Wednesday, 30 November 2016

First Monday Crime: Author in the Spotlight - Daniel Pembrey

I would like to welcome Daniel Pembrey to my blog today as my Author in the Spotlight. Daniel's Amsterdam detective series, The Harbour Master, was published by No Exit Press on 10 November 2016.  He will be one of the authors at the First Monday Crime Christmas Special on December 5th.

A year ago, you wrote a piece for my blog about your short story The Lion Hunter. The Harbour Master was originally published as three separate novellas, but has now been republished as a novel by No Exit Press. What do you enjoy most about writing shorter pieces of fiction?
I’ve read many great writers first via their novellas. A Christmas Carol by Dickens for example, or Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. Take Jekyll and Hyde, or Old Man and the Sea. Writing in the New Yorker recently, Ian McEwan described the novella as the prefect form of prose fiction. For me as an author, I’m mostly drawn to the need for economy … but perhaps I just have a terrible attention span!

You’re featuring at December’s First Monday Crime Christmas Special. Were you nervous the first time you appeared on a panel? And how did you get yourself through it? Any tips for debut panel members?
It’s always a bit tense doing these things in front of an audience whose views I care about. I try to be relaxed and natural, but it’s good to prepare a little as well!

Your book The Harbour Master is set mainly in Amsterdam. You spend a lot of time in Amsterdam, as well as London. What was it about Amsterdam that prompted you to set your books there?
A close sister living there. An inability to find a lot of crime fiction set in Holland, in English translation at least, when I arrived (which baffled me given the output of neighbouring Scandinavia!). I was struck too by how atmospheric those port cities are – Amsterdam, Rotterdam … wonderful! They lend themselves so well to the genre, not least because of the good slice of criminality that goes with such historic trading hubs.

If you could launch your next book anywhere in the world, in any location, building etc, where would you choose and why?
Well it’s tempting to say somewhere overseas, probably Amsterdam, but in reality I’d want everyone to be there. So short of having an unlimited budget for flying people around, I’d have to say London and plump for the Dutch Embassy.

The Harbour Master covers dark subjects – murder, drugs, smuggling, kidnapping...  Is there any topic you wouldn’t feel comfortable writing about?
I address the subject of child abuse in the next book, Night Market, which was tricky but required for the story. I used the voice of the detective’s wife, Petra, to almost argue his actions out in my head (how he should approach and think about investigating such abuse). I couldn’t write anything graphic in that realm – nor in the realm of violence against women.

If you were writing a book about your own life, what would the title be?
Something like The Constant Traveller. I’ve now lived in seven countries including England and Scotland (I went to university in Edinburgh). The other countries are France (where I also studied), the States and Luxembourg (where I worked), then Germany and of course Holland. I travelled around Australia, too. The Constant Traveller, I tell you!

Describe your writing style in 10 words or less?
Identifying the peculiarities of fascinating locations that shape characters’ journeys.

Why should people read The Harbour Master (your chance for a quick plug)?
It’s Amsterdam, it’s the archetypal maverick detective, and it’s a personal journey from the streets of the Red Light District to the grandest corridors of power in the Netherlands. It’s also a story told in six parts – a bit like Stephen King’s The Green Mile. The first three parts are in the The Harbour Master, and the final three are in Night Market – due out in e-book format in January. So if you’re inviting me to plug, I have to recommend reading both books, sorry!

About Daniel Pembrey

Daniel grew up in Nottinghamshire beside Sherwood Forest. He has since lived in Edinburgh, Paris, Seattle, Luxembourg, Berlin, Amsterdam and London. Daniel is drawn to psychological suspense stories with a strong sense of location. His Amsterdam detective series, The Harbour Master, will be published by No Exit Press in 2016. Besides reading, writing and traveling, he loves to meet interesting people.

Find Daniel on his website and on Twitter - @DPemb

About The Harbour Master

The Harbour Master
By Daniel Pembrey
Published by No Exit Press (E-book - out now; Paperback - 10 November 2016)
ISBN: 978-1843448778

Publisher's description
Henk van der Pol is a 30-year-term policeman, a few months off retirement. When he finds a woman's body in Amsterdam Harbour, his detective instincts take over, even though it's not his jurisdiction. Warned off investigating the case, Henk soon realises he can trust nobody, as his search for the killer leads him to discover the involvement of senior police officers, government corruption in the highest places, Hungarian people traffickers, and a deadly threat to his own family...

Read my review here.

December First Monday Crime

On December 5th, Daniel will be on the First Monday Crime Christmas Special panels in London, alongside Mark Billingham, Yrsa Sigurdardottir, Alex Marwood, Paula Daly, Daniel Pembrey and Corrie Jackson.

First Monday Crime takes place on the first Monday of every month. 

The event is at Brown’s Courtrooms, 82-84 St Martin's Lane, London WC2N 4AG. After the panels, everyone will eventually spill over into The Salisbury pub, right next door, so the festive fun can continue!

