Addressed To Kill Review: A Creepy Christmas Crime Story

COVER FOR ADDRESSED TO KILL

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.

 

Alice Boatwright Interview: “I have loved mysteries ever since a librarian handed me a Happy Hollisters adventure”

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On Halloween weekend I catch up with mystery writer Alice Boatwright to learn more about her work and the extensive inspiration behind it.  

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

I have always been drawn to clean prose with good, insight-provoking metaphors and wit, rather than jokes. Although I admire more complex and experimental styles (James Joyce, William H. Gass, and Mario Vargas Llosa come to mind), this is not “me.” I loved “the Russians” when I growing up, but I never aspired to be Dostoyevsky. Willa Cather would be nice. Other writers who influenced me early on were Hemingway and Fitzgerald, and I do think E.B. White’s Elements of Style is the only writing book that is essential. Master that, and you know everything. I am still working on it.

I have loved mysteries ever since a librarian handed me a Happy Hollisters adventure when I was about eight years old; and there is something irresistible about the idea of trying to write the kind of books you enjoy so much.

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

My father was a musician and college professor, who began writing his first textbook when I was very young. I loved to go to sleep listening to the sound of his typewriter (an old Underwood that I still have). When this book was published, and he put the publisher’s special boxed edition on our mantel, I announced that he was not going to the only one in the family to publish a book. I began writing stories right away and studied writing all through college. I also have an MFA from Columbia.

Writing professionally turned out to mean something different than what I first imagined: a tenure-track teaching job and the bestseller list, of course. I have held a variety of jobs based on my writing skill, and I am very grateful for the amazing career I’ve had, which has taken me around the world. I have always written fiction too, but it is only recently that I have made an income from that.

Tell me about your books. How did you come to write them and what was the inspiration behind them?

My first book, Collateral Damage, had its origins in the thesis I wrote in graduate school. It slowly evolved into three linked novellas about the impact of the Vietnam War on those who fought, those who resisted, and the family and friends caught between them. I grew up during this era, and the conflicts at home and abroad, the brave decisions, and tragedies of this war influenced me profoundly. I wanted to write this book “no matter what” – but it took a long time and finding a publisher was not easy. Eventually it came out, won an award, and has now been released in a new edition in recognition of the 50th anniversary of the war.

I turned to writing mysteries during the time I was seeking a publisher for Collateral Damage. Vietnam remains a difficult subject that many publishers would not touch, and I thought I ought to try writing a book on a subject people enjoyed reading about – murder! I also knew it would be fun for me to write. My husband and I are both long-time Anglophiles, as well as avid readers of English mysteries, so we used to make up plots as we explored the countryside. One of my ideas was to write about an American married to an English vicar, and I still have the notes I scribbled down about this. A few years later, we moved to a village in Oxfordshire – and I had the time and experience to develop that idea into the first Ellie Kent mystery, Under An English Heaven (Cozy Cat Press, 2014). The second book in the series, What Child Is This?, came out in 2017; and the third will be out in the coming year.

I am delighted to say that the Ellie Kent books have proven to be very popular. Ellie’s experiences as an incomer and her outsider perspective as an American – as well as the opportunities for a certain amount of nosiness as the vicar’s wife – give her reasons to get involved in solving crimes. The books also give me the chance to write about England, which I love, and explore questions such as the meaning of home, the value of faith, and the challenges of blended families. Under An English Heaven won the 2016 Mystery and Mayhem Grand Prize and the first two books have both been Amazon bestsellers, reaching #1 in the traditional detective mystery category.

I have also always written short stories – another form I love. This year I had the pleasure of collaborating with an artist friend on Sea, Sky, Islands, a chapbook of three stories set in the beautiful San Juan Islands, off the coast of Washington. She provided the cover painting and interior illustrations, so it is really a very pretty little book. I love today’s freedom to create any kind of book you want. It’s so different from the age of “no”, when agents and publishers had the final say about what you could offer to readers.

When choosing books to read, what style of writing do you enjoy yourself? Are there any particular writers you admire?

I like books that have strong believable characters and whose stories – regardless of genre – are grounded in the real challenges of life. I like to be inspired by the writer’s fresh and skilful use of language as the medium for creating a world and experiences that entertain, inspire, and move me. There are many writers I admire, so I will just name a few recent ones – Elizabeth Strout, Alice Munro, and Patrick Modiano. Amongst mystery writers, my go-to models are primarily from the Golden Age – Josephine Tey, Dorothy L. Sayers, Marjorie Allingham, Ngaio Marsh, and Agatha Christie – but I love Georges Simenon and P.D. James too.

