes!  

In my new book about Manchester, there are a couple of really wonderful psychopaths: two henchmen for warring sides, one of whom is called Conky McFadden and the other who is called Asaf Smolensky. They’re so different from one another, with Conky having been highly educated (in prison) but with a shady past of sectarian violence in Northern Ireland and Asaf Smolensky, aka the Fish Man being an ex-Mossad agent, dishonourably discharged from the Israeli army and suffering from PTSD. And then, there’s the main bastard, Paddy O’Brien, who rules South Manchester. He’s a piece of work! I love to hate him. I find writing these murderous types endlessly entertaining but if I don’t suss their backstories out before I start to spin my yarn, the story won’t work, as all action must come from character.  

There are no purely good goodies in my books though. I’m interested in the shades of grey, resulting in George McKenzie having skeletons in her closet and a huge chip on her shoulder and Van den Bergen being frustrating and unlikeable at times. That’s the way people are! I don’t believe in saccharin goody-two-shoes. Perfectly nice people usually have something more lurking behind a facade. Luckily, I think I have a very good lay-person’s understanding of psychology, so I can generally work out beforehand why my characters are the way they are in my stories to ensure that they’re are believable.  

 

My most sincere thanks to Marnie and Ava. We have challenged taboos, highlighted inequality, corruption and exploitation and talked about their respective bad guys. Despite all these dark topics it has been an absolute thrill for me to have had the opportunity to chat with Ava and Marnie who have both continued to be so wonderfully supportive of this blog.

 

Marnie’s George McKenzie novels can be ordered through this link: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Marnie-Riches/e/B00WBJZ364/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1467243661&sr=1-2-ent

Ava’s novels are also easily ordered by clicking through this link: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Ava-Marsh/e/B00LY3Z3UO/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1467243734&sr=1-2-ent

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April 19

In Conversation: Marnie Riches & Sarah Hilary

This is the third Conversation guest post I have been able to share. I wish I could say that I had planned this wonderful symmetry, however, it is by sheer chance that my latest guests have both just released the third novel in their respective series.

Frequent visitors to Grab This Book will know that I am huge fan of The Girl Who series by Marnie Riches and also of Sarah Hilary’s Marnie Rome thrillers. I make no secret of the fact I enjoy the darker crime novels and Sarah and Marnie’s books have consistently scored my highest review scores as they write the books I love to read.

In my ongoing attempts to give my guests the best chance to discuss their books (away from an inflexible pre-prepared Q&A format) I was delighted when Sarah and Marnie agreed to join me to chat about their ‘kick ass’ heroines…and what-ever else that may crop up!

 

The Girl Who Walked in the ShadowsG: Marnie, we are starting our chat just a few days after the launch of The Girl Who Walked in the Shadows – the 3rd outing for George McKenzie. I have seen quite a few reviews suggesting that this is her darkest adventure thus far.  The first two books were no gentle stroll in the park for George, so did you feel that you raised the stakes this time around?

MR: Thanks for this. My publisher had suggested I continue a theme of sexuality and traffic into this third book. I guess you don’t notice common themes emerging in your work until you’ve written more than one novel. So, it seemed appropriate to explore the subject matter of child-trafficking and paedophile rings in The Girl Who Walked in the Shadows.  I felt I could do the topic justice. I still wanted the book to be a serial killer thriller, as I like to read that sort of thing myself, but I did have memories of the Madeleine McCann disappearance churning away in the back of my mind for years. It struck a chord with me as a parent – hence, a thriller with two mysteries at its heart emerged: Jack Frost with his lethal icicles, and the disappearance of the Deenen toddlers. So, yes. In a bid to avoid writing a samey, formulaic third installment in my series, I upped the ante and went darker and more complex. It seems to be going down well with readers.

What about you, Sarah? What demons did you face in coming up with a story-line for your third?

