The Long Weekend Review: A Roller Coaster Of A Plot That’s Scarily Intense

The Long Weekend has been on my TBR pile for some time, and I’ve been looking forward to checking it out. I’m glad to say that Gilly Macmillan’s latest novel did not disappoint. The book is a masterpiece of modern crime fiction, with the author, who already has many bestsellers under her belt, crafting a unique and fast paced thriller. The plot races along and the story quickly transforms from a typical locked room mystery to something much more sinister.

The book begins in the remote Northumbrian countryside, right on the border between England and Scotland, where 3 very different women arrive for a weekend away at a secluded barn. They’re set to be joined by their husbands the next day, after they all gave last minute excuses not to travel with their wives. Taking weekend breaks has become a tradition for the group, but not all of them are looking forward to it, for various reasons.

Owned by a troubled farming couple, the barn is near the site of a historic Neolithic burial ground. The husband has recently been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and his wife is concerned that he’s now harassing guests at their barn, which they rent out for short term visitors. The couple are also rattled by a strange request before the group arrives, and wrapped up in their own troubles.

When they arrive at the barn, the 3 women discover an unsettling note, supposedly from Edie, another woman who was part of their social circle until her husband died, and who subsequently decided not to come to on the trip. The note suggests that harm might have come to one of the group’s husbands, leaving them all feeling confused and angry. Edie is supposedly on a spa retreat in Wales, while her teenager daughter is at band camp, but it’s soon clear that neither of them is where they said they’d be and the pair, despite being absent from the trip, are integral, in one way or another, to the plot.

Without phone signal or any other means of contacting their husbands, and with their hosts down at the farmhouse with their car, which couldn’t make the steep drive up to the barn, things aren’t going well on the trip. Add in personal disagreements and a strong storm and the women face a difficult night. The 3 women are very different, each with their own fears and concerns. There’s Jayne, a former solider who planned the trip, and who has a secret reason for choosing the barn as the location for this latest trip. Then there’s Ruth, her old friend who’s just had a baby, and is struggling to cope with being a mother and dealing with problems in her marriage. Finally, there’s Emily, a newer addition to the group who is significantly younger than the other two, being the trophy girlfriend of the oldest man in the friendship group.

The novel shifts between the misery at the barn, and back nearer the womens’ homes in Bristol, where the orchestrator of the mayhem might not be who we originally believed it to be. It also switches between perspectives, drip feeding the reader small clues so that we’re never bored, but always keeping us one tantalising step away from fully understanding what’s going on. You’ll never see the full picture until the end, and even then, this thriller is so psychologically intense that you might still not grasp the true motives behind the crimes.

One thing that makes me smile every time I look at my copy of the novel is the tagline, which states: ‘Three couples. Two bodies. One secret.’ The one secret part is what is so laughable; Macmillan is not one to confine her characters to just one secret. Every member of the group has her secrets, and their husbands too. There are failed investment projects, adultery, and more to contend with. Some of the secrets are simply basic issues that form part of ordinary life, and others are more sinister and could be the clue to unravelling the author’s tangled web.

So if you’re looking for an enthralling and compelling read to take your mind off all the madness that’s going on in the world right now, then I would heartily suggest that you check out The Long Weekend. It’s an unforgettable read that will haunt you long after you finish it thanks to Macmillan’s devilish plotting, intense characterisation and slow burning plot.

KT Galloway Interview: “I write to unwind and relax”

Better late than never! In my first author interview, thriller writer KT Galloway discusses her work and how her role as a psychologist helps her to craft unique and unputdownable books.

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

I have always been an avid reader of horror and psychological thrillers; I love Stephen King, Val McDermid, Karin Slaughter, and of course the great Agatha Christie. The idea of reading a book and solving clues as I go is one of great joy for me. My writing career started with comedy horror screenplays and I also write uplifting book club fiction, but I really wanted to get stuck into a series with great characters and lots of creepy thrills and chills, and so KT Galloway and The O’Malley and Swift series were borne.

What is your career background and how did you become a professional writer?

I am a qualified psychologist and therapist, and that’s what I studied for my masters at university. But ultimately, I just love the way the human brain works, and that blends well with writing about people and real-life (at a push) situations.

I am an agented author of uplifting book club fiction, and have been for a few years now, but I wanted to create another persona who could write all about creepy things instead of lovely things!

