Need to Know by Karen Cleveland. Sssh I’ll tell you a secret….

Publication Date: January 2018 from Bantam Press.

What do you do when everything you trust might be a lie?

Things you Need to Know about Need to Know

  • It is inadvisable to start reading this case report late at night. You won’t get any sleep. Then you may inadvertently give away classified information to the wrong party. This would be bad for your health.
  • It IS advisable to channel Fox Mulder as you read – Trust No-One
  • You may be in the hands of a master manipulator.
  • The truth is within the pages if you grasp the subtle nuances
  • Challenge everything
  • Believe nothing
  • Keep a soft pillow handy. You may need to rest your head when you realise you can’t HANDLE the truth
  • Chances of becoming addicted HIGH  – take steps to protect yourself
  • Domestic Noir just went to the next level
  • When the ending comes and all is revealed – remember to take that next breath. Lack of breathing kills.

Things I can tell you about Need to Know

Vivian Miller is a dedicated CIA counterintelligence analyst assigned to uncover the leaders of Russian sleeper cells in the United States.

She discovers (——————————————————————Redacted———————————-) and nothing will be the same again.

Is he your Husband?

There are twists in every chapter, sometimes nuanced, sometimes right out loud, but my heart genuinely stopped when (———————————————————————————————————————————————————————————Redacted—————————————————————————————————————————————————–)I thought I might not recover enough to continue to the end.

The storytelling is taut and audacious with a touch of class, but when you get to somewhere near (———————————–Redacted——————————————————–) you’ll realise just how much you’ve been caught in (———————Redacted——————) and may need to reassess everything you’ve read so far.

 

Is he a spy? 

Then that ending. Where all is finally clear. The truth is

Wait, hang on. There’s someone at the door. I’ll tell you in a minute………

 

#NeedToKnowBook 

When Chris Whitaker interviewed Neil White…From the Shadows….

So after Chris and Matt last week I rather stupidly asked Chris to have a chat to Neil, whose new novel, From the Shadows, comes out this week (and you probably shouldn’t miss it)

I’d apologise for what follows but seriously it wasn’t my fault…

(Handy links to the books after this – which are both brilliant and worth having despite it meaning that these two are loose in the world…)

Over to them then. And I’ll be hiding over there when Emily, Katherine, Rod and Steph come after me..

 

 

Chris: Okay, so I know you have a book to promote (the highly acclaimed From The Shadows) and we could talk about that. I could tell you that I’m a huge fan, from Cold Kill to the Parker brothers to the incredible Lost in Nashville. But instead I thought we’d give the people what they really want. A glimpse at the man behind the myth. The tough northerner with a heart of gold. The ‘sexiest man in crime writing’ (though Rod Reynolds has a lot to say on this subject). Let’s do this…

If you could sleep with any fictional character, who would it be? Personally, I’d find it easier to list characters I wouldn’t sleep with, but topping my list is Lori Anderson from Deep Down Dead. (I’m aware I’ve now given Steph Broadribb a wonderful mental image to use when writing the next in the series. You’re welcome, Steph).

Neil: Could talk? Could? No, do tell. I expect a certain degree of fawning here.

Any fictional character? I’m tempted to say Eve, because pulling an apple seemed to get them both straight down to it and saves all that messing around wooing, going to restaurants and stuff, but I don’t want to get into the whole “fictional” thing, creation or evolution.

But no, I’m going to choose Annie Wilkes from Stephen King’s Misery. I just like that danger. Will she break my legs? Won’t she break my legs? Now, that is what you call a frisson.

Chris: Good choice, I love a bit of S&M too.

It was great catching up at Harrogate. I used my time there to pitch book 3 ideas to Katherine Armstrong (editor) and then watch as she willed the ground to open up and swallow her. I’m not good at pitching. I can never get my ideas across in the way I’d like. I once pitched a love story to Joel (former editor) about an adult film actress that falls in love with a washed-up children’s entertainer. Joel just swallowed nervously and said ‘I have some concerns’. What’s the worst story idea you’ve ever had/pitched?

Neil: Whoah, S&M? Steady lad, we don’t any of that stuff and nonsense up here –adjusts flat cap – although you can probably get a good sting from a well-swung black pudding.

I hate pitches etc, because a great idea can be ruined in the telling, and an ordinary idea can be made thrilling in the telling. Thinking back, nothing particularly comes to mind because I don’t think I’m an ideas man. I speak to writers who are buzzing with ideas, who could (and do) write a short story a week. I’m a ‘one idea a year’  man. I don’t think I’m particularly creative like that.

Thankfully, I didn’t have to go through the pitch routine. I sent a completed manuscript to my first publisher and they liked it. If I had to go through a “pitch an idea” process, I’d still be a full-time lawyer with unpublished manuscripts on my floor.

Chris: Bonnier like to keep a close eye on me for some reason. Possibly because I tend to deliver a completely different manuscript to the one I originally planned. And yeah, totally agree on the ruined-in-telling view, I think if I’d have pitched All The Wicked Girls first they might have laughed at me.

I’ve written two standalones now, and book 3 will likely be another. As you’re beginning a new series I wondered which you prefer writing, and if you find it easier returning to characters you know well. On the flipside have you ever tired of a character but felt compelled to keep writing the series?

I can’t remember who said it but apparently the way to earn money as a writer is to write a crime series. If so, can you lend me money? I did ask Katherine for more but she kept shaking her head and mumbling something about Wilbur Smith.

Neil: No money in a standalone? Tell that to Harper Lee. Or John Grisham.

I’m torn, to be honest. When I first started out, my intention was to write a series of standalones but where the same characters popped in and out, like a community of characters. Once I started the second, however, and the main characters in the first were mentioned, I found myself wanting to import them more, so the series developed.

I do think a series has a finite end, and the trick is to spot it. I’ve written one crime standalone, Beyond Evil, but ironically I wanted that to be a series but a change of publisher brought an end to that. For the moment, I’m writing a series. If later on, I decide that the series has run its course, or needs a break, I’ll do something different.

The advantage of writing a series is that you get rid of all of that planning the characters in the first book, where you iron out their background, and it helps with crafting a story as you end up fitting the idea into a pre-existing template.

What I would say is that you should never write with money in mind. If you write for the bandwagon, it will have rolled out of town by the time you finish it. Just write something you’re proud to put your name to, as you’ve done. Both your books are fabulous, beautifully-written, and winning the acclaim they deserve.

And if I lent you the money, you’d just blow it on some wild stock market gamble. I’m sticking it under my mattress.

