Tuesday, 31 July 2018

The Rest of Me by Katie Marsh

The Rest of Me
By Katie Marsh
Published by Hodder & Stoughton (14 June 2018)
I received an Advance Reader Copy from the publisher

Publisher's description
Alex Fox knows there are lots of things she should be. 
She should be the perfect wife to her chronically ill husband Sam, and the perfect mother to their two daughters. She should be excelling in her high-stress job. And she should be completing the demanding to-do lists she makes to keep herself on track. 
Even if, just sometimes, she doesn't have time to breathe.
When Sam's condition worsens and Alex donates a kidney to save his life, her carefully scheduled existence starts to unravel - eventually forcing her to face up to a past that she has buried for years.
As the family she has fought so hard for threatens to fall apart, can Alex finally confront the mistakes that have shaped her - and rediscover what is most important in life?

My verdict
I read a lot of books but none have touched me so much recently as The Rest of Me by Katie Marsh. I was Izzy between the ages of 7 and 12, and again in my adult years, and could easily be Alex now. I won't go into details, as this is a review of the book, not of my life. But this book left me in pieces and in tears, late in the evening one night, unable to sleep, taking me back several decades, bringing back memories that I'd stored away.

I love Katie Marsh's writing. I don't read much of this genre, but her books are definite 'must reads' for me. She covers topical emotional issues, writing straight from the heart (and I know that this was a particularly emotional book for Katie Marsh to write). She also covers medical issues with sensitivity and believability. Her writing is so descriptive that it gets right under my skin every time, with characters so real that I wonder if they do truly exist. And she sprinkles all of her books with some gentle humour to lighten the load.

It's so easy to give in to the bullies, as well as the self-bullying and the self-doubt. Katie Marsh reminds us that we can be stronger than this, we can rise above it and that we mustn't let the bullies win. Her books are always heartbreaking yet also uplifting and full of hope. They're honest, raw and powerful. And they always make me laugh, cry and think a lot about the important things in life, long after I've turned the final page.

Monday, 30 July 2018

BEST OF CRIME with Carolyn Hawes - finalist in the 2018 Ngaio Marsh Awards

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 


finalist in the 2018 Ngaio Marsh Awards 

to share her BEST OF CRIME ...

Joyce Carol Oates creates such a sense of unease in her stories she can convince the reader a crime has been committed whether one actually has or not. Oates doesn’t need to describe the crime because the build-up is usually enough. She became a favorite author of mine years ago when I read her short story about a boy's body found in a ditch. A young girl living nearby becomes almost possessed by the events. When there is no closure and the police have no leads on the killer she becomes frustrated - as I did, and have remained so for the past thirty years such was the power of Joyce’s story.  I enjoy both her novels and short stories. In her collection, Sourland, the title story creates the same psychological effect when a woman makes a solitary journey to an isolated region to visit a man she knows nothing about.
Ron Rash is an author I admire because of his poetical writing and the deep damp Appalachians, in which his deeds take place. James L Burke is also a stunning writer with an atmospheric background.
Over the past year I have read several crime novels by Tana French, along with Jane Harper's The Dry, and Force of Nature.  Currently I am reading A Killer Harvest by Paul Cleave. I recently read Marlborough Man by David Carter and Baby by Annaleese Jochems. I've also enjoyed the novels of New Zealand crime writers Vanda Symon and Paddy Richardson. 

I went to the movie To Kill a Mockingbird with my mother and was terrorised by a few of the scenes. (I was only 5 years old at the time.)   I was the same age as Scout. I didn't like her!  I became fixated with the movie and even picked out a house in my hometown similar to the abode of Atticus Finch - right down to the hanging swings on the trees, the nearby reserve, and the wraparound veranda. There was a rustic pioneering look about Maycomb, which I could relate to. I was able to sense something meaningful in the movie without realizing the significance of the trial.  Later, when I read the book; it became one of my favourites.
I like the beginning of the movie with the wind blowing through the streets, the unsettling sad staccato music and the wise, somewhat tired narrating voice. I still own the book and I’m proud to say I now have the DVD.