As a successful woman writer, what do you think the literary industry can do to provide more support for women looking to succeed?

Support for women writers begins with support for the idea that women and their ideas and experiences are as important and as autonomous as those of men. This requires a global effort to reverse centuries of tradition, law, and practice. Progress is variable, depending on where you are in the world. Of 774 million illiterate adults worldwide, 2/3 are women. So, the bottom line is education needs to be available to every girl and woman: these are potential writers and readers.

The next level of success is achieved if you actually write. The obstacles here are mainly in your own head. If you have a pencil and paper, you can write whatever you want. Making the time, having the interest and confidence to keep at it and develop your skills, believing in yourself: these are all challenges faced by every writer.

For training, if you have access to a library, you can educate yourself in every way from reading a wide variety of books to researching the business of writing and publishing. There are also many other options for learning from self-run writing groups and small workshops to degree programs. Today in the US, some 50% of graduate arts degrees are awarded to women. When I went to graduate school, there were 2 women and 13 men in my workshop.

I’m not sure the “industry” sees itself as responsible for cultivating women’s voices, but women demanding to read books by women certainly make a difference. From what I have read, men still predominantly prefer books by men (or are predominantly interested in the topics men tend to write about).

Sisters in Crime is an organization that was founded more than 30 years ago to address the disparity between men and women in getting published and reviewed, as well as bias in other areas, such as award programs and size of advances. Its programs supporting the professional development of women crime writers are well-respected, and it has been successful in raising these issues and documenting progress.

One indicator of success for women mystery writers is that the percentage of women on the NY Times bestseller list has risen from 15% in 1950 to 44% in 2010. But there are undoubtedly many challenges facing women writers as in other fields. The possibility of self-publishing has created new opportunities, but making a living from writing fiction is probably as hard as making a living from acting or painting or playing the violin.

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

To be honest, I can’t imagine collaborating with anyone. The joy of writing fiction comes from being free to do whatever I want. It’s my show. I would be interested in being a fly-on-the-wall to watch Georges Simenon produce a beautifully written mystery in a weekend. Of course, he had a wife. That makes a difference.

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

My primary focus is on finishing the third Ellie Kent mystery, which will come out in 2020. I also fiddle around with my stories and make notes when other book ideas come along.

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

My Puget Sound chapter of Sisters in Crime is very prolific, so I have a stack of books I am looking forward to reading by authors such as Marty Wingate, Candace Robb, Ingrid Thoft, Curt Colbert, Waverly Fitzgerald, and Jeffrey D. Briggs. It’s very special to follow the progress of writers you know, because you know both the book and all that went into making it happen.

Do You Have Any Final Words Of Advice?

If you want to be a writer, keep writing, no matter what, and never give up on a story you want to tell until you get it right and get it out!

Huge thanks to Alice for answering my questions, it’s been a pleasure to hear your thoughts. You can learn more about Alice’s work HERE.

The Regret Review: A Heart-Stopping Thriller You Won’t Be Able To Put Down

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Dan Malakin’s The Regret is a fast-paced psychological thriller about how far people will go when their lives are threatened.

The novel centres around Rachel, a young nurse and mother to a three year old girl, Lily. Her seemingly perfect life is interrupted by the possible return of her past stalker, who may or may not be the person responsible for attempting to destroy Rachel’s life now.

Having been sent to prison for being a paedophile, Rachel’s former stalker is seemingly out for revenge, as Rachel framed him when she couldn’t make the stalking allegations stick. However, as the book moves on it becomes clear that the plot is much more complicated than that and that the protagonist is facing something far more frightening than a man scorned.

Malakin throws in a lot of red herrings, including a sketchy boyfriend, his dead-beat best friend and a technological wiz kid with questionable morals in the form of Lily’s dad and Rachel’s friend. Throughout the novel Rachel and, by extension, the reader, are left constantly wondering who is behind the destruction until the book reaches its apocalyptic climax.

Switching between a third person review of Rachel’s life and a deliciously creepy first person insight into the thoughts of the person trying to wreck her life, the novel is deeply disconcerting from the beginning and designed to unnerve and frighten.

