Monday, 9 September 2019

BEST OF CRIME with Andy Martin

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 ...

Lee Child. He has the best sentences (short or long).

2001: A Space Odyssey. Serial murders in space.

Breaking Bad. Big fan of the pork pie hat. 
Big Little Lies. I’m probably in love with Celeste.

Jack Reacher

Jack Reacher
It’s an interesting combination.

In Blue Moon Reacher uses a guitar, thus giving a whole new meaning to the phrase “head-banger”.
I also like the one Lee Child keeps on a shelf in his living room. He says it’s his only lethal weapon. A flint hand-axe dating from around 250,000 years ago. Possibly Neanderthal.

I always think of Jean-Paul Belmondo staggering along the street in Paris, having been shot, in A bout de souffle. So implausible, but he almost makes you believe. And he manages to get out déguelasse as he’s dying. 

I like Lee Child’s idea: don’t think of yourself as a writer, more as a reader. If I’m getting stuck, I find the “pomodoro” system works well: 25 mins on, 5 mins off.

Sunflower seeds – just don’t get them in your keyboard. They hit the spot but they’re not too ridiculously delicious.

Andy Martin is the author of Reacher Said Nothing: Lee Child and the Making of Make Me.

Find Andy Martin on his website and on Twitter - @andymartinink


Publisher's description
With a foreword by Lee Child. Andy Martin spent a year in the company of Lee Child, creator of tough-guy hero Jack Reacher. With Child is the diary of their adventures, tracking the publication and reception of Make Me, the writing of Night School at an apartment in Manhattan, the filming of Never Go Back in New Orleans, all the agony and ecstasy of the creative process and the sheer hard work of selling a bestseller. They go on the road together, from TV studios to bookstores, from Harvard to Stockholm, amid literary conferences and gunshows, rivalries and reviews ranging from adulatory to murderous. We meet fellow writers like Stephen King and David Lagercrantz and Karin Slaughter, and dissect the latest novel from Jonathan Franzen. But Martin also reaches out to Child's legion of readers in America and around the world. He tracks down a woman in Texas whose name appears in the home invasion scene in Make Me; he goes up a mountain in Montana in search of the only reader who thinks Reacher is a "lightweight"; and he talks to obsessive fans from Europe to South Africa who find salvation or consolation in the colossal form of Jack Reacher. This compelling account of life on the road with Lee Child demonstrates that readers are just as important as writers in the making of modern fiction.

With Child: Lee Child and the Readers of Jack Reacher was published by Polity Press on 6 September 2019

Look out for more BEST OF CRIME features coming soon.

Click here to read more BEST OF CRIME features.

Friday, 6 September 2019

Nothing Important Happened Today by Will Carver

Nothing Important Happened Today
By Will Carver
Published by Orenda Books (E-book - 14 September 2019; Paperback - 14 November 2019)
I received an Advance Reader Copy from the publisher

Publisher's description
Nine suicides
One Cult
No leader
Nine people arrive one night on Chelsea Bridge. They’ve never met. But at the same time, they run, and leap to their deaths. Each of them received a letter in the post that morning, a pre-written suicide note, and a page containing only four words: Nothing important happened today.
That is how they knew they had been chosen to become a part of The People Of Choice: A mysterious suicide cult whose members have no knowledge of one another.
Thirty-two people on that train witness the event. Two of them will be next. By the morning, People Of Choice are appearing around the globe: a decapitation in Germany, a public shooting at a university in Bordeaux; in Illinois, a sports team stands around the centre circle of the football pitch and pulls the trigger of the gun pressed to the temple of the person on their right. It becomes a movement.

My verdict
Nothing Important Happened Today... So hard to describe this book and discuss it with someone who hasn't read it, other than to say it's brilliant (apologies as I'm going to use this word a few times in this review).

It's beautifully written. The writing is staccato - quick, fast-paced and compelling - drawing the reader in. As a few things slotted into place, I realised that the book was so clever too - like nothing I've ever read before. The underlying premise is unique and ... yep ... brilliant.

The book is so well plotted, bringing everything together, weaving in historical references to cults and serial killers with the events in the present day. It provides a melancholy monologue on modern living, social media culture and the pace of society. The book focuses on a highly emotional topic, yet doesn't read that way - I can't give anything away, so it's really hard to explain! The descriptions are shocking and graphic in places and maybe slightly disturbing.

Nothing Important Happened Today will intrigue you from the start and after a while you won't want to put it down. The ending is so good and so right and ... so brilliant. You won't forget this book after you've read it! And you'll just have to read it to find out why!

OK. I think I've waffled on enough now. Just buy the book!

Wednesday, 4 September 2019

BEST OF CRIME with Miranda Boer

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 ...

Stephen King. I’m one of what he calls his 'Constant Readers'. Between the horror, the fantasy, the science fiction and more recently crime thrillers, he really can’t be missed. His Mr. Mercedes series was excellent, and Joyland, was a return to old style ‘Hard Case Crime’ novels. 

