Tuesday, 19 March 2019

BEST OF CRIME with Brad Parks

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 ...

This is brutal. Just one? There are so many talented people working in the business today, with such starkly disparate voices, it’s almost impossible to compare them (Megan Abbott versus Lee Child? Linwood Barclay versus Val McDermid?). But if I had to pick one I’d go with a person who, in the last fourteen years, has written one of the most ambitious, sweeping, epic crime stories ever in the trilogy that began with Power of the Dog; and a novel and a prequel (Savages and Kings of Cool) that were almost the exact opposite in both scope (much smaller) and tone (hilariously irreverent); and, just to show even more range, an unforgettable character study about a crooked cop—call it an anti-police procedural—called The Force. That’s why I’ll say the Best of Crime authors working today is . . . Don Winslow.

When I bump across this movie on TV, I can somehow never turn it off, no matter how many times I’ve seen it. Great characters. Gritty setting. Terrific twists. Also, if I could pick one person to narrate the story of my life, it would be Morgan Freeman. That’s why the Best of Crime movie is . . . Shawshank Redemption.

I was a newspaper reporter in an economically depressed American city for many years. I watched the ravages of the drug trade, and the dysfunction of the institutions that attempted to curtail it. Therefore, pity my wife, with whom I watched the bulk of this five-season classic, because I was constantly pausing it, saying, “No, honey, you don’t understand. That’s actually real! That really happens!” That’s why the Best of Crime TV drama is . . . The Wire.

As long as we’re talking about The Wire, there’s nothing better than a gay, scar-faced vigilante who only kills drug dealers and walks around in a trench coat, with a shotgun, saying things like, “You come at the king you best not miss.” That’s why the Best of Crime fictional killer is . . . Omar Little.

You can have all the action heroes you want. I’ll take a guy who tends orchids, almost never leaves his house, and is mostly concerned about what’s for dinner. He weighs a seventh of a ton, so he’s not going to run down any criminals, yet he always seems to get the killer. That’s why the Best of Crime fictional detective is . . . Nero Wolfe.

An eleven-inch long twig, made of holly, with a feather at the core. Snaps easily. Doesn’t have a single sharp edge. Couldn’t shoot a bullet if it wanted to. And yet it takes down the most notorious badass off all-time with a simple disarming spell. That’s why the Best of Crime murder weapon is . . . Harry Potter’s wand.

It’s difficult to talk about this scene without spoiling, y’know, the entire book. I’ll just say it is jaw-dropping, gut-wrenching, utterly shocking and yet—when you go back over everything in your mind—also completely justified. That’s why the Best of Crime death scene can be found on the final page of  . . . Defending Jacob.

I have to be honest, I’m pretty lazy as a writer. I go for ease every time. And I don’t really remember how I researched anything before this ingenious little algorithm came along. That’s why the Best of Crime website is . . . www.Google.com.

Writing is like a muscle. The harder you work it, the stronger it gets.

All the caffeine and none of the calories. And I haven’t written a word over the past decade-plus that wasn’t fueled by its influence. That’s why the Best of Crime writing snacks is . . . Coke Zero Sugar.

International bestselling author Brad Parks is the only writer to have won the Shamus, Nero, and Lefty Awards, three of crime fiction’s most prestigious prizes. His novels have been translated into fifteen languages and won critical acclaim across the globe. A former journalist, he lives in Virginia with his wife and two children.

Find Brad Parks on his website and on Twitter - @Brad_Parks


Publisher's description
Former Broadway star Tommy Jump isn’t getting the roles he once did. As his final run as Sancho Ponza draws to a close, Tommy is getting ready to give up the stage, find a steady paycheck, and settle down with his fiancée.
Cue Special Agent Danny Ruiz. An old school friend of Tommy’s, now with the FBI, Ruiz makes Tommy an offer that sounds too good to refuse. All Tommy has to do is spend six months in prison, acting as failed bank robber ’Pete Goodrich’.
Inside, he must find and befriend Mitchell Dupree, who has hidden a secret cache of documents incriminating enough to take down New Colima, one of Mexico’s largest drug cartels. If Tommy can get Dupree and reveal where the documents are hidden, the FBI will give him $300,000, more than enough to jumpstart a new life. But does he have what it takes to pull off this one final role?

