All posts by Abbie

Author Influences With Harry Bingham

Author Influences is back with the brilliant Harry Bingham, creator of the Fiona Griffiths Crime Thriller Series. Harry tells us about his favourite books and authors.

Which authors/books did you like to read as a child?
Oh, I was a very booksih kid. I used to love anything about ancient Greece, loved Hornblower and Sherlock Holmes, loved some really old-school boys’ stuff (Buchan, Henty, Bulldog Drummond, the Saint, Dornford Yates, and others that few readers will even have heard of.) Then I got onto the classics and just devoured them.

Were you good at English at school? Did you like it?
Yes and yes. It was perhaps my favourite subject. I still have a soft spot for the authors I studied for A-level: Jane Austen, George Herbert (the poet) and Shakespeare’s Macbeth especially. Those things still resonate thirty years on.

What genres do you like to read? Have they had an impact on the genre you write?
I’m fairly eclectic in my reading, but as a crime author now I do make a special effort to keep abreast of my genre, in the UK, the US and in translation.
When I turned to crime writing a few years ago, I was actually a lapsed crime reader – hadn’t read any for years. Then I got obsessed by this character who was very smart, very driven and very strange. There was only one possible job for her – that of detective – so I came back to crime and have adored it ever since.

If you were to write a different genre what would it be and why?
Well, I’ve written a lot of genres over the years. Adventure Jeffrey Archer-style romps with my first few novels. Historical fiction. Non-fiction covering history, economics and how to write.
I suppose I might dabble in historical fiction again one day. And there’s certainly some non-fiction I’d love to write. But no, mostly, I’m happy with crime. Give me a corpse and a mystery and a splash of violence, and I’m happier than a pathologist in a mortuary.

Did any author’s work encourage you to pick up your pen and write and if so who, what and why?
Not specifically, no. I just knew from really early on that I wanted to be a writer. There’s a snippet of film of me aged about 10 or 11 where someone asks me what I want to be when I grow up. I said ‘Author’ – and I’ve now been a full time pro author for the last twenty years. Lucky me!

Are there any authors who, as soon as they publish a new book, you have to get it?
No, that’s not how reading works for me. I prefer reading widely – lots of different authors – than reading deeply. Very often when I read a new author’s work, I think, ‘Yes, OK, I get the kind of thing you do. That’s different from how I do it, but now I’ve understood your particular approach, I won’t necessarily get that much more from reading more of your books.’
There are exceptions to that, obviously, but I can’t think of any author where I just have to buy the very next book they produce.

Which books have you read that have made you think ’Wow, I wish I had written that’ and what was it about the book?
In crime, I’m a big fan of Tana French and Gillian Flynn. They’re proper crime authors but they write deliriously well. There are some American authors – Walter Moseley, George Pelecanos, Elmore Leonard, for example – where I really admire aspects of their style, but they’re just sooo different from me that I can’t quite envy them in the same way.

Have any of your plots/characters been influenced by real life events/people? (Be careful, I don’t want you getting sued!)
Oh yes. My Love Story, with Murders had its roots in the (really weird) Matrix Churchill scandal.
My This Thing of Darkness wasn’t directly inspired by Michael Lewis’s Flash Boys, but that book proved that the scam I thought I’d invented was much closer to the truth than you’d have guessed.
And my most recent crime novel, The Dead House, had its roots in a totally genuine and utterly weird medieval practice . . . that I can’t tell you about without ruining the story.
A huge thank you Harry for taking part.

Harry’s latest novel The Dead House is out now!

‘Chilling, atmospheric and so gripping it hurts. The Dead House is a masterpiece. You won’t read a better crime novel this year’ MARK EDWARDS
On a wild October night, the body of a young woman is found in a remote country churchyard. She’s wearing nothing but a thin, white dress. There are no marks of violence and no obvious cause of death.
Who is the victim? Why is she here?
But another young woman went missing from the area a few years back, and DC Fiona Griffiths soon suspects a crime even more chilling than she first imagined.

You can find out more about Harry’s books here: Harry’s crime fiction. You can find out more about his work for other writers via the Writers’ Workshop and Agent Hunter.

Read Harry’s interview with his main character Fiona Griffiths HERE.

Blog Tour – Faithless by Kjell Ola Dahl *Review*

Thrilled to be hosting one of today’s stops on the Faithless blog tour alongside Clues and Reviews and to finally be able to share my thoughts on the book by Kjell Ola Dahl.

The Blurb

Oslo detectives Gunnarstranda and Frølich are back … and this time, it’s personal…

When the body of a woman turns up in a dumpster, scalded and wrapped in plastic, Inspector Frank Frølich is shocked to discover that he knows her … and their recent meetings may hold the clue to her murder. As he ponders the tragic events surrounding her death, Frølich’s colleague Gunnarstranda investigates a disturbingly similar cold case involving the murder of a young girl in northern Norway and Frølich is forced to look into his own past to find the answers – and the killer – before he strikes again.

