Blog Tour – Ash And Bones – Mike Thomas

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BLURB: A cop killer on the loose in Cardiff – introducing a dark and gritty new voice in crime fiction, perfect for fans of Stuart MacBride and David Mark

At a squalid flat near the Cardiff docks, an early morning police raid goes catastrophically wrong when the police aren’t the only unexpected guests. A plain clothes officer is shot dead at point blank range, the original suspect is left in a coma. The killer, identity unknown, slips away.

Young and inexperienced, Will MacReady starts his first day on the CID. With the city in shock and the entire force reeling, he is desperate to help ­- but unearths truths that lead the team down an increasingly dark path…

I really enjoyed this new (to me, at least) voice in crime fiction. As it was written by someone who was on the job for more than 20 years, you know that all the nuts and bolts of police work are in their correct places (see below for Mike’s excellent list of screw-ups he’s come across in crime fiction – I came across number 6 just last week, but I won’t name and shame anyone!) It’s more than that though – he’s got an interesting, and plausible plot, which kept me guessing til the conclusion. In Will McReady, he’s got a sympathetic lead character, who, when the book begins, is on his first day in CID. He’s got an interesting backstory, in that he could – potentially – have ended up in trouble himself. His father, a violent bully to Will and his brother when they were younger, is now “over the wall” for murder, and his brother looks like he’s got the same temper as his father. Will is often being called out by uniform to his brother Stuart’s house, as the neighbours have rang them due to Stuart and his other half screaming and fighting with each other, with their three small children in the middle of it all. This invariably means Will has to put him up until things calm down – much to Megan’s chagrin. Will also bails them out by paying half their rent each month, and that, coupled with the money he and his wife Megan have paid out for IVF, has left him skint. He and Megan are drifting apart due to his inability to father a child – the one thing Megan desperately wants.

But enough about Will himself – to the story! It opens, intriguingly, in Nigeria, with a young man delivering a boy – for payment – to an orphanage called the Baobab Tree House – a place with a reputation of having less than altruistic motives. There’s further small portions throughout the book following the boy’s story – in a clinic in Portugal; on a private plane…But it’s in Cardiff where the vast majority of the action takes place. The cop who was shot, Garratt, had a reputation for going off and doing things solo – well, almost solo, so he could lap up the accolades. For example, on that bust, which was meant to bring in one of the city’s most wanted, Leon King, there were only three of them – no back-up, and no armed response. King wasn’t thought to have access to firearms. But someone in the house did, and shot Garratt dead, as well as shooting Leon King, leaving him in a coma and unable to help the police out (although doubtless he wouldn’t have, anyway!)

One of their few leads is that the DNA of a young man called Jermaine Tate was found in the flat in question, but there’s no way of knowing how long it’s been there. Other evidence taken from the flat leads them to another young man called Dane Sillitoe, but he’s been out of trouble for 14 months and claims to have gone straight, working for his father’s limo and private ambulance firm.

Will does “go rogue” a few times, but it’s nothing too unbelievable – he just thinks outside the box a bit; uses local knowledge he gained while in uniform; and looks at conversations as possibly having another meaning than initially assumed. The team are also a likeable lot – DI Fletcher and DS Beck are interesting characters with great potential, whereas DC Harrison can’t resist any opportunity to eat. Touches of humour throughout and banter between colleagues lighten up the story.

The final, short part, appropriately titled Things Fall Apart, given that we started in Nigeria, and that things really do go to hell in a handcart in this part, had me frantically turning the pages to get to the conclusion – a definite sign of quality in crime fiction.

There’s plenty of potential here, so it’s great to see it’s the first in a series featuring Will. Also, another of Thomas’s books, Ugly Bus (no, me neither!), is in development with the BBC to become a six-part series. It looks like Mike Thomas will definitely be a name to watch, so do the sensible thing and get in there at the start! You know you want to!

Keep following the Blog Tour, which will be stopping off at the fabulous lizlovesbooks.com tomorrow!

Now, Mike has kindly contributed his (very amusing) list of:

Ten Things To Avoid In Crime Novels

I spent more than two decades as a cop, and read little in the way of crime – after a twelve hour shift, reading the latest grisly police procedural was about as appealing as dealing with another Sudden Death incident where the putrid corpse was a sunk-into-the-carpet three month old mess. Now I’m no longer a plod, and writing them myself, it’s been interesting to see the police patois and terminology that ends up in contemporary UK crime novels. How much of it rings true? What should you avoid for your next twisty-turny magnum opus? What words or phrases are guaranteed to jolt me out of an otherwise deftly-plotted thriller? Here’s some – hopefully – helpful pointers from a cop-turned-crime-writer.