The Last Act was published by Faber & Faber on 14 March 2019.

Look out for more BEST OF CRIME features coming soon.

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Sunday, 17 March 2019

BEST OF CRIME with J G Murray

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 his The Bridal Party blog tour

to share his BEST OF CRIME ...

An impossible question! I’ll have to go for Boileau-Narcejac. For those who don’t know, they were a French writing duo whose partnership birthed the books of Les Diaboliques and Vertigo. There’s a claustrophobia to their writing; you’re stuck inside the minds of characters who are tortured by doubt, and you never know quite how much to trust them. Their books are gripping, taut, and very, very French. I don’t think they’re celebrated enough.

I adore the original Their Secret in their Eyes. It’s got everything I need from a thriller, with a gut-punch ending and impossibly tense sequences– but it’s also a fascinating commentary on storytelling and the history of Argentina. I love it to pieces.

My current obsession is with Dark. I used to hesitate to recommend it to thriller fans because of the time-travel element. But now that the world has fallen for The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle I’m not holding back! It’s like the plot of The Missing got hold of Hermione’s time-turner, and, like the title suggests, it’s about as moody as a dozen Scandinavian box sets. 

His Bloody Project comes to mind. When the book came out, there was this buzz over the fact that a thriller was on the Man Booker Longlist. Now that that whole thing has blown over, we really need to get back to talking about how great this book is! It’s all from the point of view of a teenage crofter called Roderick Macrae, and how his frustrations with his community leads him to murder. I’d never read about a character like him. In fact, I didn’t have a clue about what a crofter was! He’s a violent, hideous character, but he reveals so much about his community that I couldn’t stop reading about him.

For a brief period of my life, I lived in Bangkok. It’s a mad city, and I was overwhelmed by it for a very long time. It was Sonchai Jitpleecheep, the detective in John Burdett’s Bangkok Eight series, who helped me make sense of it all. He’s an outsider due to his mixed race, but he still knows his city inside out, and his Thai Buddhist beliefs also gives him a different feel to the typical run-of-the-mill detective archetype.

It always tickles me to think that when Edgar Allan Poe wrote The Murders at the Rue Morgue, he managed to invent the detective story with an utterly deranged plot which no modern editor would accept even for a second. Who could have thought that a story of a death-by-orangutan-stuffing-you-up-a-chimney would have such a profound influence on culture? 

Whenever I travel, I like to read a detective story set in the local area: it’s such a good way to get the feel of a place. So when I went to Rio, I picked up Silence of the Rain. To be honest, I don’t actually remember much about the plot, and I don’t think I learnt much about the city. But the absolutely astonishing, out-of-nowhere death-by-sex-asphyxiation scene has definitely stayed with me.

It entirely depends on the project. For The Bridal Party, I had to immerse myself in folklore, so there were many hours spent on Folklore Thursday. The only problem is that there’s so much cool stuff on there that hours would pass by without a single word being written.

I maintain that the best way to improve is to join a writing group - they’ll give you all the tips to accept and ignore that you’ll ever need. In terms of thriller writing, I will add this, however: words that write themselves read themselves. If you’re in a flow, trust it. You may not end up with a workable draft, but there’s always something compulsive and enjoyable in what you write when the story grabs hold of you.

I mean, yoghurt exists. So do nuts and berries and quinoa-salad-smoothie-quiches (probably). But why have that when you can have chocolate?

J G Murray grew up in Cornwall and, after a spell selling chocolates in Brussels, qualified as an English teacher. Murray now lives, teaches and writes in London. 

Find J G Murray on Twitter - @JulianGylMurray


Publisher's description
Sometimes friendship can be murder... 
It's the weekend of Clarisse's bridal party, a trip the girls have all been looking forward to. Then, on the day of their flight, Tamsyn, the maid of honour, suddenly backs out. Upset and confused, they try to make the most of the stunning, isolated seaside house they find themselves in. 
But, there is a surprise in store - Tamsyn has organised a murder mystery, a sinister game in which they must discover a killer in their midst. As tensions quickly boil over, it becomes clear to them all that there are some secrets that won't stay buried...

The Bridal Party was published by Corvus on 7 March 2019.

Look out for more BEST OF CRIME features coming soon.

