Wednesday, 18 July 2018

BEST OF CRIME with Niki Mackay

Welcome to my latest BEST OF CRIME feature, looking at crime writers' top picks, from their favourite author and fictional detective to their best writing tip. 

Today I'm delighted to welcome 


for her I, Witness blog tour

to share her BEST OF CRIME ...

Lynda la Plante, Martina Cole, and Minette Walters. They excel at character. I have re-read several of their books and will continue to do so just to revisit the people they put on the page. That takes an insane level of talent and skill. 

The Crow, not strictly crime but it has a murder at its heart. It’s a really gripping tale of retribution and justice. It’s also stylish, beautiful and true to the comic. 

I will endlessly binge watch The X-Files – I’m a complete Sci-fi geek so it ticks that box too. I like the long storyline and the big conspiracy stuff, and of course Mulder and Scully.  

Mickey and Mallory Knox – from Natural born killers. Iconic and chilling. 

DCI Jane Tennison from Prime Suspect – she was so well drawn, fiercely clever, complicated and a bit of a mess. I think she was quite ground breaking at the time. 

I’m fascinated by mind control – when people manage to manipulate others and use them as weapons. Like the Charles Manson case. 

The big moment in Sarah Pinborough’s ‘Behind Her Eyes’. I can’t in any way describe it without spoilers, but it’s bloody genius. 

I tend to research from books still to be honest, I do listen to quite a few podcasts though.  

Read. A lot and widely. 

Coffee, endlessly. Dairy milk and maoams. 


Niki Mackay studied Performing Arts at the BRIT School, and it turned out she wasn’t very good at acting but quite liked writing scripts. She holds a BA (Hons) in English Literature and Drama, and won a full scholarship for her MA in Journalism.

Find Niki MacKay on her website, on her Facebook page and on Twitter - @NikiMackayBooks


Publisher's description
“They say I'm a murderer.
Six years ago, Kate Reynolds was found holding the body of her best friend; covered in blood, and clutching the knife that killed her.
I plead guilty.
Kate has been in prison ever since, but now her sentence is up. She is being released.
But the truth is, I didn't do it.
There's only one person who can help: Private Investigator Madison Attallee, the first officer on the scene all those years ago.
But uncovering the truth means catching a killer.”

I, Witness is being published in paperback by Orion on 26 July 2018.

Look out for more BEST OF CRIME features coming soon.

Click here to read more BEST OF CRIME features.


Thursday, 12 July 2018

BEST OF CRIME with Jo Jakeman

Welcome to my latest BEST OF CRIME feature, looking at crime writers' top picks, from their favourite author and fictional detective to their best writing tip. 

Today I'm delighted to welcome 


to share her BEST OF CRIME ...

There are so many hugely talented crime writers on the shelves at the moment, but I’ll have to pick the writer of the first crime books I read that blew my mind, and that would be Thomas Harris. I could pretty much answer all of the questions below with one of his books or characters.

See? What did I tell you? Thomas Harris all day long. It has to be Silence of the Lambs. It was a genius film of a genius book. Incredibly well acted and plotted, and it’s so quotable. Fava beans, anyone?

Peaky Blinders. I love a British Crime drama. It’s not just the stories or the characterisation of Peaky Blinders, it’s the way it is filmed, and the music that they use. I particularly love that we’re behind the ‘bad guys’ all the way. I get excited as soon as I hear the theme music.  

Annie Wilkes in Stephen King’s Misery. It’s a wonder I ever wanted to become a writer after reading about characters like her. Not only does she lock up an author for killing off her favourite character, Misery, but it seems that murder is the way she has dealt with all of her problems. In the film she breaks Sheldon’s ankle with a sledgehammer. It’s an iconic film moment, but in the book she chops his foot off with an axe and cauterises it with a blow torch. 

Sherlock Holmes. I love the wit, and the eccentricity. And there’s something about the fact that he doesn’t quite fit in to the world around him that appeals to me. 

I remember watching Tales of the Unexpected as a child and there was an episode which was adapted from a Roald Dhal story about a woman who kills her with a frozen leg of lamb and then cooks and serves it to the policemen who come to investigate the crime, niftily getting rid of the evidence.

At the risk of sounding predictable here, it’s another example from Silence of the Lambs. When Lecter manipulates Miggs into killing himself after he ‘disrespected’ Clarice, there’s no blood shed. Lecter couldn’t even touch him and yet he was still able to orchestrate Miggs’ death using nothing but his mind.

