The British Lion by Tony Schumacher

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Remember I said in my last blog that I often read books in the wrong order? Not this time! The British Lion is the sequel to The Darkest Hour – Tony Schumacher’s alternate history of Britain just after the end of WW2 where Germany was the victor.

The Darkest Hour introduced us to John Rossett – a cross between Bourne and Bond. Rossett had been a police officer prior to the war and then a decorated war hero as a soldier. With the fall of Britain and the deaths of his wife and son, due to a British Resistance bomb, Rossett loses his sense of self and becomes a lackey for the Germans, rounding up Jews for redistribution. I don’t want to tell you too much more, other than his German boss is Major Koehler of the SS.

In the British Lion, Koehler finds that he still needs his British policeman’s help. Koehler’s wife and daughter have been kidnapped and the ransom is the kidnap of another woman, Ruth Hartz, a scientist in Cambridge.

This book initially appeared to be a more personal story about Major Koehler and the abduction of his family, with Rossett playing less of a role this time. The backdrop is an incredibly harsh winter that impedes Rossett at every turn as he tries to take Ruth Hartz. Even though I read this during the summer, the sense of coldness that permeates through the story and the characters, chilled me. And what seemed like a personal matter to begin with, suddenly becomes a problem of epic proportions when we realise the importance of Ruth Harz and the work she’s been doing at Cambridge.

But the most chilling thing with both books, is the absolute plausibility of the plots. What would Britain have been like if the Nazis had won? I suspect that Schumacher is quite close to the truth.

The British Lion finishes with a tantalising cliff hanger which I hope will lead to a third John Rossett book!

If you want to find out more about Tony Schumacher, then you can follow him on Twitter

@tonyshoey

or https://www.amazon.co.uk/Tony-Schumacher/e/B007RWGFNK/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1472472102&sr=1-2-ent

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

First Monday Crime Preview – Rod Reynolds

First Monday Crime is back on 5th Sept with a stellar line up! (More details below) One of the featured authors is Rod Reynolds. His second novel, Black Night Falling was published earlier this month and I’ve had the chance to have a little interview with him.

So, if we start with something easy – tell me a little bit about yourself and your two books – The Dark Inside and Black Night Falling.

 

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Firstly, thanks so much for taking the time to chat – especially as I know there’s a certain manuscript of your own that you’re working on!

I’m 36 years old and a lifelong Londoner who, against the classic advice of ‘write what you know’, sets his books in the southern USA in the 1940s. My debut, The Dark Inside, came out in September 2015. It’s about a disgraced reporter from New York, Charlie Yates, who’s sent to Texarkana, on the Texas/Arkansas border, to investigate a series of attacks on young couples. Charlie goes there knowing it’s a punishment gig, and expecting not to care very much about what’s happening there. But he sees the effect the attacks are having on the town, and two young women in particular, and quickly realises that his stopping the killer matters more to him than he could ever have imagined. The Dark Inside is loosely based on the real life case known as the Texarkana Moonlight Murders and was longlisted for the CWA New Blood Dagger, as well as being a WHSmith Fresh Talent pick.

The sequel, Black Night Falling, has just come out and sees Charlie dragged back to Arkansas – the last place on earth he wants to be – when a friend begs for his help to stop a killer. But things go bad from the start, and Charlie finds himself in a nightmare world of corruption, lies and murder – with links to the past he’s tried hard to outrun…

Well, that leads me nicely into my next question(s)! I was really impressed with the level of detail in your books. How did you do your research and have you been to Texarkana?

Thank you very much. A lot of my research, at first, was old-fashioned stuff – books about the Texarkana Moonlight Murders, the history of the town/area, whatever I could find on the case. I was fascinated by it – gripped, really – so that wasn’t a chore. Then there was a lot of Google work – both for old newspapers (it’s an absolute wonder what they have on there) and also using Maps to virtually drive around the town, just to acquaint myself with the place. That was invaluable. And then, when I had the first draft nailed, I went to Texarkana for 3 days. I felt like I needed to see the place, both to give credibility to the book, and also to ensure I hadn’t made any glaringly obvious errors. And in the end, there were maybe only two or three minor changes I made (it’s much greener in that area than I assumed), but I felt a much greater sense of confidence about the authenticity of the setting.

