Tag Archives: novels

Review: ‘Dark Skies’ by LJ Ross

One fateful, clear-skied night, three friends embark on a secret trip. Only two return home. Thirty years later, the body of a teenage boy rises from the depths of England’s biggest reservoir and threatens to expose a killer who has lain dormant…until now.

Detective Chief Inspector Ryan is back following an idyllic honeymoon with the love of his life but returns to danger from all sides. In the depths of Kielder Forest, a murderer has evaded justice for decades and will do anything to keep it that way. Meanwhile, back at CID, an old adversary has taken the reins and is determined to destroy Ryan whatever the cost.

As usual, LJ Ross excels in her descriptions of the landscape where the story is set. What I really like about the DCI Ryan series is that LJ Ross sets macabre discoveries and heinous crimes in beautiful locations, ‘Dark Skies‘ is no different in that respect.

Add to that a number of intriguing sub-plots and a recurring cast of compelling characters and it’s no wonder that this series is one of the most successful in recent times. 

With ‘Dark Skies‘, however, there’s a new element to the series with malevolent forces within the force bringing extra tension to the narrative. 

As with the previous novels in the series, there are some unresolved issues which will undoubtedly keep readers hungry for more. 

Vic x

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Review of 2017: Ragnar Jónasson

Earlier this year, I took part in the blog tour for Ragnar Jónasson‘s latest book ‘Whiteout‘. I really enjoyed reading the book and I’m delighted to have Ragnar on the blog today to review his 2017. 

Vic x

 

Do you have a favourite memory professionally from 2017?
2017 was a very eventful year for me, travelling all around the world for my books: Hawaii, Toronto, New York, London, Scotland, Bristol and Paris, Lyon and Caen in France. My books were published in Iceland, UK, USA, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Armenia, Japan, Korea, Australia and Portugal. It was great to host a group of journalists from France who came to Iceland to interview me this spring. Hitting sales of 150,000 books in France this year was also truly remarkable, as well as getting my first reviews in major US newspapers such as The New York Times and The Washington Post. And just recently when The Times picked by book as one of the crime books of the year. Also, it was a really great moment when I was sitting by the pool at a hotel in Boston this summer, and noticed that the stranger sitting next to me was actually reading a book I had written, in French. Such an amazing coincidence.

And how about a favourite moment from 2017 generally?
Visiting Hawaii was really amazing, as well as going to Boston, one of my favorite cities, for my birthday. Also seeing some great musicians perform live, such as The Killers and Phil Collins in London, and my friend Vikingur Olafsson, Iceland’s greatest pianist, at the Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg, one of the most acoustically advanced concert halls in the world. And some great memories from Iceland, such as the day this winter when we had the greatest snowfall in years, and then sitting on a cliff outside Siglufjordur in the summer watching the midnight sun go down at 3am.

Favourite book in 2017?
There are a few. One of them is only available in Icelandic and French, Handbók um minni og gleymsku by Ragnar Helgi Olafsson (French title: La Réunion du Conseil national de l’audiovisuel). Block 46 by Johana Gustawsson is a great crime novel. And I’d also like to mention Sally Rooney’s Conversations with Friends, and Johan Norberg’s Progress.

Favourite film in 2017?
For the first time in too many years I was able to see a new Agatha Christie movie at the cinema. The latest movie adaptation of Murder on the Orient Express starring Kenneth Branagh was a special treat for an Agatha Christie enthusiast like me. The film was really well done, and with great actors in every role, this was a true delight. Another favourite film from 2017 was Baby Driver, really great.

Favourite song of the year?
So many songs. Some of the artists that I really like at the moment, in addition to excellent Icelandic musicians, are Mura Masa and Kendrick Lamar. Also, I love classical music, and recommend Vikingur Olafsson’s recordings of Philip Glass for Deutsche Grammophon, released in 2017.

Any downsides for you in 2017?
My memory serves me well and erases everything that does not live up to my expectations.

Are you making resolutions for 2018?
I never make formal resolutions but I hope to read more than last year, travel and enjoy life.

What are you hoping for from 2018?
Apart from the health and happiness, I hope the Icelandic football team win World Cup in Russia. In any case, my flights are already booked to see them play in Moscow, Volgograd and Rostov-on-Don.

