The Restless Dead – Simon Beckett. Blog tour Interview and Review.

I was VERY happy to see Dr David Hunter back in the latest novel from Simon Beckett – and even more happy to be able to ask him a couple of questions about it for the blog tour. My review and details on the book follow that.

Thanks so much for agreeing to answer some questions – firstly I was so happy to see Dr Hunter reappear, for readers coming into the series here could you tell us a little something about the background to the character?

David Hunter is a forensic anthropologist, which means he specialises in analysing human remains that are either decomposed or badly damaged. After losing his wife and young daughter in a car accident, he found his work too painful and walked away from everything to do with his old life. At the start of the first book in the series, The Chemistry of Death, he’s working as a GP, which he’d originally trained to be.

But after being reluctantly drawn into a murder investigation again, he realised his true calling was working with the dead rather than the living and returned to forensic anthropology. Now he’s a police consultant, based in London but travelling to wherever in the UK the police find a body requiring his unique set of skills.

Hunter isn’t a traditional crime or thriller ‘hero’. He doesn’t act tough, kick down doors or rebel against authority. And he doesn’t always get things right: he makes mistakes and suffers self-doubt just like the rest of us. It was important to me that – except for his work and tragic past – that he was seen as a normal person: a fallible, damaged individual who readers could sympathise and associate with. One of the nicest comments I’ve had was from a reader who said she worried he wasn’t eating properly. That showed she saw him as a real character.

In The Restless Dead he is back in the game through certain twists of fate – how do you go about building an intriguing mystery whilst keeping the wonderfully fascinating forensic detail so authentic?

I suppose it’s a question of finding the right balance. As interesting as the forensic details are, they still need to fit within a compelling story in order to work. And to my mind the Hunter books are as much psychological thrillers as forensic mysteries. They’re very character led, so I try to approach both plot and forensics from that perspective.

Obviously, the books need a lot of background research. Since I’m not a forensic expert myself – I worked as a freelance journalist before I wrote the Hunter series – I constantly quiz various police and forensic experts who are generous enough to help out. That makes the books more authentic, I think, since these are people who have actual training and experience in the field.

But fitting this sort of research into a fictional story can be tricky. More than once I’ve been forced to abandon a plot idea when one of the experts I’ve approached says, ‘No, that wouldn’t happen’. And I don’t want the forensic details to appear gratuitous, which can be a fine line when Hunter’s work involves detailed descriptions of decomposing remains. If you’re talking about blow-flies and maggots on a dead body you really don’t need to go into excessive detail to make the point.

Could you talk a little about the setting –not far from Mersea Island– is this somewhere you know well and what made you utilise this location for the book? It certainly created a beautifully atmospheric backdrop and allowed for some thrilling edge of the seat moments in the whole man v nature stakes.

The setting is very important for all the Hunter novels. Each one takes place somewhere different – Norfolk, the Outer Hebrides and so on – and the landscape plays a big part in establishing atmosphere and setting the scene. For The Restless Dead I knew it had to be somewhere with water, but I considered several possibilities before I finally settled on the Essex marshes. I liked the sense of loneliness and isolation they brought to the story, this flat vista of mudflats, reeds and open sky, as well as the fact that the landscape is constantly changing with the tides. And, of course, there’s an undercurrent of danger as well, because as peaceful these places appear they can also be treacherous. As soon as I read that the tides come in faster than a man can run, I was hooked.

Although the Essex marshes and that stretch of coastline are obviously real, as with the other Hunter books the actual locations where most of the story takes place are fictitious. That gives me freedom to write what I want without worrying if readers getting in touch to say I’ve put the post box on the wrong street corner. That doesn’t mean I don’t want these places to feel authentic, because I do. I’ll spend a lot of time researching the area where a book is set, and try to spend time there whenever possible.

But the main thing for me is finding a setting to fit the story, and that I can clearly see in my own mind. In that respect, I treat them in the same way I do the characters: they aren’t real, but I want people to be able to visualise them and feel that they could be.

Can you tell us anything about what is next? Will Dr Hunter return?

I’m a great believer in not talking things away, so I don’t like saying too much about what I’m working on. But I can say that Hunter will be back.

Finally, is there anything you have read recently that you would like to recommend to readers?

