Thursday, 20 July 2017

BEST OF CRIME with Chris Curran

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 

CHRIS CURRAN

to share her BEST OF CRIME ...

 

... AUTHORS
If I have to pick just one author then it’s Cathi Unsworth because she is a writer I always recommend to friends and one who I think should be better known. Her novels are set in the recent past and they have a dark and dirty glamour that is utterly compelling.  Along with the kind of sharp writing and twisty plots that characterize the best crime novels they also have that elusive quality – real heart. 


... FILMS/MOVIES
I’m fascinated by how our memories function, or fail to function, and all my books so far have featured characters struggling with some aspect of memory. So a film that really resonates with me is Memento. It’s a brilliantly constructed story that takes a fairly standard idea – a protagonist trying to track down his wife’s killer – and turns it into something incredibly rich and complex. The twist is that the hero suffers from what’s called anterograde amnesia brought on by the trauma of the attack. He is unable to form new memories and suffers short-term memory loss every few minutes. It’s a film that plays with the viewer’s own perceptions of how time works and I’d recommend watching it on DVD because it rewards multiple viewings. 


... TV DRAMAS
I was completely hooked by Happy Valley.  It makes a refreshing change to have a uniformed police officer, who is also a woman, at the centre of a crime drama. Instead of a crumpled male loner, Sarah Lancashire is totally convincing as the matriarch of an extended family and the moral heart of her local community. The series has everything: a terrifying villain, heartbreaking tragedy and a sprinkling of black humour.    


... FICTIONAL KILLERS
My favourite Christie novel is the standalone mystery written in the 1960s: Endless Night. In order not to give the game away I’ll just say that the killer in the book is one I find very intriguing. 


... FICTIONAL DETECTIVES 
C.J. Sansom’s Matthew Shardlake is a lawyer practising during the reign of Henry V111. Like so many great fictional detectives he is an outsider. A hunchback at a time when such a disability is regarded with suspicion and disgust, Matthew bears his frequent humiliations with admirable fortitude always trying to do his best for his ordinary clients at the same time as attempting, usually unsuccessfully, to avoid getting tangled up with the royals and their entourage. 


... MURDER WEAPONS
Like many real murderers from her era, Agatha Christie uses poison very creatively. In Dumb Witness the victim is killed by phosphorus and her dying breath appears as a cloud of vapour that the witnesses imagine is her soul escaping from her body. 
    

... DEATH SCENES
Mark Billingham’s villain in Sleepyhead doesn’t want to kill his victims, but to render them helpless forever. After some false starts, where the women die, he succeeds with Alison and his attack leaves her with locked-in syndrome. As readers we are allowed into her thoughts and discover that she is a vibrant and courageous girl. Only able to blink, she nevertheless helps detective Tom Thorne to identify her attacker. But she has no hope of recovery and realizes that the only way she can outwit the villain is to frustrate his desire for her to stay alive. The final pages are incredibly moving. 
  

... BLOGS/WEBSITES
A blog I always find inspiring is Lizzy Kremer’s Publishing For Humans. It appears on occasional Mondays and is a series of beautifully written musings on writing from a successful literary agent (not my agent by the way).



... WRITING TIPS
Monotonous but satisfying chores are perfect for solving plotting problems providing you don’t actively think about them and instead let solutions float up from the unconscious. I find ironing is effective in cold weather and some mindless gardening, like weeding or grass cutting in the summer.  


... WRITING SNACKS
Endless mugs of Earl Grey tea and the occasional slice of toast with crunchy peanut butter. 


About CHRIS CURRAN

Chris Curran was born in London but now lives in St Leonards-on-Sea near Hastings, on the south coast of England, in a house groaning with books. She left school at sixteen to work in the local library – her dream job then and now – and spent an idyllic few months reading her way around the shelves. Reluctantly returning to full-time education, she gained her degree from Sussex University. Since then she has worked as an actress, script writer, copy editor and teacher, all the time looking forward to the day when she would see her own books gracing those library shelves.