The North of England series Vera, and Taggart are among my favorites - or anything from Glasgow, and the moors and rural areas of the North of England, especially if there's a stone barn and a two-rutted driveway. 

Christine, from the movie Christine based on the novel by Stephen King. She was Bad to the Bone. I saw it at the St James Theatre and years later on the TV in my living room. Christine was stylish - I liked the way her radio played 1950s music; I liked her eyelids and the frontal close-ups and the way she flashed her headlights. Christine inflicted a lot of damage but someone had always bashed her up first. I liked her individual antics and her sense of decorum. In one scene the garage door of the workshop folds open and she drives in, looking the worst for wear and with her engine sounding a bit ragged, and puts herself away in her parking space. In spite of the chaotic killing spree she’d just been on, she knew where home was and she stuck to her routine.

My first novel evolved. I would say, don't plan a novel if you can write it intuitively. My second novel is planned from beginning, middle to end. Maybe most novels are a combination of both - although I do think a planned novel is quicker to write.  

Just an ordinary cup of tea.

Carolyn Hawes was born and raised in Westport, a small town on the ‘wild West Coast’ of New Zealand’s South Island. She developed a love of writing as soon as she could read and spell enough words to string together into sentences. At 14 she worked on a book of poetry, and tried to write a novel set in Russia and Central Europe. Eventually she gave up writing, decided to ‘get a real job’ and trained to be a nurse. She had three children, remained in Westport and worked on a history book, Great Expectations: the Colonisation of Buller, published in 2004. 
Following has had freelance articles about the West Coast, history and human-interest columns published in local and big city newspapers. THE FLOATING BASIN is her first novel, a small-town Gothic story centred on a murder inquiry in Westport. Carolyn received a mentorship from the New Zealand Society of Authors while completing the novel. She is now working on a sequel. 

Find Carolyn Hawes on her Facebook page.


Publisher's description
When a body emerges from Westport’s tidal lagoon, local cop Ru Clement is tasked with finding the killer. In a town isolated from any major centres by hundreds of miles of road winding over or around the majestic Southern Alps, there are plenty of secrets. Westport has a rugged history and retains a frontier feel, the kind of place some locals want to escape from, and others escape to. Can Ru untangle why the victim returned to town after so many years, and who wanted him dead? 

The Floating Basin is a finalist for Best First Novel in the 2018 Ngaio Marsh Awards.
Ngaio Marsh Awards judges' comments:
“Hawes has planted her first authorial foot firmly, with a very solid debut. She shows a really good touch for the West Coast setting, and has a nice writing style that flows along pretty effortlessly, as well as a good storytelling sense and feel for dialogue.”

“I really enjoyed it. I thought Hawes was very good drawing her characters and her use of dialogue was very good and natural. A surprising read.”

Look out for more BEST OF CRIME features coming soon.

Click here to read more BEST OF CRIME features.

BEST OF CRIME with Jesper Stein

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 


for his Unrest blog tour

to share his BEST OF CRIME ...

Michael Connelly: the Harry Bosch series. From the debut The Black Echo (1992) to Trunk Music(1997). I love everything Connelly writes, his tight, fat-free style, his sense of plot and timing, his characters and way of showing things about them instead of simply telling the readers. The first six novels in the Bosch series is in my humble opinion the best crime writing around, with the most fascinating, understated and subtle antihero in modern crime.

Chinatown. The movie is a homage to the American noir of Hammett and Chandler and everything works: the plot is surprising, the location is LA at its best – for me, the definitive city of modern crime fiction – the actors, Nicholson, Dunnaway and Huston, all playing such convincing characters. And the dialogue is brilliant. Remember the final sentence which sums up the whole movie: “Forget it, Jake. It’s Chinatown.”