The book that’s stood out for me recently is Golden Hill by Francis Spufford. It’s set in eighteenth century Manhattan, and while I don’t read much historical fiction this was the best thing I’ve read in a long time.

Thanks so much!

You’re welcome!

About the Book:

Available Now.

It was on a Friday evening that forensics consultant Dr David Hunter took the call: a Detective Inspector Lundy from the Essex force. Just up the coast from Mersea Island, near a place called Backwaters, a badly decomposed body has been found and the local police would welcome Hunter’s help with the recovery and identification . . .
Because they would like it to be that of Leo Villiers, the 31 year-old son of a prominent local family who went missing weeks ago, and they are under pressure to close the case. Villiers was supposed to have been having an affair with a married woman, Emma Derby. She too is missing, and the belief is that the young man disposed of his lover, and then killed himself. If only it was so straightforward.
But Hunter has his doubts about the identity of the remains. The hands and feet are missing, the face no longer recognisable. Then further remains are found – and suddenly these remote wetlands are giving up yet more grisly secrets. As Hunter is slowly but surely drawn into a toxic mire of family secrets and resentments, local lies and deception, he finds himself unable, or perhaps unwilling, to escape even though he knows that the real threat comes from the living, not the dead.

I’m a huge fan of this series – if you haven’t read them yet I would HIGHLY recommend that you read them all, not that The Restless Dead is not perfectly readable and brilliant as a standalone but Dr Hunter is a character you want to be with from the beginning. Also for you readers who simply MUST read in order The Chemistry of Death is where to start.

This story finds our Dr Hunter called in unexpectedly to help with the recovery and identification of remains, but he is drawn into a mystery that offers danger at every turn. As with the previous novels, Simon Beckett brings a hugely atmospheric sense of tension in his writing and the forensic detail is both fascinating and incredibly accessible which really digs you deep into the tale and keeps you wrapped up in it. Beautifully descriptive in both setting and character this, like the others, is an addictive and all consuming read that you may well do in one sitting if you are prone to that sort of thing.

The subtle twists and turns are cleverly intricate, Dr Hunter’s personal story arc takes a compelling turn, there is nothing about this book that I didn’t love entirely – oh well apart from finishing it because I immediately and rather rabidly wanted more. Never have I been so pleased to return to a series I (and the author) have been away from for a while, this is intuitive, clever writing, I’d put it very near the top of the crime fiction I read.

Overall perfectly brilliant. Or brilliantly perfect. Either would work as well and this, as with the rest, comes highly recommended from me.

 

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Black Water – Louise Doughty. Blog Tour Review.

Publication Date: Available Now from Faber.

Source: Purchased copy

John Harper lies awake at night in an isolated hut on an Indonesian island, listening to the rain on the roof and believing his life may be in danger. But he is less afraid of what is going to happen than of something he’s already done.

In a local town, he meets Rita, a woman with her own troubled history. They begin an affair – but can he allow himself to get involved when he knows this might put her at risk?

Moving between Europe during the cold war, California and the Civil Rights struggle, and Indonesia during the massacres of 1965 and the decades of military dictatorship that follow, Black Water is an epic novel that explores some of the darkest events of recent world history through the story of one troubled man.

I went into Black Water having only read Apple Tree Yard from Louise Doughty – I thought Black Water was all kinds of amazing but I think it is worth noting, that if you like me have only read that one book that has been so popular (for good reason) that Black Water is a very different kettle of fish – therefore might be somewhat unexpected.

What I loved about this one was the setting and the drawing of the background, a slow burn of literary suspense where the beauty was in the characters and their journeys. I don’t know a lot about Indonesia, the culture or the history but Black Water felt honestly authentic and Louise Doughty digs deep into the heart of things.

Black Water is both tragic and beautiful, John Harper is compelling, not always likeable but endlessly fascinating. The history is cleverly interwoven into a tale of one man’s life battles, both internal and external and towards the end of the novel I was almost literally holding my breath. The author breathes a strange inevitability into her plotting, this is a political drama in some ways but mostly an intensive and insightful character study.

I loved the writing, I loved that it didn’t rush you towards judgement, I wouldn’t call it a thriller although it was at times thrilling. Dramatic suspense at it’s very best. It makes me want to follow this author onwards because both of the books I have read of hers now have been completely different from each other but equally clever and emotionally gripping.