Click here to read more BEST OF CRIME features.

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Thursday, 14 March 2019

The Taking of Annie Thorne by CJ Tudor

The Taking of Annie Thorne
By CJ Tudor
Published by Michael Joseph (21 February 2019)
I received an Advance Reader Copy from the publisher 

Publisher's description
One night, Annie went missing. Disappeared from her own bed. There were searches, appeals. Everyone thought the worst. And then, miraculously, after forty-eight hours, she came back. But she couldn't, or wouldn't, say what had happened to her.
Something happened to my sister. I can't explain what. I just know that when she came back, she wasn't the same. She wasn't my Annie. 
I didn't want to admit, even to myself, that sometimes I was scared to death of my own little sister.
The email arrived in my inbox two months ago. I almost deleted it straight away, but then I clicked OPEN: 
I know what happened to your sister. It's happening again...

My verdict
The Taking of Annie Thorne is creepy crime fiction at its best, from its compelling characters and strong sense of place to its fast-moving plot and action-packed ending.

Centred around a small mining village, the book is chilling from the outset, told through the mesmerising and often humorous voice of teacher Joe Thorne, who has returned to the place of his childhood. His little sister, Annie, disappeared for 48 hours when she was eight and was never the same again.

Joe is flawed and unreliable with an underlying vulnerability, haunted by memories of his dead sister and a creepy doll called 'Abbie Eyes'. The book swings between his past and present, as old mistakes, teenage rebellion and unfinished business gradually bubble to the surface.

The Taking of Annie Thorne is dark, shocking, atmospheric and entertaining, filled with elements of supernatural, horror and psychological thrillers. This is a book you'll want to keep reading well into the early hours - though that may not be advisable if you ever want to sleep again!

It made me nostalgic for my teenage years, when I was addicted to Stephen King and James Herbert books. And very soon, I'll be re-reading those books again.

Looking forward to seeing what's next from CJ Tudor.

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Wednesday, 13 March 2019

The Neighbour by Fiona Cummins

The Neighbour 
By Fiona Cummins
Published by Pan Macmillan (4 April 2019)
I received an Advance Reader Copy from the publisher

Publisher's description
FOR SALE: A lovely family home with good-sized garden and treehouse occupying a plot close to woodland. Perfect for kids, fitness enthusiasts, dog walkers . . .
And, it seems, the perfect hunting ground for a serial killer.
On a hot July day, Garrick and Olivia Lockwood and their two children move into 25 The Avenue looking for a fresh start. They arrive in the midst of a media frenzy: they’d heard about the local murders in the press, but Garrick was certain the killer would be caught and it would all be over in no time. Besides, they’d got the house at a steal and he was convinced he could flip it for a fortune.
The neighbours seemed to be the very picture of community spirit. But everyone has secrets, and the residents in The Avenue are no exception.
After six months on the case with no real leads, the most recent murder has turned DC Wildeve Stanton’s life upside down, and now she has her own motive for hunting down the killer – quickly.

My verdict
The Neighbour is creepy and twisty, gripping and shocking - exactly as I would expect from author Fiona Cummins, having read and loved her two previous books, Rattle and The Collector.

The Neighbour is yet another serial killer thriller but this time a standalone. It focuses on one particular suburban street, with its eclectic array of residents, all seemingly hiding secrets and 'not-so-perfect' lives behind their closed doors. And then there's the body count ... which keeps rising.

Short snappy 'just one more' chapters keep the story moving at a cracking pace, with plenty of new revelations to add to the intrigue. Fiona Cummins writes beautiful prose with some gruesome descriptions, and certainly manages to get right inside the minds of all of her characters - good or bad! There's a strong sense of unease throughout the book.

Just like the serial killer, I felt that I was snooping on these households. The Neighbour reminded me of a theatrical production, with each character getting their time in the spotlight. Keep an eye on the chapter headings, as these indicate which neighbour or neighbours are currently taking centre stage.

The Neighbour is certainly a chilling read and one that made me think about the claustrophobic nature of suburban life and how easy it is to know very little about the people around us. I don't think I'll trust my own neighbours ever again!