 

SH: Marnie, it’s interesting what you say about not noticing common themes until you’ve written a book or two. That really came home to me when I was writing book three. I knew I was affected by my family history – my mother was a child internee of the Japanese during WWII – but I hadn’t realised how strongly I felt about the twin themes of fear and captivity until I was writing Tastes Like Fear. It took a reader to point out that I often write about children who are trapped or taken, or both. Marnie’s backstory (love that you share a first name with my heroine, btw!) involves quite a lot of demon-facing, and at one level she’s trapped by her inability to let go of her past. So Tastes Like Fear works in terms of the standalone story, which is about lost teenagers thinking they’ve found a safe place, and the longer story that underpins the series. 

Tastes Like FearMarnie, how far ahead do you plan in terms of George’s story? Do you know where she’s headed, or do you like to be surprised, book by book?

 

MR: Wow, Sarah. You have such an interesting family history. That must have been very difficult for your mother to get over, as childhood events have such an impact on adult life. In a similar vein to your Mum and Marnie Rome and George McKenzie, I endured traumatic events when I was younger (nothing like your mother’s experience, of course) where I was subject to being terrorized on a very rough council estate over a period of many years. My mother and I acted as magnets for the feral kids who roamed the estate in gangs. The petrol-bombing scene in The Girl Who Wouldn’t Die actually happened to me, so that phenomenon of the fight or flight impulse never being far beneath the surface had to be a major characteristic in George, else she wouldn’t have been mine. Over the series, George works hard to subvert these destructive impulses that are a hangover from her earlier years.

I know George will follow an arc but I don’t know until I start to write exactly what shape that will take. She is not me, but her development is influenced by my own personal development to an extent. So, as she ages, she may have more control over her extremes of emotional and may be more stoic about the treacherous behaviour of family members, for example. I have to know what the standalone story will be for the next book – I have had to submit proposed outlines for The Girl Who Broke the Rules and The Girl Who Walked in the Shadows, to get my publisher’s prior approval – but George’s long game is mine to play…

You and I both have a toughie of a female protagonist, paired with somewhat beta males in Marnie & Noah and George & Van den Bergen. What made you choose that dynamic?

 

SH: Marnie, I may have some dark family history but how dreadful for you to have lived through such trauma as a child. By contrast I was fortunate enough to have an extremely secure and happy childhood. Which is perhaps why I gravitated towards horror stories and crime fiction as a way of expanding my emotional arsenal, vicariously as it were. I’ve not experienced even a little of what my Marnie has, but perhaps I’m channelling some creative demons into her? Hard to say, but I am wedded to her darkness. While I would like her to find peace from time to time, I have no end game in sight that would involve a ‘happily ever after’ scenario. Some people, I think, are born into the world to carry weight on their shoulders (I do know a little about this, personally) and Marnie is one of that breed. The world needs heroes like Marnie and George.

Someone Else's Skin (new)Do you love writing Van den Bergen as much as I love writing Noah? I’m not sure what drew me to the dynamic, but I find it fascinating (and useful, in terms of plot and character) to see Marnie through Noah’s eyes. Their relationship has changed a lot since Someone Else’s Skin. Marnie trusts Noah now, and she even confides in him. Has the dynamic between Van den Bergen and George changed as you’ve been writing the three (soon to be four) books? 

 

MR: Van den Bergen is one of those people who carries a burden. He suffers with anxiety disorder and the occasional slide into full-on depression. I enjoy writing him because he’s such a loveable, cantankerous bastard with such unimpeachable morals. I like exploring his masculinity – it’s fascinating to be able to inhabit a man’s body and a man’s take on the world through my writing.

George, on the other hand, is an optimist at heart, with an incredible capacity to love, tempered by her worldly-wise cynicism. She’s a heroine because she’s had a hard start and has had to become extremely tough and resilient to survive and flourish. She has inner steel and discipline, where her family life is chaotic to say the least. 

George and Van den Bergen were always attracted to one another – they respected each others’ grit, determination and attention to detail from the word go, as well as there being bonkers sexual chemistry. Their relationship has become more antagonistic over time, simply because of Van den Bergen’s anxiety about his age – there’s a twenty-year age gap. He drops the shutters on passionate George, who trusts him with her heart so readily. She wants to beat him to a pulp for it.  