Find Chris Curran on her website, FB page and on Twitter - @Christi_Curran


About HER DEADLY SECRET



Publisher's description
A young girl has been taken. Abducted, never to be seen again.
Joe and Hannah, her traumatized parents, are consumed by grief. But all is not as it seems behind the curtains of their suburban home.
Loretta, the Family Liaison Officer, is sure Hannah is hiding something – a dark and twisted secret from deep in her past.
This terrible memory could be the key to the murder of another girl fifteen years ago. And as links between the two victims emerge, Joe and Hannah learn that in a family built on lies, the truth can destroy everything… 

Her Deadly Secret was published by Killer Reads on 21 July 2017.


Look out for more BEST OF CRIME features coming soon.

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Tuesday, 11 July 2017

BEST OF CRIME with Gillian McAllister

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 

GILLIAN MCALLISTER

to share her BEST OF CRIME ... 


  


... AUTHORS
Susie Steiner wins this for me. I don’t think a book has ever affected me so much. Rich in tone and humour, empathetic characterization, a true police procedural. It is a masterclass in how to write a smart and classy thriller.


... FILMS/MOVIES
I love a closed-set thriller and so I am going to go for Captain Phillips. I love the single aim of it (survival) and the single location, told almost in real-time. I’m a sucker for films like that.


... TV DRAMAS
The Fall was pretty much perfect, to me, especially the earlier seasons. I loved the reverse-perspective, from the villain’s point of view, and I loved the depth of Gillian Anderson’s character. Not a cliché in sight.


... FICTIONAL KILLERS
Perhaps Joe Goldberg from Caroline Kepnes’ series, beginning with YOU. His voice is so very distinctive, full of intelligent literary references, angst, disordered but really quite charming thoughts.


... FICTIONAL DETECTIVES
Sorry for the repetition, but Manon Bradshaw of Missing, Presumed and Persons Unknown takes this prize for me.


... MURDER WEAPONS
My friend G X Todd wrote a book called Defender where the weapon (and the apocalypse) comes from within, in the form of voices. That was pretty perfect.
    

... DEATH SCENES
The denoument in Into the Darkest Corner was one of the best I have ever read. No spoilers, so I’ll leave it there.


... BLOGS/WEBSITES
Interesting! I mostly use people to be honest. The author Neil White is of huge assistance to me!


... WRITING TIPS
  • Write most days, and be a tough boss: don’t let yourself phone it in too often.
  • Have a brief outline if you’re a newbie
  • Forgive yourself a rubbish first draft
  • Write a book. Sounds obvious, but aspiring writers are often looking for a way around this unavoidable fact: if you want to write a book, you must simply go through the mind-numbingly tedious, terrifying and arduous process of writing a book. 

... WRITING SNACKS
Tea, endless streams of cups of tea. And sharing bags of chocolates, shared with nobody.


About GILLIAN MCALLISTER

Gillian McAllister wrote the Sunday Times bestseller Everything But The Truth. She is a lawyer by day. She enjoys writing while it's raining outside, and the moment where you think 'what if...' and a novel idea is born. 

Find Gillian McAllister on her website, FB page and on Twitter - @GillianMAuthor

About EVERYTHING BUT THE TRUTH




Publisher's description
Do you ever check your partner's phone? 
Should you? 
Are you prepared for the consequences?
Everything but the Truth is Gillian McAllister's stunning breakthrough thriller about deceit, betrayal and one woman's compulsive need to uncover the truth
It all started with the email.
Rachel didn't even mean to look. She loves Jack and she's pregnant with their child. She trusts him.
But now she's seen it, she can't undo that moment. Or the chain of events it has set in motion.
Why has Jack been lying about his past? Just what exactly is he hiding? And doesn't Rachel have a right to know the truth at any cost? 

Everything but the Truth was published by Penguin on 9 March 2017.


Look out for more BEST OF CRIME features coming soon.

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Monday, 10 July 2017

Do Not Become Alarmed by Maile Meloy - Blog Tour Review

I am delighted to be today's stop on the blog tour for Do Not Become Alarmed by Maile Meloy. Do Not Become Alarmed was published by Viking (Penguin) on 6 July 2017. 