This is tricky, should I be patriotic and say BroenThe Killing? Or maybe Unit One? They are all very good Danish television crime series that I like, but actually I have to go to Sweden for the series that has inspired me the most: Beck. And although I like Peter Haber as Beck, it is his sidekick who makes it for me: the flamboyant, violent and sensitive bully Gunvald Larsson, played fantastically by Michael Persbrandt. A lot of his behaviour and attitude is in my antihero Axel Steen. Crime in television and books is not essentially carried by the plot but by the depths and complexity of the characters. And Gunvald is one of the best.

Hannibal Lecter. In Thomas Harris’ two masterpieces Red Dragon and Silence of the Lambs, Lecter is not really the main fictional killer, but he is a fantastic character even though he is a bit on the fantastical side. “I’m having an old friend for dinner” is one of the funniest and brightest lines that I’ve read. Lecter is probably the most copied fictional character in modern crime, but none of his successors comes close to his level. The only exception is Lars Kepler, who has a serial killer in The Sandman called Jurek Walter and he is really terrifying.

James Ellroy’s Lloyd Hopkins from the Lloyd Hopkins Trilogy. He is one of the meanest antiheros of American crime fiction. He is an intelligent and manic workaholic, a sex addict, sleepless and plagued by nightmares and doubts; he identifies with the predators he hunts and breaks the law to reach his goals. His marriage is of course chaotic and he fights to keep it, he has three daughters and a rather unhealthy relationship with the youngest, Penny, whom he tells bedtime stories from his hunt of killers in order to make her ready to meet the evils of life. Another quote: “it’s a shitstorm out there, you know that, don’t you, Penguin?”

I go for the knife. I don’t like murder weapons or methods that are too complicated, so usually kill people in my books in the four ways we do it in Denmark: gun, strangling, blunt object to the head, or knife. The knife is good because it is not an easy kill: you really have to mean it if you push a knife into somebody, especially if you stab them more than once. I have spent ten years as a crime reporter at the biggest Danish national newspaper, and reality always exceeds fiction. So I’ll stick to the knife.

The opening scene of the first season of Broen. They put the corpse on the middle of a bridge over Øresund, so half of it is in Denmark, the other in Sweden – it’s a great move and a strong symbol for the whole series.

Wikipedia. The Danish police. Newspaper websites. If I need to research thoroughly I read books or meet people in real life.

One sentence at a time. If you feel you cannot get into a scene or if you suffer from writer’s block because of the immensity of what lies in front of you, break it down to elements like: What is the weather like? What do the surroundings look like? What time is it? How does it smell? Sounds? Noise? What is your point of view? What can your character see? What’s on his/her mind? How is his/her physical condition, feelings? Try to answer these questions in your writing and you’re already on your way.

I drink black tea. A couple of litres in a day’s work.

Jesper Stein was born in Aarhus, Denmark. He began his writing career as a journalist and covered the Balkan war, and catastrophes in Africa. He then worked as a culture journalist for 10 years, interviewing lauded fiction writers, such as John le Carré, Ian Rankin, Jo Nesbø, Henning Mankell, Peter Høeg, Peter James, PD James, Ian McEwan, Margaret Atwood and Haruki Murakami. 
He made his literary debut in 2012 with Unrest – the first in the Axel Steen series. He has received massive attention for his sharp eye for detail, rich and innovative plotting and confident prose. Praised by critics as a writer who will keep readers on the edge of their seat, Stein has emerged as one of the most talented authors of crime fiction in Scandinavia. 

Find Jesper Stein on his Facebook page and on Twitter - @jesper_stein


Publisher's description
2007. On the streets of Nørrebro, the worst riots Denmark has experienced for many years see violent clashes between the police and far-left autonomists protesting the closure of the Youth House. Meanwhile, in a local cemetery, an unidentified man is found bound and murdered, his body propped up against a gravestone. 
Detective Superintendent Axel Steen is called to the scene, where all signs suggest the dead man is the victim of police brutality during the riots. But as the investigation progresses, Axel soon discovers that many people, both inside and out of the force, have an unusual interest in the case – and in preventing its resolution.Axel will stop at nothing until he’s uncovered the truth – no matter what. But as he tussles with his ex-wife, his boss, a far-left journalist with a grudge, the security forces and a well-known drug lord, the consequences turn out to be greater than expected... especially for Axel himself. 

