Wednesday 29 November 2017

Guest Post: Do's And Don't's Of Crime Writing - G J Minett

Today on the Outsider it's a pleasure to welcome G. J. Minett, whose latest book is Anything For Her, an amazing follow-up to The Hidden Legacy and Lie In Wait. My review of Anything For Her can be found here, and huge thanks to G. J. Minett, Emily Burns & Bonnier Zaffre for including me on the tour! Enjoy reading reading G. J.'s post on what you should and shouldn't do in crime writing.

Dos and Don’ts of crime writing

DO keep a healthy balance between plot and character. It’s so easy to get carried away with the storyline but readers need to see the development of a central character they can believe in and care about. They don’t want cardboard cut-outs or cartoon sketches.
DON’T make the central character a paragon of virtue. Readers like to identify with someone who is flawed, maybe unreliable or even dangerous, as long as the redeeming features outweigh the negatives.
DO make sure you come up with an opening that grabs the reader’s attention. Most people have a ‘to be read list’ that is spiralling out of control and not everyone sees every book through to the end.
DON’T confuse pace with breakneck speed. Pace is a variable, not a constant. If every scene ends with a cliffhanger and the hero wriggles out of seemingly impossible situations every 30 pages or so, the overkill will alienate the reader. Remember: pace can be measured and considered, allowing everyone a chance to take a deep breath and prepare for the next onslaught.
DO treat your readers with a bit of respect. If they are prepared to devote several days to reading what you’ve produced, there’s a duty of care and you need to avoid huge coincidences or Deus ex Machina interventions that could have been avoided with a little more imagination and effort.
DON’T agonise for too long over the quality of what you’ve written on any given day. Get it down on paper – you can always improve on what’s there at a later date. It’s when there’s nothing there to work on that you have a problem.
DO showcase your skills. Everything you picked up on writing courses and in workshops is just as relevant in a crime novel as in any other genre and readers are perfectly capable of appreciating quality writing wherever they find it.
DON’T go out of your way to imitate. Find your own style and work at it from novel to novel. If you are too anxious to copy others you’ll inevitably lose out in any comparison. Make your own writing the yardstick.
DO think hard about your locations. Some readers derive considerable pleasure from a setting they know well and the demands of plotlines and word counts can sometimes prevent writers from giving the story the detailed backdrop it might need.
DON’T info dump. It’s so tempting, when you’ve researched something in great depth, to want to demonstrate what you’ve picked up but the aim of the research is to provide a backdrop, not dominate the page.
DO provide a twist or two to keep the readers on their toes. A real surprise at the end is particularly effective as it’s what the readers will take away with them. Be careful not to overdo it though – by definition, these twists are out of the ordinary and the difference between the unexpected and the utterly implausible can be wafer thin.
DON’T kid yourself that there’s a substitute for sitting down in front of the laptop and writing. There’s not. There are distractions aplenty and you can try to justify them in the name of research or downtime or networking but what gets the novel written is sheer hard graft and a bit of inspiration. Sit down, shut the door and WRITE.

Having said all that, I do most of the don’ts – and fail to do most of the dos – at least 50% of the time. All part of the fun of being a writer.

Anything For Her - G. J. Minett
Publisher - Bonnier Zaffre
Release Date - November 30th, 2017

About The Author

Graham was born in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire and lived there for 18 years before studying for a degree in Modern and Medieval Languages at Churchill College, Cambridge.

He taught for several years, first in Cheltenham and then in West Sussex before opting to go part-time and start an MA in Creative Writing at the University of Chichester. Completing the course in 2008, he gained a distinction for the dissertation under the guidance of novelist, Alison MacLeod and almost immediately won the Segora Short Story Competition with ‘On the Way Out’.

Other awards soon followed, most notably his success in the 2010 Chapter One novel competition with what would eventually become the opening pages of his debut novel. He was signed up by Peter Buckman of the Ampersand Agency, who managed to secure a two-book deal with twenty7, the digital-first adult fiction imprint of Bonnier Publishing.

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Thursday 23 November 2017

The Perfect Victim - Corrie Jackson

Husband, friend, colleague . . . killer?

Charlie and Emily Swift are the Instagram-perfect couple: gorgeous, successful and in love. But then Charlie is named as the prime suspect in a gruesome murder and Emily's world falls apart.

Desperate for answers, she turns to Charlie's troubled best friend, London Herald journalist, Sophie Kent. Sophie knows police have the wrong man - she trusts Charlie with her life.

Then Charlie flees.

Sophie puts her reputation on the line to clear his name. But as she's drawn deeper into Charlie and Emily's unravelling marriage, she realises that there is nothing perfect about the Swifts.

As she begins to question Charlie's innocence, something happens that blows the investigation - and their friendship - apart.

Now Sophie isn't just fighting for justice, she's fighting for her life.

