First Monday Crime Interview with G.J. Minett @1stMondayCrime @GJMinett #AnythingForHer

So, it’s nearly time for Fifth Monday Crime, sorry, First Monday Crime, on the 30th April. Our honoured guests that evening will be Robert Goddard, Cathi Unsworth, Simone Buchholz and G.J. Minett. Joe Haddow will be chairing. If you haven’t reserved your free seat, there’s still time! Just click here. In the meantime, I’ve had a chance to ask G.J. Minett a few questions ahead of next week’s panel.


Hi Graham. Firstly, can you tell me a little bit about your first two books, The Hidden Legacy and Lie in Wait?

The Hidden Legacy came from the dissertation for my MA in Creative Writing. My tutor was the novelist, Alison MacLeod, and she suggested I enter it for a national competition for opening chapters and it won it. First prize was £500 and the chance to work online for two years with an editor in London to finish the novel which presented an interesting challenge as I didn’t have a novel in mind – it had just been an academic exercise. I came up with a storyline with two timelines which come together as the novel progresses and explain Ellen’s link to the shocking events in the school playground 40 years earlier.

Lie In Wait was the result of 45 years of teaching children like Owen Hall who might as well have the words ‘natural victim’ stamped across their foreheads. He is bullied throughout his teenage years for being different, unable to strike up effective relationships with his peers and withdrawing increasingly into a world governed by numbers which he trusts. Then, 15 years later, he is drawn back into a world he thought he’d left behind and events spiral out of control.


Your latest book is Anything For Her. What’s the storyline for this novel?

Billy Orr is 27 and building a successful career, having seemingly put behind him two traumatic events from his childhood. He goes back to his hometown to visit his sister who is seriously ill and bumps into Aimi, with whom he had a short-lived and ill-fated relationship when they were teenagers and whose importance he has exaggerated in his memory. When she asks him for help in escaping from an abusive marriage, he’s always going to say yes but is Aimi the person he’s built her up to be and is he still the wide-eyed innocent he undoubtedly was?


You’ve written three standalone books. Do you think you might ever write a series?

I wouldn’t rule it out entirely but at present I find it difficult to think in terms of writing several novels about the same character. I’m often asked where do you get your ideas for a novel? I’m not often asked where I get the characters but for me the character comes first. Once I have her/him firmly established in my mind and understand where the weakness is, I then come up with a storyline that will test that weakness. I think a series would probably be more about finding a number of different situations in which I might put the main character and I’m not sure that would work so well for me.

I also worry, probably far more than I should do, about plausibility and the difficulty with writing a series, I’d imagine, is the number of times the central character can reasonably be expected to be placed in life-threatening situations and miraculously escape every time. Some authors do this extremely well but at present I’m still feeling my way into the genre.

As I said though, I wouldn’t rule it out entirely in the future, especially if the right character comes along


How did you make the move from teaching into writing?

Seamlessly – eventually. I’ve written since the age of nine and the writing has always played second fiddle to career, family, relationships, sport etc. I wrote a Tom Sharpe-type novel in my spare time when I was in my early thirties and it was picked up by Darley Anderson who was just starting out as an agent in those days. He tried to get it published for about a year but didn’t succeed, for which I’m very grateful because it wasn’t very good. That narrow miss meant I became known to friends and family as Graham who can write a bit and could probably get published if he really went for it and I draped myself in that comfort blanket for a long, long time rather than put myself to the test. I think I didn’t want to become Graham who had ideas above his station and wasn’t as good as he thought he was.

Then, when I reached 55, my wife suggested I put up or shut up and I did a part-time MA in Creative Writing which made all the difference. Now that I’ve officially retired from teaching I no longer have to juggle the writing with creating whole-school timetables and it makes for a saner existence.


What are you working on now?