The author has clearly done his research, giving an in-depth account of how the cyber-crime is being committed. From hacking Rachel’s bank account and re-routing her money through to scamming the NHS into giving access to patient records to be altered, the first-person chapters of the novel are the most harrowing of all, and the novel is well worth reading just for them.

The only issue I have the The Regret is that I feel that Malakin may have underestimated victims of such vile abuse. Often they become cautious after such experiences, and would not be as trusting as his protagonist. After all, she agreed to have a baby with a man she barely knew, and then allowed her boyfriend of a short time to have a key to her home.

If you can overlook this major character flaw then this is a thrilling and, frankly, terrifying novel about how remarkably easy it can be to ruin someone’s life. The twist at the end is so horrifying that it leaves you literally wondering how you never saw it coming. Malakin is a master of suspense and really leads his reader on in this tightly wound novel.

In all, The Regret is an enticing and deeply-disturbing book that I would recommend for those looking to get some real thrills this Halloween and frighten yourself with a tale of how far someone would go to destroy someone else’s life.

The Olympian Review: A Glitzy Jet-Setting Thriller

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Having recently interviewed author Mark Atley I was keen to read his debut novel, The Olympian.  

The titular Olympian is a guy called Samuel, who is being blackmailed by a bookie while on a family vacation. His holiday is intercepted by a bookkeeper who is determined to get back money that someone else skipped town with.

Set in an all-inclusive Mexican resort owned by a cartel, it features a strange cast of characters that are all equal parts evil, strange and dastardly. As more characters from both Samuel’s past and the cartel’s roster of criminal associates arrive the plot thickens and the reader is drawn into a complex plot involving love, money, drugs and much more.

There’s Johnny, an escaped criminal on the run from his bondsman and his bookie with a load of stolen cash, as well as a journalist and her cameraman, attending a bizarre intervention that is quickly derailed by everyone else’s criminal activities. The plot quickly spirals forward and the reader is propelled on a strangely compelling journey.

The only downside The Olympian is the slightly stilted dialogue. Ately’s characters are intriguing, two-dimensional individuals, yet they speak like robots that have, at one point read a Raymond Chandler novel.

For all of its dialogue flaws, the novel is still fast-paced and deeply thrilling. Readers are invested in following the plot as it rattles on towards a gripping finale. There are plenty of twists and turns along the way, and with so many characters the reader has to work hard to keep on top of who’s aligned with whom as each moves to outwit the others.

At the end of the day, I’m impressed by Atley’s debut and keen to find out what’s in store for his next book. The Olympian will be a tough act to follow, but with a few enhancements any future books have the potential to be bestsellers.

 

 

 

A Killing Sin Review: A Gripping Thriller To Enjoy While You Laze Around In The Summer Sun

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Whilst searching for a read to keep me company over the warm summer weekend, I found A Killing Sin lounging on a pile of books to be read, which is worryingly tall.

So I decided to give it a go. I had been a bit sceptical about this book since I received it. After all, a book about Islamic terrorism could be full of lazy stereotypes and boring one-dimensional characters.

Instead, K.H. Irvine has created a really great novel that perfectly blends thrills and human emotion to really make the reader think and keep their attention throughout.

In a world much like ours but in the slight future, three completely different women, joined by a fragile university friendship, lead separate lives, until one day draws them all together and changes their lives forever.

There’s Amala Hackeem, lapsed Muslim tech entrepreneur and controversial comedian, who dons a burqa and, completely out of character, heads to the women’s group at the Tower Hamlets sharia community.

Meanwhile, her friend Ella Russell, a struggling journalist, leaves home in pursuit of the story of her life. Desperate for the truth, she is about to learn the true cost of the war on terror and find out some facts that may be hard to swallow.

Finally, Millie Stephenson, a university professor and expert in radicalisation arrives at Downing Street to brief the Prime Minister and home secretary. Nervous and excited she finds herself at the centre of a nation taken hostage.

All of these three women’s lives are entwined in this one day as the leap between normal people and extremists blurs. Jumping between times, spaces and actions, the book is fast-paced and requires your attention: but don’t worry, it’s so gripping you won’t want to put it down!

So if you’re searching for your perfect summer thriller, look no further. A Killing Sin will keep you hooked from page one and won’t let you go.