After the brilliance of Breaking Dead Sophie Kent is back and this time the truth is much closer to home than she wants to believe. Sophie is at a crime scene, a drowning, and discovers the victim was somehow connected to one of her best friends, the Herald's Business Editor Charlie Swift. When it's established that the victim is Sabrina Hobbs, a prominent lawyer, and she didn't drown, she was murdered. Sophie links Sabrina to Charlie, at first in a business way, but then she discovers that the two may have been intimately involved. Only she can't ask Charlie because he has disappeared and everyone's thoughts about him start to turn to a darker possibility. Is Charlie Swift a murderer? Sophie doesn't want to believe this, especially as Charlie is newly married to Emily after tragically losing his first wife, in a drowning accident... Do Charlie and Emily really have the Instagram perfect life that Emily insists they have? Or is the perfect victim right under everybody's noses? 

Sophie once again is struggling in her personal life. Still obsessing over her brother's death she will grab at anything that may lead to information so when it turns out that there may be a link between Charlie, her brother and a religious group called Christ Clan, she leaps in with both feet again. DCI Durand makes a welcome return but unfortunately for Sophie, the man in charge of Charlie's case holds a personal grudge against her because of a connection to events in Breaking Dead. We get to see the story from Emily's point of view too, the state of her marriage in the weeks leading up to the murder and the disappearance, and her state of mind.

As with Breaking Dead, I was hooked from the very first page. There seems to be an awful lot going on and more than one plot strand but Corrie Jackson weaves them together skillfully over the course of the story and by the end, having stumbled through more twists and turns than the first book, she leads you to a most unexpected conclusion, which most people won't even have thought about. Given that Charlie works at a newspaper it was fascinating to see how everybody initially thought completely incapable of any wrongdoing, even infidelity, but as time passed and Charlie stayed missing, even the most loyal of friends and colleagues can start to have their doubts. The crumbling relationship between the missing Charlie and his colleagues as they struggle to accept that they may have a murderer in their midst and that it's up to them to unmask the facts to convict him if it is indeed true was extremely well written and great to see other people's opinion of him.

The Perfect Victim doesn't let up from start to finish, there's an energy about Corrie Jackson's writing that compels you to keep turning the pages and her characters are completely engaging, although not always likable, which makes them all the more human. It's a fantastic sequel to Breaking Dead and I have only one request. Sophie Kent book three, please!!!

The Perfect Victim - Corrie Jackson
ISBN - 9781785761829
Publisher - Bonnier Zaffre
Release Date - November 16th, 2017

About The Author

Corrie Jackson has been a journalist for fifteen years. During that time she has worked at Harper’s Bazaar, the Daily Mail, Grazia, and Glamour.

Website | Twitter | Facebook

Don't forget to check out all the other participants on the blog tour, for links check out Bonnier Zaffre's Twitter feed!

Huge thanks to Bonnier Zaffre and Netgalley for my copy of the book!

Friday 17 November 2017

Breaking Dead - Corrie Jackson

Sophie Kent is hanging on by a thread. Her tenacity and talent have seen her rise through the ranks of a tough newspaper industry. But her brother's suicide has thrown her career and personal life into chaos.

Whilst out on the job interviewing witnesses of a brutal child murder, Sophie befriends a beautiful but traumatised Russian model. When the girl's mutilated body turns up in an upmarket hotel on the eve of London Fashion Week, Sophie knows she could have saved her. Eaten away by guilt, she throws herself headfirst into the edgy, fast-paced world of fashion with one goal in mind: to catch the killer. Only then can she piece her grief-stricken self back together. As she chips away at the industry's glittery surface, she uncovers a toxic underworld rife with drugs, secrets, prostitution, and blackmail.

The investigation propels Sophie from the glamour of the catwalk to London's darkest corners, towards a sinister past and a twenty-year-old murder case that could hold the key. Battling her demons and her wealthy, dysfunctional family along the way, Sophie pushes her personal problems to one side as she goes head to head with a crazed killer; a killer who is only just getting started...

Meet Sophie Kent, intrepid reporter for a London newspaper. Grieving for her brother, Sophie is just about functioning so when she stumbles across a Russian model whilst covering another story she senses there might be more to Natalia's story than meets the eye. 

If you've ever wondered what the seedier side of modelling looks then Breaking Bad might just show you the (imaginary) worst of it. Befriending Natalia, albeit with an ulterior motive, Sophie knows something is wrong with the young Russian girl. When a body is found in a London hotel, brutally murdered, during London Fashion Week no less, Sophie knows she is on to something huge and plunges headfirst into the underside of the fashion industry. 

Suspects are lining up in droves but the one Sophie can't move past is photographer and resident bad boy, Liam Crawford. Sophie knows Liam, intimately. They were up at Oxford at the same time and had a one night stand before Liam dropped out to pursue his photography more seriously. Liam is now the darling of the fashion world, and the on/off boyfriend of one the hottest models of the moment, Lydia Lawson, or Loony Lawson as the tabloids have dubbed her.

Sophie knows that there is something sinister going on and despite not being a police officer plunges headlong into her investigation, putting herself in far more danger than she will ever realise until it's almost too late.

