Beyond the Rage cover image

Beyond the Rage cover image

What the blurb says: “Kenny O’Neill is a criminal with a touch of class about him, a self-made man who’s always one step ahead. But right now he’s raging. His high-class escort girlfriend has been viciously attacked and his father is reaching out from the past – despite abandoning Kenny as a child after his mother’s suicide. Kenny embarks on a dual mission to hunt down his girl’s attacker and find out the truth about his dad … but instead he unravels disturbing family secrets and finds that revenge is not always sweet.”

Kenny O’Neill might be a criminal, but you can’t help but root for him in this pacey thriller. Never one to back away from a fight, and with a highly developed sense of justice (just not necessarily the legal kind) he’s determined to find out who’s behind the vicious attack on Alexis, his escort girlfriend. But when unresolved questions from his past start resurfacing, and those he cares for start getting hurt, he realises that Alexis is not the only target. As the body count rises, Kenny has to call on his friends from both sides of the law if he’s going to find those responsible, and get out alive.

This is a gritty, brutal crime thriller, with plenty of salty language and a nice touch of dark humour. It throws you into Kenny’s (criminal) world and gets you up-close-and-personal with some violent and conniving people. There are loads of fabulous characters, from the elderly mixed martial arts gym owner, to the retired cop who’s never forgotten Kenny’s mothers’ death and his fathers’ disappearance, to Kenny’s mysterious and unpredictable girlfriend, Alexis, and her larger-than-life mother. There’s also a lot of heart.

An atmospheric, compelling, rollercoaster of a read, BEYOND THE RAGE is a fabulous piece of tartan noir.

Highly Recommended.

[with thanks to CONTRABAND for my copy of Beyond the Rage]

 

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The London Book Fair (LBF) takes place this week and if you’re heading along make sure to check out Author HQ, with Kindle Direct Publishing, LBF’s dedicated area for established and aspiring writers. Launched as a result of the increasing interest from the self-publishing community, there’s a great line up of speakers – publishers, writers and agents – taking part in the seminar programme.

Representatives from Little, Brown; HarperCollins; Headline; The Orion Publishing Group; Quercus; Pan Macmillan; The Creative Penn; The Alliance of Independent Authors; The Agency Group; Canelo Digital Publishing; The Society of Authors and The Literary Consultancy, AM Heath and David Higham Associates, and more, will be sharing their secrets and expertise.

Each day bestselling Kindle Direct Publishing authors will be talking about their experiences.  Mel Sherratt, Stephanie Hudson and Keith Houghton will be joined by Mark Dawson on Tuesday; by CJ Lyons on Wednesday and by Rachel Abbott on Thursday.   Seminar topics include:

  • Introduction to Publishing
  • Know Your Rights – Legal and Contracts
  • Writing and Reading in the Digital Era
  • The Principles of Successful Book and Book Cover Design
  • Genre Spotlights
  • Publishers and Agents – how they discover new talent
  • Crowdfunding
  • How to Sell Your Book
  • How I Made It – Living the Dream (authors sharing their experiences of launching their writing careers)
  • What It Takes to Get Readers to Turn the Page
  • The Craft of Writing
  • The Rise of Author Collectives
  • Successful Social Media Strategies
  • Effective PR & Marketing
  • Journalists – What are they looking for?

Back for another year, The Write Stuff, a Dragon’s Den-style panel event, will see ten authors pitch their books to a panel of literary agents on Thursday afternoon in front of an audience in Author HQ, for the chance to win a follow up meeting with an agent.

The London Book Fair (14-16 April) has moved to its new venue for 2015 – Olympia, West London.  All Author HQ events are free-to-attend with the purchase of a three-day LBF pass and seminar places are allocated on a first come, first served, basis. Hop on over to www.londonbookfair.co.uk for more information on booking, and for further information on the seminar line up, check out www.londonbookfair.co.uk/authors.