Dark, brooding and utterly chilling, Faithless is a breath-taking and atmospheric page-turner that marks the return of an internationally renowned and award-winning series, from one of the fathers of Nordic Noir.

My Thoughts

Faithless is my first venture into Dahl’s books and I guess I did have some concern as to whether I would be able to get into the story as I had not met Oslo detectives Frølich and Gunnarstranda before. Much to my relief the story works well as a standalone and you can instantly pick up with the characters and not feel as though you are missing out on any back story. One of the reasons, I feel, for this is the concentration on the crime and police procedures rather than the personal lives of the detectives.

From reading the above it may come across that I didn’t get a feel for the characters but this is not the case. We do get an insight into the private life of Gunnarstranda and Frølich and a sense of the relationship between them, however, it is in addition to the main story at hand and not in your face. The death of a woman Frølich knows and the involvement of an old friend certainly makes the case in Faithless personal to him, yet it is done in such a way that it never detracts from the main crux of the story. Memories from Frølich’s past re-surface and his feelings about being involved in a case in which he knows the victim adds a great layer to the story with it becoming very much a welcome addition rather than a distraction.

I really enjoyed the police procedural aspect of Faithless which is written with an authenticity that highlights the instincts that come after years in the profession and does not overly rely on modern technologies in order to discover who committed the murder. In addition, Dahl expresses the feelings and thoughts that the detectives have towards their colleagues and the work they do in a candid, realistic way which gives the characters and the book a whole added layer. Faithless is a refreshing change from the emotionally challenged detectives we often see in crime fiction.

Dahl is a skilled writer and in Faithless he has written a story that threads and winds its way around leaving you guessing and counter-guessing, never knowing where you will end up. The tension starts subtly and quietly descends into a darkness that leaves you stunned and totally taken aback. The translation by Don Bartlett is fantastically done and I never felt that something was lacking or lost in translation as I have in other translated novels. To be fair, however, this has never been an issue with books published by Orenda and they have restored my faith in translated fiction.

Faithless is a subtly disconcerting read with an ending that takes you totally by surprise. I liked it for its genuineness, its realism and the fact it concentrates on the nitty-gritty detective work. If you like police procedurals that take you into the heart of the work detectives carry out you will enjoy Faithless.

Published on 15 April 2017 by Orenda Books.

A huge thank you to Karen Sullivan at Orenda Books for my copy in exchange for my review and to Anne Cater for inviting me to take part in the blog tour. You can catch the rest of the tour at the other fantastic blogs…

 

Blog Tour – Sleep Tight by Caroline Mitchell *Review*

I can’t tell you how excited I am to be part of the Sleep Tight blog tour today along with Sharon at Chapter In My Life and Claire at Crimebookjunkie. So what did I think of the second book in the Detective Ruby Preston series? Has Caroline Mitchell managed to pull off another cracking read? Read on to find out…

The Blurb

Close your eyes … Just pray you don’t wake up.

A killer stalks the streets of East London. All over the area, murdered young women are discovered, their bodies posed into a sickening recreation of fairytale princesses.

Detective Ruby Preston is determined to hunt down a disturbed individual who is using the women to realise their twisted fantasies. But when body parts are found at the home of her lover, Nathan Crosby, Ruby is torn between her job and her heart.

Convinced that he is being framed, Ruby must catch the killer before Nathan becomes the number one suspect. But as more victims are found, it becomes harder to prove his innocence.

Ruby is in too deep, knowing that the cruel individual is getting ever closer, looking for his next beautiful victim. But can she stop a killer hell-bent on fulfilling their horrific desires – before it’s too late? And how well does she really know the man she loves?

A terrifying, addictive serial killer thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat, for readers of Angela Marsons, Peter James and Rachel Abbott.

My Thoughts

Detective Ruby Preston is back and I have to say I’m very pleased she is! I adored Love You To Death and couldn’t wait to get my mitts on the second in the series. I’m pleased to say that Mitchell has done it again with Sleep Tight and written another bloomin’ brilliant book.

Ruby has her work cut out for her as a serial killer is on the loose and bodies of young women are being discovered across East London. The case becomes personal when body parts are found at her on-off lover and gangster Nathan Crosby’s home.

Mitchell has written a macabre, twisted novel in which the bodies are dressed as fairy tale princesses. I love the way she has incorporated the fairy tales within the killer’s MO harking to the original dark stories told by the Grimm brothers. It makes the killings even more disturbing thus making Sleep Tight all the more thrilling.

I devoured this book in a matter of hours. The prologue is darkly enticing and creepy, and the pace that follows is unforgiving and relentless, forcing you to read ‘just one more’ chapter until, before you know it, you have finished the book. Mitchell takes you to the brink of thinking you have it all sussed out and then quickly pulls the rug from underneath you.

I really liked the character of Ruby with her complicated life in the first book and Sleep Tight has cemented my view of Ruby being a Detective to follow. The personal perspectives on police procedures, the investigation and interrogation give that real insight into how the job is viewed by those who undertake it every day adding that extra layer to the story. Mitchell’s previous life as a detective shines through and gives her work an authentic feel.

