Modern Crimes by Chris Nickson – Launch at Leeds Waterstones on 22nd September 2016

 

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Last week, I went to a book event in my region. Exciting!!! I attended Chris Nickson’s book launch at Leeds Waterstones and I said hello to Chris.

Chris talked about Modern Crimes, his latest historical crime novel. It is set in 1924 Leeds, West Yorkshire. The protagonist, Lottie, is one of the first wave of female police constables. They were employed to look into ‘female’ crimes and lewd behaviour in cinemas. I can imagine it as a very ‘Life on Mars’, with a massive dose of sexism. Of course, Lottie gets embroiled in a bit of murder and mayhem.

It was very clear from Chris’s talk that he puts a massive amount of effort into research. He talked about getting the historical setting right and the various areas of the city he used, including Armley. He discussed the social changes in the police force. Women were allowed to join the police force, about a hundred years ago. Women like his fictional character, Lottie, were pioneers and heroes.

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Chris read a couple of passages from the book and invited questions, from the audience. I was left very intrigued, wanting to get to know Lottie. Lottie sounds brilliant.

Watch out for my review of Modern Crimes very soon!

A few photos from the launch of Chris Nickson’s new book Modern Crimes

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Modern Crimes by Chris Nickson can be bought on Amazon here: Modern Crimes

Chris Nickson can also be found on Twitter: https://twitter.com/ChrisNickson2

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Standstill by JA Marley – Blog Tour Guest Post on Crime Writing

Standstill by [Marley, J.A.]

I’d like to welcome J. A. Marley to the blog, with a special guest post all about crime writing. Expect my review of ‘Stand Still’ very soon….

Crime Writing…it’s Not Normal!

One thing I wasn’t prepared for when it came to writing my debut novel Standstill was that crime writing turns you into a psycho.

Well…sort of.  Standstill is set in contemporary London and I really wanted to make the city act almost like a character in the book.  I wanted to be as accurate as I could with locations, atmosphere and attitude.  Sense of place was, I believe, going to be crucial in making this story work.

But this caused me to develop a new habit.  Everywhere I went in the city I started to look around me with the eyes of a criminal.  There is a huge robbery at the heart of the book, and suddenly, every time I commuted into town I was on the look out for the perfect heist location.  I started to imagine shoot outs up Shooters Hill, brawls in Bayswater and knifings down Knightsbridge.

I started to take random photos on my iPhone of places I thought a car chase might work or a bomb might be well placed.  One game I particularly enjoyed was travelling on the Underground and trying to get away from commuters who had alighted a train at the same time as me.  In my head I was playing out scenarios in which you might lose a follow, which stations would be good for their chaos, the relentless shuffle of passengers to disappear into, so that a copper would struggle to keep their eyes on you.  I am sure my fellow travellers must have thought that I was odd at best, nuts at worst.

Another habit you pick up is eavesdropping. I was aware that I wanted my characters to sound genuine.  Dialogue is hard enough to write at the best of times, but injecting authenticity into the rhythms and slang of my cockney crims was going to be vital.  So now you are listening into other people’s conversations.  Snippets of chat are just fabulous things to get hold of, especially as their lack of context can make them hilarious to behold.  Some of my favourite overheard gems included on young girl telling her friend on Oxford Street “He’s just obsessed with this thingy…can’t stop touching it” or the business man on his mobile in Shepherd’s Bush asking in a cut glass Surrey accent “And exactly what size is the bouncy castle?”.

I eventually found my perfect heist location one evening during a drive through Battersea with my brother-in-law, who also happens to be a retired flying squad officer and my technical adviser on this book.  Mark was, by this stage, used to answering my myriad questions about his former job and would do most things for the small price of a pint of real ale.  So we set off in search of where I thought my robbery might actually occur.

You’ll have to read the book to discover where we ended up, but needless to say when we got there, Mark patiently listened as I talked him through how the job would go down and then offered his considered opinion on what might work or not.  There was one delicious coincidence.  We came across a street called Smuggler’s Way.  It was just too good to resist, so a part of the blag does happen there.  Once again, anyone who clocked me walking around that street with my video camera out, using my strides to measure distance must have thought I was at least a little touched.

So there you have it.  Crime thriller writing makes you act very strange.  To all my fellow London commuters, I apologise if I A) scared you with my craziness or B) stole snatches of your private conversations.  Trust me if you read Standstill, you will see I did it all for very good reason.

