CrimeFest 2017

I’ve almost recovered from CrimeFest. It was an amazing four days of going to panels, meeting lots of friends, making new friends (Jen, Katherine and Sharon, in particular) and eating all the food I shouldn’t be eating at the moment. I’d like to be able to tell you that I wrote copious pages of notes but I didn’t write any! Instead, I live tweeted and you can tell how much sleep I’d had by their quality. Day 1 – lots of coherent tweets. Day 2 – quite a few tweets but often with mistakes so I had to delete them and write them again. Day 3 – pictures of the panels and nothing else. Day 4 – there were panels?!! So that was the only downfall – hardly any sleep. But a fabulous time otherwise in reasonably sunny Bristol. If you want a really good write-up to read, then check out Katherine Sunderland’s superb blog posts here . A massive thank you to Vicki Goldman who held my hand on my first residential festival (especially as I was so sleep deprived). We had a few scrapes together and you can read more about them on Vicki’s blog here.

But here are a few photos, just to prove that I actually did go!

Day 1

42 cookies taken to CrimeFest. They were very popular. One author (who shall remain nameless) had at least 6!
CF panel 1
Debut authors – (L- R) Mary Torjussen, Steph Broadribb, David Coubrough, Lucy V. Hay & Karen Robinson moderating
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Think Andrea Carter is demonstrating to Rod Reynolds how one of her characters dies. Julia Crouch & Lucy Dawson also on the panel for Keeping Secrets and Telling Lies. Moderator (on left) Valentina Giambanco.
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The Dark Side of Nature. (L-R) Stanley Trollip (moderator), Luke McCallin, Johana Gustawsson, Doug Johnstone & Jorn Lier Horst.

At the end of day 1, I went on a lovely walk with Vicki Goldman and we discovered Harbourside.

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Day 2

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Partners in Crime: Male/Female duos. (L-R) Sarah Ward (moderator), Luca Veste, Sarah Hilary, Anne Randall Stav Sherez.
CF Sam Carrington
Sam Carrington who did a talk about her former occupation, working with prisoners.
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Giving your protagonist family & friends. (L-R) Cally Taylor, Thomas Enger, Gunnar Staalesen, Louise Beech & Lucy V. Hay (moderator)
CF day 2 panel 4
Journalists: Characters who tell stories for a living. (L-R) Rod Reynolds (moderator), Anne Coates, Matt Wesolowski, Antti Tuomainen & Walter Lucius.

The weather was glorious on day 2 and I had lunch in Bristol Cathedral Café, in their beautiful garden.

CF Bristol cathedral garden

And in the Marriott hotel, I found this gem with classic books

Jilly Cooper at Marriott

Day 3

CF day 3 panel 1
Modern Police Procedural: Are we really the good guys and girls? (L-R) Elizabeth Haynes, Fergus McNeil, Alison Bruce (moderator),Valentina Giambanco & Sharon Bolton
CF Anthony sign
Anthony Horowitz gave a revealing interview to Barry Forshaw



CF day 3 panel 2
When Your Protagonist Can’t Forget. (L-R) Thomas Enger, Katerina Diamond, Simon Toyne, Ragnar Jonasson & Elizabeth Haynes (moderator)


Day 4 – as I said earlier, I didn’t make it to any panels. But here’s a final photo.

CF 2 cookies
The last 2 cookies for the journey home. I think Vicki and I deserved them!

Block 46 Blog Tour – Johana Gustawsson


FINAL block 46 blog tour poster

Honoured to be part of this epic blog tour. Thank you Karen & Anne for including me. It’s my turn today along with the fabulous Swirl & Thread so feel free to check out Mairead’s blog post too.


Evil remembers…

Falkenberg, Sweden. The mutilated body of talented young jewellery designer, Linnea Blix, is found in a snow-swept marina.

Hampstead Heath, London. The body of a young boy is discovered with similar wounds to Linnea’s.

Buchenwald Concentration Camp, 1944. In the midst of the hell of the Holocaust, Erich Ebner will do anything to see himself as a human again.

Are the two murders the work of a serial killer, and how are they connected to shocking events at Buchenwald?

Emily Roy, a profiler on loan to Scotland Yard from the Canadian Royal Mounted Police, joins up with Linnea’s friend, French truecrime writer Alexis Castells, to investigate the puzzling case. They travel between Sweden and London, and then deep into the past, as a startling and terrifying connection comes to light.

Plumbing the darkness and the horrific evidence of the nature of evil, Block 46 is a multi-layered, sweeping and evocative thriller that heralds a stunning new voice in French Noir.