  1. ‘Squad car’. You mean a response car, response vehicle, or an IRV (Incident Response Vehicle or Immediate Response Vehicle). Cops just don’t call their patrol vehicles ‘squad cars’. You can still use ‘panda car’, as it is still heard on occasion. Squad car? Nope.
  2. He turned and handed the file to a WPC.’ WPC? Woman Police Officer? Female coppers haven’t been referred to as WPCs for twenty years now. So don’t use the prefix in your book, okay? Okay.
  3. Lawyer. ‘She asked for her lawyer.’ ‘He refused to speak until he had a lawyer.’ This ain’t America, dude. British cops and robbers rarely use lawyer in this context, because the term refers to the bewigged barristers who love to hear their own voices in Crown Court, not the slick-suited men and women who turn up at custody suites at all hours, laden with fags and ‘sammiches’ for their clients. Instead, use ‘solicitor’, ‘defence solicitor’, ‘sol’, ‘defence sol’ or even ‘brief’.
  4. Be mindful of force areas and boundaries – it jars when your protagonist (who works for, say, Hampshire Constabulary) is investigating a large scale incident in Bristol at the start of your novel. This would never happen. It would be an Avon and Somerset matter (it is their ‘patch’), and quite possibly involve drug dealing (Bristol city centre) or something to do with worrying livestock (everywhere else in their force area).
  5. Vernacular for rank. Get it right. I read a (best-selling) crime novel recently that had a Police Sergeant being referred to as ‘Ma’am’. Female inspectors are called ‘Ma’am’, or often just ‘inspector’. A police sergeant, regardless of gender, is ‘Sarge’. And cops never, ever refer to senior ranks as ‘superiors’ – this is a real no-no. ‘Senior officers’ will do. Or, with a curled lip, ‘rankers’. Yes, it rhymes.
  6. The Detective Superintendent looked at him and said, ‘You keep this up Sergeant, and I’ll promote you to inspector.’’ Aaaargh. This would NEVER, EVER HAPPEN. Supers can’t promote anyone. Inspectors can’t promote sergeants. Sergeants cannot promote constables. Exams and promotion boards are the only way. If your protagonist is a detective constable, they will have to sit and pass the sergeant’s exam, then face a board, and if promoted to sergeant spend at least a year back in uniform on response – if there are any vacancies across the force – to learn the roles and responsibilities of the new rank. Only then can they apply for CID, and will only get a post if they pass an interview and if there is a vacancy. This can take a couple of years. So, in short, your detective has to jump through a lot of hoops (and suffer at least a year ‘back in the cloth’ of uniform) to attain the next CID rank.
  7. Interviews. You can’t just ‘have a quick chat’ about their involvement in the case with a suspect in the back of a car, or in his cell, or while sitting in one of the station’s designated interview rooms (never ‘interrogation room’, which I have read in published novels). They must be formally arrested and cautioned, or at the very least cautioned before questions are asked and notes taken. They must have the offer of a ‘brief’ to look after them. These ‘quick chats’ lead to complications later on if it goes to court, when cases can be thrown out due to failure to comply with PACE (the Police and Criminal Evidence Act).
  8. The Detective Sergeant sat in the public gallery of Crown Court Five, listening as his Inspector gave evidence. Nervous that he was up in the witness box next.’ Your DS hasn’t given evidence yet? Then he wouldn’t be allowed in the courtroom. Those TV shows that have the entire investigating team sitting and nodding along to the prosecution barrister, even before they’ve sworn on the good book? Never happen.
  9. You can’t have your grizzled, grumpy yet straighter-than-straight Detective Chief Superintendent threaten your cunning yet iconoclastic hero cop protagonist – because, you know, they’re always butting heads – with ‘If you keep this up you’re finished in Cardiff. I’ll transfer you to Hull.’ Even the Chief Constable can’t do this. The Home Secretary can’t do this, for goodness’ sake. It involves different forces. Different stations, shifts, workloads. Cops aren’t pawns on a big crimey-crime chessboard thing, endlessly moveable or disposable. This, again, would never, ever happen.
  10. Forensics. You’ve got a great scene: your Detective Inspector protagonist, perched on a settee in her expensive pant suit, is staring at the body on the lounge floor while ruminating on the depravities human beings are capable of, her mind whirring as she tries to fit together the clues, the civvy CSIs moving around her, taking photos, videos, dusting for latent prints oh no sorry she wouldn’t even be there. Get her out of the room – she’s contaminating the crime scene. Crime scenes are sacred. Everyone who is allowed to enter will be wearing paper booties, hair nets, face masks, gloves. A uniform on the door will sign everyone in and out. If you have no business being there, you won’t be allowed in. So that lovely, moving chapter where your DI walks the house, checking every room, absorbing it all? Nope. See also: detectives picking up pieces of evidence WITH BARE HANDS, looking at it closely (breathing on it, dropping saliva and skin flakes and hairs), then PASSING IT TO A COLLEAGUE SO THEY CAN DO THE SAME. No. Just no. Always remember Locard’s Principle. And never have your hero contaminate the scene. A good cop – hopefully your cop in your story – would never do it.