Visit Goldsboro Books for more details.

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Zero by Matt Brolly - Book Extract - Blog Tour

I am delighted to be today's stop on the Blog Tour for Zero by Matt Brolly. Zero was published as an e-book by Canelo on 21 November 2016.

Read the extract from Chapter 2

Inspector Kate Swanson knew the junior officer standing by the courtroom doors watching her. Flaherty was flushed with excitement, so desperate to get Swanson’s attention that for one horrendous second she thought he might shout over to her. Swanson turned her attention back towards Judge Livermore. The accused, William Crampton, sat to Swanson’s right, on a separate table with his lawyer. Little more than a child, he had been arrested six months ago for petty theft after stealing a bottle of vodka from an off-licence, a dare from his fellow gang members. Dressed in a maroon jumpsuit, his narrow eyes stared straight ahead. Swanson listened to the familiar sound of the verdict followed by the equally familiar sentence. There was only ever one sentence.

Any breach of the criminal law, however minor, was subject to an effective death sentence. After spending time in the holding zone, convicts were placed in the glass pods which journeyed throughout the city. The journey took thirty days, but after eight days the water supply was removed. No one had ever survived the pods. Luis Ciucci had been the first prisoner to be podded, not long after Swanson was born. Ciucci had murdered his wife’s lover in a crime of passion. His podding had been symbolic. People had sympathy for Ciucci, and the council knew it. It would have been easier to pod someone everyone loathed, a multiple murderer, a rapist or child molester, but this way they signaled to society that whatever your crime, whatever the mitigating circumstances, you were going to the pods.

The boy barely reacted. Swanson had seen the weary look of resignation countless times before. No doubt the hope had been ground out of him during his probationary incarceration. Even after all these years in the force, all the prosecutions she’d been involved with, the verdict was still difficult to hear.
‘Court dismissed,’ said the judge.

Flaherty was by her side in seconds. In his grey-blue uniform, he looked like a schoolboy playing dressing-up games. He smelt of nicotine and sweet aftershave. He pulled at the grey clip-on tie dangling from his throat. ‘Ma’am,’ he said.

‘What is it?’ asked Swanson.

‘It’s Judge Lloyd, Ma’am. He’s missing.’ Flaherty’s voice was an octave higher than normal.

‘Would you care to elaborate, Flaherty?’ suggested Swanson.

‘He didn’t turn up for court today and there’s no sign of him at his house. His car is still parked in his garage.’ Flaherty was smiling.


‘Chessington wants you over there. As soon as you finish here.’

Swanson glared at him.

‘Ma’am,’ he said.

Swanson packed her files away. Five foot eleven with long blonde hair tied back into a ponytail, she was wearing her standard formal issue: a black pleated skirt, white blouse, and black jacket. On her left lapel shone three silver crowns. Her voice was deep and guttural, the legacy of a childhood throat infection which had permanently damaged her vocal cords.

The public defender, Dave Legg, walked over and shook her hand, holding on longer than was necessary. ‘Another victory, Inspector Swanson,’ he said. ‘It must make you proud, putting away such hardened criminals.’

Swanson understood the man’s sarcasm, his despair at losing another client, but couldn’t show any weakness. ‘Defeat makes you so bitter, Dave.’

‘It is not the defeat, Inspector. It is the consequences of defeat which trouble me.’ He held her gaze, trying in vain to look nonchalant, then walked away. He had left a gold plated pen on his desk which Swanson placed into her pocket.

Outside, she barged through a group of journalists each barking questions at her. She made eye contact with one of their number, Jane Sutton who she occasionally shared information with. She nodded to the woman before entering her car.

As Swanson drove through the city to Judge Lloyd’s house, she tried not to think about the sentence just handed down to the young petty thief. The policy of Zero Tolerance, ZT, was fixed legislation. Its powers could not be withdrawn, only extended. At present, any breach of criminal law, subject to a fair trial before judge and jury, was subject to the death penalty. Swanson had been working in the police force for the last eight years and had never known a society without the pods.

She reminded herself that she didn’t make the policy. Her job was to uphold the law, however draconian that law appeared to be. In her judgement, the petty thief, Crampton, didn’t deserve to die. She empathised with the young man, and even with his obnoxious lawyer. Maybe one day there would come a time when the law was not so severe, but until then, she had a job to do.

About the book

By Matt Brolly
Published by Canelo (E-book - 21 November 2016)

Publisher's description
A zero tolerance policy results in the death penalty for all crimes, no matter how minor.
When a judge is kidnapped, and a ransom note demands the release of all prisoners awaiting execution, kleptomaniac Detective Inspector Kate Swanson is put on the case.
But soon her boss also disappears. Under increasing pressure from her superiors, and caught between the security services and the growing social unrest, Swanson must race to find a man whose murdered wife and daughter link the missing men.
Can she find him before it’s too late?