I don’t really use any blogs or websites for research unless it is something particular such as, ‘how quickly can you bleed to death’… I can waste an entire day on the internet so I’m not to be trusted with the Wifi code.

Write every day if you can. As with most things, writing gets better with practice. If you’re waiting for inspiration to strike you might be waiting a long time. It’s unlikley the words you’re putting on the page are your best work, but you can edit them later. You can’t edit a blank page.

Coffee and chocolate. Sticks and Stones was largely fuelled by Lindt Dark Caramel and Sea Salt. Which reminds me, I’ve still got a bar in the cupboard and book two isn’t going to write itself…

Jo Wakeman was the winner of the Friday Night Live 2016 competition at the York Festival of Writing. Born in Cyprus, she worked for many years in the City of London before moving to Derbyshire with her husband and twin boys. Sticks and Stones is her debut thriller.

Find Jo Jakeman on her website, on her Facebook page and on Twitter - @JoJakemanWrites


Publisher's description
Imogen’s husband is a bad man. His ex-wife and his new mistress might have different perspectives but Imogen thinks she knows the truth. And now he’s given her an ultimatum: get out of the family home in the next fortnight or I’ll fight you for custody of our son.
In a moment of madness, Imogen does something unthinkable: she locks her husband in the cellar. Now she’s in control. But how far will she go to protect her son and punish her husband? And what will happen when his ex and his girlfriend get tangled up in her plans?

Sticks and Stones was published in hardback by Harvill Secker on 12 July 2018.

Look out for more BEST OF CRIME features coming soon.

Click here to read more BEST OF CRIME features.

Wednesday, 11 July 2018

Brothers in Blood by Amer Anwar - cover reveal!!

Today, I'm delighted and excited to be hosting a cover reveal for Brothers in Blood by Amer Anwar. Brothers in Blood (previously published as Western Fringes) is being published by Dialogue Books on 6 September 2018.

Brothers in Blood: Read the blurb

A Sikh girl on the run.
A Muslim ex-con who has to find her.
A whole heap of trouble.
Southall, West London. After being released from prison, Zaq Khan is lucky to land a dead-end job at a builders' yard. All he wants to do is keep his head down and put the past behind him.
But when Zaq is forced to search for his boss's runaway daughter, he quickly finds himself caught up in a deadly web of deception, murder and revenge.
With time running out and pressure mounting, can Zaq find the missing girl before it's too late? And if he does, can he keep her - and himself - alive long enough to deal with the people who want them both dead?

I am SO intrigued and hope you are too!!! 

AND NOW.... *drum roll*

Brothers in Blood: View the cover


I love this cover and what a great strapline! 
I'll be reading this very very soon!

Brothers in Blood: Read about author Amer Anwar

Amer Anwar grew up in West London. After leaving college he had a variety of jobs, including; warehouse assistant, comic book lettering artist, a driver for emergency doctors and chalet rep in the French Alps. He eventually landed a job as a creative artworker/graphic designer and spent the next decade and a half producing artwork, mainly for the home entertainment industry. He has an MA in Creative Writing from Birkbeck, University of London and is a winner of the Crime Writers’ Association Debut Dagger Award. Brothers in Blood is his first novel. For everything else, he has an alibi. It wasn’t him. He was never there.

Find Amer Anwar on his website and also on Twitter - @ameranwar

BEST OF CRIME with Linwood Barclay

Welcome to my latest BEST OF CRIME feature, looking at crime writers' top picks, from their favourite author and fictional detective to their best writing tip. 


Today I'm delighted to welcome 


to share his BEST OF CRIME ...


Ross Macdonald. I discovered his novels at the age of 15 while perusing the twirling metal paperback rack at our local grocery store. This was usually where I found the latest Rex Stout/Nero Wolfe novel, or an Agatha Christie reprint. I picked up  Macdonald’s The Goodbye Look, by Ross Macdonald, because of the blurb at the top from William Goldman: “The finest series of detective novels ever written by an American.” That was good enough for me. Macdonald was the author who showed me the potential of the detective novel, how you could take the conventions of a mystery and use them to make a statement. 

My two favourite films just also happen to be Alfred Hitchcock’s two finest works: Rear Window and Vertigo. I go back and forth on which is number one and which is number two. They’re both brilliant, and for me, influential. The last five minutes of Vertigo are the best last five minutes of any movie ever made.

