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,, 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 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

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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

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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:

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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.

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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)

Four books I can’t wait to read…

There’s a few books I’ve got that aren’t out until the summer. That doesn’t mean I’m not totally dying to read them, but as it’s unlikely I’ll read a book twice, I’ll just have to wait until nearer the time to get stuck into them. You may very well have them too, if they’re your bag, but I see little point in doing a mini-review of books that aren’t out for six months or so. But these are the ones on my Kindle I’m most excited about, and if the weather in June, July, and August respectively – that’s when these books are out – are anything like it is this morning at 8.30, it’s going to be a long hot summer of brilliant reading – hopefully down on the beach. So here’s my big summer reads…so far, at least:

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The Muse – Jessie Burton

A picture hides a thousand words . . .

On a hot July day in 1967, Odelle Bastien climbs the stone steps of the Skelton gallery in London, knowing that her life is about to change forever. Having struggled to find her place in the city since she arrived from Trinidad five years ago, she has been offered a job as a typist under the tutelage of the glamorous and enigmatic Marjorie Quick. But though Quick takes Odelle into her confidence, and unlocks a potential she didn’t know she had, she remains a mystery – no more so than when a lost masterpiece with a secret history is delivered to the gallery.

The truth about the painting lies in 1936 and a large house in rural Spain, where Olive Schloss, the daughter of a renowned art dealer, is harbouring ambitions of her own. Into this fragile paradise come artist and revolutionary Isaac Robles and his half-sister Teresa, who immediately insinuate themselves into the Schloss family, with explosive and devastating consequences . . .

Seductive, exhilarating and suspenseful, The Muse is an unforgettable novel about aspiration and identity, love and obsession, authenticity and deception – a masterpiece from the million-copy bestselling author of The Miniaturist.

NOTE: This will undoubtedly come backed with a huge publicity campaign ahead of its release on 30 June. It’s that “difficult second book”, and although I’ve managed to control myself and only read the first few pages, I’m hoping it’ll be a hit for Burton. It’s unlikely to be as big as The Miniaturist, as these books only come along once in a blue moon. But I hugely enjoyed The Miniaturist, even though it was something of a modern tale taken back in time. But Jessie Burton seems such a lovely girl, and so genuinely shocked by her good fortune, I can’t help rooting for her!

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The Kept Woman – Karin Slaughter

The latest novel in the Will Trent series from No. 1 bestselling author, Karin Slaughter.

A body is discovered in an empty Atlanta warehouse. It’s the body of an ex-cop, and from the moment Special Agent Will Trent walks in he knows this could be the most devastating case of his career. Bloody footprints leading away from the scene reveal that another victim – a woman – has left the scene and vanished into thin air. And, worst of all, the warehouse belongs to the city’s biggest, most politically-connected, most high-profile athlete – a local hero protected by the world’s most expensive lawyers. A local hero Will has spent the last six months investigating on a brutal rape charge.

But for Will – and also for Dr Sara Linton, the GBI’s newest medical examiner – the case is about to get even worse. Because an unexpected discovery at the scene reveals a personal link to Will’s troubled past. The consequences will wreak havoc on his life and the lives of those he loves, those he works with, and those he pursues.

But Sara’s scene-of-the-crime diagnosis is that they only have a few hours to find the missing woman before she bleeds out . . .

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Black Night Falling – Rod Reynolds

And now I stood here, on a desolate airfield in the Arkansas wilderness, a stone’s throw from Texarkana. Darkness drawing in on me. Cross country to see a man I never imagined seeing again. On the strength of one desperate telephone call…’

Having left Texarkana for the safety of the West Coast, reporter Charlie Yates finds himself drawn back to the South, to Hot Springs, Arkansas, as an old acquaintance asks for his help. This time it’s less of a story Charlie’s chasing, more of a desperate attempt to do the right thing before it’s too late.

Rod Reynolds’ exceptional second novel picks up just a few months on from The Dark Inside, and once again displays the feel for place, period and atmosphere which marked out his acclaimed debut.

