Thursday, 31 August 2017

Glass Houses by Louise Penny - Blog Tour

I am delighted to be today's stop on the Blog Tour for Glass Houses by Louise Penny. Glass Houses was published by Sphere on 29 August 2017.

Glass Houses
By Louise Penny
Published by Sphere (29 August 2017)



Publisher's description
One cold November day, a mysterious figure appears on the village green in Three Pines, causing unease, alarm and confusion among everyone who sees it. Chief Superintendent, Armand Gamache knows something is seriously wrong, but all he can do is watch and wait, hoping his worst fears are not realised. But when the figure disappears and a dead body is discovered, it falls to Gamache to investigate.

In the early days of the murder inquiry, and months later, as the trial for the accused begins, Gamache must face the consequences of his decisions, and his actions, from which there is no going back . . .

My verdict
I haven't read a Louise Penny book before (dare I admit it), so wasn't sure what to expect, especially as this is number 13 in the Chief Inspector Gamache series. But I'm so glad that I picked this one up. It's easy to read as a standalone, although obviously I'm missing the back story of all of the main characters and will need to start at the beginning of the series to satisfy my inquisitive self.

Glass Houses is part courtroom drama (think John Grisham) and part murder mystery (think Agatha Christie). Set in a small fairly isolated village called Three Pines, this is a highly chilling book, involving the appearance of a mysterious figure who appears to be watching someone in the village? And then there's a murder. Who's the victim? Who's on trial? And why?

Glass Houses is a complex multi-layered plot with multi-character viewpoints and different timelines. The writing is brilliant and the story itself is gripping all the way through. It didn't matter that I hadn't been introduced to Gamache before.

I highly recommend Glass Houses as a standalone crime fiction novel, even though it's part of a series. This isn't just a simple 'whodunnit'. The varied but small cast of characters and atmospheric descriptions really made this literary crime fiction novel stand out from the crowd for me.

On a side note, as I was about to read this book I received an email from a distant cousin who lives in St Louis, Missouri, USA. I hadn't heard from her for a while. She said she had noticed I review crime fiction on my blog. Had I read any Louise Penny books as she's a huge fan? Life is full of coincidences.

I received an Advance Reader Copy from the publisher.

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Wednesday, 30 August 2017

BEST OF CRIME with Nadia Dalbuono

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 

NADIA DALBUONO

to share her BEST OF CRIME ... 

 


... AUTHORS
It would no doubt be more interesting to name some obscure, hitherto overlooked crime writer from a remote island no-one has heard of but I'm afraid my choice has to be Michael Connelly. As far as I'm concerned, he's the master. From plot to pacing to characterisation, he never puts a foot wrong. Apart from creating such strong and compelling characters in Haller and Bosch, I'm still fascinated by the backdrop of LA and the vastly different existences jostling for survival there. 


... FILMS/MOVIES 
The Insider by Michael Mann would easily be my first choice. Mann is a superb director and apart from his extraordinary eye for composition, this powerful true story was absorbing in its ability to elicit a range of different emotions, anger being foremost among them. Mann managed to wrestle one of the best ever performances from Russell Crowe as conflicted tobacco industry whistleblower, Jeffrey Wigan - it was an unsanitized, provocative portrayal and at times painful to watch. 


... TV DRAMAS
I would contend that the opening scene from the first episode of TV series Billions is one of the cleverest openings in the history of TV pilots! And it just gets better from there on in. Billions is a masterclass in direction, editing and scriptwriting and the silent dance of predator and prey between US Attorney Chuck Rhoades and hedge fund king Bobby Axelrod is fascinating to watch. There is one particular scene where Axelrod stages a fake argument to distance himself from potential insider dealing charges that I believe is one of the funniest/exciting/bizarre two minutes of drama ever made.   


... FICTIONAL KILLERS
I couldn't ever say I like him but I've always been impressed by Patrick Bateman from American Psycho. The way he leaps so wholeheartedly into despicability with no instinct for self preservation; the way he tries to rouse his fellow 80s zombies from their brainwashed existence; the way he tries to come clean to his lawyer but to no avail. I guess I've always felt sorry for him: he never finds catharsis. All that effort and creativity in his killing but at the end he's condemned to return to the same suffocating existence of materialism, narcissism and greed. American Psycho seems to start out as a comedy of manners with Bateman taking a similar role to Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice but then he descends into hell and winds up like Dante in the Inferno - yet with no Virgil to guide him. That's been Bateman's problem from the start: he's totally alone and nobody wants to listen.

Obviously, all this depends on your reading of the book. As unreliable narrator supreme, Bateman may have made the whole thing up and never had the courage to carry out such daring murders... 


... FICTIONAL DETECTIVES 
It has to be Harry Bosch. Bosch appeals on so many levels: his terrible childhood, his troubled love life, his continued conflict with authority and strong sense of right and wrong, often at the expense of his own career. I feel as if he's become a friend - the unstinting effort he puts into his relationship with his teenage daughter and his relentless pursuit of the truth makes him very real. I think we're about 21 books in now and he still holds my interest. 