Tuesday, 5 March 2019

My Emotional History Lesson with The Courier

Today, I'm on the Blog Tour for The Courier by Kjell Ola Dahl, which is being published in paperback by Orenda Books on 21 March 2019. (E-book already available.) If you haven't already bought The Courier, I highly recommend it (you can read my full review at the end of this post). Rather than republish my review on its own, I thought I would research some background facts. I certainly wasn't intending to turn this into an emotional history lesson - read on to discover more.  

I love it when crime novels or thrillers leave me wanting to know more. I don't mean in terms of plot but, instead, I mean in terms of my own knowledge. 

The Courier is set in Norway in 1942, 1967 and 2015. After reading the book, I realised I knew very little about the Jews living there during the Nazi invasion.

I wrote this in my original review:

"The book is steeped in history - Norway in World War 2 and the plight of its Jewish people during the Holocaust - with roots in espionage and wartime resistance. Its female protagonist, Ester, is strong and courageous, highlighting the importance of women during the war and how they risked their lives. I was fascinated by the social and political background, knowing very little about the Nazi invasion of Norway during World War 2. I found myself Googling snippets of information as I read the book - and now I've finished I want to know more!"

So I did go in search of more ... 
But where did I go and what did I find?
I actually found a lot more than I expected!

I thought I would find some facts about Norway during the Holocaust and the fate of the Jews there. Rather than rely on Wikipedia (as many people do), I found myself on the Yad Vashem website. For those who don't know, Yad Vashem is the World Holocaust Remembrance Center in Jerusalem, Israel - the best place to go to for information on the Holocaust, with its testimonials, Hall of Names memorial and digital collections, and its fascinating (and heart-wrenching) Holocaust History Museum.

Here are five facts I found 

  1. Germany invaded Norway on 9th April 1940. At that time, there were about 1,700 Jews living in Norway, including around 200 Jewish refugees from Central Europe. Most of Norway's Jews lived in the capital, Oslo, and about 300 lived in the city of Trondheim. (Source 1)
  2. By early 1942, Jewish identity papers had to be stamped with the word "Jew." (Source 1)
  3. During the Holocaust, 763 Norwegian Jews were sent to the death camps. Of these, 739 were murdered, mainly in Auschwitz. Another 23 Norwegian Jews were killed in Norway by the Nazis. And around 900 Jews escaped to Sweden, with the help of the Norwegian Underground. (Source 2)
  4. More than 5,000 non-Jewish Norwegians were also deported to concentration camps; 649 of these died there. (Source 1)
  5. The Germans gave up their control over Norway in May 1945. (Source 1)
Original sources are at the end.

Norwegian victims of Auschwitz

Unable to stop there, I carried on my search. Through Yad Vashem, I found a list of Holocaust victims (men, women and children) living in Norway who were then deported to Auschwitz and died there. If you want more details, the link is here. The information in the list is still lacking in many places, and will probably never be known. But in summary, the youngest was aged one year and the oldest was aged 75. 

I was astonished to discover that this list includes Jacob/Jakob Caplan/Kaplan and Solly Caplan/Kaplan from Manchester, England. It made me wonder about their stories. Were they brothers or maybe father and son? Jacob/Jakob was born in 1903 so would have been around 40 when he died, but there's no date of birth for Solly and there's no date of death for either of them. How did they end up in Norway and then in Auschwitz? If they had remained in England, they would never had died in the camps.

I mentioned this to Steph Rothwell (Steph's Book Blog) and she searched the Lancashire birth records - there are several Jacob and Solomon Caplans born between 1900 and 1910 in the Cheetham subdistrict.

Then my husband (a genealogy whizz) showed me how to access the Yad Vashem Pages of Testimony and I now know more about the brothers Jacob & Solly Caplan. These Pages of Testimony was submitted to Yad Vashem by Jacob's son in 1978:

Information (in Hebrew) was also submitted by their aunt, Malka Klein Gotfrid.

Remembering Holocaust victims

Finally, I want to mention a bittersweet burial and memorial ceremony I went to in January 2019 - one of the most emotional services I have ever been to and history in the making. It was for six unknown Jewish Holocaust victims, whose remains had been stored at the Imperial War Museum in London for twenty years, donated by an unnamed person, believed to be a survivor. 

We know nothing about these victims - their ages, places of birth or dates of death. But it IS known (thanks to forensic techniques) that these were five adults and one child. And we also know that they were all murdered at Auschwitz simply because they were Jewish. The remains were finally given a Jewish burial and a final resting place in Bushey New (Jewish) Cemetery.

