Category Archives: Blog Tour

*Hydra Blog Tour* Guest Post and Review.

Author Matt Wesolowski joins us today as part of his ‘Hydra‘ blog tour. I’m really happy to be part of this tour as I am a huge fan of Matt’s writing, he combines crime with something much darker.

Today Matt is here to chat about fear which seems appropriate seeing as his novels have given me some sleepless nights…

Vic x 

The Difficult Second Book
By Matt Wesolowski

I thought I knew fear. I deal in fear. Creating fear is my only talent (or not – depending on your opinion). I’ve been plenty scared in my life, like the other day when there was a spider in the bath that was so big that even when I brought in the expert to deal with it (my cat) – she ran away.

Like I say, I know fear.

The fear of writing a second installment of Six Stories didn’t really hit until I was about half way through. Suddenly, the words of every one star review (I’ll tell you I don’t read them but I do!) gathered together above my head in a storm cloud of mocking dissent. The nasty part of my brain began to prod me with its savagely pointed fingernail and tell me that I couldn’t do this again, that writing another one was impossible. I was a flash-in-the-pan.

I felt there was expectation where there had been none before. What if Hydra was terrible?

A deep, gut-churning fear assailed me as if from nowhere as I ploughed on through the manuscript. Writing has never been a place of fear, at least not the actual writing process. Writing has always been catharsis or solace.

Writing a prequel to Six Stories was, in theory, easier than writing Six Stories itself. The structure was there, the idea was blinking its corpse-light from somewhere in the folds of my brain, but the fear of expectation hung in the air like some ghastly fog.

The way through this fear was tough, like hacking through a jungle of self-doubt. Yet after a while, a path began to emerge.

First off, I knew it would be difficult to set anything after Six Stories – the implications at the end would be too complex. I also like loose series. Take the magnificent author Thomas Enger for example; his novels all stand alone yet have a loose threat running through them so can be enjoyed as a series or indeed not. To be able to do that is true talent. I had to at least give it a shot.

So instead of thinking about writing, I started thinking about podcasts again instead.

I love discovering a podcast which I can listen to its latest episode and then trawl back through its archives – same presenter, same style, different cases. This appeals to a creature of habit like me.

So why not apply the same sentiment to Hydra? After all, Six Stories was only supposed to be one book, a prequel was never on the cards until an idea appeared in my brain when I least expected it, just like that terrible bath-spider, but with fewer legs.

I allude a few times in the first book to there being previous series of Six Stories – old graves that Scott King likes to rake up.

Using that sense of trawling back through the archives to an unknown time before Scarclaw Fell appealed to me. I didn’t want to write another whodunnit about the woods, I wanted to use that old anonymous adage:

The writer’s job is to get the main character up a tree, and then once they are up there, throw rocks at them.

I wondered how Six Stories would feel in an urban setting, where place didn’t play so much of a role. I also indulged my own fascination with true crime – why rather than who. I also wondered about the ramifications for raking up these graves – would it impact the podcaster at all? Why does Scott King wear a mask? I thought that this might be something fun to explore.

All these questions and notions became my machete, hacking the murky undergrowth of fear and doubt. I began to construct something that wasn’t like Six Stories save for its structure. The horror element showed itself in the early ideas of Hydra but something a million miles from the rustic folktale of Nanna Wrack, something less cosy (Nanna Wrack has her cosy side, you just don’t know her well enough!). I felt like having a more modern story needed a more modern horror…enter the BEKs…

Sometimes I wonder if I’m actually a crime writer at all, that maybe this expectation comes from some perception I have of myself. I think I’ve decided I’m not a crime writer in the traditional sense (too much horror), nor am I a horror writer (too little horror, too much crime).

But I’m ok with that.

What it does mean is that giving birth to horrors like Hydra is always going to be difficult.

Review: ‘Hydra’
by Matt Wesolowski.

Well, where do I start? It’s no secret that ‘Six Stories‘ was one of my favourite reads of 2017 so I was delighted to be getting another in the series so soon. It is worthwhile saying that, although I’m a fan of the series, you can read the books as standalones or out of the order they were published in – they are self-contained stories.

A family massacre
A deluded murderess
Five witnesses
Six Stories
Which one is true?

In November 2014, 21-year-old Arla Macleod bludgeoned her mother, stepfather and younger sister to death with a hammer, in an unprovoked attack known as the Macleod Massacre. Now incarcerated at a mental-health institution, Arla refuses to speak to anyone but Scott King, whose Six Stories podcasts have become an online phenomenon.

