Thursday, 19 October 2017

BEST OF CRIME with Isabelle Grey

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 ...

Daphne du Maurier, especially for Rebecca and My Cousin Rachel, both masterpieces of unreliable narration, jealousy and sexual tension. Each time I re-read Rebecca I find the second Mrs de Winter even more sinister.

All The President’s Men and its recent successor Spotlight. The first made me want to be a journalist and the second added invaluable insight to the writing of The Special Girls.

It’s deeply flawed, but I still loved the first season of True Detective for the range of its ambition. It used the format of long-form drama to play with chronology and point of view, had great performances and, in rural Louisiana, a brilliantly gothic backdrop.

Although Count Fosco stops short of actual murder in Wilkie Collins’ The Woman in White, he is morally responsible for the death of Anne Catherick after her escape from the asylum. A cruel and fascinating villain, he is surely a prototype for many of the charmingly psychopathic fictional killers that followed. 

For me it will always have to be Philip Marlowe, for slang so perfect that few guessed Raymond Chandler invented it, for his cynical sense of honour, and his deep and tragic vulnerability. Even if the plots sometimes don’t make sense, I want to know what Marlowe is going to make of it all.

I wrote an episode of Midsomer Murders in which someone was pushed under the turning wheel of a watermill. I spoke on the phone to someone at a National Trust watermill to find out how such a killing might occur. He had no proof of who I really was yet enthusiastically explained in great detail how easily I could murder someone. Perhaps one of us should have been more suspicious.

Dr Watson peering through the keyhole of the door to Bartholomew Sholto’s chamber and seeing by moonlight his bloodless countenance, a ghastly, inscrutable smile upon his face, in Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Sign of the Four.

The College of Policing There is a huge amount of forensic expertise online about everything from knots and maggots to cadaver dogs, but the best for lending an air of authenticity is the College of Policing website which is packed with useful procedural detail.

Keep asking yourself why you are writing this book, why this is a book that no one else could ever write.

When I first started writing it was black coffee and cigarettes, but now it is green tea and chocolate.


Isabelle Grey is a crime novelist and former journalist who has also written for film, radio and television, including many popular crime dramas. Her crime series - Good Girls Don't Die, Shot Through The Heart and The Special Girls - are set in Essex and feature Detective Inspector Grace Fisher and the veteran tabloid crime reporter Ivo Sweatman. She has also written two earlier novels of psychological suspense.

Find Isabelle Grey on her website and on Twitter - @IsabelleGrey


Publisher's description
'A white trainer caught the light, and Grace tracked the beam along khaki chinos and a smeared sweatshirt to short brown hair glistening with blood.'

DI Grace Fisher investigates the murder of a young doctor working at a summer camp for young girls with eating disorders. Professor Ned Chesham, the man behind the camp deep in the Essex countryside, is hailed as a miracle worker, but the murder of one of his team throws a spotlight on his work and the 'special girls' under his care.
Grace Fisher is pulled from the murder investigation to head up a cold case review involving Chesham himself. She must tread carefully: Chesham has just been knighted, he has friends in high places and any suspicion about his work risks damaging his patients even further. But the deeper Grace probes, the clearer it becomes that there is something rotten at the heart of his treatment programme.

As Grace peels away the lies that led to the young doctor's murder and uncovers the extent of the damage done to Chesham's patients, she realises how few people want her to get to the truth. Is there anyone she can trust with the horrifying secret of the special girls?

The Special Girls was published by Quercus on 6 April 2017.

Look out for more BEST OF CRIME features coming soon.

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Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Another Woman's Husband by Gill Paul

Another Woman's Husband
By Gill Paul
Published by Headline Review (17 August 2017)

Publisher's description
Two women who challenged the Crown.
Divided by time. Bound by a secret...

Rachel's romantic break in Paris with her fiancé ends in tragedy when the car ahead crashes. Inside was Princess Diana. 
Back in Brighton, Rachel is haunted by the accident, and intrigued to learn the princess had visited the last home of Wallis, Duchess of Windsor, only hours before the crash. Soon, the discovery of a long-forgotten link to Wallis Simpson leads Rachel to the truth behind a scandal that shook the world.

At the age of fifteen, carefree Mary Kirk and indomitable Wallis Warfield meet at summer camp. Their friendship will survive heartbreaks, separation and the demands of the British Crown until it is shattered by one unforgivable betrayal...

My verdict
Another Woman's Husband provided a welcome break from all of my usual crime reads. It was a timely read too - around the 20th anniversary of Princess Diana's death.

