Night Market Blog Tour

night market blog tour poster

I’m honoured to be hosting for the Night Market blog tour. I have written a review, which is below, but also thought it would be fun to hear from the author himself, Daniel Pembrey. Rather than telling us about his writing, I suggested to Daniel that maybe he could tell us a bit more about Amsterdam, in particular, shopping! So if you’re likely to visit Amsterdam, here are a few places that Daniel thinks you should check out.

 

Seven shops in Amsterdam – all very central!

 

  1. Bloemenstal ‘t Lievertje

Who can resist beautiful, fresh bouquets of flowers? And you’re pretty much at the source here. (A large share of the cut flowers sold in Britain comes from Holland.) Spui 7, 1012 WX Amsterdam +31 20 627 9062

 Amsterdam1

  1. ABC

The American Book Center claims to be the largest independent source of English language books in mainland Europe; certainly it has an English crime fiction section second-to-none on the Continent, in which you might just find a certain Amsterdam detective series … Spui 12, 1012 XA Amsterdam: +31 20 625 5537

Amsterdam2

  1. Droog

No one does design quite like the Dutch, and the home products here have been specially designed to enhance daily life. There are limited edition pieces, each with a story to tell, as well as fashion, books, music and more. Staalstraat 7B, 1011 JJ Amsterdam 31 20 217 0100

Amsterdam3

  1. The Maritime Museum shop

Here you’ll find an array of maritime-themed gifts. You don’t need a museum ticket to get in, though you may want to check out the museum itself; its glass ceiling rivals the British Museum’s. Kattenburgerplein 1, 1018 KK Amsterdam 31 20 523 2222

Amsterdam4

  1. C&A

Yes, you can still find C&A here in Amsterdam – in fact you can find several. The flagship is at Damrak 70, 1012 LM Amsterdam. It recently reopened after extensive refurbishment, and is evidently quite the crowd pleaser …

Amsterdam5

  1. De Bijenkorf

‘The Beehive’ dates back to the nineteenth century, but is now owned by the company behind Selfridges. Still an Amsterdam institution, in Dam Square, it offers a distinctly Dutch experience. Go see … Dam 1, 1012 JS Amsterdam 31 800 0818

Amsterdam6

7. In de Olofspoort

Now this is as much a bar as a shop, but you can buy bottles of gin here, and if you’ve made it this far, you deserve a drink. Nieuwebrugsteeg 13, 1012 AG Amsterdam, 31 20 624 3918

Amsterdam7

 

Thank you, Daniel, especially for checking if C&A still exists. Takes me back to my ‘yoof’.

 

But what about the book, I hear you cry? Well, ok then…

Night Market

Night Market

The blurb

When Henk van der Pol is asked by the Justice Minister to infiltrate a team investigating an online child exploitation network, he can hardly say no – he’s at the mercy of prominent government figures in The Hague. But he soon realises the case is far more complex than he was led to believe… Picking up from where The Harbour Master ended, this new investigation sees Detective Van der Pol once again put his life on the line as he wades the murky waters between right and wrong in his search for justice.

Sometimes, to catch the bad guys, you have to think like one. . .

 

 

My review

At the end of The Harbour Master, Henk van der Pol was in limbo. Going back to his old police job didn’t look likely but there was an offer of a new undefined role. In Night Market, we find out that role.

Night Market is a very intriguing title. I assumed that maybe there was an actual night market in Amsterdam. Maybe there is but this title refers to a much more sinister and selective market found on the Dark Web – child exploitation. Although Henk has covered many different crimes in his career, he had avoided child abuse. But this time, he isn’t joining a team to investigate the suspects but to investigate the investigators. And in order to do so, he has to move to Driebergen. Pembrey’s description of the small town surrounded by forest, is less fairy tale and more claustrophobic. Finding himself shut out of the new team by suspicious officers, Henk does what he always does best and goes rogue. Switching between Norway, the Netherlands and London, van der Pol discovers a tangled web of lies. And in amongst it all, there’s something niggling Henk, something that he can’t quite remember.

