Thursday, 26 September 2019

What You Did by Claire McGowan - moderator at October's First Monday Crime

What You Did
By Claire McGowan
Published by Thomas & Mercer (1 August 2019)
I received an Advance Reader Copy from the publisher

Publisher's description
It was supposed to be the perfect reunion: six university friends together again after twenty years. Host Ali finally has the life she always wanted, a career she can be proud of and a wonderful family with her college boyfriend, now husband. But that night her best friend makes an accusation so shocking that nothing will ever be the same again.
When Karen staggers in from the garden, bleeding and traumatised, she claims that she has been assaulted—by Ali’s husband, Mike. Ali must make a split-second decision: who should she believe? Her horrified husband, or her best friend? With Mike offering a very different version of events, Ali knows one of them is lying—but which? And why?
When the ensuing chaos forces her to re-examine the golden era the group shared at university, Ali realises there are darker memories too. Memories that have lain dormant for decades. Memories someone would kill to protect.

My verdict
How well do you remember your student days? Are there some things you'd prefer to forget?

What You Did is a psychological thriller following six adults who were friends at university. Twenty years on, they have met up for a reunion, their lives having taken various different paths over the years. Following an evening of heavy drinking, Karen accuses Ali's husband, Mike, of rape - and Ali's seemingly perfect life falls apart, torn between believing her husband and believing her best friend.

The story is well-structured, told through different perspectives, and flits easily between past and present. None of the characters were particularly likeable but they certainly felt believable - these were real people living real lives - and none of them were reliable either, each one having a distorted view of the past and trying to keep secrets hidden.

What You Did is dark and compelling, with an unsolved murder at the heart of it, revealing how our own memories can deceive us and how we often deceive ourselves. This whodunnit is a twisty read - one that should appeal to psychological thriller fans who love books featuring moral dilemmas and 'what would I do?' scenarios.

First Monday Crime
First Monday Crime is back after its summer break on Monday 7th October at City University, London.

The panellists are Nicci French, Peter Robinson and Marnie Riches, kept in line by moderator Claire McGowan.

You can reserve your free ticket here.

Monday, 9 September 2019

BEST OF CRIME with Andy Martin

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 his BEST OF CRIME ...

Lee Child. He has the best sentences (short or long).

2001: A Space Odyssey. Serial murders in space.

Breaking Bad. Big fan of the pork pie hat. 
Big Little Lies. I’m probably in love with Celeste.

Jack Reacher

Jack Reacher
It’s an interesting combination.

In Blue Moon Reacher uses a guitar, thus giving a whole new meaning to the phrase “head-banger”.
I also like the one Lee Child keeps on a shelf in his living room. He says it’s his only lethal weapon. A flint hand-axe dating from around 250,000 years ago. Possibly Neanderthal.

I always think of Jean-Paul Belmondo staggering along the street in Paris, having been shot, in A bout de souffle. So implausible, but he almost makes you believe. And he manages to get out déguelasse as he’s dying. 

I like Lee Child’s idea: don’t think of yourself as a writer, more as a reader. If I’m getting stuck, I find the “pomodoro” system works well: 25 mins on, 5 mins off.

Sunflower seeds – just don’t get them in your keyboard. They hit the spot but they’re not too ridiculously delicious.

Andy Martin is the author of Reacher Said Nothing: Lee Child and the Making of Make Me.

Find Andy Martin on his website and on Twitter - @andymartinink


Publisher's description
With a foreword by Lee Child. Andy Martin spent a year in the company of Lee Child, creator of tough-guy hero Jack Reacher. With Child is the diary of their adventures, tracking the publication and reception of Make Me, the writing of Night School at an apartment in Manhattan, the filming of Never Go Back in New Orleans, all the agony and ecstasy of the creative process and the sheer hard work of selling a bestseller. They go on the road together, from TV studios to bookstores, from Harvard to Stockholm, amid literary conferences and gunshows, rivalries and reviews ranging from adulatory to murderous. We meet fellow writers like Stephen King and David Lagercrantz and Karin Slaughter, and dissect the latest novel from Jonathan Franzen. But Martin also reaches out to Child's legion of readers in America and around the world. He tracks down a woman in Texas whose name appears in the home invasion scene in Make Me; he goes up a mountain in Montana in search of the only reader who thinks Reacher is a "lightweight"; and he talks to obsessive fans from Europe to South Africa who find salvation or consolation in the colossal form of Jack Reacher. This compelling account of life on the road with Lee Child demonstrates that readers are just as important as writers in the making of modern fiction.

With Child: Lee Child and the Readers of Jack Reacher was published by Polity Press on 6 September 2019

Look out for more BEST OF CRIME features coming soon.

Click here to read more BEST OF CRIME features.

Friday, 6 September 2019

Nothing Important Happened Today by Will Carver

Nothing Important Happened Today
By Will Carver
Published by Orenda Books (E-book - 14 September 2019; Paperback - 14 November 2019)
I received an Advance Reader Copy from the publisher

Publisher's description
Nine suicides
One Cult
No leader
Nine people arrive one night on Chelsea Bridge. They’ve never met. But at the same time, they run, and leap to their deaths. Each of them received a letter in the post that morning, a pre-written suicide note, and a page containing only four words: Nothing important happened today.
That is how they knew they had been chosen to become a part of The People Of Choice: A mysterious suicide cult whose members have no knowledge of one another.
Thirty-two people on that train witness the event. Two of them will be next. By the morning, People Of Choice are appearing around the globe: a decapitation in Germany, a public shooting at a university in Bordeaux; in Illinois, a sports team stands around the centre circle of the football pitch and pulls the trigger of the gun pressed to the temple of the person on their right. It becomes a movement.