As we stood outside in bitter temperatures, with ice and snow covering the ground, we couldn't even imagine what it would have been like for starving Holocaust victims in the camps, with their flimsy clothes. 

These six victims represent the six million Jews who were murdered during the Holocaust and who have no grave for their families to visit. Fifty Holocaust survivors attended the burial and memorial service, many of them wondering whether any of these victims were from their own families.

It's possible that one (or more) of them could have even come from Norway.

We will never know. 

The Courier by Kjell Ola Dahl

The rest of my review

Publisher's description
In 1942, Jewish courier Ester is betrayed, narrowly avoiding arrest by the Gestapo. In a great haste, she escapes to Sweden, saving herself. Her family in Oslo, however, is deported to Auschwitz. In Stockholm, Ester meets the resistance hero, Gerhard Falkum, who has left his little daughter and fled both the Germans and allegations that he murdered his wife, Åse, who helped Ester get to Sweden. Their burgeoning relationship ends abruptly when Falkum dies in a fire.And yet, twenty-five years later, Falkum shows up in Oslo. He wants to reconnect with his daughter. But where has he been, and what is the real reason for his return? Ester stumbles across information that forces her to look closely at her past, and to revisit her war-time training to stay alive…

My verdict
The Courier is a literary spy thriller, perfect for John Le Carré fans, and a very welcome addition to the Nordic Noir genre.

The book features a tightly threaded plot and convincing characterisation, so it didn't take long to worm its way under my skin. I was soon caught up in the lives of Ester, Gerhard, Sverre, Åsa and Turid. There's a sense of unease throughout the book, as Ester seeks answers to how her friend Åsa died. I was holding my breath in several gripping moments as she, Sverre and Gerhard played their cat-and-mouse games. I had no idea who to trust and who to believe, right until the final scenes.

The narrative switches seamlessly between Oslo and Stockholm in 1942 and Oslo in 1967 and 2015. Each chapter is clearly marked with the year and location so the multiple timelines were very easy to follow.  The writing is excellent (translated by Don Bartlett) - sparse where it needs to be, to move the story along at a fast pace, but highly descriptive elsewhere, with acute observations that paint a vivid picture of people and places.

So much tension bubbles away under the surface. But this is far more than just a thriller and a murder mystery. It's also a heartbreaking read, as Ester learns more about what happened to her family and her childhood friend. The ending brought tears to my eyes but also a strong sense of resolution.

Highly recommended!

1. Norway. Shoah Resource Center. Yad Vashem. https://www.yadvashem.org/odot_pdf/Microsoft%20Word%20-%205966.pdf, accessed March 2019
2. Murder of the Jews of Western Europe. Yad Vashem. https://www.yadvashem.org/holocaust/about/fate-of-jews/western-europe.html, accessed March 2019

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Best of Crime with Dominic Nolan

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 his Past Life blog tour

to share his BEST OF CRIME ...

An emphasis on quality over quantity may account for Kent Anderson not being better known. His first novel, Sympathy for the Devilwas published in 1987, but the nearly decade-long gap between that and his follow-up, Night Dogs(1996), feels like a mere interlude given the further 22 years it took for Green Sunto complete his trilogy about soldier-turned-cop-turned-professor-turned-cop Hanson in 2018. The books trace Hanson from the killing fields of Vietnam, to his stint as a beat cop in Portland, to his return to uniform riding solo through the streets of 80s Oakland, and in doing so follow in Anderson's own footsteps. An intense, poetic, and sometimes hallucinatory tale of a man trying to form some kind of moral order from the violence both he and the world have wrought. 
Barry Gornell has written two very perfect, very gothic Highland noirs. Wealthy incomers from the city disrupt the simple routines of a rural loner, stirring up past and future tensions in The Healing of Luther Grove, and The Wrong Childexplores the savage consequences in a small village of a disaster that killed 21 school children, leaving a sole survivor. I read somewhere that he was doing for the Highlands what Daniel Woodrell does for the Ozarks, which seems about right. Outlaw fiction at its best.