Recommended.

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The Special Girls Isabelle Grey – Blog Tour Review.

Publication Date: April 6th from Quercus

Source: Review Copy

A young psychiatric registrar is found dead in the woods outside a summer camp for young eating disorder patients, run by the charismatic, world-renowned Professor Ned Chesham. DI Grace Fisher investigates, but it is not long before she is pulled from the case – to head up a Metropolitan Police review into a cold case involving Chesham himself.

Nearly twenty years ago, one of Chesham’s patients made allegations that he sexually assaulted her. The investigation at the time found no conclusive proof, but Grace soon discovers another victim, and a witness whose account never reached the police. Does this mean the original investigation was bungled? Scotland Yard would certainly like her to conclude otherwise.

As Grace uncovers the lies that led to the young doctor’s murder, she discovers the full extent of the damage done to Chesham’s ‘special girls’ – and the danger they are still in.

I loved The Special Girls – it is an emotive and very current theme that Isabelle Grey uses as her main plot here, that of historical child abuse and the difficulties of prosecuting, or even proving, criminal acts committed by those in power. As such it is at times a quite harrowing read, the author digging into the fallout and affect on those who suffer at the hands of those they should be able to trust.

When a psychiatric registrar is found dead, Grace gets the case but it soon becomes apparent that there are political issues that may stymie her investigation. Soon moved on to a cold case review that is connected, she is thrown into a years long history of possible abuse against young girls suffering eating disorders. The plot flows along from there, Grace finding obstacles at every turn, having to think outside the box in order to get to the truth and putting her own career in danger along the way.

The Special Girls is highly readable, well flowing and immersive – I’ve enjoyed the previous books in this series but I do think that this one has taken things up a notch, not only in regards to character arcs but in depth and quality of storytelling. Isabelle Grey writes about a truly horrific subject with sympathy and realism – you feel every moment of it, get frustrated right along with Grace when political maneuvering gets in the way of protecting the vulnerable – it is often very heart wrenching stuff but always genuine and as we know from many recent news headlines, not at all unbelievable.

This was addictive reading with a tough emotional edge and realistic twists of fate that I have no problem at all recommending.

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The Contract J M Gulvin – Blog Tour Review

Publication Date: April 6th from Faber

Source: Review Copy

In New Orleans, Texas Ranger John Q is out of his jurisdiction, and possibly out of his depth. It seems everyone in Louisiana wants to send him home, and every time he asks questions there’s trouble: from the pharmacist to the detective running scared to the pimp who turned to him as a last resort. Before John Q knows it, he looks the only link between a series of murders.

So who could be trying to set him up, and why, and who can he turn to in a city where Southern tradition and family ties rule?

I was really looking forward to The Contract, having loved the first book in this series The Long Count and it did not disappoint – loved it.

I’m a fan of  John Q as a main protagonist, the scene is set in most excellent fashion by J M Gulvin, authentic and brilliantly immersive, this is a noir thriller with some terrific descriptive prose that brings the vagaries of that time to vivid life. Immediately addictive, you could easily lose a day to this one. In fact that’s exactly what happened.

When I reviewed The Long Count I said this could easily become one of my favourite protagonists and favourite series and with The Contract I haven’t been disabused of that notion – if anything it has just confirmed it. I liked this one even more and already I’m bang in my comfort zone, I love the historical setting, the plotting once again is extraordinarily clever and there are enough twists and turns to keep the most ardent of crime fans happy.

As John Q chases down leads in New Orleans, seemingly becomes the one link in a series of murders, yet somehow keeps his cool, quirky attitude, this is a purely wonderful read, realistically drawn with some insightful characterisation and a real sense of time and place.

You could easily read this as a standalone but I’d recommend reading in order if only because then you’ll get more bang for your buck – both books are brilliant and I have absolutely no problem highly recommending them.

Cool beans! That is all.

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Six Stories Matt Wesolowski – Blog Tour Review.

1997. Scarclaw Fell. The body of teenager Tom Jeffries is found at an outward bound centre. Verdict? Misadventure. But not everyone is convinced. And the truth of what happened in the beautiful but eerie fell is locked in the memories of the tight-knit group of friends who embarked on that fateful trip, and the flimsy testimony of those living nearby.