Unrest was published by Mirror Books on 19 July 2018.

Look out for more BEST OF CRIME features coming soon.

Click here to read more BEST OF CRIME features.

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Sunday, 29 July 2018

Dead of Night by Michael Stanley

I am delighted to be on the blog tour for Dead of Night by Michael Stanley. Michael Stanley is being published in paperback on 31 August 2018, but is available in ebook NOW!

Dead of Night
By Michael Stanley
Published by Orenda Books (e-book out now; Paperback - 31 August 2018)
I received an Advance Reader Copy from the publisher

Publisher's description
When freelance journalist, Crystal Nguyen, heads to South Africa, she thinks she’ll be researching an article on rhino-horn smuggling for National Geographic, while searching for her missing colleague. But within a week, she’s been hunting poachers, hunted by their bosses, and then arrested in connection with a murder. And everyone is after a briefcase full of money that may hold the key to everything…
Fleeing South Africa, she goes undercover in Vietnam, trying to discover the truth before she’s exposed by the local mafia. Discovering the plot behind the money is only half the battle. Now she must convince the South African authorities to take action before it’s too late. She has a shocking story to tell, if she survives long enough to tell it…

My verdict
There's nothing more satisfying than picking up a book, diving in and then coming up for air three hours later. Not ideal though, when it's around 26 degrees outside (and possibly even hotter indoors) and you're too engrossed to move, even though you're gasping for a drink (water, I should add). Dead of Night should come with a health warning - 'so addictive, it could lead to dehydration'.

Seriously though, I love Michael Stanley's Sunshine Noir. As many know, I'm a huge fan of the Detective Kubu series, which is also published by Orenda Books. Well, Dead of Night is just as brilliant, possibly even better (though I would struggle to choose between them so I won't, and instead I encourage everyone to read the Kubu series as well).

Dead of Night is set in three locations - mainly South Africa but also a little Vietnam and USA. It felt more brutal, graphic and harder hitting than the Detective Kubu series, but with the same amazing writing, vivid descriptions and insight into the African (and also Vietnamese, in this case) culture. While reading the African scenes, I felt like I was on safari, exploring the jungle and watching rhinos, elephants and more in their natural setting.

Dead of Night is a fast-paced thriller, filled with action and conflict, focusing on the politics, cultural clashes and violence associated with the rhino trade. I was totally gripped by the feisty and determined female protagonist Crystal Nguyen, an undercover journalist investigating corruption and bribery. I was also touched emotionally by so many of her scenes, just as shocked as she was by the cruelty she witnessed and the violence she experienced.

Yet again, as with many of the Orenda Books thrillers, I came away with important environmental messages in my head and having extended my knowledge of world politics, history and culture. I really do hope this is the start of a series as I'm now desperate for more!

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Thursday, 26 July 2018

Do No Harm by Lucy V Hay

I am delighted to be today's stop on the blog tour for Do No Harm by Lucy V Hay. Do No Harm was published by Orenda Books in paperback on 20 July 2018.

Do No Harm
By Lucy V Hay
Published by Orenda Books (e-book out now; paperback out 20 July 2018)
I received an Advance Reader Copy from the publisher

Publisher's description
Till death do us part…

After leaving her marriage to jealous, possessive oncologist Maxwell, Lily and her six-year-old son have a second chance at happiness with headteacher Sebastian. Kind but vulnerable, Sebastian is the polar opposite of Maxwell, and the perfect match for Lily. After a whirlwind romance, they marry, and that’s when things start to go wrong…
Maxwell returns to the scene, determined to win back his family, and events soon spiral out of control. Lily and Sebastian find themselves not only fighting for their relationship, but also their lives…

My verdict
Do No Harm is a dark tale of obsessive behaviour. One of those psychological thrillers where I couldn't decide whether or not I'd sussed it out until I'd reached the end - and no, I'm not going to reveal whether I did or not. Ha ha.