It also helped in that, while I was there, I discovered a nearby town called Hot Springs – which became the setting for Black Night Falling. The only downside was that we were on our way back to the UK when I heard about it, so we had to go back there a year later…

The thing that captured me most was how authentic your ‘American’ voice is – how did you manage to do that?! When I was reading it came out as a Southern drawl in my head.

Well again, thank you. I’m not sure I can answer that very well. Charlie’s voice, at least the beginnings of it – a tone, an atmosphere – was in my head long before I started writing the book (and before the character had a name!). It was tweaked and honed along the way, but it was always the style of voice I had in my head – probably some amalgam of all the American books and TV and movies I’ve consumed over the years, along with, hopefully, something original.

But Charlie was relatively speaking, less of a challenge in that he’s from California and has lived in New York – which gave me quite a broad range to play with, and are places I’d been to multiple times. 

 I’d never been to Texas or Arkansas, however, so I had to throw out the stereotypical southern drawl as we all imagine it in our head and start again. So I read books from the era to get the vocabulary right, watched old movies, listened to podcasts – anything I could think of to help nail it down. And of course, I paid very close attention to the way people talked when I was there.

You have a very clear picture of Charlie – so obvious question – who would play him in a movie?

You say that, but I still couldn’t tell you exactly what he looks like…

 I’m not sure. I used to say Mark Ruffalo because I loved him in David Fincher’s Zodiac – but since he’s played the Hulk, he’s a bit too superhero for the role. So maybe…Tom Hardy? He was brilliant in Lawless. Who would your pick be?

I wasn’t sure exactly what age Charlie is meant to be but I’m guessing late 30s, maybe early 40s. I had an image of Matt Damon as Charlie. I think you have plans for a third Charlie Yates book. Can you tell us anything about that?

You’re spot on in terms of age, and Matt Damon’s a great pick. He’s usually thought of as clean cut, but he played a great villain in The Departed, so he’s got that edge.

Book 3 is underway, but at a fairly early stage. I can say, however, that it picks up right where Black Night Falling ends. It starts in Los Angeles and takes in Hollywood sleaze, missing starlets, extortion, murder and the birth of a town called Las Vegas – with Charlie embroiled in the crosscurrents where all those things meet. 

Sounds intriguing! Going now to a little section called Kluver Kids Ask! I told my kids what I was doing and after they’d stopped laughing hysterically, my daughter finally came up with a sensible question. How do you create a good atmosphere for the beginning of a story?(!)

Your daughter’s good – that’s a tricky one!

There are lots of ingredients you need to convey quickly – a sense of place, of time, as well as establishing character and, of course, conflict – or at least posing questions that the reader wants answers to. And you have to do all of that very quickly, so the reader doesn’t lose interest. The classic advice is to show the world you’re building through the character’s senses – what does he/she see, hear, smell etc. And that was all the more apt for my story, because it starts as Charlie arrives in town for the first time, so the reader discovers Texarkana through Charlie’s eyes.

So voice and choice of word are really important. Not only do they establish your character, they go a long way to setting the mood. If a character sees a ‘fire engine-red barn, over spilling with hay’ it sets a very different tone to, ‘a red barn with broken boards that made it look like a mouth of rotting teeth.’ 

SJI Holliday says that she has plenty of ideas for stories. Do you have ideas for future books? Maybe another country/time period?

I get ideas all the time – most I go off even before I write them down in my notebook, and more that I dismiss after I do. But the good ones stick, and I do have ideas for at least two or three other books, all set in different places and times. I’d love to write something set in Miami Vice-era Florida (Miami is one of my favourite places in the world) and I definitely want to write at least one London book one day, seeing as I’ve lived here all my life. My first novel – which was unpublished – was set here, around Camden where I grew up, so I’ll definitely have another crack.

Let’s turn this around. Can you tell us anything about the manuscript you’re working on? Or is it top secret?