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

I write whenever I can. As I still work as a therapist I’m extremely busy. Especially these last two years! So I write to unwind and relax. If I sit down at my desk and no words are forthcoming I will take myself off for a walk (my young daughter permitting) or I’ll scroll social media or watch something on Netflix or read. I often find ideas come when I’m not trying to force them.

If I’m on a deadline then I set myself time limits. 15 minutes writing at a time. These bursts of productivity work well for me and my word count increases when I set these goals.

What style of writing do you enjoy yourself? Are there any particular writers you admire?

I will read anything. I LOVE books and I love getting lost in a world created by someone else. At the moment I’m reading a lot of Eve Chase who has a superpower for creating rich environments and characters. I am definitely a mood reader. If I pick something up and don’t enjoy it immediately, I will shelve it for another time. I tend to have two books on the go at once for this very reason. I don’t mind what the genre is, I’m more about the character and storyline.

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

Hands down, the amazing Agatha Christie. Her writing has that perfect mix of humour and suspense, and her characters are so much fun. I think I could learn so much from her; red herrings, plots, settings… just everything!!! Plus I think she’d enjoy a proper cup of tea with me while we’re writing.

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

I am really excited about book 4 in the O’Malley and Swift series The House of Secrets. It’s playing out to be the most chilling one of the series so far. And I just love the relationship between Annie and Joe and how that is developing. It’s out in May so watch this space. You can pre-order on my amazon page here author.to/KTGalloway

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

I read a lot! It’s essential as a writer, I think. I have already read the new Lucy Foley, The Paris Apartment, which is AMAZING, and the new Gillian McAllister, Wrong Place, Wrong Time, which is sublime. They’re both out later on this year. As well as those, I am looking forward to The It Girl by Ruth Ware as I think she writes some of the best whodunnits.

Anything you’d like to add?

Thank you so much for having me. It’s been lovely chatting with you. If readers would like to find me they can on Twitter https://twitter.com/ktgallowaybooks and Facebook https://www.facebook.com/ktgallowaybooks
I also have a newsletter where I run competitions and giveaways and you can sign up here https://sendfox.com/ktgallowaybooks

Huge thanks for answering my questions it’s been amazing to hear about your work and lovely to chat with you too.

The Top Five Inspector Montalbano Books For Fans Of European Crime Fiction

The Inspector Montalbano TV series has become popular in the UK and around the world, but it differs greatly from the unique and pioneering series of books on which it is based.

Originally published in Italian, and now translated into many languages and popular around the world, Andrea Camilleri’s series about a police inspector with a unique combination of underworld connections and moral compass, is intriguing and unrivalled.

The series is still going to this very day, with the books spanning nearly 20 years, from the early 90s to the 2020s. As well as the nearly 30 full-length Inspector Montalbano novels, the author also wrote a selection of short stories, compiled into many collections.

Set in a fictional town on the Italian coast, called Vigata, the stories are famed for being violent and featuring some of the worst of human behaviour. From prostitutes to gangsters, thieves to kidnappers and beyond, almost every character in this series is up to no good in some form or another.

Montalbano’s world is one of vice and deception, but the man himself has an unwavering, if unusual, moral compass. He lives by his own code and has a set of rules that keep him grounded as he navigates the murky world underground world of crime in his beloved city.

Known for their dark humour and raw depiction of human life, the Inspector Montalbano novels paint a unique picture of life in Italy and the serious crimes committed in this beautiful and diverse country.

So, if you’re looking to explore the sleazy and devious world of Inspector Montalbano, then here are five books you should definitely check out.

5.The Sicilian Method: One of the newer books in the series, The Sicilian Method features two dead bodies that are considered to be connected. One is a body found by an absconding lover fleeing from his girlfriend’s husband when he spies a corpse in the flat below. The other is a vicious and cruel theatre director, who’s harsh methods of training actors could hold the key to his death. The Inspector finds numerous notebooks in the dead director’s home, including lists of everyone he’s ever worked with, his past plays and some strange notes featuring numbers, dates and names. Working back through a long list of wronged actors and trying to figure out what the notes mean leads the Inspector back to the theatre where the director worked, and where he is sure the truth behind his death lies.

4.The Other End Of The Line: Vigata is welcoming migrants to its shores in search of a better life, with Inspector Montalbano and his men working hard to support them and find the people traffickers responsible for the harsh conditions in which many of them had to travel. Then another crime occurs: this time, it’s the death of the town’s most revered dressmaker, who is brutally murdered with her own scissors. The Inspector and his mean are now dealing with organised crime on one hand and a seemingly unconnected and domestic murder on the other. As the title suggests, the Inspector comes to view each clue as part of a thread, but he soon comes to believe that they could be connected and that the person at the other end of the line is more powerful and dastardly than he ever expected.