I loved Sophie as a character, one of the most flawed I have come across recently, but this made her seem even more vulnerable. She's deep in the mire of grief after losing her brother to an apparent overdose, her wealthy parents are closed off and don't seem to be missing their son at all, which drives Sophie even more to find out what happened to Natalia and why this girl had to die so horrifically. Her colleagues at the newspaper seem to be aware that Sophie is struggling, but not of how much of herself she is putting into finding out what happened until she crosses the line that her boss says every good journalist should not, that of the truth.

Her relationship with the police is a precarious one, inserting herself into their case does not endear people but DCI Sam Durand has an apparent soft spot for Sophie, and she for him. He bends the rules for her, keeping her in the loop but even Durand has his limits and Sophie doesn't always know when to stop pushing.

Corrie Jackson has written a fascinating story, the darkness and the disturbing picture painted of the modelling world are not easily forgotten. The storyline never lets up, the pace is almost too much at times and the red herrings that lead you in one direction when you should be going in the opposite way are expertly done. I am a fan after just one book and can't wait to see where both Corrie Jackson and Sophie Kent go next.

Breaking Dead - Corrie Jackson
ISBN - 9781785770456
Publisher - Bonnier
Release Date - September 8th, 2017

Wednesday 8 November 2017

Little Fires Everywhere - Celeste Ng

Everyone in Shaker Heights was talking about it that summer: how Isabelle, the last of the Richardson children, had finally gone around the bend and burned the house down.

In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is meticulously planned – from the layout of the winding roads to the colours of the houses to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principal is playing by the rules.

Enter Mia Warren – an enigmatic artist and single mother- who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenage daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than just tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the alluring mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past and a disregard for the rules that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community.

When the Richardsons’ friends attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town and puts Mia and Mrs. Richardson on opposing sides. Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Mrs. Richardson becomes determined to uncover the secrets in Mia’s past. But her obsession will come at unexpected and devastating costs to her own family – and Mia’s.

I picked up Celeste Ng's debut novel, 'Everything I Never Told You',  and absolutely adored it so when I started seeing all the buzz for Little Fires Everywhere I knew I had to read it. It's contemporary fiction which is not normally my everyday read but there's something so delightful about Ng's writing that I seem to be consumed by her work.

Little Fires Everywhere is a masterpiece about families, ones with fathers, ones without, adoption, and the relationships between the members of these families. The Richardson family are long established in Shaker Heights so when Mia Warren, an artist, and her daughter Pearl roll into town, Elena Richardson is only too pleased to be seen to be doing something for a poor, starving artist and rents them her upstairs apartment. Elena has four children, Trip, Lexie, Moody, and Izzy, and has an easygoing relationship with all of them except Izzy. Izzy is her problem child, the one she spends her time being completely exasperated with. But is this because Izzy is the problem child? Or is it because Mrs. Richardson fears she will lose Izzy and finds it easier to push her away?

When Moody strikes up a friendship with Pearl, Elena is secretly pleased that Izzy then seems to take a shine to Mia and in that way that happens with intense friendships, Pearl starts spending most of her time with the Richardsons, and Izzy starts spending time with Mia, wishing that Mia were her mother.

It's these intense relationships that make Celeste Ng's novels. The pace is slow and delicious, an impressive example of a character-driven novel. Nothing much may happen in Little Fires Everywhere but it doesn't need to, you lose yourself entirely in all the character's stories. Both principal and secondary characters have their stories told, all perfectly interwoven, telling the tale of what happened to each and every one of them to get them where they are today. The driving point of the start of the breakdown of these relationships is a court case over custody of a baby, adopted by friends of the Richardson but whose birth mother is a friend of Mia's.

These characters are not perfect, they all have their flaws but they are perfection to read about. By the end of the story they have all been through something and some, if not all, take a long look at both their lives and their behaviour. Apparently, Reece Witherspoon has bought the rights to Little Fires Everywhere and I can see why. I'm not normally a fan of books-to-tv/movie adaptations but I'm looking forward to seeing these characters on the small screen. This is one book that will stay with me for a long time as I loved it even more than Everything I Never Told You, and I am now eagerly waiting to see what comes next for Celeste Ng.

Little Fires Everywhere - Celeste Ng
ISBN - 9781408709719
Publisher - Little Brown
Release Date - November 9th, 2017

About The Author

Celeste Ng is the author of the novel Everything I Never Told You, which was a New York Times bestseller, a New York Times Notable Book of 2014, Amazon’s #1 Best Book of 2014, and named a 'best book of the year' by over a dozen publications. Everything I Never Told You was also the winner of the Massachusetts Book Award, the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature, the ALA’s Alex Award, and the Medici Book Club Prize, and was a finalist for numerous awards, including the Ohioana Award, the John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger Award, and the VCU Cabell First Novelist Award.

