Friday, April 24, 2015

A Curious Mixture of Genres: Don't Look Behind by Caroline Mitchell

An unusual mix of genres  as Caroline Mitchell takes a police murder enquiry and stirs in a large portion of the supernatural, as a series featuring the supernaturally sensitive DS Jennifer Knight begins.  I liked the detective thread, which features some very interesting and well rounded characters, not least the heroine herself.  The evil horror strand gradually asserts itself and, while I found this very interesting, it often seemed, to me, a bit of a misfit, but it was a good story nonetheless.  Who can Jenny trust, and will she manage to overcome the danger to save those she loves?  Fans of the writings of authors such as Stephen King may recognise and appreciate this element more than I did.  I like my brushes of evil more if penned by such authors as Daphne du Maurier and Phil Rickman...  It is hard to see where policing evil spirits can go, so I will await the next instalment with interest.

Publisher Bookouture summarise this story as follows: Soon he would be able to touch her, to feel the warmth of her blood. And when the time came, nothing would stop him. As D.C. Jennifer Knight investigates a routine stabbing in the quiet town of Haven, she is shocked at what seems like a personal message from beyond the grave. When more bodies are found, Jennifer is convinced the killings are somehow linked. What she discovers is more chilling than she could possibly imagine. The murders mirror those of the notorious Grim Reaper – from over twenty years ago. A killer her mother helped convict. Jennifer can no longer ignore the personal connection. Is there a copycat killer at work? Was the wrong man convicted? Or is there something more sinister at play … With her mother’s terrifying legacy spiralling out of control, Jennifer must look into her own dark past in a fight not only to stop a killer – but to save herself and those she loves.

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Falling in Love

I fell in love with Venice when I visited in 2007 and left part of my heart there.  A dear friend suggested Donna Leon's series of detective novels set in Venice, and on starting to read about Guido Brunetti, the principled Venetian Inspector, I fell in love with him and his wonderful family.  I was thrilled to have the opportunity to read his most recent outing, and "Falling in Love" did not disappoint.  I was transported into Brunetti's Venice and the problems he faced in working out what was going on, and how to protect the vulnerable.  Venice is as strong a character as is Vianello, or Elletra. or indeed, Flavia.  La Fenice, the Opera House, is at the heart of the  story, but the roots spread far afield.  Donna Leon's wonderful writing is in evidence: "Irritation packed its bags, opened the door and, pulling  impatience along by its sleeve, began the long walk downstairs."
It's a thoroughly enjoyable, beautifully written, constructed and characterised book.  It is a rare treat and I am very happy to recommend it.

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

A Place Called Winter

I found this book especially interesting as I had never given much thought to the colonisation of Canada, which, as in the USA, is a rather shameful period of history as land was seized from the original inhabitants and sold off to white settlers seeking a new way of life.

Harry Cane's attempts to conform lead him to marry and father a child when he meets a woman who seems as much an outsider as himself.  He is wealthy enough to lead a modest life of leisure as an Edwardian gentleman, until a series of most unfortunate events threaten public disgrace, financial ruin and criminal charges.

The only escape he can envision is to cross the Atlantic and, rather suprisingly, become a farmer settler in the New World.  Sadly, although he discovers satisfaction and solace in tending the soil, troubles old and new pursue him across the prairies and challenge his new way of life and new found contentment.

This is an epic story and a bit of a change for Patrick Gale, who says he has developed on the story of one of his ancestors to write this excellent book.  It was a pleasurable and compelling read.  

Monday, April 06, 2015

A Thrilling Adventure in Swansea

Hidden is the second novel by Emma Kavanagh and a brilliant whodunnit (so I can't say too much about it or I will spoil your fun). The story is told through a number of voices but mananges to unfold coherently with suspense and subtlety. as suspicion falls on different heads,     Seemingly unconnected happenings eventually combine to form a chilling, dangerous and dramatic climax.  It's a thrilling book, with believable and engaging and rounded characters in a well described setting.  I really enjoyed it and am now, having finished it, suffering a book hangover.  I was lucky enough to read an advance copy of  it: definitely a book to look out for.

The publishers describe the book thus:-  

A gunman is stalking the wards of a local hospital. He's unidentified and dangerous, and has to be located. Urgently.

Police Firearms Officer Aden McCarthy is tasked with tracking him down. Still troubled by the shooting of a schoolboy, Aden is determined to make amends by finding the gunman - before it's too late.


To psychologist Imogen, hospital should be a place of healing and safety - both for her, and her young niece who's been recently admitted. She's heard about the gunman, but he has little to do with her. Or has he?

As time ticks down, no one knows who the gunman's next target will be. But he's there. Hiding in plain sight. Far closer than anyone thinks...

The author, Emma, has this to say about her career (so far):-

I began my career a very long way from writing. I decided I wanted to be an author when I was five (I was that kind of kid!), and spent my entire childhood writing feverishly. But then, as I got older, something strange happened - I started listening to advice. You know one of the worst pieces of advice ever? Write what you know. What did I know? I was a kid. If I didnt know anything, surely that also meant I had nothing to write about?

You know one of the other worst pieces of advice ever? Few people get to be authors. You need a stable career.

So, I set about choosing a stable career and rapidly fell into psychology. It was, in spite of the crummy advice, a love match. Psychology fascinated me then and fascinates me now. There is nothing more interesting to me than what drives the behaviour of my fellow humans. The problem was that, whilst I was learning about this new world, I had lost confidence in my old one, and so set writing aside in order to concentrate on a serious career.

I did my degree (great fun!) and my Phd (not so much fun) in psychology. Which was awesome. But I had officially run my course as a student and the time had come for me to pick my path again.

You see, in spite of all the advice, I just have never been comfortable walking the well trodden path. Nothing appealed to me. There were no jobs that I wanted to just walk in to. I remember telling a career advisor that I wanted to work with people in traumatic professions and help them to understand how the psychology of what they did affected their roles and their lives. I still remember the look of sympathy tinged with exasperation.

Im pretty sure there is no such job. she replied.

She was right.

So I made one up.

I began my own consultancy business training police and military units on the psychology of critical incidents. I was twenty three, fresh from academia and green as grass. But I immersed myself in the world of policing and took every opportunity I could find to learn the job and learn what the challenges are. I discovered then that if you ask people to teach you about what they do every day, they can be extraordinarily generous. And because I was willing to learn, people were willing to listen. So my business took off.

I got to do pretty strange things. I have travelled across the UK, Europe and the US. I have taught group of three and groups of three hundred. I have designed live fire exercises for police firearms units. I have fired more than my fair share of weapons. I have been involved in crisis negotiations, have run about in muddy fields attempting to evade capture, have worked in some of the weirdest military bases in the world and generally had way more fun than anyone should have in work.

And then one day it occurred to me, I knew things now. Which meant that maybe, just maybe, I had something to write about. 

Emma Kavanagh has worked as a police psychologist and this gives her special insight into the world of criminal minds and crime solving, which she puts to excellent use here.

The book is due for publication by Century on 23rd April 2015 in hardback (£12.99) but if you fancy a free taster, here's a link to dip your toes in the water.  Enjoy!

This post should have appeared on 6th April as part of a blog tour hosted by CrimeThrillerGirl, but sadly a technical glitch caused me to be late to the party, for which many apologies. Thanks for the opportunity to take part - you might like to join me in tagging along the rest of the tour.