It’s not top secret – I’m just not sure it’s any good! Current one is my second novel and it’s called Missing. I finished another one last year called Unearthed. Both are set in fictional villages in Wiltshire, near to Devizes. Unearthed is about a couple who discover a little more than they bargain for in the garden of the dilapidated cottage they’ve restored. One of the police officers from that book is called Bernie Noel and she’s mixed race and a former MET officer. In Missing, she’s the main protagonist and recently promoted to DI.  5 year old Molly Reynolds [nothing to do with you at all!!] goes missing from a playground while her mother’s back is turned. Bernie and her team investigate but the most puzzling thing is that the local community don’t seem to want to help. If Bernie can find out why, then maybe she can find Molly.

Oh they sound intriguing – especially Missing. I love that setup of a closed community who don’t want to help when a crime has been committed – it’s essentially the one I used in The Dark Inside (and, to a degree, Black Night Falling). Where did you get your inspiration from?

I’m not entirely sure! I start with a thought normally. And in Missing, it was the abductor’s voice I heard first and then I spend a lot of time thinking! I see it like a TV programme in my head. I guess there’s always that fear about your child going missing so I tapped into that fear. I adore Bernie and I’ve enjoyed writing her. So it may be the start of a police procedural series, even though I know nothing about it!

Now, as you have some little ones at home, I’m guessing that your writing day isn’t very conventional.

It’s not, no. I tend to work during nap times, in the evenings and I get one full day a week where I disappear off to write. So I have varied word count targets I want to get to – some days as little as 200 words (which is really just to get me to the computer – I usually end up doing more than that). But my weekly target is non-negotiable (with myself!) so on a full day’s writing I might write 2000 words or more (which is still considerably less than many authors I know of).

The one thing I’ve learnt from talking to loads of other authors is that everyone’s process is different, and that the only thing that matters is finding what works for you. Those supposed rules like ‘write every day’ are rubbish – not everyone can do that if they’re juggling jobs/families etc, and I think they only serve to put people off trying. Same for ‘write what you know.’

Have you had a ‘fan boy’ moment when meeting a fellow author?

I’ve had several. The biggest one was when I met Aly Monroe, who writes brilliant espionage novels. I had no idea what she looked like, so when we got chatting at an event, I had no idea at first who she was. When I realised, did gush a bit – but thankfully she was very gracious and charming about it all.

If I did meet James Ellroy, though, that might top them all…  Who’s the author you’d most like to meet (&why?)

I did have a bit of a fan girl moment when I met Sarah Hilary at First Monday Crime and that was only getting a book signed! I’d love to meet Val McDermid because she is the Queen of Crime but my absolute favourite author is Kate Atkinson. I love her Jackson Brodie series and the way she weaved such dark humour through her stories. She’s going to be at Wimbledon Bookfest and I’ve booked my ticket!

They’re all great authors, but I especially love Kate Atkinson’s books. I never thought I’d like the Brodie series, but we had to read Case Histories for our MA and I was blown away by her skill.

So, final question: what can we expect from First Monday Crime on Monday 5th Sept and are you nervous?

What can you expect? Well I had a Twitter exchange with First Monday bigwig and fellow author William Ryan the other day, and we discussed the possibility of the authors mudwrestling for the audience’s approval (possibly involving ferrets too), so I’d say…expect the unexpected?

In all seriousness, I’ve been in the audience for all bar one of the First Monday events so far and they’ve been fascinating and entertaining. And drinks afterwards are always a lot of fun. And I can definitely say that the quality of the rest of the panel – Sophie Hannah, Tim Weaver and Jane Corry – speaks for itself.

Am I nervous? Not really – I’ve done a few events now and I really enjoy the chance to chat about books and writing, so I’m excited more than anything. That said, when you walk into the room, of course there are a few butterflies in your stomach – but that’s what pre-match drinks are for!

Thank you, Rod, for taking the time to answer my questions (and my daughter’s!) My review for Black Night Falling is below.

If you want to buy Rod’s books then here’s a link to his Amazon page

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Rod-Reynolds/e/B01BHZGQ5E

More importantly, if you want to see Rod in the flesh, then come along to First Monday Crime on 5th Sept where Rod will be on the panel, joined by Sophie Hannah, Jane Corry and Tim Weaver – all for £5!

https://www.goldsborobooks.com/event/first-monday-new-evening-crime-fiction-3/

 

Black Night Falling – Review

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I have a bad habit of reading books in the wrong order. Sometimes it doesn’t matter but there are other times when it does. Black Night Falling is the second book by Rod Reynolds and is the sequel to the critically acclaimed, The Dark Inside. And it is, most definitely, a sequel. [Especially as I’ve now read The Dark Inside!]