Chris: I was so pleased you enjoyed All The Wicked Girls. I had a tricky time with it, and looking back now I think it was partly down to feeling like I was out of my depth. Writing in the first person, as a teenage girl from Alabama, and setting it during the Satanic Panic of the mid 90s, maybe it was a bit mad. But I could see it all so clearly, those characters and that town, it became a story I had to tell, regardless of my background.

I’m a big fan of Mike Thomas, and with him being a former policeman I find there’s a level of authenticity to his novels that goes beyond research. And I find the same to be true when reading your books.

From The Shadows follows defence lawyer, Dan Grant, as he looks into a murder case. How much does being a lawyer help when writing crime? And not just technically, do you feel your job enables you to better understand the (criminal) characters you write about?

Neil: I don’t know about understanding the criminal character, because the sort of criminals who end up in the pages of a murder novel, and I don’t mean mine but generally, are unique and complex. No one sets out to write the great shoplifting novel. As a day to day thing, being a criminal lawyer can be as mundane as the next job, although there is often a lot of comedy in the most mundane, but the sort of murderer who makes us want to read crime novels are once in a career people for most criminal lawyers.

What being a criminal lawyer does do is make you realise that there are no depths to human cruelty. If you want to see the sick and twisted, read the papers, visit a courtroom. Don’t tell me something is far-fetched. I’ll find something worse in real life.

It helps in other ways too, perhaps ways that are hard to measure. For instance, I was a prosecutor for most of my legal career, and that involves assessing often quite emotional cases in a cold, dispassionate manner, looking for whether there is enough evidence to prosecute, often weighing a number of different strands together. To be able to look at things objectively is a great help when reading through my own stuff when I’ve done the first draft, as well as juggle the strands in my head, and that is something the day-job might have helped with.

It gives me a headstart too when it comes to legal and police procedures, in that my research doesn’t have to start at base camp.

The downside is that it can me mentally-draining, which is why I took a step back from it a couple of years ago and don’t appear in court as often as I used to.

Chris: I feel like there’s been a run of serious questions (who’d have thought that?) so I shall end with something a little more lighthearted.

If you had to kill one person, and pin the blame on another, who would you choose?*

I would kill my Amazon 1-star reviewers, and pin the blame on my Goodreads 1-star reviewers.

*You can’t kill people that say ‘can I get a…’ in coffee shops. We just wish them ill.

Neil: I don’t want to kill people who say, “can I get …..” in coffee shops. I just want to stamp on their feet really hard, just to jolt them from their oh so coolness.

Queue-jumpers are getting it though. The same as those people who tut behind me in the supermarket queue because all they’ve got is a bit of cheese and some milk and I’ve got a full basket, and I’m expected to step aside to let them go first. I’m sorry, but don’t they realise that if they didn’t tut and edge forward, maybe, just maybe, I’d volunteer my space. But no. Every tut and attempt to catch my eye makes me empty my basket a little more slowly. I might even puncture a hole in a packet, or rip off a barcode, so that someone has to go fetch another one. And yes, I will have a bag, and I’ll struggle to open it, so clumsy with my hands, tut tut, and laugh and roll my eyes at you as you slam the Next Customer Please divider on the belt.

Yeah, even if I don’t kill you, I hope your milk turns as you’re waiting….

Thanks you two – I think. Anyway onto the important stuff…

About the Books:

 

He hides in the shadows, watching, waiting, until the time is right . . .

Mary Kendricks, a smart, pretty, twenty-four-year-old teacher, has been brutally murdered and Robert Carter is accused of killing her.

When defence lawyer, Dan Grant inherits Carter’s case only weeks before the trial starts, everyone expects him just to babysit it, but Dan’s not that kind of lawyer. He’ll follow the evidence – wherever it takes him.

But as Dan and his investigator Jayne Brett look into the case, they discover that there is more to it than meets the eye. In order to do their jobs they need to push the limits of the system, even if it means putting themselves in danger.

Together they will get to the truth – whatever the cost . . .

Read my review.

Find out More

Follow Neil on Twitter

Purchase From The Shadows.

 

Everyone loves Summer Ryan. A model student and musical prodigy, she’s a ray of light in the struggling small town of Grace, Alabama – especially compared to her troubled sister, Raine. Then Summer goes missing.

Grace is already simmering, and with this new tragedy the police have their hands full keeping the peace. Only Raine throws herself into the search, supported by a most unlikely ally.

But perhaps there was always more to Summer than met the eye . . .

Read My Review

 Follow Chris on Twitter

Purchase All The Wicked Girls

Happy Reading!

 

Ones to Watch in 2018 – The Perfect Girlfriend Karen Hamilton

Publication Date: March 2018 from Wildfire

Source: Review Copy

Juliette loves Nate.
She will follow him anywhere. She’s even become a flight attendant for his airline, so she can keep a closer eye on him.

They are meant to be.
The fact that Nate broke up with her six months ago means nothing.
Because Juliette has a plan to win him back.

She is the perfect girlfriend.
And she’ll make sure no one stops her from getting exactly what she wants.

True love hurts, but Juliette knows it’s worth all the pain…

There’s a new spate of psychological thrillers in town – where things are mixed up a bit and the main protagonists are not all sympathetic characters stuck in an untenable situation – sometimes the main protagonists ARE the untenable situation as is true with Juliette, the star of “The Perfect Girlfriend” and what a star she is.

Obsessive – Yes. Brilliantly engaging – Yes. Really quite scary? Yes absolutely, also occasionally witty, always focused, also actually has a real beef, Nate isn’t exactly the most reliable or the nicest of men. Still, you know, she wants him back and boy will she do absolutely anything to achieve that goal.

I loved it – Juliet not withstanding, the book flows outwards in a fascinating, page turning fashion, the underlying titbits about  life in the air are endlessly enthralling brought to beautiful life by Juliette – who whilst using them as a means to an end also gets somewhat caught up in it. I loved how she related to other people, both those she was using and those that just came into her line of sight – her inner thought processes are often hilarious but bang on the money so even though she’s obviously nuts its that kind of nuts that you really relate to.

I won’t give away anything about how she gets on or whether her obsessive and perfectly formed plan works out – but you’ll have a hell of a reading time getting to that answer, a lot of fun and a lot of insightful probing of human foibles and how we are formed – The Perfect Girlfriend resonates on more than one level.

But mostly it is all Juliet – Passionate and determined she will pull you along with her, in fact I spent most of the read wishing for her success – I can’t think of anything more appropriate for Nate than to be forever locked into her sphere of gravity – but whether or not my wish was granted you’ll have to read to find out.

Yes I know you shouldn’t root for the stalker. But in this case I simply couldn’t help myself.

Incredibly addictive, should come with a “Do Not Disturb” sign even though you’ll end up disturbed in quite another sense – The Perfect Girlfriend is the perfect lazy reading day experience.

Recommended.