3. The Treasure Hunt: After being reluctantly shoved into the spotlight by a pair of crazed lunatics wielding guns, Inspector Montalbano is targeted by an anonymous criminal who sends him on a treasure hunt with disastrous consequences. His obsession with uncovering who’s behind the scheme takes on toll on the Inspector’s personal and professional lives, and he finds himself faced with horrendous crimes that show that this more than a harmless game to the person who orchestrated it. From the personal nature of the hunt, it’s clear that the Inspector is in danger, but it soon becomes apparent just how much, and it quickly becomes clear that there’s more than his reputation as a detective at stake if he can’t uncover the mystery and find the culprit in time. This book features a twisted mystery and showcases the author’s mastery of the detective fiction format.

2. The Snack Thief: I’m not going to lie: I initially picked this novel up because of the title. I love a good snack, and I thought this would be a great read for me. I wasn’t wrong, although the novel is less about snacks than I would have liked. It features the death of a Tunisian sailor, the stabbing of a former merchant and the disappearance of a cleaning lady, who also happens to be from Tunisia. With so many crimes to deal with a suspects to handle, Montalbano and his men already have enough on their hands when they’re approached by a group of disgruntled mothers who are blaming the theft of snacks from their primary school aged kids on the new foreign boy, who happens to be Tunisian and linked to the disappeared cleaning lady. During all of this, the Inspector has to deal with a personal crisis which shows his emotional vulnerability. The novel is deeply human and speaks to a variety of emotions.

1. The Shape of Water: Yet again, I’ll recommend you start with the first book in the series. Not to be confused with the Guillermo del Toro film with the same name about a cleaner who becomes obsessed with a weird alien fish thing, this is a gripping thriller that sets the stage for this popular series. In the first book featuring the intrepid Italian sleuth, Andrea Camilleri’s police detective deals with the death of a semi-prominent member of the fictional town of Vigata. He dies during sex with his nephew and lover, who reaches out to a local attorney who was friends with his uncle. This man turns the tables and tries to use his knowledge of the death to his own political advantage. Using his connections in the murky underworld of the local sex trade, Inspector Montalbano uncovers the truth and plays God in this incredible, Golden-Age esq crime novel.

Five Incredible Books About Real-Life Political Scandals

After seeing the trailers for the most recent series of American Crime Story, which centres on the Monica Lewinsky, and I couldn’t help but think about the impact that the scandal had on the world, both in terms of politics and popular culture.

Monica Lewinsky has become a byword for risky sex in the music scene, but in literature she is the perfect example of a young woman who finds herself faced with sexual harassment and contempt in a political arena.

The scandal has been covered extensively in books, both fiction and non-fiction. When I was at University, I read a fair few books about the scandal, and about other political disasters that have helped to shape the world that we live in today.

Real-life political scandals are a fascinating way to learn more about a society and the values that it holds dear, as well as the ways that it holds its politicians accountable for their transgressions.

If you’re eager to check out some intriguing non-fiction books about political scandals, some of which you may have heard of and want to know more about, and some that you might never had heard about before, then here’s a list of five awesome texts to start you off.

I’ve tried to choose books from political arenas and authors from around the world, so there’s something for everyone, wherever you’re from and whatever aspect of politics you’re interested in learning more about. This list is just a brief intro: hopefully it’ll wet your appetite and get you wanting more books about real-life political scandals.

5. Putin’s Kleptocracy: Who Owns Russia?: Vladimir Putin is one of the world’s worst living dictators who has caused incredible hurt to minorities and wealthy oligarchs alike. While his rule over Russia is not one specific scandal, but rather one long-running grift, this book is still about the evil that this disgusting man has committed and the lasting legacy that he will leave on Russia, the USA and the rest of the world. Russian Scholar and Writer Karen Dawisha uses a variety of different sources, including insiders from Putin’s regime, Stasi archives, newspapers, journalists and more to put together a comprehensive overview of the impact that Putin’s regime has had. The book was published in 2014, so it is slightly dated, but it’s still a very well-researched insight into how Putin’s Russia has affected the global stage and had an impact on the lives of individual citizens as well.