My main characters both contain a healthy dose of me but are fundamentally different. George is Black and young. Noah is a gay man. Neither Black women nor gay men are particularly well represented in crime fiction. How much of you is in your characters and what made you want to write Noah as gay?

 

SH: I will confess to a little wish fulfilment when it comes to Marnie, but there is nothing of me in my characters. It’s pure imagination. I wish I had Marnie’s courage and her dry wit, and that I’d been a rebellious teenager, even just for a short while. But I was a very good girl; maybe I’m acting out a fantasy of a misspent youth …

When it comes to Noah, I’m not sure why I wanted to write him as gay, other than as you say, because of under-representation in the genre. I’ve written quite a lot of gay men, so I knew I could do it and I knew that I’d enjoy writing him. A half-Jamaican openly and happily gay man, who happens to also be a detective sergeant with the Met Police. The only conscious decision I made was that his race and sexuality wouldn’t define him. I didn’t want to write about a conflicted character who felt the lash of homophobia and racism every day, or struggled to find personal and professional happiness. Noah is extremely content in his own skin. He goes home to a happy, secure life. He’s armour-plated against the casual bullying in the workplace; nothing fazes him, or not for long. I love Noah.

Let’s talk about our supporting cast. Are there any characters in the standalone plots within each book which you’d like to see return in future books? Or any you’d consider for a spin-off series of their own?

 

Girl Who Broke the Rules 2MR: Similarly, it was a conscious choice for me to make George mixed race, as commercial crime fiction is a very white realm and I wanted to redress that balance somewhat in having a strong Black female lead – most importantly, a lead who isn’t a victim and whose strength does not lie in typically masculine characteristics. 

As far as reprising the roles of secondary characters goes, both family members and key figures in the criminal underworld crop up repeatedly in the standalone stories. They are essential to the overarching themes that span the series – George’s relationship to her parents and an examination of the rotten heart of trafficking. But George and Van den Bergen are very much the stars. At this stage, I can’t envisage spin-offs. I would, however, like to see more of Silas Holm. In The Girl Who Broke the Rules, he is one of George’s study subjects – an amputee convicted serial murderer and award-winning anaesthetist. He’s intelligent, charming and warped as hell. I think we might see him putting in another appearance. I’ll think on it…

What about you? Do you think you’ll tire of writing about Marnie and Noah? Are there subsidiary characters who would make interesting main protagonists themselves? I’ve worked hard to keep all three of my books familiar and yet, distinctly different from one another – especially The Girl Who Walked in the Shadows. What about you? Are you concerned about your writing becoming formulaic over time, as is often the problem with longer running series?

 

Photo by Linda Nylind.
Photo by Linda Nylind.

SH: Silas Holm is a great name as well. I can see a spin-off series for Silas. 

One reader did suggest that Noah’s reprobate kid brother, Sol, should have his own series, but I dunno. Someone else would have to write it, I think. I’m too busy – and happy – writing Marnie and Noah. I’m quite intrigued by the idea of some early (pre-series) stories, maybe about Marnie’s wild youth, or Noah’s adventures growing up. Although I do think most of my interest lies in unwrapping them further as the series progresses. Marnie, especially, is still keeping secrets from me (Marnie is made of secrets). In Tastes Like Fear, Noah surprised me with a big secret from his youth, so maybe he has a few tricks up his sleeve, also. As long as they can keep evolving as characters then I don’t need to worry about becoming formulaic. 

What long-running crime series do you most enjoy? I’ve just discovered Mick Herron’s stupendous spy thriller series that started with Slow Horses. And I’m a sucker for Jonathan Kellerman’s Alex Delaware series.

 

MR: I’ve enjoyed Jo Nesbo’s Harry Hole series best, I guess. He’s been going for many, many books and the stories still work well as standalones. By Phantom, however, I did think it was time to wrap things up for Harry and I’m surprised that Police was released. Despite that, it was an enjoyable read. I read a lot of kids’ fiction too, as I used to write that. I enjoyed many of Eoin Colfer’s Artemis Fowl books and also Christopher Paolini’s Inheritance Cycle. Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy was brill but I haven’t yet read Lagercrantz’s fourth offering, so my jury is out on that. 

