Posts Tagged ‘Police procedural’

Finishing my second book about criminologist Kate Trevelyan and starting a new role delivering books to housebound people mean I’ve fallen behind with my reviewing. As crime fiction is by far the most popular genre requested I’ve gone back through my own reading preferences and decided to complete an alphabetical guide to my favourite authors, starting with A for Rachel Abbott.

Rachel is one of the UK’s most successful independent crime writers. Her first seven psychological thrillers have combined to sell over three million copies, and have all been bestsellers. In 2015, she was named the 14th bestselling author over the last five years on Amazon’s Kindle in the UK. Her thrillers feature Detective Chief Inspector Tom Douglas and like Sophie Hannah’s ‘Culver Valley’ series we follow the story of a lone protagonist who may be the perpetrator, victim or witness of a crime alongside the police’s attempts to find the culprit and stop further crime. This creates a strong sense of jeopardy as the reader hopes the victim will survive but knows the police can’t benefit from what they know. DCI Tom Douglas continues to have his own relationship problems which get in the way but make him enduring, and the series provide the satisfaction of getting to know him better with each book.

Rachel Abbott novels always start with dramatic prologues which hint at the suspense to come. My favourite is still the prologue in the first of the series, ‘Only the Innocent’ which starts with an illicit liaison for sex play and soon develops into something more dangerous. The prologue in the last of the series, ‘Come a Little Closer’ is much briefer but is compensated by having more viewpoints to follow before the connections between them become apparent.

Callie, the protagonist of ‘Come a Little Closer’ is a young woman struggling to escape an abusive relationship who is vulnerable to exploitation by others. She’s worn out, depressed and not thinking straight and it takes her a long time to recognise what is happening to her or how she may be connected to other apparently random deaths. The short sharp chapters and varied viewpoints make multiple twists in this riveting suspense a gripping read.

‘Come a Little Closer’ is the seventh and last book of the series. Rachel’s latest novel ‘And so it begins’ was released last month and is the start of a new series about police woman Stephanie King. I’m sure I’ll enjoy that one too, but I hope I haven’t read the last of the Tom Douglas thrillers.

Advertisements

This is the 4th book in a series which can be read as a standalone, although to make the most of Sarah Hilary’s excellent characterisation and follow the connections as they are revealed, reading the earlier books is recommended.

The novel starts with a reference to the horrific event of six years ago which has haunted Marnie throughout the series and ultimately influenced her work as a homicide detective. The streets of London are cold and forbidding. They establish an atmosphere of barriers to Marnie and Noah latest case, finding the vigilante responsible for a series of assaults culminating in a brutal murder. The attacks seem random, but when Marnie’s family home is ransacked, there are signs that the burglary was personal and organised by someone who knows all about her. But it will take a prison visit to her foster brother, Stephen before Marnie starts to see the connections and that someone out there is playing lethal games.

This book is far more complex than the usual police procedural. Although success for Marnie and Noah will be determined by their ability to catch the killer, the management of their personal lives is always a relevant. With themes of revenge, obsession and the impact of early years abuse on survival, ‘Quieter than Killing’ is a compelling read which like earlier books in the series doesn’t disappoint.

death-rains-down

If you’re a fan of Ian Rankin’s Inspector Rebus you will enjoy meeting Detective Ray Logue in the first of this new police procedural series. There’s no doubting that Logue is his own man doing things his way, fighting the small town caution of his Garda bosses as much as the gangland villains he encounters on the way. He’s a character that you want to know better, sometimes annoying and flawed but always interesting. The edgy yet supportive interplay between Logue and his partner Detective McGarry provides light humour as the murders and body count increase. The sharp writing style propels the plot and pace forward as the sleepy town of Port Erd faces up to the social and economic changes that make it an ideal destination for local corruption and foreign gangsters.
With thanks to Endeavour Press for a review copy in exchange for an honest review of this quick and enjoyable read.

Today is my stop on the ‘Beneath the Ashes’ blog tour and I’m delighted to be able to share not only my review of the book but also a some insights into Jane Isaac’s writing in an author Q & A.

jane-isaac29565054

When a body is discovered in a burnt-out barn in the Warwickshire countryside, DI Will Jackman is called to investigate.

Nancy Faraday wakes up on the kitchen floor. The house had been broken into and her boyfriend is missing. As the case unravels, DI Jackman realises that nothing is quite as it appears and everyone, it seems, has a secret.

Can he discover the truth behind the body in the fire, and track down the killer before Nancy becomes the next victim?

Review
‘Beneath the Ashes’ opens with a prologue which sets the tone for the story to come. A woman is frantically running towards a graveyard. We have no idea who she is or what she will do next but it draws you in.