4. A Vast Conspiracy: The Real Story of the Sex Scandal That Nearly Brought Down a President: The book that inspired the latest series of American Crime Story is definitely worth a read if you want to learn more about how Bill Clinton’s affair with a young member of the White House staff destroyed his political power and ruined the trust that the American people once had in their leader. Initially published in 1999, not long after the impeachment trial that bought the scandal to light, Jeffrey Toobin’s book is a full overview of the allegations made by Paula Jones and his affair with Monica Lewinsky. The book has since been updated and expanded to include more information on how the scandal evolved and developed over time. Toobin offers a complete timeline of the allegations and how they led to Clinton’s impeachment and the legal ramifications of his actions, both those that can be proved and those that were alleged. It’s an intriguing read that will give you a complete account of the scandal that you can’t really find elsewhere.

3. No Expense Spared: The UK’s MP expenses scandal almost tore Gordon Brown’s cabinet apart with its wild allegations of immense greed during a time of economic austerity for the rest of the country. Robert Winnett and Gordon Rayner were the Telegraph journalists who led a team of reporters who studied the expense reports and eventually broke the story, so their book is a first-hand account of how they came to realise the true scope of the information they had and how the story changed the way that the British public views its politicians. The book covers everything from the funnier side of the expenses reports, such as the costly duck house and moat cleaning through to the tales of house flipping, downright lies and fraud, all in an engaging and understandable way. The writers break down the scandal and explain the impact it had on the UK’s political world and what has changed since the scandal broke.

2. No Friend But the Mountains: Writing from Manus Prison: This incredible autobiography by Behrouz Boochani is brilliant and poetic even before you learn the true cost to the writer that the book came at. It was written on a phone as WhatsApp messages and was smuggled out of the prison to be translated and then published. Following on from the recent American withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan and a rise in prejudice against refugees of that country and many others, this book about the writer’s desperate journey to Christmas Island and subsequent imprisonment in a facility run by the Australian government on Manus Island is a timely reminder that displaced people are not the enemy. It is a deeply human and heartbreaking tale that is all the more vivid and scary because it’s entirely true.

1. The Man Who Sold America: Joy-Ann Reid’s incredible book is a timely reminder of how the Trump administration worked to profit from the presidency and privatise as much as possible before his defeat in the 2020 election. The book, written before the election and updated later, gives an in-depth insight into America’s national accounts and how Trump and his cronies plundered them. It also explores how the former president made it clear that America was for sale and the ways in which he desperately tried to buy foreign favour before he was ousted. If you’re interested in a very recent political scandal and how it could impact the future of what was once the greatest nation in the world then this could be the book for you.

Mo Hayder Obituary

It’s with a heavy heart that I share the news that novelist Clare Dunkel, who wrote under the pseudonyms Mo Hayder and Theo Clare, as died at the age of just 59, after battling Motor Neurone Disease.

Mo Hayder, as she was most commonly known, worked around the world, before her debut novel Birdman was published at the end of 1999. It was a shockingly graphic tale of the investigation into the ritualist murders of multiple women in London. The novel was revered as refreshingly intense and deeply thriller by both readers and critics alike.

In book she introduced her main protagonist, Jack Caffery, who appears in several of her novels. He’s a driven detective inspector who’s not phased by anything. He’s often called to the scene of gruesome crimes. Many of Hayder’s books involve despicable crimes and horrendous crime scenes, or difficult topics, such as paedophilia.

As well as the Jack Caffery novels, the author also wrote four standalone novels and put together the screenplay for a Dutch language version of her novel The Treatment. A versatile writer and supportive member of the writing community, Hayder contributed a great deal to the world of literature and thriller writing. Her work inspired many other dark crime fiction writers, and helped to define the modern thriller market.

Despite having left school at just 15 years old to become a waitress, then working around the world, including in Tokyo, a city which she eventually named a novel after, Hayder later returned to the world of education and earned herself two Master’s degrees; one in film making from the American University in Washington DC and the other in creative writing from Bath Spa University. She also had jobs as a waitress, security guard and international English teacher before she started writing professionally and making a name for herself in the thriller writing community.

These jobs and degrees helped her to hone her writing skills, enrich her already extensive life experiences and get the confidence she needed to start writing professionally. Her first book was beloved by readers and critics alike, and all of her subsequent works have achieved similar success.