Follow Karen on Twitter

Purchase The Perfect Girlfriend

Happy Reading!

Getting to Know You with Robert Eggleton – Rarity From the Hollow.

Kicking off another round of my “Getting to Know You” features, today with Robert Eggleton, author of Rarity from the Hollow.

Tell us a little about your current novel, what readers can expect from it..

Rarity from the Hollow is my debut novel. In a nutshell, it’s a story of victimization to empowerment. The protagonist, Lacy Dawn, begins the adventure as an eleven year old most unlikely savoir of the universe. She lives in an impoverished hollow in West Virginia with a war-damage father and a worn out mom. However, her genetics have been manipulated for millennia. When a threat to the survival of the economic structure of the universe becomes imminent, an android is sent to Earth to recruit and train her to fulfil her destiny.

Lacy Dawn doesn’t mind saving the universe, but her family and friends come first. Based loosely on Donald Trump’s rise to political power, she negotiates the best deal by insisting that her parents be cured of their mental health disorders. Once her team has been assembled, it travels to planet Shptiludrp (Shop Until You Drop) a giant shopping mall and the center of universal governance where she meets Mr Prump (Donald Trump) and Mr. Rump (Bernie Sanders).

The adventure is filled with tragedy, comedy, and satire. The original © on the story was 2006 by a press that went defunct a month after its release. Dog Horn Publishing in Leeds, a traditional small press, picked up the project in 2012 and produced an Advance Review Copy (ARC) that circulated for several years before the final version was published in December 2016. The ARC was awarded Gold Medals by two major review organizations and was named one of the five best books of 2015 along side of Revival by Stephen King and The Martian by Andy Weir. Its political allegory is much more obvious now that Donald Trump has become a household name. Without political advocacy except to sensitize readers to the huge social problem of world-wide child maltreatment, the story addresses many issues that are being debated today, such as immigration, the refugee crisis, exploitation of underdeveloped territories for minerals, extreme capitalism vs. democratic socialism…. The backdrop of the story is adult literary science fiction, but there are elements of horror, paranormal, and romance.

Author proceeds support the prevention of child abuse.

Where did you grow up and what was family life like?

I grew up in an impoverished family in West Virginia, similar to the Earth setting for the novel. Also similar to the story, my father had war-related PTSD with night terrors and temper outbursts when intoxicated. I’m the oldest of four children. My loving mother did the best that she could to protect and feed us. I began working odd jobs, cutting grass, shoveling snow…as a child and began paying into the U.S. Social Security fund at age twelve after getting a job cleaning an stocking shelves at a drug store. At the time, pharmacies were the paperback marts of many small towns. That’s when I started reading fiction by borrowing novels off of the store’s shelves and returning them in same-as new condition. My father caught our rented house on fire by smoking while laying on the couch a year later and was killed. I was at work at a gas station, a second job, at the time and the rest of the family had gone to visit my grandmother – nobody else was hurt in the fire. Afterward, we moved into a housing project where I lived until I graduated from high school.

Academic or creative at school?

Frankly, looking back, I think that I was mostly dissociative during my public school years. I was there physically, but missed out on a lot of basic education because I was not there mentally – “spaced out.” In the eighth grade I won our school’s short story competition. That’s when my aspiration to become a rich and famous author began. In college, one of my poems was published by the West Virginia Student Anthology. A couple more were published in alternative zines, and I’ve written stories and poems for as long as I can remember, but I rarely shared them with others, especially not with peers at school. Academically, I barely got through high school but snapped out of my funk in college where I graduated above a 3.0 g.p.a., and began to perform in graduate school where I graduated with a perfect 4.0.

First job you *really* wanted to do?

During childhood, before food stamps were available, I was the primary bread winner for my family. I “really” wanted to do each and every job for which I would get paid. I’ve worked all the way through school and really wanted to do well at every job even after my family became eligible for food stamps and public housing. As the oldest, I would buy new clothing, not Goodwill, and presents for my siblings and mother. After college, I accepted a job as a drug counselor for adolescents who had been court-committed to treatment. That was the first job that I really wanted to do for reasons beyond fiscal.

Do you remember the moment you first wanted to write?

Growing up, my family didn’t have the money to buy toys for us kids, for a television, telephone, or to go to the movies. For entertainment, I began writing short stories, sometimes on flattened paper grocery bags. In grade school, I can’t remember which grade, I shared one of my stories with a gas station attendant who worked across the highway. With a big smile after he had read my story, he said that he loved it. From that point forward, I really wanted to write.

Who are your real life heroes?

Not counting those great people who I admire, like Rosa Parks and M.L.K., Abby Hoffman, J.F.K, Georgia O’Keefe, John Lennon, Mark Twain…, my biggest real life hero would be my grandmother. I’ll tell you why. It was her integrity and strength in sticking to convictions. Mattie was a fundamentalist Christian (I’m not) who read the Bible every day. She went to church every time that its doors were open. The way she read the Bible, it was a sin for a woman to cut her hair. Mattie’s hair was never cut. She wore it in a bun on top of her head. When we kids would beg her to, she would release it – all the way to the floor and two feet beyond. After television became available, she wasn’t sure about them. She considered whether or not to watch television would be a sin for nine years before she permitted my uncle to buy her one, and then mostly watched religious shows. Her son, another uncle of mine, was put in our state penitentiary when he was fourteen years old for being a back-seat passenger in a car owned by the father of one of his friends and which had been taken without permission — joyriding. My grandmother wrote him a letter every day for those nine years. Since the mail didn’t run on Sundays, that meant that my uncle got two letters from her on Monday. From the day that I remember meeting her until Mattie’s death, I never heard or curse, or express any bigotry, anger, or even an unkind word to or about another human being. She raised her children with the same values. That’s why I ended up with the most wonderful mother anybody could hope for despite the adversities that she faced. Mattie is my real life hero.

Funniest or most embarrassing situation you’ve found yourself in?

In 1990, I was placed on the agenda to make a speech to a joint committee of our State Legislature about the status of juvenile services. West Virginia has a beautiful Capitol building with old trees in the surrounding lawns – the home for lots of squirrels and pigeons. It was one of my first of several similar speeches, so I was a little nervous. At the time, finding a parking spot was a challenge, so I’d left home early. By the time that I’d parked my car, time was getting a little tight. I rushed to the East Wing. On the way, a pigeon pooped on the right shoulder of my suit jacket. I glanced into the meeting room on my way to the restroom to clean it off – it was packed, at least a couple hundred people in the audience. I made the speech with a huge and very obvious wet spot.

DIY expert or phone a friend?

I’m definitely a phone a friend type of person. My wife is highly active when I’m writing, for example. We’ve been married for forty-five years. Rita is the most knowledgeable person that I’ve ever met. As I mentioned before, I missed out on a lot of basic education, so I bug her all the time despite spell check.