There is a general sense of unease and underlying tension for Henk in the first part of the book. Not only is he stuck in a place he dislikes, spying on fellow officers, his marriage is also suffering. Without Petra at his side, Henk flounders and takes more risks than normal. When he returns to Amsterdam, it feels as though we are all back on solid ground. Of course, it doesn’t stay that way for long with new lines of enquiry to follow and ghosts turning up unexpectedly. Add to that, van der Pol gives up smoking and we have one very jittery police officer.

As each part of the book was originally a novella, there’s plenty of plot and the pace is fast throughout. The atmosphere is aided and abetted by Pembrey’s rich descriptions (I loved ‘jelly-pink’ sky). As much as I love Henk van der Pol as a character, Petra is the real unsung hero for me. Maybe she could have a little spin-off?

Although Henk finds some of the answers he was looking for, the story is by no means complete by the end. Van der Pol will return. But will it be Henk or Petra?

Night Market is already available as an e-book and it comes out in paperback tomorrow. Please click here to buy/pre-order.

Daniel Pembrey author photo_new

 

About the author

Daniel Pembrey grew up in Nottinghamshire beside Sherwood Forest. He studied history at Edinburgh University and received an MBA from INSEAD business school in France. Daniel then spent over a decade working in America and more recently Luxembourg, coming to rest in Amsterdam and London — dividing his time now between these two great maritime cities.
He is the author of the Henk van der Pol detective series and several short thriller stories, and he contributes articles to publications including The Financial Times, The Times and The Field. In order to write The Harbour Master, he spent several months living in the docklands area of East Amsterdam, counting De Druif bar as his local.

 

 

 

Review – Tall Oaks by Chris Whitaker

Tall Oaks

Blurb

When three-year-old Harry goes missing, the whole of America turns its attention to one small town.

Everyone is eager to help. Everyone is a suspect.

Desperate mother Jess, whose grief is driving her to extreme measures.

Teenage Manny, whose absent father has left him with strange ideas of how to make his mark.

Photographer Jerry, who’s determined to break away from his controlling mother once and for all.

And investigating them all, a police chief with a hidden obsession of his own…

 

My review

I think Michael Grothaus would be glad that I didn’t read Tall Oaks last year when it was published. Chris Whitaker’s debut would definitely have given Epiphany Jones a run for its money. Tall Oaks didn’t make me cry though so Epiphany Jones still would have been my number 1. But Tall Oaks made me laugh like no other crime book.

Crime is obviously not funny. And the abduction of a 3 year old is every family’s worst nightmare. Add to that an abductor who wears a clown mask and you’re toppling into horror. Yet, Chris Whitaker manages to write a bitter sweet novel, with a cast worthy of Charles Dickens.

The main plot line is weaved in and out of the colourful characters, their lives interlinking in the American small town of Tall Oaks. There are many suspects and many secrets to discover before we find out the truth. Harry Monroe, the missing 3 year old, is always there at the back of our minds, but it’s the characters whose lives continue that capture our imagination. Jerry, a gentle giant with a voice that never broke, who works in a photo shop. Jared, the car salesman who never stays too long in one place. Elena, a single mum who works with French John – a cake maker of extraordinary skill. Elena has two children – Thalia (aged 3 and friend of Harry) and Manny (18). When I read other reviews of this book, Manny’s name was repeated over and over again. And now that I’ve read it, I understand why. Do you remember Shia LaBeouf’s character, Louis Stevens from Even Stevens? The kid that was always getting into trouble? Imagine him with a lot of swearing and you have Manny. An 18 year old who’s still a kid trying to please his dad, even though his dad had left a couple of years before. Sometimes a writer creates a character that is just genius. Manny is that character in Tall Oaks.

This novel was a delight to read and I found it difficult to put it down. But equally, I didn’t want to finish it. I wanted Tall Oaks to continue. This is a book just begging to be made into a television series.

So what do I do? Am I allowed to put a book published last year into my top ten reads at the end of 2017? Of course I am. My list, my rules.

 

To buy Tall Oaks, click here.

Two O’Clock Boy Blog Tour

Rearview man in coat walking along urban subway from above

In case you missed it, Mark Hill’s debut novel Two O’Clock Boy was published last week. It’s a fabulous read. I got in there early and read it last autumn when it was released as an e-book. If you missed my review then I’ve put it at the end of this post. Talking to lots of authors, especially debut novelists, you quickly discover that publishing a book is a team effort. Apart from the author, there’s an agent, an editor and a publicist that are all involved too. As fab as Mark is, I thought it would be good to hear from someone else on that team. Ella Bowman, Mark’s publicist, has kindly written a piece about what it was like to work on Two O’Clock Boy. Over to you, Ella!