Violence Against Women Doesn’t Have To Be A Staple In Crime Fiction Today

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Just to remind y’all, it’s 2019. We shouldn’t really be debating the legitimacy of offering a prize for crime fiction that praises books for avoiding the portrayal of the death, mutilation and general violence against women.

Recently the Guardian highlighted the growing upset amongst crime writers who are unhappy about comments that fictional portrayals of rape can hinder trials. Whilst this is a sad fact, it also should be noted that anything to stop the decriminalisation of rape in law courts should be embraced wholeheartedly.

I understand the other side of the argument: that men continue to commit these crimes, so writers should continue to write about them. And I actually agree. Write about them all you want.

However, the crime fiction and thriller genres have, for decades, been heavily focused on portraying women as victims, with many lazily plotted books centred exclusively on the gruesome depiction of the violence committed by a man against a woman or women.

By turning women in a commodity which authors can then use as plot devices, the crime fiction genre has highlighted the deep-seated misogyny that underpins not only the foundations of the genre, but also society itself. There’s nothing wrong with including violence against women, but make them at least two-dimensional characters, not just objects to be killed and hurt.

Also, writers should consider having even more women in more dynamic roles, not just as detectives but also as suspects, witnesses and people with their own agency.

For those who are true mavericks, the idea of creating a book with no violence against women at all should be considered. It’s a great idea and I applaud the prize that is aiming to showcase those books that do not portray women merely as objects and murder victims.

Consider, for one fucking second, the people who have very little say in this but who are the most important: the women who are real-life victims of male violence. They deserve to be able to find books that don’t trigger them but are thrilling, exciting and adventurous. They deserve to be more than just plot points.

Books can be triggering and cause readers trauma, and as such I think its great that a prize is trying to showcase the books that are reducing the amount of violence against women they portray. Whilst I understand that it is a real part of life (I’m a woman, I get catcalled about four times a month and groped at least once every six weeks, it’s a sad reality), there’s something to be said for calling out crime fiction and thrillers as the genres that showcase it the most and highlighting those writers who have written books that do not use women simply as plot points.

So in all, what I’m trying to say is that crime fiction writers who want to continue writing about violence against women should go the fuck ahead. But don’t dismiss so easily a prize that is aimed at those who, deliberately or not, have no women being raped, murdered, stalked or mutilated. It’s that easy.

Come Back For Me Review: Summer’s Contender For Most Enticing Plot

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Firstly, apologies for the lack of posts over the past week, I’ve been on a very exciting work trip to the beautiful city of Dubai!

Whilst I was out there I took one of the ever-growing stack of books that I still haven’t got round to reading to keep me occupied during my long waits at the airport. As I wanted something I knew I would enjoy I selected Heidi Perks’ latest novel, Come Back For Me. 

Having already read and reviewed her previous novel, Now You See Her, I was certain that I would enjoy her latest offering, and I wasn’t wrong.

Come Back For Me tells the story of therapist Stella who, as a young child, fled with her family in the middle of the night from their home on a remote island off the coast of Dorset (my home county and the best place in the world, fact). A fictional place named Evergreen, Stella’s childhood memories show an idyllic space where her family gambolled and played happily and freely.

Now living in Winchester, Stella is a family counsellor hoping to support other families that have been through trauma such as her own, without fully understanding or acknowledging the seismic events that led to the breakdown of her own family all those years ago.

That is until one day a news item appears announcing that a body has been found on Evergreen, at the site of Stella’s beloved former family home. She is shocked to discover that there might be more to her past than meets the eye, and as such she sets out on a quest to find out the truth about what drove her family to flee.

Perks is a skilful and brisk storyteller, and as a result Come Back For Me is a fast-paced thriller that readers will hardly be able to stop reading. Every time I felt I could put a bookmark in and go do something for a bit I found myself driven further into the narrative by the gripping plot and the incredible sense of foreboding that haunts every aspect of the narrative, from Stella’s prickly sister Bonnie and haunted brother Danny through to the enticement of her trip back to Evergreen, which seeps out of the pages and makes the reader almost urge her on to go and check it out.

So in all, if you’re looking for a tantalising and thrilling tale to keep you occupied this summer, I can recommend nothing better than Come Back For Me. Trust me when I say that you won’t be able to put it down or forget it in a hurry.