As expected from Orenda's books, Do No Harm is of high quality, from the words on the page to the eye-catching cover. I read a lot of psychological thrillers and often struggle to find ones that grip me all the way through - Do No Harm certainly kept me engrossed from beginning to end. The sharp dialogue, great characterisation and twisty plotting kept the book moving at a fast pace. Lucy V Hay writes with confidence and authority, her vivid descriptions leaping out of the page into my head while her multilayering played with my mind.

Do No Harm is filled with several heart-stopping moments and evil characters. The author lulls you in with a false sense of security. But then the tension and suspense escalate, gradually building up to a final crescendo. And as for that ending... what a shocker!

This book is going to fly sky high! If you haven't bought it yet, what are you waiting for?

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Wednesday, 25 July 2018

The Bone Keeper by Luca Veste

The Bone Keeper
By Luca Veste
Published by Simon & Schuster (8 March 2018)
I received an Advanced Reader Copy from the publisher

Publisher's description
What if the figure that haunted your nightmares as child, the myth of the man in the woods, was real?
He'll slice your flesh. 
Your bones he'll keep.
Twenty years ago, four teenagers went exploring in the local woods, trying to find to the supposed home of The Bone Keeper. Only three returned. 
Now, a woman is found wandering the streets of Liverpool, horrifically injured, claiming to have fled the Bone Keeper.  Investigating officer DC Louise Henderson must convince sceptical colleagues that this urban myth might be flesh and blood.  But when a body is unearthed in the woodland the woman has fled from, the case takes on a much darker tone. 
The disappeared have been found. And their killer is watching every move the police make.

My verdict
It's been a long time since I read a Luca Veste book (well before my reviewing days) and I really do need to catch up on his Murphy and Rossi series. So I was excited to learn that he had a new standalone - The Bone Keeper. 

The Bone Keeper is the perfect blend of horror and crime thriller - two genres that I love. It begins with a chilling prologue - four teenagers exploring the woods, with only three of them returning. This then leads into the present day, when a traumatised, injured woman is found wandering the streets of Liverpool. Once DC Louise Henderson takes on the case, exploring several disappearances over the years, the pile of bodies begins to stack up. The Bone Keeper is a local urban myth, but could this mysterious 'being' actually be real or is there a serial killer on the loose?

The Bone Keeper is gruesome in some places, creepy in others and overall a fantastic unsettling read. Its unpredictability kept me on my toes, with plenty of surprises in store, and an amazing sense of place leapt from the pages, providing the chilling atmospheric setting. DC Henderson is a mysterious character, and I would love to see more of her in the future, so hope this is the start of a series.

This is definitely a book where it's hard to write a review without giving anything away, as the revelations kept on coming. So all I can say is that if you too love a dark, twisty mixture of horror and crime, pick up The Bone Keeper!

Tuesday, 24 July 2018

MY PUBLISHING LIFE with Hannah Sheppard

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 


Literary Agent
DHH Literary Agency

What and when was your first job in publishing?
My first job was a six-month placement on a poetry website that Macmillan Children’s Books were launching – it was very varied; from clearing the permissions for the use of the poetry to liaising with teaching experts about lesson plans and on to website testing (which I seem to remember involved endless games of hangman while we tried to get that working). I was very lucky that towards the end of my six months, a permanent Editorial Secretary (which I don’t think is a title that’s used any more – this was back in 2002) job came up and I started working my way up through the editorial ranks. 
Before that, I’d worked in a bookshop one afternoon a week while I was at university and also did two stints of work experience in publishing – one adult, one children’s.