 

‘Great to be contributing to a stop on the blog tour for Two O’Clock Boy. This book occupies a space in my heart (no kidding!), and here’s why:

When I was interviewing for this job over a year ago, I was sent a pdf of a book for which I had to plan a publicity campaign for discussion. This was that book. My set text. And the pressure to enjoy it? Great. You want to be enthused for obvious reasons; to think your career hinges on the feigned excitement for a book, well that doesn’t seem right and good, does it? No it don’t! (Note, publicists: never be nervous of this – every book has its merits, and sometimes the most rewarding projects are the more unlikely ones, anyway)

Way back in 2011 (or 2012 was it? Those bygone days when Barclaycard sponsored Boris bikes – you’re too young to remember!) I was emailing Mark about a spy thriller I was working on, and he mentioned he was writing a book. I’m always impressed by the dedication it takes to try to write more than an email’s worth (a blog post! Not something I’ll get into the habit of doing)… let alone to do it successfully. Still, little more was said than ‘good one, Mark. Hope it goes well’ etc. and our relationship as grateful publicist to fondly-regarded and dedicated crime blogger cemented over the years and I thought little more of Mark’s plans for his literary career.

And so it was that I was finally given the manuscript for one Mr Mark Hill’s Two O’Clock Boy and? And I loved it, thankfully. I peeled each page off the pile with exclamations of delight and awe; both for the book’s structure and characterisation, but also because each scene evoked the totally new. There was no failed innovation here; nothing of the ‘I would have liked to have heard more from…’; ‘it didn’t quite explain…’; ‘I wasn’t convinced’: it was all so confidently executed, so fresh and compelling and yet familiar. I love a police procedural, I love the teasing out of facts before the ‘no bloody way!’ denouement. Sure, it’s not just about the whodunit?, part of the art of crime is the getting there – the journey, not the destination (!) – so then it seems ludicrous to me that Mark is able to write this likewise brilliantly. It’s like he fell into an Obelisk-type cauldron of penmanship when he was young.

And then working on it has been a consistent joy, too, where readers have been responding so warmly to DCI Ray Drake and the dark investigation of which he’s part; asking me for it before my morning alarm; bleeding us dry of proofs before we’ve made plans for them, that sort of thing.

It’s great that it’s finally out there, because DAMN it’s a corker of a book, and I hope it does marvellously. I’m happy to report that Mark’s not going away any time soon, which is absolutely the correct order of things. Start reading him now, and be an early champion of a future great.

On that correct order of things, it’s time I signed off.

Time you bought a copy of Two O’Clock Boy.

Tick tock.’

 

Thank you Ella!

 

So what did I think of Two O’Clock Boy? Well…

High res TTOCB

Recently promoted, DS Flick Crowley is feeling slightly nervous. Her immediate boss, DI Ray Drake, has promised that she’ll be in charge of the next murder investigation that comes in. And when it comes, it’s a big job – the murder of three family members. Not only does Flick have to prove herself to the team, she has to deal with DI Drake who seems intent on steering her in the wrong direction. Sifting through the lies and secrets, others are destined to die before Flick finally finds the answer.

 

Set in two time periods with multiple viewpoints, this is a devilishly good debut. Just when you think you’ve worked out what’s going on, Hill swings it round in another direction. In the end, you don’t know which way is up and, more importantly, who you can trust. His characterization of the two main police officers – DI Ray Drake and DS Flick Crowley – is excellent, with their home life reflecting their unravelling. There are plenty of characters in this novel but they all have a part to play. In fact, it’s almost like an elaborate game of Guess Who? as people are eliminated until we have the key players left at the end. But of those who are still standing, who is the murderer? You’ll have to read it to find out.

Rumour has it that Mark Hill is working on a second DI Ray Drake book so there’s more of Drake and Crowley to come.

Hill Mark (c) Tom Watkins (1)

 

To find out more about Mark, click here and to buy Two O’Clock Boy click here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Cutaway Blog Tour

As part of The Cutaway Blog Tour, I’m thrilled to have Christina Kovac on my blog today.