Wow, so many to choose from. Whatever the last series I binge-watched is usually the one I think is the best I’ve ever seen. But there are standouts. Happy Valley, The Night Manager, Ozark, Homeland, The Americans. What do they all have in common? Intriguing characters. Plot is important, but character is always the grabber.

The Joker, especially as portrayed by Heath Ledger. No one else even comes close in terms of pure evil. 

Columbo, hands down. The raincoat, the cigar, the “Oh, just one more question.” Best TV detective ever. In novels, Lew Archer, the private eye created by Ross Macdonald. He’s not quirky. There are no gimmicks. He asks questions, pursues leads, driven by an underlying sense of justice and a belief that exposing buried secrets to sunlight has a purifying effect. 

Speaking of Hitchcock, wasn’t there an episode of his old TV show where a woman killed her husband with a frozen cut of beef, then cooked it up and served it to the investigating officers? The cops ATE the murder weapon. Beat that. 

When the truck goes over the cliff at the end of Steven Spielberg’s Duel. 

Has there ever been a day when I did not go on IMDB, the Internet Movie Database? Every evening when we sit down to watch TV, we see something that prompts any number of the following questions: “What did we see her in before?” “Where do I know him from?” “What was that other movie with, you know, the guy? The one with the hair?” “Is this the season finale, or is there one more?” “Which episode was it where Diane first meets Frasier?” “Is the music for this movie done by the same guy who did the music for that other movie, because it sure sounds similar?” There’s nothing IMDB does not know.

Read. Also, read. And finally, read. Anyone who thinks they can write a novel without having read A LOT probably thinks someone can perform open heart surgery without having gone to medical school. If you’ve passed that hurdle, then write. Also, write. And finally, write. Be writing, even if the only person who is going to read this work is yourself. I’d written three or four novels by the time I was 25. My first was published when I was 49. Persist. 

An occasional chocolate chip cookie can be very motivating. 

Linwood Barclay is one of the most successful thriller writers of the 21st Century.  His debut, NO TIME FOR GOODBYE, was a critically acclaimed No 1 bestseller and his novels have sold millions of copies around the world.  He is the author of, amongst others, NO SAFE HOUSE, A TAP ON THE WINDOW, TRUST YOUR EYES, BROKEN PROMISE and FAR FROM TRUE.  He lives near Toronto with his wife.

Find Linwood  on his website, on his Facebook page and on Twitter - @linwood_barclay


Publisher's description
Paul Davies, a small-town college professor, has narrowly avoided death when he accidently disturbed a murder scene.  The killer, his colleague and friend, hit him over the head with a shovel and only a passing police car saved him from joining the other victims.
Eight months later, Paul’s colleague is in jail and Paul is attempting to rebuild his life.  He has not yet returned to work, he suffers flashbacks and memory loss and he is in therapy.  He decides to write the story of his experiences to make some sense of how the killer, a friend who took Paul under his wing when he first arrived at the college, could have carried out such cruel murders.  As a gift, his wife buys him an old-fashioned typewriter.
That night, as his wife and son lie asleep, Paul wakes to a noise downstairs: the clear, sharp tap of the typewriter keys.  But the house is empty, the door and windows locked.
Is Paul losing his grip on reality?  Is the trauma of the attempt on his life too great to endure?  Or is someone trying to make him think that he is going mad?

A Noise Downstairs is published by Orion Fiction on 12 July 2018.

Look out for more BEST OF CRIME features coming soon.

Click here to read more BEST OF CRIME features.

Monday, 9 July 2018

MY WRITING DAY with Jane Isaac

I am delighted to welcome Jane Isaac to Off-the-Shelf Books today, to talk about her writing day! After He's Gone was published on 20 June 2018.

