Friday, 30 September 2016

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

Dark Matter
By Blake Crouch
Published by Macmillan (11 August 2016)
ISBN: 978-1447297567

Publisher's description
Are you happy in your life?'
Those are the last words Jason Dessen hears before the masked abductor knocks him unconscious.
Before he wakes to find himself strapped to a gurney, surrounded by strangers in hazmat suits.
Before the man he's never met smiles down at him and says, 'Welcome back, my friend.'
In this world he's woken up to, Jason's life is not the one he knows. His wife is not his wife. His son was never born. And Jason is not an ordinary college physics professor, but a celebrated genius who has achieved something remarkable. Something impossible.

Is it this world or the other that's the dream? And even if the home he remembers is real, how can Jason possibly make it back to the family he loves? The answers lie in a journey more wondrous and horrifying than anything he could've imagined - one that will force him to confront the darkest parts of himself even as he battles a terrifying, seemingly unbeatable foe.

My verdict
It wasn't wise to finish reading Dark Matter in the early hours of the morning. This book totally plays with your mind. I couldn't sleep afterwards, as I struggled to comprehend what I had just read - and what could possibly have happened after that final page.

I'm not going to give away any of the story (as you can read the blurb above) - but Dark Matter is compelling, thought provoking and sheer brilliance. For much of the book, I couldn't breathe, I was exhausted and in a daze. This is a true rollercoaster ride of a page turner. It's hard hitting with a constant flow of action, thoughts, ideas and theories. There's plenty of physics in there - it is a science fiction thriller, after all - but Blake Crouch explains everything carefully in simple terms so that the story continues to flow.

At the heart of Dark Matter is the sliding doors concept mixed with time travel. The 'what ifs' in life. And 'what would you sacrifice for love?' But with sinister, terrifying undertones and a fight for survival. There's a film in the making - and that doesn't surprise me at all.

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

Thursday, 29 September 2016

The Bird Tribunal by Agnes Ravatn (Rosie Hedger, translator)

I'm delighted to be today's stop on the Blog Tour for the stunning The Bird Tribunal by Agnes Ravatn, published by Orenda Books. The Bird Tribunal is out NOW! And it's a VERY chilling beautifully-written book.

The Bird Tribunal
By Agnes Ravatn (translated by Rosie Hedger)
Published by Orenda Books (e-book - July 2016; paperback - September 2016)
ISBN: 978-1910633359

Publisher's description
TV presenter Allis Hagtorn leaves her partner and her job to take voluntary exile in a remote house on an isolated fjord. But her new job as housekeeper and gardener is not all that it seems, and her silent, surly employer, 44-year-old Sigurd Bagge, is not the old man she expected. As they await the return of his wife from her travels, their silent, uneasy encounters develop into a chilling, obsessive relationship, and it becomes clear that atonement for past sins may not be enough.

My verdict
The Bird Tribunal is an eerie Norwegian psychological thriller with claustrophobic unease that seeps out of every page. It's beautifully written and exceptionally translated - it's clear that every sentence has been carefully constructed as the words flow seamlessly.

It's the chilling tale of Allis, a young woman who takes a job as housekeeper in an isolated house, determined to put the past behind her. Her solitary employer is a quiet moody man with a mysterious background who is waiting for his wife to return. The atmosphere between them prickles with tension, as they struggle to suppress their attraction and their stories of guilt, betrayal, love and redemption are gradually revealed.

I'm not sure that I've read a book with such a small cast of characters, but this certainly adds to its claustrophobic nature. I was hooked from the first page right through to the end. The Bird Tribunal isn't just about the words on the page, but also what's between the lines, with a flood of emotions bubbling under the surface. I read most of the book in one sitting, unable to tear myself away from the powerful emotional pull of the haunting prose. I was aware of my heart pounding, actually holding my breath in places, and an unsettling tingling sensation on my skin.

The story builds to a final dramatic ending that I couldn't stop thinking about afterwards. I was speechless - this book isn't one I'll forget. Yet again Orenda Books has chosen a stunner. Wow. I can easily imagine this as a television adaption - a chilling drama that leaves you breathless. This book will go far!

