Posts Tagged ‘Suspense’

I love discovering new authors and Roz Watkins work is a pleasure to read. Lots of interesting themes are developed throughout ‘The Devil’s Dice’. It touches on superstition, ghosts, Derbyshire folk law, and euthanasia with the feel of a traditional ‘murder mystery puzzle.

Newly promoted DI Meg Dalton is a great character, full of doubt about her own abilities and sensitivity to critism arising from things that happened to her in her childhood and which have left her with a slight disability. Not a good thing to have when chasing suspects around the steep and slippery cliffs and caves of the High Peak. I really like Meg Dalton and the way she continually shares her thoughts about the people she encounters and the conundrums of the murder she is trying to solve. Her vulnerability makes her endearing and also makes for some heart stopping end of chapter cliff hangers. Fortunately she has some support in the shape of DS Jai Sanghera, a lapsed Sikh with family issues who is also at the receiving end of some police colleague insensitivity.

Then there is the bleak Derbyshire setting which almost becomes a character in its own right from the Devil’s Dice caves of the title to the tiny villages balanced on the edge of the Peak District’s inhospitable limestone cliffs. All helping to make this new thriller series a delightful discovery and left me wanting to read more. However, I will just have to wait until the April when ‘The Dead Man’s Daughter’, the second novel of the series is due for release.

Phoebe Morgan is senior commissioning editor at Avon Books so it’s not surprising that her debut novel, ‘The Doll House’, is one of the most gripping suspense stories of 2018 and was the perfect Christmas read to take my mind off decorations, preparations and last minute shopping.

Corinne and Ashley are sisters trying to overcome their grief after their father’s death and get on with family life. But everyone in the family seems vulnerable in one way or another: Corinne and her partner Dominic are struggling to coping with the trials of IVF while Ashley feels she is failing as a parent and is losing control of her teenage daughter and suspects her husband of having an affair. So when parts of her childhood doll house start turning up in Corinne’s flat and Ashley’s getting anonymous phone calls, you start to share the sister’s growing anxiety. But it’s hard to disentangle what is sinister from the fallout from their everyday domestic tribulations.

The characters are so well drawn that they become your friends which just heightens the sense of tension as their family life starts to implode. This beautifully plotted story is complex with twists that you won’t see coming.

‘The Doll House’ is a very satisfying read and highly recommended. Now I’m looking forward to reading Phoebe Morgan’s second thriller ‘The Girl Next Door’ when it’s released in February.

‘Old friends, sat on their park bench like book ends.’
Simon & Garfunkel – ‘Bookends’ Album 1968.

 

The Woman in Blue:
An old friend, now a woman priest, contacts Ruth regarding some threatening letters she has received. She is coming to Walsingham to attend a conference and take part in some of the religious events. Meanwhile, Cathbod is in Walsingham too, house-sitting for a friend when he sees a vision of a woman wearing blue in the graveyard who is soon found dead. This is just the start to a string of murders, as Ruth tries to balance her work lecturing in archaeology, helping the police and taking her daughter to endless play rehearsals while Nelson tries to get over his wife’s affair and the new ‘super-boss’ bent on reform. The crowds are gathering for the local Mystery Play, religious fanaticism rears its head and the scene is set for a fascinating romp through personal relationships and murders.

The Chalk Pit:
Ruth’s archaeological skills are needed again as boiled bones are found in an underground tunnel below Norwich. DCI Nelson and his team are kept busy tracking down a serial killer preying on the homeless. Then a middle class mother of two disappears and Nelson’s boss wants results fast.

In this 9th Ruth Galloway story, where old bones meet modern murder, Ruth and Nelson’s not quite a relationship features as much as the crime. Both have family difficulties to focus on, and however much the reader wants them to get together things always get in the way.

This is Norfolk Noir at its best – misty, gloomy, dangerous, mystical, pagan, set within bleak salt marshes and ancient buildings. The stories turn at a comfortable pace with great twists to reveal hard to guess satisfying endings.

I read this book in a day, it’s a real page turner.

Peter May is the author of three crime series including The Lewis Trilogy set on the Western Isles of Scotland. Coffin Road is a stand-alone eco-thriller featuring three lead characters each with their own problems with a quest to pursue as a result.

The interesting opening draws you in as a man finds he has been washed up on a beach. With no idea of who he is or what he’s doing there he is searching for an identity. Then there is the detective searching for the killer of a man bludgeoned to death on a remote island, and finally a rebellious teenage girl desperately trying to find why her father took his own life and if she was responsible.

The suspense develops as the lives of these three individuals start to interweave and races towards the reveals of what connects them. I liked the eco-theme of the survival of bees and learnt more about this important topic as I read on. Then there are the descriptions of the remote Scottish Islands which enhance the mystery of the plot and have some of the nuances of one of my favourite crime TV programmes Shetland recently broadcast. I shall have to wait another year for more of Shetland, but I can now fill that gap by reading the rest of Peter May’s novels.

‘The Lies Within ‘opens dramatically with grieving mother Grace Daniels in the dock being tried for murder. The novel goes on to tell how she became a suspect and ends with what happens next. It is the third book in the series featuring Jane Isaac’s DI Will Jackman and it is good to be in his company again. The core of the book is about how Jackman and Grace’s stories interrelate. He is the SIO investigating the murder of her daughter, and it makes for a clever plot with some really good twists which I didn’t see coming.