Her work is most notable for being gripping and gruesome, without being overly gory. Hayder got the balance just right, making her work appealing to a wide variety of readers. The author created amazing characters who did crazy and often terrible things. Every book was a roller coaster of emotions, and the author crafted beautiful narratives that kept readers hooked from start to well after they were finished reading.

As well as being international bestsellers, many of her novels also won accolades, including the coveted CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger Award. Her contribution was noted through the winning of these awards and by many reviewers who regularly pointed out the gripping nature of her work. Her work is often seen as similar to the very best Scandinavian crime fiction, as it uses many of the same tropes and similar plot devices to grip the reader and really shock them to the core.

Although Hayder’s bibliography isn’t exceptionally extensive under any name, she has made a lasting impact on the crime fiction and thriller genres thanks to her imagination and amazing skill with words. She helped to pave the way for many other writers to incorporate dark themes into their work and highlight the gruesome side of human nature.

Drawing on her extensive and varied life experiences as well as the people she knew and loved, Hayder created rich narratives and unique plots that would haunt readers long after they put her books down. Her second husband, to whom my thoughts go out at this difficult time, was a retired policeman, and presumably she drew on his past experiences, as well as her own, when writing her novels.

Shortly before her unfortunate demise, Hayder completed a new novel, The Book Of Sand, which was written under her second pseudonym, Theo Clare. The book is set to be released posthumously next year.

Ultimately, this latest novel will be an exciting addition to Hayder’s legacy of writing gripping, tense thrillers that show the very worst that humanity has to offer. It’s such a colossal shame that the thriller industry has lost such a celebrated writer, but Hayder’s work will live on and be loved by many generations to come. She’ll always be known as a master of suspense and turning difficult topics into engaging narratives. She died too soon but her work remains and will be a lasting reminder of her commitment and unique creative mind. My thoughts are with her family and loved ones, and I can only hope that her success in her profession brings them some small comfort as they grieve for their loss. It’s always a shame to lose a talented individual so soon, but she made an impression on millions of readers, as well as those lucky enough to know her and spend time with her in person.

The Noise Review: An Engaging If Overly Long Fantasy Thriller

Having recently reviewed James Patterson and Bill Clinton’s book The President’s Daughter, I was excited to check out his latest book, The Noise.

A collaboration with J.D. Barker, the book is set in modern day America, in a remote settlement where a sudden anomaly tears through the landscape and leaves destruction in its wake. The anomaly is a loud noise, that causes physical and mental devastation to everything in its path. The book switches between perspectives, so the reader gets to see the destruction from various viewpoints.

Among these is a scientist, Dr Martha Chan, who is bought in by the US government to investigate the anomaly and what caused it. There are also two young girls, Tenant and Sophie, who lived in an off-the-grid settlement and survive the disaster, alongside their labrador Zeke. The pair settle into a storm shelter after the noise catching them out while they’re trapping rabbits. Once the event is, seemingly, over, the pair resurface, with Sophie experiencing strange symptoms, including a fever. She also keeps saying ‘Anna Shim’, a name that her sister doesn’t know. Another character whose perspective the authors show to the reader is a US solider who works with Martha to try and understand what’s going on.

The initial team bought in to deal with the anomaly and understand it thins out, as specialists visit the site of the tragedy and promptly disappear. The leader who’s handling the situation instates a 2 hour rule, where everyone has to leave the site of the anomaly after 2 hours or less.

That doesn’t stop him and others from disappearing. As the anomaly hits other towns and other people encounter it, it becomes clear that the problem is spreading and that it is gathering momentum and growing in power. The initial team bought in by the US government thins down to a few, including Dr Chan and the solider, who work together to analyse the two girls that survived the initial blast and work out what’s causing it.

With the threat growing ever more real and major, the US government realises that if it doesn’t do something soon, then other international powers will take action. The anomaly and the destruction it causes are soon covered by the media, both traditional and social. The result is mass panic, and a gripping race for the characters to understand the noise and what it means for humanity.

The Noise starts out a little slowly, with a lot of exposition that makes the book exceptionally and needlessly long. However, as the book picks up its pace towards the middle, it becomes a unique take on the modern fantasy thriller. It blends the writers’ skills in political and thriller writing with a creative dystopian world in which all of humanity is at risk from being consumed by an all-encompassing sound.

