First Monday Crime – November with @1stMondayCrime @WilliamRyan_ @lizzienugent @FionaAnnCummins D.B. John @JakeKerridge

It was a cracker of a night at First Monday Crime, complete with accompanying fireworks. Our sparkling authors were W.C. (William) Ryan, Fiona Cummins, Liz Nugent and D.B. John. Jake Kerridge was in charge.

First up are the all-important books.

Star of the North

D.B. John’s second book is Star of the North, set in North Korea. David actually lived in Seoul in South Korea for several months and visited North Korea for a couple of weeks. He was fascinated by the reaction of North Koreans when Kim Jong-Il died in 2011. There wasn’t a dry eye because they all knew they would be punished if they didn’t show public grief. He saw first-hand the huge personality cult of the Kim dynasty, as well as the lights that only shine bright in the capital of Pyongyang and the malnutrition in the villages that still exists after the famine in the 90s. He’s tried to base his novel on true events. In his story a young American woman is kidnapped from a South Korean beach. Her twin sister is recruited by the CIA to find her. In the past, North Korea did abduct random people from beaches. Notes are included with the novel because some of the facts seem so far-fetched.

A House of Ghosts

A House of Ghosts is the new novel from W.C. Ryan. Set in 1917 on an isolated island in December, Blackwater Abbey is a very haunted house. We see them through the eyes of Kate Cartwright who sees ghosts everywhere, so much so that she’s actually a bit bored by them. She particularly sees the drowned sailors in fishing ports. There are lots of different styles that have influenced William – Agatha Christie, John Buchan and Georgette Heyer for a tongue-in-cheek romance. The book also explores WW1 and the interest in spiritualism at this time. With so many soldiers missing in action, families often turned to spiritualism to find out information about their loved ones.

Skin Deep

Ireland, London and Monaco are the destinations for Skin Deep by Liz Nugent. The book begins with the protagonist, Cordelia, on the Riveria. Liz likes to put her characters in extreme situations and then see how they deal with it. For Cordelia, there’s a gruesome discovery in her apartment. The book goes back to her childhood on a small island off the coast of Ireland. It wasn’t until after she’d finished writing the book that Liz realised that this little island was very much like Cordelia – beautiful, wild and dangerous.  Another influence was the song ‘Lady of a Certain Age’ by The Divine Comedy – a lady whose beauty and luxurious lifestyle were rapidly fading.

The Collector final cover

The Collector is the sequel to Fiona Cummins’ Rattle. Originally there wasn’t going to be a follow-up as Fiona doesn’t always like neat endings. She only decided to write The Collector after talking to the editor at Pan Macmillan when Rattle was out on submission. The editor was very keen to know how the story ultimately ended. Fiona wanted to create a troubled, young man who would be an heir for the Bone Collector aka Mr Silver. He had no children of his own and his crimes had been handed down to him through his father, grandfather and great grandfather. Fiona is particularly interested in why people commit crime and how upbringing can affect this. So there’s sections in the novel looking back to Mr Silver’s childhood and how it shaped him. As Jake pointed out, by writing about children, Fiona was really wringing our hearts. As a former journalist, Fiona has covered many tragedies and the most important part was to tap into emotion – to find the personal details – that would hit home. Fiona gave the example of the Westminster Bridge attack. You might hear that five people have been killed and feel quite sad. But once you know their names and their reasons for being in London that day e.g. a holiday of a lifetime or a mother on the school run, there’s an emotional connection. And it’s this kind of connection that Fiona wanted to create in Rattle and The Collector. [And having read both, I can confirm that she’s absolutely achieved this.]

FM Nov 18

So with all these incredibly dark stories, Jake asked if you have to have a dark side to be a crime writer?

For D.B. John, he’s obsessed with tyrannies and what happens to society in a totalitarian state with a strong personality cult. His first novel, Flight From Berlin, was set in 1930s Nazi Germany and his next one will be in Putin’s Russia. He wonders if his fascination stems from being bullied at school.

