New Cambridge Murder Mystery Ready To Preorder

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Following on from my interview with Charlot King, I’m pleased to announce that she’s got a new book coming out soon called A Christmas Mystery. 

I’m a recent convert to festive themed books, so I’m very excited for this upcoming novel, which is the forth in her Cambridge Murder Mysteries series.

In the latest instalment in the series, protagonist Professor Elizabeth Green, a professor of poisons, attempts to solve murders before everyone opens their presents on Christmas Day. As her peers are found dead in the College, the professor has her hands full trying to uncover the truth.

The new book will be available in Heffers Bookshop, Cambridge, this Christmas, joining Charlot’s other three books, Poison, Cursed and Blood Moon. You can preorder it on Amazon HERE.

Addressed To Kill Review: A Creepy Christmas Crime Story

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The newest instalment in the Inspector Stark novels features a chilling Christmas mystery, as Keith Wright delivers another thrilling instalment in this incredible series.

In 1987 Inspector Stark is gearing up for another busy Christmas, having just enjoyed his station’s festive shindig, when on Christmas Eve the body of a young woman is found having been brutally raped and murdered in a park.

Switching between viewpoints, Wright paints a picture of a deeply twisted murderer with a strange modus operandi revolving around toying with his victims before raping and brutally murdering them.

As such, Stark and his team are forced to spend the festive season battling to find the culprit before he attacks again. With many leads to follow and a variety of red herrings put in their way, the team have their work cut out if they want to uncover the truth.

Wright isn’t afraid to delve into the gritty details of sordid crimes such as this, and as such this book, much like the others in the series, has many enticing details that will engage and thrill crime fiction fans. For those who love reading creepy, dark novels full of suspense, this is the book for you this winter.

It’s not as atmospheric as it could be, but Wright has a way of pushing the plot along so you hardly notice, and instead quickly become wrapped up in the disturbing world of the killer and the police’s obsessive hunt for the truth. Stark and his team, as well as the other characters readers encounter, are all deeply human and well-rounded, making the story believable and engaging.

Overall I was incredibly impressed by Addressed To Kill. I’m not usually a big fan of Christmas themed books, but in this novel Wright shows how the festive season makes victims more unsuspecting and gives killers opportunities they don’t usually have, making it an eye-opening and gripping tale that you’ll want to revisit time and time again.

 

The Top Five Monsieur Pamplemousse Novels For Those Looking For Cutesy Crime Fiction


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Michael Bond is renowned as the creator of Paddington Bear, everyone’s favourite Peruvian marmalade-sandwich loving bear, but he also created the enchanting Monsieur Pamplemousse and his faithful bloodhound, Pomme Frites.

Described in the novels as ‘friend and mentor’, the dog is renowned for helping his master out of scrapes as well as getting him into them in the first place. Pretty much all the books in this series are suitable for readers of all ages, but the nuances of language and subtle jokes are the preserve of adult readers in search of cosy, relaxed crime fiction.

A food inspector for Le Guide, Monsieur Pamplemousse has a tremendous appreciation for food, as well as some skill in detection. As a result, he is often called upon to investigate strange happenings that occur, often in or around restaurants and food suppliers.

For those who only know Paddington, here’s a roundup of five of my favourite Monsieur Pamplemousse novels.

5. Monsieur Pamplemousse on Probation: Caught up in a scandal, Monsieur Pamplemousse is sent to report on a respected chef working in a hotel and who is up for one Le Guide’s top honours. However, the intrepid detective soon encounters a number of unusual occurrences and guests at the hotel, leading him to uncover secrets that threaten the legacy of France’s most respected gastronomic publication.

4. Monsieur Pamplemousse Takes the Cure: Sent undercover to a health farm with Pomme Frites as the world’s least convincing guide dog, Bond’s gourmet detective is out of his depth with theft, lust and unexplained deaths to deal with.