Before YouTube, I would usually ask more that one friend if I was uncertain about something, including how to fix an engine, washer…. Today, I always search the internet for instructions and information before initiating an action about which I’m unsure. For example, our dishwasher just broke down. It looks like the water inlet valve went out. I’ve never worked on a dishwasher before, so I’m still searching for info before I spend $45 on a replacement valve.

Sun worshipper or night owl?

I used to love the sun. The beach was my favorite vacation spot and the only time that I totally relaxed. Ten years ago, a small spot on the side of my nose was diagnosed as basal cell skin cancer. I figure it was from working construction on the weekends off from my in-the-office jobs, but, today, I’m less fond of the sun.

When I’m writing, since I’ve retired – I was a children’s psychotherapist most recently – I will sometimes stay up all night working on something. But, between projects I keep regular hours.

A book that had you in tears.

Push is the 1996 debut novel by American author Sapphire. It was a real life story about an illiterate sixteen year old girl living in Harlem who was pregnant with her second child after having been raped by her father. Twelve years after its release, Push was turned into a movie, Precious, that won two Academy Awards. I knew that I shouldn’t, but I read the book after seeing the movie. While there were moments of kindness and positives as a special teacher and others helped Precious, overall this was a depressing story, especially when she was diagnosed with HIV. Worse, while the book never reaches closure, in real-life, Precious died of the disease.

Precious was inspiring for me. While I wanted Rarity from the Hollow to sensitize readers to the huge social problem of child maltreatment, I also didn’t want to write anything nearly as depressing as Push. While I appreciated this masterpiece, it pushed me in the opposite direction. I decided to write something that addressed this social problem, but through a comical and satiric adventure — something that was fun to read. Something that people would remember to help needful kids because the enjoy reading the novel.

On this topic, the ARC of Rarity from the Hollow was awarded two Gold Medals, the first of which gave me a special sense of pride in achieving my goal: “…a hillbilly version of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, only instead of the earth being destroyed to make way for a hyperspace bypass, Lacy Dawn must…The author has managed to do what I would have thought impossible; taken serious subjects like poverty, ignorance, abuse, and written about them with tongue-in-cheek humor without trivializing them…Eggleton sucks you into the Hollow, dunks you in the creek, rolls you in the mud, and splays you in the sun to dry off. Tucked between the folds of humor are some profound observations on human nature and modern society that you have to read to appreciate…it’s a funny book that most sci-fi fans will thoroughly enjoy.” http://awesomeindies.net/ai-approved-review-of-rarity-from-the-holly-by-robert-eggleton/

A book that made you laugh out loud.

Every book written by Kurt Vonnegut made me laugh out loud. He’s another one of my heroes like we talked about before. I was flattered when a book critic of the Rarity from the Hollow ARC found: “…In the spirit of Vonnegut, Eggleton (a psychotherapist focused on the adolescent patient) takes the genre and gives it another quarter turn….” http://electricrev.net/2014/08/12/a-universe-on-the-edge/

One piece of life advice you give everyone.

Maybe you’ve heard this before. This advice was given to me by my aunt after I had been picked on at grade school one day: “Bobby, don’t let the butt holes get you down.” This advice has served me well ever since.

About the book:

Lacy Dawn’s father relives the Gulf War, her mother’s teeth are rotting out, and her best friend is murdered by the meanest daddy on Earth. Life in the hollow is hard. She has one advantage — an android was inserted into her life and is working with her to cure her parents. But, he wants something in exchange. It’s up to her to save the Universe. Lacy Dawn doesn’t mind saving the universe, but her family and friends come first.

Rarity from the Hollow is adult literary science fiction filled with tragedy, comedy and satire. A Children’s Story. For Adults.

“The most enjoyable science fiction novel I have read in years.”

—Temple Emmet Williams, Author, former editor for Reader’s Digest

“Quirky, profane, disturbing… In the space between a few lines we go from hardscrabble realism to pure sci-fi/fantasy. It’s quite a trip.”

— Evelyn Somers, The Missouri Review

. “…a hillbilly version of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy…what I would have thought impossible; taken serious subjects like poverty, ignorance, abuse…tongue-in-cheek humor without trivializing them…profound…a funny book that most sci-fi fans will thoroughly enjoy.” — Awesome Indies (Gold Medal)

“…sneaks up you and, before you know it, you are either laughing like crazy or crying in despair, but the one thing you won’t be is unmoved…a brilliant writer.” –Readers’ Favorite (Gold Medal)

“Rarity from the Hollow is an original and interesting story of a backwoods girl who saves the Universe in her fashion. Not for the prudish.” —Piers Anthony, New York Times bestselling author

“…Good satire is hard to find and science fiction satire is even harder to find.” — The Baryon Review

Find out More

Follow the author on Twitter

Purchase Rarity in the Hollow

Happy Reading!

All the Wicked Lucky Ghost’s (or something) with Chris Whitaker and Matthew Blakstad

So in another of my author match making modes I recently put the brilliant Matt Blakstad together with the equally brilliant Chris Whitaker and asked them to have a chat about their respective novels – Yes I’m sorry about that I should have known better – so to offset that which you are about to read you could also read my review of All The Wicked Girls and Lucky Ghost which, frankly, are a lot more likely to sell the books to you. Be afraid, be very afraid…

Over to them then. It’s their title by the way…

TWO AUTHORS TALKING A BAG OF SHITE FEATURING CHRIS WHITAKER AND MATTHEW BLAKSTAD

Chris: I recently read the brilliant Sockpuppet and thought it was one of the most accomplished debuts I’ve come across in a long time. Now, I know that you have a degree in Mathematics and Philosophy from Oxford, which has had me worrying I may come off as a bit of a simpleton during this discussion, so with that in mind I’ve worked hard on coming up with a number of intelligent, thought provoking questions…

Have you always been interested in puppetry? If you could slip your hand inside any puppet, living or dead, who would it be?

Matthew: Bless you for your kind words. You know that I am – like every other vertebrate on the planet – and a number of the more literate invertebrates – a huge fan of Tall Oaks.

Anyway, thank you very much for your perspicacious and well-thought through questions. My interest in puppetry began at an early age when I realised that, by simply sticking a hand inside my sock and attaching two buttons, I could have a friend who’d actually talk to me and never pants me in the boys’ toilets. Even if he couldn’t say his ‘G’s very clearly. Sadly, even my sockbuddy turned against me when he began a dalliance with a pair of orange boxers, but we’ll draw a veil over that episode. Let’s just say, there’s a reason why I have gone sockless since the age of 12.