 

Blog Tour – Silent Scream – Angela Marsons

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BLURB: Five figures gather round a shallow grave. They had all taken turns to dig. An adult-sized hole would have taken longer. An innocent life had been taken but the pact had been made. Their secrets would be buried, bound in blood…
Years later, a headmistress is found brutally strangled, the first in a spate of gruesome murders which shock the Black Country

But when human remains are discovered at a former children’s home, disturbing secrets are also unearthed. D.I. Kim Stone fast realises she’s on the hunt for a twisted individual whose killing spree spans decades.
As the body count rises, Kim needs to stop the murderer before they strike again. But to catch the killer, can Kim confront the demons of her own past before it’s too late?

Now this book is available in paperback – and it’s sold one million copies internationally, an incredible amount for any novel – it’s time to revisit my thoughts on Silent Scream.

When I first read this, when it was only available as an eBook, the main surprise was the fact that this was a debut novel; it read like it came from the pen of a seasoned crime writer. Back then it was Bookouture’s first foray into crime, and they unearthed a corker of an author.

It’s thus far a four book series featuring DI Kim Stone, a complex character – her closest, indeed only friend, is DS Bryant (whose first name, as far as I can ascertain, we never learn.) Having grown up in care after her (possibly schizophrenic) mother left her and her twin brother Mikey to die in horrendous circumstances (which Mikey did), she decided to never let anyone close. When a couple who wanted to adopt her when she was around 12 were killed in a car accident, Kim’s wall came down again – this time seemingly for good. She spends her time rebuilding motorcycles, and listening to classical music – but most of the time, she works.

This case must have triggered harrowing memories for Kim. It begins with the death of a private school principal, Teresa Wyatt, by drowning – and not naturally. Then a recovering alcoholic, Tom Curtis, finds a bottle of expensive malt on his kitchen table. He knows another drink will kill him, but can’t resist. However, before he can finish it, his throat is cut. Investigations into the victims’ pasts reveal a link – they both worked at the same time at Crestwood House, which was a home for particularly troubled girls in the care system, until it was gutted by fire in 2004. These murders are taking place just when local archaeologist Professor Milton has been given the go-ahead to excavate the grounds, in the hope of finding valuable coins. There have been objections launched by a local lawyer’s firm, and, before she died, Teresa Wyatt, the school principal had contacted Professor Milton. But then his dog was poisoned, and, terrified, he went into hiding. Someone clearly doesn’t want any digging to be done in the grounds of Crestwood House – which makes Kim and her team, which also comprises DC Stacey Wood and DS Kevin Dawson, all the more determined to unearth the secret that someone is prepared to kill to keep…The Prof, plus Cerys Hughes, an archaeologist and forensic scientist, and Dr David Matthews, are brought in to see what exactly someone will kill to keep hidden, plus forensic pathologist Dr Daniel Bate arrives to examine the bones they find (from the prologue, we know a body was buried, and that five people were involved in the burial, so that’s not a spoiler!) A few sparks fly between Kim and Dr Bate – a possible love interest for her in future books? (If she’ll allow him to get close…!) Kim and Bryant go to work tracking down other ex-staff members who may be in danger, but also who may be able to shed light on why former staff are being targeted – and, needless to say, who just might be suspects themselves. Stacey’s job is to find any of the residents from back then, who may recall something crucial. She locates Nicola Adamson, an “exotic dancer” who lives well from her earnings in an upmarket “gentleman’s club”, and she does her best to help with figuring out who may be buried in the grounds. Her twin sister, Beth, though, later appears at the station, and is decidedly unhelpful, telling Kim to keep her sister out of the investigation – which only piques Kim’s interest more. Why would one twin sister object to aiding the enquiry, when the other is doing her best to help?

Needless to say, there are more murders, as well as attempts at murder, and Kim and her team realise they are in a race against a very determined – and it must be said, very lucky – killer…No-one appears to see them coming and going. They could be a ghost for all the traces they leave behind…

It’ll be interesting to discover if Kim is always this driven, or if it’s because this particular case holds a personal interest. She remembers being a child in care: “She knew the pain of these girls’ past. Not one of them had woken up and chosen the future mapped out for them. Their behaviour could not be traced back to an absolute year, month, day and time. It was a progressive journey of peaks and troughs until circumstances eventually stifled hope.

“It was never the big things. Kim remembered only ever being called ‘child’. All of them had been called ‘child’ so the staff didn’t have to remember their names.”

And regarding the case: “Kim would not fail these girls because damn it, they mattered to someone. They bloody well mattered to her.”

The end of the book, as expected, surprises – I wasn’t sure “whodunit”, so cleverly did Marsons leave the possibilities open. There’s also plenty of drama and danger, when Kim, true to nature, heads off to do some solo investigation. Then, just when you’re satisfied you know what happened, Marsons throws another curve ball. And true to crime fiction “rules”, the clues are peppered throughout the book.

Kim, her team, and DCI “Woody” Woodward, her boss, are interesting characters, with potential for further “fleshing out”. They have their little quirks – like Woody’s need for a stress ball whenever Kim is in his office, and his hobby of building model cars. He clearly knows Kim’s driven, but also is aware she occasionally goes off piste – but, as she gets results, he’s willing to protect her, to a certain extent, from those above, the paper-pushers and the budget-conscious. Kim also has a habit of rubbing people up the wrong way, with her abrasive, straight-to-the-point interview style, and has no truck with handling well-connected members of society with kid gloves. This investigation includes a politically and legally well-connected local family who may hold part of the key to this case, but, with Woody’s support, Kim has no qualms about treating them like everyone else, much to their chagrin.