Review of 2017: Suzie Tullett

Suzie Tullett is someone I’ve “known” online for several years but never met in real life. I know the internet – and social media – can be used for nefarious things but the thing I do love about it is that it connects people with similar interests. 

It sounds like Suzie has had a great year, here she is to tell us more about it – thanks Suzie!

Vic x

Do you have a favourite memory professionally from 2017?
2017 has been a wonderful year for me professionally. I’ve set up an ‘Essentials of Novel Writing’ course, which is doing very well, I was invited to become a mentor for Salford University on their Industry Advice Scheme, and I also became a contributor for a monthly journal based here in Brittany, France. I’ve also set up an RNA chapter for novelists based in Brittany. However, the one thing that I cherish the most from this year, is the offer of a three book deal with Bombshell Books. The elation I felt when I heard that they didn’t just want one title, but three! I’m working with a fantastic team and six months on I’m still smiling.

And how about a favourite moment from 2017 generally?
That has to be the birth of my first granddaughter. She’s such a beautiful and happy little poppet, with the most stunning, big blue eyes.

Favourite book in 2017?
Losing Leah by Sue Welfare.

On a cold dark February morning. Chris and Leah Hills stop for coffee at an isolated service station a stone’s throw from the Welsh Borders. While Leah heads inside, Chris locks the car and goes in to order them a drink. She shouldn’t be long, after all they’ve only stopped to stretch their legs. Minutes pass. Chris waits and waits, but Leah doesn’t come back.

I don’t usually read thrillers, but having glanced at the cover blurb I immediately wanted to know what had happened to poor Leah. I read it in one sitting, that’s how much Leah’s story grabbed me. It’s a book I’ve been recommending since.

Favourite film in 2017?
Kingsman: The Secret ServiceI watched this for the first time a couple of months ago and loved it. It’s funny, has a great cast, and some fabulous action scenes. I’m really looking forward to the sequel, although not being a cinema goer, I shall probably wait for the DVD.

Favourite song of the year?
That would be Rockabye by Clean Bandit, featuring Sean Paul & Anne-Marie although there isn’t a Clean Bandit song I don’t like. I love the range of instruments they use, especially the cello, and their lyrics are beautiful. They tell a story.

Any downsides for you in 2017?
Thankfully not. 2017 has been a fabulous year for me both professionally and personally.

Are you making resolutions for 2018?
Just to keep doing what I’m doing. Writing books, reading, teaching, and, just as importantly, enjoying life and all it has to offer.

What are you hoping for from 2018?
I’m hoping to have my fourth novel finished by the end of 2017, ready for publication in 2018. Although any actual release date is for Bombshell Books to decide. And I already have an idea for Book number five which I can’t wait to get stuck in to.

You can connect with Suzie on Facebook and Twitter.

Review of 2017: Trevor Wood

Trevor Wood is yet another writer I’ve been lucky to get to know thanks to Noir at the Bar.

If you’d like to hear Trevor read, come along to Noir at the Bar in Newcastle on Wednesday 21st February.

2017 has been a great year for Trevor but I’ll let him tell you all about it.

Vic x

Do you have a favourite memory professionally from 2017?
No question about this one.  I sent my first novel When A Fire Starts To Burn to Oli Munson at A M Heath at 4.30pm on October 3.  The next morning I got a very encouraging e-mail saying that he’d started reading it on the train home the previous evening and was greatly enjoying it. Watch this space. I stared at my e-mail in-basket for the rest of the day until at 4pm that day I got another message saying that he’d like to talk the following morning and at the end of that call he said that he’d like to sign me up. I know from bitter experience that this JUST DOESN’T HAPPEN. Sometimes I still think I dreamt the whole thing. I know there’s still a long way to go but support and hope is a lovely thing.

And how about a favourite moment from 2017 generally?
So many to choose from: reading from the above novel for the first time at Noir at the Bar (thanks Vic!), the astonishing turn-out at Jeremy Corbyn’s rally in Gateshead which convinced my that the General Election wasn’t going to be as bad as I’d feared, my wife’s 60th birthday party, held jointly with another friend, at the fabulous Alphabetti Theatre – probably the last event there before they moved across town; celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary with a large group of friends in a beautiful villa in Malaga; spending 3 weeks around Vancouver in the summer including a week on the idyllic Mayne Island. Any of those would do in a normal year.