Marnie 2I think the joy of a great series is knowing when to stop. Personally, I think George has a good few more stories in her, but I will have to make swingeing changes to the cast list to keep it fresh overall. As long as readers want her, I will write her. Heroines like her come once in a writer’s lifetime – she’s certainly too good to shelve after a mere handful of books. She still has plenty to say!

SH: Long live George and Marnie! Great chat, thanks for hosting, Gordon, and a big thank you to our readers who keep us motivated to write more stories with our series characters.

 

I would like to extend a massive ‘Thank You’ to Sarah and Marnie for giving me the opportunity to eavesdrop on their conversation. As you can see my involvement was minimal but I don’t have the words to describe how much I enjoyed seeing their chat come together.

 

You can order Sarah’s Marnie Rome novels through this link: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Sarah-Hilary/e/B00QETWXA6/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1461102062&sr=1-2-ent

Marnie’s George McKenzie novels can be ordered through this link: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Marnie-Riches/e/B00WBJZ364/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1461102237&sr=1-2-ent

 

 

 

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March 23

The Girl Who Walked in the Shadows – Marnie Riches

The Girl Who Walked in the ShadowsEurope is in the grip of an extreme Arctic blast and at the mercy of a killer, who leaves no trace. His weapons of choice are razor-sharp icicles. This is Jack Frost.

Now a fully qualified criminologist, Georgina McKenzie is called upon by the Dutch police to profile this cunning and brutal murderer. Are they looking for a hit man or a frenzied serial-killer? Could there be a link to a cold missing persons’ case that George had worked with Chief Inspector Paul van den Bergen – two abducted toddlers he could never quite give up on?

The hunt for Jack Frost sparks a dangerous, heart-rending journey through the toughest neighbourhoods in Europe, where refugees and Roma gypsies scratch a living on the edge of society. Walking into the dark, violent world of a trans-national trafficking ring, can George outrun death to shed light on two terrible mysteries?

 

My thanks to the team at Avon for my review copy which I received through Netgalley.

 

George McKenzie is back in The Girl Who Walked in the Shadows, the third book in The Girl Who series by Marnie Riches and I have been waiting patiently (honest) for the chance to read this one.

Housekeeping first…it is entirely possible to read and enjoy The Girl Who Walked in the Shadows as a stand alone book.  There are links to the previous titles (The Girl Who Wouldn’t Die and The Girl Who Broke The Rules) and there may be some small spoilers for new readers who go back to read the earlier titles after reading Shadows. However, new readers will not be disadvantaged as the author ensures recurring characters or past events are reintroduced during the narrative.

Right let’s get down to it…The Girl Who Walked in the Shadows is an intensely dark read. Brutal murders, child abduction and powerful criminal gangs all make for a wonderfully gritty reading experience. George and her partner, Amsterdam cop Paul van den Bergen, seem to be facing their biggest challenge yet.

Their attempts to track down a serial killer who leaves no forensic evidence at the crime scenes are failing at every turn. Van den Bergen’s bosses are demanding results yet there are no tangible leads for the police to follow.  Van den Bergen is also haunted by his inability to make any progress with investigations into a double kidnapping of two young children – the children’s mother (a PR expert) has ensured the abduction has been all over the media – and the pressure is on van den Bergen to trace the missing toddlers. Could George’s studies into child abuse and connections to travellers yield any clues?

In addition to the pressures of these cases is the combustible nature of van den Bergen’s relationship with George. The two are seemingly determined to push each other away on a regular basis, however, they will have to overcome the problems of the tempestuous nature of their relationship to form an effective investigative team.

The story is nicely split between England and Amsterdam again and I enjoyed that the supporting cast (George’s family and van den Bergen’s team) got very prominent roles to play. The narrative jumps timelines and we switch between George, van den Bergen, the killer and other key players as the story demands. Normally I don’t fare well when books switch time periods (as I am a skim reader) but I didn’t have any issues in keeping track of events within Shadows. I actually really enjoyed how some events were teased, the author had revealed the outcome/aftermath of a situation, but left the reader wondering what had transpired to reach that point.