Note: I didn’t get my proof of Black Night Falling at the same time as everyone else, but when I spoke to the lovely Rod Reynolds about it, he sorted it out and one arrived a few days later. What a lovely man…

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London, 1956. A young woman has been found dead in a hotel in King’s Cross. Broke her neck falling down stairs, the death certificate says. But Fleet Street journalist Gerry Blackstone thinks there’s more to it than meets the eye. Scotland Yard’s not interested in accidental deaths – if that’s what this is. But maybe he can convince Special Branch’s DCI Jack McGovern to investigate. Fortunately for Blackstone, McGovern needs his help. The new Superintendent wants to sweep out corrupt officers, and McGovern’s his broom. If Blackstone can keep news of the investigation out of the press, McGovern stands a chance of finding the bent cop.

Meanwhile, Oxford is filling with Hungarian émigrés fleeing the failed revolution. With the memories of Burgess and Maclean’s defection still raw, Special Branch is concerned that there could be Soviet spies among the genuine refugees and wants McGovern on-hand to keep an eye out.

As McGovern carries out his casework in Oxford and Blackstone investigates behind the scenes in London, clues start to emerge that, somehow, this might all be linked. The deeper they look, the more unrelated characters with shady pasts start to complicate the picture: the well-to-do madam, the Classics Professor, the East London crime boss, the Oxford doctoral student, the fiery Hungarian immigrant, the government minister … does it all lead back to the dead girl in King’s Cross? Or is there something even more sinister going on?

NOTE: This sent to me by the same lovely publicist who introduced me to Adrian McKinty and the Sean Duffy series, as well as Cathi Unsworth‘s Without The Moon – which made No.1 in my books of the year last year (I really must get round to reviewing it, but I’m unsure if my vocabulary will be able to get across to you it’s sheer brilliance.) This is the latest one she’s sent me, and has just what I love – beautiful women, dangerous men, spies, secret government departments, in a recent historical setting. BLISS…This particular one’s out now, if it sounds like your cuppa tea.

Undoubtedly I’ll have more “summer must reads” as the summer comes upon us, but what I’d love to know is – what reads are you looking forward to this summer? Or, like me, saving for summer? Please leave it in the comments below – and if you haven’t already subscribed to crimeworm, just keep scrolling right down and down – and you’ll see the box. I’d love to have you on board!


Blog Tour (part 2) – Death Do Us Part – Steven Dunne

Steven Dunne was generous enough to compile a list of his favourite books set in unusual places. Some of them are more exotic than than Derby (sorry Steven!); all of them are classics of the genre which are well worth a read – assuming you crime fiction mavens haven’t read them all yet. Small quibble: I’d probably consider In Cold Blood non-fiction but it’s still a brilliant book, regardless of which category you put it in. Now, what do you think? Comments very welcome, as well as suggestions of classic crime novels set in unusual places that would make your list.

5 Crime Novels set in unusual places

The DI Brook novels are the only internationally-published crime thriller series located in the East Midlands city of Derby. Apart from living in the city, I was attracted to it as a location for that uniqueness. Here are five of my favourite crime thrillers set in unusual locations.


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Umberto Eco’s finest novel is set in the year 1327. Franciscans in a wealthy Italian abbey are suspected of heresy and Brother William of Baskerville arrives to investigate. When his mission is suddenly overshadowed by several bizarre deaths, William turns detective, collects evidence, deciphers secret symbols and coded manuscripts and digs into the eerie labyrinth of the abbey where extraordinary things are happening. A huge popular and critical success, The Name of the Rose is not only an account of a baffling murder investigation but an astonishing chronicle of the Middle Ages.


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Set in 1954 on a fictional island in the Pacific North West of America, this is a haunting novel that thrills and fascinates by turns. When a fisherman is found dead in the nets of his boat, a local Japanese-American man is charged with his murder. In the course of his trial, it becomes clear that what is at stake is more than one man’s guilt. The island’s residents are haunted by the memory of what happened to its Japanese residents during World War II, when an entire community was sent into exile while their neighbours watched. Savage, beautiful and perfectly paced.


