Thursday, 16 January 2020

BEST OF CRIME with Jessie Keane

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 ...

This has to be Stephen King. Ever since I picked up Carrie, I’ve been a fan. I truly believe he’s one of our greatest living writers. My favorite book of his? Duma Key.

I’ve just seen The Irishman with Robert de Niro and Al Pacino. A genuinely great film, fantastic actors, loved it.

This will probably come as a surprise to my fans because of the gritty nature of the books I write, but I love Midsomer Murders. So gentle, so cosy (all right, a bit gruesome too), like an old comfy pair of slippers that I just love to slip into.

Have to hark back to Stephen King here, and his novel Doctor Sleep – Rose is truly terrifying.

I have to choose my own creation DI Romilly Kane. She appears for the first time in The Edge and gives Kit Miller quite a hard time…

The .38 revolver favored by Max Carter in Dirty Game.

The crucifixion in the DaVinci Code, just bizarre, loved that.

I rarely use the internet for research. I have a LOT of books to refer to instead.

Keep going! I cannot emphasise the importance of this too strongly. People will tell you that you’re a dreamer. That you’re mad. That you ought to get a proper job. Ignore all that. Persist.

Got to be sherbet lemons!

Jessie is a Sunday Times top ten bestselling author with 14 fiction books to her name - although her own life has been as eventful as many of her characters! Born in a caravan to a Romany mother, she has lived at both ends of the social spectrum. Her gritty hard-hitting books are centred around the darker side of London, in particular in Soho. It was a world that fascinated Jessie when she ran away to the capital as a teen, and was to provide her inspiration when she began writing years later.

Find Jessie Keane on her website and on Twitter - @realjessiekeane


Publisher's description
Dora O’Brien had a good start in life, but things went bad when she began to mix with the wrong company. Pregnant by her gangster lover, she found herself on the streets and then in the grips of a bent copper called Donny Maguire.
When her daughter Angel is born, Dora is already under the influence of drink and drugs, and handed around to Donny’s mates. Growing up in the shadow of her mother’s abusive relationship, Angel is nothing like her mother, but when matters turn murderous, Angel is forced to grow up fast and survival becomes the name of the game.
For some, being on the wrong side of the law is the safest place to be...

The Knock was published by Pan Macmillan on 9 January 2020.

Look out for more BEST OF CRIME features coming soon.

Click here to read more BEST OF CRIME features.

Monday, 13 January 2020

BEST OF CRIME with Catherine Steadman

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 ...

Gillian Flynn.


It’s true crime but ... The Jinx.

Cat Woman (Tim Burton’s Batman Returns).

Rebus (I can’t not think of Ken Stott in this role).

Plant pot on head, lol! See Hitchcock’s ‘A Lady Vanishes’.

I did an episode of Midsomer Murders a couple of years ago where my husband was run over by a decommissioned WW2 tank after a cosplay Blitz party, lol!

YouTube - a treasure trove of weapon information and practical tips...

A thriller is around 85,000 words: that’s 34 chapters at about 2500 words each. I am to get around 2500 to 3000 words a day. Don’t judge the first draft, just redraft before passing it on to anyone else. It’s so much easier to whittle a story out of a rough first draft than to try and write a third draft out of thin air.


Catherine Steadman is an actress and writer based in North London. She has appeared in leading roles on British television as well as on stage in the West End, most recently in The Rook on Starz and Agatha Christie’s Witness for the Prosecution in 2018. In 2016 she was nominated for Laurence Olivier Award for her performance in Oppenheimer. She is best known for her role as Mabel Lane Fox in Downton Abbey. She grew up in the New Forest and now lives in London with a small dog and average sized man. Her first novel Something in the Water was selected for the Reese Witherspoon Book Club in July 2018 and has been optioned by Twentieth Century Fox for adaption, with Reese Witherspoon attached to produce. It was also a Richard & Judy Book Club pick in 2019.