Do Not Become Alarmed
By Maile Meloy
Published by Viking (6 July 2017)


Publisher's description
When Liv and Nora decide to take their husbands and children on a holiday cruise, everyone is thrilled. The ship's comforts and possibilities seem infinite. But when they all go ashore in beautiful Central America, a series of minor mishaps lead the families further from the ship's safety. 
One minute the children are there, and the next they're gone.
What follows is a heart-racing story told from the perspectives of the adults and the children, as the distraught parents - now turning on one another and blaming themselves - try to recover their children and their shattered lives. 

My verdict
Do Not Become Alarmed is well written literary fiction, focusing on parents' reactions to the disappearance of their children on an excursion trip during a two week cruise. The book highlights corruption, drugs and murder within Central America, so has some dark underlying themes.

The events are told from the perspectives of the parents and the children. I enjoyed the children's version of the events far more than the parents', finding it difficult to sympathise with, and warm to, the adults. I didn't find the book particularly emotional. However, I was intrigued enough to keep reading to find out what happened to the children and families by the end.

The families involved are all wealthy and successful. One key message from the plot seemed to be that wealth can't buy you commonsense, happiness or breeding, judging from the parents' behaviour. I wasn't totally sure why one particular thread was there, other than to show the rich-poor divide.

This book is marketed as a 'heart-racing' story, but I didn't find this to be the case. Instead, I found it to be a slow burner, focusing on family dynamics and changing friendships when dealing with every parent's worst nightmare. It took me a few chapters to get into the story, possibly because I was expecting something else - but once I realised this wasn't going to be a fast-paced read with lots of twists and turns, I focused on the vivid descriptions and atmospheric setting.

I suspect that readers who love fast-paced thrillers may be disappointed. And I also suspect that this could be a marmite book for the summer season - people may either love it or hate it, depending on their expectations.

Follow the Blog Tour


Friday, 7 July 2017

BEST OF CRIME with Colette McBeth

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 

COLETTE MCBETH

to share her BEST OF CRIME ... 




... AUTHORS
I’m a huge fan of Liz Nugent’s work, she has a knack of making you feel sympathy for some pretty despicable characters! And there’s a wonderful dark humour to her writing. If you haven’t read Unravelling Oliver yet then you really should, it’s one of a kind. And Missing, Presumed by Susie Steiner was one of the best books I read in the last year, although I did hate her a little for writing so well. Finally, everyone should read Dangerous Crossing by Rachel Rhys this summer because it is glorious treat of a novel.


... FILMS/MOVIES
Silence of the Lambs. Those teeth!! I couldn’t sleep for weeks afterwards. But the characterization in the film was phenomenal, that was made it stand out, not all the gore or violence. Just a character who could get right under your skin and stay there for a long while afterwards.


... TV DRAMAS
I recently finished watching Big Little Lies which I thought was TV at its best, one of those programmes that turns out to be so much more than you expect. I’d read the book, but this was a rare case of the screen adaptation being even better (for me at least.) We’re also big fans of House of Cards in our house. Although Trump’s presidency has made everything look tame.


... FICTIONAL KILLERS
I read Fiona Cummins' Rattle late last year and I have to say she created one of the most unnerving, unsettling serial killers I have ever come across. Also Cady, in Cape Fear, the way he keeps coming back no matter what you through at him. I think it’s the mix of intellect and knowledge and a psychopathic personality that is so potent.


... FICTIONAL DETECTIVES
Dempsey and Makepeace. I’m probably showing my age here but it was one of the first police shows I was allowed to watch. I wanted Makepeace’s wardrobe, I can’t say I was all that interested in the crime fighting side of things. I also grew up readying Nancy Drew. It’s probably thanks to her that from an early age I tried to find a mystery in everything.


... MURDER WEAPONS
The deep fat fryer in Spooks, where the bad guy puts Lisa Faulkner’s head into the pan. Does that count? I remember watching it thinking, no, he’s not going to do that… surely he can’t… oh look, he is! It still gives me the heebie jeebies.