I thoroughly enjoyed Sleep Tight, it is fast-paced, creepy and nail-biting. Mitchell has created a fantastic follow-up to Love You To Death and I can see the Detective Ruby Preston series being a big hit with crime fiction fans. Read it, you will love it!

Published 20 April 2017 by Bookouture.

Purchase Links
UK 🇬🇧 http://amzn.to/2oFTxLj
US 🇺🇸 http://amzn.to/2npDVLY

About the Author

A former police detective, Caroline has worked in CID and specialised in roles dealing with vulnerable victims, high risk victims of domestic abuse, and serious sexual offences.
Originally from Ireland, Caroline lives with her family in a pretty village on the coast of Essex. She now writes full time.
www.caroline-writes.com
https://www.facebook.com/CMitchellAuthor/
https://twitter.com/Caroline_writes

A huge thank you to Noelle at Bookouture and Caroline Mitchell for the advance copy and for inviting me to take part in the blog tour. Be sure to catch the rest of the fab bloggers on the tour…

 

Author Influences with Joyce Schneider

I’m thrilled to be joined by Joyce Schneider today to talk about her author influences. Joyce’s latest thriller Watching You is published on 25 April 2017 and she will be joining me again on the 28 April as part of the Watching You blog tour with a great guest post. Anyhoo it’s time to get on with finding out about her author influences…

Which authors/books did you like to read as a child?
Nancy Drew – all of ‘em, over & over. Also Treasure Island, which I also read again & again. There are parts of Treasure Island I used to know by heart.

Were you good at English at school? Did you like it?
Yes, I loved it. My English teacher, Miss Sullivan (at Classical High School in Worcester, Massachusetts), used to rebuke me for “making speeches” when asked a question. Other times, she’d ask the class questions (meaning of theme, language, tone, etc) and say, “Put your hand down, Joyce. We KNOW you know.” Ha! The rest of the class thought it was funny. Miss Sullivan was on the mean/austere side, so I used to enjoy annoying the hell out of her. She looked like a crabby old frog.

What genres do you like to read? Have they had an impact on the genre you write?
Mysteries & thrillers. Yes, totally.

If you were to write a different genre what would it be and why?
I wouldn’t.

Did any author’s work encourage you to pick up your pen and write and if so who, what and why?
Yes. First, I majored in French Literature in college (that’s American for University). Then I worked at Newsweek Magazine where they all wrote, dreamed out loud of quitting “just spewing the news” and writing the Great American Novel. Some of them did succeed, & would come back to visit, encourage, and poke, “why are you still here? Start writing nights, weekends.”

But most of all, Ira Levin’s Rosemary’s Baby which I finally caught up to had the biggest impact. Ditto his other great books: The Stepford Wives & The Boys from Brazil. I still read them, over & over.

Are there any authors who, as soon as they publish a new book, you have to get it?
Not really. What I love is re-reading my old favorites, paperbacks now falling apart. Besides Ira Levin they include Agatha Christie’s Death on the Nile and Marathon Man, a book so high adrenalin, heart-breaking, & stunning in concept that I can’t think of any contemporaries that come even close. Its author is William Goldman, who wrote Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Princess Bride, etc.

Which books have you read that have made you think ’Wow, I wish I had written that’ and what was it about the book?
Rosemary’s Baby. Written way before the term “psychological thriller,” and, I think, better than all of them. No one shows the banality of evil as subtly – & with such ingenious brevity – as Ira Levin.

Have any of your plots/characters been influenced by real life events/people? (Be careful, I don’t want you getting sued!)
Somewhat. Mostly, bits & pieces of movies or TV cop shows including Criminal Minds, Dexter, etc seem to collect, uncatalogued, in my mind, and then reorganize, come out in a whole new idea.

A huge thank you Joyce for taking part.

Thanks right back for including me, Abbie! The pleasure is mine! 🙂

Look out for Joyce’s next novel Watching You on 20 April 2017

A serial killer texts his victims first. A detective vows revenge. He comes after her.

In the chill of an October night, Detective Kerri Blasco is called to a bizarre murder scene. Leda Winfield, a young volunteer for the homeless, has been shot. Her cell phone displays the frightening text, WATCHING YOU, and into her back, hideously pushed with a hat pin, is a note with the same awful message. Leda’s socialite family and friends insist that no one would have wanted to harm her, but Detective Kerri isn’t convinced.

Until another random young woman is killed in exactly the same way. Kerri and her team profile a monstrous killer who enjoys terrifying his victims before stalking and killing them. But how does he get their phone numbers?

Kerri soon finds that the killer is after her, too, and that the key to finding him may just be in the homeless shelter. When the body count rises, she vows to stop the madman – even if it means battling her own personal trauma, risking her job, her love relationship with her boss Alex Brand, and her life.

Fans of Karin Slaughter, Robert Dugoni and Rachel Abbott will be gripped by this nonstop serial killer thriller, guaranteed to keep you reading late into the night.