Celeste grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Shaker Heights, Ohio, in a family of scientists. Celeste attended Harvard University and earned an MFA from the University of Michigan (now the Helen Zell Writers’ Program at the University of Michigan), where she won the Hopwood Award. Her fiction and essays have appeared in One Story, TriQuarterly, Bellevue Literary Review, the Kenyon Review Online, and elsewhere, and she is a recipient of the Pushcart Prize.

Currently, she lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Website | Twitter | Goodreads

Huge thanks to both Grace Vincent and Little, Brown for inviting me to take part in this blog tour and a copy of one of the best books I've read this year. Please do check out all the other bloggers taking part on the tour which runs until November 14th. Links can be found on the LB Twitter account, @LittleBrownUK.

Wednesday 1 November 2017

November New Release Giveaway!

Welcome to the November 2017 New Release Giveaway Hop, hosted by It Starts At Midnight! The hop now runs all month long so you can enter from now until midnight on November 30th. Up for grabs is any new release this month up to the value of $20 from the Book Depository as long as they deliver to your country - find the list of countries here

All you have to do is choose any new release published in November and fill out the rafflecopter!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Check out the linky for more chances to win, thanks for entering and good luck!

Monday 30 October 2017

Curse Of The Werewolf Boy - Chris Priestley

Mildew and Sponge don’t think much of Maudlin Towers, the blackened, gloom­laden, gargoyle-infested monstrosity that is their school. But when somebody steals the School Spoon and the teachers threaten to cancel the Christmas holidays until the culprit is found, our heroes must spring into action and solve the crime!

But what starts out as a classic bit of detectivating quickly becomes weirder than they could have imagined. Who is the ghost in the attic? What's their history teacher doing with a time machine? And why do a crazy bunch of Vikings seem to think Mildew is a werewolf?

Welcome to Maudlin Towers, boarding school for boys in an undetermined time period but definitely before cars were invented. Arthur Mildew and Algernon Spongely-Partwork, henceforth known as Mildew and Sponge, are taking part in the school jog (up a mountain) and supervised by the sports master, Mr. Stupendo, when they spot a Viking in the ha-ha* What follows is a hilarious tale in detectivating, with possible Roman ghosts, a Temporo-Trans-Navigational-Vehicular Engine, Vikings, and the mystery of the School Spoon.

Mildew and Sponge don't like Maudlin Towers, it is pretty rubbish, so when the School Spoon goes missing and the Headmaster threatens to cancel Christmas the boys know they're the best candidates to detectivate the incident. However, it's not going to be that simple...

Chris Priestley has long been a favourite author and his Tales of Terror are fantastic. In Curse Of The Werewolf Boy, he brings his trademark illustrations and Gothic storytelling to a younger audience, along with a good dash of humor. Mildew and Sponge are an excellent comedy duo, mostly without meaning to be funny, and the supporting characters are wonderful. How can they not be, with names like Miss Bronteen, Hipflask, and Footstool?

If you're looking for a spooky Halloween read for a middle-grade reader then do try the first instalment of Maudlin Towers, spooky without being frightening, extremely funny, and with some absolutely superb illustrations. I can't wait to get my hands on the next book to what Mildew and Sponge get up to next!

*ha-ha - a ditch running alongside the school playing field...

Curse Of The Werewolf Boy - Chris Priestley
ISBN - 9781408873083
Publisher - Bloomsbury
Release Date - October 5th, 2017
Find - Goodreads | Book Depository


Wednesday 11 October 2017

This Week In Books #2

I have decided to join with the lovely Lipsy from Lipsy’s Lost and Found's feature, 'This Week In Books', which highlights our week in books. Here are the books that I've just read, am currently reading, and just about to start. Clicking on the book pics will take you to their Goodreads page. This week's post is a day late, but better late than never...


I was going to skip reading this before starting The Princess & The Suffragette by Holly Webb but decided I may as well re-read it.


 I've essentially spent the last nine days re-reading and then finishing the Weather Warden series by Rachel Caine. I read the first four books in the series and then somehow never got round to reading the rest of them. I heard a rumor that there's a new book coming, which is what prompted me to start them again.


It's either going to be


Both are on my Halloween/R.I.P. reading list but I can't decide on which to start first...

Tuesday 3 October 2017

#ShelfLove - October Check-In

Didn't I just write one of these updates? If anybody knows what happened to September please do let me know... October, R.I.P., spooky reads, horror movies - my favorite things in one month! I've hit my R.I.P. reading target already so anything I read in October is going to be both a bonus and from the TBR pile. Still no surgery news but I do have an appointment with my orthopaedic surgeon on October 19th so keep your fingers crossed for me.

I read 32 books in September. And how many were from my TBR pile?  Not as many as I hoped. My #ShelfLove total increased by 17 this month, taking me up to 118 books from the TBR pile so far this year. Over the next 3 months I have to read 62 books from my TBR pile which is probably not a realistic target.

I'm almost done with my Goodreads challenge though. I'm currently at 92% with only 20 more books to read to hit my target. I'm deliberating over whether to leave it as is or to change it slightly by increasing the total up to 275. What to do...