Marnie Riches is tackling some deeply emotive issues in this book and there are some nasty and unexpected twists along the way. I loved how the various plot threads started to come together as I reached the final third of the story and I think I practically inhaled the finale which left me crying out for more.

Dark, brutal and brilliant. The Girl Who Walked in the Shadows is exactly the kind of story that I love to read. Marnie Riches has crafted a series which I cannot recommend enough. A review score of 5/5 was guaranteed when I put down the book and realised that I had been holding my breath as I read the last pages.

 

The Girl Who Walked in the Shadows is released on 31 March 2016.  You can order a copy here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B00YGDJUAI?keywords=the%20girl%20who%20walked%20in%20the%20shadows&qid=1458689425&ref_=sr_1_1&sr=8-1

 

 

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December 27

Talking Serial Killers – Vol 2

12 months ago I had the opportunity to chat with David McCaffrey, author of Hellbound.  David had introduced a twist to his serial killer story and I was offered the opportunity to chat with David about Hellbound and about serial killers!  During the course of our conversation I asked:

Why do you think we (as readers) enjoy serial killer stories given the reality is such a horrific concept?” 

It is a question that I have re-visited several times since my chat with David and I have been fascinated with the different responses that I have received so decided to collate the replies.

 

In April Alexandra Sokoloff visited and I asked: why do we love a serial killer story?

LACMA.best.DSC_6246-2I think the serial killer has become an iconic monster, like a vampire or werewolf or zombie (maybe replacing the pretty much defunct mummy!). This icon is of course a very idealized version of what a serial killer actually is. And I think it was Thomas Harris who mythologized the serial killer to classic monster status, although Stevenson’s Jekyll/Hyde, Stoker’s Dracula (supposedly based on the real-life Vlad the Impaler), and various depictions of Jack the Ripper were strong precursors. We are fascinated by the idea of pure evil in a human being.

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

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

 

But that was not where it ended as, during the preparation for our Q&A, Alex indicated that she had lots to offer on the subject of Serial Killers! Manna for a crime blogger…a full Q&A just around serial killers was the result and is one of my favourite interviews that I have hosted.  You can read our conversation in full here:  http://grabthisbook.net/?p=696

 

 

In February I had the chance to chat with Karen Long about her second Eleanor Raven novel The Vault. Raven hunts down a killer who likes to keep his victims around long after their death…

Why do you think that we all seem to enjoy reading about serial killers?

_DSC7396It is one of the defining aspects of the conscious mind that we seek to understand the mind of another. Have you not said to a loved one, “What are you thinking?”, “Penny for them?” or you see the personality and empathy in a pet? We look for the similarities and fear the differences. A great white shark is more terrifying than an orca, both are apex predators, roughly the same weight but we feel less threatened by the orca (count the ratio of shark to orca documentaries on the Discovery channel). It looks back at us with an intelligence and complexity of purpose that we believe we can understand. It’s more like than unlike us. The unconscious mind is terrifying; simple motor responses that can’t be tempered or reversed by logic, emotion or negotiation leave us vulnerable and afraid. Those atavistic fears, tamped down by collective intelligence and analysis need an airing if we are to survive. What better way to practise than from the safety of your own living room, protected by hearth, locks and a telephone. When we confront the serial killer in the safety of our imaginations, we look into the shark’s mind. It is a lesson in survival that dares us to look into a mind devoid of reason.

You can read our Q&A in full here: http://grabthisbook.net/?p=520

 

 

Most recently I was delighted to welcome Marnie Riches back to Grab This Book.  We were chatting about the first two books of The Girl Who series – Marnie’s hero (George) has had more than one brush with violent killers so naturally I wanted to ask Marnie about her thoughts on Serial Killers:

Why do readers love serial killer stories given how horrific the concept is in reality?