William Ryan thinks the most important thing is to work out the motive for the killer and that then makes it interesting. He’s also written about Nazism and Stalinism and how tyrannies start.

Liz Nugent doesn’t have a dark side and gets all her angst out on the page and then moves on. She leaves her characters in the laptop and doesn’t get nightmares from her stories.

Fiona Cummins isn’t tormented by her characters. It’s more life experiences that affect her and her writing – being scared of the monster under the bed as a child, being stalked at age 15 and family illness – all those fears fed into the book and it was cathartic to write it all down. She might scare herself with writing late at night, home alone or with researching real life stuff. But she’s a sunny person really – she likes to bake and has a puppy!

 

A member of the audience asked about the problems of research. Both William and David said that researching guns (even historic ones) were a problem because there was always someone who would point out a mistake. For Liz, there was a particular condition she wanted to use in a story but all the experts said it wasn’t possible until she find one who said it was unlikely but possible. That was good enough for her. Fiona’s latest manuscript was read by a pathologist who told her that her method of murder was completely impossible which meant having to find a new one!

 

All that was left to do was to buy some books from Big Green Bookshop (thankfully we live in a society that reads books rather than burning them on a bonfire) and head to the pub. For those of you who couldn’t make it you can buy the books at your local bookshop or online.

D.B. John – click here

W.C. Ryan – click here

Liz Nugent – click here

Fiona Cummins – click here

First Monday Crime will be back on Monday December 3rd with a spectacular panel and some Christmas entertainment! And as it’s Christmas, I’ll make lots of cookies to bring! So don’t forget to reserve your free seat at First Monday Crime

 

 

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Blog tour – #TheLingering by @SJIHolliday @OrendaBooks @annecater

Lingering blog poster 2018 (1) (1)

I’m thrilled to be on the blog tour for The Lingering by SJI Holliday today. Thank you to Karen Sullivan and Anne Cater for asking me to take part. My blog buddy today is Nicola over at shortbookandscribe.uk

The Blurb

Married couple Jack and Ali Gardiner move to a self-sufficient commune in the English Fens, desperate for a fresh start. The local village is known for the witches who once resided there and Rosalind House, where the commune has been established, is a former psychiatric home,with a disturbing history.
When Jack and Ali arrive, a chain of unexpected and unexplained events is set off, and it becomes clear that they are not all that they seem. As the residents become twitchy, and the villagers suspicious, events from the past come back to haunt them, and someone is seeking retribution…

The Lingering - ebook cover

My Review

I had the great privilege of interviewing Susi at my local library recently, along with William Ryan. It was great to hear about some of the influences behind The Lingering, particularly Susi’s own experience of staying on a commune. I’m sure she’ll be saying more about that in some of the guest posts on the tour. But what about the book?

Well, I loved the opening with that incredible sense of smell – ‘There’s an unfamiliar smell in the air today. Something like wet pine cones and mulched earth. A hint of old sweat, something sweet, like a lily, and the sticky ripeness that comes from unwashed bodies.’ From those first three sentences, I knew I was in for a treat.

We know from the outset that something is a bit off with Jack and Ali but of course, our natural inclination is to think that there’s something wrong with the community. Especially with all the list of rules – no internet, no contact with the local village, no regular contact with family and friends on the outside – all advised rather than completely forbidden, giving the idea that you still have control. And how many times can you eat mouli?!

The setting – Rosalind House – exudes creepiness from the beginning – ‘we don’t go into the North Wing’. It has a long history of wrongdoings from persecuting women as witches to sadistic treatments for patients with mental health issues. There’s the idea of once you go into Rosalind House, you’re there for life. Only a few leave.

There are some fantastic characters as well. To begin with I wondered why Angela was written in the first person but that becomes clear later in the book. I definitely preferred being in her head than anyone else’s! The people in the community appear to be lost and looking for meaning in their lives. Jack and Ali want a fresh start but they seem to be escaping rather than searching for meaning. In the first part of the book, Smeaton Dunsmore is the archetypal commune leader – softly spoken, very controlled (and controlling), and the font of all wisdom and knowledge. All with subtle sinister undertones. In the second part though when Smeaton becomes one of the narrators, we see him more as an ordinary man – insecure and his ideal of always trying to see the good in people blinds him to evil. His lack of discernment has catastrophic consequences.