We go back a week and follow the story through the voices of DI Will Jackman, a likeable well balanced police officer with a family life restricted somewhat by his disabled wife, and Nancy a young shop assistant who wakes up on her boyfriend’s kitchen floor covered in blood but with no idea of how she got there. There is a good working relationship between DI Jackman and his Sergeant Annie Davies and together they go down a series of blind alleys to try and find out the mystery behind Nancy’s attack and the murder of her boyfriend. I particularly liked Nancy. She is feisty and independent and doesn’t always do the right thing. As the three characters delve more deeply, things are not what they seem. Surprising new themes emerge as Nancy struggles to stay safe and make sense of what is happening to her.

The pace quickens towards an unmissable dramatic crescendo when the truth about what has really happened to Nancy’s boyfriend starts to emerge and you are compelled to read to the end to find out why.

This is the second book in the DI Will Jackman series but ‘Beneath the Ashes’ sets the scene and introduces the main characters with clarity and enough background information to create  a satisfying and enjoyable read whether you are meeting DI Will Jackman for the first time or as an old friend.

Many thanks to Lucy at Legend Press who sent me a copy to review

Q & A with Jane
Who was your favourite character to write in ‘Beneath the Ashes’?

I really like Jackman’s sidekick, DS Annie Davies. She’s sharp, intelligent and witty, and has the ability to find the humour in almost any situation, but balances this with bucketloads of compassion. Some of her thoughts and comments made me laugh out loud as the story progressed.

‘Beneath the Ashes’ is a whistle stop read, how long did it take you to write it?
Thank you. The story had been in my head for a quite a while, so it didn’t take too long to write a detailed plan of how I expected the narrative to unfold. Once that was done, I concentrated on the first 10,000 words which really set the foundations in place. The rest of it flowed well, only broken by bouts of research, as I went along. It was about a year from recording the initial idea to actually typing ‘The End’.

Who did you prefer writing, DCI Helen Lavery from your first novel or DI Jackman, and why?

Ooh, that’s a toughie. I enjoy working with them both, for different reasons!

How important is the setting of Stratford upon Avon to ‘Beneath the Ashes and what made you base your novel there?

When I decided to embark on the Will Jackman series, I wanted to set it somewhere that people might know even if they haven’t visited themselves. Stratford upon Avon is known the world over, and also a very beautiful place to visit for research purposes (my family and I have spent many a happy weekend there during the past two years), so it ticked all the boxes!

Whose novels do you read and do you read while you’re working on a novel?
As I’m constantly planning, writing or researching, I do read throughout the process. I tend to read a lot of different novels, mostly crime and psychological thrillers, but I also like travel memoirs too.

Most recently, I’ve been discovering a lot of new writers. There’s something special about debuts that draws me to them. The last book I read was Rubicon by Ian Patrick, a finely crafted debut which is now out for submission and I have everything crossed for him for a book deal. That book really deserves to be published!

How much do you plan your narrative in advance?

I write a detailed outline, usually 4-5 pages, before I start. Things do change as the story unfolds, but I change my outline too so that when I finish my first draft and do my initial read through, I can check back and ensure that everything weaves together.

Where and when do you write?

As I still have a day job, a family and a very demanding Labrador, I tend to fit my writing into the gaps in my day. I can often be seen writing notes on my phone while standing in the supermarket queue, or typing on my laptop at the side of the pool while my daughter is swimming. I have notebooks all over the house, so if an idea comes to me I can record it before I forget!
I suppose my favourite time to write is sitting up in bed with my laptop, late at night when the house is quiet.

How do you get under the skin of your characters?
For me, it’s essential to get to know a character, especially a lead, so that they come to life on the page. Writing through the eyes of DCI Helen Lavery in my first two novels was like second nature. While Helen is very different from me, she is a working mother who juggles her home and work life balance. I could relate to that and build her character on that basis.

Creating the male lead of DI Will Jackman for my new series was much more challenging and took me back to basics. I pulled on my favourite male fictional characters and analysed their behaviour; writing down the elements I liked and that fitted with what I was trying to achieve, disregarding the ones that didn’t. I considered the male influences in my own life: my father, my brothers, my husband and my friends. I spoke to a lot of serving police officers and detectives to see what their working/home life was like. And slowly the foundations of Jackman’s character were laid. But even then, as I was writing I was constantly saying to my husband, “How would you react to … What would you say to…” for validation that I’d got him somewhere near.

What was your first job and has it influenced your writing?

Ironically, my first job (apart from delivering newspapers in my early teens) was as a receptionist for a small marketing newspaper. At the time, I had no inclination to become a writer and was in awe of the journalists there. I was in my forties before I discovered my own love of the pen!

What are you writing at the moment?

I’m just starting the edits for The Lies Within, the third book in the DI Will Jackman series, which is scheduled to be released on 2nd May 2017.
What advice would you give to anyone wanting to become a crime author?
Read voraciously in and around the genre you intend to work with and try to write something every day, no matter how short. When your script is complete, send it to people you trust to give you honest and constructive feedback, then rework until it is the best you can do before you submit.