The next book in the series is called Evil Games, followed by Lost Girls, then Play Dead, and my advice would be to catch up with DI Kim Stone and her team, with the books in the right order if you can – that’s if you’re one of the few crime fiction fans that hasn’t already!

4.5 out of 5

With thanks to Zaffre Books for sending me a paperback of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

crimeworm’s 20 Books Of Summer

 

After a great deal of thought (this is starting to sound like one of several speeches we’ve had over the last few days in the UK, isn’t it?) Rewind…I’m going to make a list of 14 books and of those, hope to read 10 of them. Any more will be a bonus. Also, there are three books I’ve been reading since the start of June; I’ll mention them at the end. It’s been an absolute bugger trying to choose the list: -should it be “worthy” books I know I should’ve read for ages?-should it be entertaining books I can (hopefully!) read in the summer sun? I’ve managed to get my (just tinted, girls!) hair covered in cobwebs, looking for books, rather like someone looking for Republican candidates would’ve been a couple of years ago (insert your own hair joke here), and then when the list seemed concluded, thought,”The Kindle!” BUT as I’m seeing this as a way to get rid of some of the Hadrian’s Wall of books in my house, the number of books from the Kindle is very small. Minute, actually.

So, without further ado… (God I overthink things don’t I? This has taken me about two weeks from fruition – that’s my decision to take part, after a lot of thought, obviously, to conclusion, as if they’re the LAST BOOKS I’ll ever read again!) Then there’s the five days before I type them in. Not really. It was four. Or six…Whatever, here it is:

  1. She Died Young – Elizabeth Wilson – (finished third)
  2. Night Film – Marisha Pessl
  3. The Blue Tango – Eoin McNamee
  4. The Dinner – Herman Koch – started
  5. A Killing Winter – Tom Callaghan – (finished fourth)
  6. Magda – Meike Ziervogel
  7. Fever City – Tim Baker – started
  8. The Stone Boy – Sophie Loubiere
  9. Dissolution – C.J. Sansom (finished first)
  10. A Very English Scandal – John Preston
  11. The Disappeared – M.R. Hall (finished second)
  12. In The Rosary Garden – Nicola White
  13. The Butcher Bird – S.D. Sykes
  14. The Skeleton Road – Val McDermid – started

And the three I’m reading right now:

  1.  A Rising Man – Abir Mukherjeereview to follow
  2. The Caveman – Jorn Lier Horst review to follow
  3. Wilde Lake – Laura Lippman review to follow

Also read (as you can see there’s a few I couldn’t wait to read!):

  1. Black Roses – Jane Thynne – review to follow
  2. His Bloody Project – Graeme Macrae Burnet – review to follow
  3. Daisy In Chains – Sharon Bolton – review to follow

If I finish the entire list by the proscribed date – September 1st, or is it the 5th? – which is, as we all know, highly unlikely, I shall have another three books I can pick…and I will do my very, very best not to go off at a tangent and pick another book not listed here before I’ve completed the list (we all know I have a tendency to do that…)

So, there we are. A bit late but ready to roll…crimeworm’s 20 Books of Summer! Reviews as we go – ahem, hopefully! I’d love to know what you think of the list…what’s good? What’s rubbish? And if you’d like to subscribe to crimeworm, you have to roll quite far down for the wee box – but we’d love to have you!

 

Apologies due…& it’s 20 books of summer for me too!

First of all, apologies to the lovely Elena, whose blog post I inadvertently stole, due to my new Kindle Fire 2. I assumed it would be exactly the same as the old Kindle Fire, just a wee bit swankier, but non. It’s bloody indecipherably posher – although by stealing Elena’s post, I did get more hits than I’ve had ever (actually I made that up, but it did make me think how much better her page is, with all the nice Goodreads bits and other twiddly extras…so if anyone’s passing on the way to the Hebrides and would like a couch and a meal out for an evening setting all that up, you know where I am…!) Seriously, as I’ve been saying for the last, erm, two years, I must just follow the Goodreads instructions and make my page swanky too, so I look much computer whizzier too.

