Scandi-Fiction: Why Sweden in the Snow Will Keep Your Mind Off The Heat Wave

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It’s far too hot!! I’ve said it. It’s too bloody hot. After another sleepless night where I can’t get any shut-eye because of the temperature, I dug out my old copy of Miss Smila’s Feeling For Snow, and quickly immersed myself in the desolate, cold landscape of Peter Høeg’s Scandinavian setting, which travels from Denmark through to the chilly environs of Greenland.

Pretty quickly I’d finished this and moved onto a re-reading of an old favourite by Henning Mankell, which again satisfied my craving for something set in a cold landscape. Idling away my sleepless nights indulging in vicarious snowbound adventures has become my go-to now, as I continue to struggle against insomnia thanks to the oppressive heat which, frankly, doesn’t belong in the UK, no matter what time of year it is.

Whilst I appreciate that beachgoers and the like probably spend their days lazing about reading trashy rom-coms or those high-octane thrillers that are basically today’s pulp-fiction, there is something to be said for reading a really good thriller with the added bonus of being set somewhere cold when you’re not actually on holiday, but stuck at home in between shifts, and trying desperately to get some much-needed kip.

There’s lots of great Scandinavian crime fiction out there, and with famed writers such as Jo Nesbø putting out new books on a regular basis, so there should be enough to keep me busy over the coming months while the temperature remains sweltering and the weather humid.

Look, I understand that it’s not the solution to this unprecedented heat wave, but at the end of the day Scandinavian crime fiction is brilliantly well-written and completely gripping, so even if it doesn’t work for cooling you down, at least it’s something to do to while away the days until we finally get the cold back.

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Skyjack Review: A Novel That Will Hold You Hostage

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My second book tour post today is a review of the thrilling new hostage negotiation novel that has the plot of a Hollywood movie. I didn’t mean to schedule them on the same day, but one date looks very much the same as the next when it’s warm and sunny outside! So have a look at my review of this latest edge-of-your-seat roller-coaster of a book which will soon be THE novel to take with you to the beach.

K.J Howe’s sequel to the renowned The Freedom Broker brings back hostage negotiator Thea Paris. This time, she’s on a flight to take two former child soldiers to a new life when her plane is hijacked. Separated from the boys she is minding, Thea and her team undertake a desperate search for the truth which leads them to some deep conspiracies that reach deep into the heart of many of the world’s key organisations.

Sinister and overwhelming in equal measure, the novel penetrates right to the heart of organised society and explores the greed, violence and injustice inherent in humankind, as well as the lengths people will go to in order to stop it. Thea Paris is a truly inspirational character; a woman who is both sympathetic and at the same time intelligent- her emotions do not blind her to reality, unlike many female characters in similar positions, making her even more engaging and exciting when you think of how many male protagonists there are in this genre.

Short, sharp sentences punctuate the narrative, keeping the novel tightly wound from the first chapter right through to the nail-biting conclusion. Keeping readers guessing throughout, Howe creates a truly un-put-downable book that is impossible to forget about or ignore. Her multidimensional characters are impressive considering there are many and some have very limited time spent on them.

At the end of the book I felt truly immersed in Thea’s gripping world, which, fundamentally, is what you’re looking for in a good thriller.

 

 

 

Now You See Her Review: Deeply Deceitful and Deliciously Dark

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For my first book tour review of the day, I checked out Hedi Perk’s new novel Now You See Her. Upon reading the blurb initially, the novel put me in mind of Shari Lapena riveting thriller The Couple Next Door, a book that I thoroughly enjoyed.

After all, both feature the disappearance of children and the lies people tell when they’re in hot water. In the case of Now You See Me, the little girl in question is named Alice; she’s staying with her mother’s best friend and her children when she unexpectedly disappears.

Her devastated mother Harriet can’t bear to speak with or see her former friend, however, just weeks later the pair are both being questioned about the child. Lies and deceits are bought into the glaring light of day, leading both friends to question everything they thought they knew about the other.

High on suspense and quick to twist, the novel packs the narrative thrills, although at times I am not entirely convinced by the characters. Perhaps it is my own personal lack of experience with suburban mothers, but I find myself wondering if peoples’ friendships and behaviors towards each other are quite the way they are here.

