Monday, 31 July 2017

The Pinocchio Brief by Abi Silver

I am delighted to be today's stop on the blog tour for The Pinocchio Brief by Abi Silver. The Pinocchio Brief was published by Lightning Books on 23 July 2017.

The Pinocchio Brief
By Abi Silver
Lightning Books (Ebook - 10 July 2017; Paperback - 23 July 2017)


Publisher's description
A 15-year-old schoolboy is accused of the murder of one of his teachers. His lawyers, the guarded veteran, Judith, and the energetic young solicitor, Constance, begin a desperate pursuit of the truth, revealing uncomfortable secrets about the teacher and the school. But Judith has her own secrets which she risks exposing when it is announced that a new lie-detecting device, nicknamed Pinocchio, will be used during the trial. And is the accused, a troubled boy who loves challenges, trying to help them or not? 

My verdict
The crime market is flooded with psychological thrillers and domestic noir, so it was a welcome change to read The Pinocchio Brief, which is a courtroom drama and legal investigation.

The story centres around quirky & academically gifted 15-year-old Raymond, who has been accused of murdering his teacher at his private school. The two other main characters are his legal team - Judith (the older, experienced and more reserved one) and Constance (younger, more reckless and very enthusiastic).

Abi Silver has a great knack of describing her characters, both in terms of appearance and their thoughts and feelings. The chapters alternative between the points of view of Raymond, Judith and Constance. But, unusually, within every scene you get inside each person's head (known as head hopping). I don't often see this in crime fiction.

The premise of the novel - a lie-detecting device used in courtroom trials - is an interesting and intriguing one and instantly grabbed my attention. You can tell that the author has a legal background and is also a great researcher, as there's a lot of information packed within the pages. The book is divided into four parts, but I really found it to be a book of two parts. The first half (parts 1 and 2) contained a lot of scene setting, developing the characters and the build up to the courtroom drama. The second half (parts 3 and 4) was written at a much faster pace with lots of surprises.

Abi Silver certainly kept me guessing and knows how to plot a twisty book. I'll be interested to see what she comes up with next.

I received an Advance Reader Copy from the publisher.

Abi Silver talks about The Pinocchio Brief



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Friday, 28 July 2017

Racing Against Reality by Matthew Blakstad - Lucky Ghost Blog Tour

I'm delighted to welcome Matt Blakstad to my blog today for his Lucky Ghost blog tour, to talk about 'racing against reality'. Lucky Ghosts was published by Hodder & Stoughton on 27 July 2017. 


Racing Against Reality
By Matthew Blakstad

Photo credit: Paul Treacy


Remember when we still thought 2016 was a gruelling year? From the death of David Bowie to the pundit-defying outcome of the US presidential election, those twelve turbulent months left many of us begging for 2017 to begin. I guess we should have been careful what we wished for.

For my part, I spent last year writing my second full-length novel, Lucky Ghost. I started it on the 2nd of January 2016. (On the 1st I confess I was in no fit state.) By the time I finished the edit, Trump was president. Like my debut novel, Sockpuppet, my second book is set in the near future. It imagines a world very much like our own, only more so. A world where people go about wearing digital veils known as Mesh, which coat their worlds in comforting virtual illusions. They call this augmented reality The Strange.

Here’s the thing about writing a story set in the near future: you need to keep your eyes closely trained on the present. As we all know, it takes months – or even years – for a finished novel to make it into bookshops, by which time the world can have shifted in fundamental ways. Leaving the author’s bleeding-edge vision of the future looking as hackneyed as a 1970’s space opera. The risk is low for authors lucky enough to live in stable times. Right now, though, world events are moving faster than an Eastenders storyline – and they’re quite a bit less plausible. In times like these, the writer can end up in a race against reality.

As I wrote Lucky Ghost, real-world events began to accelerate ever faster, forcing me into constant revisions. I became a bit like Gromit, frantically constructing a toy railway line, split seconds before his train runs over it. In June, for instance, when the EU referendum result came in, I realised that the future I was writing about needed to be one where Brexit had already happened. Ideas about separation – both inside our society, and between Britain and the wider world – began to write themselves into my story. The Syrian crisis, which was already displacing hundreds of thousands of people onto the European continent, threw out the backstory of one of my protagonists, a troubled young hacker with the online handle Thimblerig. Then came the US election campaign, and the vicious spate of online attacks that plagued it. Attacks that originated in Russia and other former soviet nations. Inside my story, these events helped shape the Belarusian extortion syndicate that wages a digital attack on Britain. Even 2016’s spate of celebrity deaths, and its impact on our national mood, found an analogue in the novel.