As he digs deeper into the case, Scott begins to wonder whether Arla’s capacity for murder was played down by her legal team. Interviewing Arla and five witnesses, Scott finds himself down the rabbit hole of deadly online games, trolls and strange black-eyed kids. Will he survive to tell the tale? 

Matt Wesolowski manages to blend horror and crime effortlessly – he has a real talent for combining potentially supernatural horror with terror that is all too real. Delving into the deepest recesses of human capability, ‘Hydra‘ is a story about the ills people can inflict on one another. 

Capitalising on the success of new media, Wesolowski presents his narrative in a unique way – that of a serialised podcast. Not only is this a form I haven’t seen used before, it’s clear Wesolowski is very familiar with the conventions of podcasts and how ambiguity prevails through many online investigations.

In addition to this, Wesolowski writes about so-called ‘outsiders’ particularly well. Where other authors may be afraid to shine a spotlight, Wesolowski excels. Whether it be an overweight teen who is bullied, or someone who is scoffed due to their home life or taste in music, Wesolowski really nails the ‘outcast’. However, he also manages to capture the psyche of the “cool” and popular kids. To me, this is a true skill – he creates balanced, empathetic characters.

Will ‘Hydra‘ become one of my top reads of 2018? Only time will tell but it is certainly a front runner. 

Vic x

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*City Without Stars Blog Tour* Guest Post and Review

I am really delighted to be involved in the blog tour for ‘City Without Stars’ by Tim Baker. 

Tim’s debut thriller, ‘Fever City‘, was shortlisted for the CWA John Creasey New Blood Dagger and the Private Eye Writers of America’s Shamus Award. City Without Stars‘ is published this month by Faber & Faber. 

My thanks to Faber & Faber for including me on the tour and to Tim for taking the time to answer my questions. 

Vic x

Photo by Colin Englert

Tell us about City Without Stars‘.
For the residents of Ciudad Real, in Mexico, the situation is desperate. A deadly war between rival cartels is erupting, hundreds of female sweat-shop workers are being murdered, and union activist, Pilar, is about to risk all; taking social justice into her own hands by organizing illegal lightning strikes in protest.

As his police superiors start shutting down his investigation into the serial killings, a newly assigned homicide detective, Fuentes, suspects most of his colleagues are on the payroll of narco kingpin, El Santo, and turns to Pilar for help. Although she will do anything to stop the murders of her fellow workers, Pilar’s going to have to ignore all her instincts if she is to trust Fuentes enough to work with him. When the name of the city’s saintly orphan rescuer, Padre Márcio, keeps resurfacing, Pilar and Fuentes begin to realise the immensity of the forces aligned against them . . .

What inspired it?
So many elements go into the creation of a novel and every one of them is a form of inspiration. From the first day I arrived in Mexico, I knew I wanted to write about the country, but it took over four years for the major themes to emerge and coalesce into a narrative, including the plight of exploited female workers along the border region with the United States and the vast numbers of these young women who were being abducted and murdered. Why were no suspects being apprehended? Why weren’t the women being offered better protection? And why were authorities refusing to consider the situation as an emergency? There was only one force in the region that could exert such malign control: the cartels. Add to that the growing concerns about the dehumanizing dangers of rampant globalization, and suddenly I had a book.

Where do you get your ideas from?
Perhaps surprisingly, most of my ideas come from either dreams or daydreams when I’m in nature and there’s interplay between elements or light. These moments are not so much a blinding flash as half-formed glimpses or impressions and usually take on greater clarity when I’m doing some kind of physical activity: swimming or walking and not consciously thinking about ideas. It’s a long and imprecise journey and you need to have faith.

Do you have a favourite story / character / scene you’ve written?
I never read any of my books after their final edit because I’m already invested in creating new characters and other stories. There’s only so much space available inside my head so I have to keep the decks clear at all times! So my favourite characters, stories and scenes are always the ones that I’m currently writing, because they will be rewritten, edited, re-imagined and perhaps even deleted. Anything that’s in flux and emerging in surprising ways is always exciting.

What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever been given and who it was from?
It was a great piece of advice from the Canadian author, Mavis Gallant, whom I once interviewed at her home in Paris over a bottle of white Alsatian wine. She told me never to begin a line of dialogue with “Yes” or “No” as it invariably makes redundant everything else that follows, and at the very least robs the sentence of any dramatic tension. Like all great advice, it was simple but effective.