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That being said, the novel is definitely a page-turner, with some tense standoffs and gripping dialogue. Perk really captures the desperation through her portrayal of Alice’s mother and her unfortunate friend, and the reader is constantly on a knife-edge as they try to keep one step ahead of the narrative, which speeds away just as you feel you’ve got a grasp on what’s happening and who’s telling the truth.

Overall an gripping tale, I am impressed with Now You See Her, and am certain that, given a few weeks, the novel will be snapped up by some Hollywood studio, and Reese Witherspoon will have snagged herself a key role.

Stuart Gibbon Interview: “Even though I had left the police I still wanted to help people”

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Something new for the Dorset Book Detective this week- I spoke to crime fiction consultant Stuart Gibbon, Founder of GIB Consultancy and co- author of The Crime Writer’s Casebook to learn more about how he shares his expertise with writers to enhance their work.

Tell me about how you use your experience as a detective to support writers. How did you come to start consulting for author?

I joined the Metropolitan Police as a teenager in the early 1980’s and spent the next 20 years policing the streets of London. I then transferred to Lincolnshire Police where I served another 12 years before retiring from the police service in 2012. A large part of my police career was spent as a Detective, including several years as a DCI in charge of murder cases.

Even though I had left the police I still wanted to help people and share my experience and knowledge. I decided to set up a consultancy service (GIB Consultancy) to help writers to make sure that their police actions and procedures were accurately portrayed. The service is well-established now and I have authors contacting me, normally via e-mail, to ask questions or request a fact-check of their work.

Most of my contacts are crime writers but several have been writers of other genres who want to include a police element such as a missing person or a burglary investigation. Although my specialism is crime I am able to advise on anything police-related.

Can you give me some examples of the authors you have consulted for? Are there any big names you’d care to share with me?

I have worked with a number of very talented writers in the last few years. They include CL Taylor, Sheryl Browne, Barbara Copperthwaite and Carolyn Jess-Cooke to name but a few. It’s very rewarding to be able to help with advice and great to read the finished article which includes your input. I think it helps to get the procedural details right as it’s far more likely to engage the reader.

Have you ever written any novels yourself, or do you intend to start writing them in the future?

Quite a few former police officers now write crime fiction but I haven’t taken the plunge yet. That’s not to say it will never happen but, for now, I have more than enough going on to keep me occupied!

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Tell me about The Crime Writer’s Casebook. Who is it aimed at and how do you believe it benefits them?

I first met crime historian Stephen Wade at a literary festival in Lincoln about three years ago. We kept in touch and decided that it would be a good idea to write a book together, combining Stephen’s encyclopedic knowledge of historical crime with my experience as a police officer. ‘The Crime Writer’s Casebook’ was published in December last year. We didn’t think that there was anything similar available which contained so much information about crime all in the same place. The book contains modern-day police procedures together with true crime case studies spanning from the eighteenth century to recent years. Although the book is primarily aimed at crime writers as it contains information about rank structure, murder investigation and other subjects that will help writers to accurately portray these areas, I think it would engage anyone with an interest in crime, whether as a reader or writer. The genre is now the most popular and this is reflected in the rise in true crime and crime fiction being published. We’ve had some really good reviews and feedback so we’re pleased that people seem to enjoy the book and find it useful.  

Do you have any projects coming up that you are particularly excited about?

As well as the writing consultancy I’ve been doing some TV work in relation to recent Murder cases in the UK. The series is called ‘999 Killer on the line’ and features true crime cases where the person who called the emergency services turns out to be the murderer. The series recently started on the Crime & Investigation channel (Sky channel 156) at 9pm on Monday evenings. I will be featured in two episodes (Monday 6th and 20th August). If you’re interested in true crime cases I think you’ll enjoy this series.

Is there anything you’d like to add?

If you have read The Crime Writer’s Casebook we would be grateful if you would review it on Amazon. It’s currently available to buy on Amazon https://www.amazon.co.uk/Straightforward-Guide-Writers-Casebook-Guides/dp/1847167500/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1507907264&sr=8-1&keywords=crime+writer%27s+casebook or at most major book stores. If you are a writer needing help with police procedure and you can’t find the answer in The Crime Writer’s Casebook then I can be contacted on Twitter (@gibconsultancy) or via e-mail – enquiries@gibconsultancy.co.uk

Thanks very much for giving me the opportunity to talk about my work and our book.