3. Monsieur Pamplemousse Rests His Case: Having been invited to a masquerade ball in honour of author Alexander Dumas, Monsieur Pamplemousse ends up caught up in a mystery when one of his fellow guests is killed.

2. Monsieur Pamplemousse and the Carbon Footprint: With sales of Le Guide struggling in America, Monsieur Pamplemousse is given the herculean task of impressing an American food critic by writing a play. His theatrical debut goes off without a hitch until the critic mysteriously runs away, seemingly in a funk. Bond’s tenacious protagonist and his faithful hound are quick to give chase, and pretty soon they are waist deep in mystery and intrigue.

1. Monsieur Pamplemousse: As always, it’s my recommendation that the first book in a series is the best place to start. A humorous, light-hearted novel, this first book introduces us to the titular character and his ever-present dog, and explores how he came to leave the Paris Surete, all whilst he investigates a peculiar incident at a respected eatery.

Crime Fiction: The Genre That Transcends Class

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Recently I read a fascinating article by author Derek Flynn about how he considers crime fiction to be a working class genre. His justification for this seems to be that his work is rooted in his working class background and knowledge, and how many other authors incorporate working class characters and tropes into their work. 

Whilst Flynn definitely has a point, it has to be said that crime fiction isn’t strictly a working class genre simply because it often involves working class characters. After all, many crime fiction novels require those with limited money and resources as characters because of the nature of the work, and the nature of the story lines that the authors use.

In his article Flynn has failed to discuss the other styles of crime fiction out there, and how they incorporate just about all elements of society. From the toffs all the way through to ordinary middle class folks and beyond, class distinctions are a big part of crime fiction, but the genre doesn’t discriminate. It allows everyone to be a part for the simply reason that everyone is.

Everyone is the victim of crime, and as such every type of person of all classes, races and abilities are involved in the crime fiction space. It is true, the working classes are often incorporated the most on account of the fact that those with fewer resources tend to encounter more crime, but the genre involves everyone, and its diversity is what makes it stand out from other, more niche styles of writing.

Whilst some sub-genres focus on specific sectors of society, as a whole crime fiction is versatile and often contains people from throughout society. Whilst some other genres, such as period fiction, often focus on one particular class, crime fiction spreads itself throughout the human spectrum.

Overall, it’s my belief that crime fiction is the genre that can most be said to completely transcend all notion of class, as at its core the genre is about showcasing crime, and this affects everyone of all classes.

Alex Callister Interview: “Audio is a genre in its own right”

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Today I talk to Alex Callister, an industry expert on media, telecoms and internet stocks. By day, she visits high security web hosting sites, by night, she writes about a dystopian world where organised crime have harnessed the power of the internet and are taking over. Her award-winning books are the talk of the town, so naturally I was keen to find out more.

What is your background and what drew you towards writing thrillers?

I spend my day wondering and worrying about the latest internet developments. City analysts ask the question, ‘What if’ for a living.

What if you could murder someone easily and anonymously online? Would there be many takers? How would people respond? Would some cultures take to it more than others? What would it do to society? How would the government respond?

These were the questions I was turning over in my mind at the start of the Winter Dark process.

How did you get into writing? Did you always want to write?

I have always wanted to write Winter. She is my version of a Hollywood action hero – Bond, Bourne, John Wick, Vin Diesel, John McClane in Die Hard etc.

As a writer of both audiobooks and printed books, what skills do you need to create engaging content for these very different mediums?

You have to be really on your game with audio. Every word is going to be performed. You can’t have a single duff line. With print the eye glides over boring bits – audio there is nowhere to hide.

I have been really lucky to have an amazing narrator. I deliberately put in a range of nationalities because she is so good at accents. The twist at the end of Winter Rising came about because of her skill with different voices. I could see how the reveal would work really well.

Audio is a genre in its own right. It is like being told a story round the campfire. I am fascinated by what you can do with sentence length and rhythm. I hear what I am writing in my head: the rise and fall of it.