Following on a few months from his last visit to the Texas/Arkansas border, reporter Charlie Yates finds himself drawn back to the area that he didn’t want to go to ever again. Jimmy Robinson, another journalist, has called Charlie asking for help with a story. Yates is reluctant to go and stalls for a few days. His delay costs Jimmy his life and Charlie vows to find out the truth about his death and the story that he was following. Except that the story comes closer to home than Charlie Yates could have ever expected.

There are so many things that I could tell you about this book. For example, I could tell you about Reynolds’ sense of time and place. The book is set in 1946, just after the end of WW2. There are no mobile phones or computers – just good old fashioned pay phones with operators to connect you across the country. Hot Springs is a hot bed of  casinos, prostitution and corruption, with a crooked mayor to boot. It’s not the best place to be asking discreet, or not so discreet, questions.

Or I could tell you about the characters, especially Charlie Yates, who’s paranoia increases with the book and has a sense of despondency that seems to dog him at every turn. Reynolds has also created several unreliable characters so that the reader also shares Yates’ mistrust.

But mostly, I want to tell you about how a British author has written the most incredible American period novel. As I read it, the voice in my head came out in a Southern drawl. I don’t normally get that when I read books by American authors. The use of language and style is spot on. Reynolds cites Raymond Chandler and James Ellroy as writing influences, and although this comes through in Black Night Falling, it’s never as mere imitation. Nor is it an elaborate study of  1940s/50s American detective fiction, written as homage. Rather it’s a fresh look at the genre with an authentic voice.  Rod Reynolds is writing book 3 as there’s a lot of mileage left in Charlie Yates. I hope there’s even more to come.

 

PS Black Night Falling also has possibly, the most beautiful last line I think I have ever read. But I’m not going to tell you it. You’ll have to read it for yourself!

I See You by Clare Mackintosh

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Last year, I Let You Go was one of the biggest selling books and, very deservedly, won the Theakstons Old Peculier  Crime Novel of the Year award just a few weeks ago. Authors often talk about that ‘tricky second book’. I think it’s fair to say that Clare Mackintosh has nothing to worry about!

Imagine you work up in London. Imagine your journey – day in, day out. Soon, you learn the tricks of the Underground. The best place to stand on the platform; the best carriage to be in for a quick exit; maybe you even sit in the same seat. And that becomes your routine – easy, familiar – you don’t even have to think about it. But what if someone else knows your routine and decides to make use of it.

When Zoe Walker, sitting on her usual seat, in her usual carriage, spots her photo with findtheone.com in the Classified adverts of the free paper, she feels deeply uncomfortable. Each day it’s a different woman and it isn’t long before Zoe realises that this isn’t a normal dating service – the women are victims of crime.

Trying to solve the crimes is PC Kelly Swift, a British Transport officer who manages to get herself seconded onto the main investigation team. Kelly has to deal with her own demons and overcome her previous failings as an officer. I really liked this character (I’m wondering how much of Clare Mackintosh (a former officer) is in her) and I hope we’ll see more of her.

I absolutely loved I Let You Go last year. It had the best twist ever and I wondered how Clare Mackintosh could possibly live up to it. I See You is deeply sinister and unnerving, not least because it’s set in London, my home city. I haven’t yet ventured onto the Underground since reading this but I’ll definitely be more alert in future! There are twists aplenty but Mackintosh leaves the best for last. I think it’s fair to say that Clare Mackintosh has another big hit on her hands! A massive five stars!

