20 Questions for Anne Coates. Blog Tour Deaths Silent Judgement

Today I’m VERY happy to have another victim, erm participant, in my ongoing 20 Questions feature – this time the rather lovely Anne Coates in celebration of her new novel Death’s Silent Judgement.

Dearest Anne, thank you so much for doing my 20 questions – let’s start with the books. 2nd one just out, how does that feel?

I can see you are leading me in gently, Liz, with your endearments – but I know that killer stare of yours! So having my second book, Death’s Silent Judgement, hot on the heels of Dancers in the Wind is simply brilliant. It’s been a “pinch me” few days.

Tell us a bit about the books – let’s suck some readers in for you…

Both books – and the third currently being written – are set in 1993/4. My protagonist, Hannah Weybridge, a single parent and freelance journalist, becomes embroiled in investigating the deaths of prostitutes in Dancers in the Wind, when a working girl she has interviewed turns up on her doorstep badly beaten up. Pimps and bent coppers are the least of her problems as she realises there is a much higher force pulling the strings.

In the sequel, Hannah discovers her best friend murdered in the church where she ran a dental clinic for the homeless. The police assume the perpetrator was one of her clients but Liz’s mother is unconvinced and employs Hannah to look into her death. As the investigation proceeds, Hannah has no idea whom she can trust – even people she thought she knew well.

Favourite type of cheese? (We MUST have the cheese question)

Really ripe Camembert takes me back to my time at Rouen University when the French in the student restaurants thought we were heathens for eating it. Delicious.

One thing you would tell your teenage self if you got the chance to send a piece of advice back through time…

Don’t accept second best – in anything.

How much wine between us do you think we have downed at all the bookish events we pop along to? (Hey we are still standing, can’t be bad)

Too much for our own good but not enough to get us banned.

Who is your favourite crime writer to read (Yes that’s a tough one but you are only allowed one)

Patricia Highsmith.

Let’s do the desert island question. You know, the one where you are stuck on a desert island and can only have 5 people for company, for no good reason whatsoever. Who would you choose and why?

This is where I suppose I should be outrageously entertaining but I’m probably a bit too practically-minded for that so first off I’d take the multi-talented Peter who’s been doing some work on my house. He comes from Poland and seems to be able to turn his hand to anything from accountancy to events management, plastering to plumbing and is a genuinely nice guy.

Number two top chef Marcus Wareing to cover the food side. I’m taking this too seriously aren’t I? Okay. Idris Elba just because… Sally Wainwright who with her brilliant writing and my final castaway, actor Sarah Lancashire, could keep us all entertained.

Sticking with the desert island theme – Desert Island discs. 3 songs or pieces of music you love to listen to.

Almost anything by Dusty – adore her. Last year at the Proms I heard Alban Gerhardt play Dvorak’s Cello Concerto in B minor and it has haunted me ever since. And Abba’s Dancing Queen to lift my mood at any time.

Who would you call to help you bury the body?

Well I did call my friend Geoff when my tortoise died. He’s a doctor and he brought along his stethoscope just to make sure. Then he dug a REALLY DEEP hole because, as he said, someone who lived here after me might inadvertently dig up the shell… I might have to bribe him heavily (or kill him afterwards) to inter anything other than a pet but I know the body would be buried deep.

Something that irrationally irritates you

Well I wouldn’t say this is irrational (irrational? Moi?) but I am irritated by people running late for meetings whether business or social. You’d have to have a very good reason to appease me for your lack of punctuality.

Last thing that made you laugh out loud.

Parts of the film Their Finest. Bill Nighy is fabulous in it. It makes you laugh out loud one minute then has you surreptitiously wiping away a tear the next.

Last book you read that you wanted to make everyone else read.

That has to be Sealskin by Sue Bristow. Beautifully written and perfectly plotted. I absolutely loved it.

Tell us a little bit about the NEXT book.

Probably about halfway though the first draft and as yet have no title but it is the third in the Hannah Weybridge series. Time has moved on a few months and life seems to be on a more even keel for Hannah. Then seemingly unrelated events and people draw her into a new web of murder and subterfuge.