Thanks for taking the time, it’s been great to hear from you.

 

 

The Top Five Political Thrillers To Get You Woke

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As James Patterson, and, of all people, Bill Clinton create a new political thriller, I decided it was high time I checked out five of the best novels in the genre for anyone looking to whet their appetite and find a new favourite.

After all, with the current political situation around the world looking, to all intents and purposes, like the plot of a dystopia novel, now has never been a better time to escape into some fiction and draw alarming parallels to real life.

5. The Whistler: Former Lawyer John Grisham’s riveting thriller explores how corruption at the heart of the American judicial system can allow a gang to create a casino and use it as a base through which they can conduct all manner of crimes- including murder. Exploring the potential influence of a corrupt judge, an investigative journalist delves deep into this extraordinary mystery and finds a scandal that reaches into the very heart of the legal system. Grisham is a sure-fire bet for a fast-paced, exciting story, and this is no exception.

4. Tinker Tailor Solider Spy: The film was a lacklustre version of this exceptional tour de force from Le Carre, the king of innovative spy thrillers. Delving into the heart of the establishment to root out the rotten core, his enigmatic protagonist George Smiley proves that sheer determination and hard work, along with a dry wit and a nose for the truth, can get you just about anywhere.

3. The Manchurian Candidate: Richard Condon’s classic political thriller became the blueprint for many followers. The novel centres around a decades old conspiracy and one man’s quest to find out the truth- a classic thriller plot, the success of which hinges on great writing and strong characterisation.

2. The Reluctant Fundamentalist: Mohsin Hamid’s gripping tale keeps readers on the edge of their seats from tantalising beginning to cliff-hanger finale. Exploring the impact that 9/11 had on Muslims living in America at the time, the novel showcases in graphic detail how the reaction from every corner of society easily led normal Muslims to drastic beliefs and identity struggles. Tackling this sensitive subject with respect, the novel perfectly sums up the alienation many felt following this horrific event, and turns it into a fascinating story that stays with you long after you set the book down.

1. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo: Frankly, the entirety of Larsson’s Millennium series is truly excellent, but the first novel really delves into the corruption inherent in the author’s version of the Swedish judicial, legal and political systems. This is a true thriller, and at times it is truly terrifying and will have you hooked from the first page.

 

Elizabeth Heiter Interview: “Inspiration can come from anywhere”

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Continuing with my quest to find out more about exciting new genres I spoke to Elizabeth Heiter, romantic suspense writer, to learn more about this style of writing and what draws her readers to it.

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

Since I was very young, I’ve always loved suspense. As a kid, I plowed through Nancy Drew and Hardy Boy mysteries. Younger than I probably should have been watching him, I was intrigued by villains like Darth Vader. What I’ve always appreciated about suspense is the puzzle aspect: as a reader, I enjoyed trying to unravel the mystery before the big reveal. As a writer, I like creating that puzzle, including all of the clues and red herrings. The other part of suspense that appeals to me is that (in many mysteries), at the end of the book, you can get the kind of closure real life often doesn’t offer. The protagonist prevails, the mystery is solved, and the villain pays for his crime. I like the vicarious closure in that.

As a suspense writer, I often identify myself within the psychological suspense sub-genre, because I’m equally drawn to characters. Why do people make the choices they make? What causes two people with the same background to take vastly different paths (e.g., one a serial killer and the other a profiler, as in my debut book). So, for me, character is equally as important as plot.

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

My degree is in English Literature, and I knew since I was a kid that I wanted to be an author, so many of my educational and professional decisions were based on that goal. In high school, I co-wrote my first finished manuscript (a YA action-adventure) with my critique partner. After college, I got involved in writing organizations to keep honing my craft and learning about the industry. And because I knew I wanted to write suspense and realism is important to me, I also began seeking out research opportunities (e.g. visiting places like the FBI Academy at Quantico and the CIA at Langley). Early on, I put together a career plan to help guide me in making decisions. In 2012, I sold my first five books, which were in two genres – both psychological suspense and romantic suspense; that was also the beginning of my journey as a multi-genre author.

