Dead If You Don’t Review: A Realistic Police Procedural For Thrill Seekers

dead if you don't

Having previously reviewed- and loved- Peter James’ novel Need You Dead, I had high hopes for Dead If You Don’t, the latest in the world renowned DCI Roy Grace series.

Enjoying a football game with his recently discovered son in an attempt at father-son bonding, Grace is drawn into a horrific crime as the son of an established businessman and compulsive gambler is abducted. Racing against time, Grace and his team work to uncover both the kidnappers and their motives, exposing many of the father’s secrets in the process.

Exploring the issue of child abduction, James handles the crime sensitively, and the novel is both realistic and tense, dragging the reader along as Grace works tirelessly to uncover the truth and rescue the child before it’s too late.

As in the previous novels in the series, James’ expert research shines through, and the author’s strong understanding and knowledge of police procedure and the UK’s legal system ensures that readers get a realistic glimpse into the life of a top London detective.

One thing I don’t quite get is the names; James’ characterisation is excellent as ever, but I couldn’t stop laughing at key character named ‘Kip’, and, perhaps even better, ‘Mungo’, Kip’s son and the kidnap victim. Somehow these ridiculous names make it hard for me to take the narrative entirely seriously, particularly when Mungo is snatched.

Despite this minor drawback, I find the novel as engaging as any of James’ books. Both his standalone novels and his DCI Grace books have a sort of compelling charm and fast paced narrative that propels the reader through and has them hooked to the very end.

As I turned the final page I was utterly spellbound by James’ exquisite storytelling and exceptional characterisation. This is a great modern police procedural that keeps you hooked until the nail-biting finale.

 

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The Top Five Best Inspector Alleyn Novels For the True Golden Age Fan

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After my recent review of Money in the Morgue, the latest novel by Ngaio Marsh, which was finished by Stella Duffy, I decided that it was high time I did a top five list for my favourite Inspector Alleyn novels.

Cerebral, scholarly and dependable, Alleyn is a strong, proud policeman who is committed to solving often impossibly complicated crimes. Class, race and sexuality are all explored, with Marsh, a renowned New Zealand novelist, using her detective books to make numerous statements. I was an avid Marsh reader when at University, and over the years I have found many favourites, which I am really happy to share with you! Perfect for Golden Age fans looking for something new, or an avid Marsh fan looking to see what I think, there is something for everyone in my list of my favourite books featuring this stoic, intellectual detective.

5. Opening Night: Marsh is renowned for her novels focusing on the theatrical market, and Opening Night is a really good example of this. There’s a murder of a actor backstage on opening night at a London theatre, leaving Inspector Alleyn to look into the crime. Marsh understands the competitive, gossip-ridden world of theatre intimately, and as such her theatrical novels are works of genius that readers, whether they are fans or new arrivals to the bandwagon, will enjoy.

4. Vintage Murder: The leading lady of a travelling theatre troupe circumnavigating New Zealand is suspected of killing her husband at her own birthday party. With Inspector Alleyn in attendance, something goes horribly wrong during the celebrations and her pudgy, not particularly attractive husband and theatre manager is bludgeoned to death is particularly theatrical style. As Alleyn digs deeper into the victim’s marital and theatrical lives, he   finds a tangled web of secrets, lies and affairs of the heart that baffles and mystifies, keeping the reader guessing until the very end.

3. Death And The Dancing Footman: Partially set in my native and beloved Dorset, this fascinating novel portrays a malicious millionaire’s attempt to cause chaos by inviting a selection of ardent enemies to a house party for his own amusement. When the fun stops and a member of the party turns to murder, Alleyn is called in to find the culprit from among this seedy cast of characters and draw out the culprit and their motive. Another example of how class and business are used by Marsh to convey the very worst of human nature, this is a character study as much as it is a work of genius detective fiction, making it a great read for Golden Age fans looking for an exceptional example of work from this seminal period in the history of Crime Fiction.

