Sunday, 29 November 2015

Stasi Child by David Young

Stasi Child
By David Young
Published by Twenty7 (Kindle - 1 October 2015, Paperback - 11 February 2016)
ISBN: 978-1785770067

Publisher's description
East Berlin, 1975

When Oberleutnant Karin Müller is called to investigate a teenage girl's body at the foot of the Wall, she imagines she's seen it all before. But when she arrives she realises this is a death like no other. It seems the girl was trying to escape - but from the West.

Müller is a member of the People's Police, but in East Germany her power only stretches so far. The Stasi want her to discover the identity of the girl, but assure her the case is otherwise closed - and strongly discourage her from asking questions.

The evidence doesn't add up, and it soon becomes clear the crime scene has been staged. But this is not a regime that tolerates a curious mind, and Müller doesn't realise that the trail she's following will lead her dangerously close to home . . .

My verdict
Stasi Child is an excellent thriller set in 1970s Berlin before the Wall came down.

The story focuses on the discovery of a teenage girl's body at the foot of the Wall. What's unusual is that the girl appears to have been escaping from the West to the East. Oberleutnant Karen Muller and her team are tasked with trying to find out the girl's identity. But not everyone wants them asking questions.

Stasi Child has a complex plot with twists and turns that build up the tension. It's filled with corruption, control and violence. The author has captured the atmosphere well, with vivid descriptions of the Berlin setting and the contrast between East and West. This was a time of secrets, lies and paranoia. Anyone could be under Stasi control. People were wary about what they said and did, even when they were considered to be an authority figure themselves. Karen Muller is an interesting protagonist, not as cold and detached as some of her colleagues, and actually cares about what happened to the victim. She's also curious about what's on the other side of the Wall, which keeps the Stasi on their toes.

Stasi Child is a well-written debut and I look forward to seeing what the author has in store for Karen next.

I received an Advance Reader Copy in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, 26 November 2015

My Path to Publication: a guest post by Marnie Riches

I would like to welcome Marnie Riches to my blog today. Marnie's latest book The Girl Who Broke The Rules was published by Avon (Harper Collins) in August 2015. It's the second in the George McKenzie trilogy. The third book - The Girl Who Walked In The Shadows - will be published in March 2016.

My path to publication
By Marnie Riches

It’s NaNoWriMo! Many of you have been spending November toiling away to get those all-important 50,000 words of a first draft down. Brilliant! The overwhelming majority of you, however, will find that you’ve produced only the beginnings of something that may, one day, be developed, polished and commercially viable enough to be published.

The fact is, that writing a debut novel and getting it published takes time. It certainly took me not months, but years.

During my student years, I wrote a novelisation of a medieval epic Dutch poem. I had intended it to be a fantasy masterpiece, except it came out as utter cack and was shelved for seventeen years…

Scroll forwards, and by my late thirties, I was working part-time as a professional fundraiser, whilst developing property. My children were toddlers. Then, just as I was about to apply for a loan to convert a small old mill into flats, the housing market crashed, taking my full-time property magnate aspirations with it.

My hopes of a new career were dashed. Or were they?

Always an avid reader of children’s and crime fiction, I started to write. I wrote the sort of story I wanted to read and that I would like to read to my children. My first stab was at a middle grade fairy-pirate story. I wrote it. I rewrote it. I penned a picture book and illustrated it. Sent both out to agents and got the odd personalised response back, but no joy. By then, I had started to think of myself as a writer, but I knew I still had a lot to learn about the craft.

Going back to my medieval Dutch fantasy novel seemed like a sensible thing to do. Reworking it as a historical YA novel, I pitched it to agents. Close, but no cigar. Then, unwilling to give up, I went back to the fairy story, rewriting it until it became good enough to get me my first agent. She and I decided I should abandon it in favour of a new middle grade novel that I already started. It was a detective story with a sci-fi twist.

I was going to get published! Except I wasn’t. The novel never found a home. It had lost something in the rewrites and never got it back. But that was okay, because then, I started a new middle grade novel! It was a story about a small red-headed boy called Archie, who saw dead people. It was hilarious!

