February 6

Don’t Look For Me – Mason Cross

Don’t look for me.

It was a simple instruction. And for six long years Carter Blake kept his word and didn’t search for the woman he once loved. But now someone else is looking for her.

He’ll come for you.

Trenton Gage is a hitman with a talent for finding people – dead or alive. His next job is to track down a woman who’s on the run, who is harbouring a secret many will kill for.

Both men are hunting the same person. The question is, who will find her first?

 

Last year I broke one of my self-imposed reading rules when I read a book called Winterlong. The “rule” I broke was that I should not begin reading a new series unless I start at Book One of that new series.  Winterlong subsequently renamed to The Time To Kill and it was the third novel in the Carter Blake series.

I regret nothing as it was brilliant.

This week Carter Blake book 4: Don’t Look For Me, is released in paperback and is currently hitting bookshelves up and down the land. If you like an action packed adventure thriller then Don’t Look For Me should be an essential purchase.

Following events outlined in the previous books (all handily explained by the author without need to have read the earlier books) we know that 6 years ago Carter Blake had to quickly slip away from the life he had built for himself. He told the woman he loved that she too also had to vanish – her parting shot “Don’t Look For Me”.

Blake has honoured that request but it seems he may not be permitted to continue to do so.  In a quiet residential suburb of Nevada a young couple have mysteriously disappeared from their home.  A concerned neighbour has found Blake’s email address which was hidden in the home owned by the missing couple and, as a last resort, emailed Blake.

When his past comes calling out of the blue Blake will need to break the promise he made and find the woman he loved. However, he is not the only person searching for the missing couple and soon he will become caught up in a dangerous race against time.

As I mentioned, Don’t Look For Me is a cracking adventure thriller. The action zips along and I found it incredibly easy to slip into the story and lose myself for an hour or so – only surfacing by necessity as I’d rather have kept reading.

Five star thrills – grab this when you see it.

 

Don’t Look For Me is published by Orion and is available in paperback, audio and digital format.  You can order a copy here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Dont-Look-Me-Carter-Blake-ebook/dp/B01M3NSD91/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

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February 23

Guest Post: A.K. Benedict – The Sound of Writing

A busy few weeks coming up for my guest today A.K. Benedict.  Not only is her new novel, Jonathan Dark and the Evidence of Ghosts, published on 25th February but March sees the release of her Torchwood audio play – The Victorian Age – from the wonderful team at Big Finish.

With two very different projects coming to fruition in such a short space of time I was keen to find out a little more about the ‘sound’ of a story and how the author hears the characters.

My most sincere thanks to A.K. Benedict for unexpectedly bringing Captain Jack to my blog and for brilliantly answering the questions I had such trouble phrasing!

 

The Victorian AgeWhile reading Jonathan Dark I discovered that you had written a Torchwood play for Big Finish (I have been a BF fan for many years). As I read I try to envisage characters and how they may speak…Jonathan Dark was (for me) very London – setting it around the Thames fixed that perception early in the story.

When you write for Torchwood the cast (and their voices) are so well known…a Welsh accent for Gwen, Jack’s American/Scottish twangs etc. Does that make it easier to feed the lines?

YES! I have been a fan of Captain Jack for ten years so I know his voice very well. I also rewatched Dr Who and Torchwood episodes before I began writing the script – it felt at once naughty and virtuous to do this for an actual job, not just my pleasure! This made it wonderfully easy to slip into character while writing and, hopefully, to get as near as I could to Captain Jack’s tone, rhythm and wit. His quips darted onto the page without much intervention, as if repeated viewing had led me to internalise him, as it were. I have only written for Jack out of the original Torchwood characters so far but I hope the same would apply, it certainly did while writing Queen Victoria, the other main character in ‘The Victorian Age’. Her character, played by Pauline Collins, was so distinctive in ‘Tooth and Claw’ that it made it much easier to expand and build on, even though Rowena Cooper’s Victoria in TVA is nearing the end of her reign and life.

 

When you write an audio play do you hear the actors voices speaking the lines?

Definitely – it is as if I have audio playback in my brain! When the voices stop, I know it is time to take a break and make a cup of tea.

 

How does that differ from a novel where you create the characters from scratch, do you give them a voice?

Writing for existing characters is a case of slipping on their coats; for original characters, I tailor an entirely new set of clothes, right down to the pants and socks. This takes some time and is full of surprises. I start by asking them questions and then scribble down their answers. When I interviewed Jonathan in a coffee shop in 2007 (he had a caramel latte and a BLT), he told me all about his life situation, worries, likes and dislikes, pets, comics, shortcomings and shadows. His revelations, and the broken way he saw the world, gave me an insight into his narrative voice. The rest came when I started writing.