What can readers expect from your books?
I think my novels have a couple of things in common: strong social themes woven around a propulsive, violent story; a powerful sense of place; dark swathes of humour; and an unstinting belief in the endurance of human dignity.

Have you got any advice for aspiring writers?
My own writing journey and the way I write is atypical, so I may not be the best person to offer advice! All I would say is simply to embrace whatever works for you and don’t worry if it’s a little unorthodox. Aspiring writers need tenacity along with talent but they should also be aware that luck plays a strong part in any writer’s career. Luck comes in waves. If something is not working, then don’t become too despondent – put it down, pick up something else, and try it again later on. It worked for me!

What do you like and dislike about writing?
The great thing about writing a novel is that you have this vast canvas upon which to explore ideas, characters and complex concepts such as destiny.  It’s a luxury and a privilege to have that scope for consideration and I never take it for granted. The only thing I dislike about writing is not writing.

Are you writing anything at the moment?
I usually work on several projects at once. At the moment I am completing a dystopian thriller, a first-contact novel set in northwestern Australia, and a thriller about the Algerian war.

What’s your favourite writing-related moment?
It’s exactly the same moment that applies to my life as a reader: leaping into the unknown of a new novel.

Review: ‘City Without Stars
by Tim Baker.

My interest was piqued when I was offered the opportunity to review ‘City Without Stars‘ because I haven’t read many thrillers set in Latin America. I was intrigued to read about the type of crimes that could be an issue in this region. 

Tim Baker’s prose evokes the setting, conjuring the claustrophobic climate beautifully. I read this nuanced story with the action unfolding in my head through a sepia haze. The atmosphere that Baker creates is cloying and claustrophobic, allowing the reader to step into this world and understand exactly what the characters are experiencing. 

Baker’s strong attention to detail helps create the layered, compelling story of cartels, inequality and murder. The action in this story packs a real punch and is certainly not for the faint-hearted. However, I found it insanely compelling. I could stomach the violence because it felt so desperately real. I cared about the characters and was totally invested in Pilar and Fuentes’s struggles. 

The female characters in this novel, on the whole, are very strong – despite their less than idea circumstances. 

I’d be very surprised if ‘City Without Stars‘ didn’t emulate its predecessor’s success. 

Vic x

*Deep Blue Trouble Blog Tour* Guest Post and Review.

Steph Broadribb, AKA Crime Thriller Girl, is not only a blogger extraordinaire, she is also a Slice Girl as well as the author of the Lori Anderson series – ‘Deep Down Dead‘ and ‘Deep Blue Trouble‘ – and ‘My Little Eye‘ (writing as Stephanie Marland). Identity crisis much, Steph?!

In all seriousness, though, Steph is an absolute star in the making and I wish her every success with her various endeavours. I’m delighted to host her today as part of the ‘Deep Blue Trouble‘ blog tour.  

Steph’s here today to talk about how music inspires her writing. My thanks to Steph for taking the time to share her process with us. 

USING SONGS TO CREATE CHARACTER:
MUSIC TO WRITE LORI BY
By Steph Broadribb

I can’t actually write while listening to music, but I do like to listen to songs to get into the mood of the character before I write. I tend to start writing first thing in the morning, so while I’m drinking my first coffee of the day and eating breakfast I head over to YouTube and listen and watch the songs that get me in the mood.

I find that most of the songs for each book or short story are different (even when it’s the same character) although there might be one or two songs that I use for a specific character.

For Lori Anderson, my single mom Florida bounty hunter, the song I use to get in character for writing her is Fighter by Christina Aguilera. For me, the song is about using the things that try to break you to make you stronger – and that’s something that Lori has had to do her whole life, no matter what obstacles she faces, she doesn’t give up, she learns from her mistakes and fights harder.

In Deep Blue Trouble, to set the mood for writing Lori’s scenes with JT (her ex-mentor and lover) I listened to Elastic Heart by Sia. There’s a lot of tension between Lori and JT. Neither are really able to express their feelings for each other, and they have a complicated and emotion-charged past that often gets in the way of the present. Yet even though they might not say it, they care deeply for each other and are drawn back together time and again. You can listen to the song and watch Julianne and Derek Hough do an incredible dance to it on Dancing With The Stars here.

When Lori is thinking about her nine-year-old daughter Dakota – who she’s apart from for much of the book – I always imagine Angel From Montgomery by Bonnie Raitt playing in the background. I love that song.