Here are the facts and figures for September's reading and Shelf Love.

  • Read at least 15 of my own books a month - they have to have been on my shelves up to and including December 2016
  • For every 15 books read I'm allowed to buy 3 brand new books
  • For every 20 books donated to either charity or the library, I can buy 2 new books

Ill Wind - Rachel Caine (reread)
Heat Stroke - Rachel Caine (reread)
Knife - R J Anderson (reread)
The Boy With The Cuckoo-Clock Heart - Mathias Malzieu (reread)
Masque Of The Red Death - Bethany Griffiths (reread)
Velveteen - Daniel Marks
Prom Nights From Hell - Meg Cabot
Cuckoo Song - Frances Hardinge (reread)
Karen Memory - Elizabeth Bear
Golden Girl - Sarah Zettel
Inside The Worm - Robert Swindells (reread)
Don't Look Now & Other Stories - Daphne du Maurier
The Fall Of The House Of Usher & Other Stories - Edgar Allan Poe
Fox - Jim Crumley
The Word For World Is Forest - Ursula K. Le Guin (reread)
The City Of Dreams & Nightmare - Ian Whates
The Dresskeeper - Mary Naylus


September Reading By Numbers

Read - 32

Own - 19
Kindle - 6
Library - 7
TBR Challenge - 17
Review  - 4
Re-read - 6
 #ShelfLove Target - 118/180

Wishlist - 2652
TBR (Vaguely more accurate) - 1546 (It went up again...)
Goodreads Challenge Update

Monday 2 October 2017

Death In The Stars - Frances Brody

Yorkshire, 1927. Eclipse fever grips the nation, and when beloved theatre star Selina Fellini approaches trusted sleuth Kate Shackleton to accompany her to a viewing party at Giggleswick School Chapel, Kate suspects an ulterior motive.

During the eclipse, Selina's friend and co-star Billy Moffatt disappears and is later found dead in the chapel grounds. Kate can't help but dig deeper and soon learns that two other members of the theatre troupe died in similarly mysterious circumstances in the past year. With the help of Jim Sykes and Mrs. Sugden, Kate sets about investigating the deaths - and whether there is a murderer in the company.

When Selina's elusive husband Jarrod, injured in the war and subject to violent mood swings, comes back on the scene, Kate begins to imagine something far deadlier at play and wonders just who will be next to pay the ultimate price for fame...

I'm absolutely thrilled to be on the blog tour for the ninth installment of the Kate Shackleton mysteries, Death In The Stars. I've now read five of these wonderful mysteries and I'm completely hooked! Last October I read (and loved) Death At The Seaside but Death In The stars couldn't be in a more different setting.

Selina Fenelli, known to legions of fans as the Silver Songbird asks Kate to accompany her and a friend from the theatre to an eclipse viewing at a local boy's school. At first, Kate thinks nothing of it, that Selina only asked her because she knows she has contacts at the local airfield and can arrange to have the three of them flown to the school. However, Selina has a different reason for asking. Over the last eighteen months two of her fellow stars on the music hall tour have died, seemingly in tragic accidents, but Selina isn't so sure and is terrified that something is going to happen to her or Billy, the chap accompanying them to Giggleswick for the eclipse.

When Billy dies at the school Kate realises that Selina might not be paranoid about the previous accidents after all but as Billy was a known drug user thanks to injuries from the war it's thought his death was either a tragic overdose or simply natural causes. Kate being Kate decides to investigate anyway, albeit reluctantly, and after finding a cigar on the school grounds that might not be an ordinary cigar the investigation picks up steam.

Mrs. Shackleton is once again aided and abetted by her housekeeper, Mrs. Sugden, and ex-policeman Jim Sykes, along with the addition of Alex, the head boy from Giggleswick, who wants to be a doctor but given his help in this case might also have a career as a detective, and her niece, Harriet. Appearances from Selina's fellow performers lend some light relief but it's impossible to get away from the darkness that has settled around the theatre. As in previous books everybody is a suspect, including Jarrod Compton, Selina's elusive husband who, along with Billy, was severely injured in the war. Compton is probably the main suspect from the start as he doesn't seem to like anybody being too involved in Selina's life and because of his facial disfigurement is always covered from head to toe, adding an aura of deceit to his person.

Yet again the 1920's setting is perfect, from the theatre and the music hall stars coming towards the end of their popularity to the simplicity of life back then. The mystery is completely gripping with twists and turns on every page. As usual, I got sucked into the red herrings that Frances Brody so wonderfully included and it wasn't until just before the big reveal of the villain that I realised who that really was. If you like your crime in a more gentle fashion without the blood and guts, then the Kate Shackleton mysteries are definitely worth a read. I mentioned Miss Marple, Daisy Dalrymple, and Phryne Fisher in my review of Death At The Seaside but this time I need to add that Kate Shackleton is definitely up there with the best of them and is becoming a firm favorite.