Next it’s over to Cathy, at 746 books, with whom most of you are familiar. I’m SO inspired by her revealing the true number of books in her house she has to read, as I know I’m not

20booksfinalthat far off the mark myself…and that’s all I’ll say about that – anyway, if there’s room for one more, I’d love to participate in 20 Books Of Summer. I don’t have a list as yet but will roam the house this evening – I am meant to be spring cleaning, so that’ll make it more enjoyable (don’t say it – we all know I’ll end up with a scribbled jotter with lots of book names and a still unused hoover. Is it just me that really, really hates laminate as, in effect, you have to clean it twice, dry, then wet?) What would make it much better would be if you could have a famous person to help once a week – what an absolute bugger Gareth Bale is tied up with some football thing in France this week! My cleaning, etc, ETC, workout would be much more effective in all round fitness – ahem…I do have three or so Blog Tours on the way until September 5th which I will include, but I’ll add my list later – which may be subject to change; you all know what I’m like. The thought of not having to read X by Friday and write about it is really quite refreshing and pressure-free…

Finally, apologies to all for not being around this last couple of weeks when I should be. Your tolerance is, as ever, massively appreciated. I do, so hope you know that. One day I’ll shoot that black dog right in the head…BANG! Until then, I’ll keep trying. Do please keep cheering me on…!

Right, the next thing is The List! I’ll probably start with 10, although I may get carried away…

Blog Tour (Part 1) -Little Bones – Sam Blake

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For fans of Alex Barclay and Niamh O’Connor, Little Bones introduces Cathy Connolly, a bright young heroine set to take the world of crime fiction by storm. Attending what seems to be a routine break-in, troubled Detective Garda Cathy Connolly makes a grisly discovery: an old wedding dress – and, concealed in its hem, a baby’s bones. And then the dress’s original owner, Lavinia Grant, is found dead in a Dublin suburb. Searching for answers, Cathy is drawn deep into a complex web of secrets and lies spun by three generations of women.
Meanwhile, a fugitive killer has already left two dead in execution style killings across the Atlantic – and now he’s in Dublin with old scores to settle. Will the team track him down before he kills again?
Struggling with her own secrets, Cathy doesn’t know dangerous – and personal – this case is about to become…

Sam Blake very generously wrote for crimeworm about some of the things that she came across in real life that ultimately led to the writing of Little Bones. (I’d also like to add that the website, Writing.ie, is incredibly useful and interesting for writers – and wannabe writers!) While my review is still to come – I’ve bought a new Kindle Fire, yay!, but it is taking a bit of getting used to – let’s make that a lot of getting used to – I can say that, so far, Little Bones is really enjoyable and hard to put down! Not really surprising, actually, given that it’s publisher is Twenty7 by Bonnier, an excellent imprint for debut writers that Cleo, Christine and myself have been raving about for the past year.

Sam Blake on Committing Murder*

(*not a personal memoir)

Murder is the ultimate crime, the taking of a life, and while we as crime writers fictionalise it and create worlds where our readers can escape and be hooked into an often complex story, I’m very cognisant that crime is all too real for many people. In 2011 I interviewed a lady called Melissa Moore who had recently written a memoir called Shattered Silence.

One day Melissa was playing with her then six year old daughter in their back garden in Spokane, Washington, and as the swing came to rest, her daughter asked an innocent question that set off a chain of events that was to bring Melissa to national TV including the Dr. Phil and Oprah Winfrey shows, write a bestselling book and most importantly, confront her past. That question?

‘Mommy, where’s your daddy? Everybody has a daddy. Where’s yours?’

How could Melissa admit to her daughter and to those around her that her father was serving three life sentences with no chance of parole for the brutal murder of eight women? That he had confessed (then later recanted) that he had committed 160 murders across California, Florida, Nebraska, Oregon, Washington and Wyoming?

Keith Hunter Jesperson, a long distance truck driver, began his killing spree in 1990, when Melissa was just 10 years old. In the next five years, he is confirmed to have killed seven women in five states before he finally murdered his then girlfriend Julie Ann Winningham and wrote a letter to his brother implicating himself. Jesperson left a trail of graffiti confessions at rest stops and restaurants across America, sending authorities and newspapers anonymous letters describing his savage murders in detail. The graffiti and letters were signed with a smiley face drawing, earning him the nickname “The Happy Face Killer.”

Melissa explained to me  ‘He was my father and didn’t have a conscience; he didn’t show remorse for the victims, I took it upon myself to feel that burden, that guilt, for him, and I didn’t realize I’d done that.’

The act of murder produces a ripple effect that devastates the lives of everyone it touches.

My husband was a member of An Garda Síochána, the Irish Police Force for thirty years and he and his colleagues have attended many incidents where violent crime has been committed. What interests me, and I hope my readers is the why, the motivation behind what makes people – and transposing that into a fictional environment – my characters, kill.

Creating believable characters is about understanding their motivation, their psychology, and as a writer I feel I have a duty to those effected by real life crime to make sure I get that right.

In a cross section of murders committed in 2011/2012 Citizens Report UK revealed that the most ‘at risk’ age group for homicide is children under a year of age. Above 16 years, the most at risk age ranges from 16 to 20, and 21 to 29. Two thirds of homicide victims in their sample were male and the most common method used for homicide was a knife or sharp instrument (approx 40%) for both men and women. The second most common method for males victims was punching or kicking; for female victims it was strangulation. Gun and firearm murders offences represented 6% of deaths.

Female victims were most likely to be killed by someone they knew (approx 78%), with around 47% of female victims being killed by a partner or ex-partner. Male victims knew their assailant around 57% of the time, being killed by a partner or ex-partner 5% of the time.