Who publishes you and do you love your publisher? (Its fine nobody else reads these you know…)

Urbane Publications, one of the independent publishers who are moving the goal posts. Matthew Smith, who founded the company, believes in collaboration with the author. He “joked” at my first launch that that meant I told him what I wanted and he did it. Is that love?

We often see each other at First Monday. Do we enjoy First Monday?

Do we enjoy wine, books, crime authors and good company? Bit of a daft question Liz! It’s a winning combination.

Puppies or Kittens?

I currently have three cats glaring at me. Alice arrived as a kitten and became a teenage mother. I kept two of the kittens who are now both double the size of their parent. Not so much fun as when they were cute kittens but always ready to compete for space on my lap. (Feline pride restored, I think.)

Rocking Party or night in with tea and a book?

Can I have both on alternate nights (but without the tea as I loathe it)?

Last television series you were addicted to.

Department Q. Only three episodes on BBC4 but utterly brilliant not to mention violent and gory.

Plotter and planner or seat of the pants writing?

Oh definitely a seat of the pants writer. As a journalist I am used to tight deadlines and writing when you may not be in the mood or are uninspired by the subject. This nicely seeps into my fiction (not that I am uninspired by my own writing you understand). I love taking an idea, a scene or a character and just letting it run. I never know how the book is going to end until I write it and then there’s every chance that I’ll change my mind in a later draft.

How much do you hate me right now?

Surprisingly less than I thought I would. And I’m still looking forward to our drinks at Crimefest!

Thanks Anne. Me too!

About the Book:

Following the deadly events of Dancers in the Wind, freelance journalist and single mother Hannah Weybridge is thrown into the heart of a horrific murder investigation when a friend, Liz Rayman, is found with her throat slashed at her dental practice. With few clues to the apparently motiveless crime Hannah throws herself into discovering the reason for her friend s brutal murder, and is determined to unmask the killer. But before long Hannah’s investigations place her in mortal danger, her hunt for the truth placing her in the path of a remorseless killer…

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Deposed – Interview with David Barbaree

Publication Date: Available Now from Bonnier

Today I am very happy to have been able to ask David Barbaree a few questions about his brilliant historical fiction novel Deposed as part of the blog tour – Deposed will be reviewed here very soon. Thanks so much to him for taking the time.

Thank you for answering some questions for me on the really very excellent “Deposed” – firstly tell us a little about what inspired you to write around this time period – Is it one in history that particularly fascinates you?

Hi Liz! Thanks for having me.

I’ve always been interested in Roman history. Prior to starting the book, I was probably more interested in the fall of the Republic and the later Byzantine period. I used to think the early Imperial period, the period in which Deposed takes place, was just a parade of emperors behaving badly. This changed when I started my research for Deposed. I wanted to tell the story of a deposed tyrant seeking his revenge. I went on the hunt for the right tyrant and eventually settled on Nero. He was the perfect choice because of the False Neros, men who claimed to be Nero after he fell from power. This provided the sense of uncertainty surrounding Nero’s death that I needed to tell the story I wanted to. As I researched the period, I discovered it was far more complex and interesting than I’d originally given it credit for.

So it is, I believe, a fictional story based on certain factual elements – so I’m interested to hear about any research and how much of it is based on actual events, how you kept it authentic.

I wanted to fit my story of a deposed tyrant into the known historical record. The aim was to have a story that wasn’t true, but a story that could be true. This was another reason why I chose the time period I did. The historical record for Vespasian’s reign is particularly spotty. This gave me a lot of room to manoeuvre as a novelist. But I otherwise tried to make the book historically accurate. I spent a lot of time researching the period – the food, the clothing, the layout of the city, etc. – and I did my best to make it an accurate, interesting recreation of Ancient Rome. However, there are some inaccuracies in the book – I think it is impossible to avoid them when writing historical fiction. Often these were done to serve a particular narrative purpose and, when possible, I tried to imbed an explanation into the text. But if any explanation slowed down the story or seemed forced, I cut it. I thought it more important to have a compelling narrative rather than a clunky justification to the reader.

You use multiple points of view to tell the story across different time periods – as a writer do you tend to plan every detail in advance or are you one who goes with the flow and fixes it later?