If I could slip my hand inside any puppet today, it would be Donald Trump who is a puppet of Vladimir Putin ha ha did you see what I did with my sharp political satire – oh hang on I just imagined what it would be like sticking my hand in Donald Trump excuse me while I apply wire wool to my entire right forearm.

While I’m doing that, tell me: why this obsession with tall oaks particularly? Why not Oak Saplings? Or even Medium Sized Oaks? Why do you continue to put out this heightist propaganda?

Chris: Ah thanks, pet. Actually there was one particular guy that hated Tall Oaks so much he gave it a good old savaging. That was the first really bad review I got and I remember feeling quite down about it. Generally I’m thick skinned, and always tell my editor to be brutal as I can take it, so I really hated the fact that I was bothered by this. But looking back now I suppose it’s because writing a book, no matter the subject, is intensely personal, just you and a page and a million hours of agony. So an attack on the book felt a bit like an attack on me, which I can now see is totally ridiculous. It’s not possible to write a book that appeals to everyone, and I’m certain I wouldn’t want to. Tall Oaks mixes crime and humour, which I always knew was a bit of a risk. Rough with the smooth and all that.

I also turn to my Twitter group (made up of fellow Bonnier debutants) for support and we’ve since started a 1-star club, each 1-star is a badge of honour. I’d invite you to join but I’ve checked your reviews and you don’t have the necessary credentials. Congrats (I suppose).

I know as a writer failure/criticism is par for the course, but have you found it tough? How do you cope with it?

I think my heightist propaganda is actually more a general sizeist propaganda, and I guess it stems from my own insecurities. I wanted to call it Giant Cock Oaks but the sales department weren’t keen.

Matthew: I guess one-star reviews are a fact of life. Even Shakespeare and Jane Austin have them. And if you think I don’t have any, you haven’t looked at my GoodReads. My favourite? ‘Couldn’t finish it. I hated all the characters. Bleurgh.’ Which is at least clear and to the point.

And I have an UNPOPULAR OPINION about this. I think it’s good to read all your reviews, good and bad. Yes, of course it’s hurtful when people slam the book you’ve sweated over for years, but they’re entitled to negative feelings about a book they paid good money for. Reading the stinkers gives you a thicker skin, and sometimes an unexpected insight about your work. We write for an audience, and it helps to know what people think – even if they sometimes express it in the rudest way you can imagine. And of course NO WAY should we change the way we write, on the say-so of some random on the internet.

It’s not easy, though, facing the slings and arrows. Writing’s an insanely lonely pursuit. Even the amazing things – like getting published – bring a dose of the terrors. I guess it’s fear of being exposed as a fraud. NOBODY tells you about all this angsty stuff in advance. Maybe published writers don’t like to complain about their good fortune in case everyone who wishes they were them all decide to punch them in the nuts. Which would be fair enough.

As you say, other writers are life-line. I’ve met some amazing people since I was published. You and Liz, of course (phew: very glad I remembered to say that before I got in trouble). I’m also part of a fantastic collective called the Prime Writers. Mainly, the group of people I studied with at Faber

Academy have been a constant source of support. We still meet up once a month, 4 years after the course ended – to bitch and gripe and comment on each others’ work. Several of us have publishing deals, including the excellent Molly Flatt, who you know because we all share an agent. Her The Charmed Life of Alex Moore is coming out next year from Pan Mac and it’s going to be MASSIVE.

Which leads me to an actual question: what book are you most eagerly anticipating in the coming months, and why?

Chris: Bleurgh! Welcome to the club, Matt. I totally get what you mean about being exposed as a fraud. I’m not sure I’ll ever feel like a ‘real’ writer, whatever that means. Whenever I’m amongst a group of authors I always feel like the least qualified there, so I do lots of nodding and smiling and drinking. I lie about having read the classics, and by classics I mean any book over five years old, and I know it’s only a matter of time before someone calls me a charlatan and burns one of my books.

I’m about to begin thinking about book 3, which leads me to thinking about the writing process. I still don’t plan at all, which I’m going to try and work on. I tend to just sit down and start writing. I’ll know the end, where I’m heading, but how I get there is the part I most enjoy, fleshing out characters and feeling like I know them a little better each time I sit down to write. I find the process difficult though, especially so with book 2. I find it hard to switch off, I don’t sleep well and will often lie in bed running over the story, which can be exhausting. I also find the balance tricky, having a day job and a family and trying to prioritise my time. It’s something I aim to get better at, I’m just not sure how.

How do you do it? There’s some masterful plotting in Sockpuppet and Lucky Ghost, so I’m guessing there’s some detailed planning involved. How do you balance work and writing and relaxing? (I’m really hoping you have a magic formula, and that it involves recreational drugs.)

As for a book I’m really looking forward to, The Confession by Jo Spain, which I believe is out in January. I’ve heard very good things and am a huge fan of hers. I also wait patiently for John Hart to write another. It takes him a while (lazy/rich) but I love him so much I’d happily rummage through his recycling box, I imagine even his shopping list is a thing of beauty.

Matthew: Ooh, I’ll check that one out, thanks.

You’re very kind to complement my plotting. I wish I could say I had a magic formula but I really don’t. I usually start with a rough outline – 2-3 pages covering what I think the main beats of the story will be, plus some character notes – but this always turns out to be wrong. I seem to need this kind of starting point, but for me (and it sounds like for you, too) the true magic of writing fiction comes when you start to improvise and surprise yourself. I love throwing characters into situations even I don’t know the way out of, or pitting them against one another, and simply seeing what they’ll do. They invariably end up taking the story in a far more interesting direction than I could have plotted out in advance, and I have MUCH more fun along the way.

Of course this means my first drafts are alway a steaming, toxic mess, but that’s the point of a first draft. And it’s why novelists really, really need to enjoy editing. Because that’s at least 50% of the process.

Speaking of writing a draft, what stage are you at on the next book? Any teasers you can share about the book?

Chris: Yes on the dog shit first draft, mine are so bad that I usually get the urge to start something new when I’m nearing the end.

As for book 3 I’m not sure. I have a couple of ideas and they’re both quite big in scope, I just need to psyche myself up to get started as I know it’s going to be tough again. There’s something terrifying about staring at a blank page, but equally it’s the part I find most enjoyable. Sometimes I still can’t believe I get paid to write stories, it’s genuinely my dream job and if it wasn’t hard I’d worry I was doing something wrong.

How about you? Next up?

Matthew: You know what, Chris, I reckon the fact that you agonise so much is a big part of why your writing has so much rawness and fizz. It’s a shame the gestation has to be so painful, but take it from me, they’re beautiful babies. I hope you get to feel like a proud Dad once they’re out in the world.