Talk me through romantic suspense as a genre and how you would define this style of fiction?

In romantic suspense, the suspense plot and the romance plot (which involves two people overcoming personal and plot conflicts in order to fall in love) are so intertwined it would be difficult to pull them apart. Quite a bit of suspense fiction contains a romance; the difference in romantic suspense is both the amount and the role romance plays in the plot. One of the things I love about romantic suspense is that it really gives me a chance to dig into my characters’ flaws and force them to grow in order to earn their “happily ever after” at the end of the book. For a writer like me, who’s fascinated by why people make the choices they do, romantic suspense really gives me room to delve deep into character.

Where do you find your inspiration? Are there any particular places or incidents you draw on when you find yourself with writer’s block?

Inspiration can come from anywhere. As a suspense writer, I definitely get ideas from real incidents. I’ll see something in the news (a headline or some small detail about an action someone took) and I’ll wonder, “what if this happened instead”? Whenever I plot my books, I’m constantly asking myself “what if” and “how can I make this worse”? In my opinion, character and plot are equally important, and I think the strongest books have the “right” combination of character and plot (meaning that the plot is in some way the worst possible thing for this particular character to face). So, if I’m ever having trouble developing a story, I dig into character and motivation. And I never underestimate the power of a little caffeine and chocolate when I’m feeling writer’s block!

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

I’m a huge fan of Shakespeare. I love that so many of his plays contain elements of multiple genres: suspense, romance, drama etc. Back in high school, with the same critique partner I co-wrote my first finished manuscript, I made a complicated project involving a new play containing half a dozen Shakespearean endings. So, I think my dream collaboration would be with Shakespeare! (Although I suspect he might be a bit of a prima donna!)

Do you have any projects coming up that you are particularly excited about?

Currently, I’m working on a new romantic suspense involving a woman searching for her long-lost sister in the wilds of Alaska. If she has any shot at succeeding, she needs the help of local a local ex-Marine and his Combat Tracker Dog, but that ex-Marine is fighting his own demons in the form of a new disability and PTSD. For years, I’ve wanted to set a book in Alaska, so this book has been a lot of fun to write. It’s called K-9 Defense and it releases in Spring 2019.

Are there any new books or writers that you are looking forward to coming up?

My friend and fellow suspense writer Jennifer Hillier recently released a book called Jar of Hearts that I’ve been waiting for since she first told me what she was working on over a year ago! I’ve got the book sitting on my desk as a reward as soon as I meet my own deadline.

Is there anything you’d like to add?

If readers want to know any more about me or my books, they can visit my website at www.elizabethheiter.com.

Thanks ever so much for taking the time to answer my questions, it has been fascinating hearing more about your work.

Night Driver Review: An Engaging Thriller the Likes of Which You Won’t Have Seen Before

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If you’re looking for something a little bit different to your average thriller, but with the grit and human drama that you’re used to, then look no further than Marcelle Perk’s latest novel. Initially established as a sort of alternative crime novel, the narrative quickly escalates as the reader becomes embroiled in a tense mystery that is both unsettling and empathetic at the same time.

Heavily pregnant Frannie is an English woman who now lives in Germany. Hoping to gain some control over her confusing life, she learns to drive; however she is so nervous that she chooses to only drive at night. During one of her nocturnal drives, she becomes entangled in a search for a missing person, and is then thrown into the path of a serial killing truck driver.

Putting a woman, and better yet a heavily pregnant one, at the centre of the mystery gives this a great dynamic, and as unlikely sleuth Frannie gets deeper into this intriguing mystery we learn more both about her and the danger she is facing. Author Marcelle Perks creates has a true imagination and an eye for detail that lends itself to this great, new take on the traditional late night thriller.

Written in the third person, the novel gives Frannie a unique agency as she explores a truly horrendous underground world of pimps, prostitutes, organ trafficking drug addicts and sadistic serial killers. It is really different to read about a heavily pregnant woman snorting cocaine and generally raising hell, but this is what you get with Night Driver.

At the end of the day, this is an unusual take on a thriller/ mystery novel, but it’s definitely one worth checking out. Being a book blogger who specialises in crime fiction, mystery and thrillers, I rarely read anything truly unique, but with this novel I was genuinely impressed.