I’ve just submitted the first draft of book 4 which is called The Less She Knows. The central character this time is Lucy Ward who is six months into a relationship with a celebrated author when she starts receiving messages and emails which are clearly designed to make her suspect that he is cheating on her. Having wrecked a previous relationship only three months before the wedding because of her inability to trust her partner, she’s determined not to make the same mistake again, but an unexplained death makes it difficult to ignore the messages and she finds herself in a battle to find the right balance between trust and naivety.

It’s with my editor Katherine now and I’m waiting for the first batch of suggestions from her before we embark on the editing process.


You’ve been to First Monday Crime before so you know what to expect. What are you most looking forward to and is there anything that you’re dreading?

Ever since I heard I was going to be on the panel here, I’ve been looking forward to sitting alongside my fellow panellists. Three years ago the very idea that I might be appearing at an event like this would have seemed fanciful in the extreme. To do so alongside these three is not far short of surreal. I’ve been practising the phrase well, when I was on a panel with Robert Goddard, Simone Buchholz and Cathi Unsworth and it may just get an airing from time to time.

As for dreading anything, if you are at Bonnier Zaffre and spend enough evenings with award-winning novelist Chris Whitaker, there’s not an awful lot that can shock you. In the past couple of years, I’ve been accused in print of selling drugs to children and I’ve sat in the audience here when Chris was on the panel and heard him lament the fact that his publishers are wasting their time, throwing money at old men like me when they could be investing in youth like him, so I’m not dreading anything. Forty-five years of teaching has taught me how to deal with unruly children.


Thank you for answering my questions, Graham, and I look forward to seeing you on the 30th April!

(NB to First Monday Crime Security Team – keep an eye out for Chris Whitaker – he could be trouble!)

You can buy Graham’s books here or you could wait and buy a copy on the night from Big Green Bookshop and get it signed.


The Blurb

Anything For Her cover

You’d do anything for the one that got away . . . wouldn’t you?

When Billy Orr returns home to spend time with his dying sister, he bumps into his ex-girlfriend Aimi, the love of his life. He might not have seen her in eleven years, but Billy’s never forgotten her. He’d do anything for her then, and he’d do anything for her now.

When Aimi tells him that she wants to escape her abusive husband, Billy agrees to help her fake her own death. But is she still the Aimi that Billy remembers from all those years ago?

Once Aimi disappears, Billy has to face the possibility that perhaps she had different reasons for disappearing – reasons that might be more dangerous than she’s led him to believe . . .

Sometimes trusting the one you love is the wrong thing to do.


The Author

GJ Minett

Graham Minett studied Languages at Churchill College, Cambridge before teaching for several years in Gloucestershire and West Sussex. In 2008 he completed a part-time MA in Creative Writing at the University of Chichester and subsequently won both the inaugural Segora short story competition in 2008 and the Chapter One competition in 2010. The latter consisted of the opening sections of what would eventually become The Hidden Legacy, which earned him the first of two separate two-book deals with Bonnier Zaffre.

The Hidden Legacy and Lie In Wait are both already published as eBooks and in paperback. His third novel, Anything For Her, first appeared as an eBook in November 2017 and a paperback version will follow in March 2018.

Now writing full-time, he is represented by Adam Gauntlett of the Peters, Fraser and Dunlop Agency and lives in West Sussex with his wife and children whilst nevertheless retaining close links with Cheltenham and the rest of his family.

Blog Tour – The Black Earth by Philip Kazan #TheBlackEarth @pipkazan @AllisonandBusby @annecater

The Black Earth FINAL BT Poster

I’m delighted to be on The Black Earth book tour today and I have an extract for you. I’d like to thank Philip Kazan, Allison & Busby and Anne Cater for asking me to join the tour. But first up, what’s The Black Earth all about? Here’s the blurb.


The Blurb


When the Turkish Army occupies Smyrna, Zoe Haggitiris escapes with her family, only to lose everything. Alone in a sea of desperate strangers, her life is touched, for a moment, by a young English boy, Tom Collyer, also lost, before the compassion of a stranger leads her into a new life. Years later when war breaks out, Tom finds himself in Greece and in the chaos of the British retreat, fate will lead him back to Zoe. But he will discover that the war will not end so easily for either of them.