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

Follow the Blog Tour!

Tomorrow it's @sjroth21

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Q&A with Sanjida Kay (by Holly Seddon)

I am delighted to welcome Sanjida Kay to my blog today - in a Q&A with Holly Seddon (author of Try Not to Breathe). Sanjida's book Bone By Bone was published in paperback by Corvus on 1 September 2016.

Over to you Holly & Sanjida ...

Q&A with Sanjida Kay by Holly Seddon

Holly Seddon: I downloaded Bone by Bone shortly after it was published, and found myself sinking back into it at every opportunity. It’s beautifully written, artfully plotted and will send a shiver down the spine of every adult who has ever cared for a child. It was therefore a real pleasure to pick the brain of author Sanjida Kay.

Q. Bone by Bone hinges around recently-divorced Laura and her nine-year-old daughter Autumn. They live alone in a large house and you capture the terror of being the only adult in the family home perfectly. Are you someone who gets spooked easily?
Thank you! I don’t think I’m easily spooked, but I’ve always had terrible nightmares. I realised recently that I would be very weird to play a word association game with. So if you were to say, sweet, I’d say, choke; car - crash, wood - wolf…okay I’ll stop there! Maybe I’m meant to be a thriller writer!

Q. Before I was a parent, I found it easier to write about devastating things happening to children. Now I have certain limitsthat I cant cross. How did you cope with writing the scenes involving nine-year-old Autumn, did it effect you outside of writing time?
I agree. There are things I don’t want to write about now, much less think about. I used to cry when I read early drafts of Bone by Bone. With my second thriller, The Stolen Child (out next April) I avoided some research. It was only once I’d finished and was pretty close to sending it to my publishers (yours too!), that I forced myself to read Kate McCann’s book about Madeleine.

Q. I think even the most mild mannered pacifists have one red line where, if it were crossed, they could see themselves reacting with violence. And for me, as for many, its my children. The idea of acting to protect your children, and that leading to dark consequences feels very real and very close to home. Are we all one rash move from disaster? Was it hard putting yourself into that situation, albeit it in your imagination?
I know what you mean! I find confrontation difficult, but I know I could be very fierce on behalf of my daughter. Even watching kids pushing her out of the way on the slide in the park is tricky! Maybe it’s our generation though? Perhaps we’ve become pushy, overprotective parents in opposition to our more laissez-faire mothers and fathers. And then that begets the moral question - how acceptable is violence if we can understand, and would maybe even react in a similar way in the same circumstances?

Q. Bone by Bone is absolutely a thriller, with suspense, twists and jumpy bits. But I thought it was also a really beautiful examination of how it feels to be part of the sandwich: The adult daughter critiquing her own mother while feeling critiqued (and criticised) by her, and the single parent feeling powerless and alone in supporting and nurturing her own daughter. Did you consciously want to look at those grandmother/mother/daughter relationships or was that something that just developed naturally?
Oh I’m so glad you noticed that and it resonated with you too! I always like to have a theme going on in my work and that was one of my mine in Bone by Bone. I’m interested in the intensity of the relationship women have with their mothers and their daughters; the idea that you are always a daughter, and once you have a child, you will never stop being a mother.
I’m also fascinated by how a mother raises a child in one way, and she will rebel - or attempt to rebel, but in doing so, will both make her own mistakes, and turn into a version of her mother anyway. The book that had the most impact on me when I was researching Bone by Bone was, You’re Wearing That? by Deborah Tannen, in which she analyses how mothers and daughters seek approval from each other, but misread one another - seeing care as criticism. She describes how horrible she was to her mother because her mum was a little plump, and Deborah was skinny (even though Deborah knew her mum weighed 99 pounds when she got married). Later in life, her mum poked her finger into Deborah’s not-so-flat mid-riff and, whilst she was hurt, she felt it was payback for her behaviour as a teenager. How amazing it would be to get out of this vicious cycle but I’m not sure it’s so easy.