I also liked the diary entries from the 1950s which slowly reveal the true nature of what happened in Rosalind House at that time.

But the real stars of the show are the ghosts – just the right balance of creepiness! From the obvious things of lights flickering or a coldness coming over you, to the wet footprints or being held down in the bath. Nothing was over the top and the feeling of discomfort is there from the very beginning.

This is a standalone but, although things are tied together at the end, there are still questions that need answering. This is a perfect read for autumn/winter. Just as the trees are stripped of their leaves, The Lingering lays bare the secrets and lies of Rosalind House and its inhabitants, both past and present. A deliciously chilling and creepy read.

 

The Lingering is available as an e-book now and the paperback is published on 15th November. To buy/pre order, click here.

 

The Author

susi-holliday-38-9512s-darker-square

S.J.I. (Susi) Holliday is a pharmaceutical statistician by day and a crime and horror fan by night. Her short stories have been published in many places and she was shortlisted for the inaugural CWA Margery Allingham prize with her story ‘Home from Home’, which was published in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine in spring 2017. She is the bestselling author of the creepy and claustrophobic Banktoun trilogy (Black Wood, Willow Walk and The Damselfly) featuring the much-loved Sergeant Davie Gray, and has dabbled in festive crime with the critically acclaimed The Deaths of December. Her latest psychological thriller is modern gothic with more than a hint of the supernatural, which she loved writing due to her fascination and fear of ghosts. She is proud to be one of The Slice Girls has been described by David Mark as ‘Dark as a smoker’s lung.’ She divides her time between Edinburgh and London and you will find her at crime-fiction events in the UK and abroad.

A Spooky Evening at West Barnes Library with @WilliamRyan_ and @SJIHolliday @OrendaBooks @BonnierZaffre

 

WB Library spooky night 18

Well, this is a slightly unusual event write-up for me. I’m so used to being in the audience scribbling away in my little notebook. But this time was different. I had the great privilege of interviewing William Ryan and Susi Holliday about their latest books – A House of Ghosts and The Lingering. West Barnes Library is quite small but we had 30 people in the audience which is fantastic for a first event. I say first, because I’m hoping to do more in conjunction with the Friends of West Barnes Library. The volunteers are great and I simply couldn’t have done this without their help. A special thank you to Sarah and Theresa.

 

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I’d love to be able to tell you everything that was said but a few highlights were William and Susi each talking about haunted houses they’ve lived in. Neither of them saw the ghosts but others had. In particular, a builder who’d been working at Susi’s house asked where her daughter was. ‘But I don’t have a daughter,’ was Susi’s reply. ‘Yes, you do. The little girl who was colouring under the table.’ Eek! Susi and her husband moved soon after. As a child, William was the only person in his house who hadn’t seen the ghost but the rest of his family had.

 

The Lingering is set in a commune and Susi lived in one for a week to experience what it’s truly like. A House of Ghosts is set in 1917 and William has managed to capture the language by reading lots of books from that period, including Georgette Heyer which influenced the romantic thread in his novel.

 

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If you’ve read my write-ups of events before you’ll know that I’m pretty rubbish at taking photos. So I left this task to my daughter who is much better than me! We deliberately dimmed the main lights and used fairy lights to create an intimate and spooky feel for the event. So she’s done her best with low light levels and my phone!

Events coming up – organised by the Friends of West Barnes Library, an afternoon with local author Pippa Beecheno on Saturday 10th November at 2.30pm. £1 entry.

I’m back at the library on Monday 28th January at 7.30pm with Rod Reynolds and Amer Anwar talking about US Noir vs UK Noir. More details in the New Year.