About Joyce Schneider

J.A. (Joyce Anne) Schneider is a former staffer at Newsweek Magazine. She is the author of the Embryo medical thriller series, and of the Detective Kerri Blasco Police/Psychological Thrillers Fear Dreams, Her Last Breath, and Watching You.

Connect with Joyce

Website: http://jaschneiderauthor.net/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/JoyceSchneider1

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JASchneiderAuthor?skip_nax_wizard=true

 

Blog Tour – We All Begin As Strangers by Harriet Cummings *Review*

I’m so pleased to be on the We All Begin As Strangers by Harriet Cummings blog tour. Regular readers of the blog will know how much I love to discover a debut author so I was delighted when I was asked to take part in this. Today I’m sharing with you my thoughts on this book, but first what is it about?

The Blurb

It’s 1984, and summer is scorching the ordinary English village of Heathcote.

What’s more, a mysterious figure is slipping into homes through back doors and open windows. Dubbed ‘The Fox’, he knows everything about everyone – leaving curious objects in their homes, or taking things from them.
When beloved Anna goes missing, the whole community believes The Fox is responsible.
But as the residents scramble to solve the mystery of Anna’s disappearance, little do they know it’s their darkest secrets The Fox is really after…
Inspired by a real events, and with a brilliant cast of characters, WE ALL BEGIN AS STRANGERS is a beautiful debut novel you’ll want to recommend to everyone.
If you loved THE TROUBLE WITH GOATS AND SHEEP by Joanna Cannon, ELIZABETH IS MISSING by Emma Healey and THE UNLIKELY PILGRIMAGE OF HAROLD FRY by Rachel Joyce, you’ll adore this wonderful British debut novel.

My Thoughts

We All Begin As Strangers is the debut novel by Harriet Cummings. Set in the 1980s it centres around a small village in the Chilterns, the inhabitants of which are experiencing break-ins by someone they have nicknamed ‘The Fox’. Nothing of value is taken from the homes but, for obvious reasons, it unnerves the residents. When a much-loved resident of the village, Anna, goes missing, however, all fingers point towards her being kidnapped by The Fox.

Cummings was inspired to write this book by real events that took place in the 80s. A person the newspapers dubbed ‘The Fox’ was breaking into houses in villages across the Chilterns, but not stealing anything. The story of the real Fox is more sinister as he committed rapes during his reign of terror.

Told from the perspective of four of the village’s residents who spent time with Anna, We All Begin As Strangers is more than the mystery of a missing girl and a strange intruder. It is a story about loneliness, trust, secrets and the idiosyncrasies of human beings. Deloris is the dissatisfied newly-wed; Brian, the village police officer whose personal life is not straightforward; Jim is the local clergyman who harbours a secret from his past and Stan manages the local supermarket and struggles with a part of himself he can’t tell anyone about.

Anna is the villager everybody loves – regular church-goer, unassuming and quiet – the village is rocked when she disappears. Curtains twitch as each resident becomes suspicious of the others. How well do they really know each other? Could one of them be The Fox? As secrets and histories are unfurled, it would appear that nobody is as they seem. The Fox is integral to those secrets coming to light and one by one they get to know each other better, although not necessarily with a positive outcome for some.

Cummings captures what I imagine life in a small village where everybody knows everybody would be like although, as we discover, we often only know the part that the person wants us to see. Cummings is a great writer and has crafted a plot that is carefully put together. I have to admit to having mixed feelings about We All Begin As Strangers through the course of my reading with moments of loving the book to moments of not being sure if I actually liked it, and if I’m honest I can’t put my finger on why. The ending, however, blew me away and led to me having a completely different view of the novel as a whole. The idea behind We All Begin As Strangers fascinates me and the ending left me feeling satisfied and wanting to read it again to see what I would perceive differently.
This is not a fast-paced novel as it centres around the characters, their lives and feelings in the midst of an awful event. It relies on an interest from the reader in the quirks and nuances of human behaviour and village life alongside the need to get to the bottom of who The Fox is and the motives behind their behaviour.

I think We All Begin As Strangers will have a mixed reaction from readers. It is a book I appreciated a lot more on finishing, and it is one of those books that makes you think over what you have read. It is a book that, for me, warrants discussion during the course of reading it and would, therefore, make a great book for a reading group. It has certainly left its mark on me and I look forward to what Cummings brings to us in the future.

Published on 20 April 2017 by Orion.

About the Author

Harriet is a novelist and copywriter with a background in history of art.

She currently lives in Leamington Spa, UK, with her husband and springer spaniel.

A huge thank you to Virginia at Orion Books and Harriet Cummings for my advance copy and for inviting me to take part in the blog tour. Catch the rest of the fab bloggers on the rest of the tour…

Author Guest Post – Good Vs Evil – A Story as Old as Time by Kerensa Jennings

I was approached to see if I would be able to read and review Seas Of Snow by Kerensa Jennings. Because I am  being good (and for once in my life sensible!) and trying to make a dent in my ever-toppling ‘to review’ pile, I very sadly had to say no. I was pretty gutted about this as Kerensa’s debut novel sounds stunning and is definitely on my TBR list.  I am very excited, however, to be able to bring you a fantastic guest post by Kerensa on Good vs Evil, which I know you will enjoy reading as much as I did. So instead of waffling on I will place you in Kerensa’s good hands…

Good versus Evil – a Story as Old as Time
“There was once a poor man, who was a woodman, who went every day to cut wood in the forest…

And the two children were so very fond of each other, that they were never happy but when they were together….