The Black Earth Cover

The Extract

Chapter One Smyrna,

Asia Minor, 18th September 1922


All night long she lies in the bow of the Thetis and listens to the water beneath her. Curled into the sharp angle between the low gunwales and the varnished pole of the bowsprit, chin propped on the shiny wood, the jib sail creaking just above her head, she stares out into the darkness of the great bay…


If she could just ask her father . . . She can hear him behind her, whispering to Mama as he holds the wheel steady. But she doesn’t dare turn round. Mama and Papa have forbidden it: as they had settled her down in the prow of the Thetis – Papa’s yacht, his pride and joy – they had told her that, whatever happened, she mustn’t look back. She had asked why, and they had just shaken their heads – so calm and sensible in spite of all the commotion on the dock, those two heads. There’s nothing behind us, kopella mou. Everything is ahead. Just keep looking ahead, little darling, little bird. And when the sun comes up, it will all be fine.


… Her eyes begin to sting. There is a terrifying smell: burning, but not the friendly smell of a bonfire or a kitchen fire. The girl sits up. She wants Mama to send the smoke and the noise away, so she turns around and, though she knows she shouldn’t, she looks behind her. She sees her father, arms spread across the spokes of the wheel, the faint glimmer of his smart white captain’s cap. And there is Mama, beside him, wearing her shooting clothes, a scarf tied around her head. But behind her parents, something else. Where the lights of the city should be is dense blackness slashed open to reveal a pulsing wound, dirty orange-red, almost too bright to look at. It throbs. It roars. She opens her mouth to scream. Perhaps she does scream. As the light pulses she sees other boats all around them, each one filled with shadows, and from them comes a sound, a thin wail that rises and falls, made up of whispers and sobbing. …


There is something sharp in Papa’s voice. He is looking over his left shoulder, staring intently into the mist. ‘Can you hear something?’ ‘What, darling?’ ‘There.’ Papa pushes his cap back on his head and frowns. ‘There! Engines!’ ‘I don’t . . . Yes, yes, there is something!’ As Mama says the words, the girl hears it: a low thrum, a deep pulse inside the glowing mist. ‘Too near,’ Papa says. He stoops behind the binnacle, and when he stands up again he is holding something that the girl has never seen before: a large black pistol. The pulse has suddenly become much louder. .. ‘George . . .’ Mama says. Papa thrusts his arm into the air and there is a deafening bang. The girl sees smoke, and another flash, and then the bang comes again. Mama is still holding the plate and as Papa fires again and shouts at the top of his voice, the girl is staring at the square of milk pudding so she only sees, out of the corner of her eye, a shape, an angle with no top and no bottom, black and sharp, slicing through the opal glow of the mist. She opens her mouth and then she is looking at a black wall that hisses as it moves effortlessly through the wood and brass and canvas of Thetis. She has just enough time to realise that Mama and Papa are on the other side of the wall when the yacht seems to tumble. Green water, no longer glassy but roiling and lacy with foam, is above her, all around her. There is water in her eyes, in her mouth, freezing, stifling. A deafening throb beats at her ears. It’s the monster, she thinks. It found us after all. She is rolling, weightless one moment, heavy as a stone the next. Through the sizzle of panic she can see her arms stretched out in front of her, hands clawing at nothing. They look colourless, dead. She can’t feel them, though her head is bursting. She needs to breathe: the pain in her chest is worse than anything she has ever known. If she opens her mouth, the pain will go away. If she opens her mouth . . . She is sinking, through strings of bubbles and bright things whirling past her. A porthole from the cabin glides by, going down. She reaches, reaches. And then something touches her hand. A yellow rose. She clutches at it in a frenzy, sinking her hand into red silk and undulating flowers, and as she does so something takes hold of her. She is no longer falling, but rising up, towards gauzy light. She sees a hand clutching the front of her sailor suit, and on one finger, surely, a gold ring with a blood-red stone. ..She doesn’t want to leave, now. She wants to stay down there, to take the hand and let it take her home. But instead she is thrown into the air. She gasps, retches, breathes. … She screams. One word: Mama.