For myself, I have a few irons in the fire at the moment, and it’s taken me a while to figure out which of them to work on next. There’s more to come in the series that started with Sockpuppet, and I thought that one of those would come next – but instead I’ve found myself compelled to write a standalone book about the fake news phenomenon, and the way we’re being slyly targeted with information designed to mould our feelings and beliefs. It’s shaping up to be a very different kind of book, though I’m still not 100% sure which direction it’s taking me in. Still, I’m excited to be here for the ride.

In the meanwhile, very best of luck with the launch of All The Wicked Girls. I know it’s going to be YUGE, as The Donald would say.

Follow Matt on Twitter HERE and Chris on Twitter HERE

Purchase Sockpuppet and/or Lucky Ghost

Purchase Tall Oaks and/or All The Wicked Girls

Happy Reading!

Early one morning, blogger Alex Kubelick walks up to a total stranger and slaps him across the face. Hard.

He smiles.

They’ve both just earned Emoticoin, in a new, all-consuming game that trades real-life emotions for digital currency. Emoticoin is changing the face of the economy – but someone or something is controlling it for their own, dangerous ends.

As Alex picks apart the tangled threads that hold the virtual game together she finds herself on the run from very real enemies. It seems only one person has the answers she seeks. Someone who hides behind the name ‘Lucky Ghost’.

But Lucky Ghost will only talk to a young hacker called Thimblerig – the online troll who’s been harassing Alex for months.

Will Lucky Ghost lead Alex and Thimblerig to the answers they seek – or to their deaths?

Everyone loves Summer Ryan. A model student and musical prodigy, she’s a ray of light in the struggling small town of Grace, Alabama – especially compared to her troubled sister, Raine. Then Summer goes missing.

Grace is already simmering, and with this new tragedy the police have their hands full keeping the peace. Only Raine throws herself into the search, supported by a most unlikely ally.

But perhaps there was always more to Summer than met the eye . . .

 

The Good Thief Guides – Chris Ewan talks to Neil White.

Chris Ewan’s “The Good Thief’s Guides” have recently been re-issued, I read them all a long time ago now and loved every one – they offer highly intriguing mysteries, following along with an engaging main character in Charlie Howard and are beautifully witty, both funny and fascinating so if you missed them the first time round now is your chance – helpful links at the end of this feature.

So we know how I love to make Neil White work for a living (or in this case simply so I don’t glare at him) so I asked him to have a chat with Chris Ewan all about The Good Thief Guides so you all can find out more about it. Neil also has a book out next week – the first in his new series featuring lawyer Dan Grant – and that one is ok as well I suppose (its blinking brilliant) so you know  – I’ve helpfully added some links to that later too…

Over to them then…

Neil: It’s my great pleasure to chat to someone I’ve known around the crime fiction circuit for a few years now and, more importantly, whose books I’ve enjoyed. I feel like I know Chris but perhaps not as well as I should, so this is my chance to explore more about the man and his excellent books and share it with whoever decides to read this.

Chris, I came across you for the first time when you were on a panel of authors at the Crimefest crime fiction festival in Bristol in 2008. I was a little late entering the event and I caught you explaining to the audience that you are a former wrestling champion. Is this true? And if not, who are you? What’s your story?

Chris: Blimey, you did come in late. The wrestling stuff really only happened for a brief spell after my (not too successful) period as an Olympic Triathlete. But to answer your question, I’m the author of nine crime novels: five in The Good Thief’s Guide To … series of mystery novels about globetrotting crime writer and thief-for-hire Charlie Howard, and four standalone thrillers. Probably the best known of my standalone thrillers is Safe House, which has sold over 500,000 copies in the UK and was shortlisted for the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Award. Like many of my thrillers, Safe House is set on the Isle of Man, where I lived for eleven years. My Good Thief novels, meanwhile, are set in a number of international cities – from Amsterdam to Paris, Las Vegas, Venice and Berlin. Before becoming a full-time writer, I was also a lawyer, like your good self, though I spent most of my legal career (such as it was) helping to make movies and TV shows on the Isle of Man. Now I spend my time making stuff up (which in some ways isn’t so different from pretending I knew what I was doing when I was a media lawyer …).

Before we get to the Good Thief books, which is the main reason we’re chatting like this, what made you decide to have a go at writing, and how long was your journey to your first published book?

It was down to a book, really. I read Jack Kerouac’s On The Road at university, when I was twenty, and it was one of those examples of just reading the right book at the right time in my life, and being inspired by it. I’d always loved reading and writing but On The Road made me get serious about attempting a novel for the first time. So I started to write one book, and then another and another, and over the decade that followed I landed a literary agent but no publishing deal. Then I wrote my first crime novel, The Good Thief’s Guide to Amsterdam, and I submitted it to a competition the author Susan Hill was running via her small publishing company Long Barn Books. Several more months went by until one day I was at work when my phone rang and I answered it to find that Susan was on the other end of the line. She told me I’d won her writing competition and she was going to publish my novel. Susan changed everything for me with that one phone call.

 

The journeys of other writers always interest me. What made you turn to crime, and what sort of books were you writing before then?

I started out writing a book that was submitted to publishers as an “edgy” literary novel (I think “edgy” was probably code for unpublishable …). Then I wrote a couple of more mainstream novels. But in all that time, what I was mostly reading was crime fiction and it eventually hit me (after way too long) that crime fiction was what I should be writing, too. It was another book that set me on the path to that – Raymond Chandler’s The Long Goodbye. It’s still my favourite crime novel.

This brings us neatly to the Good Thief books, a series of most splendid books. For those who don’t know, tell me about them. What were your thoughts on starting them and what inspired you?

The Good Thief’s Guides are a series of five (so far!) mystery novels about hack crime writer Charlie Howard who pens a mystery series of his own about a burglar and who, unbeknown to most people, also moonlights as a burglar. The books are fun and fast paced and they’re set in a number of international cities. Basically, if you like heist movies like The Thomas Crown Affair and Ocean’s Eleven, I think you’ll love the Good Thief’s Guides.

As I mentioned earlier, each book is set in a different city and deals with a different type of theft and they can all be read in order, out of order, upside down, however you’d like! As you can tell from the settings, they also involve an element of travel writing and it’s always been important to me that the geography and culture of each city I write about has a real bearing on what happens in the books (after all, you can’t have a caper novel set in Vegas, say, without it involving a casino heist and I don’t think you can have a mystery novel set in Venice that doesn’t feature some romance …).

The books grew out of my love of crime novels about crooks and anti-heroes, and I also really liked the idea of writing a series where each book was set in a completely different location. Of course, it didn’t hurt that I had to travel to some fantastic cities to research the books …

I knew it was a mistake to always set mine no more thirty miles from where I live! Did writing a villain as a hero cause you any particular difficulties, and what would you say is the key to get the reader to cheer on a crook?