What I like the most about the novel is the characterisation. There are loads of great characters and engaging dialogue, so the reader starts to really feel invested in the story and wants these characters to survive. That’s particularly true of Dr Martha Chan, who is an engaging character who is both interesting and empathetic. Her relationship with the two girls who survived the anomaly is endearing and pushes the reader to want her to survive and find a way to deal with the issue facing humankind. She regularly mentions her young twin children, which brings us back to the real facts of the issue: that the anomaly could potentially wipe out everything she and the other experts hold dear.

The chapters that are from Dr Chan’s perspective are intriguing and engaging, as are the ones from Tenant’s point of view. However, as the book jumps around so much, it’s difficult for readers to keep up with the complicated story and feel truly engaged in it. The story jumps not just in perspective but also in space, as the book takes us to different areas near or around the anomaly or to a secure unit where the army is experimenting to find a way to stop the noise from infecting other people.

In the end, it’s clear that Patterson and Barker are trying to emulate Stephen King with this supernatural thriller, right at the time when King is trying his hand at police procedural writing. It makes for a unique insight into the literary world, but as far as reading experiences go, The Noise needs some work. For a first attempt it isn’t half bad, and with a little sharpening and less repositioning of the narrative, I think that the two authors have the potential to become a fantasy thriller powerhouse.

Vicki FitzGerald Interview: “The world we live in is a sinister place with an extremely dark underworld that many people do not know exists”

Thriller author Vicki FitzGerald talks to me about her work, the experiences that inspire her work and her exciting future plans.

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

I’ve always preferred crime and horror books. As a child, I would plough through Point Horror novels, while my sister was reading Point Romance. After covering numerous crimes as a Journalist, I decided that I would one day write my own novel. I decided to draw from personal experience. They say write what you know. My first book, Briguella features Journalist, Kate Rivendale AKA me. Kill List explores drugging, which I’ve encountered. I wanted to explore our sinister world and show how bad things happen to good people. One action can change your life forever.


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

After graduating with a BA (Hons) degree in Journalism, I worked for a regional newspaper for a decade before launching my own public relations firm. I was drawn to crime stories covering anything from murders to assaults. Out of the blue a sex attacker attacked 13 women in 13 days in our town. I was reporting at the heart of it and it gave me a huge buzz being part of a major criminal investigation. I decided to draw from my experiences covering the case to create my debut novel, Briguella.


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

From true life. The world we live in is a sinister place with an extremely dark underworld that many people do not know exists. I wanted to explore that and ventured onto the dark web. Trust me, I was horrified at what I found in 30 minutes – a hit man an hour away who was willing to kill babies to pensioners.


I always start writing with a cup of tea. In the summer, I work outdoors. I seem to write better with the sun on my face. I also like to write with a glass of wine in the evening. If I’m ever struggling for ideas, I go out and look for places to set a scene or I delve into a binge Netflix session of true crime or thrillers.


What style of writing do you enjoy yourself? Are there any particular writers you admire?

I tend to stick with thrillers or non-fiction covering forensic knowledge or those that get into the minds of serial killers. I’m intrigued by killers and what happened in their life to turn them into a murderer. I admire every writer for having the guts to put their soul on paper.


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

Stephen King. He never gave up on writing despite numerous rejections. After his wife pulled the draft of Carrie out of his bin, he continued writing even though it was out of his comfort zone. It just shows you cannot stop a piece of work just because it’s hard, either emotionally or imaginatively.

Also, Stephen and I have experienced similar traumas with regards to being injured and having to learn to walk again. I guess I admire his fighting spirit.

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

Kill List. I’ve signed with Hollywood agent, Ken Atchity, producer of the blockbuster, The Meg. We are finalising a film treatment for an adaption to a TV series. Either Ken may produce or sell Kill List on to Hollywood producers. Ken compares Kill List to Killing Eve, Breaking Bad, Peppermint, and Prodigal Son. I find that mind-blowing, as they all rank with my favourite shows and films.

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

I’ve recently enjoyed Lucy Clark and Alice Feeney.


Anything you’d like to add?

I just want to encourage others to chase their dreams. If you do not try, you’ll never know.

Thanks for answering my questions, it’s been great to hear from you Vicki. I’m excited for your TV adaptation!

The President’s Daughter Review: A Punchy Political Thriller That’s Ideal For Summer

Following the success of their first novel together, The President Is Missing, former U.S President Bill Clinton and internationally acclaimed thriller writer James Patterson have collaborated on another book, which is due to be published next week.

This new book is titled The President’s Daughter, and despite the similarities in the titles, it’s a standalone novel, not part of a series with the previous book. That means a whole new cast of characters and a completely new tale. It also means that you don’t have to have read The President Is Missing to enjoy this new novel.