Yet in spite of all these conscious responses to an ever-bleaker supply of news, it was only in February of this year, as I read through the typeset page proofs of Lucky Ghost, that I spotted the most glaring mark that 2016 had left on my story. As I picked my way through the final typeset pages – a painstaking but immensely rewarding part of the publication process – I realised that the book’s central metaphor, of people who choose to live inside inside a comforting, illusory version of reality, was not some fanciful futuristic conceit. it was exactly what had been going on around me as I wrote.
In a time of carefully-targeted fake news, where everyone from Russian hackers to mainstream political campaigns are barraging us with their own preferred versions of reality; where we’re spending ever more of our time in digital cocoons that show us only the things we already believe to be true; where the divides in our culture have become so starkly drawn that two people’s view of the self-same event can be irreconcilably different – in this environment, what else could I have chosen to write about, but deadly digital illusions, and the willing consumers of alternative facts we all risk becoming?

Lucky Ghost is a conspiracy thriller for a time when a large part of the world’s population prefers conspiracy theories to facts. Maybe, in the end, my book has at last caught up with the world around it. Time will tell who’s first to cross the finish line.

About Matthew Blakstad

Matthew Blakstad’s first career was as a professional child actor. From the age of ten, he had roles in TV dramas on the BBC and ITV, in films and at theatres including the Royal Court. After graduating from Oxford with a degree in Mathematics and Philosophy, he began a career in online communications, consulting for a range of clients from the BBC to major banks. Since 2008, he has been in public service, using his communication skills to help people understand and manage their money.

Find Matthew on his website and Facebook page and follow him on Twitter - @mattblak

About Lucky Ghost

Lucky Ghost
By Matthew Blakstad
Published by Hodder (27 July 2017)




Publisher's description
Early one morning, blogger Alex Kubelick walks up to a total stranger and slaps him across the face. Hard.
He smiles.
They've both just earned Emoticoin, in a new, all-consuming game that trades real-life emotions for digital currency. Emoticoin is changing the face of the economy - but someone or something is controlling it for their own, dangerous ends.
As Alex picks apart the tangled threads that hold the virtual game together she finds herself on the run from very real enemies. It seems only one person has the answers she seeks. Someone who hides behind the name 'Lucky Ghost'.
But Lucky Ghost will only talk to a young hacker called Thimblerig - the online troll who's been harassing Alex for months.
Will Lucky Ghost lead Alex and Thimblerig to the answers they seek - or to their deaths? 

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Thursday, 27 July 2017

BEST OF CRIME with Lucy V Hay

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 

LUCY V HAY

for her The Other Twin blog tour

to share her BEST OF CRIME ...



... AUTHORS
I can have only one?? Blimey. I love most crime fiction, but I’m especially into psychological thriller. So I think my favourite author has to be ... Arrrrgh! You fiend. Don’t make me choooose! I refuse. *Harumph*. Let’s just say I love them all!


... FILMS/MOVIES
I love thriller, plus I work as a script editor for movies too, so it’s a no-brainer. I love crime, gangster, apocalypse/dystopian, supernatural – ALL OF THEM! Okay I’m being quite dull, aren’t I so let’s say Alien is my favourite. It’s a classic!


... TV DRAMAS
I loved Prisoner Cell Block H as a kid – it was a real thrill to watch a TV show with women dominating the screen. Now it’s remade as Wentworth Prison and it’s just as gritty, flamboyant and hard-hitting as ever. I can’t believe it doesn’t have a bigger following in the UK, it’s amazing! Watch it on Channel 5’s 5Star channel – the fifth series has just begun.


... FICTIONAL KILLERS
Hannibal the Cannibal is a classic, but I think the one that comes to mind now that knocks him off his top spot is Adam from Barbara Copperthwaite’s Flowers For The Dead. I couldn’t believe I empathised with this guy! I also adored the formidable and terrifying Caleb Switch in Arlene Hunt’s Last One To Die. The sting in the tale for that one was just delicious. As far as female killers go, I don’t think we have enough of them, but Amy Dunne from Gone Girl is just fantastic. She will stop at NOTHING to get what she wants!


... FICTIONAL DETECTIVES 
Gotta be DS Joanne Aspinall from Paula Daly’s crime series set in Lake Windemere (Just What Kind Of Mother Are You?; Keep Your Friends Close; The Mistake I Made; The Trophy Child). I love how ‘ordinary’ she is; a real ‘everywoman’ with problems and flaws like any one of us. She’s clever, insightful and has a sharp eye; plus she’s not EXTRAORDINARY like so many female leads are forced to be. Also, her issues with romance and her overly large bust don’t define her. She is what she is and that’s so RARE in a female character. 