So, do you want your own copy? I’m giving away 1 hardback this week on my author FB and Twitter. The links are below with all the details! Competition will end Thursday 11th August at 8pm. UK entries only – sorry!

https://www.facebook.com/joykluverauthor/?ref=aymt_homepage_panel

If you don’t win my competition then fear not! I’m reliably informed that you can get her book for the amazing price of £5 at Amazon.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/I-See-You-Clare-Mackintosh-ebook/dp/B010QBV1JG/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1470667783&sr=1-1&keywords=clare+mackintosh

Review – The Birdwatcher by William Shaw

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I’ve got to be honest with you – bird watching is up there with train spotting, golf and snooker for me. Not my thing at all. So a book called The Birdwatcher isn’t necessarily going to grab my attention. But when the opening paragraph is this:

‘There were two reasons why William South did not want to be on the murder team. The first was that it was October. The migrating birds had begun arriving on the coast. The second was that, though nobody knew, he was a murderer himself.’

then, you have me hooked!

Alternating between his life now in Dungeness, and as a child growing up in Northern Ireland, we learn a great deal about William South. He just wants a quiet life, watching birds and being a Neighbourhood police officer. But then he’s asked to help the new DS in town (Alexandra Cupidi) with a murder case. She’s hoping that his local knowledge will come in use. William South has more to offer than just his knowledge; he can identify the victim as his friend and neighbour, Bob Rayner.

Back in the 70s in Northern Ireland, Billy McGowan’s father is dead, shot in his own home. The Troubles have claimed another victim. Or have they?

Reading The Birdwatcher is a bit like actual bird watching. William Shaw releases the plot slowly but gives you enough each time to keep you going, like seeing some of the more common birds first before waiting longer for the rarer ones to add to your list. But what comes across so well in the book, is the setting – stark, desolate and very flat, with the nuclear power plant lit up day and night. It adds to the sense that William South is more than just a quiet man; he’s a man in hiding, his past haunting him.

It’s not often that you can say that a crime book is beautiful but The Birdwatcher is just that. There is a pervading sense of calm and patience that emanates from the pages – two qualities essential for bird watching. This may seem contradictory in a crime novel but the pace and tension is there throughout and is racked up brilliantly at the end. Although this is a standalone novel, William South is a character I could so easily read more about. And if an author has left you wanting more, then it’s a job well done! Five stars.

 

So, do you fancy adding it to your summer reading list? Well, I have one copy to give away! All you have to do is either pop over to my Facebook author page or my Twitter account (look for the pinned tweet of this review) and tell me what county Dungeness is in. The competition will end at 8pm (BST) on Wednesday 27th July and is only open to UK residents this time (sorry!).

FB – https://www.facebook.com/joykluverauthor/?ref=aymt_homepage_panel

Twitter – https://twitter.com/JoyKluver

 

Summer reads

Today, it seems as though summer is finally here! Want some ideas for books for your holidays? Here are some criminal reviews.

 

Tastes Like Fear by Sarah Hilary

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At the end of this week, Harrogate Crime Festival will begin and last year, Sarah Hilary won The Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year with Someone Else’s Skin. That particular book was the first in the DI Marnie Rome series and Tastes Like Fear is the third one.

Homeless girls have been disappearing off the streets. But they’re not going to the hostels. They’re with a man who promises them shelter, food and safety. But how safe are they with a man called Harm?

DI Marnie Rome and DS Noah Jake become involved with a car accident investigation when one of the drivers claims a girl caused the accident. Could it be missing school girl May Beswick?

I don’t want to give too much away because this book is packed full of twists and turns, some of which made me gasp out loud. Sarah Hilary never shies away from traumatic themes and her ability to have several authentic narrators is breath taking. Although DI Marnie Rome is still the main protagonist, this felt to me, more like Noah’s book. We found out more about him and his life, as well as him growing in confidence as a detective.

There are a few unanswered questions which may or may not be dealt with in book 4 but as Marnie Rome as been optioned by the BBC, this is a series that is set to run and run. Simply brilliant!

 

The Accident by C L Taylor

As I’ve mentioned before, I have a habit of reading authors’ books out of order. I read The Lie earlier this year and that was C L Taylor’s second psychological thriller – The Accident was her first.