I’ve always loved books told from multiple perspectives (like the A Song of Fire and Ice series), particularly those in the first person (such as My Name is Red and As I Lay Dying). But I ended up with this format for my book in a roundabout way. When I first sat down to write Deposed, I tried writing in the third person and it was terrible. I kept at it but never really improved. When I finally switched to the first person the words and characters came much easier. The first person perspective worked, but one point of view wasn’t enough – not to tell the story I wanted to. It was too limited in scope. So I settled on multiple first person narrators. I thought this would be an effective way to build a different world and a unique way to approach the genre.

As for the narrative itself, I had a sense of where the plot was going – the big events were already decided for me. But otherwise it was a trial and error process, slowly figuring out what worked and what didn’t. I would plan in advance as much as I could, but I found the story and characters would sometimes take me in a different direction.

Can you tell us anything about what is next?

I’m reluctant to give too much away, not only for spoilers but I’m still working on book two and things could change. But the demise and rise of emperors will stick to the historical record. And Marcus and Nero have unfinished business that will take them east in book two.

Finally, a question I always ask, is there anything you have read this year that you would like to recommend to others?

I’ve recently started following you on Twitter and I’m quite certain your readers will find me woefully behind the times on what to read. I just finished Conclave by Robert Harris and would definitely recommend it. It was a lesson on how to construct a thriller and eliminate any unnecessary narrative baggage. On the non-fiction front, the last great book I read was Dynasty by Tom Holland, which would provide a nice lead into my book as Deposed essentially picks up where Dynasty ends.

Thanks so much!

Thank you again for having me!

About the Book:

In a darkened cell, a brutally deposed dictator lies crippled – deprived of his power, his freedom – and his eyes.

On the edge of utter despair, his only companion is the young boy who brings him his meagre rations, a mere child who fears his own shadow. But to one who has held and lost the highest power, one thing alone is crystal clear: even emperors were mere children once.

Ten years later, the new ruler’s son watches uneasily over his father’s empire. Wherever he looks rebellion is festering, and those closest to him have turned traitor once before.

To this city in crisis comes a hugely wealthy senator from the very edge of the empire, a young and angry ward at his heels. He is witty but inscrutable, generous with his time and money to a leader in desperate need of a friend – and he wears a bandage over his blinded eyes.

The fallen emperor’s name is Nero.

But this isn’t his story.

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The Burial Hour Jeffery Deaver – Blog Tour Review.

Publication Date: Available Now from Hodder and Staughton

Source: Review Copy

The only leads in a broad-daylight kidnapping are the account of an eight-year-old girl, some nearly invisible trace evidence and the calling card: a miniature noose left lying on the street. A crime scene this puzzling demands forensic expertise of the highest order. Lincoln Rhyme and Amelia Sachs are called in to investigate.

Then the case takes a stranger turn: a recording surfaces of the victim being slowly hanged, his desperate gasps the backdrop to an eerie piece of music. The video is marked as the work of The Composer…

Despite their best efforts, the suspect gets away. So when a similar kidnapping occurs on a dusty road outside Naples, Rhyme and Sachs don’t hesitate to rejoin the hunt. But the search is now a complex case of international cooperation – and not all those involved may be who they seem. All they can do is follow the evidence, before their time runs out.

Book 13 in the Lincoln Rhyme series then, unlucky for some but not it seems for Jeffery Deaver who has written another page turner featuring his fascinating and fun characters Lincoln and Amelia.

The Burial Hour takes them out of the country and out of the  comfort zone, but all else remains the same as far as quality goes – again wonderfully engaging forensic detail and a twisted mystery that keeps you guessing. Added to that there was Ercole Benelli, an Italian character that I rather loved.

There’s a change in atmosphere as we hit political issues and in this story the author tackles some very current issues, as well as weaving an intense and clever mystery that works on many levels. I’ve always loved the forensic side of these that does such a great yin yang with the crime elements and the writing is beautifully perceptive and hugely readable.

Overall The Burial Hour does exactly what you expect and hope it will do -and then some – I’m still a huge fan of this series as I have been from the moment I read the first page of The Bone Collector. Keep them coming I say.

Series highly recommended.

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Block 46 Johana Gustawsson – Blog Tour Review.