Standstill by J.A. Marley is out now, published by Avocado Books, price £6.99 in paperback and £1.99 in eBook

J.A. Marley Sept ‘16

Amazon UK link to Standstill 

J. A. Marley can also be found here: http://www.jamarley.com/

 

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Pendulum – Adam Hamdy

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Published on 3rd November 2016 by Headline and available to buy here

You wake. Confused. Disorientated.
A noose is round your neck.
You are bound, standing on a chair.
All you can focus on is the man in the mask tightening the rope.
You are about to die.
John Wallace has no idea why he has been targeted. No idea who his attacker is. No idea how he will prevent the inevitable.
Then the pendulum of fate swings in his favour.
He has one chance to escape, find the truth and halt his destruction.
The momentum is in his favour for now.
But with a killer on his tail, everything can change with one swing of this deadly pendulum…

You have one chance. Run.

My thoughts

I picked up Pendulum, to read a few pages. Before I knew it I was lost in the book, racing towards the end. It is THAT kind of thriller. It consumes you.

This is a cat and mouse game, with a cunning serial killer. John Wallace finds himself targeted by a ruthless killer. He ends up in a locked psychiatric ward, after fleeing from his home following a vicious attack. No one believes John’s story that his home was invaded and he was strung up with a noose around his neck, by a masked man. They all think he is suicidal and delusional. John is soon on the run, a wanted man. Will the killer track him down? Is John clever enough to work out what on earth is going on?

Adam Hamdy had me hypnotised by Pendulum. It reminded me of ‘The Fugitive’ and all of those action packed movies that have you practically sobbing in frustration, at the many trials our tough hero endures. I felt Wallace’s pain. I was willing him on! I needed answers…

Boy oh boy! This is one hectic terrifying journey we take with Wallace. Hamdy never lets the fast pace ease off, as we go from London to New York, in search of answers. Luckily Wallace is the sort of amazing guy, who can cope with hell being thrown at him. He can walk around covered in bruises and with broken ribs and not moan, like the rest of us. Well me, actually! I would be letting the world know my agony! I enjoyed the rest of the cast, especially Wallace’s FBI friend Christine and how we got to know our clever killer. I actually felt empathy for our psychopathic serial killer. He wasn’t all bad, you know!

Top top crime! Hamdy aces it. He gives us a heart-stopping, high octane killer thriller. I was left wanting more. And there will be more…. Looking forward to the sequel SO MUCH! Recommended.

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The Last Confession of Thomas Hawkins – Antonia Hodgson (Tom Hawkins Book 2)

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Published on 14th July 2015 by Hodder Paperbacks and available here

London, 1728. A young, well-dressed man is driven through streets of jeering onlookers to the gallows at Tyburn. They call him a murderer. But Tom Hawkins is innocent and somehow he has to prove it, before the rope squeezes the life out of him.

It is, of course, all his own fault. He was happy settling down with Kitty Sparks. He should never have told the most dangerous criminal in London that he was bored and looking for adventure. He should never have offered to help, the king’s mistress. And most of all, he should never have trusted the witty, calculating Queen Caroline. She has promised him a royal pardon if London, 1728. A young, well-dressed man is driven through streets of jeering onlookers to the gallows at Tyburn. They call him a murderer. But Tom Hawkins is innocent and somehow he has to prove it, before the rope squeezes the life out of him.

It is, of course, all his own fault. He was happy settling down with Kitty Sparks. He should never have told the most dangerous criminal in London that he was bored and looking for adventure. He should never have offered to help, the king’s mistress. And most of all, he should never have trusted the witty, calculating Queen Caroline. She has promised him a royal pardon if he holds his tongue but then again, there is nothing more silent than a hanged man…

Previous book in the series: The Devil in the Marshalsea – Antonia Hodgson (Tom Hawkins Book 1)

My thoughts

Hooray! I seriously think I want to travel in a TARDIS back to 1728 and meet Tom Hawkins. Obviously I don’t want the insanitary conditions, poor hygiene and smells. But I’m in love with the period. Give me the gin shops and the taverns NOW!

Hawkins was last seen in a debtor’s prison hunting for a killer. In ‘The Last Confession of Thomas Hawkins’, he is back. This time, it is a historical locked door mystery. Hawkins now lives in sin with Kitty, who has inherited a fortune. As this is before the Married Womens’ Property Act of 1882, Kitty has to stay single to keep control of her money. If she marries Hawkins, her money goes to him. Kitty is the owner of a lewd bookshop selling eighteenth century porn, think Fifty Shades of Grey style writings. The man next door, Joseph Burden, comes to blows with Hawkins publicly and ends up being found murdered. Who killed Burden? Hawkins finds himself accused of a crime he didn’t commit and in a race against time to find the guilty party. Tom also finds himself chatting to the Queen, as you do. Life is certainly fun for our hero!

Loved it! It was fun to be back in the crazy world of Tom and Kitty. This felt very different to the first story, set in the debtor’s prison. Tom gets himself in just as much trouble, this time. There is a lovely sense of the time and place, through the colourful descriptions. We see how life is lived in the 1720s, in the city. I found myself looking up various things on the internet, from the gin epidemic to contraception. I couldn’t help myself! I cannot imagine how cheap gin must have been back then, for people to spend all of their money getting drunk on it. I’m not saying what the condoms were made of! Urrghhh!