... MURDER WEAPONS
I quite liked when Patrick Bateman dropped a chainsaw on Christie from several floors above and I'm sure there are scenes from some Dean Koontz novels which I no longer recall but I think the prize has to go to Hannibal Lecter for his sixth victim who is savagely murdered in his workshop using an array of different tools. (I seem to remember that he is then laced to a pegboard in a manner reminiscent of illustrations in early medical text books.) 
    

... DEATH SCENES
I've read a lot of Lee Child but I have to say the ending to Make Me really freaked me out. I was actually quite angry with Lee because I felt like he'd departed from his usual, more palatable mainstream territory and dragged me unawares into the nightmare niche of the dark web: a place I really wasn't prepared to visit just yet.
Spoiler alert! Why is the end so disturbing? Maybe not so much for the torture as for the callousness, the pure evil of the concept behind it and the fact that so much is left to our imagination. Despite or perhaps due to the deeply chilling finale, Make Me is a great book. The quality of the writing is superb - I think it's his best yet. 
  

... BLOGS/WEBSITES
I read Corriera Della Sera frequently for Italian news: there's always a strange little story in there involving organised crime or local politicians that might provide the kernel for a new idea. I also take my breaks from writing by reading Trump's stream of consciousness on Twitter. Twitter is a great way to plumb the depths of the human condition. 


... WRITING TIPS
If it's not convincing you, it won't convince anyone else. I've hoodwinked myself on numerous conditions only to regret it later. Also: plan, plan, plan. For my first two books I wrote detailed synopses, for the next two I slackened off a bit and paid the price while I was writing - it felt so much harder. I've now returned to having a detailed scheme to work from. 


... WRITING SNACKS
Just these two words ‘Writing snacks’ cause me considerable anxiety. When I was pregnant with my second child and writing my second novel, The American, I was hit by extreme tiredness and used to polish off a 100g bar of Lindt milk chocolate by midday just to keep going. The situation got worse and worse and 6 months into my pregnancy I developed gestational diabetes. (No fun, believe me - oatcakes just didn't give me the same buzz.) I now am 7 times more likely to contract diabetes and have to watch my sugar intake. As a result, I no longer snack when I'm writing: a lesson in the pitfalls of poor self-control. 


About NADIA DALBUONO
Nadia Dalbuono worked as a documentary director and producer for Channel 4, ITV and Fox before turning to crime writing. Her Leone Scamarcio novels, The Few, The American and The Hit are set in Rome and follow son of a mafioso Flying Squad detective Leone Scamarcio. The American was longlisted for the 2016 CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger.
Nadia lives in northern Italy with her husband and two young sons.

Find Nadia Dalbuono on her website and on Twitter - @NadiaJDalby


About THE HIT



Publisher's description 
Detective Leone Scamarcio, the son of a former leading mafioso, has turned his back on the family business, and has joined the Rome police force. He may be one of the last honest men in Italy. 
But when Scamarcio is handed a file of extremely compromising photographs of a high-profile Italian politician, and told to ‘deal with it’, he knows he’s in for trouble. And when a young man is found stabbed to death in Rome, and a young American girl disappears on a beach in Elba, Scamarcio’s job gets a whole lot more complicated. 
Worst of all, every lead seems to implicate the prime minister ― a multi-media baron, and the most powerful man in Italy. As the case spins out of control, and his own past catches up with him, Scamarcio must navigate the darkest currents of Italian society ― only to find that nothing is as it seems, and that the price of truth may be higher than he can pay. 

The Hit was published by Scribe on 9 February 2017.


Look out for more BEST OF CRIME features coming soon.

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Tuesday, 29 August 2017

House of Spines by Michael J Malone

House of Spines
By Michael J Malone
Published by Orenda Books (e-book: 16 August 2017; paperback: 15 September 2017)


Publisher's description
Ran McGhie's world has been turned upside down. A young, lonely and frustrated writer, and suffering from mental-health problems, he discovers that his long-dead mother was related to one of Glasgow's oldest merchant families. Not only that, but Ran has inherited Newton Hall, a vast mansion that belonged to his great-uncle, who it seems has been watching from afar as his estranged great-nephew has grown up. Entering his new-found home, it seems Great-Uncle Fitzpatrick has turned it into a temple to the written word - the perfect place for poet Ran. But everything is not as it seems. As he explores the Hall's endless corridors, Ran's grasp on reality appears to be loosening. And then he comes across an ancient lift; and in that lift a mirror. And in the mirror... the reflection of a woman... 


My verdict
House of Spines is a gothic tale of love, lust, loneliness and lies.

When struggling writer Ran McGhie learns he has inherited Newton Hall, he jumps at the opportunity to move in straight away. The vast mansion belonged to Ran's great uncle, someone he not only never met but never even knew existed. Ran knows very little about his parents, who died when he was 18.