Find Catherine Steadman on Twitter - @CatSteadman


Publisher's description
When a man is found on a Norfolk beach, drifting in and out of consciousness, with no identification and unable to speak, interest in him is sparked immediately. From the hospital staff who find themselves inexplicably drawn to him; to international medical experts who are baffled by him; to the national press who call him Mr Nobody; everyone wants answers. 
Who is this man? And what happened to him? 
Neuropsychiatrist Dr Emma Lewis is asked to assess the patient. This is her field of expertise, this is the chance she’s been waiting for and this case could make her name known across the world. But therein lies the danger. Emma left this same small town in Norfolk fourteen years ago and has taken great pains to cover all traces of her past since then. 
But now something – or – someone – is calling her back. And the more time Emma spends with her patient, the more alarmed she comes. Has she walked into danger?

Mr Nobody was published by Simon & Schuster on 9 January 2020.

Look out for more BEST OF CRIME features coming soon.

Click here to read more BEST OF CRIME features.

Friday, 10 January 2020

Jewish Book Week 2020

This year, Jewish Book Week takes place from 29 February to 8 March 2020 - at King’s Place, 90 York Way, London N1 9AG and JW3, 341-351 Finchley Road, London NW3 6ET. 

Yet again, there are plenty of fabulous events and live performances on offer.

Great events
For nine days, Jewish Book Week brings together nearly 200 multi-award winning writers from the worlds of history, journalism, philosophy, science, art, music, poetry and fiction in a celebration of ideas. Themes range from memory to espionage to what it means to be a 'Jewish writer'.

The 2020 line-up includes:
  • Emma Barnett
  • Tom Bower
  • Camilla Cavendish
  • Gavin Esler
  • Jonathan Freedland
  • Nicci Gerrard
  • Adam Gopnik
  • Howard Jacobson
  • Rachel Johnson
  • Norman Lebrecht
  • Sue MacGregor
  • Douglas Murray
  • Melanie Phillips
  • Philippe Sands
  • Marcus du Sautoy
  • Simon Schama
  • Tom Segev
  • Elif Shafak
  • Martin Rees
  • Andrew Robinson
  • Edmund de Waal
  • A.B. Yehoshua
Live performance is a big feature – and this year, highlights include Rob ‘Judge’ Rinder and singer Claire Martin with music of Hollywood’s golden age, and Simon Schama performing his Wordy: The Show.

Tickets are now available! To see the full programme and book your tickets, click here.

First-ever family day
Jewish Book Week's first-ever 'Family Day' is on Sunday 2nd February, when Murderous Math's Kjartan Poskitt celebrates his hero The Great Houdini: The World's Most Amazing Escape Artist and Michael Rosen discusses The Missing: The True Story of My Family in WWII, his new book on speaking with children about the Holocaust.

Schools programme
Jewish Book Week is running a speakers programme  for schools in the London area. Many of the authors appearing at Jewish Book Week generously donate their time to speak in schools in the Greater London area about topics ranging from Politics to Physics, supporting Jewish Book Week's goal of encouraging conversations and learning within the Jewish community and beyond.

For more information, visit the Jewish Book Week website here.

Follow the #JBW20 hashtag on social media and the Jewish Book Week Twitter account - @JewishBookWeek

Thursday, 9 January 2020

BEST OF CRIME with Helen Sedgwick

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 ...

Kate Atkinson is one of my favourites, as is Sophie Hannah – I like my crime with a strong dose of feminism, intersecting narratives and multiple points of view.

I love crime films that are offbeat and genre bending – the deep black quirkiness of Fargo, the folk horror genius of Wicker Man. 

It’s got to be Twin Peaks for me. The subversion of the supernatural colliding with the police procedural, the stunning visual style and soundtrack, the innovative and unsettling use of pace… Twin Peaks all the way!

I’m going to choose a killer who’s drawn with such humanity you can’t help but understand why: Roy Batty from Blade Runner.

My childhood favourite was always Sherlock Holmes. Perhaps it was for his mix of intense logic and bohemian eccentricity or – more likely – his absolute refusal to tone himself down in order to make anyone else comfortable.

I like poisoning with weirdly beautiful and highly toxic plants, stabbing with glistening icicles, and the idea of leaving people to float alone in space. 

You never see an actual death, but Janice Galloway’s short story The Meat is horrific and chilling and, once read, will never be forgotten.

I love wild, frozen places, so I’d recommend the British Antarctic Survey blogs to give a real sense of what it must be like living on the remotest place on earth.

Go with your instincts, read and write and keep writing – and don’t waste too much time on social media.