In the afternoon of the third day they came to a strange little hut, made of bread, with a roof of cake, and windows of barley-sugar…

Hansel had torn off a large piece of cake from the roof, when the door opened, and a little old lady fairy came gliding out….

But the fairy was a spiteful one, and had made her pretty sweetmeat house to entrap little children…”


Hansel and Gretel. Two little children, pottering off together into the woods. The picture of innocence.

We are all familiar with the story. A classic tale of good versus evil. Innocence triumphing over adversity. And some horrific incidents involving a wicked witch; a dreadful mother who brutally casts the children in her care to a fate in the woods; and a weak father who helplessly colludes.

A story as old as time.

We all love stories. We can lose ourselves in them. Escape, run away. Use them as a source of solace and comfort. Empathise with the characters, feel their joy, endure their pain. Stories give us permission to live an alternate reality, fly away into our imaginations. Stories give us permission to experience what psychologists call ‘transference’ – where we project our emotions and life stories onto others. It is easier for a child to hate a step-mother in a story than to admit in his or her heart of hearts they hate their own.

The extracts above come from a precious 1839 edition I have of the Grimm brothers’ collection of ‘Popular Stories’. I have always been fascinated by fairy tales and have a collection of beautiful books from around the world. Fairy tales help us make sense of life, one step removed. And everyone always lives happily ever after.

The original collections the Grimm brothers amassed were collected as oral stories then written up. These were adapted several times even in the brothers’ own lifetime, and these days the Disneyfied stories we tell our children are scarcely recognizable from their early incarnations. The original tales were imbued with darkness, sex, incest. Not the type of thing you would choose as a bedtime story for your little one.

When I was at university, my thesis was titled ‘Persecution and Revenge of the Innocents’. I took five of the stories  –  including Hänsel und Grethel –  (from the third publication of the Grimms’ collection) and conducted a psychoanalytical analysis of the tales, exploring themes of innocence, corruption, good and evil.

I examined archetypes in the Grimm’s stories. In fairy tale land, there is a logic which works something like this – if a character is beautiful and light, then they are innocent and good. If a character is ugly and dark, then they are corrupt and evil. Even the Disneyfication of fairy tales notwithstanding, we are all familiar with the idea…

In SEAS OF SNOW, I have attempted to create a profound dichotomy between good and evil. We see the world through the eyes of little Gracie, a picture of innocence, kindness, sweetness and loveliness; and then also through the perspective of her uncle Joe – a character whose darkness seeps through every pore.

Gracie and her best friend Billy often go to play in the woods, using playtime and stories to invent worlds and games in fairy tale kingdoms with dragons and princesses. Friendship and love bind the past and the present as the story dances through time. And the horror unfolds with uncle Joe turning his violent attentions to little Gracie.

I so wanted to write something so that victims and their families could have ‘permission’ to stop feeling they are at fault, or to blame. The truth is in today’s troubled times as much as ever – so much goes on behind closed doors. People on the outside are often perplexed that someone stayed in a domestic abuse situation; or can’t fathom why no-one took action to help. SEAS OF SNOW seeks to offer a way for people who are suffering to see they are not alone.

I wrote the novel as a process of catharsis for myself. I had lead the BBC News coverage of the Soham investigation, working closely with the police. This was a terrible case where a school caretaker brutally murdered two little girls, stealing their futures and robbing their families and friends of their loved ones.

The caretaker, Ian Huntley, was interviewed by the press and the media in the days after the girls went missing. He outwardly betrayed the appearance of someone who was a caring member of the community. All the while, as he lied and lied, he knew exactly what he had done. Hiding in plain sight. Working on this case for many months affected me profoundly.

So in creating Joe, I wanted to explore whether evil is born or made. Examine that age old debate of nature versus nurture. Bring to life an antagonist who people would fall in love with because of his outward appearance and charisma. Then make him evil to the core so our revulsion at him and what he is capable of makes us feel duped and horrified. I wanted that emotional disjuncture. That sense of not being able to trust our own eyes.

My fascination for fairy tales has influenced my writing throughout my life. People who read SEAS OF SNOW will recognise some of that thinking I suspect. Trust. Betrayal. Consequences.

When I was putting my thoughts together on how to craft my story structure in the novel, I began casting around for inspiration of time and place. I knew I wanted to transplant the original genesis of my thinking into another time and place.

I had bought the book “Mémoires d’Enfance”  while I was living in Paris, largely because I was entranced by the photograph on the front cover. I discovered it was by a truly great American photo journalist called W Eugene Smith.

This is what he said about photography: “A photo is a small voice, at best, but sometimes – just sometimes – one photograph or a group of them can lure our senses into awareness. Much depends upon the viewer; in some, photographs can summon enough emotion to be a catalyst to thought.”