2. Death In A White Tie: I’ve always enjoyed novels that explore the class divide, and this is an exceptional example. As the social season begins, the high-class members of London society are descending on the city’s most fashionable hotspots. Amid this excitement a blackmailer lurks, seeking to profit from the secrets and sins of the rich and famous. Alleyn, set on finding the fiend and bringing them to justice, invites an old friend, Lord Robert Gospell, to help him in his quest. When a body is discovered in connection with the case, Alleyn is drawn into a complicated and intriguing case that delves deep into the highest echelons of London society.

1. A Man Lay Dead: I am a big believer in reading the first novel in a series first, and whilst this isn’t always the case, in this case it is a really good idea. A murder at a country house party during, ironically enough, a game of ‘murder’, begins Inspector Alleyn’s first published case. A complicated plot including Russian’s, secret societies and class politics keeps the intrepid Chief Inspector busy as he navigates the complicated lives his suspects. A true Golden Age thriller, this is a great starter for a new Marsh reader, as well as a good re-read for a hardened fan.

Rose Gold Review: Another Chilling Dystopian Novel

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Hot on the footsteps of Blue Gold is the follow up,  Rose Gold, and as part of author David Barker’s blog tour I reviewed this latest dystopian climate change novel, which is perfectly topical given the current political landscape.

Following on from the events of Blue Gold, Barker’s latest novel depicts the later years as earth battles its biological issues, and man seeks a new solution on the moon, of all places. Focusing the action of Sim Atkins, whose life is turned upside down by revelations that threaten his family and his future, the novel explores his determination to right wrongs and stop deadly terrorism before it is too late.

With Sim’s former partner Freda called back into service in order to assist, the pair is driven into a web of secrets, lies and deceit. Skilful navigation and nerves of steel are required to ensure success, which could be vital for the future not just of them, but of the human race as a whole.

My previous criticism of Blue Gold revolved around the slightly clunky dialogue and Barker’s tendency to launch information on his readers, which is often hard for them to digest easily (also known as info-dumping). I am very pleased to say that Rose Gold alleviates both these issues, to a certain extent, although the dialogue remains a little old fashioned.

However, this appears to be Barker’s style, and whilst it isn’t to everyone’s taste he certainly has the great skill of crafting dynamic, multi-dimensional characters that will never go out of style. Combined with the author’s superb plotting, which sees Sim’s fraught backstory expertly weaved into the larger story, and you get a really intense thriller that keeps you hooked from the get-go until the final line.

As I finished Rose Gold and contemplated the novel, I was impressed by Barker’s expert creation of an unique dystopia; his books are an unflinching representation of human nature at its most base and greedy, and in today’s political and social climate, with Trump pulling out of the Paris Agreement and many pondering the future of our planet, the timing could not be better.

 

 

Christine Gabriel Interview: “I love everything about dark fiction”

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This week I invited Christine Gabriel to talk me through her work and how she has come to define a unique writing style that appeals to her vast readership, including Iron Man. 

Tell me about how you came to define your writing style. What drew you towards darker fiction?

Great question! What most people don’t know about me is that I can successfully write in multi genres. Dark fiction is what I chose to put out as my debut novel. I love everything about dark fiction, and how you can entwine it with reality to the point that you can’t determine what’s real, and what’s fiction. It’s so much fun!

What is your background in writing and how did you get in to publishing your work?

I’ve been in the marketing field for almost 15 years. With my marketing knowledge, I was able to approach publishing houses with what I could do for them. They loved that I could help market my own book, along with their own efforts.

Then I signed with a publishing house – which shall remain nameless – and was terribly disappointed by their marketing/communication efforts, so I recovered my rights, and decided to move on.

One afternoon, I happened to be surfing Twitter, and saw PitMad was trending. Curious what Pitmad was, I decided to investigate. That’s when Pandamoon Publishing caught my eye. I sent them an email and have since been with them for over 5 years! What a happy ending, right?

Tell me all about the Crimson Chronicles series. What was your inspiration?

A good friend of mine, Stephanie Gerold, had asked me if I would write her a book about vampires. I gave her a firm no. Vampires were way overplayed at this point. Well, she kept asking, and I finally caved in. I agreed to write her a book – but without vampires (Shh, I did put ONE vampire in the book, just for her, and darn it, he ended up being everyone’s favourite character.)
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How do you draw on your own experience when writing?