 

The Killing Season cover image

The Killing Season cover image

The Killing Season was one of my top reads of 2014. It’s now out in paperback, and to celebrate I thought I’d re-run my review …

What the blurb says: “When Caleb Wardell, the infamous ‘Chicago Sniper’, escapes from death row two weeks before his execution, the FBI calls on the services of Carter Blake, a man with certain specialised talents whose skills lie in finding those who don’t want to be found. A man to whom Wardell is no stranger.

Along with Elaine Banner, an ambitious special agent juggling life as a single mother with her increasingly high-flying career, Blake must track Wardell down as he cuts a swathe across America, apparently killing at random.

But Blake and Banner soon find themselves sidelined from the case. And as they try desperately to second guess a man who kills purely for the thrill of it, they uncover a hornets’ nest of lies and corruption. Now Blake must break the rules and go head to head with the FBI if he is to stop Wardell and expose a deadly conspiracy that will rock the country.”

The Killing Season has everything I love about action thrillers – the intrigue, the danger, the chase and the multi-layered characters. And, it’s Mason Cross’ debut novel, which makes it all the more impressive.

The main character, Carter Blake, is something of an enigma – charismatic, highly skilled, and at the top of his game. But he doesn’t let power and politics get in the way of his investigation, and he makes sure justice is brought, whatever the personal cost. So pairing up with Elaine Banner makes for an interesting working relationship – she’s career-driven and has her eyes on the next promotion, working with a talented maverick like Blake gives her a set of problems she can well do without.

The antagonist – sniper Caleb Wardell – is a smart and cunning adversary, engaging Blake and Banner in a deadly game of cat and mouse. The tension is high from the get-go and just keeps on rising.

So as Banner and Blake pursue Wardell, following the evidence, trying to find a pattern and anticipate his next move, the body count continues to rise. Blake’s the only person who is able to get close, and Banner starts to realise that sometimes the only way to get the job done right is to step away from procedure and follow your instinct.

As Blake and Banner get closer to the truth, they become targets – in the sights of Wardell and someone in the Agency itself – question is, can they get to them both in time, and get out alive?

I cannot sing this novel’s praises highly enough – it’s a joy to read, utterly engaging and kept me hooked right from the first page to the last. There’s high stakes and high tension, and the chemistry between Blake and Banner sizzles off the page.

If you love action thrillers, if you love crime fiction, go and read this book. I’m sure you won’t regret it.

Highly Recommended.

[with thanks to Orion for my copy of The Killing Season]

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DISCLAIMER cover image

DISCLAIMER cover image

What the blurb says: “How would it feel if you came across yourself in a book? It is unmistakably you. Worse, it is about something you have never told anyone – anyone living, that is.

When an intriguing novel appears on Catherine’s bedside table, she curls up in bed and begins to read. On opening The Perfect Stranger by E.J. Preston, she is horrified to read an account of a day from twenty years ago she’s chosen to forget. Desperate for answers as to who the author is and what they want, she ploughs through the novel, until she reaches the end: the author’s portrayal of Catherine’s death.

Catherine has never met Stephen. But Stephen knows all about Catherine, including the details of her most closely guarded secret, unknown to her husband and son. Now that Stephen has found her secret, he is going to carefully and deliberately expose both it and her, exactly the ultimate revenge.”

At the moment ‘the big twist’ is hugely popular in psychological thrillers. You know, that moment where the reader turns the page and says ‘Oh my God, I never saw that coming – now everything’s changed’? Well, this book has so many ‘oh my God’ moments that I lost count!

Catherine isn’t so much an unreliable narrator as a secretive narrator. She knows the truth about what happened – it’s been festering in her mind, gnawing away at her for the last twenty years – but she still can’t bring herself to think about the details, and make herself relive the horror, of what occurred. So her side of the story remains a mystery to the reader for much of the book.

She hides what’s going on from her husband. As the stress and fear take hold, her life – work, family, self-perception – starts to fall apart, but she still won’t, can’t, tell those important to her the truth. It’s both heart-breaking and maddening (you want her to tell them, to tell you!) – and it makes for an utterly gripping narrative.