I had a great letter from a speech therapist in Florida who said she had been late for work every day for a week because she couldn’t stop listening in the staff car park. That’s the real challenge, to immerse the listener and make it hard for them to leave.

What features do you believe are vital to creating good thrillers and how do you incorporate these into your work?

These days commercial fiction can be quite formulaic. You need a hook, inciting event, reveal, surprise twist etc. When you are trying to get published you have to play by the rules. A good thriller actually makes your heart race while you are reading. That’s my goal. Not every scene obviously but most of them. Doesn’t have to be fear. There is plenty of erotic content in the Winter books.

Please tell me about the books you read. How do they influence your work?

Lee Child has the biggest influence on my actual writing style. No one can touch him for tightness of prose. Mick Herron, Ian Fleming, John Le Carré are my genre. John Fowles, Angela Carter. Lord of the Flies. Fight club. Mustn’t forget Fight club. What is the first rule of Fight club?

Where do you take your inspiration?

The movies. Winter Dark is FULL of one liners! I also love fairy stories like Beauty and the Beast, Bluebeard, Snow White and use a lot of fairy tale tropes – mirrors, pills, eyes, sweets etc..

Winter Rising is set in an old graveyard in South East London. The Guardsman has a particular gravestone where he likes to kill people. A real gravestone was the inspiration for this. The angel looks like it is weeping…

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Are there any rituals you do to get yourself in the mood for writing?

I work at night 10pm – 2am. Put the earphones in to get me in the mood. Each of my characters has a signature song. I just have to play it and I am right back with them. Winter’s is Bette Davis Eyes, the Dean Ray version. It has this line, ‘Pure as New York snow….’

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

How to choose?? The Marquis de Sade? I would love to write a Terry Pratchett. Winter is basically Granny Weatherwax fifty year younger

Have you got any projects coming up that you are particularly excited about?

Winter Rising, the sequel to Winter Dark, is out on 1 October. It features the Guardsman, a classic character from a gothic horror. It is interesting to reimagine this kind of killer in a technologically developed age and to see what opportunities that gives him.

Are there any new books or writers are you looking forward to in the future?

One of Winter’s early supporters, Robin Morgan Bentley, has his debut novel The Wreckage out in February which I am excited to see.

Anything you’d like to add?

You can find me on acallister.com Thank you for having me!

It’s been a pleasure talking to Alex! Winter Dark was the Audible Thriller of the year 2019 and is published by Bookouture Jan 2020. Her second book in the series, Winter Rising, is out on Audible today- keep a look out for it!

 

 

The Folio Society’s Midnight In The Garden Of Good And Evil Review: A Beautiful Way To Experience Berendt’s Savannah

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From the very opening sentence, it’s easy to see why the Folio Society has chosen John Berendt’s Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil for one of its stunning editions.

Everything about this book is seductively and intellectually stylish and designed to bring to life more than just the tale of a real life murder in Savannah, but to showcase the diverse range of characters this majestic city has to offer.

From liars to thieves to everything in between, Berendt brings to these characters to joyful life in all their glory, showing that there is more to Savannah than meets the eye.

The cast of characters is incredibly eclectic and some of the tales are so tall they’re almost unbelievable. From petty grievances in the sitting rooms of the middle classes through to voodoo rituals held in graveyards and dalliances with unsuitable men, there are so many mad tales in this book.

Its main plot surrounds the murder of a homosexual handyman and kept man, who was killed in the home of his employer Jim Williams, who claimed self-defence. However, Williams’ story doesn’t entirely stack up against the evidence, and local opinion was divided. An unpopular man among some of the region’s influential elite, Williams fell foul of their wrath and the case ended up going to trial.

The first trial was overturned when the DA is found to have falsified evidence, and as such Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil follows both trials and their aftermaths. Berendt integrated himself fully into Savannah society, both its high society and lower class neighbourhoods, allowing him a broad perspective on the region’s opinions on this divisive trial, in which neither the killer nor the victim was universally liked.