2017. Enter elusive investigative journalist Scott King, whose podcast examinations of complicated cases have rivalled the success of Serial, with his concealed identity making him a cult internet figure. In a series of six interviews, King attempts to work out how the dynamics of a group of idle teenagers conspired with the sinister legends surrounding the fell to result in Jeffries’ mysterious death. And who’s to blame…

As every interview unveils a new revelation, you’ll be forced to work out for yourself how Tom Jeffries died, and who is telling the truth. A chilling, unpredictable and startling thriller, Six Stories is also a classic murder mystery with a modern twist, and a devastating ending.

I have seen so many great reviews of Six Stories since I read it and have been patiently (??!!??) awaiting my turn whilst leading up to it with a Six Stories about Six Stories set of features but now here we are my day for the blog tour and I find myself speechless. Well ok not really but Six Stories is a book that rendered me speechless for a little while after finishing it.

There is actually no way I can improve on what everyone else has been saying, Six Stories is a genuine marvel of a novel with its tense, atmospheric writing vibe and the ability to make you crazy. Inspired by the “Serial” set of podcasts this is bang on relevant in today’s wonderful world of technology but Matt Wesolowski manages to make it feel both modern and as old as time – a classic in the making, a touch of old school genius brought bang up to date.

The story itself is a beautifully twisted tale, slowly slowly things are revealed, each “episode” bringing new information to light, not necessarily traditionally but through the reader slowly coming to know the players involved in this drama. The setting is stunningly drawn, often insanely creepy, the mythology and legend embedded into the plot makes it so much more than just a mystery – it kind of gets under your skin, whilst it is not sudden jump scary you find yourself switching the light on when you awake at 3am because you feel like something is hovering. Really beautifully done.

There is not a lot else to say – Six Stories is one of those books that just envelop you into its world, intelligent plotting, multi-layered characters, a little twist in the tale and a genuinely absorbing bit of storytelling. These are the books I read for.

Highly Recommended.

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Fire Child Sally Emerson – Blog Tour Review.

Publication Date: Available Now from Quartet

Source: Review Copy

Fire Child’s dark heroine is the young Tessa who from the age of 12 uses the power of her smile to seduce men, with damaging and dramatic consequences. The novel interplays her chilling and funny diaries with those of Martin Sherman, a dangerous young man who likes to play with fire. We know they will meet and all hell (possibly literally) will break loose. Meanwhile he stacks shelves at a supermarket, she works at a nearby estate agent’s. Both are hiding, leading deliberately dull lives in north London, afraid of what they have already done and what they are capable of. But when they meet, everything changes. Their union is devastating.

I loved Fire Child – it is just the kind of tense, beautiful writing that I’m a fan of and the two main characters here are both chilling and beautifully drawn.

It is a slow burn (yes I said that) as we meet Tessa and Martin  – Martin is almost scientific in his lack of passion that is yet still passionate whilst Tessa, profound and insular, uses her feminine wiles from a very young age, experimenting and learning how to achieve what she desires in the moment.

The pair are extraordinarily fascinating as separate individuals, but as Sally Emerson slowly draws them together, the tension is palpable – the plotting is clever and all about the underneath of things, you just know that the pair will spark off each other (yes I did that too) and cause catastrophe. It is like watching a car crash unfold in slow motion, one that you can do nothing about, nor can you look away.

Fire Child is kind of beautiful if in a very traumatic way – the finale is stunning and takes you out of the comfort zone, this being a re release, it just proves that those girls have been around for a long long time. Tessa is a remarkable and unforgettable character, this is a twisted love story with bite and I can’t do anything less than highly recommend it.

 

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Too Sharp Blog Tour – Marianne Delacourt’s Top Ten Humorous Heroines.

Today I am very happy to welcome Marianne Delacourt to Liz Loves Books, to celebrate “Too Sharp” the third in the Tara Sharp series she is telling us about her Top Ten Humorous Heroines.

Marianne Delacourt’s Top Ten Humorous Heroines

The truth is that Janet Evanovich hooked me on humorous heroines. I really get a kick out of snappy dialogue stirred with slapstick, and the Stephanie Plum series perfected the mix.

My heroine, Tara Sharp, has had some memorable moments of her own. She’s tangled with bad-asses, bangers, bikers, and most recently a barbequed duck.