Publication Date: Available Now from Orenda

In Falkenberg, Sweden, the mutilated body of talented young jewelry designer Linnea Blix is found in a snow-swept marina. In Hampstead Heath, London, the body of a young boy is discovered with similar wounds to Linnea’s. Buchenwald Concentration Camp, 1944. In the midst of the hell of the Holocaust, Erich Hebner will do anything to see himself as a human again. Are the two murders the work of a serial killer, and how are they connected to shocking events at Buchenwald? Emily Roy, a profiler on loan to Scotland Yard from the Canadian Royal Mounted Police, joins up with Linnea’s friend, French true-crime writer Alexis Castells, to investigate the puzzling case. They travel between Sweden and London, and then deep into the past, as a startling and terrifying connection comes to light.

Block 46 is the type of brilliantly insightful crime thriller that doesn’t come along that often – dark and brutal yet with some beautiful writing, Johana Gustawsson takes you inside the heads, hearts and every other part of her characters telling an emotional and hard hitting story that will stay with you long after finishing it.

The historical aspects are horribly authentic – there are no punches pulled here and Block 46 is a page turner of the highest order, a book that is utterly gripping and totally character driven. The descriptive sense here is second to none and I was fascinated, alarmed, immersed into the investigation and its roots from the moment I started reading.

The author manages the layers of the storytelling in a clever and thought provoking manner, drawing the reader along with her characters, there is not one moment of Block 46 that fails to engage. Definitely in the running to be on my Top Ten of the year, don’t expect an easy ride emotionally but DO expect a highly addictive, gorgeously constructed incredibly intelligent crime novel.

Definitively Highly Recommended.

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The Night Visitor Lucy Atkins. Blog Tour. Review.

Publication Date: 4th May.

Professor Olivia Sweetman has worked hard to achieve the life she loves, with a high-flying career as a TV presenter and historian, three children and a talented husband. But as she stands before a crowd at the launch of her new bestseller she can barely pretend to smile. Her life has spiralled into deceit and if the truth comes out, she will lose everything.

Only one person knows what Olivia has done. Vivian Tester is the socially awkward sixty-year-old housekeeper of a Sussex manor who found the Victorian diary on which Olivia’s book is based. She has now become Olivia’s unofficial research assistant. And Vivian has secrets of her own.

As events move between London, Sussex and the idyllic South of France, the relationship between these two women grows more entangled and complex. Then a bizarre act of violence changes everything.

Oh The Night Visitor has some beautiful beautiful writing, it took me all of 5 seconds to be totally immersed into this one, it has two of the most impressive characters I’ve read in a long long time, with a story that is often haunting and genuinely sends you deeper down the rabbit hole with every chapter.

Told alternatively between Olivia, highly successful, hiding a secret and Vivian, her “research assistant” who knows many things and is hiding her own, the relationship between these two, how you see it and them develop is intensely fascinating and holds a dark sense of menace, things you can feel coming but cannot quite grasp.

The plotting is intelligent and intricately woven, neither woman is easily readable and Lucy Atkins twists the characters around wonderfully to keep you feeling off kilter, yet unable to stop reading. I really don’t want to give anything away, the scene setting is also impressive and overall this was just one heck of a read.

The ending is killer and the rest of it is just as addictive, terrific terrific stuff here. And Beetles. Is all I’m saying.

Highly Recommended.

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Child Taken Darren Young. Blog Tour Review.

Publication Date: 18th May from Red Door Books

Source: Review Copy

One hot summer’s day, two-year-old Jessica Preston disappears from the beach. The police are convinced she drowned, but Sandra Preston won’t give up hope that her daughter is still alive. How can she?

Twenty years later, another child goes missing, and Sandra is approached by a young journalist who raises questions about what really happened to Jessica Preston all those years ago. But when the journalist discovers someone with an explosive secret, it threatens not only to reveal what’s been covered up for so long, but puts both their lives in danger.

Child Taken is a tense and beautifully addictive thriller that had an excellent premise – one of those books you just get sucked into and don’t want to stop reading.

There have been a few books about child abduction that I have read, I liked Child Taken for its differences – we have two missing girls, years apart, a journalist who becomes fascinated and obsessed with a story and a girl who is starting to question everything she has ever known. Darren Young layers the secrets beautifully, twisting and turning the story to the ultimate conclusion, strong and compelling character voices and enough unpredictability to make it a proper page turner.