This is exactly what happened to me when I saw the little boy and the little girl in the woodland clearing. A sort of early twentieth century Hansel and Gretel. I found myself imagining who could have taken the photograph, who the children were, what their back-stories might be. Where did they live, what were their lives like? What were they called?

Suddenly, the names “Gracie” and “Billie” startled themselves into my mind. Whatever the truth of their identities, I “knew” that was what this sweet little twosome were called. And in time, these grew into “my” Gracie and Billie. During the development edit, my editor Scott Pack not unreasonably pointed out that the normal spelling of the boy’s name is Billy. So Billie became Billy. Early readers of my first drafts might have fond memories of Billie as he was, but it felt fitting to give him his proper boy name.

With the photograph came the inspiration for placing the story in the 1950s. From there it was a hop and a skip to deciding North Shields in Tyneside for the location as this was where my Nanny had grown up. I’d been there for a special and rather formative holiday with her in my early teens.

SEAS OF SNOW is bleak psychological thriller. Uncle Joe appears unexpectedly in Gracie’s life when she’s just five years old. And changes everything. SEAS OF SNOW is a story of trust and betrayal, of the worst kind.

Drawing on the power of storytelling in fairy tales, it’s about good versus evil.

A story as old as time.

A huge thank you to Kerensa for taking the time to write such a wonderful piece. I loved reading this!

Seas Of Snow – The Blurb

1950s England. Five-year-old Gracie Scott lives with her Mam and next door to her best friend Billy. An only child, she has never known her Da. When her Uncle Joe moves in, his physical abuse of Gracie’s mother starts almost immediately. But when his attentions wander to Gracie, an even more sinister pattern of behaviour begins.

As Gracie grows older, she finds solace and liberation in books, poetry and her enduring friendship with Billy. Together they escape into the poetic fairy-tale worlds of their imaginations.

But will fairy tales be enough to save Gracie from Uncle Joe’s psychopathic behaviour – and how far will it go?

How brilliant does Seas Of Snow sound? Published on 16 March 2017 you can purchase a copy via the following links –

UK: Amazon Link

US: Amazon Link

Blog Tour – My Mourning Year by Andrew Marshall *Excerpt*

Today I am delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for Andrew Marshall’s My Mourning Year: A Memoir of Bereavement, Discovery and Hope and am able to share with you an excerpt from this very special book.  But first here is what the book is about –

The Blurb

In 1997 Andrew Marshall’s partner, and the only person to whom he had ever truly opened his heart, died after a gruelling and debilitating illness. Unmoored from his old life, and feeling let down by his family, Marshall struggled not only to make sense of his loss but to even imagine what a future without Thom might look like. In his diary, he wrote about what set him back – like a rebound relationship – some weird and wonderful encounters with psychics and gurus and how his job as a journalist gave him the chance to talk about death with a range of famous people, a forensic anthologist and a holocaust survivor. Slowly but surely with the help of friends, a badly behaved dog and a renewed relationship with his parents, he began to piece his life back together. Although his diary was never meant for publication, Marshall did share it with friends and colleagues dealing with bereavement, who found it immensely helpful, so to mark the twentieth anniversary of Thom’s death, he has decided to open it for everybody to read. My Mourning Year is a frank and unflinching account of one man’s life for a year after the death of his lover. In turn heartbreaking, frustrating and even sweetly funny, this is no step-by-step guide to dealing with bereavement but a shoulder to lean on when facing the unknowns of death and a resource for those left behind.

And now for the excerpt…

Thursday 16 October – Germany

Strange unidentifiable feelings ran through my stomach as I checked in at Gatwick airport. I was shattered, both physically and emotionally. I might need a holiday but for some reason that I cannot explain, I’ve chosen to return to Germany and confront the past. The couple ahead of me in the queue were speaking German. There was something very reassuring about the familiarity of Thom’s mother tongue. I’d forgotten what a central part of my life Germany has been. For five and a half years, I flew there at least once a month to visit Thom. Even after he moved to England, we would return together several times a year. It was only in the last few months that it became tied up with sickness, disease and death. So I’m returning for the right reasons, aren’t I?

The bustling terminal was not the place for self-examination. It was only after I sat on the plane and looked out of the window, that I came face to face with my true feelings. As usual, I’d bought a copy of Vanity Fair to read during the journey. It was just another flight to Germany. Except my other purchase was a packet of tissues. It has been months since I had always carried an emergency supply.

Waiting for my baggage at Dortmund airport, I found myself looking for Thom the other side of the barrier. How many times had he collected me from that airport? How many times had I left customs and thrown myself into his arms?

I dug deep for some consolation. At least this time I would not be hiring a car and driving to that hospital – the heart of my hell. Instead, I took a taxi to my friend Martin’s flat (where I had stayed during Thom’s final weeks).