My review


There is always a worry that translated fiction may not work. Not so in this case. Although this is deemed French Noir as Johana Gustawsson is French, the action takes place in London and Sweden, with a time lapse back to the concentration camp at Buchenwald in 1944-45.

Block 46 was an infamous building for the prisoners at Buchenwald. No one quite knew what happened in there but they knew it wasn’t good. When Erich Ebner was forced to go there, none of his fellow inmates expected to see him again. Johana’s writing for this section is superb. Deeply moving, she doesn’t shy away from the terror and horror of the camp. As difficult as it was to read, these were the parts that captured me the most.

However, this isn’t the main part of the story. Alexis Castells (French) is a true crime writer. When her friend, Linnea, is murdered in Sweden, she doesn’t hesitate to go and help. Initially dealing with the Swedish police, there are many things that don’t quite make sense to Alexis. When Linnea’s death is linked with murders in London, nothing makes sense at all. Emily Roy, a Canadian profiler working with Scotland Yard, is brought in to help catch the killer.

This is a novel with multiple viewpoints so it’s almost like reading a book in IMAX format. As well as hearing from Alexis, Emily and the Swedish police officers, we also hear from the killer. Chilling doesn’t even begin to describe it. Steadily, the two main plotlines weave together, with a few twists thrown in for good measure, leading to a climatic ‘don’t go in there’ moment.

Johana Gutawsson’s debut thriller is impressive. Of all her characters, Emily Roy is the one who intrigued me the most, not least because so little is given away about her. Hopefully we’ll get a chance to find out more as, thankfully, a sequel is on its way.


To buy click here


About the author

Johana Photo

Born in 1978 in Marseille and with a degree in political science, Johana Gustawsson has worked as a journalist for the French press and television. She married a Swede and now lives in London. She was the co-author of a bestseller, On se retrouvera, published by Fayard Noir in France, whose television adaptation drew over 7 million viewers in June 2015. She is now working on the next book in the Roy & Castells series.




First Monday Crime – May 2017

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While the panel were waiting to start, Mark Hill decided to take a photo of the audience.


Yay! After missing last month (pesky family birthdays), I was back at First Monday (technically Second Monday) for another great event. The crime authors were debut novelists – Michelle Adams and Mark Hill, along with two very experienced authors – Jane Casey and Chris Brookmyre. Heading up proceedings was Joe Haddow from Radio 2.

So first up – those all important books!

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My Sister is the debut novel from Michelle Adams. Michelle is a part-time scientist, currently living in Cyprus. The book is about two sisters who have a very toxic relationship. One of them attempts to find out the truth while the other tries to hide it.

Want You Gone is the third book in the Jack Parlabane series by Chris Brookmyre. Essentially, the book is about hacking and online blackmail. Chris was keen to point out that some of the word games played on social media aren’t always wise – name of your first pet teamed with your mother’s maiden name to make your porn star name – gives away two pieces of important security information. So don’t do it!

Jane Casey’s Let The Dead Speak is the seventh book in the Maeve Kerrigan series. A teenage girl comes home to find the family house covered in blood and her mother missing. As so many books and television series often focus on the body and what clues can be gleaned from it, Jane wanted to explore what would happen if you didn’t have a body.

Mark Hill’s debut is Two O’Clock Boy (you can read my review here) and is the first in the DI Ray Drake series. Written in two timelines, the story is told with multiple viewpoints. DI Ray Drake is investigating a series of murders but finds himself up to his ears in trouble.

One of Joe’s questions was the importance of location and whether you needed to know a place well to be able to write about it.

For Chris Brookmyre, knowing a location is important but often first impressions are best. Although Chris’ novels are often coined as Tartan Noir, he likes to set books where they need to be. Want You Gone is set in London. He once set a book in LA and his next one is set in space!

Place is important for Jane Casey too and the house in her story is almost like one of the characters. Being from Ireland means that she can write about London with a bit of distance. She thinks she’s too sentimental about Dublin to write about it.

Mark Hill was actually on holiday in Manhattan when he started writing Two O’Clock Boy. It was snowing, he could see Central Park from the window and he was writing about Wood Green Bus Station.

What about writing routines? Strict or fluid?

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As Michelle is working during the day, her writing hours tend to be 5-11pm. However, she’s learnt to work wherever she is and finds herself often thinking about her story.

Chris’ work hours tend to be office hours, although when his children were younger, it was nursery/school hours. He finds that manual tasks help to free up creativity as does walking. It’s easier to dictate into a phone now without looking stupid, as long as no one hears you talking about how to dispose of a body.