Q. You mention British Military Fitness classes in Bone by Bone a few times. Ive done these (brutal!) classes a few times and theyre awesome are you a fan?
I’m a big fan of British Military Fitness and you’re right, it’s brutal! It’s actually where I met my husband! After my daughter was born, I downloaded the BMF app and I used to go to the park and do a workout next to the buggy while she was sleeping. I figured if anyone tried to snatch my daughter when I was doing my sprints, I’d sprint back faster! (Darn it, that was a nice scene in a park and I had to turn it into child abduction.)

Q. I love that you have a PhD in chimpanzees. Do you still do any academic work in this field and are there any other ambitions you have outside of writing?
I still work as a wildlife presenter now and again, mainly for Countryfile. I like making films about British wildlife - I’m passionate about our countryside. I’d love to film in a jungle or up a mountain, but I don’t want to leave my family for too long. I did a shoot in Australia and that was the longest I’ve been away from them. It was only a week so I spent half the time on the plane!

Q. Bristol is the backdrop for the action in Bone by Bone and we see its dark corners and its fancy bits. Was it a pleasure to showcase your city? Did you feel any pressure to get it spot on knowing your fellow Bristolians would read the book?
I partly set Bone by Bone where I live because my daughter was tiny when I was writing it, so I didn’t have to go anywhere or do any research, and I was out pounding the streets with the buggy every day anyhow! But I do love Bristol; I like the juxtaposition between urban and wild, between rich and poor and black and white in this city of mine. Although the descriptions are accurate, the geography is not - I moved chunks around to make my plot work. So far no-one has complained. Maybe readers were just glad to see somewhere other than London in a thriller!!

Q. As a writer, Im really interested to know how you found switching from historical fiction to thrillers? Was this an itch you always wanted to scratch?
For me, it’s always about the story - as I’m sure it is with you too. So my third novel happened to be historical. But then my publishers wanted another historical novel, when my inclination had been to go off in a different direction. I had the idea for Bone by Bone and then realised it was a psychological thriller. At that point I decided to do some research so I’d know what I was letting myself in for! I didn’t want to be one of those novelists who thinks writing in a genre is easy - and then makes a ton of mistakes! I’m not saying I’ve cracked it, but I hope I’ll always push myself and keep learning throughout my writing life.

Q. Are there any other genres youd love to try? I have to admit to harbouring dreams of writing an old manor house murder mystery myself!
Oooh, that sounds Agatha Christie meets Barbara Vine! I’d read it! I’d like to write science fiction (I’m a mad Margaret Atwood fan) and thrillers - I like the way you can get drama and big issues into a thriller, whereas with domestic noir, the focus is almost laser-like in its intensity on the family.

Thank you so much for your insightful answers, Sanjida, and I for one am relieved not to be the only person who always sees the potential darkness on even the sunniest day!

About Sanjida Kay
Sanjida Kay has a PhD on chimpanzees and has had nine books published. She has also written features and columns for national newspapers and magazines about science and the environment, directed science documentaries and presented wildlife programmes for the BBC.
Four of her books are novels and she’s won some awards for her writing. Her fifth novel, Bone by Bone, is a psychological thriller published by Corvus Books. It went straight into the Amazon kindle best-selling list. Sanjida is writing a second thriller at the moment.

She lives in Bristol with her husband, Jaimie, and her daughter, who is five and wants to be a writer-palaeontologist.

Find Sanjida Kay on her website and on Twitter - @SanjidaKay

Bone by Bone
Published by Corvus (Paperback - 1 September 2016)
ISBN: 978-1782396895

Publisher's description
Laura loves her daughter more than anything in the world.
But nine-year-old Autumn is being bullied. Laura feels helpless.
When Autumn fails to return home from school one day, Laura goes looking for her. She finds a crowd of older children taunting her little girl.

In the heat of the moment, Laura makes a terrible choice. A choice that will have devastating consequences for her and her daughter...

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

A Suitable Lie by Michael J Malone

I am delighted to be kicking off the Blog Tour for A Suitable Lie by Michael Malone, which is published by Orenda Books. A Suitable Lie is out in ebook and paperback NOW and it's brilliant!! Here's my review...