My Writing Day
By Jane Isaac

It’s six years since my first book was released (and eight since I first started penning novels) and my writing routine and lifestyle has seen many changes. In the early days, I wrote when the mood took me, fitted the words around my day job, my trusted computer balanced precariously on my lap, wherever I perched myself. I know some writers manage this juggling match brilliantly, but it’s always been a challenge for me and I found I was sacrificing more and more family time with every book. My daughter was getting older and kept reminding me she’d be off to university soon. I needed to make some changes, to spend more time with her. So, last year, I handed in my notice at the day job and made the decision to write full time, at least for a while.
My husband embraced my decision wholeheartedly and moved his guitars (well, most of them!) out of the spare room. A desk was installed, followed by a noticeboard, a computer and a chair. There’s plenty of colour in my new office. I’m the Queen of Post-it pads and have a kaleidoscope of notes attached to my whiteboard. The room doesn’t have much of a view, although I am accompanied by a bookshelf, the smallest in the house so I've filled it with my comfort books; those I can whip down and read when I'm looking for motivation. 
When I finished the day job, I imagined dropping my daughter at school in the morning and driving back through the country lanes while pondering plot points and character traits. In reality, I listen to the morning news while dashing back to walk the dog and complete my chores. It’s almost 9.30am by the time the dog and I traipse up to my office to begin work.
I’m prone to procrastination and find I can easily while away a couple of hours reading posts on Facebook or chatting on Twitter, so I have to be disciplined. I don't check emails or social media until I’ve made some progress on the scene I’m currently working on. I’ll work until 3pm when I have to do the school run and walk the dog. If it’s been a good day, I’ll be completely absorbed and forget lunch. If it hasn’t, I’ll have shifted about, snacked constantly, and dipped in and out of social media. Often I’ll be back at my keyboard in the evening, catching up with admin, or penning some more words. Occasionally I’ll have an event or a talk to prepare for.
My new title, After He’s Gone, marks the first in the DC Beth Chamberlain series. Beth is a Family Liaison Officer which offers an intriguing new angle on a murder investigation, for me. Liaison officers spend a lot of time with the family, updating them on the investigation and feeding back information and often get very close. And since most people are killed by someone they know or someone close to them, it affords the opportunity to unravel some really intriguing secrets! I’ve just finished the first draft of the second in the series, which is scheduled for release later this year, and am now working on an outline for a third. I find I plan more with every book; the whiteboard on the wall of my office is currently filled with drawings, photos, mind maps and notes for my new project.
Sometimes there’s a hiccup in my script, a moment's blindness. It happens. It's always happened. The only way I can cope with it is to remove myself and do something different like research a plot point, or a new scene. It’s lovely to go out and visit potential settings, meet with people for coffee, or read up for background. I probably do far too much of it, only a trickle will find its way into the novel, but I think it convinces my brain I’m still being productive when the words don’t flow!

About Jane Isaac
Jane Isaac lives with her detective husband (very helpful for research!) and her daughter in rural Northamptonshire, UK where she can often be found trudging over the fields with her Labrador, Bollo. Her debut, An Unfamiliar Murder, was nominated as best mystery in the 'eFestival of Words Best of the Independent eBook awards 2013.' The follow up, The Truth Will Out, was nominated as ‘Thriller of the Month – April 2014’ by
After He’s Gone is Jane’s sixth novel and the first in a new series featuring Family Liaison Officer, DC Beth Chamberlain. The second DC Beth Chamberlain novel will be released later in 2018.
You can find with Jane at, on Facebook here and on Twitter - @JaneIsaacAuthor.

About After He's Gone

After He's Gone
By Jane Isaac
You can buy the book from Amazon UK here.

 ‘The safety catch on the Glock snapped as it was released. Her stomach curdled as she watched the face of death stretch and curve. Listened to the words drip from his mouth, ‘Right. Let’s begin, shall we?’ 
You think you know him. Until he’s dead.
When Cameron Swift is gunned down outside his family home, DC Beth Chamberlain is appointed Family Liaison Officer: a dual role that requires her to support the family, and also investigate them. 
As the case unfolds and the body count climbs, Beth discovers that nothing is quite as it appears and everyone, it seems, has secrets. 
Even the dead…

Sunday, 8 July 2018

Good Samaritans by Will Carver

Good Samaritans
By Will Carver
Published by Orenda Books (E-book - 15 September 2018; Paperback - 15 November 2018)
I received an Advance Reader Copy from the publisher

Publisher's description
One crossed wire, three dead bodies and six bottles of bleach
Seth Beauman can’t sleep. He stays up late, calling strangers from his phonebook, hoping to make a connection, while his wife, Maeve, sleeps upstairs. A crossed wire finds a suicidal Hadley Serf on the phone to Seth, thinking she is talking to The Samaritans.
But a seemingly harmless, late-night hobby turns into something more for Seth and for Hadley, and soon their late-night talks are turning into day-time meet-ups. And then this dysfunctional love story turns into something altogether darker, when Seth brings Hadley home…
And someone is watching…

My verdict
On the day Good Samaritans arrived in the post, I thought I'd just 'check it out'.