What an adventure! If you are interested in social history and want a good old fashioned crime story, with a lovable rogue in Tom, check out Antonia Hodgson! I look forward to Tom’s next story in Yorkshire, ‘A Death At Fountains Abbey’.

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Her Every Fear – Peter Swanson

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Published on 10 January 2017 by Faber and Faber and available here

The author of the wildly popular The Kind Worth Killing returns with an electrifying and downright Hitchcockian psychological thriller as tantalizing as the cinema classics Rear Window and Wait Until Dark involving a young woman caught in a vise of voyeurism, betrayal, manipulation, and murder.

The danger isn’t all in your head . . .

Growing up, Kate Priddy was always a bit neurotic, experiencing momentary bouts of anxiety that exploded into full blown panic attacks after an ex-boyfriend kidnapped her and nearly ended her life. When Corbin Dell, a distant cousin in Boston, suggests the two temporarily swap apartments, Kate, an art student in London, agrees, hoping that time away in a new place will help her overcome the recent wreckage of her life.

But soon after her arrival at Corbin’s grand apartment on Beacon Hill, Kate makes a shocking discovery: his next-door neighbor, a young woman named Audrey Marshall, has been murdered. When the police question her about Corbin, a shaken Kate has few answers, and many questions of her own curiosity that intensifies when she meets Alan Cherney, a handsome, quiet tenant who lives across the courtyard, in the apartment facing Audrey s. Alan saw Corbin surreptitiously come and go from Audrey’s place, yet he’s denied knowing her. Then, Kate runs into a tearful man claiming to be the dead woman’s old boyfriend, who insists Corbin did the deed the night that he left for London.

When she reaches out to her cousin, he proclaims his innocence and calms her nerves . . . until she comes across disturbing objects hidden in the apartment and accidently learns that Corbin is not where he says he is. Could Corbin be a killer? And what about Alan? Kate finds herself drawn to this appealing man who seems so sincere, yet she isn’t sure. Jetlagged and emotionally unstable, her imagination full of dark images caused by the terror of her past, Kate can barely trust herself . . . So how could she take the chance on a stranger she’s just met?

Yet the danger Kate imagines isn’t nearly as twisted and deadly as what’s about to happen. When her every fear becomes very real.

And much, much closer than she thinks.

My review of the brilliant The Kind Worth Killing

My thoughts

Seriously GREAT! Gorgeously dark! I fell in love with the writing of Peter Swanson, on reading ‘The Kind Worth Killing’. Now’s he’s back with a new one to grip you, send your senses soaring and make you wonder if there is someone creeping about your house.’Her Every Fear’ is a must-read for 2017.

The story follows Kate, an English girl who has swapped apartments with Corbin, a distant cousin, and has moved to America for six months. She is has over-come trauma in her past, following an abusive relationship. Kate is still plagued with anxiety and panic attacks. It is a positive step for her to be living abroad and taking a university course. Kate becomes intrigued with the apartment next door to her. A woman has disappeared and is later found dead. The police come knocking on her door. We also have the story narrated by Corbin, a man with a few secrets of his own. What is Corbin hiding? Why is neighbour Alan watching? Is Kate safe or is she right to be slightly paranoid?

Poor Kate! She attracts terrible things. She is an evil psychopath magnet. She is also a victim of her fears. Swanson shows us Kate’s past in microscopic detail and what turned her into this bundle of nerves. It is no wonder she is happy staying in her flat, with the door bolted. Kate’s natural curiosity leads her into the mystery of the girl next door and to a spot of detective work. A murdered girl, who her distant cousin knows. A murdered girl, that Kate needs to find all about. The tension escalates, as we see Kate drawing the creepy attention of others, including a killer. It is ironic, that her worst fears start to materialise. Yes she has a right to worry. Reality kicks her in the teeth. Someone has their sights on Kate.

Creepy neighbours, multiple murder, revenge, extreme paranoia and a woman with a million fears caught up in it all.. what is not to LOVE! Swanson has this brilliant way of leading you into a twisted world, where you hold your breath and wait with anticipation and horror. As events are narrated from several points of view, we soon understand how precarious a position Kate is in and what she may discover. This is a place where killers are friendly, fears seem very real and you might just be right about that sudden unexpected noise. Swanson’s books always have a cinematic quality about them. This is no exception. I can picture it as a movie, with creepy background music playing and a strong thumping heart beat.

Excellently paranoid, with a touch of twisted fear! Recommended.

 

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I See You – Clare Mackintosh

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Published on 28 July 2016 by Sphere and available here

When Zoe Walker sees her photo in the classifieds section of a London newspaper, she is determined to find out why it’s there. There’s no explanation, no website: just a grainy image and a phone number. She takes it home to her family, who are convinced it’s just someone who looks like Zoe. But the next day the advert shows a photo of a different woman, and another the day after that.