Dortmund was full of nostalgia but it was a gentle pain and the tears I’d expected were sweet rather than bitter. I was amazed at how easily I fell back into sync with Thom’s friends. It was wonderful to talk about him and hear them recount their favourite stories. Back in England, it always seemed to be me who brought up his name. Even if I couldn’t have Thom, I could spend time with his friends and walk the streets that he walked.

You don’t stop loving someone just because they’re dead. In fact, the love grows greater, as it’s easier to forget their faults.

My Mourning Year is published by RedDoor Publishing and is available on eBook now and paperback on 20 April 2017. You can purchase a copy HERE.

About the Author

Andrew has been a marital therapist for almost thirty years. He trained with RELATE the UK’s leading couple counselling charity. He now has a private practice in London and Sussex (England), gives workshops on relationship and inspirational talks. His books have been translated into twenty languages (including French, German, Spanish, Japanese, Chinese and Italian). He also writes for UK newspapers Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday. These articles are collected on his Facebook page. As well as being a writer, Andrew is a keen reader and is always looking for suggestions of great books to read (either about relationships or novels).

A huge thank you to Anna at RedDoor Publishing for inviting me to take part in the blog tour and share with you this extract. Be sure to catch the other bloggers on the rest of the blog tour.

 

 

 

Blog Tour – Ashes to Ashes by Paul Finch *Excerpt*

Whoop whoop it’s my turn on the Ashes to Ashes blog tour and I’m very excited to be able to share an excerpt from Paul Finch’s latest Detective Mark Heckenburg book. First up here is the synopsis…

The Sunday Times bestseller returns with his next unforgettable crime thriller. Fans of MJ Arlidge and Stuart MacBride won’t be able to put this down.
John Sagan is a forgettable man. You could pass him in the street and not realise he’s there. But then, that’s why he’s so dangerous.
A torturer for hire, Sagan has terrorised – and mutilated – countless victims. And now he’s on the move. DS Mark ‘Heck’ Heckenburg must chase the trail, even when it leads him to his hometown of Bradburn – a place he never thought he’d set foot in again.
But Sagan isn’t the only problem. Bradburn is being terrorised by a lone killer who burns his victims to death. And with the victims chosen at random, no-one knows who will be next. Least of all Heck.

Sounds good, right? To whet your appetite further here is an excerpt from the book…

The hanging rope was only five feet away. Heck knew there was a good chance he’d make it, but he also knew that if he stopped to think about this he wouldn’t go any further. So he didn’t think, just launched himself out, diving full-length – and dropping like a stone, maybe ten feet, before managing to catch hold of the rope. Several more feet of cold, greasy hemp slid through his fingers before he brought himself to a halt, ripping both his gloves and the flesh of the palms underneath. Doing his best to ignore the blistering pain, he clambered down and alighted on the garage roof nearest the building.

‘Suspect heading northeast along Bellfield Lane!’ he shouted down to the two uniforms who’d spilled onto Charlton Court from their patrol car, faces aghast at what they’d just seen Heck do. ‘Spread the word!’

Without waiting for a response, Heck ran due north along the flimsy roofs, feet drumming on damp planks covered only in tarpaper, jabbering into his radio again, giving instructions as best he could. At the far end, he dropped onto all fours and swung his body over the parapet. He hung full-length and dropped the last five feet, before careering down¬hill through grass and clutter onto the road.

‘Bellfield Lane heading northeast,’ he shouted, hammering along the tarmac. ‘Any units in that direction to respond, over?’ But the airwaves were jammed with cross-cutting messages. ‘Shit . . . come on, someone!’

As he ran, the vast concrete shape of a railway gantry loomed towards him. Above it, stroboscopic lights sped back and forth as trains hurtled between East Dulwich and Peckham Rye. Conversely, the shadows beneath the structure were oil-black. In normal times this would be a muggers’ paradise, but Heck was armed, and besides the night was now alive with sirens – it was just a pity none were in the immediate vicinity.

Beyond the railway overpass, a sheer brick wall stood on the right, but on the left there was wire fencing, and behind that another slope angling down to a glass-littered car park. The fence’s second section was loose, disconnected along the bottom, giving easy access to the other side. Heck swerved towards it – only to find that his quarry, neatly camouflaged in his all-black garb, had secreted himself flat at the foot of the waiting slope. The first Heck knew of this was the muzzle-flash, and the hail of shot that swept the wire mesh.

He threw himself to the pavement, rolling away and landing in the gutter – where he lay on his back, gun trained two-handed on the wall of fencing.

Until he heard feet clattering away again.

He scrambled to his knees.

A dark shape was haring across the car park below, at the far side of which a concrete ramp led down onto yet another housing estate, this one comprising rows of near-identical maisonettes. Heck slid under the fence and gave chase, stumbling down the slope until he reached the level tarmac, all the time trying to get through on his radio.

‘Is no one fucking listening to me?’ he shouted. ‘For what it’s worth . . . still in pursuit, suspect still on foot, still armed, opening fire at every opportunity. Heading west onto the Hawkwood estate. Listen, this is a built-up area with lots of civvies. Not many around at present, but someone’s got to get over here fast. Over and fucking out!’