The story is told alternatively from Will Jackman and Grace Daniels points of view and it is the emotional resonance of Grace’s sections that make this book so compelling. Jane Isaac’s writing captures all Grace’s roller coaster of emotions: her shock, despair, guilt, anger and isolation verging on mental breakdown in a realistic and empathetic way. Will Jackman is a sympathetic police detective with problems of his own and you want him to solve the case and not be let down. But it is Grace’s story and her characterisation in the heartbreaking situation of being the mother of a murdered daughter that make this crime novel different and cause the reader to reflect on what they would do in Grace’s situation.

Having said that, I did find the first part of the novel rather slow to get going, but once the plot moves in a different and unexpected direction and the pace speeds up the need to read on is compulsive and I read the book in one sitting.

‘The Lies Within’ is a satisfying read and I look forward to DI Will Jackman book four.
With thanks to Legend Press for providing an advance copy to review.

 

I’m always looking out for new debut psychological thriller authors. Emma’s book sounds interesting it is out on the 23rd of February. Thanks for the review Rosie. CJ.

Rosie Amber

One Little MistakeOne Little Mistake by Emma Curtis
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

One Little Mistake is a psychological thriller. The main setting is the London area, the year 2010. Running alongside is another story, set in 1992, which ties in at the end. The book chapters alternate between the two.

The story opens with baby Josh having a morning nap, the third child of Vicky Seagrave. Sleepless nights and a fractious baby leave her strung out, so she’s vulnerable when little distractions occur.
A moment of a poor decision, a break-in and the quick action of her friend leads Vicky down a path of destiny she would not have chosen in hindsight. Vicky and Amber met at anti-natal classes; they’ve become best friends, but the friendships is not without problems, mostly based around Amber’s complex emotional issues.

In the second storyline, Katya was in the care of social services, but…

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‘Dare to Remember’ is not shocking in the way that ‘The Girl on the Train’ or ‘The Book of You’ is shocking. It offers shivers of anticipation rather than moments of full blown terror. In fact the details of the attack that protagonist Lisa is trying so hard to remember doesn’t really emerge until well into the book. So, this book may not be shocking and it’s not a thriller in the usual sense but it is certainly an intriguing page turner.

Lisa is a likeable character who is easy for the reader to empathise with as we share her regular visits to her psychologist on her journey towards recovery. The overwhelming fear of living, which descends after her violent trauma, comes vividly alive on the page and graphically illustrates how such an experience can ruin your life. Living in the confines of a self-imposed isolation, Lisa doesn’t share her life with many other people, even her loving mother is kept at arm’s length. But her relationship with her neighbour John and fellow dog walker Jessica are beautifully described as Lisa finds that overcoming her own fears to support other people massively helps her conquer her own demons.

The descriptions of Lisa’s therapy and search for self help solutions feel authentic. If you want to know more about survivor guilt and post traumatic stress disorder, then as well as being a satisfying read this book will take you through the experience and compel you to read on to find out how successful Lisa is in her journey .
Legend Press sent me an advance copy of ‘Dare to Remember’ in return for an honest review.

513n3hd4btlMonday’s Child by Linda Finlay (ref blog review – 23/11/16)
My first pick is a historical saga. The first of the ‘Ragged School’ series, ‘Monday’s Child is set in Torquay on the Torbay coast an area I often visit. Now, thanks to Linda Finlay’s descriptions and lively characters I can image what life would have been like for those children at the Red Cliffs Ragged School and their sassy teacher Sarah. Number two of the series is out in May 2017.

Legend 100

Owl Song at Dawn by Emma Claire Sweeney – (ref blog review – 25/6/16)
From a story about children to one of old age. I was sent this book to review by publisher Legend Press and was so glad they had as otherwise I might not have come across it. Short-listed for Amazon’s Rising Star Award of 2016, this lyrical, poignant and funny story about guest house landlady Maeve coming to terms with getting older and opportunities lost takes you back the 1950’s through Maeve’s memories of when she was young. With beautiful descriptions of an era that failed to understand disability or being different, this lovely book makes you realise life in the twenty first century isn’t as bad as we sometimes think.

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Off the Rails by Karen Taylor – (ref blog review – 3/2/16)
I really enjoyed this edgy young adult thriller from my publisher Endeavour Press. With beautifully drawn characters surviving in a London where affluent ‘suits’ collide with and exploit disaffected homeless young people in the subterranean world of London’s disused underground passages.

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Before the Poison – Peter Robinson (ref blog review – 21/4/16)
I’m grateful to Sidmouth Crime Fiction Book Group for suggesting we devote one of our meetings last year to the crime novels of Peter Robinson. Before that I’d only watched DCI Banks on the television. I particularly liked this stand alone mystery novel about a retired musician who becomes obsessed with proving the previous owner of his house was innocent of the crime she was hanged for. The rambling old home on the North Yorkshire Moors becomes a character in its own right.

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The Outcast Dead by Ellie Griffiths – (ref blog review – 28/1/16)
This was the Sidmouth Crime Fiction Book Group’s first book of the year and a welcome return to Dr Ruth Galloway’s adventures. We love her every day struggle with single parenting, controlling her weight, trying not to be jealous of her glamorous friends and her passion for Radio 4’s Archers. Number eight in the series is out on Kindle on the 23rd of February and if you can’t wait there is a lovely free short story ‘Ruth’s First Christmas Tree’ to get you in the mood.

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!

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