Favourite book in 2017?
I’ve just completed the inaugural two-year, part-time Crime Fiction MA at UEA, which I’d hugely recommend – guest writers have included Lee Child, Ian Rankin, Denise Mina and Mark Billingham and the course has been a real inspiration. Anyway, the upshot of that is that I’ve read a huge number of crime novels in the past two years and the best of them by some distance was Darktown by Thomas Mullen, which I only finished a couple of weeks ago.  Set in post-war Atlanta it examines the problems in establishing the first black police force at a time of huge corruption and overt racism. Beautifully written, evocative, hugely entertaining and enlightening.

Favourite film in 2017?
I love movies and generally go at least twice a month but not sure that this has been a great year. My favourite films have been Wind River – an atmospheric thriller set on an Indian Reservation with a great turn from Jeremy Renner and Get Out, a creepy but darkly comic satire on racism in the US.  However, hands down the best film I’ve seen this year was Nocturnal Animals.  Saw it in the cinema last year and was astonished that it didn’t get a best film Oscar nomination so watched it again this year on DVD and can confirm that the Academy members were wrong and I’m right. It’s a nigh-on perfect film beautifully shot by fashion designer turned director Tom Ford with amazing, visceral performances from Michael Shannon and Aaron Taylor-Johnson – Amy Adams and Jake Gyllenhaal aren’t half bad either. It’s dark as treacle but utterly mesmerising.

Favourite song of the year?
I’m always seeking out new music and discovered several new artists that I’ve taken to my heart this year including young British up-and-comers Loyle Carner and Rex Orange County and the American band The National – I have no idea how I’d previously missed the latter as they’ve been around for years but I’m a bit of an addict now and enjoying catching up on their extensive back catalogue. Check out their terrific new album Sleep Well Beast. However, my favourite song of the year by a country mile is We Are Your Friends by the French band Justice.  I saw them at Glastonbury, last thing on the Sunday night. It’s the fifth year in a row I’ve managed to get tickets and I know that I’m not at my best by the last night so to win me over then is no mean achievement. My wife and daughter went to the Pyramid Stage to see Ed Sheeran but I didn’t fancy it so went to see Justice at the West Holts stage instead on our friends’ recommendation. They blew me away completely. The whole performance was fabulous, great music, amazing light show and I danced my socks off.  This song was the highlight though, an utterly joyous moment, the massive crowd was so exuberant and when they all chanted We Are Your Friends in unison, for a moment I actually believed they were. I understand that some of this exuberance may have been artificially stimulated – not mine though, obviously. This video captures those three minutes perfectly. Just look at those faces.

Any downsides for you in 2017?
One of the reasons I was so thrilled to sign with Oli Munson towards the end of the year was that I had chosen to part company with my previous agent about six months earlier. It was a difficult decision but it just didn’t feel like a good fit and after a year of representing me I still hadn’t been able to get a face-to-face meeting with him. Obviously it paid off in the end but there were many times during that agent-less period when I felt a little isolated and wondered if I’d made the right decision.
I also failed to retain my Fantasy Football Championship title and have to hand the magnificent trophy over to someone else at the end of the year. I don’t like to talk about that though.

Are you making resolutions for 2018?
I’m not big on resolutions but have lots of plans.  I’ve started on a sequel to When A Fire Starts To Burn, so I hope to have that finished next year though some of it will be written on the road as my wife has a sabbatical so we’re heading back to Canada for a couple of months in May.  As it’s a fallow year for Glastonbury, four of us are heading to the Sziget Festival in Budapest in August which should be a proper adventure – it’s set on an island in the middle of the Danube and always attracts a great line-up. And I have a very big birthday next year which coincides with my daughter’s 21st so we’re planning a major party somewhere in Newcastle.

What are you hoping for from 2018?
A publishing deal.
The cancellation of Brexit.
The impeachment of Donald Trump.

Review of 2017: L.V. Hay

Following in the footsteps of fellow Orenda author Thomas Enger, the lovely L.V. Hay reviews her 2017 today.