Just one?! So hard - there are so many movies I love, across many categories. I have recently been educating my eldest in classic horror: revisiting Halloween, Nightmare on Elm St and Silence of the Lambs! But of more recent movies Split encapsulates for me what I love in a good movie: great characterisation of a complex murderer. 

There’s a lot of good dramas around at the moment, and I tend to rewatch my favourites when I am doing housework or cooking. Elementary is one of them, and I was gutted to find Netflix has taken it off! So no more reruns for me for a while (I am sending them daily request to return it!). I love Johnny Miller’s version of Sherlock Holmes: it’s contemporary and he gives him so much depth. 

John Wick. I know he is more revenge and retaliation killing, but I love the sort of aloof, don’t-give-a-damn attitude as he shoots up everywhere and everyone, while giving us a glimpse into the whole the underbelly of organised crime and contract killing he is embroiled in.

Whenever anyone mentions fiction detectives I always think of Poirot, in particular David Suchet’s version. Having recently read Agatha Christie’s autobiography I was surprised to find that she had never planned for him to be in more than one book, or popular, and initially didn’t like writing him. 

Umbrella. One of my characters used one in Mostly DarkScissors are another one good one. My characters have to use whatever is at hand. 

I’m an avid watcher of Game of Thrones, and the series offers a plethora of choice for death scenes. But my favourite is definitely when Viserys Targaryen, Daenerys’s brother, dies. Khal Drogo gives him the crown he is demanding, in molten gold over his head! It’s marvellous! The one thing about Game of Thrones is how satisfying it is to watch the characters you hate die.  

I don’t have specific sites I go to, it depends what I am looking for; when researching for Sleep I found myself on prison or government sites. For writing, I use for synonyms a lot, when I am trying to find a word to describe something better or differently. 

It all down to you; you can talk about it, think about it and dream about it, but in the end you have to sit down and write.

Can’t type and eat, so I tend not to when I’m at my desk. It’s also an excuse to get up and move around, because the hours fly by and I’m not getting any younger!

M K Boers spent her early childhood in Surrey, in the south of England, and her teens moving round the UK, but currently resides in the Netherlands. 

Under her pen name Miranda Kate, she has been featured in several Flash Fiction anthologies, and has published two collections, one of dark flash-fiction tales called Mostly Dark, and another of science fiction stories called Slipping Through, the latter containing a short novella for which a sequel will be forthcoming this year. 

Find M K Boers on her website, on her Facebook page and on Twitter - @PurpleQueenNL


Publisher's description
A marriage made in heaven, a murder made in hell.
Why kill the man you love?
Lizzy was struggling, everyone knew that.
He shouldn't have done those things.
He shouldn't have pushed her so hard.
And now, her children, her marriage, her hope - gone.
It was all her fault, she knew that, but was there a chance of redemption?
Lizzy Dyson’s on trial for her life. She knows she must pay for what she did, even if it wasn’t planned, but will the jury believe her?
A suspense-filled psychological drama about heartbreak and betrayal, Sleep reveals what drives a woman to murder.
Deals with the sensitive subjects of miscarriage and depression.

Sleep was published on 1 September 2019

Look out for more BEST OF CRIME features coming soon.

Click here to read more BEST OF CRIME features.

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Tuesday, 3 September 2019

Don't Make A Sound by David Jackson

Don't Make A Sound
By David Jackson
Published by Zaffre (November 2018)
I received an Advance Reader Copy from the publisher

Publisher's description
You can't choose your family. Or can you? 
Meet the Bensons. They're an ordinary couple. They wash their car, mow their lawn and pass the time of day with their neighbours. And they have a beautiful little girl called Daisy.
There's just one problem. 
D. S. Nathan Cody is about to face his darkest and most terrifying case yet . . .

My verdict
Don't Make A Sound hooked me in immediately.

It's my first Nathan Cody book - and certainly won't be my last - and I read it very easily as a standalone. From its chilling first chapter right through to the final page, this was pretty much a one-sitting read for me - a 'just one more chapter' book.

Don't Make A Sound is very much a character-led novel - a mixture of psychological thriller and police procedural. It's fast paced and twisty, and felt very believable - what's going on behind closed doors? It's cleverly plotted, with a dark and disturbing storyline, as well as well written - several scenes had me holding my breath.

For months, I've seen people on social media raving about the brilliance of this book - and now I can understand why!

Thursday, 29 August 2019

Blood Song by Johana Gustawsson

Blood Song
By Johana Gustawsson 
Translated by David Warriner
Published by Orenda Books (E-book - out now; Paperback - 19 September 2019)
I received an Advance Reader Copy from the publisher

Publisher's description
Spain, 1938: The country is wracked by civil war, and as Valencia falls to Franco’s brutal dictatorship, Republican Therese witnesses the murders of her family. Captured and sent to the notorious Las Ventas women’s prison, Therese gives birth to a daughter who is forcibly taken from her.
Falkenberg, Sweden, 2016: A wealthy family is found savagely murdered in their luxurious home. Discovering that her parents have been slaughtered, Aliénor Lindbergh, a new recruit to the UK’s Scotland Yard, rushes back to Sweden and finds her hometown rocked by the massacre.
Profiler Emily Roy joins forces with Aliénor and soon finds herself on the trail of a monstrous and prolific killer. Little does she realise that this killer is about to change the life of her colleague, true-crime writer Alexis Castells. Joining forces once again, Roy and Castells’ investigation takes them from the Swedish fertility clinics of the present day back to the terror of Franco’s rule, and the horrifying events that took place in Spanish orphanages under its rule.