It was definitely going to get published. Except it didn’t. It never even got submitted. I did, however, get a commission to pen the first six books of HarperCollins Children’s Time-Hunters series for 7+ year olds and those did get published. Hurray!

They were going to be HUGE. Except they weren’t.

I changed agent. Then, my second agent retired six months later and I had to change agent again. I still hadn’t had a bona fide debut novel published!

Always prolific and determined, in the interim, I had written the complex, fast-paced crime thriller for adults that I had always aspired to write. It had a working title of Blown Away and was about a heroic student at university in Amsterdam called Georgina McKenzie. Feeling certain that this novel was The One, I set off in search of the right agent – someone I could click with; someone I could trust implicitly; someone who shared my vision for George McKenzie and my future as an author. The novel was rejected time and again. It was too long. It was too short. It was too youthful. It was too dark. It wasn’t dark enough. I rewrote and rewrote and rewrote. It grew to 150K words. It shrank to 100K. It was the final edit, after two years of honing, that clinched it. I had two offers within a week. I went to London, I met both agents. I had already decided which would be the agent for me, by dint of his reputation preceding him and my own gut feeling, after our email correspondence. Meeting him confirmed that. 

Happy days.

My publisher, Avon (HarperCollins’ commercial imprint) expressed a strong interest almost immediately! Except, it took aeons to negotiate the deal. Far longer than I had anticipated. But yes, I got the deal and yes, I definitely was going to get published.

So, the moral of this story about my own path to publication is that good things do come to those who wait. Blown Away became The Girl Who Wouldn’t Die. For many weeks, it sat comfortably in the Kindle Top 100 and then, went on to win a Dead Good Reader Award. It’s follow up - The Girl Who Broke the Rules - has been released to great acclaim and has been in the Suspense Top 50 most of the time since it’s late August publication. Hotly anticipated, The Girl Who Walked in the Shadows comes out in March 2016. My editor thinks it will be the biggest of the first three George McKenzie thrillers.

About Marnie Riches

(Photography by Phil Tragen)

Marnie Riches grew up on a rough estate in Manchester, aptly within sight of the dreaming spires of Strangeways prison. She swapped those for the spires of Cambridge University, gaining a Masters degree in Modern & Medieval Dutch and German. She has been a punk, a trainee rock star, a pretend artist, a property developer and professional fundraiser.

Having authored the first six books of HarperCollins Children’s Time-Hunters series, her George McKenzie crime thrillers for adults were inspired, in part, by her own youth and time spent in The Netherlands as a student. Her debut crime novel, The Girl Who Wouldn’t Die won a Dead Good Reader Award – the Patricia Highsmith Award for most exotic location in a crime novel – and was a Kindle top 100 bestseller. Her current novel is The Girl Who Broke the Rules, with hotly anticipated, The Girl Who Walked in the Shadows due out March 2016. She also writes contemporary women’s fiction. 

Find Marnie Riches on her website or on Twitter - @Marnie_Riches.

Find The Girl Who Wouldn't Die on Amazon UK
When a bomb explodes at the University of Amsterdam, aspiring criminologist Georgina McKenzie is asked by the police to help flush out the killer.
But the bomb is part of a much bigger, more sinister plot that will have the entire city quaking in fear.
And the killer has a very special part for George to play…

Read my review here

Find The Girl Who Broke The Rules on Amazon UK
When the mutilated bodies of two sex-workers are found in Amsterdam, Chief Inspector van den Bergen must find a brutal murderer before the red light district erupts into panic.
Georgina McKenzie is conducting research into pornography among the UK’s most violent sex-offenders but once van den Bergen calls on her criminology expertise, she is only too happy to come running.
The rising death toll forces George and van den Bergen to navigate the labyrinthine worlds of Soho strip-club sleaze and trans-national human trafficking. And with the case growing ever more complicated, George must walk the halls of Broadmoor psychiatric hospital, seeking advice from the brilliant serial murderer, Dr. Silas Holm…

Read my review here