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.

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)

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.

NOTE: If you’d like to get all the new crimeworm posts delivered to you by e-mail, you have to scroll right down to the bottom of the page, past lots of repetitive stuff I haven’t figured out how to remove yet. We’d love to have you!

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.