I feel like a medium at times – very appropriate for ‘Jonathan Dark. . .’ –transcribing from the other side. Maria from ‘Jonathan Dark’ and Stephen Killigan from ‘The Beauty of Murder’ came very quickly. As did Jackamore Grass. It’s unnerving to have a murderer’s voice, like Jackamore or the stalker in ‘Jonathan Dark or The Evidence of Ghosts’, speaking through me. At the end of a chapter, it is a relief to step out of their blood-stained clothing.Jonathan Dark

 

The next step in this question comes when you pass your novel to the team that will turn it into an audiobook. Does the narrator of the audiobook change how you had intended a character to sound? As most authors will not hear their books read aloud by their readers is it strange to see how actors or narrators interpret your writing?

It is very strange but also fun. Sometimes lines are performed just as I intended, sometimes much better, sometimes it jars with what was in my head. That’s as it should be. Once the words are on the page and out in the world, a book becomes another entity. Readers hear different voices, make different pictures to the ones in my head and that is beautiful – the alchemy of reading a book and creating something new.

In a collaborative medium like drama and audio work, it is so exciting to hear what actors make of a script or story. Rowena Cooper elevated every single line as Queen Victoria, performing with pathos, gravitas and panache and John Barrowman as Captain Jack was even better than I had hoped. I grinned all the way through the recording. Some of it was as I imagined while writing; some not all: every bit was delightful. I was lucky enough to play a teeny cameo in ‘The Victorian Age’, and even I didn’t perform it as I’d heard it in my head!

 

Last question, do the Big Finish actors look to make tweaks to your script to make a conversation ‘fit’ how they perceive the character would phrase a sentence?

AK BenedictIn my limited experience, the actors don’t play with lines much at all, bar an ad lib or two, some very funny outtakes and the odd line tweaked for ease of expression. They mainly bring their own skills, breathing life into a line and making it sing.

 

‘The Victorian Age’ is out in March from Big Finish and can be ordered here:

Jonathan Dark and the Evidence of Ghosts is published by Orion on 25 February 2016 and can be ordered here.

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February 22

Jonathan Dark or the Evidence of Ghosts – A.K. Benedict

Jonathan DarkMaria King knows a secret London. Born blind, she knows the city by sound and touch and smell. But surgery has restored her sight – only for her to find she doesn’t want it.

Jonathan Dark sees the shadowy side of the city. A DI with the Metropolitan Police, he is haunted by his failure to save a woman from the hands of a stalker. Now it seems the killer has set his sights on Maria, and is leaving her messages in the most gruesome of ways.

Tracing the source of these messages leads Maria and Jonathan to a London they never knew. Finding the truth will mean seeing a side to the city where life and death is a game played by the powerful, where everyone is lost but nothing is missing, and where all the answers are hiding, if only they listen to the whispers on the streets.

Shot through with love and loss, ghosts and grief, A K Benedict weaves a compelling mystery that will leave you looking over your shoulder and asking what lurks in the dark.

 

My thanks to Orion for my review copy which I received through Netgalley.

 

Ghosts – it is right there in the title…Jonathan Dark and the Evidence of Ghosts does contain actual ghosts (lots of them). But it is not a ghost story, well not in the traditional ‘haunted house’ ghost story way that you may have initially imagined.

In Jonathan Dark we learn that ghosts are all around us, they are living amongst us and (on rare occasions)interacting with the environment around us.  Most of us cannot see these ghosts but a select few people can look beyond the normal and see the spirits around us. There are a few key characters in Jonathan Dark who are actually ghosts – it works brilliantly, their capacity to interact with the main characters is virtually nil but they have a massive impact on the story.

Having accepted the fact there are ghosts in the book you can now get on with enjoying a brilliant crime story which contains the threat of a murderous stalker, a powerful crime syndicate with a chilling recruitment ritual and an evil entity which feasts on the neurosis and fear of its victims.

The most chilling aspect of Jonathan Dark was the danger that A.K. Benedict heaped upon Maria King.  Maria was born blind but has recently undergone surgery that was able to give her the ability to see for the first time. Maria is reluctant to give up the darkness she has known and still elects to wear a blindfold rather than accept the reality of how the world around her looks.

Following the shocking discovery of an engagement ring left for her to find ***Spoilers prevent me from telling you WHY it was shocking***  Maria is further rocked by the revelation that her flat has been equipped with video cameras which have allowed someone to spy on her while she believed herself safe (and alone) at home.

The police are called and head of the investigative team is the titular Jonathan Dark – a wonderfully complex character who has more than his share of secrets too. Dark is facing a race against time to keep Maria safe from the stalker and his investigations will bring him into direct competition with the powerful crime syndicate who do not like the thought of the police getting too close to some of their members.