So I read the first page...

        Then I read the first chapter...

                 Then I read the whole book...

                            And then, that evening, I tweeted this:

I loved Michael Grothaus' Epiphany Jones, also published by Orenda Books. On the surface (or if you read the blurb), Good Samaritans is nothing like it - the stories are very different, the subject matter too. But inside, I found the same quirkiness, darkness and humour, again packaged neatly in a brilliantly written, additive read.

Short chapters switch seamlessly between the lead characters, which prompted me to read 'just one more'. I should have hated so many characters but I loved them all instead. These are ordinary people doing extraordinary things behind closed doors. Good Samaritans? Definitely... but only on their own terms. Who knew insomnia could be so dangerous?

Good Samaritans is sexy, dark, explicit and graphic in places, so certainly not for the fainthearted. It's twisty and twisted too. Is this love story? Oh yes, but not necessarily in the way you think. It's certainly a tale of lust, obsession, control and desperation.

The book kept me guessing and certainly kept me engrossed, with many 'laugh out loud' moments and pages read with a gasp. It's an incredibly hard book to review without giving anything away - and I really do hope that other reviewers are equally as careful. This is a book that needs to be read 'blind', just using the blurb on the jacket as your guide.

To sum it up - I loved this book and will happily shout about it from the rooftops! In fact, I'm sure I will over the coming months (and beyond). And I'll never look at bottles of bleach in quite the same way again.

Friday, 6 July 2018

Authors' Creative Pursuits - Louise Mangos

Authors are a very creative bunch - and for many of them, this isn’t only with words on the page. From drawing to painting, pottery to needlework, composing to singing, here’s a look at some authors’ creative pursuits.

I am delighted to welcome 




Have you always been creative – and not just with words? 
Before I could write, my creativity involved sketching ponies at the kitchen table from morning until night. I loved to draw with coloured pencils. Since I could spell my name I’ve always wanted to write. My first successfully published endeavour was a poem about my mum for mother’s day when I was eleven years old. It won a school competition and was published in our local paper. 

Have you always enjoyed painting or is this a more recent hobby of yours? If it's a more recent hobby, did you start it for any particular reason?
I was introduced to acrylic paints in my mid-twenties. Then there was no looking back. I tried oil paints for a while, but was put off by the lengthy drying time between the stages of ‘layering’ my work and the smell of turpentine around the house. Since my free time is taken up with fewer sporting activities now that I’m getting older, I spend more time writing and painting.

How often do you paint and how easy is it to find the time?
I have a fixed time that I paint with a mentor once a week for a three-hour session. Otherwise I fit my painting at home around my writing. If I didn’t have the obligation of painting with my mentor I probably wouldn’t have the motivation to do it regularly. I can, on the other hand, always find time to write ;o)

Do you do any other arts and crafts?
I’ve always been crafty. I loved to make gifts for my family from Blue Peter ideas when I was a child. I also enjoyed sewing for a few years, and made some money designing fun fleece hats for kids. I make my own Christmas and birthday cards, have done some decoupage and love photography. I often walk with a camera to capture images for my next painting project. I worked in our local Swiss school in a volunteer capacity for a few years, mainly to teach the kids extra English, and ended up using crafting projects to make the learning more exciting.

Do you think painting (or the time you spend painting) helps with your writing and overall wellbeing?  
Painting and writing fiction go hand in hand. They both involve creating images, the first with colour and the second with words. Voltaire said ‘Writing is the painting of the voice.’

Do you enjoy painting anything in particular?
My favourite subjects are landscapes, particularly those with mountains, clouds and water. I feel so blessed living in Switzerland where these three elements are in daily abundance.

What have you been painting recently?
I’ve recently finished a painting of autumn leaves on one of the cobbled-stone streets in our village. You can see the progress of the work through the three images. 





Louise writes novels, short stories and flash fiction, which have won prizes, placed on shortlists, and been read out on BBC radio. Her debut psychological thriller Strangers on a Bridgeis published today, July 6thby HQDigital (Harper Collins). Louise lives on an Alp with her Kiwi husband and two sons.

Find Louise Mangos on her website here and on Twitter - @LouiseMangos

I'm hoping to feature more Authors' Creative Pursuits
on Off-the-Shelf Books in the future. 

So if you're a published author and have a talent for arts and crafts, music, photography, baking or other creative activities, and would like to feature on my blog, please do get in touch!