This dual time frame novel is set in 1911 onwards and also 1997, focusing on the life of Wallis Simpson and the death of Princess Diana. This book is very much about the reaction to Diana's death, told through the eyes of Alex and Rachel in 1997, rather than about Diana's life. Wallis' story is mainly told through the eyes of her friend Mary Kirk.

I don't feel that I preferred one thread more than the other. Both were filled with believable characters that jumped out of the page, fascinating periods of history and compelling storytelling. I did find it easier to relate to the 1997 thread though, as I still remember where I was when I first heard about Princess Diana's accident.

Gill Paul certainly knows how to write a gripping story and it's clear that she also does a lot of research. This is a fascinating insight into the young woman who became Wallis Simpson, creating a national scandal, and also the public's reaction to the death of Diana, the People's Princess. Until I read this book, I didn't know much about Wallis Simpson's background (since I'm far more of a scientist than a historian). It's a clever idea to involve Alex and Rachel in the Diana story themselves, through Alex's job as a television producer making a documentary and Rachel's job as a vintage clothing shop owner. Their story provided a clever link between the two time frames.

Another Woman's Husband is a beautifully written story of loss, hope, dreams, friendship, tragedy, secrets and betrayal. It seamlessly weaves fact and fiction together to provide a perfect blend of past and present (well 1997, rather than 2017). It's an easy read, with subtle twists and turns and ups and downs, taking the reader on a journey through time.

Highly recommended!

Tuesday, 17 October 2017


Welcome to my latest MY PUBLISHING LIFE feature, an interview with a literary agent, publisher, publicist or editor about their publishing career to date. Some serious questions, and some just for fun!

Today I'm delighted to welcome 


The Ampersand Agency

What and when was your first job in publishing?
My first role in publishing was as a Contracts Assistant at HarperCollins, which I started during 2002. It was the only interview I got from around a dozen applications for entry-level positions, and I got the job! Mum was so proud. 

How long have you been working in your current job/role?
I’ve been an agent with Ampersand for just over four years.

Which books have you worked on recently/are you working on?
In the last few months I’ve been working on It Was Her, Mark Hill’s terrific follow-up to Two O’Clock Boy; a wonderful and yet-to-be-submitted real-world YA novel called Dealer No. 1, which is Billy Elliot crossed with Breaking Bad; and an upcoming sci-fi thriller called  Steel Frame featuring a conscripted convict flying her artificially intelligent mech into a black hole. This last is written by a frighteningly talented South African writer called Andrew Skinner. Keep an eye out for him… 

Which qualifications/life skills/experience have helped you get to where you are today?
My work in contracts gave me plenty: negotiation skills, attention to detail and a total absence of fear when dealing with the legal aspects of publishing. Latterly, my time as an editor confirmed what I already suspected: that working with authors to make their books better, then selling them to the wider world, is my dream job. But really, my family’s obsession with reading books then discussing them endlessly is arguably the most applicable life skill to my current role as an agent. It’s pretty much what we get paid for, which really isn’t work when you think about it. In terms of life skills, I think that resilience and determination are crucial in our job as agents. We face rejection on a regular basis, and the ability to think clearly through adversity then learn from any mistakes is hugely important. 

How do you relax after a busy working day?
In my rare moments of downtime I play amateur football (for north London’s finest, Alexandra Park FC). Although you’re never truly off the clock as an agent; there’s always another intriguing submission to read, or an editor to berate… 

What was the last book you read for pleasure?
I read Nicholas Eames’ Kings of the Wyld whilst on holiday in France this summer. It’s a brilliant fantasy novel that balances tongue-in-cheek humour with sharp, heart-melting pathos. I loved it. 

Describe your job in 15 words or less...

I help talented writers become published authors. 

What have been the highlights of your publishing life so far
The real highlights of being an agent are the simple things: hearing the excitement in an author’s voice when you tell them of an offer, finally getting the chance to pitch a spectacular new book to publishers, reading the first few lines of a submission and knowing it’s going to blow your socks off, and – best of all – holding a finished book in your hand. Those are the really good bits. 

If you could try out any other job for one day (with no limits on money, travel etc.), what would you choose?
Astronaut. Is there any other answer? 

If your publishing life was a book, what would the title be?

That’s really hard! Ok, let’s go with Tell It Like It Is. I’ve always tried to be honest and direct in my career, so that’ll do.

Thanks so much for taking part, Jamie!

Look out for more MY PUBLISHING LIFE features coming soon.

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If any literary agents, publishers, publicists or editors would like to take part, please contact me through my blog or Twitter for the full list of questions.