At the very least there’ll be a large mug of tea and a small mug of very strong coffee on the desk at any one time. I grow vegetables and love to munch on fresh pea shoots, alongside salted caramel chocolate.

Helen Sedgwick is the author of The Comet Seekers, selected as a best book of 2016 by the Herald, and The Growing Season, shortlisted for the Saltire Society Fiction Book of the Year in 2018. She has an MLitt in Creative Writing from Glasgow University and won a Scottish Book Trust New Writers Award. Before she became an author, she was a research physicist with a PhD in Physics from Edinburgh University.

Find Helen Sedgwick on her website and on Twitter - @helensedgwick


Publisher's description
A murder investigation unearths the brutal history of a village where long buried secrets threaten a small community 
When psychotherapist Alexis Cosse is found murdered in the playground of the sleepy northern village of Burrowhead, the local police force set out to investigate. It’s not long before they uncover a maelstrom of racism, misogyny and homophobia. 
But there’s worse to come. Shaken by the revelations and beginning to doubt her relationship with her husband Fergus, DI Georgie Strachan soon realizes that something very bad is lurking just below the surface. Meanwhile someone - or something - is hiding in the strange, haunted cave beneath the cliffs.

When the Dead Come Calling was published by Point Blank Books on 9 January 2020.

Look out for more BEST OF CRIME features coming soon.

Click here to read more BEST OF CRIME features.

Thursday, 19 December 2019

BEST OF CRIME with Mario Theodorou

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 ...

Arthur Conan Doyle. I just love the Sherlock set up and the way he launches into each caper without it feeling like we’re being hurried along. Stylistically and tonally, Doyle’s books and short stories are mesmerizing, and they always feel fresh and original regardless of their age or how many times I’ve read them. 

This is tough. I’m a huge film fan and love crime films from every decade. With a gun to my head, I’d have to say Training Day. I love everything about this film. It’s real lesson in how to write memorable characters and tie them to plot. I’ve never wanted a bad guy to win so much in my life. 

Again, there are a lot of great crime dramas. I’m a fan of the original Prime Suspect, although it’s a bit dated now. I loved The WireBreaking Bad and Sherlock, of course. But I’d have to say that the first series of True Detective takes it for me. Very twisty, with great performances, and that edge of discomfort and anticipation throughout.

Patrick Bateman. What a revelation. A wealthy, high-flying, perfectionist who kills to alleviate his feelings of inadequacy and self-hatred. He’s so complex. Everything he does is a response to how people make him feel about himself. Even though his crimes are horrific, you always know emotionally where his mind is at before he commits them, which scarily allows you to relate. 

I’d have to say Matthew Shardlake. It's not often that the protagonist is a hunchbacked lawyer. Shardlake’s unthreatening demeanour perfectly disguises his incredible mind, which is a set up that really appeals to me. I love that whole series. 

I’m a fan of the elaborate weapons in Greek Mythology and the dual symbolism. The staff of Hermes, entwined with serpents, Kronus’s Scythe, Hade’s Bident… but my favorite has to be the Tunic of Nessus. The poisoned shirt that caused the death of Heracles. It has since come to represent destruction, ruin and misfortune, from which there is no escape. Beats a knife. 

Has to be Game of Thrones. The scene when the Mountain crushes Prince Oberyn’s head like a watermelon. It was absolutely shocking visually, but also emotionally. We are not used to seeing our heroes lose to the bad guy, and not in such a horrific way. The shock value was incredible. I thought about it for days. 

I like true crime websites and podcasts. I read all the news websites too. Anything about people and what motivates them really, which can come from anywhere. I’m also forever on Wiki, legal websites and The Metropolitan Police’s website, making sure that I know all the procedural elements to an investigation.

I mostly write for TV and Film and find a lot of the tools available to screenwriters help make writing novels more visual.
In terms of a good writing resource, I like, – I find the character ghost section very useful. 
Top tips would be to make sure your character arcs are meaningful. People care about people in the end, not elaborate plots. If you can do both, then perfect! 
Also, if you feel it’s not working for any reason, step away, go for a walk, figure it out away from the screen and then come back. I solve all my puzzles away from the computer.

Anything that gives you energy. I eat lots of almonds and drink lots of green tea.