Christina_Kovac

Christina worked for seventeen years managing Washington, DC newsrooms and producing crime and political stories in the District. Her career as television journalist began with Fox Five’s Ten O’Clock News, and after that, the ABC affiliate in Washington. For the last nine years, she worked at NBC News, where she worked for Tim Russert and provided news coverage for Meet the Press, the Today show, Nightly News, and others. Christina lives with her family outside of Washington, DC. The Cutaway is her first novel.

She has kindly written an article for my blog about her favourite authors and how they’ve inspired her. Over to you, Christina.

 

‘Megan Abbott, Tana French, Laura Lippman. They’re my favorite thriller writers, my trinity, the three who always get it done. 2016 was particularly delightful—for reading, if nothing else. The Big Three wrote some of their best books yet, I think. You Will Know Me created a fascinating mother-daughter dynamic in Abbott’s story of a child prodigy with a dark edge. Lippman’s Wilde Lake expanded possibilities of the female character (as she always does) in a setting near my home with characters that seemed so real to me I thought I could reach out and touch them through the pages. And I nearly swooned over Tana French’s portrayal of tough-as-nails, brave and bold Antoinette Conway—a woman of color in a white dude’s world who refused to tolerate lies (or crap) from anyone, despite the danger to herself.

Donna Tartt’s Henry Winter of The Secret History is still the literary thriller character I think of now and again. His dark complexity and genius, his amorality strangely at ease with his passionate love for Camilla—it all fascinates me. Isn’t human character the biggest mystery, after all? What we need? Why we yearn? How that yearning leads us to do what we do? And the ending of The Secret History: perfect.

Still, Scott Turow’s Presumed Innocent meant the most to me as a writer. Not that I recognized it when I first read it in college. But later, when I re-read it and considered writing fiction, Turow gave me the idea: like lawyering, the work I did as a TV journalist was dramatic, life and death stuff, and people misunderstood what we did, and needed to understand it, fact versus lies, fake news versus real news, the importance of the Fourth Estate to creating a rational world that made sense.

So I put that old hardcover of Presumed Innocent with its dog-eared pages at the edge of my desk, where it sat through years of writing The Cutaway, willing it to whisper to me: turn the day job into something fascinating. Turow did it. Maybe you can too.’

 

Thank you Christina. It’s always fascinating to find out which authors inspire other authors.

But I need to tell you about The Cutaway.

The Cutaway

 

The Blurb

When brilliant TV news producer Virginia Knightly receives a disturbing “MISSING” notice on her desk related to the disappearance of a beautiful young attorney, she becomes obsessed with uncovering what happened. Knightly suspects this ambitious young lawyer may be at the heart of something far more sinister, especially since she was last seen leaving an upscale restaurant after a domestic dispute. Risking her career, her life, and perhaps even her own sanity, Knightly dives deep into the dark underbelly of Washington, DC business and politics in an investigation that will drag her mercilessly through the inextricable webs of corruption that bind the press, the police, and politics in the US capital.

 

My review

I’m not sure if the timing of this book could be any more perfect. I expect that when Christina Kovac wrote this story, she had no idea how the American media would be portrayed at this time. In the era of ‘fake news’, The Cutaway stands for what is right with the media – tenacity, an unquenchable thirst for the truth and integrity. Perhaps not words we would normally associate with all journalists, but they’re certainly true of Virginia Knightly.

When Virginia hears about the missing woman, Evelyn Carney, she’s instantly hooked. Maybe it was a journalistic hunch, but she can’t leave the story alone. Something bothers her, something familiar. When Virginia’s boss effectively demotes her in a ‘reshuffle’ of the office, she’s free to investigate the story herself with the help of anchor newsreader, Ben Pearce. And it isn’t long before she discovers that her former lover, Commander Michael Ledger, is in charge of the investigation. Cue some awkward moments.

I really enjoyed The Cutaway.  Christina’s experience as a news journalist came through clearly in her writing to create an authentic experience. And just as there isn’t time for preamble on TV news, so this book hits the ground running and we’re quickly into the story. Although Virginia comes across as a strong woman, we learn about her vulnerabilities too, particularly her difficult childhood. I really hope there’s a sequel. Virginia Knightly is too good to confine to one book.