... BLOGS/WEBSITES
I don’t use one specific site for research, but my search history isn’t pretty. For research I hunt experts down and threaten to kill them off in a book if they don’t help me. It’s amazing how receptive they are. But seriously, I’ve found people are extremely helpful as long as you don’t demand anything, and the level of research varies a lot from book to book. With my debut Precious Thing I had very little to do as part of it was set in a newsroom and I’d spent all my career working in them. With The Life I Left Behind I relied on a group of about four or five experts to hold my hand. They were phenomenally generous with their time.


... WRITING TIPS
I’m at the stage of booking writing where I wish I could give myself some tips! It doesn’t get any easier. One thing that makes authors groan is when people say, I’d love to write a book but I haven’t got time.’ No one has time. Quit watching TV, say no to invitations, become a hermit. Great books have been written in 20 minutes chunks on a Tube, it’s more a question of how much you want it.
Also, know what your story is, and by that I don’t mean a synopsis of the plot, I mean the essence of it, its beating heart.


... WRITING SNACKS
This very much depends on the time of the day because I pretty much eat continuously. Mid morning and I’m still delusionally healthy so I’ll graze on fruit but by afternoon I’m mainlining the dark chocolate, any gluten free biscuits or cake I can get my hands on. If I’m working in the evening I call in the heavies; crisps, nuts and wine (one glass otherwise I can’t write.) It’s no wonder that by the end of a book I have to prize my backside out of the chair.


About COLETTE MCBETH
Colette spent more than a decade at the BBC, working as a national television news correspondent. She spent much of her time covering crime stories, hiding out inside The Old Bailey and did a stint as a political correspondent at Westminster. 
Previously, she worked as a news editor at Sky News and started her career as a trainee journalist on The Journal in Newcastle. 
Although she’s Scottish, she moved to England as a child and grew up in Whitley Bay on the North East coast. After living in London for too long, she finally persuaded her family to move bedside the seaside. She know lives in Hove with her husband and three children. 

Find Colette McBeth on her website, FB page and on Twitter - @colettemcbeth


About AN ACT OF SILENCE




Publisher's description
These are the facts I collect.
My son Gabriel met a woman called Mariela in a bar. She went home with him. They next morning she was found in an allotment.
Mariela is dead.
Gabriel has been asked to report to Camden Police station in six hours for questioning
Linda Moscow loves her son; it's her biological instinct to keep him safe. But if she's not sure of his innocence, how can she stand by him? Should she go against everything she believes in to protect him?
She's done it before, and the guilt nearly killed her.
Now, the past is catching up with them. As old secrets resurface, Lind is faced with another impossible choice. Only this time, it's her life on the line...

An Act of Silence was published by Wildfire on 29 June 2017.


Look out for more BEST OF CRIME features coming soon.

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Thursday, 6 July 2017

BEST OF CRIME with Gilly Macmillan

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 

GILLY MACMILLAN


to share her BEST OF CRIME ... 




... AUTHORS
It’s so difficult to choose one author but James Lee Burke wins the day. His Dave Robicheaux books pull you into the world of Louisiana crime and rarely let you come up for air. Burke’s prose can be spare and beautiful, sometimes even poetic like the some of the best crime writers, yet he writes unflinchingly about the most brutal of events and takes you right into the heads and hearts of his characters. At his best, his books have a page-turning intensity that’s hard to match.


... FILMS/MOVIES
Fargo. I’ve loved the movie for years and really enjoyed the recent TV remake, too. The combination of top class characterization and performance, brilliant direction, action from both criminal and law enforcement points of view, elements of a classic detective murder mystery and darkest possible comedy is genius.


... TV DRAMAS
True Detective (Series 1). It’s ultra-classy. The setting, cinematography and soundtrack are pitch perfect, but what gripped me most was the relationship between the two detectives that played out both past and present. It’s a complex, difficult and fascinating relationship that occasionally feels as brutal as the crime itself.


... FICTIONAL KILLERS
It’s not strictly a crime series, but when Kevin Spacey’s character, Frank Underwood, first kills in House of Cards it’s shocking. Frank Underwood is one of the most cold-blooded, ambitious, calculating and, on the surface, surprising killers I’ve ever come across. That he holds such power and will stop at nothing to maintain or increase it provokes a very visceral fear in me.