It can be difficult to find a home for a novel and publishers reject submissions for many reasons which are not necessarily anything to do with your writing: It may not fit with a publisher’s list, they may have something similar, they may not be looking for submissions in your genre at this time. So, if you receive a rejection, don’t give up; take heed of any advice, rework your script if necessary, and submit elsewhere.

Thank you so much for interviewing me Chris. I really enjoyed answering your questions!

Follow the blog tour

beneath-the-ashes-blog-tour

514yde21y6l-_ac_ul320_sr208320_
Overall I was a bit disappointed. I loved Sarah Hilary’s first two Marnie Rome novels. They are so powerful and moving with terrific pace and suspense. So I guess I was expecting more. ‘Taste of Fear’ is still an intriguing story beautifully told, but it didn’t have the pace and moments of sheer terror that the first two Marnie Rome novels had. Thinking of Noah shackled to that radiator still makes me shudder.

This narration takes alternating points of view. Those of Detectives Marnie Rome and Noah Jake with some of the missing street girls. I found this detracted from the story and would have preferred more of Marnie and Noah’s POV’s, they are such brilliantly strong characters and I found myself rushing through the other parts to get back to their viewpoint chapters.

In conclusion I agree with another review who stated that Sarah Hilary’s writing is the literary equivalent of ‘A Big Mac’ – you know what you are getting. And what you get is a great plot skilfully told with lots of blind alleys and twists. A lovely sense of place around the streets and luxury new builds around Battersea Power Station, which almost becomes a character in its own right. There is plenty of strong characterisation, not just the leads but the minor characters too, and having said I would have preferred less of the street girl’s viewpoint, I felt immersed in the world of teenage rough sleepers. The opening description of Christie feeling invisible to the people walking past her prompted me to give money to the next beggar that I encountered.

51zE4KE1IxL._SY445_QL70_

‘Scared to Tell’ is set in Connecticut, USA. The novel opens with the discovery of a young intellectually disabled woman found frozen to death in the grounds of her care home. It’s not long before Detective Annie Macpherson, recently returned to her secondment to an American police force from her home in Scotland, is on the case. This time Annie is working a duel role with the Regional team as well as her old force, so ‘Scared to Tell’ introduces new police colleagues as well as old favourites, but her romance with Detective Dave Ellison is still very much on.

The story is about the not often tackled theme of abuse of people with intellectual disabilities and the author’s empathetic handling of the experience of her intellectually challenged characters makes for a very realistic read of a topic often neglected in crime fiction but very current with the increasing exposure of abuse in British care homes.

I enjoyed being reunited with Annie. She is a dogged and determined police woman with a soft side and in ‘Scared to Tell’ her own family experience of having a brother with severe learning difficulties helps with her undercover task of finding evidence of abuse. Barbara Fagan Speake makes excellent use of her own background in her novels; both in her own Connecticut upbringing and her professional experience as a UK clinical psychologist. ‘Scared to Tell’ is another satisfying and enjoyable read. Highly recommended.

the-hardest-thing-in-life-is-to-know-which-bridge-to-cross-and-which-to-burn7

I read Cross and Burn during my three hour wait at Heathrow airport and the onward journey to Hong Kong. The sense of increasing menace and suspense kept me absorbed and made my long journey much better than expected.

I’m a fan of Val McDermid’s Tony Hill and Carol Jordan’s series of crime novels, but read this one out of sequence as I had somehow managed to miss numbers 7 & 8. Cross and Burn is number 8. The novel starts with an estranged Tony and Carol and it is obvious from the first chapter that something really bad happened in book 7. Something which has left all the main characters with psychological and sometimes physical damage.

The way that Val McDermid shows the fallout from the events of the previous book without describing what took place is subtle and effective. Something I found enlightening as I write my own sequel to Revenge Ritual and need to show how the shocking events at the end of my recent novel have affected the remaining characters.

In true McDermid style, the antagonist’s point of view is interspersed with the other characters to provide foreshadowing of the violence and danger to come. Although the victim’s viewpoints are only represented in a few short chapters, as a reader you care about their fate, especially for the mother whose fourteen year old son reports her missing at the start of the book. There is still plenty about Carol and Tony’s on-off relationship, although they don’t spend much time together on the page until near the end. It is probably due to this that newly promoted DS Paula McIntyre carries most of the main narrative and provides the catalyst to pull the old MIT team back together.

Although it is a brilliant and compelling psychological thriller, what I really enjoyed were the insights of the lead characters to the situations they encountered, revealing a satisfying blend of despair and strength and going deeper into their characterization than in previous books in the series. A brilliant read – especially for long journeys.