I’d like to thank Lucy and her stablemates at Orenda Books for taking the time to review their 2017 as well as their intrepid publisher Karen Sullivan for coordinating them so adroitly! 

Vic x

Do you have a favourite memory professionally from 2017?
Got to be not only publishing my crime debut The Other Twin with Orenda Books, but seeing my baby in WH Smith! I’ve always dreamed of seeing my novel on bookshelves, so to see it in a shop I go in all the time was amazing. I loved too that so many of my friends and people I know online took pictures of themselves with my book too. The support and goodwill has been wonderful and humbling.

And how about a favourite moment from 2017 generally?
I am blessed with a wonderful family and life generally, so it is hard to pick. I think this year though it was Halloween — it went on for what seems like ages because half term came early, so we ended up going to half a dozen Halloween events! I love seeing the kids dressed up and running about; this year it was especially clear nights all week too, we ended up in a haunted wood at one point.

Favourite book in 2017?
This is a really tough one, because I’ve read SO many great books this year! I think I can narrow it down to three: The Marsh King’s Daughter by Karen Dionne (a brilliantly flawed, enigmatic female lead in a compelling scenario – my favourite);  The End of the World Running Club by Adrian Walker (been out a few years, but satisfied my dystopian leanings and an unusual male lead and story of redemption); plus The Mine by Antti Tuomainen – a fellow Orenda author – I’m a sucker for a hitman story, so to see one in an eco thriller too was just fab.

Favourite film in 2017?
I think Blade Runner 2049 was my favourite film this year. I loved the big ideas in it, plus the film noir-style mystery. Plus the way it revealed the seedy underbelly of the future, making commentary about the way things are now, was masterful. It’s a film with many layers, just like all Denis Villeneuve’s movies are. It requires repeat viewings to fully be appreciated. I like that blockbusters aren’t so shallow any more.

Favourite song of the year?
It’s a bit of an old one, but we love Uptown Funk by Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars in my house. This one never fails to get us dancing around the kitchen. We also like anything by The Weekend.

Any downsides for you in 2017?
The sexual harassment/abuse allegations coming out of Hollywood and Parliament have been really tough — my day job is working as a script editor for movies, so obviously I know some people who have been directly affected by all this. What’s been toughest for me though is the number of people, including women, lining up to minimise people’s experiences, saying they’re ‘overreacting’ or ‘mistaken’ and a ‘smokescreen’ for those affected by ‘real’ abuse. No wonder it’s taken until 2017 for this to hit the spotlight. That said, I think a sea of change is happening at last.

Are you making resolutions for 2018? 
I rarely make resolutions, but I do look at the year ahead and decide what I would like to achieve and  when by (something so many people forget). I always write at least one book a year, whilst editing up to two others. This year, I’d like to try and write something else in addition to my crime novels. A dystopian YA piece maybe, or perhaps a feel-good piece about relationships in the style of Jojo Moyes, Eva Woods or Rowan Coleman. I have lots of ideas so will have to pin something down in my brain first. We’ll see!

What are you hoping for from 2018?
A bestseller would be cool; or perhaps some translations of my existing books. But really, I’m living my dream – I wanted to be a novelist and I wanted to be a script editor and I’m doing both! I’m so lucky and realise that, so want to try and help other writers achieve their dreams in 2018.

Guest Post: Nic Parker on Hull Noir 2017

The dedicated Nic Parker, author of ‘Descent to Hell‘ travelled all the way from Germany to attend the inaugural Hull Noir. 

I was gutted not to be there myself but I know Nic is the perfect person to tell us all about the weekend. Thanks to Nic for sharing her weekend with us! 

Vic x

Hull Noir 
By Nic Parker

Hull Noir was brought to life as part of Hull being City of Culture 2017. Reykjavik is Hull’s twin city. The Iceland Noir festival takes part in Reykjavik every other year and the following year moves to another city so this was a brilliant move for Hull.