Death In The Stars - Frances Brody
ISBN - 9780349414317
Publisher - Piatkus
Release date - October 5th, 2017

About The Author

Frances Brody is the author of the Kate Shackleton mysteries, as well as many stories and plays for BBC Radio, scripts for television and four sagas, one of which won the HarperCollins Elizabeth Elgin Award. Her stage plays have been toured by several theatre companies and produced at Manchester Library Theatre, the Gate and Nottingham Playhouse, and Jehad was nominated for a Time Out Award.

Sunday 1 October 2017

October New Release Giveaway!!!

Welcome to the October 2017 New Release Giveaway Hop, hosted by It Starts At Midnight! The hop now runs all month long so you can enter from now until midnight on October 31st. Up for grabs is any new release this month up to the value of $22 from the Book Depository as long as they deliver to your country - find the list of countries here

All you have to do is choose any new release published in October and fill out the rafflecopter!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Check out the linky for lots of other chances to win, thanks for entering and good luck!

Saturday 30 September 2017

Such Small Hands - Andrés Barba

Her father died instantly, her mother in the hospital. She has learned to say this flatly and without emotion, the way she says her name (Marina), her doll's name (also Marina) and her age (seven). Her parents were killed in a car crash and now she lives in the orphanage with the other little girls. But Marina is not like the other little girls.

In the curious, hyperreal, feverishly serious world of childhood, Marina and the girls play games of desire and warfare. The daily rituals of playtime, lunchtime, and bedtime are charged with a horror; horror is licked by the dark flames of love. When Marina introduces the girls to Marina the Doll, she sets in motion a chain of events from which there can be no release.

With shades of Daphne du Maurier, Shirley Jackson, Guillermo Del Toro and Mariana Enríquez, Such Small Hands is a beautifully controlled tour-de-force, a bedtime story to keep readers awake.

I first heard about Such Small Hands when a Spanish friend sent me a copy of 'Las manos pequeñas' a few years ago thinking my university Spanish would still be fluent enough to read this little gem. Unfortunately it wasn't, and I've been waiting for an English translation ever since. I think it's probably just as well I read it in English as I think I would have missed a lot of the subtleness of this novel, the quietness which adds to its general air of menace.

Apparently inspired by a real-life incident in a Brazilian orphanage where the other children killed a girl and then proceeded to play with her body for a week, Such Small Hands is not at all gruesome and starts with an actual doll. Marina, the child from the car crash, names this doll Marina too, and starts her descent into something that's not quite madness but is fascinating to the other girls to see and to try to understand.

Barba's writing is simple but this is what makes the book so disturbing and I can see why the comparisons to both Daphne du Maurier & Shirley Jackson are made. The girls in the orphanage are never portrayed as anything other than little girls but in the dead of night, anything and anyone can be terrifying. Such Small Hands wasn't quite what I was expecting but nevertheless wriggled its way into my brain where it's filed away in the 'creepy doll' section.

Such Small Hands -

Thursday 28 September 2017

The Body In The Marsh - Nick Louth

When a woman goes missing, it gets personal for DCI Craig Gillard. But he could never imagine what happens next.

Criminologist Martin Knight lives a gilded life and is a thorn in the side of the police. But then his wife Liz goes missing. There is no good explanation and no sign of Martin…

To make things worse, Liz is the ex-girlfriend of DCI Craig Gillard who is drawn into the investigation. Is it just a missing person or something worse? And what relevance do the events around the shocking Girl F case, so taken up by Knight, have to do with the present?

The truth is darker than you could ever have imagined.

The truth is definitely darker than you could imagine, especially in The Body In The Marsh by Nick Louth. The story starts with DCI Craig Gillard rescuing somebody after a fall up in the Lake District. As coincidences go it's a big one. Her name is Sam Phillips, she's about to start working as a PCSO in Gillard's area, and they're both about to get caught up on two of the local force's biggest cases.

Sam takes a missing person report about someone called Elizabeth Knight, who turns out to be Gillard's first love from 30 years ago. Nobody has seen her and everybody is worried, apart from her husband, the esteemed criminologist Professor Martin Knight who is involved in the case of Girl F, also involving Gillard's station. The case takes an even stranger turn when Professor Knight also goes missing and suddenly everybody is involved and Gillard is heartbroken. He is convinced this is an admission of guilt on Martin Knight's part and sure enough, irrefutable evidence turns up all leading to one conclusion. Elizabeth Knight is dead, murdered most likely by her husband.

The Body In The Marsh is a rollercoaster ride from here on out and nobody is quite sure just how this has happened. Professor Knight has had a string of affairs and emails are found leading police to believe that he was planning to run off with one particular woman, having inherited a significant amount of money. Friends of Liz are convinced that she was being abused by her husband and that's what lead to her brief stay in a mental health unit. The Knight's children are none the wiser, one a solicitor and the other a student both appear to be clueless on the surface but a birthday card from France might indicate otherwise. 