Victims under 16 were likely to know their assailant (around 70%), when the assailant was known this was in 50% of cases the parent of the victim.

Little Bones is about just that, it’s about the murder of a child, about what happens when a young detective, Cathy Connolly, finds a baby’s bones hidden in the hem of a wedding dress. Cat has her own reasons for being doubly shocked by this particular crime – she’s young, single and has recently discovered she’s pregnant. As Cat think to herself at the scene – ‘Children trusted the adults around them to provide food and warmth, love and protection. And when that trust was betrayed . . .

© Sam Blake

Sam Blake is a pseudonym for Vanessa Fox O’Loughlin, the founder of The Inkwell Group publishing consultancy and the national writing resources website Writing.ie. She is Ireland’s leading literary scout who has assisted many award winning and bestselling authors to publication. Vanessa has been writing fiction since her husband set sail across the Atlantic for eight weeks and she had an idea for a book.

Little Bones is the first in the Cat Connolly Dublin based detective thriller trilogy. When a baby’s bones are discovered in the hem of a wedding dress, Detective Garda Cathy Connolly is face with a challenge that is personal as well as professional – a challenge that has explosive consequences.

Follow Sam Blake on Twitter @writersamblake or Vanessa @inkwellhq – be warned, they get tetchy with each other!

 

Blog Tour (Part 1) – Don’t You Cry – Mary Kubica

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This is the first part of the Blog Tour for Mary Kubica‘s Don’t You Cry, in which she writes about a book that changed her life. It’s not a book I’m familiar with, but I suspect it will be better known in the States than here. In any case, over to Mary:

The Book That Changed My Life

The first time I read Tim O’Brien’s Vietnam War memoir, The Things They Carried, I was in my second year of college, working toward a degree in history and American literature. I’d loved to read for as long as I could remember and had a deep fondness for history. I was preparing to be a teacher, which I did for many years before deciding to take time off and raise a family and, as luck would have it, begin a completely different career as an author.

To say I was moved the first time I read The Things They Carried would be putting it mildly. The book is about something I personally know nothing about – young male soldiers at war – and yet their stories resonated with me more deeply and completely than any I’d ever read before. It’s dark and gritty, dismal and depressing, and yet beautiful and courageous all at the same time. With brutal honesty that both saddens and staggers, O’Brien explores the day to day realities of the atrocities of war.

But this book is so much more, too. It isn’t just a novel about the Vietnam War, but rather the fear that imbues these young soldiers’ lives, the grief of having to leave past lives behind, the transformation of boys to men as they kill enemies and watch their friends die right before their eyes. It’s about the boys they were before the war began, and their lives after, and all the experiences, both positive and negative, in between. It’s about things they were forced to carry for the many months and years they were at battle: weapons and ammunition, the Bible, letters from lost loves, but more importantly the overwhelming weight of regret, fear, sadness, and grief.

I rarely read books more than once. There’s no need to have more than one copy of any book in one’s home, and yet I do. I have three copies of The Things They Carried, and when I’m feeling anxious or upset, I sit down and read a chapter or two of a novel I’ve come to know by heart, like a conversation with a familiar and trusted friend.

The Things They Carried instilled in me a greater awareness of the human spirit, the perils of war and the sanctity of human life. It inspired me to have a greater appreciation for all life, and to take nothing in this world for granted. It helped ignite my passion for writing by seeing the emotion O’Brien carried through to his readers, even those whose knowledge of the Vietnam War were slim. It’s clear to see the way O’Brien’s novel transports readers to a different time in history and a far different locale, so that we became one with the soldiers in his book; their lives becomes our lives, and as an author, this inspired me to want to do the same with my books, to bring my characters to life on the page and to transport my readers to their world.

For anyone who hasn’t yet read O’Brien’s masterpiece, I’d highly recommend it.

 

Thanks so much, Mary. I know the Vietnam War doesn’t have the same resonance in the UK, for obvious reasons, but this sounds like a book that would be worth reading for anyone who wants to further understand the effects of any war.

Bookish Bits

Image result for google images clip art piles of books

I’m aware I owe you a review from the Douglas Skelton Open Wounds book. Okay, let’s open up that can of worms (an odd phrase, I’ve always thought) – I owe many book reviews – some because they’re not very good: some because they’re utterly brilliant and my rather thin prose fails to do them justice. Some I’ve just forgotten about – that in itself tells a story. But to keep publishers happy, I’ll try to just read them all again quickly and write a review, even a short one (although then I still feel guilty!) They keep me awake at night, these unwritten reviews. And so it should transpire that I’ll sleep well if I get to the end of this review list. But I won’t, because then I’ll find something else to keep me awake at night…

I don’t want to be a spoiler, but the end of Open Wounds hit me like a sledgehammer to the back of my head, rattling my teeth in their sockets. Published by Luath Press, this is the last in a series of four books, the last of which, at least, I can’t recommend highly enough. I suspect the other three will be just as teeth rattling. Seek them out; Luath‘s a Scottish press and can probably only be found in large retailers, if you don’t live in Scotland. Forget Malcolm MacKay’s vision of hit men, sitting by the phone, great though the books are  – Skelton’s picture of Glasgow is much closer to the real thing, and deserves recognition.