I was very moved by Sandra, convinced her daughter is still alive, her life spirals downward, I spent the book mainly hoping for her to finally have peace. The author has a way of showing the emotion of things in a subtle and haunting way that just brings you into the world of the characters, another big plus for this one.

Overall a really excellent read – recommended.

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The Quiet Man James Carol – Blog Tour Review.

Publication Date: 4th May from Faber

Source: Review Copy

In Vancouver, the wife of a millionaire is dead following an explosion in her own home.

Everyone thinks her husband is responsible, but former FBI profiler Jefferson Winter isn’t so sure. The method is too perfect; the lack of mistakes, uncanny. He’s seen a series of carefully orchestrated murders – once a year, on exactly the same day, a woman dies in a situation just like this one.

That date is fast approaching and Winter knows another victim has been selected. Can he identify the quiet man before he strikes again?

 

I’m a fan of the Jefferson Winter series  – The Quiet Man is basically just another brilliantly addictive fast paced thriller that is just  gripping right from the very first moments.

Jefferson Winter as a character is completely fascinating, son of a serial killer, former FBI agent who now freelances around and about catching the worst of the worst. The case he finds himself embroiled in this time is unique – the victims are twofold, one dead one left living with that death having caused it – this allows for some emotive moments that just add to the whole.

I love the simple intricacy of James Carol’s plotting in this series – Winter as a kind of twisted Holmes character has terrific insight but is not always that warm, his interactions with other characters always make for great reading, often bringing on a smile. The cases are always cleverly twisted, mostly unpredictable and the pace is pitch perfect, what I like to call readability factor high.

The Quiet Man has all of that and then some – another one sitting read for me, no messing, you simply do not want to put them down once you have picked them up. For that reason I highly recommend all of the Jefferson Winter novels including this one. Easily read as an ongoing series or standalones just pick one up and dive right in. I doubt you’ll be disappointed.

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The Age of Olympus – Gavin Scott. Blog tour Extract.

Today I am very pleased to offer an extract from The Age of Olympus written by Gavin Scott and published by Titan Books on 28th April. Details follow the extract.

The Age of Olympus – Extract.

“So the Iron Curtain could fall over Greece too?” said Sophie.

“It could indeed,” said Lancaster, and fixed his pop-eyed gaze on Forrester. “And that’s where your old friend General Alexandros comes into it. We’re a bit worried about him.”

“He’s not a communist,” said Forrester. “I know that for a fact.”

After the Germans invaded Greece in 1941, Forrester and Aristotle Alexandros had spent weeks together, planning guerrilla operations while hiding out in a cave near Mount Olympus, and they had talked about every subject under the sun, including the Soviet Union. “He’s the most rational man I’ve ever met. One of the best read, too. He saw through Marx as a teenager.”

“But after you parted he spent the rest of the war fighting the Nazis alongside the communists,” said Lancaster, “and that makes him a suspect now as far as the Greek Army is concerned. They’re all royalists, you know.”

“But he’s the best strategist in Greece,” said Forrester. “Best tactician too. Don’t tell me the regular army’s put him on ice.”

“That’s exactly what they’ve done,” said Lancaster. “And he’s getting bored and impatient. The communists want to put him in charge of ELAS.”

“ELAS?”

“Their strike force. The so-called Greek People’s Liberation Army.”

“But surely he wouldn’t—”

“The present regime’s pretty rotten. Too many people who cosied up to the Germans. He might think he could use ELAS to take over, clean house and start again with a fresh slate.”

Forrester was silent for a moment. It was all too plausible. And if Aristotle Alexandros joined the communist army, they would win. Stalin’s campaign to control Europe would be one step closer to fulfilment.

“What do you want me to do?” he asked.

“Just talk to Alexandros, find out what you can about his thinking. Then let us know.”

“I’m very fond of him,” said Forrester. “I’m not going to sell him down the river.”

“Wouldn’t dream of asking you to, old boy,” said the attaché. “Just sound him out about whether he’s going to join ELAS, that’s all.”

“If we come across each other.”

“Oh, you’ll come across each other,” said Lancaster. “This is Greece. Besides, there’s a party tonight at the Regent- Archbishop’s, and I’ve wangled you both an invitation.”