A Suitable Lie
By Michael J Malone
Published by Orenda Books (15 September 2016)
ISBN: 978-1910633496

Publisher's description
Andy Boyd thinks he is the luckiest man alive. Widowed with a young child, after his wife dies in childbirth, he is certain that he will never again experience true love. Then he meets Anna. Feisty, fun and beautiful, she's his perfect match... And she loves his son, too. When Andy ends up in the hospital on his wedding night, he receives his first clue that Anna is not all that she seems. He ignores it; a dangerous mistake that could cost him everything. A brave, deeply moving psychological thriller which marks a stunning departure for one of Scotland's top crime writers.

My verdict
A Suitable Lie is stunning, heartbreaking, passionate and tense. A book that packs a powerful punch - in more ways than one - and left me reeling and totally drained.

Writing with compassion and empathy, Michael J Malone has tackled a difficult - and often taboo - topic. His tight plot, taut writing, sharp dialogue and strong characters keep the story moving at a fast pace and provide a thought-provoking insight into a bullying relationship. He conveys the difficulties involved in leaving a marriage or taking physical action against an abusive partner, with some dark humour and lighter moments in places to ease the escalating tension. This is one hell of a rollercoaster read!

The author's background as a poet shines throughout the book. His rhythmic prose flows beautifully with stunning imagery and emotion in every sentence, each scene described so vividly that it was as if I was present myself. There are a few violent scenes, but this is not without good reason, adding to the horrific nature of the relationship that lies at the heart of the plot.

This is a compelling story from start to finish and certainly yet another book I'll be recommending widely. There are a few twists, turns and surprises. But most of all, A Suitable Lie is a book that will leave you on the edge of your seat and take you on an emotional journey, gripped with worry, anger, tension and relief. Orenda Books has done it again, publishing a book that you'll want to cherish and remember.

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


Tomorrow it's Crime Book Junkie - @nholten40!

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

From Helping Fight Crime to Helping Write Crime - Stuart Gibbons

I would like to welcome Stuart Gibbon to my blog today. Stuart is a former policer officer who now advises writers on police actions and procedures. You can find out more by visiting Stuart's website -

From Helping Fight Crime to Helping Write Crime
by Stuart Gibbon

My name is Stuart Gibbon and I'm a former police officer who served for 30 years in London and the East Midlands before retiring from the police service in 2012. A large part of my career was spent as a Detective in Major Crime. As a Detective Chief Inspector (DCI) I was in charge of Murder and other serious crime investigations. As such, I have considerable experience in the way police investigate crime and other police-related issues.

On leaving the police service I decided to set up my own business, GIB Consultancy I now help writers by giving advice on police actions and procedures. It can be anything from how a missing person is investigated or how forensic evidence works to how the police would go about solving a Murder.

Writers generally contact me via e-mail through my website and either send me a list of questions which they would like answering or send me a draft of the police procedural element of their work for fact-checking.

Although most of my work comes from crime writers, I sometimes get enquiries from writers of other genres who may want to include a police-related topic in their book. My first written acknowledgement came courtesy of Tammy Cohen, after I provided advice for the thriller 'Dying for Christmas'. More recently I've been helping C.L. Taylor with advice for 'The Missing' (released in April nd a massive hit!!) and her fourth thriller currently being written. I was originally contacted by Cally back in November 2014 and continue to help as and when required. It's great to see the advice and information you have given to authors actually appearing in the published version.

I've helped writers with many different topics from the role of the Coroner in suspicious deaths, how the police promotion system works to forensic procedures and Court sentencing guidelines. One of the most interesting was explaining how the police would deal with a person in prison who had confessed to a serious crime (you may recognise this if you've read 'The Missing', if you haven't keep an eye out for it!!!)

I also talk with Writing Groups on the subject of 'Murder investigation' and have a couple of national conferences booked for later this year as a speaker. I take the audience through a Murder case (using a generic case study) from discovery of a body to the arrest and detention of a suspect, explaining the challenges facing Detectives in such cases.   

My new career is every bit as interesting and rewarding as my old one and it's great to contribute towards the hard work that goes into writing a book. If any writers need help with police procedural or investigative processes I can be contacted via my website whether you just have the odd question or require more detailed advice.