Susan Jackson is by the hospital bedside of her daughter, Charlotte, aged 15. Charlotte has been in a coma since being hit by a bus. Her father, Brian, a local MP, believes it was an accident. Susan isn’t so sure though. She’s found Charlotte’s diary and an entry that hints at a secret that was too difficult to bear. And Susan knows all about diaries and secrets; she kept a diary 20 years before…

C L Taylor is another writer who doesn’t shy away from difficult and traumatic themes – in this instance, domestic abuse. All too often people say, “Just leave, just walk away” but as this book shows so incredibly well, it’s not that easy. Susan is an unreliable narrator but she’s written with unrelenting insight. The tension in her diary entries builds to a crescendo and it had my heart in my mouth. I struggled to put this book down, even reading it in the middle of the night and during the day when I was supposed to be writing myself. A gripping read, perfect for sunbathing on the beach.

Five stars for both books.

 

I probably won’t have much time over the summer to write many blog posts (three children to entertain!) but I’ll do my best to do a couple. I’ve just started reading The Birdwatcher by William Shaw and I’m planning a giveaway to accompany that review so keeps your eyes peeled for that one! But I’ll be back in September with First Monday Crime and I’ve seen the list of authors – you definitely don’t want to miss it!

 

If you want to know more about Sarah Hilary and C L Taylor, then you can follow them on Twitter

@sarah_hilary

@callytaylor

First Monday Crime – July

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L-R Claire McGowan, Anna Mazzola, Beth Lewis, Andrew Taylor, Stephen Booth and William Ryan

The 4th of July served up a box of delights – 2 debut authors and 2 very established ones; 2 historical books, 1 Dystopian and 1 police crime series set in the Peak District. It was great to see how crime genre is being stretched across sub genres – but more about that later!

Our authors were Andrew Taylor, Stephen Booth, Anna Mazzola and Beth Lewis. Claire McGowan, author and lecturer at City University for the MA in Crime & Thriller Writing, chaired.

Claire’s first question was where has the inspiration for your book come from.

Anna Mazzola’s debut novel is The Unseeing and is based on a real case from Victorian times. She discovered it in The Suspicions of Mr Whicher and as it took place in the area she lives in, she wanted to find out more. In particular, she wanted to know why the woman, Sarah Gale, who was accused of aiding and abetting a murderer, lied and didn’t challenge the accusation.

For Beth Lewis, our second debut author, her inspiration for The Wolf Road came originally from a scene in a TV programme but she wouldn’t tell us which one! Elka lives in the wilderness of post-apocalyptic Canada. Life is hard enough as it is but when she finds out that her adopted father is wanted for murder, she sets out to find her real parents.

Andrew Taylor finds that ideas come from almost anywhere but it’s setting that really gets him going. A picture in a book of London in the aftermath of the Great Fire of London kick-started his idea for The Ashes of London –  a devastated London with a crumbling medieval St Paul’s Cathedral and a body in the ruins.

Stephen Booth is also inspired by setting and the Peak District has plenty of locations to fire his imagination. His latest book, Secrets of Death, pays homage to the beauty spots of Derbyshire but not in the way you think it would. A spate of suicides at well known tourist areas has DI Ben Cooper and his team wondering what’s going on and begs the question – are they all suicides? [I’m going to Derbyshire for my holiday. I’m trying to decide if this is a good book to read while I’m there or not?!]

Claire then asked about genre. Did the authors have a particular genre in mind when they started writing?

Anna’s short answer was ‘no’. She was just fascinated by the case but quickly realised that she loves to read crime and as a criminal justice lawyer, crime genre made perfect sense.

Beth didn’t set out to write crime either as there is a strong dystopian/sci-fi element to her book. She did think about writing historical but didn’t wanted to be hindered by facts and gender roles. Also she didn’t want to do huge amounts of research!

Andrew just wanted to tell stories but he was influenced by Patricia Highsmith novels. Soon he had an idea for a title and a main character who would find a body and just went from there.

Stephen wrote his first novel aged 12 and he dreamt of being a writer from that time on. He worked as a journalist for 25 years and has now been writing novels full time for 16. He enjoyed reading crime so wrote the kind of book that he would like to read. It became his first novel – Black Dog.

And is there one top tip that they would give for aspiring writers?

Stephen – there’s no such thing as writer’s block! It’s your job – just do it.

Andrew – write at least one line a day. Writers write.

Beth – you need discipline – finish that book!

Anna – think about your book at night just before you go to sleep. It allows your subconscious mind to work out any problems overnight.