How long have you been working in your current job/role?
I’ve been an agent for five years. And spent 10 years in house before that. 

Which books have you worked on recently/are you working on?
I’ve been lucky enough to work with some incredible authors. At Macmillan, I was Marion Lloyd’s assistant, which meant I got to work with Eva Ibbotson and later I was working with another editor who worked with both Chris Riddell and Frank Cottrell Boyce. When I moved to Headline to run their YA list, I published Tanya Byrne’s HEART-SHAPED BRUISE, which I’m very proud of. 
As an agent, I work with lots of incredibly talented authors, such as Abi Elphinstone, Keris Stainton, Adam Hamdy and Chris McGeorge – and there are a few names to watch out for – Amy Beashel and Kate Mallinder for instance. 
Most of my current editorial work is on exciting books that I can’t talk about yet…but I am working on some wonderful debuts at the moment and I can’t wait for other people to start reading! You can find a full list of my current authors here: http://www.dhhliteraryagency.com/hannah-sheppard.html

Which qualifications/life skills/experience have helped you get to where you are today?
Being a reader is the biggest one. You have to read widely to get a good sense of what works and what doesn’t – and what you like and don’t – because so much of being both an agent and an editor is instinct and gut feeling. And you have to trust your instincts and not second guess because other people don’t feel the same. 
Maybe also single-mindedness. I knew this was what I wanted to do so I didn’t listen to the careers advisors who sucked in their breath and told me publishing was very difficult to get into and maybe I should think about teaching (because that really isthe only option open to English graduates). That same single-mindedness and unshaking belief in something helps when you’re trying to sell a book too. 

How do you relax after a busy working day?
There’s a lot of work reading that goes on in the evenings and at weekends (my submission inbox and any manuscripts I’ve called in are mostly tackled outside of office hours). But I like to try to have a just for fun book on the go too. And I’m really enjoying binging TV series that have a really good story at their heart – recent favourites include This Is Us from the US and Unforgotten from ITV (I’m very excited that new series of both are imminent!). I also love the theatre – It’s definitely all about story. I’m trying to do more knitting so that my hands are busy with something other than my phone. 
When I’m working from home I try to go for a lunchtime swim to break up the day and as much as I hated exercise as a kid I now realise it’s very important for my mental health. 

What was the last book you read for pleasure?
I read Home by Amanda Berriman and I thought it was a brilliant example of voice done well – it also managed to make me feel physically anxious at times. My TBR pile is humungous. There are books everywhere. Including in my bed. 

Describe your job in 15 words or less...
Oooh, my favourite description was given to me by an author, Natalie Flynn…
I re-habilitate my client’s wayward imaginary friends before finding them forever homes.

What have been the highlights of your publishing life so far
There are too many to choose from really…
I love this industry – it’s full of supportive and talented people who are passionate about what they do and working with them is a real highlight. 
And each and every one of my authors’ successes is a joy – I love to champion them and celebrate each victory (big or small). 
I do remember the first time I walked out of Macmillan Children’s Books with a manuscript in my canvas bag (pre-eReaders, I always had both a handbag and a canvas bag full of manuscripts – I don’t miss that) having just started as an editorial secretary. It was one of those clear, crisp nights in the run up to Christmas when all the lights are starting to go on and everything looks pretty and I couldn’t have been happier to have that manuscript to read. It felt like such a moment of achievement…there have been bigger achievements since (a Waterstones Book of the Month with Abi Elphinstone’s SKY SONG earlier this year for instance was a real joy), but that is one where the feeling has really stuck with me.   

If you could try out any other job for one day (with no limits on money, travel etc.), what would you choose?
I’d love to be a pilot. Early on in my career I considered quitting publishing to go and retrain…but even with the backing of a commercial airline it’s horrifically expensive. I love the idea of having that freedom though. One day, when I’m super rich (cough), I’ll get my pilot’s licence. 