... MURDER WEAPONS
Anyone who can kill someone with an icicle like Jack Frost in Marnie Riches’ The Girl Who Walked In The Shadows gets a big THUMBS UP from me! A murder weapon that handily disappears?? Bonus.
    

... DEATH SCENES
As someone who grew up in the 80s, this has to be Bugs Bunny’s ‘death’ at the hands of Elmer Fudd in the MARCH OF THE VALKYRIES Looney Tunes’ adaptation of Wagner’s classic opera. No idea what I’m on about? It’s ‘KILL THE RABBIT! KILL THE RABBIT!’ of course. Poor little bunny, indeed.

... BLOGS/WEBSITES
I run my own writing website, Bang2write, so this means I have to ‘keep up’ with other writing blogs and sites, especially ones that are screenwriting-based. Screenwriting theory has been very useful to me as a crime author, so my favourite is probably Screencraft. But there’s stacks more: The Script Lab, Write So Fluid, Go Into The Story to name but a few.


... WRITING TIPS
People often posit whether character or structure are more important – I say they’re inextricably linked. You can’t have one without the other, regardless of medium, because we want stories about ‘characters who DO STUFF [for various reasons]’.  


... WRITING SNACKS
Chocolate. Which types of chocolate depends though … I go through phases. At the moment, I am eating my body weight in Toblerone. I am still outraged by the smaller size of the triangles thou



About LUCY V HAY

Lucy V Hay is a novelist, script editor and blogger who helps writers. Lucy is the producer of two Brit Thrillers, DEVIATION (2012) and ASSASSIN (2015). Her debut crime novel, THE OTHER TWIN, is due out with Orenda Books in 2017. 

Find Lucy V Hay on her website, FB page and on Twitter - @LucyVHayAuthor


About THE OTHER TWIN


Publisher's description
When India falls to her death from a bridge over a railway, her sister Poppy returns home to Brighton for the first time in years. Unconvinced by official explanations, Poppy begins her own investigation into India's death. But the deeper she digs, the closer she comes to uncovering deeply buried secrets. Could Matthew Temple, the boyfriend she abandoned, be involved? And what of his powerful and wealthy parents, and his twin sister, Ana? Enter the mysterious and ethereal Jenny: the girl Poppy discovers after hacking into India's laptop. What is exactly is she hiding, and what did India find out about her? Taking the reader on a breathless ride through the winding lanes of Brighton, into its vibrant party scene and inside the homes of its well- heeled families, The Other Twin is a startling and up-to-the-minute thriller about the social-media world, where resentments and accusations are played out online, where identities are made and remade, and where there is no such thing as truth ...

The Other Twin was published by Orenda Books on 3 July 2017.


Look out for more BEST OF CRIME features coming soon.

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Tuesday, 25 July 2017

BEST OF CRIME with SD Sykes

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 

SD SYKES

to share her BEST OF CRIME ...




... AUTHORS
It’s so difficult to pick one author, but I’m going to say CJ Sansom, as his Shardlake series introduced me to the pleasures of historical crime fiction, and the interplay between real historical figures such as Thomas Cromwell and Henry VIII and Sansom’s fascinating range of fictional characters.


... FILMS/MOVIES
A film that has stuck in mind, since I first saw it back in 1985 is Jagged Edge. What I loved about this film was the final turn – I really hadn’t seen it coming and I’ve never forgotten that feeling of complete shock and yet simultaneous understanding, as the plot fell horribly into place. I saw the film again recently, and to be honest, it hasn’t worn that well. My twenty-something son guessed the ending very early in the film, so perhaps audiences are more attuned to final twists now? But I remember, in my 1980s innocence, loving this film very much.


... TV DRAMAS
I finally caught up with The Bridge recently (the Swedish version). The first series is probably the best crime drama I have ever watched on TV. A plot line that brims with suspense and complex characterization, and a series climax that really delivers. This is epic writing. It’s original. It’s shocking and moving, and yes, at times it’s very funny.


... FICTIONAL KILLERS
This has to be Tom Ripley from The Talented Mr Ripley by Patricia Highsmith. Ripley is systematic, cold-blooded and without a conscience. He uses murder as a way of solving his problems, in a way that a normal person might write a letter of complaint or make an angry phone call. He never seems to regret his murders – his only concern is to elude detection. He is a dangerous, ruthless psychopath, but oddly we find ourselves almost rooting for him throughout the book, especially as his victims are portrayed as privileged and arrogant rich boys.