In Cold Blood : A True Account of a Multiple Murder and Its Consequences (Penguin Modern Classics)

Perhaps an odd choice for a thriller because the end is known before the book begins. In Cold Blood is a chilling non-fiction novel which comprehensively reconstructs the murder in 1959 of a farmer, his wife and both their children in the funereal quiet of the town of Holcomb, Kansas. Truman Capote’s comprehensive study of the killings and subsequent investigation explores the circumstances surrounding the crime and the effect it had on those involved. At the centre of his study are the amoral young killers Perry Smith and Dick Hickcock who are vividly portrayed by Capote and shown to be reprehensible yet frighteningly human. A ground-breaking novel that explores the dark underbelly of the American dream.


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A book that needs little introduction, the first in the ‘Millennium’ series is the original and best, a multi-layered tour de force featuring my favourite crime sub-genre – the killer that no-one knows is killing. Partly set on the fictional Swedish island of Hedeby where, forty years before, Harriet Vanger disappeared. Henrik, the head of the powerful yet deeply dysfunctional Vanger family, is convinced she was murdered by a family member and hires disgraced journalist Mikael Blomqvist to stay on the island to investigate. This he does with the computer hacker Lisbeth Salander – a tattoed and socially inept misfit with a penchant for random sexual encounters and cybercrime. A slow burning thriller that drags you inexorably into its bleak landscape.


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It was a toss-up between this, And then There Were None and Murder on the Orient Express for which Agatha Christie thriller I would choose. In the end I opted for the Egyptian setting for Death on the Nile where a rich young heiress is murdered while sailing down the river on a honeymoon tour of the Nile’s exotic locations. Unfortunately for the killer, Hercules Poirot is also amongst a host of the victim’s enemies and soon sets about piecing together the clues to find who has done the deed. Like many Christies, this is a thriller that isolates the crime and presents a finite pool of suspects for Poirot (and us) to interrogate. Brilliantly conceived.

Blog Tour – Death Us Do Part (DI Brook 6) – Steven Dunne

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BLURB: Even death cannot part these couples . . .

DI Damen Brook is on a rare period of leave and determined to make the most of it by re-connecting with his daughter Terri. But with her heavy drinking proving a challenge, Brook takes the opportunity to visit a local murder scene when his help is requested. An elderly couple have each been executed with a single shot to the heart and the method echoes that of a middle-aged gay couple killed the previous month.With the same killer suspected and the officer currently in charge nearing retirement, Brook knows that he has little choice but to cut short his leave when forced by his superiors to take the lead on the case. Brook believes that he can catch this ruthless killer, but already distracted by Terri’s problems, is he about to make a fatal mistake and lead the killer right to his own door?

So here we are, with yet another series of which I have no experience. I wasn’t long into it before I was checking my heaving Kindle in the hope that I had some more of this series – and was rewarded with no.5 from NetGalley last year, which I must have overlooked. With no.1 also there, having been bought some time previously, and no.2 at a bargain price, so bought immediately, it only means I now have nos. 4 and 5 missing from the series.

The difficulty is, there’s so many series featuring DIs, usually male, that it makes it difficult to sort the wheat from the chaff (as well as from getting confused and mixing them up.) This, however, is most definitely wheat, and made for a thoroughly enjoyable police procedural, with an intelligent protagonist who I took to immediately. Also, the two storylines, only vaguely linked, in this book are also good, strong clever stories; enough to keep even the most jaded reader of police procedurals – which I had thought I was getting to be – guessing until the very end. Indeed, it’s a treat to have the dual storyline – many an author would try to palm you off with just the one, as they would individually be strong enough to support a novel. It seems that no matter how jaded you feel you are by one particular type of crime fiction, a good book, like this one, is enough to have you enjoying it all over again.