If anything, it’s a huge advantage, I think. Charlie doesn’t need to worry about getting people arrested for their crimes or bringing them to justice in a conventional sense because, as a crook himself, he usually enforces a different kind of justice. Plus, there’s no waiting around for search warrants when Charlie is on the hunt for a clue! A lot of readers have told me they find Charlie a fun guy to spend time with, and I think a big part of that is because all the books are narrated by him and he doesn’t take life too seriously. Also, as the title suggests, he’s really not such a bad guy after all …

Just so that the readers get to know you a little better, what is your writing routine?

It varies. I’m a full-time writer but I also look after my kids three days a week while my wife is at work. On days when I have the kids, I write as much as I can in the evenings before I collapse. On days when my wife is home, I prefer to start work early in the morning because I’m really a morning writer. If I’m working on the first draft of a book, I write five pages every day. If I’m rewriting a book, I work as many hours as I can. It usually takes me nine months to write a book and then another three months to figure out the idea for the next one …

It’s served you well, of course, because you had the runaway success of Safe House, the number one bestseller. How hard was it to follow such a hit, and what comes next?

The nice thing about the success of Safe House was that I’d already finished my follow up novel, Dead Line, before Safe House really took off. So there was no pressure on the writing and, of all my thrillers, Dead Line is probably my favourite. I only wish it had gone on to sell as many copies as Safe House did …

What was behind your decision to bring out the Good Thief books yourself, and how different is the experience to that of being published traditionally, which is how you started out?

The paperback and ebook rights to the Good Thief Guides were held by Simon & Schuster in the UK but the books had gone out of print and they kindly agreed to let me have the rights back. Publishing them myself as ebooks gives me an opportunity to try and take the series out to a wider audience by hopefully communicating my ongoing enthusiasm for the series to readers.

I’m very lucky that the books are well supported by St Martin’s Minotaur in the States, so they’re still traditionally published in the USA and in several other territories. Which I guess makes me a kind of hybrid writer right now. I have to say I’m finding the experience of publishing the books myself really rewarding creatively and I’ve learned a huge amount. But at the same time, it’s a massive amount of work. If I didn’t love writing the Good Thief mysteries as much as I do, and hope to write more of them, I wouldn’t have taken it on. But this seemed to me like the best chance I have of publishing a sixth Good Thief’s Guide novel in the UK.

If there are to be more Good Thief books, where can we expect Charlie to travel next?

I hope there will be more, although it’ll depend to some extent on how the books do. But I really do want to write more books in the series and I know from the emails I’ve had over the years that lots of my readers want more, too. As for where

I’d take Charlie next, there are a few cities on the shortlist. But first, there’s the small matter of getting him out of Berlin …

Thanks for the chat, Chris. The best of luck with the Good Thief series. To anyone reading this, if you like fast-paced fun crime, you should give the series a go. Chris is great, although I’m always bound to say that, him being a former champion wrestler and all that.

And thanks to you, Neil. The next time you need someone to break into a house, you know who to call.

 

Find out More

Follow Chris on Twitter

Purchase The Good Thief Guides

Out 10th August from Bonnier Zaffre

He hides in the shadows, watching, waiting, until the time is right . . . 

Mary Kendricks, a smart, pretty, twenty-four-year-old teacher, has been brutally murdered and Robert Carter is accused of killing her.

When defence lawyer, Dan Grant inherits Carter’s case only weeks before the trial starts, everyone expects him just to babysit it, but Dan’s not that kind of lawyer. He’ll follow the evidence – wherever it takes him.

But as Dan and his investigator Jayne Brett look into the case, they discover that there is more to it than meets the eye. In order to do their jobs they need to push the limits of the system, even if it means putting themselves in danger.

Together they will get to the truth – whatever the cost .

Find out More

Follow Neil on Twitter

Purchase From the Shadows

Happy Reading!

 

 

 

 

Ones to Watch in 2018: The Collector Fiona Cummins

Publication Date: February 2018 from Pan Macmillan

Source: Proof copy

Jakey escaped with his life and moved to a new town.
His rescue was a miracle but his parents know that the Collector is still out there, watching, waiting…
Clara, the girl he left behind, is clinging to the hope that someone will come and save her.
Life has fallen apart for Clara’s mother as she starts to lose hope.
The Bone Collector has a new apprentice to take over his family’s legacy. But he can’t forget the boy who got away and the detective who had destroyed his dreams, Detective Etta Fitzroy.

I think a lot of people when asked would say that “The Silence of the Lambs” is the definitive serial killer thriller – its all about the atmosphere and the low key haunting scares and the quality writing – but boy I’m telling you that book has some competition now.

Last year at proof stage I was genuinely rattled by “Rattle”, this authors debut, and now she brings us the follow up and boy its a doozy and a half. And then another half. Ok it’s a double doozy. At the very least. Picking up where “Rattle” left off we go further down into the darkness with the Collector and his victims, with his nemesis Etta Fitzroy and this is a twisted darkness indeed, portrayed and embedded into your consciousness in a brilliantly written and utterly riveting piece of character driven  plotting.

I’ve talked about a few writers who are pitch perfect and that is certainly the case here – not only does Fiona Cummins make you care about her characters, fear them and for them but she does it in such an immersive way that you just rattle (sorry) through it, caught up in the horror and the emotional trauma (and boy is this emotionally traumatic on so many levels) – you can’t look away and wouldn’t even if you could. It is gripping, totally gripping, does literally make you hold your breath at times and bloody hell that ending, that slow, scary, uncertain finale almost had me falling off my chair.

The beautifully woven relationships simmer throughout, we see the aftermath of Rattle in all its reality, the devastation and the hope, you can’t help but feel every moment of it whilst metaphorically glancing over your shoulder and waiting for the axe to fall. It is cleverly done to make no promises – happy endings are not always a thing, so you really cannot be sure of anything, in the fight between darkness and light the light often loses and until you turn that last page you can’t and won’t know. Maybe not even then….

Edgy, unpredictable, scary as all heck and so brilliantly spellbinding that you may come away with actual bruises from the tension, The Collector is one for thriller readers everywhere who are looking for those differences, those books that stand out not only for quality but for pure reading pleasure. Painful pleasure sure. But absolute reading joy.

Highly HIGHLY recommended (but read it in the daytime or you will be sleeping with the lights on)

Follow Fiona on Twitter

See where it all began….

Happy Reading!

 

Ones To Watch in 2018 – Dark Pines Will Dean

Publication Date: January 2018 from OneWorld

Source: Netgalley

An isolated Swedish town. A deaf reporter terrified of nature. A dense spruce forest overdue for harvest. A pair of eyeless hunters found murdered in the woods.