Nothing is as it seems in this case and when evidence points to a link with the infamous Girl F case, which Professor Knight viciously condemned, things appear to be pointing in another direction, or are they? Nobody is quite sure what to do next but trips to France, Spain, the Kent coast, and the fact that the allow the Knight family to hold a funeral for Liz would suggest that the case has gone cold and might never be solved. 

The Body In The Marsh is a fantastic police thriller, well-written, fast-paced, and featuring some wonderful characters. I particularly loved DS Claire Mulholland, Gillard's deputy, who was portrayed as perhaps the most realistic policewoman I've come across, with a family, grandchildren, and definitely not romantically interested in her boss. Gillard was a little peculiar to me though, still pining after a woman 30 years later struck me as a little obsessive and allowing it to impact on all his romantic relationships was nothing short of foolishness. I can pretty much guarantee he is seeing his brief involvement with Liz through very rose-tinted glasses and allowing it to cloud his judgment of the Liz of today. I also loved the touches of humor which broke up the seriousness of both cases under the spotlight, Tweedledee and Tweedledum, in my opinion, should have featured more...

If you're looking for a thriller with a difference you can't go wrong with The Body In The Marsh. Its twists and turns will keep you up well beyond your bedtime. When you think you've got the culprit worked out the book will turn that upside down and thrown in a curveball for good measure. It was definitely worth losing a few hours sleep to find out who did it and what exactly happened. I've got 2 more of Nick Louth's books here to read so I'm hoping they're half as good as The Body In The Marsh.

The Body In The Marsh - Nick Louth
Publisher - Canelo
Release date - September 25th, 2017

Wednesday 27 September 2017

This Week In Books #1

I have decided to join with the lovely Lipsy from Lipsy’s Lost and Found's feature, 'This Week In Books', which highlights our week in books. Here are the books that I've just read, am currently reading, and just about to start.

Now | Then | Next

Now: Death In The Stars

1920's crime writing from Frances Brody and my fourth Kate Shackleton mystery. I'm on the blog tour for this one so look out for my review next week.

Then: Such Small Hands 

My fourth R.I.P. read, a quirky translated (originally written in Spanish) horror novel. Look out for my review of this on Friday.

Next: Karen Memory

One for the TBR Challenge, this has been sitting on my shelves for about 18 months...

Wednesday 13 September 2017

The Secrets You Keep - Kate White

What would you do if you realized that your new husband, a man you adore, is keeping secrets from you - secrets with terrifying consequences?

Bryn Harper, an accomplished self-help author, already has plenty to deal with. She's still recovering from a devastating car accident that has left her haunted by recurring, smoke-filled nightmares. Worse still, she can't shake the ominous feeling her dreams contain a warning.

In the beginning, Bryn's husband, Guy, couldn't have been more supportive. But soon after moving in together, Guy grows evasive, secretive. What the hell is going on? she wonders. Then, a woman hired to cater their dinner party is brutally murdered.

As Bryn's world unravels - and yet another woman in town is slain - she must summon her old strength to find answers and protect her own life. Her nightmares may, in fact, hold the key to unlocking the truth and unmasking the murderer.

Oooh, where to start?! Bryn is an author whose best-selling self-help books have allowed her a comfortable life. Despite being married to Guy, the man of her dreams, they continue to live apart and only seeing each other on weekends but after being involved in a fatal car accident that caused the death of a man from her publisher's they've made the decision to spend the summer together. Or at least Bryn has, with Guy going along with her choice trying to be supportive after the accident. 

After a dinner party thrown for donors of Guy's company the caterer is brutally murdered and it would appear just about everyone is a suspect, including Bryn. Questioned by the police, Bryn starts to doubt and suspect everybody and, at the same time, starts to realize that she might not know her husband as well as she thinks. Plagued by nightmares since the accident, they feature a man who is trying to tell her something. The only thing she knows for sure is that the man is not Guy.

Things deteriorate from there. Bryn doesn't know who to trust, and that includes herself. Everywhere she looks she sees a suspect and is terrified that she might be married to a murderer and if he's not a murderer then he's cheating on her.

A great psychological thriller with so many twists and turns it's almost impossible to keep up and with an ending that I did not see coming. Every single character is unreliable and hiding something, from the guests at the dinner party to a woman from the Arts Council who visits Bryn to see if Bryn will attend an event during the summer. Not only are they unreliable but most are also downright unlikable, I found it hard to warm to any of them really except for feeling sympathy for what Bryn was going through. 

Kate White does a great job at making the reader suspect everybody of the murders, reeling you in with a plethora of red herrings - most of which fooled me as by the time the final curtain dropped I was surprised by the identity of the killer. For a book full of characters that I took a dislike to I still managed to sit up until the early hours of the morning to finish the book in one go. I had to know who the killer was before I could sleep! I hadn't read any of The author's books before The Secrets You Keep but I will definitely try another one soon. Many thanks to Canelo for a copy of the book!