Mario Theodorou is an award winning, London based writer. He first came to prominence after being discovered by Merman Films who optioned his original comedy series, Conny. A script commission from Sky followed for The Master Forger, before he was selected by the BBC for their prestigious writer's programme. He has since been named in the BBC top emerging talent list and has released The Cyprus Missing, a single drama for BBC Radio 4 and Anonymous, his Soho based short film which picked up numerous awards on the film festival circuit, including a nomination for the Short Film Award at the Academy Award qualifying, Austin Film Festival. 
Represented by WME, Mario is currently working on a number of projects, including an original commission for BBC Drama and other original works in development with BBC Studios, Twelve Town, Riff Raff, Sprout Pictures, Tiger Aspect, Vox Pictures, Sevenseas Films, Unstoppable TV and Mainstreet Pictures. 
Felix Grey and the Descendant is Mario’s first novel, and the first in a series of planned works.

Find Mario Theodorou on his website and on Twitter - @MarioTheodorou


Publisher's description
1904. Three years since the death of Queen Victoria and the ascension of her son, Edward VII to the throne. In that time, the decline of the British Empire has accelerated, the econ-omy has stuttered, Captain Scott has gone to the South Pole, and Liberal politician, Felix Grey has been parachuted into Number Ten on the crest of a populist wave. The third youngest Prime Minister in history and the son of a Suffragette, Felix is modern and pro-gressive, but also inexperienced, self-deprecating and doubtful. Having taken on the Conservative old guard in the House of Commons, Felix has found his policies continually blocked and his time in power dogged by his inability to affect any real change. However, when a member of the House of Lords is abducted from the East India Club, and a mysterious card is discovered, Felix begins to feel a sense of purpose again. Against his better judgement, and that of his loyal steward, Humphrey, Felix begins to dig into the card and the missing Lord, desperate to be of service to the people he rep-resents. With public approval disappearing under a spate of fatal factory disasters, and the emer-gence of the German and American economies making the front pages, Felix’s premier-ship is suddenly under attack from all sides. When another Lord is abducted, Felix begins to escalate his investigation, determined to uncover the truth. With suspicious links to fel-low members of Parliament and a period synonymous with British history, Felix has to fight off his enemies, unmask the perpetrators, find the missing Lords and solve the case, all whilst protecting his identity and preserving his position as the British Prime Minister.

Felix Grey and the Descendant was published on 11 December 2019.

I proofread this book and loved it, which is why I invited Mario to do Best of Crime. This isn't something I usually do when I proofread books for authors! But Felix Grey is a fabulous protagonist and this book is great fun to read!

Look out for more BEST OF CRIME features coming soon.

Click here to read more BEST OF CRIME features.

Monday, 16 December 2019

#BookLove2019 on Off-the-Shelf Books

I haven't had the chance to make #BookLove2019 banners this year - though there's still time! 

In the meantime, here are some of the books I've been shouting about in 2019 (in the order I read them, though I do have my favourites, obviously). These are books that have wowed me with their beautiful writing, compelling or fast-paced plots, intriguing characters and/or great sense of place.

I haven't read vast numbers of books this year. In case you haven't seen on social media or read some of my posts, I've been finishing off my own book, The Redeemer, and I'm currently trying to find it the right home. I was first runner up in the DHH Literary Agency's New Voices Award. I have also been proofreading fiction and increasing my writing/editing workload. I'm hoping to catch up on a few more of my 'must reads' over the festive season. I also need to catch up on reviews, as there are several that I still need to write up.

Anyway, here are my top reads of the year (I haven't counted them but I know there are a lot more than 10 - oops!).

Changeling by Matt Wesolowski

This first one is cheating a little as I actually read it at the end of 2018, but it wasn't published in paperback until 2019 so I saved it for this year's Book Love post. And I certainly can't leave it out!

'...gripping writing, authentic dialogue, heart-pounding tension and a final twist that I seriously didn't see coming! Yes, as you may have guessed, I loved Changeling.'

Read my full review here.

The Courier by Kjell Ola Dahl

It's not often that crime novels prompt me to do more research, and this book certainly took me on a journey of discovery. You can read about that here.