My weekend at Hull Noir kicked off on Friday night with the Getting Carter event at the Kardomah94. Nick Triplow talked to Cathi Unsworth, introducing Ted Lewis to the audience, speaking about the life and work of the Hull-born Lewis with some of Lewis’s old friends present. Triplow said that even after researching Lewis for over ten years, he still learns new facts about him. Ted Lewis created Brit Noir but was way ahead of his time and never got acknowledged for it – until now. Nick Triplow has done Ted Lewis proud in bringing this literary hero of Hull back into the spotlight.

Saturday marked Hull Noir’s official start with the Sleeping with the Fishes – Hull vs. Iceland panel. As Hull and Reykjavik are twin cities both known for their fishing industries, Nick Quantrill chaired David Mark, Lilja Sigurdadottir and Quentin Bates, who discussed the different types of crime in both cities. It was intriguing to hear that while Hull has left its worst behind, crime is on the rise in Reykjavik due to the huge amount of tourists visiting each year. Transgressions in Reykjavik are higher than before and a lot of the crimes are drug-related, an issue Sigurdadottir picked up for her book Snare.

Craphouse to Powerhouse was the title of the second panel where Danielle Ramsay, Jay Stringer, Luca Veste and Paul Finch discussed post-industrial crime fiction in the North, particularly on the northern part of the M62. For me, as a foreigner, it is always fascinating to hear how that North/South way of thinking is still very much present in today’s Britain. Despite talk of gruesome murder, the authors pulled the audience right in and there was also a lot of laughter, thanks to Stringer and Veste.

The panel Into the Darkness delivered what its title promised. Jake Arnott, Emma Flint, Joseph Knox and Cathi Unsworth talked about murder set in different time periods and how protagonists don’t always have to be only good characters. Joseph Knox takes his readers to modern day parties in drug-ridden Manchester locations. Emma Flint talked about how the perception of a person based on her looks can lead us to condemn someone we don’t know and how it was even worse in 1965. Jake Arnott evokes ‘Romeville’, the underworld of 1720s London, rife with crime and even using criminal slang. When Cathi Unsworth mentioned her next book would be about a mysterious murder involving dark magic there was a murmur of anticipation in the audience.

Martina Cole celebrating her twenty-five year silver jubilee as a crime writer on stage with Barry Forshaw was a definite highlight of the festival. Cole is a wonderful person, sharp and funny – she should have her own television show. She talked about how her career started, how she wrote stories to entertain herself and how she got her first agent, with whom she has stayed all this time. Martina mentioned how many of the men and women in prison she met are not villains but often people who made one stupid decision in their life that ended up with them behind bars. She has encountered men who can’t even properly write their own names, stating that a gorgeous face is not enough in life and how very important education is. She also spoke out against the snobbery in the publishing industry that doesn’t seem to have changed much since she started out. She remains not only the bestselling author in the UK, whose books are the most stolen – ‘I might’ve nicked a few myself’, she grinned – but also an inspiration for authors. It was the perfect event to end the first day of Hull Noir.

Sunday saw Getting Away With Murder at ten o’clock and despite the early time the audience was in for a treat. Ayo Onatade did a brilliant job chairing Abir Mukherjee, Rachel Rhys and Matt Wesolowski. Who would have predicted Mukherjee and Wesolowski would be such a great act on stage, bouncing gags off each other within the minute. Rhys and Mukherjee said they needed a lot more research due to the time their stories are set in. Rhys had found and talked to a woman who had actually done the trip from the UK to Australia in 1939 on a cruise ship so she got first hand information. Mukherjee watched old Pathé films on Youtube to get a feel for 1919s Calcutta but, finally, visited India to get a real taste of the country his story was set in. Matt Wesolowski, deemed the baby of the group at thirty-six, used the ultra modern structure of a podcast in his first novel, listing his influences as podcasts like Serial and Someone Knows Something. While they are all glad about new technology, Wesolowski said he didn’t want his young son growing up only valuing himself if he received enough likes on Instagram or Facebook. Rhys is still reluctant to welcome all aspects of modern technology into her life. All three authors mentioned how fond they still are of notebooks, enjoying scribbling down whatever comes to their minds.