 

I’d like to thank Christina for appearing on my blog and for Serpent’s Press for the free copy of the novel. If you’d like to buy the book then please click here. And feel free to check out the other dates on the tour.

Cutaway blogtour_dates

 

 

 

 

Bones In The Nest by Helen Cadbury

Bones final

Book blurb

The Chasebridge killer is out; racial tension is rising and the mutilated body of a young Muslim man is found in the stairwell of a tower block in Doncaster. As he gets drawn into the case, Sean Denton’s family life and his police job become dangerously entwined. Meanwhile, a young woman is trying to piece her life back together, but someone is out there; someone who will never let her forget what she’s done.

 

 

 

 

 

My review

I love Sean Denton. Not in a romantic way, more motherly. And in some ways, that’s not surprising. He lost his mother as a child and had to grow up with an alcoholic father. So he was raised by his Nan on the Chasebridge Estate. Being a local lad can help or hinder a police constable. When a murder happens on the estate, DCI Khan decides to utilise Sean’s knowledge and places him on secondment to CID. But it’s definitely not plain sailing for Sean and he may lose the one job he’s fought so hard to get.

Having read ‘To Catch A Rabbit’ already, it was lovely to see Sean’s progression from PCSO to PC in ‘Bones In The Nest’. He still has that sense of awkwardness about him although his confidence has grown. There are quite a few twists and turns and there are some strong themes running through this book. Racial tension with a ‘Clean up Chasebridge’ campaign is a major theme. Sean Denton quickly discovers that it’s not about litter. The other alternating story is about Chloe, a young woman who has been in prison. Helen Cadbury handles her release and reintegration back into society with a perceptive touch. Sean’s dyslexia is another delicate subject that is handled well. Faced with having to write up details on the whiteboard, he brazens it out with, “At least I know how to write ‘Chasebridge’.”

I often think that Crime books would make great TV but I really would love to see PC Sean Denton on our screens. The good news is that it has been optioned by Red Planet. And as Helen Cadbury is writing a third book, there should be plenty of stories for him. Especially, as Helen left us with a tantalising ending.

 

Helen_Cadbury_2016_03-610x610[4487]

 

To find out more about Helen and to buy her books then please click here.

Festival Round Up & Colin Dexter

As I’m trying to read two books at the moment, I don’t have a book review for this week. I thought instead that I’d tell you about some great book festivals that are coming up, starting this Saturday.

Deal Noir

steph

On this Saturday 25th March is Deal Noir, over on the Kent coast. I think tickets are still available and at only £25, this is a real steal. Click here for the full list of speakers but to whet your appetite, you can expect Steph Broadribb, Rod Reynolds, Fiona Cummins, SJI Holliday, Daniel Pembrey, Mark Hill, Louise Voss…  This should be excellent!

_MG_4669 [216820]

 

 

 

ChipLitFest

Clare Mac

This runs 27th-30th April in Chipping Norton. I went last year, just for the Saturday, and I had a great time. Not restricted to crime, there are lots of different authors to choose from including Tony Robinson, Jenny Colgan and Nadiya Hussain. But if Crime is your thing then you can’t go wrong with Sharon Bolton, Clare Mackintosh and Ian Rankin. Click here to find out more.

 

 

CrimeFest

julia-crouch

This is one of the big crime writing festivals and takes place in Bristol 18th -21st May. There are a huge amount of authors taking part in the panels but there are plenty more who are just turning up for the hell of it. But to give you a little taster, Julia Crouch, Sarah Hilary, Marnie Riches, Sam Carrington, Ragnar Jonasson are only down to appear plus a very special session with Ann Cleves. You can find out more here

 

 

 

Winchester Writers’ Festival

donna-lisa-healy-colour

Moving to June now, the Winchester Writers’ Festival takes place 16th-18th June. This is a bit different as it’s more for aspiring authors rather than readers. If you like the idea of writing crime then there’s a workshop with William Ryan. Click here to find out more.