 

First Monday Crime is taking a break over the summer but should be back in September!

If you want to follow any of the authors on Twitter then

Anna Mazzola – @Anna_Mazz

Beth Lewis – @bethklewis

Andrew Taylor – @AndrewJRTaylor

Stephen Booth – @stephenbooth

First Monday Crime – @1stMondayCrime

If hearing about all these crime writers is making you think about writing your own crime novel but not sure where to start, then you may want to check out City’s MA course

https://www.city.ac.uk/courses/postgraduate/creative-writing-novels

Three reviews for the price of one blog post

Ok, I have to admit that I’ve got a bit behind on my reviewing. So I hope the authors won’t mind but I have three reviews for you today.

Before It’s Too Late by Jane Isaac

First up, the very lovely Jane Isaac with Before It’s Too Late. This is the second book of Jane’s that I’ve read and it features DI Will Jackman. Unlike her DCI Helen Lavery series that’s set in a fictional town, this book is set in Stratford upon Avon and I love the little touches that she includes to add authenticity – you can tell she’s done her research.

A young female Chinese student has gone missing. To begin with it looks as though this might be related to two recent murders.  Jackman is brought in to investigate the young woman’s disappearance. But when a male Chinese student goes missing too, it’s clear to Jackman that this case isn’t as straightforward as he thought. Jackman is an unusual officer. You realise quite early on in the book that something has happened to his wife but it’s later you discover what it is and that tension plays well throughout the story. Add to that the haunting voice of Min Li as she endures her confinement and Before It’s Too Late makes for a fabulous read. I look forward to the next instalment of DI Will Jackman – Beneath The Ashes.

Nightblind by Ragnar Jonasson

I don’t think any of us could have failed to see the excitement of the Icelandic people during Euro 2016. TV reports from Reykjavik showed fans dancing and cheering in the streets – even when they lost! But most striking was the light. Even though it was late at night, the land of the midnight sun was still bathed in sunshine. Conversely, darkness is abundant during winter, especially in Siglufjordur, in the north of Iceland, where the surrounding mountains hide what little light the sun might bring. And then there’s the snow and ice and biting cold wind. Just reading Nightblind made me want to shiver. As I so often do, I’ve read the books out of order and this is the second in the Ari Thor series (Snowblind is the first and Blackout has just been released as an eBook). However, I don’t think this matters too much.

Ari Thor is sick. Properly sick. He has flu. He can’t possibly go back to work tonight. He needs another day at least. So his boss, Herjolfur, has no choice but to do another night shift. He just hopes that Ari remembers that he’s got time off very soon and Ari needs to be back at work. Although Herjolfur is the senior police officer, he still feels a little nervous when he’s called to an abandoned house on the edge of town. And so he should be. It’s the last call he ever takes.

Ari Thor is reunited with his old boss, Tomas and together they investigate Herjolfur’s death. The murder of a police officer is an unlikely occurrence in Iceland and so the pressure is on. As darkness sweeps across and envelopes Siglufjordur, can the murderer be found?

This is my first foray into Icelandic noir and it definitely won’t be my last. Jonasson interweaves his story with great atmosphere, tension and pace. On the one hand I loved Ari Thor and then on the other, I wanted to give him a good slap and tell him to sort out his personal life! It’s not surprising that the TV rights have been sold. This will make an excellent TV series.

Vanishing Point by Daniel Pembrey

And to finish, a short read. Perfect for reading on a journey or on the beach. But maybe not if you’re at a yoga retreat…

Jenny wanted to get away from it all. The Mexican yoga retreat recommended to her by her yoga teacher sounded perfect. Time to unwind, meditate, make decisions about her future – starting with her husband, John. But Jenny never returned. A year on, John travels to Mexico to discover what happened to his wife.

Daniel Pembrey is fast making the novella his own, with other titles The Candidate and The Lion Hunter. He manages to pack in a lot of plot, characterization and atmosphere. I would say a short and sweet read but it’s more of a short and slightly disturbing one!

 

Five stars for all three books!

If you want to follow any of the authors on Twitter

Jane Isaac @JaneIsaacAuthor

Ragnar Jonasson @ragnarjo

Daniel Pembrey @DPemb