 

Finally, I want to say thank you to everyone who came, the volunteers, and in particular, William and Susi who made my first experience of interviewing so easy.

Blog Blitz – The Righteous Spy by Merle Nygate @MerleNygate @Verve_Books

Updated Blog Tour Poster The Righteous Spy

I’m thrilled to take part in the blog blitz for The Righteous Spy by Merle Nygate. Not only is it a great book, it’s also the first book to be published by Verve Books, a new digital imprint from No Exit Press.  Check out my fellow bloggers for today – Maired at swirlandthread  and Jen at jenmedsbookreviews . I have an extract for you but first the blurb.

 

The Blurb

Innocent lives are at risk. But who is the real enemy…?

Eli Amiram is Mossad’s star spy runner and the man responsible for bringing unparalleled intelligence to the Israeli agency. Now he’s leading an audacious operation in the UK that feeds his ambition but threatens his conscience.

The British and the Americans have intel Mossad desperately need. To force MI6 and CIA into sharing their priceless information, Eli and his maverick colleague Rafi undertake a risky mission to trick their allies: faking a terrorist plot on British soil.

But in the world of espionage, the game is treacherous, opaque and deadly…

The Righteous Spy final cover

The Extract

Tel Aviv, Israel – The Same Day

Seventy kilometres away – as the drone flies – Eli Amiram made his way to the bus stop for his morning commute. Even though he’d strolled only a short distance, from apartment to bus stop, by the time Eli arrived at the shelter he was sweating. His shirt grazed his damp neck and he could smell shower soap, deodorant and his own perspiration. The middle of May and at 7am, the temperature was already hitting 28 degrees. But the heat in isolation was nothing. Humidity was the killer; the wet, dense air that trapped him in its steaming strait-jacket. Eli leaned against the side of the metal bus shelter and narrowed his eyes. He tried to imagine grey London streets underfoot, grey clouds above and what it might feel like to inhale, if only for a second, cool air that hadn’t been artificially refrigerated. It was too bad Gal had driven north to see her mother. Otherwise, he’d have been in the car looking out, not on the street, sweating like an animal.

Half a metre away a woman was shrieking into her cell phone. Eli closed his eyes. He stroked the top of his shaved head and felt the new growth on his skull. He supposed it could have been worse; at least the Khamsim was over. As far as Eli was concerned, a hard blue sky and 90 per cent humidity was a distinct improvement.

After a few more seconds of being bombarded by the woman’s conversation Eli opened his eyes to assess the source of the voice. What he saw was a fleshy face with faded blonde hair brushed back into a bun. He knew the type. The pitch of the woman’s voice was bad enough, but her heavily accented Hebrew set Eli’s teeth on edge. It was like listening to Stockhausen’s Helicopter String Quartet.

The bus screeched to a halt and Eli peeled his back away from the bus shelter and let the grandmother lumber ahead of him. Hauling herself aboard she found a seat halfway down the aisle. Eli made his way to an empty seat at the back of the bus; it was well away from the grandmother but next to a dati. Sliding down, Eli glanced over at the grey side burns, wispy beard and pallid skin. The bus jolted forward and Eli’s head jerked back against the headrest. He felt a finger nudging his ribs. Turning, Eli caught a blast of a gastric disorder from the man’s mouth.

‘You speak English?’ the old man said with an American accent. ‘Or Yiddish?’ His tone was peremptory and he didn’t wait for an answer. ‘Is this Rosh Pinna Street? Is this the corner of Rosh Pinna and Ariel?’

‘Next stop,’ Eli said.

‘You’ll tell me when we get there?’

‘Of course, it’ll be a pleasure.’ Aware that he’d used the right idiom Eli was still irritated with himself because he always struggled with the precision and physical placement of an English accent. The focus wasn’t around the lips and vestibule of the mouth like French, neither was it located near the hard palate and throat like Arabic. It sat somewhere around the middle, just before the soft palate and it bugged him that he hadn’t got it. Even after years of study.