I came across a Best Bloggers poll earlier, through one blogger I sporadically follow. But there were 10 categories, and (I think) 10 nominations in each category – so that’s 100 blogs. I had in my head who must be included, but there was no Crimepieces, no CrimeThrillerFella, no CleopatraLovesBooks, no NorthernCrime, no Cathy746books, no …forwinternights by Kate, no MarinaSofia, or Elena, no Keishon, no Naomi…I wondered, who are all these fashionable bloggers? Are we not included because we read (some of us, anyway) crime? I’m not having a go at anyone who was included, T, like Fiction Fan for Funniest ( a shoo-in, methinks); Margot; and Sarah Hardy, all of whom I love. I just really dislike all these awards bloggers give other bloggers – maybe because I’ve never been offered one (oh, sob, sob!) They smack of in-crowds, and cool girls – and I started blogging to get away from all that. All the bloggers I follow are, in my eyes, BRILLIANT and FUNNY and INDIVIDUAL. That’s all I van offer you, so I hope it makes you smile.

Open Wounds (Part 1) by Douglas Skelton

Product Details

When the lovely people at Luath Press sent me a copy of Open Wounds, I asked the writer, Douglas Skelton, if he would like to write something about his favourite crime fiction novels, or his favourite crime writers. He asked instead if he could write about Davie McCall, the principal character in all four books. And after reading the novel – regrettably reading the last one first, despite having already on my Kindle – I could see why he wanted to write about Davie. He’s a fascinating character, with a very complex – no, sod it, this is exactly what Douglas asked to do. And, regardless of the fact I know how it all ends, I’m going straight to read the other ones on my Kindle (maybe Luath Press would be lovely enough to send me the missing one?!)

Anyway, enough from me – over to Douglas. And can I just remind you of the opportunity  to win the brand new T.F. Muir, in hardback, in the competition in my last post? Do enter – it’s an absolute belter! Finally, Douglas, over to you…my review will be Part 2…

When I made the decision to switch from true crime to fiction, I decided not to take the police procedural route.

Tartan Noir was huge and a number of authors were already doing well with cops as protagonist. There was no way I could match, or better, them.

I decided to make my central character a criminal.

Not just any criminal. Davie McCall is a violent criminal. In fact, over the course of the four book series he becomes, in the words of his best friend, a (expletive deleted) legend.

I firmly believe that in fiction the reader has to care about the main character, but how do you do that when he is, frankly, naturally vicious?

I’m a big fan of westerns and I saw Davie McCall as a modern equivalent of Shane. If you’re not aware, Shane is the tale of a gunfighter who tries to put his violent past behind him but finds the family he has befriended needs his particular set of skills.

Davie is only 18 in the first book. He has a tragic past – his father murdered his mother and almost killed him – and he fears he may have inherited the same demons. But he has a code – he doesn’t hurt women, children or animals.

There is good in him. He cares. He is vulnerable.

But only the reader knows this. To the most of the other characters, he is a hard man, a man without conscience, without a soul.

Listen to The Who song ‘Behind Blue Eyes’. It could be his theme tune.

Another movie reference, this time ‘The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.’ Clint Eastwood’s character appears to be a cold-blooded killer but there are a couple of moments that show another side. One is near the end, when he finds a young wounded soldier. He sits with him, gives him a final smoke, watches him die. There is sadness in his eyes, fleeting maybe, but it’s there. And then he moves on.

That, essentially, is Davie McCall.

I wanted him to be handy with his dukes (he doesn’t use guns or knives). But I wanted him to have humanity.

In ‘Blood City’ he falls in love for the first time. He experiences loss.

In the second, ‘Crow Bait’, he goes head to head with his psychotic father.

In ‘Devil’s Knock’ he helps an old friend trying to prevent his grandson going to jail for a murder he didn’t commit, although he was present.

And in the final book, ‘Open Wounds’, he teams up with an ex-cop to probe a miscarriage of justice.

I hope readers see more than just a violent man. I hope they see a man haunted by demons that he fights every day. A man who wants to change. A man who wants peace.

Does he change? Does he get out? Does he find peace?

To find out, you know what to do….

Open Wounds, the final Davie McCall thriller, is available now. Published by Luath Press.

 

#Win -Blood Torment – T.F. Muir

Today we have a massive treat for all you crimewormers – a brand-spanking new hardback copy (full price £19.99!) of the latest by T.F. Muir in the DCI Andy Gilchrist series. I’ve read some of these books and, believe me, Muir can write like I can drink tea! Here’s some gen on it:

Product Details

BLURB: When a three-year old girl is reported missing, DCI Andy Gilchrist is assigned the case. But Gilchrist soon suspects that the child’s mother – Andrea Davis – may be responsible for her daughter’s disappearance, or worse, her murder.