The latest Heck instalment sound fan-bloody-tastic and is definitely on my TBR list! A huge thank you to Paul Finch and Helena Sheffield at Avon Books for inviting me to take part in the blog tour and allowing me to share an excerpt.

Be sure to catch the rest of the Ashes to Ashes blog tour for reviews and author guest posts.

Author Guest Post – Behind the Scenes in the Reading Group with Della Parker

I’m very excited to be joined by The Reading Group author Della Parker today. She is taking us behind the scenes of her series of novellas and talking about the importance of and how she created the settings. Without further ado I will hand you over to Della…

Settings

Settings are incredibly important for fiction. They are where our characters live and they are where we are going to take our readers. So for me, it’s important to choose a setting I know well.

The setting for my latest series of novellas, The Reading Group, was a seaside town in Devon called Little Sanderton. The nearest big town to Little Sanderton is Exeter which is 21 miles away and is mentioned frequently throughout the Reading Group.

I should confess here that Little Sanderton doesn’t actually exist but if you were to look up Branscombe, which is in Devon, you’ll have an idea of where I had in mind. When Jojo and Kate go walking to talk about the breakdown of Kate’s marriage in the February, novella they are walking on Branscombe Beach.

Serena’s house where the Reading Group meet each month, is set on a clifftop close by. So is Anne Marie’s father’s house.

The beauty of choosing an imaginary setting is that you can’t mistakenly libel anyone or upset anyone, but you can go and look at actual houses and base your fictitious ones upon them. I tend to use the outsides of real houses and make up what’s on the inside. (So far, no one has actually let me in to have a look around their house, but you never know!)

I also tend to set my stories in places I love. I have some very fond memories of holidaying in Branscombe, which is not a million miles away from where I live. I have walked along several sections of the coast path and spent many a happy day in the local seaside towns and villages, not to mention restaurants. (All in the name of research, obviously!)

Setting a series of novellas in this area was a delight. It meant I could go back there in my mind. Skip back to this idyllic place and take my readers with me. Not a bad way to earn a living, is it!

 

Thank you Della for this lovely guest post. The first instalments of The Reading Group by Della Parker are out now.  Each month concentrates on a different character and has elements of the classic literary fiction they are reading that month as part of their reading group. You can read my reviews of December, January and February and find out more about the characters HERE and my review of April HERE.

 

Review – The Reading Group: April by Della Parker

The Blurb

‘Brims with laughs, love, family and friendship. You will love this heartwarming read!’ Trisha Ashley. Perfect for fans of Cathy Bramley and Holly Martin.
Serena, the ambitious young Headmistress of Poppins Private School, has just begun reading Jane Eyre alongside her friends in the Reading Group. She would never admit it out loud, but she’s half hoping that reality might once again echo fiction. Will she perhaps meet her own Mr Rochester?
That doesn’t stop her from being slightly alarmed when her secretary arranges an appointment with one Mr Winchester, the handsome father of a troubled pupil in the midst of a messy divorce. But when the line between work and pleasure begins to blur, and troubles in her own family come to a head, Serena is left wondering if being a romantic heroine is all it’s cracked up to be…
Meet the Reading Group: five women in the seaside village of Little Sanderton come together every month to share their love of reading. No topic is off-limits: books, family, love and loss . . . and don’t forget the glass of red!

My Thoughts

It’s April in Little Sanderton and The Reading Group’s book this month is Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. Serena takes centre stage in this instalment, will her life mirror that of the book she is reading?

Serena is the successful headmistress of an exclusive school, lives in a beautiful house and seems to have it all. As we get to know her better in this edition of The Reading Group we discover, however, that her life is not as perfect as it seems. She has had her share of tragedy and her relationship with her family is less than perfect. Like the heroine Serena is reading about, she is a bit of an outcast when it comes to her family. As her life is heading along its usual path, in walks Mr Winchester…

I love Jane Eyre, it is one of the first classics I read and so I looked forward to the April Edition of The Reading Group to see what a modern day version would look like. Eddie Winchester shares a similar name to Edward Rochester and, while he doesn’t have a ‘mad’ wife kept hidden in his attic, he certainly has his fair share of difficulty with his ex-wife Debbie. I really like the way Parker takes the elements of a classic novel and brings them up to date, while showing that issues written about in the 19th century are still relevant today.

Parker manages to fit a lot of story into a short book and yet it never feels rushed. She ensures that the reader gets to know the main character well and simultaneously keeps you glued to the pages to discover the outcome. The friendship provided by the reading group is a theme that runs throughout all of the books alongside a touch of romance and drama and the April edition is no different.

The Reading Group: April is a lovely, light read in which you really feel a part of the group of friends. Although this is book five in the series it works well as a standalone for those who haven’t read the others in the series, however, I would recommend you check them out. A great way to spend a few hours over the Easter weekend.

Published on eBook on 30 March 2017 by Quercus.

Thank you to Della Parker, Quercus and NetGalley for my copy in exchange for my unbiased and honest review.

I hope you will join me on Bloomin’ Brilliant Books tomorrow as I have a fab guest post by Della Parker.