“I had hoped to have a quiet dinner with Sophie,” said Forrester.

“I know,” said Lancaster, with patently insincere sympathy, “but I also know we can rely on you to be a good scout, old man. They speak very highly of you at the War Office, and the same can’t be said for most academics, I can tell you.”

About the Book: 

Duncan Forrester has travelled to Greece, intent on recovering the ancient Cretan stone he discovered during the war, while part of an SOE mission to kidnap a German commander. But during a visit to Athens he witnesses the poisoning of a Greek poet, who it appears may have not been the intended target. The man Forrester believes to have been marked for death is a general, who has been approached to lead ELAS, the military arm of the Greek communists. With Greece on the brink of civil war, and more attempts made on the general’s life – not to mention an enemy from his own past on his heels – Forrester knows that the country’s future depends on the fate of one man…The man Forrester believes to have been marked for death is a general, who has been approached to lead ELAS, the military arm of the Greek communists. With Greece on the brink of civil war, and more attempts made on the general’s life – not to mention an enemy from his own past on his heels – Forrester knows that the country’s future depends on the fate of one man…

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Tag You’re Dead – Douglas Skelton. Blog Tour Review.

Publication Date: Available Now from Contraband

Source: Review Copy

Sam the butcher is missing, and maverick investigator Dominic Queste is on the case. But it’s not because he misses Sam’s prize-winning steak pies… A dangerous man has arrived in Glasgow. He’s no small-town crook, and he’s leaving a trail of disturbing clues across the city, starting with the missing cousin of Queste’s new lover. Amidst a twisted game of cat and mouse, suspicious coppers and a seemingly random burglary at the judge’s house, Queste has to keep his wits about him. Or he might just find himself on the butcher’s block.

So Dominic Queste is back and nobody is more pleased to see him than me. And anyone else that read The Dead Don’t Boogie probably.

Queste is a PI extraordinaire (sort of) and here we see him in a fast paced, ironically humerous, page turning case as he hunts down Sam the butcher, missing in action – also there’s a bad bad guy in town looking for trouble. I do love a good bit of trouble in my crime fiction.

What I really enjoy with Mr Skelton’s writing is the way he just sucks you into his settings and makes you believe you know the characters – I’m especially fond of Ginty and that relationship dynamic is brilliant. There are political shenanigans galore, plenty of gritty action and some clever little plot developments, would have been a one sitting read if not for that pesky having to go to work thing.

I did however make short order of it – I won’t give much away except to say that I can’t imagine anyone not liking this, if not for one reason then for another. Top notch writing, top notch storytelling, some brilliantly observed life realities and really believable, well drawn characters. What’s not to love?

Recommended.

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Night Market – Daniel Pembrey. Blog Tour Review.

Publication Date: 27th April from No Exit

Source: Review Copy

When Henk van der Pol is asked by the Justice Minister to infiltrate a team investigating an online child exploitation network, he can hardly say no – he’s at the mercy of prominent government figures in The Hague. But he soon realises the case is far more complex than he was led to believe… Picking up from where The Harbour Master ended, this new investigation sees Detective Van der Pol once again put his life on the line as he wades the murky waters between right and wrong in his search for justice.

Sometimes, to catch the bad guys, you have to think like one. . .

An excellent read here from Daniel Pembry, a classically  built sense of place, some intriguing characters and a pacy, compelling mystery to dig your teeth into.

Set to catch a mole in a complex and ongoing case involving some emotive subjects, Henk finds he has trouble on his hands. Echoes of the past haunt him and Daniel Pembry takes us on a twisted journey to the truth, where its impossible to trust anyone and the resolution is unpredictable – Night Market is a page turner, cleverly obtuse and well plotted to keep the reader guessing all the way.

One of the best things is the scene setting – Amsterdam comes to brilliantly observed life, you can see and feel where the characters reside – it adds a hugely atmospheric sense to an already atmospheric plot. The story could have been ripped from the headlines and the author builds the background perfectly, an intelligent nuanced building of relationships and history.

I enjoyed The Harbour Master very much but Night Market I read in one sitting – it is gripping, horrific and totally absorbing from the moment you start until the moment you finish. Excellent. More please.

Recommended.

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