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Whilst the murder, its impact on the community and the trials are a key aspect of the book’s plot, they are not its sole focus. After all, the killing doesn’t even occur until more than halfway through. Predominantly, this is a love-letter to Savannah, and a way to show that cities are more than just the buildings and places they feature, but the people who populate them and the beliefs they hold.

Trying to make his view of the city as diverse as possible, Berendt immersed himself in Savannah life, and delved into both black and white culture at the time. Although integration had begun at the time of his writing the book, the two communities were still, predominantly, separated, and the author shows us this and offers a unique glimpse into the lives of both races.

In fact, through his book Berendt shows us both sides of practically every binary in the city at the time: black and white, rich and poor, gay and straight, male and female. He shows how the cities diverse cast of characters’ lives were deeply entwined, and how the actions of one group, or even an individual, shaped the lives of others throughout the community.

Whilst people are, clearly, an integral part of the book, music also plays a big part in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. Emma King, Johnny Mercer and many others are featured in the chapters marked out by nicknames or phrases they used. For those in love with the music of the Deep South this is the perfect book.

This stunning edition features photos of Savannah and the places and properties portrayed in the book. There’s a stark contrast between the photos, which are of people-less places, and as opposed to the chapters and narratives themselves, which teem with colourful characters are all named after titles or phrases used about the characters within.

It also features an introduction by the author himself, making it the perfect gift for fans of the book, or a great way to introduce yourself to Berendt’s Savannah.

In all, whether you choose to treat yourself or someone else, I would urge anyone looking to buy a copy of Midnight in the Garden of Good Evil to consider this meticulously crafted edition. With its introduction and haunting photographs of Savannah’s landscape, it is a beautiful book that will bring Berendt’s atmospheric tale to life.

The Folio Society edition of John Berendt’s Midnight in the Garden of Good Evil, including a new introduction by the author, is available exclusively from http://www.FolioSociety.com

 

Janet Roger Interview: “What really got under my skin was Marlowe’s voice guiding me around the next street corner”

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As a fan myself, it’s great to hear from someone whose work was heavily influenced by Raymond Chandler. Therefore it is my great privilege to introduce Janet Roger, who spoke to me about her work and how the great creator of Philip Marlowe came to inspire it.  

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

As a teenager I’d read all of Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe stories – not so long after they were written as I’d like to think – and they knocked my socks off. He wrote about Los Angeles and its neon-lit boulevards, its sour, gritty downtown and gun toting cops (a novelty to this young European) and made them exotic. But what really got under my skin was Marlowe’s voice guiding me around the next street corner, and beyond it into a stale apartment block or a down and low bar. He invited me to look over his shoulder, let me into his highs and lows, talked me through them and then put me in the seat beside him to drive me home. It was heady stuff, up to the point where the story began to seem incidental to the city and its moods, its characters and their speech patterns. What really mattered was the time, the place and the people you might run into. I’d discovered a new kind of mystery writing and got hooked.

How did you get into writing crime fiction?

By the back door. I’d been fascinated by a discovery made in the City of London in the early Cold War, a true detective story in its own right, and wondered how to tell it. Now the fact is, in those years a radically new wave of crime fiction was hitting its stride. Meanwhile, Hollywood had embarked on a slew of dark, ground-breaking movies: think Double Indemnity, The Third Man, Gun Crazy or Out of the Past. In other words the story I was interested in had unfolded right at the heart of classic noir. So the way to tell it, and at the same time set it in period, seemed obvious. How to bring that off? How do you stay convincingly close to the conventions of a classic genre and still bring the modern reader along for the ride? Well, that gets into larger questions of how you choose to write your historical fiction. But it was absorbing, and great of fun to do. 

What features do you believe are vital to creating good crime fiction?