Wow! What an opening.

You can pre order the book here.


The Author


PHILIP KAZAN was born in London and grew-up on Dartmoor. He is the author of two previous novels set in fifteenth-century Florence and the Petroc series following a thirteenth-century adventurer. After living in New York and Vermont, Philip is back on the edge of Dartmoor with his wife and three children.

Follow him on Twitter: @pipkazan



Blog tour – #Keeper by @JoGustawsson @OrendaBooks @AnneCater

FINAL Keeper blog poster 2018

My turn today on the blog tour for Keeper by French novelist, Johana Gustawsson. Block 46, published last year, introduced us to profiler Emily Roy and true-crime author Alexis Castells. Keeper is the second book in the series. Thank you to Orenda Books and Anne Cater for inviting me to take part.

The Blurb



Whitechapel, 1888: London is bowed under Jack the Ripper’s reign of terror.
London, 2015: actress Julianne Bell is abducted in a case similar to the terrible Tower Hamlets murders of some ten years earlier, and harking back to the Ripper killings of a century before.
Falkenberg, Sweden, 2015: a woman’s body is found mutilated in a forest, her wounds identical to those of the Tower Hamlets victims. With the man arrested for the Tower Hamlets crimes already locked up, do the new killings mean he has a dangerous accomplice, or is a copy-cat serial killer on the loose?
Profiler Emily Roy and true-crime writer Alexis Castells again find themselves drawn into an intriguing case, with personal links that turn their world upside down. Following the highly acclaimed Block 46 and guaranteed to disturb and enthral, Keeper is a breathless thriller from the new queen of French Noir.


To whet your appetite, I have an extract for you from Keeper.


Friday, 30 October 2015, 11 am
He unbuttoned the jacket of his pale grey suit with careful deliberation,
straightened his narrow tie and sat down to face the judge. Sorry.
Madam Justice.
His eyes zeroed in on the heavy pearls dangling from her distended
ear lobes. As big as his thumb. His lawyer had advised him to wear a
sober, dark suit. For the tie, something more classic. With a looser knot.
Just a ‘suggestion’.
He couldn’t give a damn about the suit, per se. It was having a choice
in the matter that he found exciting. This was one sliver of power he
could exploit to the hilt. Savour it right down to the bone.
The judge started to speak. She shook her head, and her earrings
swayed as if they were slow dancing. Ear lobes lolling like tongues.

Lobes and mash, home-made style…
Beat two egg yolks and dip the lobes in.
Toss them in breadcrumbs.
Fry them up in parsley butter.
Drizzle them in olive oil and serve with mash.
Lobes and mash, home-made style…
He leaned in to bring his mouth closer to the microphone and give
Madam Justice an answer. Spelled out his surname. Paused to brush
away a speck of dust from his left shoulder with the back of his hand.
Carried on with his given name, date of birth and profession, his mind
dwelling on the curious habit he had of unbuttoning his suit jacket when
he sat down. A fashion adopted by pupils at Eton or, more accurately,
those elected to the in-crowd of their exclusive ‘Pop’ club. Though perhaps
this particular idiosyncrasy went all the way back to King Edward VII,
whose fullness of figure demanded the extra space when His Majesty sat
on His Royal Backside.
The judge had just asked him to speak. She straightened the lace collar
of her robe and shifted some files across her desk.
Lobes and mash, home-made style…
He coughed into his hand. Appreciated the absence of handcuffs.
Reflected on how a cage would soon replace them. An image flashed
across his mind, slotting into the space between himself and Madam
Justice with her lolling ear lobes. A vision of himself hanging from the
bars of his cell like a monkey. Still wearing his suit.
He laughed. The sound of it echoed harshly back at him.
Though he was laughing, he shivered as a thin film of sweat spread
across the nape of his neck.
‘It’s not my fault,’ he mumbled, as if to himself. ‘It’s not my fault…’
The judge interrupted him. He couldn’t make out the words, just the
music of her speech. A crescendo building to a climax. A question.
‘It’s not my fault,’ he continued. ‘Hilda was the one who started it …
It all started with Hilda…’