I want to tell you more, there are so many side plots I want to discuss, characters that I would love to see feature in future books and there is something that Dark does which makes me want to know WHY! But I can only hope he returns and that A.K. Benedict gives us more of these wonderful stories.

I wish that every book I read was as enjoyable as Jonathan Dark and the Evidence of Ghosts. A 5/5 review score is a given.

 

Jonathan Dark and the Evidence of Ghosts is published by Orion on 25 February 2016 and can be ordered here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Jonathan-Dark-Evidence-Ghosts-Benedict-ebook/dp/B00M88VQWS/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1456184627&sr=1-1

 

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August 7

The Killing Lessons – Saul Black

Killing LessonsWhen the two strangers turn up at Rowena Cooper’s isolated Colorado farmhouse, she knows instantly that it’s the end of everything. For the two haunted and driven men, on the other hand, it’s just another stop on a long and bloody journey. And they still have many miles to go, and victims to sacrifice, before their work is done.

For San Francisco homicide detective Valerie Hart, their trail of corpses – women abducted, tortured and left with a seemingly random series of objects inside them – has brought her from obsession to the edge of physical and psychological destruction. And she’s losing hope of making a breakthrough before that happens.

But the slaughter at the Cooper farmhouse didn’t quite go according to plan. There was a survivor, Rowena’s 10-year-old daughter Nell, who now holds the key to the killings. Injured, half-frozen, terrified, Nell has only one place to go. And that place could be even more terrifying than what she’s running from.

 

Thanks to Orion for my review copy, received through Netgalley

 

The Killing Lessons opens with a brutal attack on a family – two men enter their home and butcher a mother and her son.  10 year old Nell is also in the house but she manages to escape and begins a desperate flight for freedom through the woods at the back of her remote home.

Valerie Hart is a homicide detective who has been trying to track down a serial killer who mutilates female victims and leaves an obscure and seemingly random object inserted into their body. Hart has a great reputation amongst her colleagues, however, she feels increasing under pressure as the long hunt for this elusive killer drags on.

The Killing Lessons splits the story between Hart and her colleagues, the killers and young Nell who has found refuge in an unlikely place – yet she remains in jeopardy as the isolated haven she finds does not offer her the opportunity to contact the police.

The story is brilliantly balanced and Hart is an engaging lead character that you quickly find yourself rooting for.  The dynamic between the two killers is fascinating.  There is clearly an Alpha Male in the partnership, however, their relationship turns out to be quite complex and Saul Black unveils nuggets of detail as we learn more about the pair’s murderous past.

The Killing Lessons had me hooked from the outset. Seeing the hunt for a killer unfold while also keeping up with the murderers and knowing how close (or not) they were to capture was compelling reading.  The final showdown was the perfect finale too.

An absolute must read for crime fiction fans.

 

The Killing Lessons is published by Orion and is available in Hardback and digital format.

 

 

 

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March 18

The Death House – Sarah Pinborough

The Death House

 

Toby’s life was perfectly normal… until it was unravelled by something as simple as a blood test.

Taken from his family, Toby now lives in the Death House: an out-of-time existence far from the modern world, where he, and the others who live there, are studied by Matron and her team of nurses. They’re looking for any sign of sickness. Any sign of their wards changing. Any sign that it’s time to take them to the sanatorium.

No one returns from the sanatorium.

 

Where to start with this haunting story?

We have a world very similar to our own – yet very different. Children appear to be susceptible to a mysterious ‘defective’ gene. They are all tested for the deficiency and for those that are identified as having the deficiency are shipped off to a remote island to live in virtual isolation in The Death House. There they will remain until their (undefined) illness triggers and they are taken to the sanatorium. They never return.

The main focus of The Death House is very much the children – nurses and teachers are peripheral characters. We are guided through the story by Toby, he is one of the older children in residence and holds a degree of influence over the younger kids. As is the way of any group factions and friendships are formed and, for the most part, the kids get on with life in their unusual out of time existence. I say out of time as there are references to old books, record players and old games – no videogames, mobiles or modern tech on show here.

There is the constant threat of illness and a trip to the sanatorium lurking over the whole story, however, for the majority of the reading you could be mistaken into believing you were reading a coming of age story or an updated take on the boarding school tales of our childhood. Imagine Jennings or Mallory Towers with the children boarding in The Shining’s Overlook Hotel.

The Death House is not the longest of books, however, Sarah Pinborough makes every page count. You care about all the characters, you fear the sounds in the night when children are removed from their dorms and taken to the sanatorium and you will love Toby’s story…right until the point where Sarah Pinborough hits you with a sucker punch that will leave you reeling.

There are so many unanswered questions in The Death House but it doesn’t matter – this is masterful writing, just go with it.

 

The Death House is published by Gollancz and is available now in Hardback and digital format.

http://sarahpinborough.com/

 

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