Jane is of the belief that everyone in London has at least one murderous thought a day – on public transport or the monotony of pushing a swing for an hour in the park. So her thoughts are always focused, not least because her husband is a criminal barrister and a volunteer police officer. They’ve been known to clear restaurants with their dinner talk.

Mark tends to write in short bursts – intensive fifteen minutes or so. Some of his book *may* have been written when he was meant to be working on the Alan Carr radio show.

To finish off – a question from the audience. Current favourite reads.

Michelle – Little Sister by Isabel Ashdown

Chris – Mick Herron’s Jackson Lamb books

Jane – He Said, She Said by Erin Kelly

Mark – Die Of Shame by Mark Billingham


There are so many other things I could tell you but you all have lives to lead. But I will leave you with some very wise words from Chris Brookmyre – Don’t make yourself a target for hackers!

Michelle Adams – to find out more and buy My Sister, click here

Chris Brookmyre – to find out more and buy Want You Gone, click here

Jane Casey – to find out more and buy Let The Dead Speak, click here

Mark Hill – to find out more and buy Two O’Clock Boy, click here

Of course, other booksellers are available!


So, First Monday will be back on Monday 5th June, and just look at who’s coming! James Oswald will also be there, along with Barry Forshaw to lead the evening.

IMPORTANT INFORMATION: It will be 7- 8pm rather than the usual 6.30pm start. Tickets for £7 can be bought here from Goldsboro Books.

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The Lies Within Blog Tour

The Lies Within Blog Tour Banner

I’m thrilled to be part of the blog tour for The Lies Within by Jane Isaac.

The blurb

Be under no illusions by her kind face and eloquent manner… This woman is guilty of murder.

Grace Daniels is distraught after her daughter’s body is found in a Leicestershire country lane. With her family falling apart and the investigation going nowhere, Grace’s only solace is the re-emergence of Faye, an old friend who seems to understand her loss.

DI Will Jackman delves into the case, until a family tragedy and a figure from his past threaten to derail him.

When the police discover another victim, the spotlight falls on Grace. Can Jackman find the killer, before she is convicted of a crime she didn’t commit?


My review

The Lies Within

Jo Lambourne, a young woman, is found brutally murdered in her home town of Market Harborough. DI Will Jackman is on secondment from Warwickshire Police to the Leicestershire force and becomes the SIO for the case. Grace, Jo’s mother, is in a dreadful state. Having lost her first husband a few years before, she is swamped by grief yet again. With the help of her friend, Faye, Grace manages to pull herself together and starts to search for the truth behind Jo’s murder, unaware of the danger she faces.

I’ve met Jane Isaac a few times now and you wouldn’t think that a devious mind existed in such a lovely woman. But somehow, she manages to come up with intriguing twists and turns. DI Will Jackman is fast becoming one of my favourite police detectives (not least because I picture Rufus Sewell playing him – I think I’ve mentioned this before and I probably will again). Thrown into a new team, Jackman revels in the challenging role of acting DCI. The only hiccup is Carmela Hanson, acting Superintendent. Jackman has to juggle his feelings for her along with loyalty to his critically ill wife, Alice, who has locked in syndrome.

Jane Isaac writes the story of Grace, the mother of the dead woman, with great sensitivity. There are plenty of ‘don’t do it’ moments as Grace tries to uncover the truth of Jo’s murder. Although the first 48-72 hours of an investigation are crucial, this is a case that isn’t easily solved and drags on for months. Isaac shows the cost of this both with Grace and her family and the police officers involved.

There is so much more I want to tell you about this book but daren’t for fear of giving away spoilers. But what I will say is that Jane Isaac has a writing style that makes it so easy to just keep reading The Lies Within. And in my humble opinion, this is her best novel to date.

Click here to buy The Lies Within.


About the author


Jane Isaac lives with her husband, daughter and dog, Bollo, in rural Northamptonshire, UK. Her debut novel, An Unfamiliar Murder, introduces DCI Helen Lavery and was nominated as best mystery in the ‘eFestival of Words Best of the Independent eBook awards 2013.’

The Truth Will Out, the second in the DCI Helen Lavery series, was nominated as ‘Thriller of the Month – April 2014’ by and winner of ‘Noveltunity book club selection – May 2014’.

In 2015 Jane embarked on a new series, featuring DI Will Jackman and set in Stratford upon Avon, with Before It’s Too Late. The second in the series, Beneath The Ashes, will be published by Legend Press on 1st November 2016 with the 3rd, The Lies Within, to follow on 2nd May 2017.

Both DI Jackman and DCI Lavery will return again in the near future. Sign up to Jane’s newsletter on her website at for details of new releases, events and giveaways.