Ooh! Who’s Hilda? Well, there’s only one way to find out. Click here to buy the book.


About the author

Johana Pic

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 retouvera, published by Fayard Noir in France, whose television adaptation drew over 7 million viewers in June 2015. Her debut, Block 46, was an award-winning, international bestseller, with Keeper following suit. She is working on the next book in the Roy & Castells series.




First Monday Crime – April 2018 @1stMondayCrime @LeighRussell @jconnollybooks @stu_turton @BarryForshaw3

It was a warm, balmy April evening as we stepped out from Angel tube station… who am I kidding? We were lucky not to get rained on as we walked to City University. But at least we could get there. Poor Rachel Abbott was grounded in Alderney by fog so wasn’t able to fly over for First Monday Crime’s second birthday. Fortunately, the other panellists were able to make it – John Connolly, Leigh Russell and Stuart Turton with Barry Forshaw moderating.

April 18 FM

First up – those all important books!

Class Murder

Leigh Russell’s new book is Class Murder. It’s the 10th novel in her Geraldine Steel police procedural series and in this story, Geraldine has moved to York from London. Leigh is aware that there are two sets of readers reading her books – those who have read the whole series and others who have just picked up a Geraldine Steel novel for the first time. So she aims to write a story that is part of a series but could easily work as a standalone. She has plans to write 20 books in the series altogether!

John Connolly The Woman in the Woods

John Connolly’s The Woman in the Woods starts with a woman’s body being found after a thaw in Maine. She was buried with care but there are signs that she had given birth shortly before death. But where’s the baby? This is the 16th novel in the Charlie Parker series. John thinks of himself as more of a mystery writer than a crime writer. Everything begins with character. The patterns of a crime novel don’t change much – it’s the characters that hold it all together.

The Seven Deaths

Stuart Turton’s debut is The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle. This book was ten years in the making and is Stuart’s attempt to out-Christie the great woman herself. At a swanky weekend party in a country house, Evelyn Hardcastle dies seven times in a sort of Groundhog Day scenario. Each day the narrator wakes up in the body of a different guest at the party and will continue to do so until he finds Evelyn’s killer.


Now, I think it’s fair to say that this crime panel did go off-piste at times with debates on children’s reading and also on Agatha Christie. But there were excellent comments on these subjects, so much so, I put my pen down and just listened. However, Barry did manage to get a few questions in there.

Do people still read books?

Stuart said, ‘Hopefully, yes, millions and millions of them.’

Leigh thought that there weren’t fewer people reading but they might be reading in different formats e.g. Kindles, phones, tablets etc. It’s still important though to promote books and keep reading, especially for children. They’re more likely to read books that have been recommended to them by other children.

John thinks that reading is a niche activity and always has been. If there are books in a house then children are more likely to pick up a book.


If the authors could get into a time machine, what would they tell their 20-year-old selves?

John would say, ‘Be a bit easier on yourself.’

Leigh didn’t think her 20-year-old self would want to listen but she would say, ‘It’s going to be a rough ride but keep on going.’

Stuart’s advice to his 20-year-old self was far more practical. ‘You know that two day bender to Blackpool that you’ve got planned – it’s really not a good idea.’


A question from the audience now. Do you write spontaneously [a pantser] or do you plot?

Stuart Turton covered two walls in post-it notes and had spreadsheets for The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle. So I think he’s a plotter!