And when things aren’t going Lori’s way, when she can’t catch a break tracking the fugitive she needs to find, and she’s feeling low, I listen to Dream On by Aerosmith to get me into her head space.

For the ass kicking action scenes I listen to Pink. While writing Deep Blue Trouble because Lori is constantly coming up against one barrier after another, even from those who should be helping her, I listened to Try. I love Pink’s music – even when her lyrics are vulnerable the way she sings them shows her strength.

Review: ‘Deep Blue Trouble’ by Steph Broadribb.

Deep Blue Trouble‘ is the sequel to Steph Broadribb’s acclaimed ‘Deep Down Dead‘, picking up a few days after the end of the last book. 

Lori Anderson is a single mother. She is also a bounty hunter. Although her daughter Dakota is safe and healthy, for now, Lori needs Dakota’s father JT  – who also happens to be Lori’s former mentor – alive. Her problem, though, is that JT is in prison and on his way to death row. 

In order to save JT, Lori makes a deal with dubious FBI agent Alex Monroe: bring back a criminal who’s on the run and keep it off the radar – achieve that and JT walks free. Can Lori manage it or will her whole world implode? 

I’m not the first person to say it, nor will I be the last, but Steph Broadribb has created a unique, intriguing central character in Lori Anderson. In a profession that remains male-dominated, Lori has to fight tooth and nail to prove herself even though it appears she’s more than capable of holding her own.

What I really love about Lori is that she is both fearless and vulnerable, which is a really tough balance to strike but Steph Broadribb has managed it. 

Deep Blue Trouble‘ sets off at a pace and doesn’t let up until the final page – it’s like a Tarantino movie. Broadribb’s descriptions of both the characters and the settings ensure that the reader can clearly visualise the high-octane action.

Like Lori, ‘Deep Blue Trouble‘ really packs a punch!

Vic x

*Class Murder Blog Tour* 

Leigh Russell’s tenth Geraldine Steel book, ‘Class Murder’, is released tomorrow and to celebrate, Leigh is visiting ten blogs in ten days. The tour is ending on the tenth of December. The blog tour comprises of exclusive top ten lists written by Leigh. Be sure to check out the other stop on the tour. 

Today, Leigh has put together a list of top ten books that her illustrious detective Geraldine Steel owns. So when Geraldine isn’t out solving crimes, it sounds like she may be quite the bookworm. 

TOP TEN BOOKS GERALDINE STEEL OWNS

  • Complete works of Shakespeare
  • The complete Sherlock Holmes
  • The complete Jane Austen
  • Criminology: A Sociological Introduction
  • A Study in the Psychology of Violence
  • Mindhunter: Inside the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit
  • Psychological Offender Profiling: Conversations with a Serial Killer
  • Inside Broadmoor
  • Family Tree Online: How to Trace Your Ancestry
  • The World Atlas of Wine

Review: ‘Class Murder’ by Leigh Russell.

When two people are murdered, their only connection lies buried in the past. As police search for the elusive killer, another body is discovered. Geraldine Steel struggles to solve the baffling case while trying to settle in following her enforced relocation to York. 

Class Murder‘ pits a demented serial killer with a demoted detective struggling with a number of personal problems. 

Leigh Russell manages to create a number of interesting characters, any of whom could be the person responsible for the killings. I found the interweaving of Geraldine’s story with that of the perpetrator and the victims very effective for allowing the narrative to unfold in a natural way.  

Considering the number of crime novels out there, I found the premise behind ‘Class Murder‘ highly original. 

This is the tenth book in the Geraldine Steel series but ‘Class Murder‘ is a great read for any fans of crime fiction – regardless of whether they’ve read previous books in the series or not. 

Vic x

*Chasing the Traveller Blog Tour* Review.

Earlier this year, I was lucky enough to take part in the cover reveal for ‘Chasing the Traveller’ by Alex Kane.

Today I’m honoured to take part in the blog tour for ‘Chasing the Traveller‘. 

As a traveller, Kat has always felt out of place, especially since the death of her parents in a fire. Having fallen in love with tearaway Jimmy Denton, Kat ends up married to a controlling and violent thug. After sixteen years of violence, she decides enough is enough and begins plotting her escape.

On finding an unlikely ally in her sister-in-law Ellie, Kat discovers that she isn’t alone. Kat’s quest to find out who she really is continues once she and Ellie have found their feet away from the camp but a discovery leads her back to the place she’d been desperate to escape.