 

 

Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Festival

fionacummins_378

This is perhaps the biggest of all the crime writing festivals and takes place in Harrogate on 20th-23rd July. Headlining this year is Lee Child, Kathy Reichs and Ian Rankin. Val McDermid will run her popular New Blood panel which features the new top debut authors of 2017. This year, Val has chosen Jane Harper (The Dry), Joseph Knox (Sirens), Kristen Lepionka (The Last Place You Look) and, one of my favourite debuts so far this year – Fiona Cummins (Rattle). To find out more click here

 

 

 

I can’t finish this blog without mentioning the sad news that Colin Dexter died yesterday. It was the TV series with John Thaw that introduced me to Inspector Morse but once I started reading the novels, I was hooked. I used to take them out of my local library and devour them. I remember crying my eyes out when Morse died in The Remorseful Day. As good as the TV version was, it didn’t always capture the subtleties and nuances of the books. More than anything, I will miss spotting Colin Dexter doing his cameos in the programmes. If you want to read an incredibly moving tribute to Colin Dexter then click here for Val McDermid’s article in The Guardian.

Exciting times… and a book review – Rupture by Ragnar Jonasson

I was very excited yesterday to receive an email from Women Writers to say that the article I’d written for them was now online. When they first approached me to write something, I was very flattered but I did explain that, although I’m writing crime books, I’m not published. I thought they wouldn’t want someone unpublished writing for them but I was wrong! They said they would love me to write an article for them and I had free rein on subject matter. The only thing I could think of was my first year in blogging so that’s what I wrote about and you can read it here.

I don’t know if I’ll have the opportunity to write another article but it’s a very different discipline to writing a novel or a blog.

But before I get all big-headed, let’s get back to the books! I read Rupture by Ragnar Jonasson a couple of weeks ago.

Rupture

The blurb

1955. Two young couples move to the uninhabited, isolated fjord of Hedinsfjorour. Their stay ends abruptly when one of the women meets her death in mysterious circumstances. The case is never solved. Fifty years later an old photograph comes to light, and it beomes clear that the couples may not have been alone on the fjord after all…

In nearby Siglufjorour, young policeman Ari Thor tries to piece together what really happened that fateful night, in a town where no one wants to know, where secrets are a way of life. He’s assisted by Isrun, a news reporter in Reykjavik, who is investigating an increasingly chilling case of her own. Things take a sinister turn when a child goes missing in broad daylight. With a stalker on the loose, and the town of Siglufjorour in quarantine, the past might just come back to haunt them.

My review

This is the second book that I’ve read by Ragnar Jonasson but it’s the fourth in the Dark Iceland series, featuring police officer Ari Thor (yes, I’ve missed out books again). However, it’s possible to read this as a standalone.

I love the way that Jonasson finds a use for Ari Thor when his town, Siglufjorour, is in quarantine. A traveller to Siglufjorour dies from a haemorrhagic fever and the doctors believe it to be highly contagious. So everyone has to stay home except  those in the emergency services. As there is no crime to investigate, Ari Thor has time to look into an old cold case of a woman who died in a remote part of Iceland. Feeling that sense of isolation helps him as he tries to unlock the secrets of the past.

In Reykjavik though, there is no quarantine and crime appears to be in abundance. A stalker, a missing child and a young man killed in a hit and run accident. Seen from different points of view, including Isrun – a news reporter, Jonasson skilfully weaves the stories in and out of each other, much like dancers round a maypole. You’re not sure what pattern has been created until the end.

Jonasson is excellent at creating atmosphere in settings, whether it’s through snow or volcanic ash. In this case, the sense of Siglufjorour being a ghost town, isolated from the outside and people terrified to leave their houses, is superb. To say it’s eerie is an understatement.

Hopefully with the next book, we’ll see more of Ari Thor. Although I liked Isrun and found her backstory to be intriguing, it’s Ari Thor who’s the real pull here. Can’t think why…

 

I’d like to give a shout out to a couple of people who are involved in this book. Firstly the designer of the cover. Orenda Books always have fabulous covers and Rupture is no different. But do you want to know what’s really clever about this particular cover? You have to turn it on its side to see.

Rupture sideways

Isn’t it clever?

The other person I want to highlight is the translator, Quentin Bates. He faithfully translates Ragnar’s books, ensuring that he keeps the quality and feeling of the original Icelandic – no mean achievement!

You can find out more about Ragnar Jonasson and buy his books here