Marnie 2Serial killers form an intrinsic part of our collective oral history, like childhood tales of the bogeyman or urban myths. Every grown-up has heard of the Moors Murderers, Fred and Rose West, The Yorkshire Ripper… They’re gruesome anti-legends. Serial killers are so rare, that they always make headlines, and we read their stories with macabre fascination, precisely because they are such an anomaly in our otherwise ordered, safe and fairly predictable lives. Death is inevitable, but premature death at the hand of a violent killer is a primal fear, statistically founded on very little, but which we nevertheless experience with perverse relish and vicariously through the suffering of a few unfortunate individuals who do fall victim to society’s worst predators. Serial killers will always be fascinating.

You can read our Q&A in full here: http://grabthisbook.net/?p=1078

 

 

 

 

 

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December 19

Guest Post – Marnie Riches: Serial Heroes

My Serial Heroes feature week draws to a close. For those joining late: I have been asking authors to tell me which ongoing crime/thriller series they enjoy reading (and why).

Thus far we have had Ed McBain’s 87th Precinct books – Douglas Skelton‘s selection.  Day Two was Angela Marsons talking about Val McDermid’s Tony Hill books. Helen Giltrow introduced us to the wonderful Slough Houses series by Mick Herron and yesterday Michael J Malone took us to James Lee Burke country.

My final guest for this round of Serial Heroes is Marnie Riches. During 2015 I read both of Marnie’s Georgina McKenzie novels: The Girl Who Wouldn’t Die and The Girl Who Broke The Rules these were stunning reads – books I could not put down. I included The Girl Who Wouldn’t Die in my Top Ten Books of 2015 and have been delighted to see that several of my fellow bloggers also included Marnie’s books in their end of year selections. I associate Marnie with slick, gritty thrillers so was keen to see what she enjoyed reading.

Before contacting each of the authors that have kindly contributed to this week’s feature I had tried to guess which books they may select. I knew Douglas would likely select Ed McBain and was reasonably sure Helen would pick Mick Herron, however, I had Marnie as a dead cert for Stieg Larsson…nope!

 

Marnie Riches:

The end of the year on social media brings with it so many exciting round-ups and Top 10s of the year’s best books. I’ve been lucky enough to feature on a couple this year and am delighted that my George McKenzie series has garnered such support from readers and bloggers. There’s something special about discovering a brand new series, isn’t there? Something magical about a character’s fraught and complicated life, unfolding on the pages…a couple of books in, and often, they feel like old friends, telling their stories just for you.

LeopardAn author who became a great source of inspiration for my own writing is the mighty Jo Nesbo. The Leopard was the first book of the Harry Hole series that I devoured. It was dark. It was brutal. It contained a perfect Scandi-Noir blend of coffee drinking, snow and murder. My imagination caught fire with the introduction of the gruesome Leopold’s Apple as an ingenious and dreadful torture device; a bringer of death by drowning. I had to read on. For me, this is one of the best books in the series, as we discover Harry, hiding away in Hong Kong, trying to smother his demons in a narcotic fug. The switch from Hong Kong’s sweaty high-rises to the snow-bound, claustrophobic Norwegian wilderness and ensuing epic trek to the Congo to catch a killer make this a truly international novel – exactly the sort of thing that I love to read and also to write, of course.

For my part, the real genius in Nesbo’s writing comes not so much from his characters but from his ability to tell a really gripping and often, wildly inventive yarn. Each of his killers despatch their victims in unusual ways, with a variety of different and warped motivations. There are twists and action sequences a-plenty, as we enter the worlds of addicts, ex-servicemen, the Salvation Army, hitmen and even artists. His books from the middle of his series – The Devil’s Star, The Redeemer, The Snowman and The Leopard – contain Nesbo’s best writing, I feel. The plotting is tight. The pace is fast. ­­The books are long and packed with descriptive detail but are neither overblown nor undercooked. They evoke a gritty, realistic, rat’s-eye view of Oslo and its criminal underbelly.­

What I also love about the Harry Hole series is the way that Nesbo weaves thematic complexity into his stories, so that beneath the main storyline of Harry-pursues-killer-and-catches-killer, there are layers addressing corruption within the police force, dysfunctional relationships, sexuality, existential angst of the middle-aged and the nature of addiction.