Five minutes later, when Eli was still trying to select an appropriate expression to practise on the American, they were at Rosh Pinna Street. Eli stood to let the man out.

‘Take your time, sir,’ Eli said. ‘There’s no rush, no rush at all.’ Shit. He’d done it again. Rolled the ‘r’. As he sat down, Eli grimaced trying to achieve the oral position for a non-rolling ‘r’.

That was when he noticed a new passenger, a woman, step into the body of the bus. Eli stared. In dark blue jeans and flowing green top, skeletal shoulders sat atop a lumpy waist and an ugly hat shaded her face. But it wasn’t the absence of any aesthetic that made the base of Eli’s neck prick as if an elastic band had flicked against his flesh; it was her expression – she was terrified.

Eli glanced across the aisle at a soldier to see if his combat receptors had kicked in but the kid was more interested in the horse-faced girl by his side. No back-up there.

Up ahead, the woman was hauling a black and white shopping trolley down the aisle. Judging by her strained expression the load was heavy. Eli stood up to get a better look at her. Was she ill?

Beneath heavy make-up the woman was pouring sweat. She was drenched. A slick of moisture dewed her upper lip and the armpits of the blouse were almost black. Okay, it was hot outside and okay, she’d dragged a loaded shopping trolley to the bus stop, but there was something wrong with her. Between thick eyebrows there was a deep frown crease and her eyes flicked around the bus, not settling, not making contact.

Eli reached into his pocket for his cell phone. He glanced down and fingered the button to call the emergency services. Was he overreacting? Up ahead he saw the woman’s lips were moving and her hand was clenched around the handle of the shopper. She’d found a seat. Right in the middle of the bus. Right where a device would cause the maximum damage. She sat down and Eli got a good view of her back and the narrow profile of her shoulders atop the billowing green top. Her waist was out of proportion to the rest of her body and she was holding on to that damn shopper as if her future depended on it.

‘Slicha, excuse me,’ Eli slid out from his seat and shoved aside a kid standing in the aisle reading his phone.

Ahead, the woman was still clutching the shopper and positioning it with both hands. Not one. Struggling to keep it upright. Eli was two metres away from her and closing in when a man, an office worker in a white shirt, stepped into the aisle and blocked Eli’s way. In one hand he had a paper cup of coffee and he was reaching to take a linen jacket off the seat hook with the other. Using the flat of his hand against the man’s chest, Eli pushed him back into his seat. The coffee went flying as the office worker lost his balance and fell on top of another man reading a newspaper.

‘What the fuck!’

Eli didn’t look back.

The bus grunted to a halt and the brakes squealed. The doors hissed open. Eli reached the woman and wrenched the shopper from her grip. He glimpsed the fear in her eyes. Behind him people stood about to get off. Eli blocked them. He ripped open the Velcro cover of the shopper and dove inside. He pulled out a nightdress and a toilet bag and tossed them across the floor of the bus where they skittered under the seats.

‘What’s going on? What’s happening, why can’t we get off?’ Sharp and anxious voices. Voices close to panic. Meanwhile, Eli plunged his hand deeper into the shopper again and again but found only softness; no wire, no block, no bomb. In his peripheral vision Eli saw the soldier boy holding back the passengers.

‘What’s happening? Is there something wrong?’ Eli heard from the crowd of commuters.

‘Bitachon, security,’ Eli said. ‘Everything’s under control.’

Now on his feet Eli dragged off the woman’s hat. Tear tracks striated the make-up on her face.

‘Are you out of your mind? What do you think you’re doing?’

That voice, that awful accent, it was the grandmother sitting right next to the girl Eli had just assaulted.

‘I had reason to believe –’ Eli tried to make his voice sound authoritative hoping that a firm tone would camouflage his cock-up.

Her face was red and one of her dockworker’s arms was around the girl’s skinny shoulders.

‘Didn’t the good Lord give you eyes in your stupid big head? The girl’s sick, she’s going to the hospital and she’s frightened to death.’