Will she find the answers she is looking for, or will she fall prey to the violent Jimmy Denton once more?

I found the depiction of Jimmy Denton terrifyingly believable. The manipulation, threats and his insidious degradation of Kat’s confidence seem totally realistic in the most horrible way. I had a very strong sense of who Jimmy Denton was as well as the way in which his actions impacted on those around him. 

I read this novella in one sitting because I found that I couldn’t bear to wait to see what happened. I found myself holding my breath through a lot of this story due to the tension. I feel like this was because I cared about Kat and particularly Ellie. I would have actually liked to spend more time with Ellie and hearing her story and experiences. 

Chasing the Traveller‘ is an engaging portrayal of  a woman’s desperation to free herself from domestic abuse and find her own way in the world. It’s by no means an easy read in terms of the content but it is certainly worth the heartache. 

Vic x

**Whiteout Blog Tour** Review

I’m delighted to be reviewing ‘Whiteout‘, the fifth book in the ‘Dark Iceland‘ series by Ragnar Jónasson, as part of his blog tour. 

Two days before Christmas, a young woman is found dead beneath the cliffs of a deserted village. Questions swirl as to whether the woman took her own life or if it was taken from her. As the snow continues to fall unabated, Ari Thór Arason discovers that the victim’s sister and mother also died in exactly the same place over two decades ago. More secrets are revealed and the death toll continues to rise as the Siglufjordur detectives battle to stop a killer before anyone else is harmed. 

Whiteout‘ is the first book by Ragnar Jónasson that I have read and I really enjoyed it. Although I found it a little slow to start, once it got going the tension didn’t let up until the very end! I must also add that Quentin Bates has done a marvellous job with the translation of this compelling story.

Featuring an interesting cast of characters that, in my mind, could have easily come out of an Agatha Christie story, ‘Whiteout‘ makes everyone a suspect. This device ensures that the reader ends up pretty much accusing everyone at some point! 

Through the development of the narrative Ragnar Jónasson manages to set up several mini-mysteries within the overarching question of what happened to the young woman. This is a very clever technique which ensures the reader is frequently satisfied throughout the novel. 

Jónasson uses beautiful descriptions of the setting to drop the reader right into Iceland at Christmas. The weather throughout this novel adds an extra level of peril to everything the characters do: whether it’s driving or chasing someone on foot, the driving snow and black ice make almost every action potentially fatal. The descriptions make the action so vivid that I could see it happening in my head. 

Although ‘Whiteout‘ is the fifth book in the ‘Dark Iceland‘ series by Ragnar Jónasson, I found that this book worked perfectly as a standalone. You definitely do not need to have read the others to follow this plot – it’s a self-contained mystery.

Whiteout‘ is the perfect novel to read from cover to cover while you’re snuggled under a blanket with a cup of hot chocolate on a cold winter night. 

Vic x

*Descent to Hell Blog Tour* Review

 

Today I’m delighted to be part of the blog tour for Nic Parker’s debut novel, ‘Descent to Hell‘. 

When Charlie Ward’s beloved niece is kidnapped by a demon he has to find the secret gateway into the one place every human hopes never to visit: Hell! Armed with only courage and determination, Charlie has to survive in the most forbidding place while attempting to overcome challenges no mortal should ever have to face.

I found this story totally original and engaging.  Although there are elements of horror present in this novel, Nic Parker has constructed something wholly unique. There’s everything from a mystery to romance as well as a very strong sense of humour. She manages to balance peril and fun with aplomb.

Parker develops her characters throughout the story, giving them each a strong arc. Charlie Ward is a likeable guy who literally goes to Hell and back in order to save his niece. His tenacity and strength of character makes the reader root for him. The fact that Charlie is also the police’s main suspect adds another dimension to this story. I also really enjoyed Parker’s portrayal of Lucifer. She really flips the stereotype on its head, again adding originality to a compelling story. 

For me, though, Max was the star of this story. She’s got attitude and kicks butt – both metaphorically and physically! Max may come off as a cold-hearted citizen of the underworld but Nic Parker manages to portray her with depth as the story goes on. Max’s dry humour is one of the best things about ‘Descent to Hell‘. 

Although it does have traits of horror, ‘Descent to Hell‘ could also be described as gothic noir. In some ways, this is also a detective story with a police hunt going on in our world while Charlie undertakes his rather unusual journey. There are twists and cliffhangers galore during ‘Descent to Hell‘ and I could really see this being adapted for the screen. 

Vic x