HeadhuntersCharacters usually constitute the most important element in a series’ success. Harry Hole is a wonderfully tortured individual, continually having to face the perils of addiction, scheming colleagues, sexual temptation from the women who come and go from his life and/or unrequited love for his The One – Rakel. I do prefer a man with a soupcon more sensitivity and an impressive intellect, as well as a propensity for derring-do, however dastardly – hence my enduring love of Thomas Harris’ Hannibal Lecter and my compulsion to create the misanthropic art-school drop-out, Van den Bergen. But Hole is indeed a belter, and Nesbo demonstrates beautifully how you must always chase your main character up a tree and then throw rocks at him or her. His subsidiary characters are often interesting too – none more so than the blushing Beate Lonn with her incredible ability to remember every face she has ever seen, diligently watching CCTV footage in the House of Pain. I must confess that my own detective, Marie – Van den Bergen’s IT expert – has, in part, been inspired by Lonn, though I sought to flesh Marie out a good deal more and in different ways. The introverted, soap-dodging Marie, who spends her days tracking the nefarious doings of traffickers and paedophiles online, really comes into her own in my third George McKenzie novel – The Girl Who Walked in the Shadows. Nesbo’s Rakel, though, always feels like a rough sketch of a woman. I wish Nesbo had taken the time to flesh his female characters out more, because they count! It’s only a very small criticism of a series that is consistently impressive, in the main.

Oddly, it is often the standalone novels penned by famous authors that turn out to be their best work. If you want to see Jo Nesbo’s writing at its cut-throat, breakneck-paced, fat-free best, read Headhunters. It’s slender in comparison to the Harry books but boy, is it good. And it’s funny too. Sometimes, even in a crime novel, a bit of funny goes a very long way.

So…sold on Nesbo yet? Well, if you haven’t read the Harry Hole series yet, I recommend you discover it this Christmas. Be careful. It’s addictive!

 

Jo Nesbo’s books can all be found on his Amazon page: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Jo-Nesbo/e/B004MSFDCG/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1450485109&sr=8-2-ent

 

Marnie 2Marnie Riches has her own Amazon page too: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Marnie-Riches/e/B00WBJZ364/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1450485897&sr=8-2-ent and her personal website can be found at: http://marnieriches.com/

You can find Marnie on Twitter @Marnie_Riches or follow her on Facebook.

Category: Guests | Comments Off on Guest Post – Marnie Riches: Serial Heroes
December 5

2015: My Top Ten Reads

December already and time to look back over 2015 and draw up my Top Ten reads of the year.  Before I start I would like to thank all the authors and publishers that have trusted me with their books, shared my reviews and (on exciting occasions) quoted my reviews. Your support keeps this blog running and I am grateful beyond measure.

Reading and blogging is not the solitary venture as you may believe. I would like to thank all the authors who gave up some of their valuable time to join me during 2015 (answering my Q&A’s and providing guest posts). Special thanks at this time to Marnie Riches for many, many Twitter name-checks and to Alexandra Sokoloff for her phenomenal guest feature on Serial Killers (found here).

I would also thank my fellow bloggers who help my reviews reach a wider audience, give me guidance when I hit a blank and provide the support I need to keep me going – too many to name individually but special thanks to Liz, Sonya, Sophie, Lou and Shaun.

So the books – Ten in all. The ones I recommended most throughout the year or the stories which stick with me long after I have finished reading – with my goldfish memory it takes something special to remain memorable.

They are not ranked in any order…but the last three on the list ARE my three most recommended for the year!