It’s week one of the Swedish elk hunt and the sound of gunfire is everywhere. When Tuva Moodyson investigates the story that could make her career she stumbles on a web of secrets that knit Gavrik town together. Are the latest murders connected to the Medusa killings twenty years ago? Is someone following her? Why take the eyes? Tuva must face her demons and venture deep into the woods to stop the killer and write the story. And then get the hell out of Gavrik.

Dark Pines is one of those books where I look up from the pages after finishing it, slightly dazed, going Yep THAT is what I am looking for.

Beautiful beautiful writing, totally immersive from the very first page with a main protagonist that you just fall in love with and an atmospheric, haunting sense of things that will linger for a long time. Will Dean’s intuitive prose just sends you to Gavrik, a small town, a tight knit community, people just looking for a quiet life, but there is a dangerous underbelly to it all that you just feel throughout the reading. Tuva is truly intriguing, living and working in Gavrik to be close to her unwell Mother, just waiting to escape but somehow so very much a part of it all anyway. Her so called “disability” is just part of her, she works around it with no sense of being different to anyone else and I loved that about her.

The scene setting is a huge part of what makes this so very very excellent though. The “Dark Pines” of the title, that brooding, beautifully threatening forest is a character in its own right – making you want to visit and want to hide from it – always in the background, a definable, vivid environment that ingrains itself into the wider story with a truly imaginative intensity.

Then you have the quirky, odd and realistic characters that live in and around Gavrik – from the sisters (my favourites!) with their extremely strange creative profession and their lilting way of talking to Tuva herself, everyone you meet in Dark Pines will give you a different emotional response. The mystery element is so so SO well done, I don’t even want to say anything about it, you should just read it and live in it and wait for that downright eerie ending that is elegantly achieved.

I loved every moment of this one. Every word. It was just blinking brilliant. This is DEFINITELY one to watch in 2018 and has pretty much guaranteed itself a place in my top ten reads for this year – Dark Pines is a novel to watch and Will Dean is an author to watch. I sense great things ahead.

Highly HIGHLY recommended.

You can Follow Will on Twitter and  Pre-order Dark Pines

Don’t miss it!

Happy Reading!

Ones To Watch in 2018: The Memory Chamber Holly Cave

Publication Date: February 2018 from Quercus

Source: Review Copy

Isobel has it all: her dream job, an immaculate home and a steady relationship. Life, and even death, is completely under her control. For Isobel’s generation death no longer means oblivion, thanks to firms like her employer, Oakley Associates. Isobel is their top heaven architect, crafting perfect afterlives for her clients built from the memories they treasure most.

Then Isobel meets handsome client, Jarek. Suddenly her disciplined life gives way to something passionate and extreme, and Isobel jeopardises everything to embark on an affair with a terminally-ill – and married – man.

When Jarek dies and becomes the prime suspect in a murder that took place before his death, Isobel is forced to prove his innocence. But as she stumbles upon the darker side of the work she so passionately believes in, she can trust no one with what she finds.

Set in the near-future, this thrilling and original story vaults the reader into a world that is terrifyingly close to our own, where we can avoid everything we fear – even death itself. But can we ever escape the truth?

The Memory Chamber is a clever speculative fiction novel imagining a future in which you can create your own Heaven – if of course you can afford it and if you are lucky enough to get an appointment with someone like our main protagonist Isobel, who crafts heaven’s for a living and is damned good at it. The technology however does have its quirks and when she is thrown into a passionate affair followed by a murder enquiry things get much less heavenly and far more hellish.

The Memory Chamber has an intelligent and emotive premise – Holly Cave digs deep into the morally blurred world that Isobel lives in, creating a character that is not always easy to like but endlessly intriguing. The scientific speculation feels very authentic and entirely possible, what engaged me about this was Isobel’s distinct love for what she does, her utter belief in it, then watching that belief slowly picked at around the edges leaving her unsure of everything. At the same time she is dealing with a loss and as the story progresses you see the many layers to that loss and how it affects her judgment. As a main protagonist she is beautifully characterised and you are with her all the way.

The world building is gently immersive – we don’t have endless explanations just a considered understanding as we get to know the people that live there, this is a slow beautiful burn of a story that has a rather poignant and moving feel to it – after all we would all like to be sure of what comes after life wouldn’t we?

Overall a genuinely captivating story with a dark heart and an intricately drawn world not that far from our own.

Recommended.

You can find out more and follow Holly on Twitter. If this sounds like your cup of tea you can pre-order The Memory Chamber now.

Happy Reading!

Ones to Watch in 2018: If I Die Before I Wake Emily Koch.

Publication Date: January 2018 from Harvill Secker

Source: Netgalley

How Do You Solve Your Own Murder?

Everyone believes Alex is in a coma, unlikely to ever wake up. As his family debate withdrawing life support, and his friends talk about how his girlfriend Bea needs to move on, he can only listen.

But Alex soon begins to suspect that the accident that put him here wasn’t really an accident. Even worse, the perpetrator is still out there and Alex is not the only one in danger.

As he goes over a series of clues from his past, Alex must use his remaining senses to solve the mystery of who tried to kill him, and try to protect those he loves, before they decide to let him go.

Still a fair few to go in my “Ones to Watch in 2018” feature and next up we have a tense and brilliantly edge of the seat psychological thriller – If I Die Before I Wake by Emily Koch.

Now this is one of those books that grips you from the outset to the point that you ignore everything else until you are done. Told entirely from the point of view of Alex, in a coma with everyone believing he is to all intents and purposes gone, he is still in there and can hear what’s going on around him and feel what is happening to him. He has had an accident – or was it? As we get drip fed snippets of information from those around him we come to realise that all is not as it seems. Possibly not even Alex himself..

What I loved about this one was the very strong emotional core Emily Koch brings to the storytelling, really digging into the trauma Alex suffers and how it affects his psyche. Torn between wanting to die and wanting to live, all the while trying to work out what the heck happened to him and why, you really feel for him, lying in that bed, unable to communicate –  and even worse realising that the danger has not passed.

You also get a real feel for the characters around him – his Sister, Father, close friends and most of all his girlfriend Bea who is fighting a battle of her own – should she remain loyal or move on – as things progress you get to know them all well, even though you are only getting random snapshots.

The mystery element is brilliantly imagined and the plotting is excellent – there are twists along the way, emotional resonance to the haunting sense of loss and an ending that absolutely kills – one of those that will keep nagging at the edges of your mind for a long time afterwards.

Overall a really excellent, often nail biting, always engaging read and a page turning addition to the genre.

Recommended.

Follow Emily on Twitter for updates and/or pre-order If I Die Before I Wake.

Happy Reading!