I'm always snoring on to people about Night Moves, one of the great revisionist noirs of 70s Hollywood. Directed by Arthur Penn, off the back of Bonnie and Clydeand Little Big Man, it was scripted by Scottish novelist-turned-screenwriter Alan Sharp, whose work in that period stands up to anyone's (The Hired Hand,Ulzana's Raid, Billy Two Hats, etc). Gene Hackman, ex-footballer P.I. escapes his troubled marriage by taking a job looking for a missing girl (the first major role for a young Melanie Griffiths), but the case sprawls and he quickly loses his grip on it and never really regains it. Classic inquiry into the post-Watergate American psyche. 
The Reckoning sports an exhilarating turn by Nicol Williamson as a working class boy done good in a big company in London, who returns home to Liverpool when his father dies. Discovering there is more to the death than he was initially told, he goes looking for revenge, threatening his future in the company and his relationship with his well-born wife. It's a similar premise to Get Carter, but predates both that film and the Ted Lewis novel is was adapted from. 

Being too young to see the work of Dennis Potter or Alan Clarke on the BBC first time round, watching Homicide: Life on the Street as a teenager was the first time I realised what the form was capable of, that it didn’t have to be the smaller brother to cinema. In the early seasons, each episode felt like a short play, less concerned with the solving of crimes than it was with exploring existentially what it meant to be murder police in a city like Baltimore (the show was based on a true crime book by David Simon, who produced its later seasons and went on to create The Wire). 
Bob Peck's grief-torn Ronald Craven in Edge of Darkness, a policeman who witnesses his daughter brutally shot-gunned before his eyes and then rushes headlong into a reckless investigation of her death, is a searing and idiosyncratic creation. He brushes up against the sharp edges of Thatcherite Britain - secret services, the nuclear military-industrial complex, his own murky history in Northern Ireland, and even guilt-shaped hallucinations of his eco-daughter - on his way to a climax that is both melancholy and restorative. Troy Kennedy Martin said he had written a story about a detective who turned into a tree. Why wouldn't you want to see that?

Jean-Patrick Manchette said, “the mystery novel is the great moral literature of our era,” and Aimée Joubert was the great avenging angel of his own literature; a Marxist terrorist-cum-contract-killer who stalks France’s ruling classes through the pages of Fatale, using their wealth to turn them against one another and put them on track to a climactic bloodbath. As Manchette said of his own writing: “Attack! Attack! Time is running short!” 

There are so many great detectives who I could drone on about for hours, but I’m particularly partial to Frank Marker. Across the seven series of ITV’s Public Eye, Frank (played by Alfred Burke) plied his trade in London, Birmingham, Brighton, Windsor, and Chertsey. He worked out of small, grubby shopfronts, and lived in bed-sits or lodging rooms. He never worked big cases, and half the time never brought the mundane inquiries he did make to any satisfying conclusion. He went after and missed his big score on several occasions, did a spell inside after working with a dodgy solicitor, and seldom maintained any lasting relationships, with friends or lovers. He was the epitome of small-time struggle, and that’s why he’s so fascinating.   

In 1599, the corrupt governor of Macas, a small Spanish settlement in Ecuador, decided to tax his native subjects, ostensibly claiming the gold was needed to celebrate the coronation of the new Spanish king, Philip III. The Jivaro people, unhappy with the arrangement, collected all the gold they could and waited for the governor to visit the mining town of Logroño. There, the Jivaro attacked, killing all the men, capturing the women, and imprisoning the governor. They stripped him naked in the town square and set up a large forge to melt all the gold. Forcing the governor’s mouth open with a bone, they poured the liquid gold down his throat, the steam from which burst his lungs and bowels before the gold congealed again, blocking up his insides.
It’s an idea that’s going to fester in Boone’s mind… 

Newton Thornburg’s Cutter and Bone has one of those endings that makes you whisper, “Oh shit,” to yourself, and immediately read it again to make sure it really happened. It’s not just the broad scope of what happens that makes it so darkly brilliant, but the way Thornburg wrote it, right down to the most perfect of final sentences. 
Inexplicably, almost all of Thornburg’s novels have remained out of print in America since their initial runs in the 70s and 80s. Serpent’s Tail reissued three of them as part of their Midnight Classics range at the turn of the millennium, copies of which can usually be found 2nd hand, but they do offer most of his major works in digital editions.  