Buy from Amazon UK here.

Follow the Blog Tour

Monday, 28 November 2016

Pendulum by Adam Hamdy

By Adam Hamdy
Published by Headline (3 November 2016)
ISBN: 978-1472236159

Publisher's description
You wake. Confused. Disorientated.
A noose is round your neck.
You are bound, standing on a chair.
All you can focus on is the man in the mask tightening the rope.
You are about to die.
John Wallace has no idea why he has been targeted. No idea who his attacker is. No idea how he will prevent the inevitable.
Then the pendulum of fate swings in his favour.
He has one chance to escape, find the truth and halt his destruction.
The momentum is in his favour for now.
But with a killer on his tail, everything can change with one swing of this deadly pendulum...

You have one chance. Run.

My verdict
Pendulum is a fast-paced rollercoaster read that I read in one sitting.

This high-octane thriller jumps straight into the action from the first chapter. John Wallace seems like an ordinary man who is thrown into an extraordinary situation when he wakes up in his own flat with a noose around his neck and a masked man telling him he's about to die. But with luck on his side, John Wallace manages to escape. This leads to a deadly cat and mouse chase around the UK and US, with John Wallace trying to find out why he's been targeted.

Pendulum is filled with action and suspense and would make a perfect Hollywood movie! I had no idea what was coming next - and while some of the scenes are a little far fetched, they provided great entertainment. I just had to suspend belief and go with the flow. I loved the plot and final reveal, with various interwoven threads that tied up in the end but left plenty of intrigue for the sequel.

With its twists and turns, compelling plot, violent scenes, short snappy chapters and brilliant writing, Pendulum left me exhausted! I can't wait for the next one.

I received an Advance Reader Copy.

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Bone by Bone by Sanjida Kay

Bone by Bone
By Sanjida Kay
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...

My verdict
Bone by Bone is a well-written psychological thriller about how far a mother will go to protect her child.

On reading the prologue, I thought this was going to be another 'missing child' book, but instead the plot focuses on bullying tactics - by both children and adults. When Laura's daughter Autumn is bullied by an older boy at school, Laura is determined that the young thug doesn't get away with it. But one silly mistake in the heat of the moment comes back to haunt her, time and time again.

This is a compelling read that kept me gripped right until the end. Told from the points of view of both Laura and Autumn, it focuses on how one small event can escalate matters out of control - and how easy it is to be let down by the people and services who are supposed to provide protection.

The book highlights the emotional impact of bullying and how damaging it can be to all those involved. There was a growing sense of unease as the plot developed, leading to uncomfortable reading at times. It definitely made me think about 'what if it happened to me or my children' and that, to me, is the sign of a good book.

Thursday, 24 November 2016

The Daughter's Secret by Eva Holland

The Daughter's Secret
By Eva Holland
Published by Orion (Paperback - 7 April 2016)
ISBN: 978-1409157045

Publisher's description
My daughter is a liar. A liar, liar, liar. And I'm starting to see where she gets it from.
When Rosalind's fifteen-year-old daughter, Stephanie, ran away with her teacher, this ordinary family became something it had never asked to be. Their lives held up to scrutiny in the centre of a major police investigation, the Simms were headline news while Stephanie was missing with a man who was risking everything.
Now, six years on, Ros takes a call that will change their lives all over again. He's going to be released from prison. Years too early. In eleven days' time.

As Temperley's release creeps ever closer, Ros is forced to confront the events that led them here, back to a place she thought she'd left behind, to questions she didn't want to answer. Why did she do it? Where does the blame lie? What happens next?

My verdict
The Daughter's Secret covers a very topical issue - that of a 15-year-old girl who runs away with her teacher. Rather than focus on the 'missing child' events, this story takes place six years afterwards - when the teacher is finally being released from prison.

Through flashbacks to the past, you're taken through the rollercoaster of emotions that Ros experienced when her daughter Steph ran away. In the present day, you can see how these emotions are still present, impacting on the whole family unit. Steph hasn't really spoken about her experience for six years. Now that Steph is home and her teacher, Nate Temperley, will soon be free, Ros begins to distrust her daughter yet again.

The chapters are written in the form of a countdown to Temperley's release, so the tension and unease builds up easily as the book progresses. Would Steph run away with Temperley again and turn her back on her family? Would he take revenge on those who had kept the two of them apart for all those years?

For me, this was a definite page turner, with various twists and turns and an unexpected ending. I was completely caught up in Ros' emotions, especially as she thought of ways to take revenge on Temperley, and also in the family dynamics. The book is cleverly plotted, beautifully written and an easy - although thought-provoking - read. It is marketed as a psychological thriller, but I would also say it also fits in well with family dramas.

I received an Advance Reader Copy through NetGalley.