The Secrets You Keep - Kate White
Publisher - Canelo
Release date - September 11th, 2017

Monday 11 September 2017

Cuckoo Song - Frances Hardinge

The first things to shift were the doll's eyes, the beautiful grey-green glass eyes. Slowly they swiveled until their gaze was resting on Triss's face. Then the tiny mouth moved, opened to speak.

'What are you doing here?' It was uttered in tones of outrage and surprise, and in a voice as cold and musical as the clinking of cups. 'Who do you think you are? This is my family.'

When Triss wakes up after an accident, she knows that something is very wrong. She is insatiably hungry; her sister seems scared of her and her parents whisper behind closed doors. She looks through her diary to try to remember, but the pages have been ripped out.

Soon Triss discovers that what happened to her is more strange and terrible than she could ever have imagined and that she is quite literally not herself. In a quest find the truth she must travel into the terrifying Underbelly of the city to meet a twisted architect who has dark designs on her family - before it's too late...

Unless you've been living under a rock or this is your first visit to my blog you will all know about my love of Frances Hardinge's books. I recommend them to anyone who stands still long enough! What is really noticeable though is that there aren't any reviews of her books, at all, anywhere on this blog. My problem seems to be that the more I love a book or indeed its author the more I have trouble trying to put together a coherent review, or even sentence... I am determined though, to start writing them so am slowly re-reading all of her books. 

I'm not sure why my re-read started with Cuckoo Song. It's not the first Frances Hardinge book I ever read, or my favorite (that's A Face Like Glass) but it's my second favorite, and it's the book that is most like a book that I would write. Seriously. I want to live in Frances Hardinge's imagination because it must be a wonderful place to reside.

Triss and Pen are sisters that have never really got on. After Sebastian, their older brother, went off to fight in WWI Triss was pampered and cosseted to the point where she thinks of herself as an invalid. This is the impression of Triss that everybody has come to accept, but not Pen. She is treated horribly by Triss and rebels by running away on a regular basis. Whilst on holiday Triss falls into the Grimmer, a lake or river near their holiday home, and it's from this point that things take an unsettling turn. Triss knows something isn't quite right but because she's been ill for half of her life she thinks it's yet another illness taking hold of her. Except. This illness has made Pen terrified to be near her, has left dead leaves and other bits and bobs in a trail behind her, and given her a hunger that nothing seems to satisfy. Nothing that is, until she eats a doll and the hole in her stomach seems to be temporarily filled.

On their return home, things continue to be strange and weird. Triss is starting to realise that she's not quite the old Triss, her parents are talking about a strange man that they seem to be scared of, letters from someone are arriving - inside a locked drawer, but strangest of all is that Pen is nearly kidnapped by a movie screen in an old theater and we're introduced to The Architect. From now on it's a race against time for Triss, or Not-Triss as she's calling herself now, to save herself, mend her relationship with Pen, and find out just what is going on in the darker corners of Ellchester. This is where the fantastical comes in, fairies but not as we know them. They're the Besiders, living alongside humans in places where once that wasn't possible. Church bells once drove the Besiders away but thanks to the aftermath of the Great War they're no longer as effective, people simply don't believe as much after their huge losses, and they're coming back in droves. In part, this is thanks to Mr. Crescent, the girls' father, who has made a deal with the Architect. In return for something to do with Sebastian and keeping his memory alive, Mr. Crescent has to design his new buildings a certain way including a pyramid currently being constructed at the new railway station.

Apart from Triss, Pen and their parents, and the Architect, there are two more characters of note in Cuckoo Song. One is Mr. Grace the tailor, whom we meet after a pair of metal scissors displayed above his shop door fall and nearly hit Triss. The tailor befriends Triss and says nothing of her huge appetite after she consumes plate after plate of cake whilst being fitted for a new dress. Mr. Grace is not as innocent as he appears to be and in fact leads to some of the pivotal points in Cuckoo Song, no pun intended after the above scissor incident. 

The other is Violet Parish, Sebastian's former fiancée, who is no longer part of the Crescent family's life. Dismissed from their thoughts as someone who wasn't worthy of Sebastian, Violet has her own 'otherness' to deal with but of course, Triss and Pen don't know this until Violet becomes the one person they can rely on to keep them both alive and discover that she's not the heartless, cold creature their mother likes to say she is. I think Violet was quite possibly my favorite character, fiercely independent, not just out of necessity but because she wants more from her life as a woman in the 1920's, she has a motorcycle and sidecar, spends her nights dancing to jazz and is constantly on the move. Violet doesn't know it but she might be the one person who can help Not-Triss to save the Crescent family and save herself from her grief.

Cuckoo Song is a fantastical/supernatural/historical/mystery novel about the aftermath of war, grief and the hold it can have over you with changelings, a wonderful new take on fairies in the Besiders, weirdness, the bond between sisters and a young girl's struggle to fight against monsters, even though that's the way some people view her. I have nothing else to say except read it as Frances Hardinge might be your new favorite author...

Cuckoo Song - Frances Hardinge
ISBN - 9780330519731
Publisher - Pan Macmillan
Release date - May 8th, 2014

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