Is it a mistake? A coincidence? Or is someone keeping track of every move they make . . .

I See You is an edge-of-your-seat, page-turning psychological thriller from one of the most exciting and successful British debut talents of 2015

My thoughts

‘I Let You Go’ was a huge success for new author Clare Mackintosh. It was truly excellent and highly original. I was expecting great things from her with ‘I See You’. There has been a lot of buzz about it all over the place…

The story itself is set in London, with the London Underground featuring prominently. We follow an average forty year old woman, a commuter living in London with her family. Think girl on an underground train. She finds what looks like HER picture, in the sleazy classified section of a newspaper. There are links to a website and a phone number. Zoe contacts the police, but is not really taken seriously. Zoe keeps an eye on the classified section of the newspaper and starts to see a pattern emerging. Soon it is clear. Someone is targeting passengers on the Underground for their own sinister pleasure and gain. Only Kelly, who works with the British Transport Police, seems willing to listen to Zoe.

The highlight of ‘I See You’ was its atmospheric portrayal of the London Underground. Mackintosh really captures the feeling of claustrophobia and of bodies packed tightly together, in the heat. I shuddered at the description and I don’t really mind the Underground. I was impressed too, with the descriptions of the police operations in the Underground and above. I wanted more of that.

Overall I found this to be pretty average for a psychological crime read. Not what I was expecting AT ALL, from the author of ‘I Let You Go’.

We get bombarded with too many details about Zoe’s dreary domestic life, her work and her daily traumas. It slowed down everything, to a snail’s pace. Zoe wasn’t engaging enough to appeal to me. Although I enjoyed some of the scenes in the Underground, where she was wary and fearful. She mostly behaved like she was forty going on sixty. I craved action and tension. This was a great idea; a concept of high drama in the Underground, with murder and danger thrown in. Stalking with technology, technology working against us! Evil in our midst. The problem was that all felt contrived and unsatisfactory, with little to impress a seasoned reader of crime. I wanted to believe in it all. I just couldn’t. Kelly was the stronger, more believable character. It is a pity, we did not get her as the main focus of the story.

Overall, this was a massive disappointment to me. I think it might appeal more, if you haven’t read ‘I Let You Go’ and go into this without any expectations. I feel it is a very average psychological drama, that fails to deliver anything extra-ordinary. See what you make of it, for yourselves!

 

 

 

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The Dead Can’t Talk – Nick Quantrill

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Published on 12 May 2015 by Caffeine Nights and available here to buy.

A CITY CAN’T KEEP ITS SECRETS FOREVER.

How far will Anna Stone, a disillusioned police officer on the brink of leaving her job, go to uncover the truth about her sister’s disappearance?

Approached by Luke Carver, an ex-Army drifter she’s previously sent to prison, he claims to have information which will help her. As the trail leads from Hull and the Humber’s desperate and downtrodden to its great and good, an unsolved murder twenty-five years ago places their lives in danger, leaving Stone to decide if she can really trust a man who has his own reasons for helping.

Nick Quantrill guest post: Quantrill Talks: The Dead Can’t Talk – Writing Provincial Crime

My thoughts

Well well well.. Hot on the heels of David Mark and his Hull crime novel Dead Pretty, I’ve jumped into a bit more seriously gritty Hull noir. Hull is becoming a crime capital! The Dead Can’t Talk is the fourth book by Nick Quantrill. It looks to me like it could be the start of a fantastic series, with the pairing of Carver and Stone.

Luke Carver is ex-army and he’s struggling to make a life for himself, as a civilian. He was sent to prison thanks to the efforts of one police officer, Anna Stone. Stone is fed up with the police, after her journalist sister went missing and it was assumed she had committed suicide. She is deciding where her future lies. A sex worker was murdered twenty five years ago. Carver and Stone find themselves unlikely allies hunting for the truth, when a piece of evidence about the murder is handed to them.

We get a story of corruption, of secrets and lies, of an underclass of poverty and a backdrop of the less touristy side Hull. This is a seedy Hull; the desperate hidden side of a city, with its casual violence, sex workers and people living on the very edge. We get a real sense of how incredibly difficult it must for the less affluent residents. Luke Carver, as an ex-army man, is trying his best to get by and to make something of his life. He is stuck with a criminal record and limited choices, living in a grotty bedsit. He is incredibly well drawn and it was fascinating seeing the world from his perspective. Anna Stone is the exact opposite of Luke, wealthy enough to go travelling and see the world. She is a woman with a focus, determined to find out what happened to her sister.

This was really superb, told with a refreshing style and a beautiful dark edge. I found myself immensely enjoying the world of Carver and Stone in Hull. Mr Quantrill, you have a new fan!

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