I was bullied all through high school, so I spent quite a bit of time in my bedroom, writing amazing stories I could escape into. I use a lot of that experience in my writing. If I’m having a rough day, or if writer’s block hits, I think back to those dark moments in my life. I use those experiences in a positive way to help me write better and write more. It’s such a rush when you see the shock on your old classmate’s faces when they see you, and how you’ve changed. They’re even more shocked when they see what you’ve accomplished – especially when they told you would amount to nothing.

Have you done any other work that you are particularly proud of?

I’m currently working on a Women’s Fiction novel titled Real Men Don’t Cry. This book has made me go through an entire box of Kleenex already, and I haven’t even finished it yet. It’s going to be a good one.

What’s next for the Crimson Chronicles series? Have you got any exciting plans to develop it that you can share with us?

There are quite a few exciting things happening with the Crimson Chronicles Series. Though I can’t release any information yet, just know it’s super exciting, and fans will love it! One thing I can share with you is that Crimson Forest will be available as an audio book this fall!

Are there any new books or writers that you are looking forward to later in the year?

There are a few new books I’m super excited to see released this year. Meg Bonney will be releasing her second book in the Everly series – Rosewood Burning. Her first book was phenomenal.

Another book I’m looking forward to is Nola Nash’s debut novel, Crescent City Moon. I’m a huge fan of New Orleans, and voodoo – so this book is right up my alley!

Anything you’d like to add?

I love connecting with my readers and fans. Interacting with them is what makes this worth it for me. If I can help someone escape their reality, even if just for a short period of time, that’s why I write. I do this for you guys!

Many thanks for answering my questions, it has been a pleasure having you on my blog.

 

The Retreat Review: A Real Nail Biter With a Gripping Finale

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As part of author Mark Edwards’ book tour I review The Retreat, a haunting thriller that really stays with you.

I’ll level with you here: this isn’t the sort of book I’d usually read. From the cover, it looks like the kind of book I wouldn’t even think twice about if I saw it in Tesco’s or Waterstone’s while I was browsing the latest best sellers in search of a new favourite.

After all, heartbroken mothers and missing children have been done to death. I always hate the overly sentimental thrillers, and from my first impression of it The Retreat was exactly that. However, once you move past the age-old premise you find a riveting thriller that packs a punch and leaves you with more questions than answers.

The novel centres around Julia Marsh, a heartbroken woman who has spent the last two years grieving the tragic accident that lead to her husband drowning in front of her in a local river. Her eight-year-old daughter Lily is still missing, following the incident, and is presumed dead.

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Now living alone, Julia finds herself unable to move on, convinced that Lily is still alive. Despite this her pleas for help go unanswered by the authorities, who are convinced that Lily could not possibly be alive, and with dwindling resources Julia finds herself in a perilous position. Forced to find unconventional means of staying afloat, she gets more than she bargained for when she creates a writer’s retreat and invites complete strangers into her home and, by extension, her life.

Alternating between first and third person, past and present tense, the novel is a shock to the system, and each chapter is designed to leave you questioning everything you had previously thought.

This show-stopping novel is a tour de force that reaches its shocking climax and leaves the reader in both amazement and wonder. I found this incredibly hard to put down even once I’d finished, and had the ridiculous urge to start again just to keep the experience going. As such I would thoroughly recommend giving The Retreat a go, even if you’re not mad keen on psychological thrillers.

Mary Morony Interview: “I was fortunate enough to be born into a highly dysfunctional family”

Mary Morony

Ever heard of Southern Fried Fiction? Neither had I, so I chatted to the pioneer of this innovative genre, Mary Morony, to find out more!

Tell me about how you came to define your writing style.

What I write I call Southern Fried Fiction. I explore very heavy topics—alcoholism, drug abuse, divorce, racism, and sexual abuse, just to name a few. Despite the subject matter, I like to think I have a deft hand with humor so things rarely get too maudlin or hard to handle. It is a delicate balance. I used the dual narrative in the first book to juxtapose all manner of family dysfunction with a Sallee’s wide-eyed innocence and Ethel’s down to earth common sense.