‘Lady, we all have to be vigilant and aware of security at all times. D’you understand? Okay, I made a mistake, I apologise, but I was acting in the best interest of everybody.’

There were rumblings from the other passengers. They were divided. Eli saw the man with a coffee stain across his white shirt; he nodded at Eli. He got it. He understood. But the grandmother didn’t.

‘What kind of idiot are you?’

He hissed, ‘The kind of idiot who is trying to protect you from being blown to pieces. Do you have a problem with that?’

‘Maspeek, enough, please,’ whispered the girl through tears. ‘It’s okay, I’m okay.’

‘Lady, I’m sorry, I made a bad mistake,’ Eli grabbed a handful of clothes from the floor and dumped them on the girl’s lap. Then, since the soldier boy was still holding back the rest of the passengers, Eli scrambled down the steps on to the street.

He walked the rest of the way to the Office.

 

Wow! That’s from chapter two and it’s already tense! You can buy this as an e-book from Amazon by clicking here

Or from Kobo by clicking here

 

The Author

Merle Nygate

Merle Nygate is a screenwriter, script editor, screenwriting lecturer and novelist; she’s worked on BAFTA winning TV, New York Festival audio drama and written original sitcoms; previously she worked for BBC Comedy Commissioning as well as writing and script editing across multiple genres. Most recently, Merle completed her first espionage novel which won the Little Brown/UEA Crime Fiction Award. It was described by the judge as ‘outstanding’.

 

 

 

 

 

 

First Monday Crime – November! Q&A with Fiona Cummins @FionaAnnCummins @1stMondayCrime

Remember, remember the 5th of November – it’s First Monday Crime night! And to be honest, you’re not going to forget it with the line-up First Monday has provided. William Ryan, Liz Nugent, DB John and Fiona Cummins will all be grilled by Jake Kerridge. To give you a little idea of what to expect, I’ve asked Fiona Cummins a few questions. Fiona burst onto the Crime genre scene last year with Rattle – a scarily good and creepy story about a man with a rather unusual hobby. She turned up the creepiness this year with her sequel – The Collector. Next year, her third book, The Neighbour, will be published. I’ve been fortunate enough to read it. I’ve not written my review yet because I don’t have the words other than – Wow, just wow! It’s an exceptional book. But let’s allow Fiona to tell us a little more about all her books.

 

Q&A with Fiona Cummins

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You have a new book coming out next year, The Neighbour. What can you tell us about that?

It’s a story about a troubled family, The Lockwoods, who move into a new home on The Avenue. But with a spate of local murders and suspiciously friendly neighbours, they soon discover this is a street filled with very dark secrets indeed.

The Neighbour 2

How the hell did you write this book?!!! With so many characters, how did you keep track of their different arcs within the whole story?

Although there are several characters in this book – I always knew it would be a challenge – it was very important to me to make sure their voices are as disparate as possible in order not to confuse the reader. I knew from an early stage who would be responsible for the murders so that made the writing process a bit easier. This is a book filled with red herrings and clues, and I had to be extremely careful not to give too much away while at the same time creating suspicion, which was tricky at times. The seeds of each story are scattered throughout the book and as it reaches its climax, the separate threads begin to weave together (I hope!).

 

Your first two books, Rattle and The Collector told the very creepy story of The Bone Collector aka Mr Silver. Where did you get the idea for him?

I had this vision of an older man in a pin-striped suit and shiny black shoes for a long time. Tall, thin, lived-in face. Full of threat and dark compulsions, but who also loved his wife very deeply. It’s only now that I realise this shadowy figure, hovering on the periphery of life, was inspired by my experience of being stalked as a teenager by a married – and faceless – merchant banker who worked in London.

 

 

One of the things I love about your books is your ability to set the scene using weather and nature. Is this something you consciously do?

I think that both these elements can almost become characters in their own right. I do think about setting and how can I use it to emphasise themes and emotions within my writing. I’m interested in the natural world too, but the use of this is rather more unconscious, although it does seem to recur. Particularly dead birds and animals. I’m not sure what this says about me.