The case becomes politically sensitive when Gilchrist learns that Andrea is the daughter of Dougal Davis, a former MSP who was forced to resign from Scottish Parliament after being accused of physically abusing his third wife. Now a powerful businessman, Davis demands Gilchrist’s removal from the case when his investigation seems to be stalling. But then the case turns on its head when Gilchrist learns that a paedophile, recently released from prison, now lives in the same area as the missing child. The paedophile is interrogated but hours later his body is found on the beach with evidence of blunt force trauma to the head, and Gilchrist launches a murder investigation.

As pressure relentlessly mounts on Gilchrist, he begins to unravel a dark family secret, a secret he believes will solve the fate of the missing child.

So what do you have to do to win this cracker? Well, live in the UK, for postage costs. And you can: a) comment on any of the promotions I’ll be putting up for this competition between now and it’s closing date, 31st May; or b) tweet mentioning me, @crimeworm, and #BloodTorment. Or RT any of these messages you might see. I’ll put the entries in my favourite hat (I love hats!), and first out will be announced on 1st June.

So get commenting, or tweeting, and best of luck to you all! (I’ve always thought that doesn’t really make sense, because not everyone can have the good luck to win, but anyway, that’s what everyone says, so who am I to argue?) 

 

Blog Tour (Part 1) – A Rising Man – Abir Mukherjee

Today, as part of the Blog Tour for the fantastic A Rising Man, it’s author, Abir Mukherjee, has kindly agreed to write a post about his writing process. My review will follow  – it’s a fantastic read, with some great characters, a fantastic storyline, and is highly original. Here’s the blurb to whet your appetite.

Product Details

BLURB: The winner of the Harvill Secker/Daily Telegraph crime writing competition
Captain Sam Wyndham, former Scotland Yard detective, is a new arrival to Calcutta. Desperately seeking a fresh start after his experiences during the Great War, Wyndham has been recruited to head up a new post in the police force. But with barely a moment to acclimatise to his new life or to deal with the ghosts which still haunt him, Wyndham is caught up in a murder investigation that will take him into the dark underbelly of the British Raj.
A senior official has been murdered, and a note left in his mouth warns the British to quit India: or else. With rising political dissent and the stability of the Raj under threat, Wyndham and his two new colleagues – arrogant Inspector Digby and British-educated, but Indian-born Sergeant Banerjee, one of the few Indians to be recruited into the new CID – embark on an investigation that will take them from the luxurious parlours of wealthy British traders to the seedy opium dens of the city.
The start of an atmospheric and enticing new historical crime series.

How I write

How I write? In a word, ‘haphazardly’. But that’s not a very useful answer.

It might be better to answer the question into two parts – how I try to write, and how I actually write.

Fortunately they both start off at the same place – with an idea. There’ll be something that piques my interest, something that I want to write about. It could be an issue or a time and place that grabs my attention and which I feel I want to explore. In ‘A Rising Man’, it’s the relationship between the different races in colonial era India, and the impact of the colonial system on both the Indians and the British. In the second book in the series, it’s life in one of the Indian princely states and the sexual politics of the era.

I then tend to spend a few months researching the topic, reading as many books as I can about it. After that it’s on to creating a plot, weaving what’s hopefully an interesting story around the core themes. This generally involves a lot of time being solitary – going for walks and the like, working out the thread of the plot – who to murder and how to cover the tracks. Oddly, I tend to get a lot of plot ideas while sitting in the sauna at the gym. Of course it also means there’s no time to do any exercise while I’m there.

Once I’ve got an idea of the overall direction the story’s going to take, I try and sketch an outline of the plot, generally a few pages of headings with a bit of an explanation of what I think should happen. I also try and sketch out the major characters.

Then it’s on to writing the first draft of the thing, chapter by chapter. This is where theory and practice tend to fly off in different directions. Firstly the characters tend to have different ideas of where they want the plot to go, and I end up following. They seem to know what they’re doing, but they often take their sweet time doing it. Secondly, having read a few how-to-write books, the received wisdom seems to be to try and write around two thousand words a day, or about ten thousand words a week. In this way, a first draft should take two to three months. In the three years that I’ve been writing, I’ve hit the magic two thousand-word mark approximately five times.

The fact is, having a day job and a young family means there’s not that much time for writing, and the situation is not helped by my being naturally quite lazy. Some days I’m just too knackered to write anything. At other times I’ll end up staring at a blank screen, struggling to put down a hundred words. But then there’s the good days, when everything just sings and I’ll write a thousand words without too much trouble.

Normally I try to write in the evenings or late at night once the kids have gone to bed, but a lot of the time, I end up writing at weekends. Fortunately, I have a wonderful and very patient wife who’s a great support, but I still feel guilty spending so many hours locked away instead of with the family.

A first draft normally takes me about eight or nine months, including a month or two where I review the whole thing and decide to change pretty much everything, then change it all back again. Then it’s time to send it off to my editor and keep my fingers crossed!

A Rising Man by Abir Mukherjee is published by Harvill Secker on 5 May 2016 (priced £12.99)