William Ryan chaired the Freedom, Opression and Control panel with Eva Dolan, Stav Sherez and Kati Hiekkapelto and the sombre atmosphere of this issue was almost tangible. Oppression of people is not only a thing of the past, like in Ryan’s book set in the UK under the SS-regime, it also concerns people who are regarded differently, like a transgender woman in Dolan’s story. Stav Sherez explored the often ignored danger that lures in the depths of the internet while Hiekkapelto deals with an ongoing issue for which there seems no current solution: the refugee crisis and how badly these people are often treated. Hiekkapelto stunned the audience by asking them what it means to have freedom and if anyone feels like they are really free, a question many might have thought about long after the panel had ended.

Off The Beaten Track saw the wonderful Jacky Collins asking Sarah Ward, David Young, Antti Tuomainen and Daniel Pembrey about the different settings of their books. Pembrey has lived in Amsterdam and Luxembourg and used these places as settings whereas Young set his books in Eastern Germany in 1975. Young toured with his band in the eastern part of Germany a few years ago, eager to learn about what life was like there before the wall came down. Tuomainen, who has a wonderful dry humour, wondered how a reader could buy his yarn about setting up a fictitious mushroom factory yet his mistake of naming a wrong street in an existing town upset said reader.

A Year In The Crime Writing Life of John Connolly and Mark Billingham ended the festival on Sunday with Jake Kerridge as ringmaster, often having trouble keeping the  other two in line. I’ve seen Connolly and Billingham on stage a few times before and it’s always a treat. Their stories and humour had the audience laughing with tears rolling down their faces.

When asked about their highs and lows of the past year Billingham said his lowest was when he got massively hacked. Connolly was moved telling about his highlight of the year, how he had felt honoured to be on stage at the Panopticon in Glasgow where Stan Laurel had made his stage debut. I urge everyone who is a fan of Laurel & Hardy to read he by Connolly. It’s not crime fiction but a very moving and loving tale about Laurel & Hardy, evoking the golden era of old Hollywood. Speaking of comedians, Billingham and Connolly are always a brilliant act, exchanging puns and jokes and spinning many an entertaining yarn. Putting these two great authors on as the last panel was a genius move as the festival ended on a total high.

 

I had an absolute blast at Hull Noir and somehow it ended all too fast. I had time to chat with old friends and met lots of wonderful new people. The small and not overcrowded venue gave you enough time, as well as the opportunity, to chat to the authors after the panels and not spend your entire time between events standing in line to get your book signed/hunting for a coffee/going to the loo.

The festival surpassed all of my expectations. The panels were very clever and it was pure entertainment getting to hear from new talents and seasoned authors alike.

I can’t thank Nick Triplow, Nick Quantrill and Nikki East enough for putting together such a brilliant programme and for creating an awesome event everyone will be talking about for a long time. Hull Noir was a great success and here’s hoping this wonderful event will be repeated.

Review: ‘Cambridge Black’ by Alison Bruce

Amy grew up in the shadow of her father’s murder conviction but, twenty-two years later, she discovers that her dad may have been innocent all along and sets out to clear his name. 

DC Gary Goodhew is also haunted by the past. His grandfather was murdered and Gary is still hunting for the person responsible. 

But, right now, someone is about to die. Someone who has secrets, who kept quiet but is now living on borrowed time. This person is going to die because someone has disturbed the past and awoken a killer. 

Cambridge Black‘ is the seventh book in the DI Goodhew series but if you haven’t read any of the others, fret not! Alison Bruce skillfully weaves her overarching narrative into the story without confusing the reader. There are plenty of strands to keep you interested as you wind your way to the denouement. 

Just like its front cover, ‘Cambridge Black‘ is an atmospheric, sultry read with an intriguing cast of characters. Alison Bruce deftly weaves evocative descriptions of Cambridge into the story, bringing the city to life, while the action unfolds.

Themes of deception, family and betrayal are all front and centre in this sophisticated novel. The relationships are complex, as are the people themselves but it was refreshing to read a book where the author didn’t patronise the reader by explaining every last detail. Bruce obviously trusts that her readers will understand what she is driving at. 

From what I’ve read elsewhere about the series, this story appears to bring many of the previous novels to a close. However, I still feel there is scope for some of the main characters to reappear which should come as a relief to fans of Goodhew. 

As Morse was to Oxford, Goodhew is to Cambridge. 

Vic x