 

You always have great names for your characters. How do you choose them?

I love choosing unusual names for my characters. I have done this since I began writing because I’m constantly striving to find a way to make them memorable. I collect names. If I hear an unusual one, I squirrel it away until I can find a character I think it will suit. I find them all over the place, from overheard conversations to the credits at the end of films.

 

You previously worked as a journalist. Has this helped with your fiction writing?

In numerous and immeasurable ways. It helps with the discipline of deadlines, the process of being edited, writing tight and punchy dialogue. But it’s not just about the nuts and bolts of being a journalist. It’s about empathy too. Most books that resonate with me do so because of the emotion at the heart of the story. I’ve covered many high profile murder investigations, and once you’ve sat down with the families of victims, pressed up against their grief, the desire to be as authentic and respectful as possible also becomes extremely important.

 

You’ve done a Faber course. What was the most important thing you learnt there?

Finish what you start. Don’t be seduced by shiny new ideas. Draft, redraft and redraft again.

 

 

Is there any further news on the TV series of Rattle?

There is – but my lips are sealed for now!

 

On a scale of 1-10, how excited are you to be doing First Monday Crime?

I’m so excited, it’s OFF the scale.

 

Thank you so much for answering my questions, Fiona. Monday 5th November is going to be great so don’t miss out on your chance to be there. Make sure you book your seat by clicking here. And you can find out more about Fiona Cummins and her books here.

 

Written In Blood – Advance Screening with @simontoyne @CBS_Reality #WrittenInBlood

Written in Blood 6

Last night I had the chance to see an advanced screening of the first episode of the new series of Written In Blood. I had won tickets through a Twitter competition and took along my partner in crime – Vicki Goldman. Thank you CBS Reality for a lovely evening.

I have to admit I did get a bit obsessive over the first series. Simon Toyne (in his trademark coat) is the presenter and along with various authors such as Mark Billingham, Marnie Riches and Howard Linskey and experts from the cases, they looked at true crime stories that had influenced the writers.

The second series is a bit different. This time Simon is pretty much in the dark with the crimes. He takes on more of an investigative role, guided by the author. I liked this approach much more. One of the reasons I watch is to see the author and this way he or she is in almost the whole of the episode. It also creates a more personal programme as we, the audience, go on this journey with them.

The first episode, which airs next Tuesday 16th October at 10pm on CBS Reality, is about a crime set in Northern Ireland. The author is Clare Mackintosh. It’s a case I’d heard about about but couldn’t remember all the details. As a former police officer, Clare presents the evidence really well and as an author, she knows how to leave us on a cliffhanger! I’m not going to give you any more details as I don’t want to spoil it for you. But what I will say is the phrase, ‘Life is stranger than fiction’, is absolutely apt with this true crime.

Written in Blood 3

There are six episodes in the series and as they were filmed in the summer, Simon’s trademark coat has gone. The authors from the UK are Clare Mackintosh, Mason Cross, Sophie Hannah and Peter Robinson, and then from the US – Tess Gerritsen and Karin Slaughter.

Written in Blood 2

After the screening, Simon Toyne was joined by Sam Rowden, Director of Programming at CBS Reality and Executive Producer on Written In Blood. They did a Q&A with the audience and one my questions was about seeking permission from the families of the victims to make a programme. Sam Rowden explained that they are regulated by Ofcom so there are very specific guidelines that have to be followed, including gaining permission, allowing the families to see the programmes before airing if they wish to and notifying them of the exact times of transmission. I was reassured that such sensitivity was being shown. And certainly, the first season of Written In Blood, never came across to me as entertainment. The crimes were not sensationalised and the victims’ stories were paramount.

So, as said earlier, the first episode of the new series will air on Tuesday 16th October at 10pm. Now to save you having to scroll through your guides on your TVs, you can find CBS Reality on Sky 146, Freeview 66, Virgin Media 148 and Freesat 135. Or do as I do and set up a series link recording!