It’s a book about the kidnapping of a teenage girl, who’s father is a former Navy SEAL who later served as the President of the U.S. With his daughter kidnapped by a former enemy, he’s left to use his skills to track down his little girl and get her back safely, a journey that takes him around the world and into dangerous situations.

The title of the book is slightly misleading: by the time she’s kidnapped, Mel Keating’s father Matt is an ex-president, and has been so for 2 years. He’s now living quietly in a small house in a small town in New Hampshire, while his wife is working on an archaeological dig in Boston.

Mel was out hiking when she’s abruptly snatched from the trail and her boyfriend is shot dead in front of her. Now, she’s in the hands of a dangerous terrorist: a man whose own daughters, along with his wife, were killed while Keating’s men were exploring his compound during his presidency.  

Now, this terrorist is out for revenge, and he has the former President’s daughter in his clutches. Emotions run high as the former President and his wife watch in horror as the current administration, which already betrayed them politically, now fails them in trying to recover their precious daughter.

Switching between different perspectives, including Matt Keating, his wife, his daughter and the terrorists who hold her captive, the new President, the secret service agents working with Keating to find his daughter, and various international diplomats, the two authors create a varied and intense narrative. By withholding information from the reading, and showing us the initial, horrified reactions of a variety of characters, the writers turn even simple plot points into thrilling passages.

One of the downsides to this technique is that it does make the book much longer. The President’s Daughter is an immense volume with over 100 chapters split into 5 parts, plus en epilogue. Despite this extraordinary length, the book is surprisingly easy to read.

Clinton and Patterson do a good job of creating tension and making Matt Keating, the former POTUS protagonist, realistic and believable. We can really feel his pain and empathise with his feelings of impotence and inadequacy as he watches the hostage situation unfold. He feels powerless, until he decides to go off-script, in true action hero fashion, and take matters into is own hands.

Armed with a selection of weapons he understands from his days as a Navy SEAL, his grief, and a handful of security operatives and high-level contacts that he can trust, Matt Keating sets out to take down the terrorist who took his little girl. All the while, the truth is obscured and it’s unclear as to who Keating, or the reader, can trust.

While the pair are both clearly very good at writing powerful male characters, they fall seriously short when it comes to portraying women. Despite the sheer volume of female characters, the novel is very clearly written by men. The female characters are almost entirely either women who behave like the male characters and are almost indistinguishable from them, as is the case with the female secret agents, or they’re entirely controlled by men.

That’s the case with the new President, Pamela Barnes. She is married to a former cowboy, who’s now her chief of staff and who controls her. He literally makes decisions on her behalf. Her character is a caricature of what the first female President of America might look like, which is frankly shocking from the husband of a woman who stood a decent chance of becoming the first real life female POTUS if it wasn’t for America’s overwhelming racism and bigotry. Even when Pamela Barnes does eventually wise up to her husband’s debauchery and ditch him, she’s still facing the fallout from his past decision making.

Also, Clinton and Patterson both miss out on the irony of the female characters, particularly the secret service and FBI operatives, being constantly mansplained at and being overlooked for top jobs by incompetent men. There are plenty of male characters in this book who are clearly completely useless at their roles, but meanwhile women are running around cleaning up their messes and generally just doing their jobs for them.

For me, it’s characters and writing like this that makes me wish for more inclusivity and female perspectives in the crime fiction and thriller market. The women in The President’s Daughter have all accepted their fates as helpless and waiting for rescue, puppets or tokens. It’s such a shame that neither of the writers could take the time to consult with a woman, or research real women in power, before they put this book together.

The same goes for the foreign characters, many of whom appear to be a string of stereotypes clustered together. There are a few redeeming paragraphs which show some small international cooperation and appear to suggest that not all foreigners are bad, but for the most part the novel is incredibly regressive and filled with out-dated values. It’s hardly inclusivity if you include diverse characters but write them from your own, ignorant perspective.

This is the biggest let down the novel has, but if you can look beyond the lack of real diversity and the weird characterisation of everyone other than the ex-Navy SEAL turned former POTUS and his male security detail, then this is an interesting read. Patterson has written hundreds of books over the years, many of which have become international bestsellers. Combined with Clinton’s knowledge of the U.S political system, and you’ve got an interesting read that can help make your staycation feel like a really relaxing break. There’s not a lot of complicated plot points or information to absorb, so you can just sit back and enjoy the ride through this action-packed book.