DI Brook’s stomping ground is the East Midlands, therefore Derby, and its environs, which is a refreshingly new setting to me. His investigation is into a shooter who has shot and killed an elderly couple in the house they rent from their son. They had no terminal health conditions, they were just getting on. They’d let the killer in, or at the very least had opened the door to them, before being forced to let him/her/them in, suggesting a figure of authority, or someone dressed as one. Then they were made to sit, hold hands, and listen to their favourite music, have a glass of champagne, before being shot.

Looking back to see any similar cases, the team come across a gay couple Stephen Frazer and Iain Nolan, who were also found holding hands, and further tests revealed they’d been drinking champagne before they died. In their case they’d had to be handcuffed – they were younger and fitter – before the handcuffs were removed and the killer departed. However this case had been investigated by the man who appears to be Brook’s bête noire – DI Ford, who, as he’s only a month from retirement, is requested to hand the case over to Damen Brook. He’d assumed the answer to the investigation lay in the gay community, and, not exactly being the subtle type, put relations with the gay community back 20 years.

So it looks like they have a pattern, which could be the beginning of a serial killer’s run – something they clearly want to stop before it gets that far. What they want is to find a link between the two couples – who are, on the face of things, very different. The one thing that really stood out for me in this book, and added a realistic touch, is the debates DI Brook had with his squad. Everyone was welcome to put their theories forward, in order to build up a picture of the killings. This was probably my favourite part of the book, and is what a true police procedural is about. In this book, the team were joined by DS Rachel Caskey, who was previously the retired DI Ford’s right-hand woman, and had been carrying him for the last few years. She is an excellent officer, but has been struggling herself since her partner’s death in a home invasion, although she hides it well for work.

The second case DI Brook is investigating is one which DI Ford closed last year, with some question marks remaining. He opted for the easiest solution, which required little work. It was a home invasion at a farm, where the parents died, and the daughter was raped, but managed to escape. DI Ford’s assumption was that it was the son, in order to inherit the estate. He was now thought to be on the run somewhere. This ends up a particularly intriguing example of DI Brook’s detective work, although it’s complicated by his daughter getting herself involved.

Both cases closed with the anticipated exciting conclusion,, particularly the “Champagne Killer” case, which really kept me guessing, as any good detective novel should.

This  really is crime fiction of the very highest calibre, and I suspect I’m not the only one late discovering DI Brook. However, I intend to catch up, and I suggest any fans of police procedurals do so too. This book can be read as a standalone, but I think it would  be more satisfying read in order. I intend to go back to the start, and read this stellar series from the beginning. I’m delighted to discover Steven Dunne.

Very strongly recommended.

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Blog Tour – The Evolution Of Fear – Paul E Hardisty

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BLURB: Claymore Straker is a fugitive with a price on his head. Wanted by the CIA for acts of terrorism he did not commit, his best friend has just been murdered and Rania, the woman he loves, has disappeared. Betrayed by those closest to him, he must flee the sanctuary of his safe house in Cornwall and track her down. As his pursuers close in, Clay follows Rania to Istanbul and then to Cyprus, where he is drawn into a violent struggle between the Russian mafia, Greek Cypriot extremists, and Turkish developers cashing in on the tourism boom. As the island of love descends into chaos, and the horrific truth is unveiled, Clay must call on every ounce of skill and endurance to save Rania and put an end to the unimaginable destruction being wrought in the name of profit. Gripping, exhilarating and, above all, frighteningly realistic, The Evolution of Fear is a startling, eye-opening read that demands the question: How much is truth, and how much is fiction?