... FICTIONAL DETECTIVES 
Saga Noren from the Bridge. She is so brave and uncompromising, and yet remains rather vulnerable. I particularly love her bluntness and her disregard for social niceties.  There is no filter when she speaks to others, and this can be both a great strength as she drives her investigations forward, but also a weakness, as she often alienates those in her team. 


... MURDER WEAPONS
A book that I very much loved was The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold.

(Spoiler alert coming up)

As a girl, Susie is raped and murdered by a sinister loner who has lured her into his trap – a tent in a field. We don’t lose Susie at this point, as she remains the narrator of the book – as a ghost, or perhaps a spirit, following her murderer for years, until she discovers him about to attack another girl. Though unable to take physical form, Susie somehow dislodges a row of long icicles that knock this man off balance, causing him to fall into snowy ravine. He dies immediately and his body will not be discovered for months. It is very sweet revenge indeed.
    

... DEATH SCENES
A scene that sticks with me is from The Talented Mr Ripley. Following an argument, Ripley has bludgeoned Dickie to death in a rented row boat, and then has to dispose of both the body and the boat. He throws Dickie’s body into the sea, weighed down by an oar and then abandons the boat on a remote and rocky stretch of coastline. Ripley is panicked initially, but then coldly methodical in his actions, walking back through the town at night in his swimming trunks, as if this was the most normal thing in the world. He knows that drawing attention to himself at this point could be his downfall, so he holds his nerve with incredible resolution.
  

... BLOGS/WEBSITES
I’m going to admit to being a fan of Wikipedia. It’s a great place to start your research (though it absolutely should not be where your research ends!) I also love www.medievalists.com which publishes essays on such niche, but nevertheless fascinating, subjects as lapdogs in the fourteenth century through to the contribution of medieval physicians to the field of cardiovascular medicine. I also enjoy LitHub.com for topical and sometimes provocative discussion.


... WRITING TIPS
Write without fear – it is always better to get something down than to stare at a blank page. And keep moving forward, as premature editing can kill a novel. Then, when once you’ve written something that you’re happy with, try to put it away for a while before you look at it again. Now you will read your work with fresh eyes, as it will seem as if somebody else has written it – meaning that you can then edit dispassionately, without any attachments to your favourite bits. As they say, kill your darlings!


... WRITING SNACKS
Very strong coffee at 9am, and then Haribo sweets and tea. Lots of tea!


About SD SYKES
SD Sykes is the writer of the Oswald de Lacy historical crime fiction series. She is a graduate of Manchester University and has an MA in Writing from Sheffield Hallam. She lives in Kent with her husband and two dogs. Her latest novel, City of Masks, is the third book in the series, after Plague Land and The Butcher Bird.

Find SD Sykes on her website and on Twitter - @SD_Sykes


About CITY OF MASKS



Publisher's description
1358. Oswald de Lacy, Lord Somershill, is in Venice, awaiting a pilgrim galley to the Holy Land. While the city is under siege from the Hungarians, Oswald lodges with an English merchant, and soon comes under the dangerous spell of the decadent and dazzling island state that sits on the hinge of Europe, where East meets West.
Oswald is trying to flee the chilling shadow of something in his past, but when he finds a dead man on the night of the carnival, he is dragged into a murder investigation that takes him deep into the intrigues of this mysterious, paranoid city.
Coming up against the feared Signori di Notte, the secret police, Oswald learns that he is not the only one with something to hide. Everybody is watching somebody else, and nobody in Venice is what he or she seems. The masks are not just for the carnival. 

City of Masks was published by Hodder & Stoughton on 13 July 2017.


Look out for more BEST OF CRIME features coming soon.

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Monday, 24 July 2017

BEST OF CRIME with Caz Frear

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 

CAZ FREAR

to share her BEST OF CRIME ... 




... AUTHORS
It’s so hard to pick just one but if I base it on who has me clawing at the bookshop door on the day of publication, it would have to be Tana French.  I’ve read In the Woods that many times that my copy isn’t so much well-thumbed as battered-to-shreds.  I should probably get a shiny new copy but it would be like washing your childhood comfort blanket, it just wouldn’t feel the same…. 


... FILMS/MOVIES
I love anything gangster-related but it needs to have heart rather than simply being two hours of ‘very-bad-people-do-very-bad-things’.  Donnie Brasco, starring Johnny Depp and Al Pacino, is a near-perfect example of this.  For me, the film belongs to Pacino – his portrayal of an aging bit-part gangster, a man on the fringes who never got near the power or wealth that he craved, is sublime.  The final few scenes when he realizes……well I won’t spoil it…..let’s just say it’s an amazing performance, so full of pathos, and it really should have bagged him his second Oscar IMO! 