My verdict
Yet again, Johana Gustawsson has astounded me with her fabulous ability to intertwine crimes of the past with crimes of the present, seamlessly weaving multiple threads together to create a well-plotted, intelligent thriller.

Blood Song has been translated from French to English extremely well by David Warriner, not just showcasing the author's vivid prose but also her visceral writing. It focuses on a period of history I know little about - Franco's brutal dictatorship - and led me to Google to learn more. I love the use of multiple locations - London, Sweden and Spain - to enrich the story with culture and history.

Johana Gustawson's books are more than just crime thrillers. Each one has been written from the heart. Blood Song, in particular, is filled with emotion - from the brutality of Franco's dictatorship and shocking conditions in 1930s Spanish prisons & orphanages to the heartache of families attending modern-day fertility clinics, alongside the savage murder of a wealthy family in Sweden. It's based on the author's own experiences and her family history, and this shines through in her writing - it's personal and raw.

Blood Song is tragic and heartbreaking - a book of love, loss and hope and a book to make you cry and make you think. Yes, the crimes are dark, but the author manages to cover them with sensitivity and delve deeper into the 'why?' as well as the 'what?', 'how?' and 'who?'. Plus the crime element is fascinating and intriguing, right up to the big reveal - how are all of the threads linked together and why is it such a personal one for the team of investigators?

Bring on the next Roy & Castells book!

Wednesday, 28 August 2019

After She's Gone by Camilla Grebe

After She's Gone
By Camilla Grebe
Published by Zaffre (March 2019)
I received an Advance Reader Copy from the publisher

Publisher's description
A case as cold as the season. A profiler who can't remember. A killer ready to strike again.
Psychological profiler Hanne Lagerlind-Schön and her partner, investigator Peter Lindgren are invited to the small, sleepy industrial town of Ormberg to investigate a cold case: ten years earlier a five-year-old girl's remains were found in a cairn near the town.
But when a recurring memory problem resurfaces, Hanne struggles to keep track of the case. She begins keeping a diary, noting down everything she is likely to forget to keep up appearances so she doesn't lose her job. 
When the body of a woman is found at the cairn and one of Hanne's shoes is found nearby covered in the victim's blood, can Hanne's diary hold the key to what happened? How does this new murder connect to their old one? 
How can you put together what happened when the pieces keep fading away?

My verdict
I really enjoy Nordic Noir and always welcome the opportunity to find a new author to add to my list.

After She's Gone is highly chilling, not just in plot but also in setting. Set in a small Swedish town and depopulated highly forested area, the story focuses on a cold case, in which a young girl's remains were found but never identified. This discovery in the past is soon linked to crimes in the present.

The plot is complex, though certainly not too complex to follow, and focuses on various contemporary issues (which I can't reveal as I don't want to give away any spoilers). As with all good Nordic Noir, the atmospheric setting and inclement weather are as essential to the plot as the characters themselves. I tried to read between the lines and solve the case myself.

After She's Gone offers everything I look for in good crime fiction - an intelligent multi-layered plot, intriguing mystery, well-developed characters, realistic dialogue and good writing. I haven't read the first book in the series and, while I did have a few questions about the main character, this can easily be read as a standalone.

Thursday, 22 August 2019

The Secretary by Renée Knight

The Secretary 
By Renée Knight
Published by Doubleday (February 2019)

Publisher's description
Look around you. Who holds the most power in the room? Is it the one who speaks loudest, who looks the part, who has the most money, who commands the most respect?
Or perhaps it’s someone like Christine Butcher: a meek, overlooked figure, who silently bears witness as information is shared and secrets are whispered. Someone who quietly, perhaps even unwittingly, gathers together knowledge of the people she’s there to serve – the ones who don’t notice her, the ones who consider themselves to be important.
There’s a fine line between loyalty and obsession. And when someone like Christine Butcher is pushed to her limit, she might just become the most dangerous person in the room...

My verdict
The Secretary is chilling and twisty. One of those psychological thrillers that really gets right under your skin.

This is a story of the revenge, power and betrayal - and that it's often the quiet ones you have to watch. Christine, a seemingly mild-mannered secretary, is the 'star of the show' - she knows everything there is to know about her employer, including secrets that have been brushed under the carpet, and would do anything to protect the family name.

The plot is realistic, in an everyday setting that mirrors current world affairs, with the destruction of essential documents in high-profile court cases. The drama escalates slowly, creeping up on the reader, and is clever, dark and compelling, with believable and often hateful characters.

I struggle with a lot of psychological thrillers at the moment, but The Secretary had me hooked all the way through.