What is your background in writing and how did you get in to publishing your work?

I have a B.A. in English with a focus on creative writing from the University of Virginia. I started my first book, Apron Strings long before The Help. It languished on my computer until I heard Katherine Stockett speak at the Virginia Festival of the Book. She relayed a story.

In one of her talks an audience member stood and said to her that the woman who raised her didn’t love her. She was paid to pretend that she loved her. After hearing that I had to publish my book. Raised by my family’s black maid, I knew for a fact that I was loved. The relationship of black domestic has been unfairly marginalized but from my perspective it deserves better and, as a righter of wrongs, I endeavoured to do so. Ethel my and Sallee, my protagonists are based on my relationship with Lottie the woman who raised me.

Tell me all about the Apron Strings Trilogy. What was your inspiration?

I was fortunate enough to be born into a highly dysfunctional family. In the South idiosyncrasies are a badge of honor, at least in my world. Being basically lazy—writing came easily—and fascinated by the characters that swarmed around my childhood household it was too easy to pass up.

Have you done any other work that you are particularly proud of?

Surviving my life with my sense of humor intact is a huge source of pride, as are my four remarkable children.  I am the mother of four. My two oldest children’s father committed suicide when they were very young. My next child’s father died from a very virulent form of cancer before she was born. I’m happy to say the fourth child’s father still survives. We’ve managed to stay married for the last 30 years. Rather than feel sorry for myself, I chose to use what I learned from all of those life lessons to write my novels.

If you could collaborate with anyone, living or dead, who would it be and why?

Mark Twain is my favourite southern author. I tremble at the thought of his wicked wit and biting satire turned on me but would loved to have been able to have collaborated with him in his early years. He got a little too grumpy toward the end of his life.

What does the future have in store for you? Have you got any exciting plans to develop it that you can share with us?

In January, I had the pleasure of visiting Kampala Uganda with a Young Living Essential Oil group. While there, I visited a NGO created to help young girls, 12-20 year-olds out of the sex trade. The girls gave a presentation for us. A few brave souls shared a tiny bit of how they came to this place called Rahab’s Corner.

I still cannot describe what happened to me without emotions and tears welling up.  It was if I had been electrocuted, my whole body started to quake and buzz. Sitting still proved impossible. Simultaneous joy and abject fear rendered me speechless, as I fought back the desire to wail.

As soon as I was able to get myself together enough to speak coherently, I told my husband what had happened and what I thought it meant—I needed to come to Rahab’s Corner, get to know the girls, and write a book about them. Without hesitation he agreed, that in its self is God at work!

Not knowing why, I brought along copies of my three novels to Africa. I gave them to Moreen so that she might get a sense of my writing style and my ability to tell the girls’ stories. This project would segue beautifully with my previous work, as one of my major themes is redemption. Granted, I write about trauma in American families, but the effects of trauma and the healing power of redemption are the same the world over.

No stranger to intense drama and trauma in my own life, I am acutely aware of the healing power of story. Turning your personal horrors into a venue for healing not only cleanses the soul it changes the world, as Moreen’s- the founder of Rahab’s Corner-own magnificent story testifies.

The time seems so ripe, at least in the States, for a book like this.  The advantage a book would make is twofold. It would not only help the girls heal by turning their tales into vehicles of healing for themselves and others it would shine the spotlight on the great work done at Rahab’s Corner and Pure and Faultless Foundation. I am so excited to be invited to come to Rahab’s Corner and to write Moreen’s remarkable story. I leave in July for as long as it takes.

Are there any new books or writers that you are looking forward to later in the year?

My upcoming trip to Uganda is as far into the future as I can see.

Anything you’d like to add?

Thank you so much for the interview.

I’d like to thank Mary for taking the time to answer my questions; it has been truly fascinating to hear her thoughts. You can find out more about Mary and Southern Fried Fiction HERE.

Jem Tugwell Interview: “I like to explore the blurring of people and technology”

Jem Tugwell

As we gear up for the Bank Holiday weekend, thriller writer Jem Tugwell discusses how technology is offering unique opportunities for creativity in crime fiction.

Tell me about how you came to define your writing style. What drew you towards crime fiction?