... FICTIONAL DETECTIVES

Friedrich Dürrenmatt’s detective, Matthäi, is a favourite. Matthäi appears in his novel The Pledge which is tellingly subtitled Requiem for the Detective Novel. Matthäi is an exceptional detective but the story of his investigation into the murders of young girls in The Pledge is a tough one. Dürrenmatt felt that crime fiction was too often neat and tidy in offering up a resolution to a case so long as the detective followed a series of logical steps, a bit like doing a mathematical equation. 
Spoiler alert! In The Pledge, Dürrenmatt sets out to provide an alternative type of crime novel. After we follow Matthäi through the years and witness his increasingly desperate attempts to resolve the investigation, the ending of the book reveals it was a freak automobile accident that prevented him from catching the killer. A twist of fate ensured that he never had a chance. Dürrenmatt’s depiction of Matthäi is a brilliant character study of a man whose determination, brilliance, gut instinct and dedication to solving this crime ultimately prove futile and self-destructive. The story is unflinching, very human and gritty with reality. 


... MURDER WEAPONS
Spoiler alert! In Roald Dahl’s short story Lamb to the Slaughter, the victim is killed by his wife who delivers a blow to his head with a frozen leg of lamb. Later the same day, she cooks the lamb and serves it to the detectives investigating the case. They are friends of her husband. As he chews his meat and they discuss the murder weapon, one of the detectives says, ‘It’s probably right under our very noses.’ In the room next door, the killer overhears. She giggles. It’s extremely creepy and a brilliant idea.


... DEATH SCENES
The murder scene that’s at the core of His Bloody Project by Graeme McCrae Burnett is horrific. It’s visited and revisited a few times by different characters throughout the book who testify as to what they saw or heard, and ultimately by the murderer himself in a first person account of the scene that’s unbearably desperate and brutal.
  

... BLOGS/WEBSITES
It’s not strictly a blog or a website, but I’m addicted to true crime podcasts so I’d like to pick one of my favourites: Australian True Crime. Presented by journalists/authors Emily Webb and Meschel Lauri the podcast claims to: ‘Go beyond the news cycle to find out how people become killers, how people become victims, and what happens next,’ and it delivers. I can’t get enough of it.


... WRITING TIPS
Pay attention to all the different elements in a novel. Writing fiction is a craft that needs honing, but remember that only one question really matters whenever you make a creative decision or write a paragraph: ‘Will the reader want to keep on turning pages?’ As an obsessive reader myself, I believe it’s the single most important thing a book can deliver, no matter what the genre.


... WRITING SNACKS
Lindt pistachio dark chocolate. A square (or two, usually leading to four) when my energy dips low. Rationed (in theory) to one bar per week (never happens).


About GILLY MACMILLAN
Gilly Macmillan is the New York Times bestselling author of What She Knew (previously published as Burnt Paper Sky) and The Perfect Girl. Her third novel, Odd Child Out, will be published in October 2017. Gilly is Edgar Award nominated and an International Thriller Writers award finalist. She’s published in over twenty languages. Her books have appeared on the New York Times, Globe & Mail and Der Spiegel bestseller lists.
Gilly lives in Bristol, UK with her husband, three children and two dogs and writes full time. She’s currently working on her fourth novel.

Find Gilly Macmillan on her website, FB page and on Twitter - @GillyMacmillan


About Odd Child Out



Publisher's description

How well do you know the people you love...?
Best friends Noah Sadler and Abdi Mahad have always been inseparable. But when Noah is found floating unconscious in Bristol's Feeder Canal, Abdi can't--or won't--tell anyone what happened.
Just back from a mandatory leave following his last case, Detective Jim Clemo is now assigned to look into this unfortunate accident. But tragedy strikes and what looked like the simple case of a prank gone wrong soon ignites into a public battle. Noah is British. Abdi is a Somali refugee. And social tensions have been rising rapidly in Bristol. Against this background of fear and fury two families fight for their sons and for the truth. Neither of them know how far they will have to go, what demons they will have to face, what pain they will have to suffer.
Because the truth hurts. 

Odd Child Out is being published by Sphere on 3 October 2017.


Look out for more BEST OF CRIME features coming soon.

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