Written in Blood 5

Review – A House of Ghosts by William Ryan @WilliamRyan_ @BonnierZaffre

A massive happy publication day to William (W.C.) Ryan for his new book, A House of Ghosts. I’ve been eagerly awaiting William’s new book after reading the glorious The Constant Soldier. That novel made it into my top reads of 2016. How will the new book fare?

 

The Blurb

Winter 1917. As the First World War enters its most brutal phase, back home in England, everyone is seeking answers to the darkness that has seeped into their lives.

At Blackwater Abbey, on an island off the Devon Coast, Lord Highmount has arranged a spiritualist gathering to contact his two sons who were lost in the conflict. But as his guests begin to arrive, it gradually becomes clear that each has something they would rather keep hidden. Then, when a storm descends on the island, the guests will find themselves trapped. Soon one of their number will die.

For Blackwater Abbey is haunted in more ways than one…

A House of Ghosts

My Review

There is so much to love about this novel!

Let’s start with the cover. The saying may be ‘Never judge a book by its cover’ but in this case you can. I think this is possibly the most beautiful cover I have ever seen. Top marks to Bonnier Zaffre for this. There’s a real sense of Golden Age and that’s not just because it’s gold on black. The drawing is exquisite and you can actually feel the ridges as you run your fingers over it. This attention to detail continues inside with a map of the island. There’s also pictures for each narrator at the beginning of their chapters – a mirror for Kate Cartwright, a lamp for Donovan and a chandelier for Lord and Lady Highmount.

But does the story match up to the cover? Absolutely. This is a mixture of thriller, whodunit and ghost story. In fact, the ghosts are part and parcel of the house – it’s more their home than anyone else’s – and we see them through Kate’s eyes. She has great respect for them so they don’t appear too scary. Although there may be one or two who are a bit more menacing.

The setting of an island cut off from the mainland because of a snow storm helps to create a claustrophobic atmosphere. There’s a killer loose on the island and with the telephone wire cut, no one is coming to rescue the guests.

A haunted house on an isolated island needs a great collection of characters and William Ryan hasn’t failed in this department. There’s a great selection from Lords and Ladies as well as the servants. The main narrators are Kate Cartwright and Donovan. Kate knows the house well as she’s been there before and is familiar with the ghostly residents. Donovan is almost a shadowy figure as he’s a spook in another sense. Together, they have to find the killer.

The book is set in 1917 and as well as being a thriller/whodunit/ghost story, it also looks at the terrible effects of WW1. There are soldiers who tell their stories of the trenches and the tunnels, as well as the families who are suffering tremendous loss. And it’s this tragedy that weaves the story together with a gold thread, adding another level and creating depth.

All in all, this is exactly the kind of book you want to read as the weather turns cooler and the nights draw longer. So clear some time. Get a cuppa, some biscuits and a blanket. Snuggle down and read. You won’t regret it.

And will A House of Ghosts make it into my top reads of 2018? Well, December isn’t that far away now is it… let’s just say it stands a very good chance of making it!

Click here to find out more about William Ryan and buy his books, including A House of Ghosts.

And if you want to hear William Ryan talk about A House of Ghosts, along with SJI Holiday talking about her new book, The Lingering, then there’s a perfect opportunity to come and hear them at my local library, West Barnes Library on Monday 29th October, 7.30-8.30 pm. Just to clarify, it’s not near Barnes! It’s in Motspur Park on the opposite side of the A3 from New Malden. Tickets are £1 and can be bought either by popping into the library, ringing them on 020 8274 5789 (closed on Wednesdays and Sundays) or by telling me and I’ll add you to the list. Seats are limited so please book ASAP.

 

The Author

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W.C. (William) Ryan is the author of The Constant Soldier and the Korolev series of historical crime novels set in Russia. His books have been shortlisted for numerous awards including the Theakstons Crime Novel of the Year Award, the CWA Historical Dagger and the Ireland AM Irish Crime Novel of the Year Award, and have been translated into over a dozen languages.