Posts Tagged ‘series’

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linda-finlay

 

Monday’s Child is the first of Linda Finlay’s new Ragged School series. This time the story takes place in a turn of the century Torquay already attracting its share of wealthy tourists.

 

All the ingredients of Linda Finlay’s deft storytelling are there: an atmospheric sense of history, a setting that jumps off the page and fully formed characters that develop during the story to keep you turning the page to find out how they fare through all that life throws their way. The Red Cliffs Ragged School comes to life on the page as new owner Sarah and school master Harry strive to keep it open and the children in their care safe.

With plenty of references to social change, especially with regard to womens’ role in society, the girls in the Ragged School are treated as well as the boys and given prospects, whilst adult characters support the sufferage movement. I loved the gentle sense of humour pervading the narrative either through the minor characters like Mrs Snooper and Miss Middle or the amusing dialogue between the Ragged School children or Sarah and Harry.

Monday’s Child is great read for the winter days leading up to Christmas. And I am delighted this novel is the first in a series because I can’t wait to find out what will happen to Sarah, Harry and the lovely Mrs Dawes and the children of Red Cliffs Ragged School next.

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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.

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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

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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.

Here’s some information about the novels I enjoyed on my recent holiday in Spain:

‘Under my Skin’ by Sabine Durrantc1yr-square-orig.jpg

This debut psychological thriller has been likened to ‘Gone Girl’ and ‘Girl on a Train’. It is certainly domestic noir and takes the reader straight inside the world of TV presenter Gaby Mortimer as she goes through the horrors of finding a dead woman’s body and then becoming the police’s first in line suspect. I didn’t warm to Gaby as a character but was fascinated to read more about her TV life-style. She was strong enough to carry the plot and I didn’t guess the ending until close to the end. Some of the other characters, especially the police ones like D I Perivale were less convincing. The book takes a while to get going but when it does with the introduction of journalist Jack it rips along. ‘Under my Skin’ was an excellent holiday novel. It was easy to read and interesting with its continuous twists and turns which gave the reader lots to think about under their parasol.

‘Murder at the Lighthouse’ by Frances Evesham – to curl up in comfort with a G & T.murder-at-the-lighthouse

This is the first of the Exham on Sea Cosy Crime Mysteries. It was a very enjoyable light hearted read in the Agatha Christie tradition, bursting with village life idiosyncrasies and implausibility and a litany of very amusing characters. Just right for basking in a temperature of 41 degrees. Libby Forest, the lead character and amateur detective is an endearing and insightful recent divorcee who has moved to Exham on Sea for a fresh start in life. As an incomer she has a refreshing take on the hypocrisy of her fellow residents and the stupidity of the local constabulary. Of course she immediately finds a body by the lighthouse and from then on in refuses to be side tracked until the identity of the victim and then the murderer are discovered. Frances Evesham has invented an array of lively village personalities to get in Libby’s way from her Goth teenage lodger to the pompous chair of the women’s group or the rude but kindly garage proprietor. Fortunately there are two further books in the Exham on Sea Mysteries (based on Burnham on Sea) waiting on my Kindle for my next sunshine break.

‘Cross and Burn’ by Val McDermid9780751551273
Having caught up with all the books in the delicious Tony Hill and Carol Jordan series I am reading them through again enjoying my extra closeness to the main characters and Val McDermid’s masterly plotting. I have reviewed this before but it is worth a second look.

‘Cross and Burn’ is the eighth book in the series of nine. It can be read as a standalone as the plot arc starts with the two lead characters in dark places because of what happened in book seven, something that is deftly revealed without holding up the pace as the book progresses, and ends with a resolution of sorts and a new direction for the future. While Tony Hill and Carol Jordan are sorting out their downfalls a parallel plot with a serial murder unfolds with flashes of scary insights into the mind of the murderer as Paula aided by the few who remain from Carol’s old team try to save the lives of his victims. Like all Val McDermids books the victims are portrayed as real people whose lives you care about, making the whole thing much more suspenseful.

Crime Writer M J Hall

Crime Writer M J Hall

We recently discussed M R Hall’s crime novel ‘The Coroner’ at the Sidmouth Crime Fiction Book Group. The book generated a lot of discussion. We shared our own experiences of sitting through a Coroner’s court and although most cases are brief and business like, we agreed that Matt Hall’s experience of being a criminal barrister and his knowledge of the criminal justice system brought real authenticity to Jenny’s courtroom – although we hope that Coroner’s are not in the habit of popping pills in the real Coroner’s Court.

We like Matt Hall’s tense and compelling style of writing and thought he did an excellent job of getting inside the head of a neurotic professional woman, with the proviso that the romance/sex side of the novel seemed a bit more masculine.

Matt Hall will be giving a workshop on ‘Turning Good Ideas into Commercial Crime Novels’ at ‘Creative Thursday’, part of the Theakston Old Peculiar Crime Writing Festival in York on Thursday 21st of July. Sarah Hilary, (see my earlier post) another of our favourite authors and winner of Crime Novel of the Year Award at last year’s festival will also be taking part. I’ve attended Creative Thursday on two previous occasions and found it inspiring and fun. I can also recommend taking the challenge of pitching at ‘The Dragons’ Pen’. It’s scary but brilliant when all four ‘dragons’ want to read your submission.

Sarah Hilary - Theakston prize winner 2015

Sarah Hilary – Theakston prize winner 2015

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‘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.

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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.