John Connolly begins with an image and knows about the first two thousand words. He used the analogy of driving down a country lane at night where you can only see as far as your headlights allow until you see the lights of home. But there’s more room for doubt with this method of writing.

Leigh Russell would like to plot like Stuart but her style is closer to John’s. There’s almost terror though as her characters lead her down blind alleys.


To find out more about the authors and buy their books –

For Stuart Turton click here

For Leigh Russell click here

For John Connolly click here

And even though she couldn’t make it this time, for Rachel Abbott click here


So April First Monday Crime finished on a high – a sugar high – as cookies were handed round. If you weren’t able to make it this time, don’t worry because Mapril First Monday Crime is just around the corner. Yes, you did read that correctly. Since we have another one of those pesky Bank Holidays, May First Monday will be on 30th April. And the guest list has just been announced on the website! Robert Goddard, Simone Buchholz. G.J. Minett and Cathi Unsworth. Joe Haddow will be keeping order. Click here to reserve your seat.



#MyLittleEye blog tour @crimethrillgirl @alexxlayt @TrapezeBooks

My turn on the blog tour for My Little Eye. Joining me today is the lovely Abby over at so feel free to check out her post as well.

My Little Eye Blog Tour


I love getting book post. I don’t get a huge amount of it (‘Thank goodness,’ mutters my husband). Most parcels arrive in a standard padded envelope. But not Stephanie Marland’s new novel, My Little Eye. I’m not ashamed to say that I was I bit freaked out by this –

My Little Eye 1

And then there was the postcard inside with an invitation –

My Little Eye 3

How could I resist?


The Blurb

My Little Eye 2

A young woman is found dead in her bedroom surrounded by rose petals – the latest victim of ‘The Lover’. Struggling under the weight of an internal investigation, DI Dominic Bell is no closer to discovering the identity of the killer and time is running out.

As the murders escalate, Clementine Starke joins an online true crime group determined to take justice in their own hands – to catch the killer before the police. Hiding a dark secret, she takes greater risks to find new evidence and infiltrate the group.

As Starke and Bell get closer to cracking the case neither of them realise they’re being watched. The killer is closer to them than they think, and he has his next victim – Clementine – firmly in his sights.


My Review

My Little Eye cover

If you’ve been following the blog tour at all, then you’ll know that Stephanie Marland is the pen name for Steph Broadribb aka CrimeThrillerGirl on Twitter. Steph has written two books already in her popular Lori Anderson series, set in the US about a female bounty hunter. This new series is set in London and features Detective Inspector Dominic Bell and true crime addict (or is she?) Clementine Starke. There’s a serial killer stalking women in North London. Nothing seems to connect the victims initially but all have their appearances changed to look alike after death. But who will find the killer first – the police or True Crime London?

The pace of this book reminded me of flamenco dancing. A steady beat with intricate and elegant shaping to begin as we get to know Dom and Clementine. Then the footwork picks up speed, reaching a crescendo without ever losing the inital elegance and shape. I’m always in awe of authors who write multiple viewpoints and Stephanie Marland has done a fantastic job in creating two very different characters with some interesting back stories. One of the most fascinating parts of the book for me was knowing that Dom and Clementine would meet at some point. But how? When they did meet, it was not at all how I expected.

And then there’s a whole raft of minor characters for both Dom and Clementine to interact with. But who can they trust? Are all coppers good? And who are the real people behind the online personas in the True Crime London group?

There are plenty of twists and turns throughout the book. A few I guessed but there were plenty that escaped my attention. Although a part of me wants to kick myself, a bigger part applauds Stephanie Marland for her devious deflections

I’d like to say more about the plot but I don’t want to give away too much. Suffice to say, although there is a clear ending to the book, there’s still plenty more to come from Bell and Starke. Looking forward to the next one!