To my mind, the girls of gag should get talked about a lot more than they do. Here are a few funny heroines (some old, some new) you should check out!

Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum

MC Beaton’s Agatha Raisin

Tonya Kappe’s Laurel London

Chelsea Fields’ Isabel Avery

Jaspe Fforde’s Thursday Next

Stephanie Bond’s Carlotta Wren

Sophie Kinsella’s Rebecca (Becky) Bloomwood

Ginna LaManna’s Lacey Luzzi

A.R Winters’ Tiffany Black

Gretchen Archer’s Davis Way

The third novel in Marianne Delacourt’s series of paranormal crime novels about unorthodox PI Tara Sharp, ‘Too Sharp’, launched this week. The novel is available from all online retailers, including Twelfth Planet Press and Amazon. Readers new to Delacourt’s Tara Sharp series can spark their addiction with ‘Sharp Shooter’, the ebook of which is available for free for a limited time to celebrate the launch.

About the Book:

Tara Sharp’s new case brings her to Brisbane, where she is placed in charge of Slim Sledge, a high-maintenance rock star. Tara’s a sucker for a backstage pass, and it’ll provide some much-needed distance between herself and her mother’s not-so-subtle hints about getting a “real” job, not to mention crime lord Johnny Viaspa, the only man on the planet who wants her dead.

She expected the music industry to be cut-throat, but Tara soon uncovers more problems than just Slim Sledge’s demands and his rabid fans. Everywhere she turns, the grudges run deeper and the danger ramps up.

Has Tara finally pushed her luck too far?

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Boundary – Andree A Michaud. Blog Tour Review.

Publication Date: Available Now from No Exit Press

Source: Review Copy

Where deep woods cover the Maine border, blending together two countries and two languages, the summer of 1967 is a time of fear. Teenage beauties Sissy Morgan and Zaza Mulligan wander among the vacation cottages in the community of Boundary, attracting the attention of boys and men, before they’re found gruesomely murdered — felled by long-dead woodsman’s bear traps. Andrée, the little girl whose name nobody can pronounce, watches the police investigate, unaware of how profoundly these events will impact her passage into womanhood.

Boundary is a challenging book to read – one which rewards a readers patience but takes its time to immerse you into – it is tense and atmospheric, a slow burn of a tale with an edgy sense of place, my main love for this book came within the language used and the coming of age aspects, rather than with the mystery elements.

Boundary follows a community bereaved – not only of the two girls who die but of  their safe place, their haven from the real world.  Told mostly from the points of view of the detective investigating the deaths and Andree a young girl who was fascinated and enthralled by the two free spirited teenagers, this is a story of innocence lost, of that moment when a grown up world invades a child’s easy existence and changes them forever.

The fascination here came as the community collapsed in on itself – as the realisation set in that this place was no longer a safe place – there is an ethereal, waif like feeling to the writing that makes you occasionally crazy but really digs deep into the characters and the setting.  This is not a novel that has huge twists and turns, the eventual reveal is gently jolting – but more an exploration of how violence affects individuals and their wider world. The mythology elements in relation to the wilderness surrounding the location is quietly haunting – a terrible beauty that gives an anchor to the rest.

Overall I loved Boundary – but I would caution that it won’t be for everyone. For me as a reader I just loved the writing. The crime aspects are not unique but the characters certainly are – and ultimately I was extremely taken with this and it stayed with me for a while after reading it.

 

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The Witchfinder’s Sister Beth Underdown. Blog Tour Review.

Publication Date: Available Now from Penguin (Viking)

Source: Review Copy

1645. When Alice Hopkins’ husband dies in a tragic accident, she returns to the small Essex town of Manningtree, where her brother Matthew still lives.

But home is no longer a place of safety. Matthew has changed, and there are rumours spreading through the town: whispers of witchcraft, and of a great book, in which he is gathering women’s names.

To what lengths will Matthew’s obsession drive him?
And what choice will Alice make, when she finds herself at the very heart of his plan?

The Witchfinder’s Sister is a tense, highly atmospheric historical drama based on fact, a book that it is easy to devour in quick smart fashion, with it’s vivid and emotionally drawn characters and a beautifully described sense of place and time.