My verdict
Nothing Important Happened Today... So hard to describe this book and discuss it with someone who hasn't read it, other than to say it's brilliant (apologies as I'm going to use this word a few times in this review).

It's beautifully written. The writing is staccato - quick, fast-paced and compelling - drawing the reader in. As a few things slotted into place, I realised that the book was so clever too - like nothing I've ever read before. The underlying premise is unique and ... yep ... brilliant.

The book is so well plotted, bringing everything together, weaving in historical references to cults and serial killers with the events in the present day. It provides a melancholy monologue on modern living, social media culture and the pace of society. The book focuses on a highly emotional topic, yet doesn't read that way - I can't give anything away, so it's really hard to explain! The descriptions are shocking and graphic in places and maybe slightly disturbing.

Nothing Important Happened Today will intrigue you from the start and after a while you won't want to put it down. The ending is so good and so right and ... so brilliant. You won't forget this book after you've read it! And you'll just have to read it to find out why!

OK. I think I've waffled on enough now. Just buy the book!

Wednesday, 4 September 2019

BEST OF CRIME with Miranda Boer

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 ...

Stephen King. I’m one of what he calls his 'Constant Readers'. Between the horror, the fantasy, the science fiction and more recently crime thrillers, he really can’t be missed. His Mr. Mercedes series was excellent, and Joyland, was a return to old style ‘Hard Case Crime’ novels. 

Just one?! So hard - there are so many movies I love, across many categories. I have recently been educating my eldest in classic horror: revisiting Halloween, Nightmare on Elm St and Silence of the Lambs! But of more recent movies Split encapsulates for me what I love in a good movie: great characterisation of a complex murderer. 

There’s a lot of good dramas around at the moment, and I tend to rewatch my favourites when I am doing housework or cooking. Elementary is one of them, and I was gutted to find Netflix has taken it off! So no more reruns for me for a while (I am sending them daily request to return it!). I love Johnny Miller’s version of Sherlock Holmes: it’s contemporary and he gives him so much depth. 

John Wick. I know he is more revenge and retaliation killing, but I love the sort of aloof, don’t-give-a-damn attitude as he shoots up everywhere and everyone, while giving us a glimpse into the whole the underbelly of organised crime and contract killing he is embroiled in.

Whenever anyone mentions fiction detectives I always think of Poirot, in particular David Suchet’s version. Having recently read Agatha Christie’s autobiography I was surprised to find that she had never planned for him to be in more than one book, or popular, and initially didn’t like writing him. 

Umbrella. One of my characters used one in Mostly DarkScissors are another one good one. My characters have to use whatever is at hand. 

I’m an avid watcher of Game of Thrones, and the series offers a plethora of choice for death scenes. But my favourite is definitely when Viserys Targaryen, Daenerys’s brother, dies. Khal Drogo gives him the crown he is demanding, in molten gold over his head! It’s marvellous! The one thing about Game of Thrones is how satisfying it is to watch the characters you hate die.  

I don’t have specific sites I go to, it depends what I am looking for; when researching for Sleep I found myself on prison or government sites. For writing, I use for synonyms a lot, when I am trying to find a word to describe something better or differently. 

It all down to you; you can talk about it, think about it and dream about it, but in the end you have to sit down and write.

Can’t type and eat, so I tend not to when I’m at my desk. It’s also an excuse to get up and move around, because the hours fly by and I’m not getting any younger!

M K Boers spent her early childhood in Surrey, in the south of England, and her teens moving round the UK, but currently resides in the Netherlands. 

Under her pen name Miranda Kate, she has been featured in several Flash Fiction anthologies, and has published two collections, one of dark flash-fiction tales called Mostly Dark, and another of science fiction stories called Slipping Through, the latter containing a short novella for which a sequel will be forthcoming this year. 

Find M K Boers on her website, on her Facebook page and on Twitter - @PurpleQueenNL


Publisher's description
A marriage made in heaven, a murder made in hell.
Why kill the man you love?
Lizzy was struggling, everyone knew that.
He shouldn't have done those things.
He shouldn't have pushed her so hard.
And now, her children, her marriage, her hope - gone.
It was all her fault, she knew that, but was there a chance of redemption?
Lizzy Dyson’s on trial for her life. She knows she must pay for what she did, even if it wasn’t planned, but will the jury believe her?
A suspense-filled psychological drama about heartbreak and betrayal, Sleep reveals what drives a woman to murder.
Deals with the sensitive subjects of miscarriage and depression.

Sleep was published on 1 September 2019

Look out for more BEST OF CRIME features coming soon.

Click here to read more BEST OF CRIME features.

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Tuesday, 3 September 2019

Don't Make A Sound by David Jackson

Don't Make A Sound
By David Jackson
Published by Zaffre (November 2018)
I received an Advance Reader Copy from the publisher

Publisher's description
You can't choose your family. Or can you? 
Meet the Bensons. They're an ordinary couple. They wash their car, mow their lawn and pass the time of day with their neighbours. And they have a beautiful little girl called Daisy.
There's just one problem. 
D. S. Nathan Cody is about to face his darkest and most terrifying case yet . . .

My verdict
Don't Make A Sound hooked me in immediately.

It's my first Nathan Cody book - and certainly won't be my last - and I read it very easily as a standalone. From its chilling first chapter right through to the final page, this was pretty much a one-sitting read for me - a 'just one more chapter' book.

Don't Make A Sound is very much a character-led novel - a mixture of psychological thriller and police procedural. It's fast paced and twisty, and felt very believable - what's going on behind closed doors? It's cleverly plotted, with a dark and disturbing storyline, as well as well written - several scenes had me holding my breath.

For months, I've seen people on social media raving about the brilliance of this book - and now I can understand why!