To find out more about Stephanie Marland and buy the book click here. Thanks to Alex Layt at Trapeze Books for asking me to take part in the tour and for a copy of the novel.


About the author

Stephanie Marland

Stephanie Marland has worked in the University sector for over ten years and published research on how people interact and learn together in virtual environments online. She’s an alumni of the MA in Creative Writing (Crime Fiction) at City University London, and an avid reader of all things crime fiction, blogging about books at Steph also writes the Lori Anderson action thriller series (as Steph Broadribb) for Orenda Books.

First Monday Crime interview with Leigh Russell #ClassMurder @1stMondayCrime @leighrussell @noexitpress

It’s nearly time for First Monday Crime again but we have to wait an extra week. Due to the Bank Holiday, the panel will be convening on Monday 9th April. And what a panel to celebrate two years of First Monday! Rachel Abbott, John Connolly, Stuart Turton and Leigh Russell will be the honoured guests. Barry Forshaw will be in charge of proceedings and making sure that everyone plays Pass the Cookie fairly. Before then, Leigh has very kindly agreed to answer some questions about her books, in particular her new novel, Class Murder.


I’m currently reading Class Murder. It’s the first Geraldine Steel book that I’ve read but it’s the tenth one in the series. Can you give me a bit more background to Geraldine?

Geraldine Steel starts her career in Cut Short as a Detective Inspector working in Kent. Dedicated to her work, she relocates to London. When Geraldine learns a disturbing truth, she risks her career to protect a member of her family and, as a consequence of her actions, is forced to leave the Met. She is demoted to Sergeant and relocates to York where she rejoins her colleague, Ian Peterson. Formerly her Sergeant, he is now a Detective Inspector. While Geraldine’s story unfolds gradually in the background of her novels, each works as a standalone. I’m conscious when writing that I am addressing two readers: the fans who are following Geraldine’s history through the series, and readers who pick up one of the books at random part way through the series. Both readers want to enjoy my books equally.


What I have realised, is that you’ve moved locations for your series, from London to York. Why did you decide to do that and has that affected how you write the series?

Geraldine’s change in location hasn’t really affected the way I write but it has involved more research trips to York, especially to Betty’s Tea Shop… It also means that there are three easy entry points to the series, which falls into three sections: Kent, London and York.


You have two other series that you write as well – DI Ian Peterson and Lucy Hall. Do you have a favourite character?

Of the three, Geraldine Steel is my most long running, with ten books published so far, while Ian and Lucy feature in trilogies. But I really don’t have a favourite character. My protagonists are all different and each of them interests me for different reasons.


You have also written a standalone novel. How did that compare with writing a series?

Writing a standalone novel was both challenging and liberating. The challenge was to start from scratch, creating every character and setting for the first time. Unlike writing a series, where the main characters and locations have already been established, everything in my standalone was completely new to me. Although this was difficult, compared to my ongoing writing, it also meant that I was free to do what I wanted. But returning to my series is like going back to old friends, and I can’t imagine abandoning Geraldine Steel for a while – which is just as well as I’m committed to writing at least six more books in the series!


You’re very involved with the CWA and especially the Debut Dagger award. What do you love most about the Debut Dagger?

The Crime Writers Association not only celebrates the best in crime writing, it also supports emerging writers with the prestigious Debut Dagger and it’s a privilege to chair this award.  I love that the established community of successful crime writers are so supportive of new and aspiring writers. It is symptomatic of the community as a whole. Crime writers are famously supportive of one another. I’ve been fortunate to receive generous endorsements from many fellow authors including Lee Child, Peter James and Jeffery Deaver, and am pleased to be able to offer support to new authors. There’s a gratifying symmetry to the virtuous circle among crime writers.


First Monday Crime will soon be here. On a scale of 1-10, how excited are you assuming 10 is more exciting than 1?