I grew up reading the books my parent’s liked. Books like the Lord Peter Wimsey series and all the standalone Dick Francis books. I like thrillers with pace, action and good characterisation. When I had the time to start writing, I joined the City University Crime Writing MA, and one of the things the course teaches you is to write what you like to read. I try to follow this advice.

What is your career background and how did you get into writing?

I started working in IT in the City and eventually founded a software house with my wife. We built and ran it for 10 years before selling about 10 years ago. Since then I have written a book on Finance, we have built a house and I now have the time to scratch the writing itch that I have had for years. I don’t currently write full time, but this is the goal.

Please tell me about your books. What defines your writing style?

I like to explore the blurring of people and technology and how willing people are to give up privacy and control for convenience. My debut book, Proximity, explores the themes of embedded technology, a stretched health service and the health and safety nanny-state and paints a world that could easily be only a few years away. Is this world of unexpected consequences, utopia or dystopia? That’s a very personal decision.

Although Proximity does have a futuristic element to it, I would classify it as an alternate police procedural, rather than sci-fi – there are no spaceships, aliens, superheroes, etc. It’s more of a Black Mirror future set in a city.

Proximity opens 10 years after the compulsory introduction of embedded technology which provides convenient and secure messaging, connectivity, banking, and security: but it also knows exactly where you are all of the time. It controls the food you eat, and the risks you take. Proximity crimes, such as murders and muggings, are non-existent, and the police force has been downsized.

In this world, having a missing person is impossible, but this is the challenge presented to DI Clive Lussac and DC Zoe Jordan. With technology working against them, they have to solve a missing person case that escalates into a triple murder. Who can subvert the technology? Who can commit the ‘impossible’ crimes?

I tend to write shorter sentences to make for a faster read and try and put in enough description to fire the reader’s imagination, rather than describe everything in a prescriptive manner.

Are there any particular mediums or narrative troupes you like to use in your writing and why?

I know it’s unfashionable to say it, but I am a plotter. I think it comes from my background in designing software and buildings where you make mistakes and waste time without a solid base. I will plot down to the scene or chapter level and make sure it all fits together before starting writing. A scene may just have a one sentence that describes its purpose, and that’s what I will use as inspiration when I write the scene.

I like writing from a first person point of view as it allows you to really get into a characters head and see their thoughts. Film, TV and theatre are usually third person stories and books are one of the few mediums that allows a first person story.

What do you enjoy reading and how does this influence your writing?

I try and read widely, usually crime but I also like some sci-fi and non-fiction. As I said before, I will always pick up a Reacher book, and will read Gerald Seymour, Wilbur Smith, Fredrick Forsyth books as well as debuts. I look for an interesting premise, something a bit different. I can read and reread The Passage trilogy by Justin Cronin for its scale and imagination.

I shy away from gratuitous sex scenes, horror, and over described books. I’ve read a lot of physiological thrillers recently and have decided that I don’t really want to read three pages on the protagonist’s trip to the supermarket unless it is key to the plot.

If you could collaborate with anyone, living or dead, on a writing project, who would it be and why?

I would have loved to meet and work with Spike Milligan. I always loved his sense of humour and I can imagine many a happy hour talking drivel and going off at tangents. As I mentioned before I love the Lee Child Reacher books so a collaboration with Lee would be an amazing learning experience of style and structure and plot. I think there might be quite a long queue for this.

Have you got any exciting new plans or projects coming up that you’d like to share with me?

It’s very simple. Finish Proximity and get it published. I’m open to offers!

Are there any new books or writers that you are looking forward to later in the year?

I can read almost any writing style without a problem, but holes in the plot and key story points that are driven by coincidence drive me mad. I have a big pile of different books that I bought and haven’t got around to reading yet.

I really like the sound of The Memory Chamber by Holly Cave when it comes out.

Anything you’d like to add?

Thank you, Hannah, for interviewing me for the blog. As a new, unpublished author, trying to finish my book, find an agent and publisher, it is refreshing and motivating to be given the opportunity.

Thanks for taking the time, it’s been a pleasure hearing from you. You can find out more about Jem HERE.