'So much tension bubbles away under the surface. But this is far more than just a thriller and a murder mystery ... it's a heartbreaking read.'

Read my full review here.

The Ringmaster by Vanda Symon

I love this series - Sam Shepherd is a fabulous protagonist.

'This gripping series is a definite 'must read' for me - and anyone else who loves entertaining, humorous crime fiction with plenty of heart.'

Read my full review here.

The Neighbour by Fiona Cummins

I love Fiona's books and now can't wait to read her next one, When I Was Ten. She's an expert in creepy crime fiction!

'Fiona Cummins writes beautiful prose with some gruesome descriptions, and certainly manages to get right inside the minds of all of her characters - good or bad!'

Read my full review here.

My Name is Anna by Lizzy Barber

I couldn't put this book down, reading it into the early hours!

'This book is more than just 'another psychological thriller'. It's a dark, intense and well-plotted exploration of identity, childhood abduction, memories and a mother's love.'

Read my full review here.

Turbulent Wake by Paul Hardisty

The writing in this is stunning and the book is compelling, educating me as well as entertaining me.

'I could read this book forever and it's likely to become one of my all-time Orenda favourites.'

Read my full review here.

My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent

For me, it's often all about the writing - and this book's prose is beautiful.

'This is a touch, challenging read - brutal, unsettling, raw and shocking yet also filled with vivid beauty and hope ... I wanted to turn away yet couldn't as the writing was too compelling, too addictive and too powerful.'

Read my full review here.

Violet by SJI Holliday

SJI (Susi) Holliday is an expert plotter - and this book certainly showcases her talent.

'The plot is creepy, chilling and clever - and very dark and very twisted... SJI Holliday has written two believable and deeply flawed unreliable narrators.'

Read my full review here.

Ruin Beach by Kate Rhodes

Kate Rhodes is a favourite writer of mine, with her beautiful poetic prose that I often read out loud.

'...yet another suspense-filled crime novel from Kate Rhodes with a fabulous sense of place.'

Read my full review here.

The Secretary by Renee Knight

A leading character that you may love to hate - or hate to love.

'I struggle with a lot of psychological thrillers at the moment, but The Secretary had me hooked all the way through.'

Read my full review here.

A Window Breaks by C.M. Ewan

Yet another book I couldn't put down! This whole book is a rollercoaster ride - and I felt as though I was part of it!

'I read this book so quickly - I barely took a breath and could feel my heart pounding throughout. I had to force myself to slow down.'

Read my full review here.

The Lost Ones by Anita Frank

I haven't yet written a review of The Lost Ones - it's on my list. This book swept me away to spooky 1917 England and wowed me!

I tweeted: 'A haunting, emotional, ghostly & tragic mystery filled with family secrets.'

Nothing Important Happened Today by Will Carver

I used the word 'brilliant' a few times in my review...

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

Read my full review here.

Six books that are out next year:

Three Hours by Rosamund Lipton (9 January 2020)

This book ... it's incredible.

'Three Hours was a traumatic reading experience in many ways - it challenged me, thrilled me, stunned me and upset me - but I am so glad that I immersed myself within its pages.'

Read my full review here.

The Other People by C.J. Tudor (23 January 2020)

No review written yet. But I tweeted: '...pretty much a one-sitting read. A twisty & compelling crime thriller with supernatural/horror undertones.'

Haven't They Grown by Sophie Hannah (23 January 2020)

No review written yet. But I tweeted: 'It's brilliant - very twisty and not what I expected at all!'

My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell (31 March 2020)

No review written yet. But I tweeted: 'Traumatic, dark, thought-provoking ... I had to put it down several times yet each time felt compelled to pick it up again.'

These, and several other books I've read that aren't yet published, could well be in next year's list! 

For full transparency, I'm disclosing that I have been proofreading for Orenda Books this year, BUT I never recommend books if I don't truly love them. If you know me well, you'll know that I'm honest about the books I read and only tweet about, and review, the ones I have genuinely enjoyed. Any Orenda books featured in this list really did wow me for various reasons.

In 2020, I'm looking forward to reading some more fantastic books and catching up on some of the books I didn't manage to get to this year. I'll be a book blog partner of Jewish Book Week 2020, so look out for some of those posts.

Have a great Christmas and New Year!