If your publishing life was a book, what would the title be?
Thank You For Your Patience… I feel like I’m saying this all the time – to clients waiting for edits and to authors who have submitted. An agent’s job is a busy one and there’s never enough time to fit everything in. It’s also fitting for publishing in general, which often feels incredibly slow…the whole process of getting a book out can take far longer than anyone outside of the industry realises. 

Thanks so much for taking part, Hannah!

Look out for more MY PUBLISHING LIFE features coming soon.

Click here to read more MY PUBLISHING LIFE features.

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.

Wednesday, 18 July 2018

BEST OF CRIME with Niki Mackay

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 


for her I, Witness blog tour

to share her BEST OF CRIME ...

Lynda la Plante, Martina Cole, and Minette Walters. They excel at character. I have re-read several of their books and will continue to do so just to revisit the people they put on the page. That takes an insane level of talent and skill. 

The Crow, not strictly crime but it has a murder at its heart. It’s a really gripping tale of retribution and justice. It’s also stylish, beautiful and true to the comic. 

I will endlessly binge watch The X-Files – I’m a complete Sci-fi geek so it ticks that box too. I like the long storyline and the big conspiracy stuff, and of course Mulder and Scully.  

Mickey and Mallory Knox – from Natural born killers. Iconic and chilling. 

DCI Jane Tennison from Prime Suspect – she was so well drawn, fiercely clever, complicated and a bit of a mess. I think she was quite ground breaking at the time. 

I’m fascinated by mind control – when people manage to manipulate others and use them as weapons. Like the Charles Manson case. 

The big moment in Sarah Pinborough’s ‘Behind Her Eyes’. I can’t in any way describe it without spoilers, but it’s bloody genius. 

I tend to research from books still to be honest, I do listen to quite a few podcasts though.  

Read. A lot and widely. 

Coffee, endlessly. Dairy milk and maoams. 


Niki Mackay studied Performing Arts at the BRIT School, and it turned out she wasn’t very good at acting but quite liked writing scripts. She holds a BA (Hons) in English Literature and Drama, and won a full scholarship for her MA in Journalism.

Find Niki MacKay on her website, on her Facebook page and on Twitter - @NikiMackayBooks


Publisher's description
“They say I'm a murderer.
Six years ago, Kate Reynolds was found holding the body of her best friend; covered in blood, and clutching the knife that killed her.
I plead guilty.
Kate has been in prison ever since, but now her sentence is up. She is being released.
But the truth is, I didn't do it.
There's only one person who can help: Private Investigator Madison Attallee, the first officer on the scene all those years ago.
But uncovering the truth means catching a killer.”

I, Witness is being published in paperback by Orion on 26 July 2018.

Look out for more BEST OF CRIME features coming soon.

Click here to read more BEST OF CRIME features.


Thursday, 12 July 2018

BEST OF CRIME with Jo Jakeman

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 ...

There are so many hugely talented crime writers on the shelves at the moment, but I’ll have to pick the writer of the first crime books I read that blew my mind, and that would be Thomas Harris. I could pretty much answer all of the questions below with one of his books or characters.

See? What did I tell you? Thomas Harris all day long. It has to be Silence of the Lambs. It was a genius film of a genius book. Incredibly well acted and plotted, and it’s so quotable. Fava beans, anyone?

Peaky Blinders. I love a British Crime drama. It’s not just the stories or the characterisation of Peaky Blinders, it’s the way it is filmed, and the music that they use. I particularly love that we’re behind the ‘bad guys’ all the way. I get excited as soon as I hear the theme music.  

Annie Wilkes in Stephen King’s Misery. It’s a wonder I ever wanted to become a writer after reading about characters like her. Not only does she lock up an author for killing off her favourite character, Misery, but it seems that murder is the way she has dealt with all of her problems. In the film she breaks Sheldon’s ankle with a sledgehammer. It’s an iconic film moment, but in the book she chops his foot off with an axe and cauterises it with a blow torch. 