Read Shamus Dust and you’ll know I’m absolutely sold on Chandler’s landmark essay on crime fiction, The Simple Art of Murder. He wrote it for Atlantic Monthly in 1944, and I’m not the only one who thinks that – along with his collected letters – it’s the very best of his writing. Yes, you can include the Philip Marlowe novels in that! I won’t paraphrase the original. It argues his case to perfection and the essay is still in print, as a preface to his short stories. Spoiler warning: he’s not at all complimentary about the classic, murder-over-high-tea puzzler!

Please tell me about the books you read. How do they influence your work?

First thoughts are two very slim books that I’d have given my writing arm for. First is Truman Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Forget the movie, it’s a travesty. The original story is lyric, sparkling, spare and unsentimental about its heroine, who goes her own way first and last, entirely her own woman. Such a shame that Hollywood didn’t serve Capote anywhere near as well as his childhood friend, Harper Lee, when To Kill a Mockingbird reached the screen only a year later.

My second even has a connection of sorts to Shamus Dust, where there’s actually a passing nod to Homer. (How does an ancient Greek epic poet possibly fit in a hardboiled detective story? Newman, the private-eye narrator, asks the same question!). Christopher Logue’s War Music is a narrative poem, not a translation but a reworking of some of the first books of Homer’s Iliad. The writing is fast paced, knife-edge precision, thrilling in its accounts of hacking, screeching hand-to-hand combat. Exquisite in its fixing of the heroes of the Trojan War, the landscapes they maul over and the skies they die beneath. You’ll read either one of these two in an afternoon, then want to reread it next afternoon.

Where do you take your inspiration? Are there any rituals you do to get yourself in the mood for writing?

Absolutely no rituals! I have a mortal terror of routine in all things. It drives me completely nuts. Writing, like everything else, gets done wherever I happen to be, in the expectation I’ll be somewhere else tomorrow. There, got that off my chest! But you’ll gather I rely more on inspiration than method. Where does the inspiration come from? Probably from a lifetime of needing to get out of a soup I just landed in!

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

Collaborating isn’t really for me (see above!) but it’s an interesting question. It occurs to me that there are artists I’d love to talk to about their way of seeing things, for example the early-twentieth century paintings of Edouard Vuillard. He’s hard to categorize, and if you’re not familiar do look him up. His oblique, fragmented take on his surroundings – often interiors – invites you to loiter over what’s going on there. Another painter would be Camille Corot (earlier than Vuillard) who has a magical way of overlaying real landscapes with the lyric haze of visual memory. The common thread is how to represent seeing and remembering. Better stop there before this becomes a visit to an art gallery.

Have you got any projects coming up that you are particularly excited about?

I’m well on into a sequel to Shamus Dust called The Gumshoe’s Freestyle, set six months later in the City (of course), in the summer of ’48. Those immediate postwar years made interesting times. Freestyle ties up some loose ends, returns to some characters from the first story and develops with them. Actually, there’s a connection planted toward the close of Shamus Dust, though you do seriously have to know your Chandler to spot it. I liked the idea of some oblique, passing link between two cases that Newman and Marlowe will never know they once shared an interest in. That said, Freestyle stands on its own and takes our private eye to an entirely new case. It’s been interesting to decide which characters to go back to, how fleeting or important they need to be, and of course, how to introduce them to a reader who doesn’t already know them from the earlier story.

Are there any new books or writers are you looking forward to in the future?

Well, one that’s new to me is Jonathan Letham’s Motherless Brooklyn. It’s now arrived on the big screen thanks to the persistence of Edward Norton, who wrote the screenplay, directs and performs. The book was first published twenty years ago, so it’s time I caught up with another author who takes the private-eye genre and defies its expectations. The film, by the way, moves the setting back to the late 1950s. There’s something magnetic about the period, isn’t there?

It’s been great to hear from Janet; thank to her for taking the time to answer my questions! Her book Shamus Dust is out on the 28th October. You can find out more about her HERE