This is a book I’ve been looking forward to greatly, ever since I read the first in the trilogy, The Abrupt Physics Of Dying. It ended up in my Top Ten for 2015, but I didn’t get round to reviewing it – mainly because I was totally blown away by it, and didn’t know what to say, although I will try and review it at some point. I’d started off thinking, “this isn’t really my bag” – despite being a crime fan, I’m not a big fan of out-and-out thrillers – probably due to some bad experiences with the ’70s books tourists would leave at my parents. But I got caught up in the lead character, and his story (including his back story, which continues in this book to intrude on his thinking, and his actions.) I remember reading Yemen was considered “extremely dangerous” and British tourists were advised not to travel there. Well, perhaps that was just when Claymore Straker was there! In this book he’s upping the murder statistics in Cornwall, Istanbul and Cyprus. It feels a lot more fast-moving (not that it’s predecessor was slow), and would make a great film. But let me tell you more about the book.

This book sees Claymore Stealer dead, to officialdom at least, as due to events in Yemen he’s been set-up to take the fall for terrorism offences and murder, and is being saught worldwide. He has a couple of aliases, with supporting paperwork, including passports. He’s mostly calling himself Declan Greene. At the beginning he’s hiding out in Cornwall, where he hears Regina Medved has put a price of $2 million dead, $3 million alive, on his head, for the murder of her brother. (This is one Clay did commit.) He was the owner of the oil company which was polluting Yemen, killing off villagers, deforming babies, and giving others terminal diseases. It wouldn’t have cost much to clean up the operation, and do things differently, but like many Russians Medved saw life as cheap. Hence the killing. Turns out though, his own life wasn’t so cheap, at least to his sister, who is reputedly dying. However, she believes one thing could save her – the Patmos Illumination, which was reputedly carved with wood from the cross, and in it the hole from one of the nails that crucified Jesus can be seen, and legend has it some of Christ’s blood was absorbed into the wood. As soon as I read about this I thought of Christ – as in, “Christ this is all getting a bit Dan Brown!” But due to the huge bounty, all sorts of hired killers and mercenaries are looking for him too.

Clay has been hiding out in Cornwall, at a safe house provided by Crowbar, his old commander. Rania has been at her chateau in France. But when her editor, Monsieur LeClerc, begs her to go to Cyprus to investigate the illegal theft and sale of religious artefacts, her impatience at hearing nothing from Clay and her duty to LeClerc, as well as her strong sense of justice, sees her head to Cyprus. There she gets caught up in a whole other story – the devastation of the population of sea turtles, due to the beaches they nest on being turned into holiday resorts. The same people who are collecting religious icons are building the holiday resorts, and care nothing or wildlife. Only one person is fighting on behalf of the turtles (I love turtles!) – Dr. Bachman, from California, to whom Rania becomes very close. Further investigations take Rania to Istanbul, with Clay following closely behind. Here she talks to a powerful man who is also involved in the developments which will destroy the turtle’s beaches. After that, she returns to her hotel – and disappears…

The trail leads back to Cyprus, where there is a ton of drama, with more kidnappings, and more killers (and killing!) Luckily Clay has Crowbar at his side. Finally, there is a high drama denouement – did you expect anything less? – involving the Russian mistress of a Minister of Cyprus, a kidnapped 10 year old boy, Rania, the Pathos Illumination (or is it?), Crowbar, Claymore, and of course the close-to-death Regina Medved, with her henchmen, who has $15 million dollars at hand.

I thought this was a fantastic book, despite the brief wander into Dan Brown territory. It absolutely does not let up, with high tension all the way. The author’s skill at describing technical things to the layman is demonstrated again here, as it was in the previous book. And it’s clear the author has travelled extensively (or has a marvellous imagination!) as his lavish descriptions of each place made me feel as though I were there – Istanbul in particular; after reading this, I’d love to travel there. This is a masterpiece of a thriller, which will be enjoyed by the intelligent reader who enjoys exotic settings.

As for Claymore Straker, it’s clear he has long-awakened demons to send to sleep before he can sleep the sleep of the innocent – and perhaps be reunited with the peerless Rania. We’ll see if this happens in Reconciliation Of The Dead, which will be released by Orenda Books in Spring 2017. A book I will definitely be looking forward to…

Very highly recommended.

I received this title from Orenda Books in exchange for an unbiased review.