Sherlock Holmes. I love the wit, and the eccentricity. And there’s something about the fact that he doesn’t quite fit in to the world around him that appeals to me. 

I remember watching Tales of the Unexpected as a child and there was an episode which was adapted from a Roald Dhal story about a woman who kills her with a frozen leg of lamb and then cooks and serves it to the policemen who come to investigate the crime, niftily getting rid of the evidence.

At the risk of sounding predictable here, it’s another example from Silence of the Lambs. When Lecter manipulates Miggs into killing himself after he ‘disrespected’ Clarice, there’s no blood shed. Lecter couldn’t even touch him and yet he was still able to orchestrate Miggs’ death using nothing but his mind.

I don’t really use any blogs or websites for research unless it is something particular such as, ‘how quickly can you bleed to death’… I can waste an entire day on the internet so I’m not to be trusted with the Wifi code.

Write every day if you can. As with most things, writing gets better with practice. If you’re waiting for inspiration to strike you might be waiting a long time. It’s unlikley the words you’re putting on the page are your best work, but you can edit them later. You can’t edit a blank page.

Coffee and chocolate. Sticks and Stones was largely fuelled by Lindt Dark Caramel and Sea Salt. Which reminds me, I’ve still got a bar in the cupboard and book two isn’t going to write itself…

Jo Wakeman was the winner of the Friday Night Live 2016 competition at the York Festival of Writing. Born in Cyprus, she worked for many years in the City of London before moving to Derbyshire with her husband and twin boys. Sticks and Stones is her debut thriller.

Find Jo Jakeman on her website, on her Facebook page and on Twitter - @JoJakemanWrites


Publisher's description
Imogen’s husband is a bad man. His ex-wife and his new mistress might have different perspectives but Imogen thinks she knows the truth. And now he’s given her an ultimatum: get out of the family home in the next fortnight or I’ll fight you for custody of our son.
In a moment of madness, Imogen does something unthinkable: she locks her husband in the cellar. Now she’s in control. But how far will she go to protect her son and punish her husband? And what will happen when his ex and his girlfriend get tangled up in her plans?

Sticks and Stones was published in hardback by Harvill Secker on 12 July 2018.

Look out for more BEST OF CRIME features coming soon.

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Wednesday, 11 July 2018

Brothers in Blood by Amer Anwar - cover reveal!!

Today, I'm delighted and excited to be hosting a cover reveal for Brothers in Blood by Amer Anwar. Brothers in Blood (previously published as Western Fringes) is being published by Dialogue Books on 6 September 2018.

Brothers in Blood: Read the blurb

A Sikh girl on the run.
A Muslim ex-con who has to find her.
A whole heap of trouble.
Southall, West London. After being released from prison, Zaq Khan is lucky to land a dead-end job at a builders' yard. All he wants to do is keep his head down and put the past behind him.
But when Zaq is forced to search for his boss's runaway daughter, he quickly finds himself caught up in a deadly web of deception, murder and revenge.
With time running out and pressure mounting, can Zaq find the missing girl before it's too late? And if he does, can he keep her - and himself - alive long enough to deal with the people who want them both dead?

I am SO intrigued and hope you are too!!! 

AND NOW.... *drum roll*

Brothers in Blood: View the cover


I love this cover and what a great strapline! 
I'll be reading this very very soon!

Brothers in Blood: Read about author Amer Anwar

Amer Anwar grew up in West London. After leaving college he had a variety of jobs, including; warehouse assistant, comic book lettering artist, a driver for emergency doctors and chalet rep in the French Alps. He eventually landed a job as a creative artworker/graphic designer and spent the next decade and a half producing artwork, mainly for the home entertainment industry. He has an MA in Creative Writing from Birkbeck, University of London and is a winner of the Crime Writers’ Association Debut Dagger Award. Brothers in Blood is his first novel. For everything else, he has an alibi. It wasn’t him. He was never there.

Find Amer Anwar on his website and also on Twitter - @ameranwar