I would say at least 12. No, make that 15. Since First Monday Crime began I’ve wanted to participate. I was invited once before but was unable to make the date and am over the moon to have been offered a second chance. That said, I probably won’t be saying much as I’ll be too busy listening to John Connolly, Rachel Abbott, and Stuart Turton – not forgetting our esteemed moderator Barry Forshaw. That is awesome company!


Awesome company indeed! Thank you Leigh for answering my questions. If you want to be part of the party on the 9th April then click here to reserve your seat!


I’ve also had the chance to read Class Murder but I’ve taken a different approach with my review.


The Blurb

Geraldine Steel is back. Reunited with her former sergeant Ian Peterson, she discovers that her tendency to bend the rules has consequences. The tables have turned, and now he’s the boss.

When two people are murdered, their only connection lies buried in the past. As police search for the elusive killer, another body is discovered. Pursuing her first investigation in York, Geraldine struggles to solve the confusing case. How can she expose the killer, and rescue her shattered reputation, when all the witnesses are being murdered?

Class Murder

The Review

Although this is book ten in the Geraldine Steel series, it’s the first one I’ve read. Now, I could give you a straightforward review. Or I could do something a little different. As I’m trying to write a police procedural series, it’s useful to analyse a successful writer and find out what makes his/her books work. Since Leigh has sold over a million books, I think we can say she’s pretty successful.

So, one of the first things that struck me about Class Murder is the setting and that’s because the location has changed from the previous books. Geraldine Steel is no longer in London but in York (I’m writing this before getting Leigh’s answers back so I don’t know why she’s chosen to change cities). Changing location does a number of things. Geraldine is quite disorientated. She’s in a new place and everything is different. Her creature comforts of her own home are gone and seeing family becomes increasingly difficult. It takes her a while to work out the best way round the city. The actual scenery out in the country also provides a bleaker setting than a city. The book is set in winter and the Yorkshire weather is much harsher than she’s used to.

It’s not just a different climate that Geraldine needs to adapt to. There’s also a new police station and team and a DCI who’s frostier than the weather. To complicate things further, Geraldine has been demoted from DI to DS for this book. There are hints as to why this has happened but Leigh Russell is clever enough to ensure we don’t get the full picture. Why Geraldine has been demoted has certainly intrigued me and makes me want to go and read the relevant book to find out why. So DS Steel is having to constantly rein herself in and go against her natural instinct of leadership.

It sounds as though DS Geraldine Steel is completely out at sea but Leigh Russell has given her a lifeline in the form of DI Ian Peterson. He was formerly Geraldine’s DS but he’s now her boss. That of course has its own implications but their friendship is the one thing that keeps Geraldine going during her time of adjustment.

So for me, Class Murder hasn’t just been an enjoyable read about how Geraldine Steel hunts down a serial killer with an unusual approach for choosing his victims. It’s also been a masterclass in how to disrupt your protagonist’s life and seeing whether he/she sinks or swims. Thankfully, DS Geraldine Steel is a strong swimmer.


You can buy Class Murder here or you can buy it on the night, courtesy of the Big Green Bookshop and then get it signed by Leigh. I’d like to thank No Exit Press for sending me a copy to read.


The Author

Leigh Russell

Leigh Russell is the author of the internationally bestselling Geraldine Steel series: Cut Short, Road Closed, Dead End, Death Bed, Stop Dead, Fatal Act, Killer Plan, Murder Ring, Deadly Alibi and Class Murder. The series has sold over a million copies worldwide. Cut Short was nominated for the Crime Writers Association (CWA) John Creasey New Blood Dagger Award, and Leigh has been longlisted for the CWA Dagger in the Library Award. Her books have been #1 on Amazon Kindle and iTunes with Stop Dead and Murder Ring selected as finalists for The People’s Book Prize.

Leigh is chair of the CWA’s Debut Dagger Award judging panel and is a Royal Literary Fellow. Leigh studied at the University of Kent, gaining a Masters degree in English and American Literature. She is married with two daughters and a granddaughter, and lives in London.