Alice loses her husband in a tragic accident and having no choice returns home to her brother. Matthew is a strange one, and deeply involved in the local community and wider, whispers of witchcraft abound and it seems no woman is safe from Matthew’s obsession. Alice soon finds herself struggling to accept his words and actions but there is little she can do.

This novel is a mix of history and psychological thriller, Beth Underdown paints a picture – a boy with a troubled past, a real life person who back in that time did what he did  – through his fictional sister we see him and he is strangely sympathetic despite his cruel actions. I loved the way the dynamic was drawn between the two of them, a relationship coloured by the social outlook of the time, by the suspicions and beliefs, it was absolutely riveting.

Throughout the read the writing is haunting and atmospheric, with an edge of tension, obviously well researched and cleverly addictive. I was drawn to Alice, a woman who was chained by her circumstances, who wanted to help those whose fiery focus Matthew had, unable to do much but watch on in horror. It was emotionally engaging and scarily riveting.

I took in a breath at the end of the story, a few cleverly placed words made me want to clap my hands over my eyes – but from the first page to that last moment I was totally immersed in this world, not a pleasant place but still entirely brilliantly absorbing and fascinating.

Highly Recommended.

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Quieter Than Killing – The Tour. Peace with Sarah Hilary.

Never Give Me Peace

by Sarah Hilary

It’s Saturday afternoon in Bath, one of the UK’s most beautiful cities, honey-coloured home of Jane Austen—and I’m writing about vigilantes, violent assaults and dead bodies.

‘How do you do it?’ I’m asked. And, ‘How do you switch off when it’s done?’

Do I wander to the park to admire the flowerbeds, chat to the man dressed as a Regency Buck outside the Austen museum, sample the fresh scones in one of Bath’s famous tearooms?

I’ll tell you a secret. I never really switch off.

I don’t like switching off. I’m always inventing friends and enemies, sending my detectives into battle against their demons, delving into the best and worst of human nature. I love white noise, and black noise, and the twinging heat of a new idea taking shape in my head.

I love monsters.

Of course I pop out for a coffee, or a martini at the Canary Gin Bar once in a while. I watch TV, and films. I go for long walks. But I’m happiest when I’m writing and besides—there’s always that niggling fear I might lose my touch, that my monsters might desert me.

Patricia Highsmith, one of my favourite writers, said something wonderful along these lines, toasting all her ‘… devils, lusts, passions, greeds, envies, loves, hates, strange desires, enemies ghostly and real, the army of memories, with which I battle—may they never give me peace.’

A crime writer’s best friends are her worst enemies, and mine go everywhere with me. All the time I was writing Quieter Than Killing I had a terrified, trapped young boy in my head (and my heart). My detectives, Marnie and Noah, have taken up permanent residence there; a whole back lobe of my brain is their major incident room. Like Highsmith, I wish in earnest for my worst fears and best hopes — and all the strange, restless curiosity that is a writer’s blessing and curse — to stay with me, unsettle me, keep my fingers itching always for pen and paper.

So if you happen to spy me in Bath, enjoying a piano recital at The Pump Room or side-stepping the queue for the Thermae Spa, wave hello to me and my monsters. We might even wave back.

About Sarah:

Sarah Hilary has worked as a bookseller, and with the Royal Navy. Her debut, SOMEONE ELSE’S SKIN, won Theakstons Crime Novel of the Year 2015 and was a World Book Night selection for 2016. The Observer’s Book of the Month (“superbly disturbing”) and a Richard & Judy Book Club bestseller, it has been published worldwide. NO OTHER DARKNESS, the second in the series was shortlisted for a Barry Award in the US. Her DI Marnie Rome series continued with TASTES LIKE FEAR and her fourth book, QUIETER THAN KILLING, is out now.

About the Book:

It’s winter, the nights are dark and freezing, and a series of seemingly random assaults is pulling DI Marnie Rome and DS Noah Jake out onto streets of London. When Marnie’s family home is ransacked, there are signs that the burglary can have only been committed by someone who knows her. Then a child goes missing, yet no-one has reported it. Suddenly, events seem connected, and it’s personal.

Someone out there is playing games. It is time for both Marnie and Noah to face the truth about the creeping, chilling reaches of a troubled upbringing. Keeping quiet can be a means of survival, but the effects can be as terrible as killing.

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