Overall, if you enjoy fast-paced thrillers then you could find that The President’s Daughter is right up your street. Written by a former President and a master of popular thrillers, the book is a well-researched page-turner. It’ll be a great read for the summer. If you’re looking for a book with substances and a social conscience, then this isn’t the novel for you, but it’s still a great way to pass the time. It might be a hefty book, but it’ll fly by and you’ll be shocked by how quickly you finish it thanks to Patterson’s narrative skills.

Guilty Review: A Shocking Thriller With A New Twist In Every Chapter

Having recently interviewed author Jane Hobden, I was eager to check out her book, Guilty.

It’s billed as a unique version of a traditional crime novel, and it’s easy to see why as soon as you turn the first page. The narrative is divided into sections, so that the reader sees the case from multiple perspectives. It offers almost Gone Girl esq perspective flips, but more of them, so that the reader is constantly unsure about whose version of the truth is the real one.

The plot follows the strange case of Megan Sands, a young mother whose six-year-old daughter is taken into care following a fall down some stairs. The teaching assistant who took the child to hospital and urged the staff there to call social services is also a mother with a daughter in the same class; indeed, the two young girls are friends.

Not long after Lola Sands is taken into care, someone breaks into the teaching assistant’s home and throws acid over her husband’s face, before tying her up and berating her before letting her go. The teaching assistant, Becky Thurston, recognises the assailant and identifies her as Megan Sands. She tells the police that Megan had threatened her before and been abusive prior to the devastating attack.

When the police go to visit Megan at her flat to quiz her about the attack, they find a bottle of acid and a blanket out in the hall on the floor below where she lives. It’s this coincidence, and Megan’s lack of alibi and shifty behaviour that leads the police to arrest and charge her with the crime.

The novel details the court case, as well as the events leading up to it and in between. Skipping from different perspectives and narrative styles, Hobden creates an enthralling tale that’s very difficult to put down. The reader is thrust into this captivating story and soon finds themselves wondering who to believe.

Many of the characters that narrate chapters, and deliver witness statements that Hobden uses to change up the writing style, are unreliable, with their versions of events differing drastically from other people’s accounts. So, the reader is left on tenterhooks and you’re unable to guess what’s going to happen next.

Thanks to Hobden’s diverse writing style, which includes witness statements, court dialogue and first person, character narrated chapters, the reader gets a complete perspective over the case. As mentioned, several of the characters are, at specific times throughout the story, unreliable, meaning that we see the action unfold slowly. The tale becomes increasingly complicated as Megan gives her evidence in court, and twisted versions of the truth start to come out.

The book is great, but it’s not without its flaws. The main issue I find is that the witness statements, used at the beginning of the novel to break up the narrative, feel a little samey. For those that are supposed to be written by characters in professional jobs, they don’t quite hit the right note. The same goes for the court proceedings: at times, the lawyers just don’t sound right. I’m not a lawyer or an expert myself, but I’ve read enough crime fiction to know that some of the text isn’t quite accurate.

That being said, accuracy isn’t everything, and while these minor issues might impede the narrative slightly, they don’t change the fact that this is an incredible book that keeps you hooked to the very end. Hobden structures the novel well, so that you feel compelled to keep going to get to the next twist and uncover the next fact.

It’s this propulsion that drives the reader through the novel and makes Guilty such a great read. You’ll be surprised how quickly you finish this compelling read. Once you’ve finished it, you’ll be haunted by the plot. It’s not just the plot that’s unforgettable; the characters are also engaging and memorable. Megan Sands, whose first-person account is interspersed with her witness testimony, is a relatable and understandable character who inspires both pity and understanding.

Her supposed victim’s wife, Becky Thurston, is also relatable and is both suspicious and subtly threatening. Even small, minor characters are intriguing and memorable, including Megan’s lawyer. He’s a robotic career man who has no compassion for his client and is neither sympathetic nor particularly competent. Through characters like him and the unsympathetic policemen who interview Megan, Hobden makes a point that the legal system in the UK is often incredibly prejudice, particularly towards single mothers living in social housing. 

When all’s said and done, Guilty is a unique thriller that works on many levels. It’s not without its flaws, but those don’t detract from the novel. It’s still a great read that will keep you riveted for a long while to come. The book also makes you question the truth and how every story has more than one side. So, if you want to enjoy a gripping summer read, then this could be the perfect solution for you.