 

No Other Darkness

 

No Other Darkness – Sarah Hilary

The second Marnie Rome thriller from Sarah Hilary and it did everything that I hoped it would do. Terrified, entertained, developed the characters that I had really liked from her debut novel and it left me pining for more. I read No Other Darkness in January so my wait for Book 3 must hopefully be nearing an end!  Review here

 

 

 

hellbound

Hellbound – David McCaffrey

David McCaffrey took the serial killer story and did something totally unexpected – the concept he explored was one I now often consider when I read other murder stories. Hellbound was engrossing, thought provoking and a bloody good story too. David kindly agreed to take part in a Q&A and he was the first to be asked what I came to call my “Serial Killer” question – this question has subsequently featured many times throughout the year (and will be revisited in a special feature post soon). The Serial Killer question only came about because of Hellbound – my thanks to David for that inspiration, every different answer fascinates me.  Review Here.

 

 

 

the girl who wouldnt die 2

 

 

The Girl Who Wouldn’t Die – Marnie Riches

Explosive opening and a punchy heroine in George McKenzie I was hooked on The Girl Who Wouldn’t Die from the outset.  I loved the Amsterdam setting, I loved the dynamic between George and the Dutch police. I got frustrated by the characters, I hated the bullies and I was delighted that Marnie Riches did not sugar coat the violence of her villains. Dark and nasty is how I like a crime story. (Review Here)

 

 

 

Evil Games

Evil Games – Angela Marsons

Angela Marsons released three books this year featuring lead character Kim Stone. Evil Games was the second of the three and although I could easily be writing about the third book (Lost Girls) in this space I just felt that Evil Games edged it. The clinching factor in Evil Games inclusion in this list was the character playing the Evil Games – no spoilers but the villain in Evil Games wins my ‘Best Baddie of 2015’ award.  If you have not yet read any of the books in this series then you need to put that right as soon as possible. (Review here).

 

 

Snow Blind

 

Snowblind (Dark Iceland) – Ragnar Jonasson

Snowblind stands out in my selection of ten as it is the least frenetic of the books but it reads beautifully. The storytelling, the scene setting, the characterization and the sheer sense of being part of the story made Snowblind an easy pick for my list. (Review here)

 

 

 

Killing Lessons

 

The Killing Lessons – Saul Black

In the height of summer (while lying beside a Spanish swimming pool) I was transported to a dark, snowy American wood as I read about a young girl fleeing the family home to escape a pair of killers that had murdered her mother and brother. The Killing Lessons just ticked all the right boxes for me. A cleverly written slick thriller that follows the cops, the killers and the victim they missed. (Review here

 

 

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Breathe – David Ince

How can you not love a book that is the first book in The Meat Puppet Trilogy?  Breathe is non-stop action. A chase scene from first page to last. Random and unexpected deaths, blackmail, terror and a mysterious criminal figure commanding an army of unwilling foot soldiers. It will keep you turning page after page and promising yourself ‘just one more chapter’. (Review here)

 

 

A Kind Worth Killing

 

The Kind Worth Killing – Peter Swanson

In my Top Three because it just kept blowing me away with the twists I did not see coming. So many clever, clever twists. A nightmare to review without giving away plot twists because it is so damned twisty. Did I mention the twists?  If you enjoy a murder story and you don’t mind knowing who the murderer is then this is the book for you. But the police are on the trail of our killer and you start to think that this time you would quite like to see them fail – and it looks like they will!  (Review Here)

 

 

Tenacity 2

 

 

Tenacity – J.S. Law

In the Top Three because I loved it. From the stunning opening sequence through to the claustrophobic submarine scenes and the brilliant finale which left me screaming for more chapters – I just could not get enough of this book.  Everyone should read Tenacity.  (Review here)

 

 

 

Untouchable cover

Untouchable – Ava Marsh

Also in the Top Three this year is Untouchable by Ava Marsh. The protagonist is a high class call girl and the story takes an unflinching look at her lifestyle.  Untouchable stood out this year as a book quite unlike any I had read. The treatment of the characters was handled superbly and any judgements on the characters is made entirely by the reader. Contains scenes of violence and explicit sexual content so perhaps not suitable for everyone but if that stops you reading a fantastic story then it is your loss. I recommend this book to everyone (except my mum coz of the rude bits). (Review here)

 

 

Category: 5* Reviews, From The Bookshelf, Uncategorized | Comments Off on 2015: My Top Ten Reads