I find maps an invaluable resource, and the National Libraries of Scotland offer a vast range of maps for free online, including a good selection of OS sheets up to 1960. Their website is excellently constructed so you can match their map sheets with google maps, either overlaid or side-by-side and locked-in. https://maps.nls.uk/index.html

Don’t be afraid of being shit. First drafts aren’t final drafts, so if they’re dreadful it doesn’t matter—this is the beginning of a process. The only page of writing that can’t be fixed is a blank one. Let the crap spew forth. 

Tea. I like a strong breakfast tea first thing, and a mellower blend of an afternoon. When travelling, always bring your own tea. You absolutely cannot trust a hotel teabag. 


Dominic grew up and still lives in North London. He worked various day jobs, ranging from call centre operator to fraud investigator, before selling his first novel, Past Life – the story of Boone, a detective who suffers a catastrophic loss of her memory and, struggling to reintegrate herself back into her past life with her husband and teenage son, decides to reinvestigate the missing person case that led to her getting hurt in the first place. Boone will return in a follow-up to Past Life in 2020.

Find Dominic Nolan on Twitter - @NolanDom


Publisher's description
Waking up beside the dead girl, she couldn't remember anything.
Who she was. Who had taken her. How to escape.
Detective Abigail Boone has been missing for four days when she is finally found, confused and broken. Suffering retrograde amnesia, she is a stranger to her despairing husband and bewildered son.
Hopelessly lost in her own life, with no leads on her abduction, Boone's only instinct is to revisit the case she was investigating when she vanished: the baffling disappearance of a young woman, Sarah Still.
Defying her family and the police, Boone obsessively follows a deadly trail to the darkest edges of human cruelty. But even if she finds Sarah, will Boone ever be the same again?

Past Life is being published by Headline on 7 March 2019.

Look out for more BEST OF CRIME features coming soon.

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Monday, 4 March 2019

Three Hours by Rosamund Lupton - very early review

Three Hours
By Rosamund Lupton
Published by Penguin Books UK (17 October 2019)
I received an Advance Reader Copy from the publisher via NetGalley

I don't usually read and review books this early, but I was told that I MUST read this one by another reviewer (Liz Barnsley of Liz Loves Books) - as it was well worth doing so. I also don't usually read books in one sitting like this, so I have to get my thoughts out of my system now! Apologies for such an early (but spoiler-free) review.

Publisher's description
In a rural English village in the middle of a snowstorm, the unthinkable happens: the school is under siege.
From the wounded headmaster barricaded in the library, to teenage Hannah in love for the first time, to the pregnant police psychologist who must identify the gunmen...

My verdict
Ironically it took me around three hours to read Three Hours. For most of that time, my heart was pounding with a strong sense of fear and dread, my throat tight, my jaw tense. I barely took a breath, occasionally coming up for air. This is a race against the clock – and in various places I wished that I could press a pause button to give the characters extra time.

The writing moves at a cracking pace, switching from person to person, then back again, with some expertly woven twists – so cleverly structured. Afterwards, I couldn’t stop thinking about all the little things that now made sense and slotted into place, that I’d blinked over when I’d read them the first time.

I felt as though as I was there alongside the characters, as if they were my own friends and family – all of it feeling so real and close to home. Yes, the plotting is incredible but it’s the writing that wowed me in particular and wormed its way under my skin.

While there’s a mystery at the heart of the book – who are these gunmen and why are they targeting this remote school in Somerset? – for me, the book was an emotional rollercoaster from beginning to end, fuelled by its human element and exploration of human nature. What drives us to perform immense acts of violence and also immense acts of love? 

Three Hours was a traumatic reading experience in many ways – it challenged me, thrilled me, stunned me and upset me - but I am so glad that I immersed myself within its pages. In several places, I had to pause and take a breath – scared to read on, yet scared not to. My youngest teen came into the room at one point while I was reading and I just wanted to pull him close and hug him, never let him go. This book made me worry about my teenagers, about sending them to school the next day, about the future of society. Yet it also gave me a sense of hope.

Three Hours is a thriller about ordinary people doing what’s right, going above and beyond their natural capabilities and comfort zone. It’s a message about society and vulnerability, love and the importance of community. This will be one of my top reads of 2019.