With its huge library, Newton Hall is an ideal place for a poet. His great uncle's will stipulates that if Ran chooses to live in the house, the books there must never be moved. Sounds simple enough, doesn't it? But Ran, who suffers from bipolar disorder, seems overwhelmed by his new living arrangements, with its endless array of rooms and corridors, gardens and swimming pool and an ancient lift. He has strange visions, feels a woman's touch, hears her voice - but is everything all it seems or is his grasp on reality swinging out of control?

Michael J Malone is a very vivid writer, putting the reader right into the head, and heart, of his protagonist. In House of Spines, I felt like I was living the story with Ran - seeing what he saw, feeling what he felt. The pictures the author paints within his prose, of the smells, sounds and sights of old Newton Hall, are as chilling and disturbing as the story itself.

The plot builds up gradually, immersing the reader in Ran's daily life as he explores his surroundings and meets some of the locals. It's creepy and unsettling, with a unreliable protagonist - in fact a whole host of unreliable characters. I worked out some things, but not everything, and there were plenty of surprises to come.

For me, this was less of a 'psychological thriller' than a great gothic mystery of a man's descent into mania and a family steeped in secrets and lies.

Highly recommended if you like creepy spine-tingling twisty tales.

I received an Advance Reader Copy from the publisher.

BEST OF CRIME with Simon Lelic

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 

SIMON LELIC

to share his BEST OF CRIME ...



... AUTHORS
Tough one. I could name dozens. But when Tana French publishes a new novel, it always leapfrogs to the top of my reading pile. I’ve been a fan of her writing since her first novel, In the Woods, and since then she’s gone from strength to strength. I love the way each of her books inhabits the same world, but she never limits herself to experiencing it through one protagonist’s point of view. 


... FILMS/MOVIES
Anything directed by Alfred Hitchcock. Literally, anything. If I stumble across a Hitchcock movie showing on TV, I stop what I’m doing and I watch it, even if I’ve seen it twenty times before (which, with some of his movies, I surely have). Rope for me remains his most under-appreciated masterpiece, but I adore Rear Window, too. 


... TV DRAMAS

The Shield, a cop drama set in the fictional LA district of Farmington, is my all-time favourite when it comes to crime dramas. I’ve watched it from start to finish three times now.  


... FICTIONAL KILLERS
Anton Chigurh is surely one of the most terrifying antagonists ever written. He’s the killer in Cormac McCarthy’s No Country for Old Men, and he shows no compassion, no remorse – just an alarming dexterity with a bolt gun. 


... FICTIONAL DETECTIVES 

I tend not to read crime series featuring the same detective very often. I much prefer to read (and write, not coincidentally!) standalone novels. One notable exception, however, is the Shardlake series by CJ Sansom. Matthew Shardlake is the hunchbacked lawyer who has to navigate the politics and pitfalls of sixteenth-century London, and he’s brilliantly perceptive, vulnerable and humane. 


... MURDER WEAPONS
The rat in American Psycho. I don’t think I need to say more. 
    

... DEATH SCENES
Going back to No Country for Old Men, and avoiding any major spoilers, there is a death of a fairly central character (a deliberately vague understatement) that happens between chapters. Ie, the character is there on one page, gone the next. It remains one of the most surprising deaths in literature, for my money – cruelly depriving the reader in a way that perfectly mimics death itself.


... BLOGS/WEBSITES
The Paris Review website features a vast vault of author interviews dating back to the 1950s. There’s a wealth of knowledge in there – invaluable to any reader or writer. It used to be free to access, but now you have to subscribe. Still, it’s well worth doing so, I reckon. 


... WRITING TIPS
Be careful which writing tips you follow. Work out for yourself what works best for you, and then get busy.


... WRITING SNACKS
Coffee, coffee, and more coffee. (And maybe a few sweets from my kids’ stash now and then. Just don’t tell them, whatever you do.) 


About SIMON LELIC

Simon Lelic is the author of three previous novels: Rupture (winner of a Betty Trask Award and shortlisted for the John Creasy Debut Dagger), The Facility and The Child Who (longlisted for the CWA Gold Dagger and CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger 2012). The House is his first psychological thriller, inspired by a love of Alfred Hitchcock and Stephen King.

Find Simon Lelic on his website and on Twitter - @Simon_Lelic


About THE HOUSE



Publisher's description
Londoners Jack and Syd moved into the house a year ago. It seemed like their dream home: tons of space, the perfect location, and a friendly owner who wanted a young couple to have it. 
So when they made a grisly discovery in the attic, Jack and Syd chose to ignore it. But that was a mistake.
Because a body has been discovered. 
Right outside their back door. 

And now the police are watching them...

The House was published by Penguin on 17 August 2017.


Look out for more BEST OF CRIME features coming soon.

Click here to read more BEST OF CRIME features.

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