... TV DRAMAS
Mmmm, Prime Suspect 1 or Line of Duty??  *Pulls thinking face.  Prime Suspect, I think.  I first watched it when I was 13 and I was instantly blown away.  THAT moment at the end, when George Marlow loses his rag in the interview room and Tennison finally knows it’s him, actually winded me.  I’ll never forget it.  I must have watched it twenty-thirty times since and I’m fairly sure I can recite the whole thing, word-perfect.  In fact, scrap ‘fairly sure’, I know I can! 


... FICTIONAL KILLERS
I’m going to go with the Coen Brothers/Javier Bardem’s interpretation of Anton Chigurh in No Country for Old Men.  I’ll sheepishly admit that I haven’t read the book and I’m not sure I could now, Javier Bardem’s performance is just so engrained in my mind.  As a killer he’s just so relentless, slaying practically everyone he meets without a shred of mercy or remorse.  And the hair - only a true psychopath would rock that long bowl-cut. 


... FICTIONAL DETECTIVES
Back to Tana French again but I absolutely love Detective Cassie Maddox who features in two of her novels, In the Woods and The Likeness.  She’s just so normal in a whip-smart, witty, wholly compassionate kind of way.  It’s also for this reason that I love DS Manon Bradshaw from Susie Steiner’s, Missing Presumed and I can’t wait for the follow-up.  Peter Robinson’s DCI Banks is also a big fave – never better than in Aftermath which is a master-class in crime fiction.

And obviously Superintendent Ted Hastings from Line of Duty.  Who doesn’t love him? 


... MURDER WEAPONS
Death by typewriter – Stephen King’s, Misery. 
    

... DEATH SCENES
It has to be Brendan Gleeson’s leap from the top of the bell-tower at the end of In Bruges.   Gleeson’s character jumps to his death in order to save the life of much younger hitman, Ray, and his face expresses so much in his last 10 seconds – panic, resolve, regret.  It’s an incredibly moving end to a cracker of a film. 
  

... BLOGS/WEBSITES
Sword & Scale – a true crime podcast.  They’re up to episode 91 now so you could literally lose a week of your life listening to this.  Definitely not for the faint-hearted though – nothing is taboo and a few of the episodes are particularly hard-going.  Like most authors, I visit Google about a hundred times a day, all in the name of research.  And Twitter, all in the name of procrastination.  


... WRITING TIPS
Join a writing group, a creative writing class, anything that gets you feedback.  It’s a tricky one though - you have to be very open to feedback but also know how to filter it because at the end of the day, no one knows your book better than you.  A very obvious tip is that if the whole group/class is saying that there’s an issue with your protagonist/plot/prologue, then there probably is.  However, if only one or two people raise it, it’s something to think about but not necessarily act on. 


... WRITING SNACKS
Tea and peanut M&Ms.  Water and sugar-snap peas if I’m trying to be good.  It all depends what’s in the house, really – I have been known to dip mini Shredded Wheats in Nutella because I was deep in rewrites and didn’t have time to shop…. 


About CAZ FREAR
Caz grew up in Coventry and spent her teenage years dreaming of moving to London and writing a novel.
After fulfilling her first dream, it wasn’t until she moved back to Coventry thirteen years later that the writing dream finally came true.
She has a first-class degree in History & Politics which she’s put to enormous use over the years by working as a waitress, a shop assistant, a retail merchandiser and, for the past twelve years, a headhunter. When she’s not agonising over snappy dialogue or incisive prose, she can be found shouting at the TV when Arsenal are playing or holding court in the pub on topics she knows nothing about.
Caz is the winner of the Richard & Judy Search for a Bestseller Award 2017.

Find Caz Frear on Twitter - @CazziF


About SWEET LITTLE LIES




Publisher's description
What happens when the trust has gone?
Cat Kinsella was always a daddy's girl. Until the summer of 1998 when she sees her father flirting with seventeen-year-old Maryanne Doyle.
When Maryanne later disappears and Cat's father denies ever knowing her, Cat's relationship with him is changed forever.
Eighteen years later, Cat is now a Detective Constable with the Met. Called to the scene of a murder in Islington, she discovers a woman's body: Alice Lapaine has been found strangled, not far from the pub that Cat's father runs.
When evidence links Alice to the still missing Maryanne, all Cat's fears about her father resurface. Could he really be a killer? Determined to confront the past and find out what really happened to Maryanne all those years ago, Cat begins to dig into the case. But the problem with looking into the past is that sometimes you might not like what you find. 

Sweet Little Lies was published by Bonnier Zaffre on 29 June 2017.


Look out for more BEST OF CRIME features coming soon.

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