And while Catherine’s life comes apart, Stephen’s life is looking up. His plan is working, and he’s feeling more alive, more connected, to his wife, than he has done in many years. He begins to hope that maybe, finally, he’ll have succeeded in claiming some sort of justice.

Both lead characters are compelling and captivating in equal measure. Nuanced and flawed, and utterly real, they make bad choices, have regrets, and struggle to cope with the guilt they carry with them from the past.

I loved the quirky, up-close style of the narrative, and the shifts between past and present tense that really added to the feeling of what happened ‘then’ and what was happening ‘now’.

When I finished this book I sat looking at the cover and thinking about the story. ‘Wow’, I thought. Really, WOW! It is that good.

A heart wrenching, beautifully written and perfectly paced psychological thriller – with big twist after big, jaw-dropping twist – DISCLAIMER is one of my top ‘must reads’ of 2015 so far.

Highly Recommended.

 

[with thanks to Transworld for my copy of DISCLAIMER]

HIDDEN cover image

HIDDEN cover image

Here’s what the blurb says: “He’s watching. 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 McCarty 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.

She’s waiting. 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.”

 

I loved Emma Kavanagh’s debut – Falling – and so I was delighted to get an early copy of her second book – Hidden.

The book opens amongst the horrific aftermath of a shooting in a hospital. Told in first person, the terrifying situation and urgent, compelling voice of Charlie pulled me into the story from the first page. After the first chapter, the story takes you back in time, and through multiple characters’ perspectives, exposes the chain of events in the preceding days that have led to the tragedy.

I think this is the first book I’ve read where the main police character is a Police Firearms Officer rather than a detective. This fresh angle really makes the story stand out, as does the rest of the brilliantly drawn characters and the complex relationships (and hidden secrets) they have with each other. As the story progressed, I found the relationship between hospital-based Psychologist, Imogen, and her twin sister, Mara; and that of local journalist Charlie with Aden, the Firearms Officer, especially intriguing (but I won’t say why – you need to read the book to find out!).

It’s hard to go into detail about this book without giving away spoilers, but what I can say is that it’s a story that keeps you on your toes as a reader. I love books that keep me guessing and challenge me to work out who is responsible, and this story did just that. With several crimes taking place, multiple narrators giving glimpses into different elements of the story, and a super pacey non-linear timeline, the author cleverly ramps up the suspense and the mystery, and kept me guessing right to the end.

This is a gritty, tense, twisty page-turner of a book – and a must read for crime and thriller fans.

Highly recommended.

You can follow Emma on Twitter @EmmaLK and for a sneaky peak at HIDDEN hop over to Dead Good Books to read an extract … http://www.deadgoodbooks.co.uk/index.php/extract-hidden-emma-kavanagh/

 

HIDDEN cover image

HIDDEN cover image

Today, I’m thrilled that the CTG blog is playing host to Emma Kavanagh’s hidden blog tour. With a PhD in Psychology, and a career working as a police and military psychologist, training firearms officers, command staff and military personnel how to handle extreme situations, Emma’s used her expert knowledge to create hidden – a gritty, tense, page-turner of a book that will be published in hardback on 23rd April.

Here’s what the blurb says: “He’s watching. 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 McCarty 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.

She’s waiting. 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.”

Now, it’s over to Emma to find out more about The Psychology of Police Shootings – Attentional Spotlighting …

Imagine for a moment that you are walking through a crowded room. Your senses are assaulted with a cacophony of noise, voices, music, the scraping of a chair on tile. There is food cooking somewhere – you know because you can smell it. And that smell makes your stomach growl, the sound of it vanishing into the chaos that surrounds you.

Then you see something. A flash of metal.

You stare at it.

It can’t be.

A figure moves in front of you, but you don’t see who it is or what they’re doing, because all of your attention is focused on that flash of metal. You bob your head until you can find it again, your heart pounding. You tell yourself that it cannot possibly be.

Then you see it and your mouth goes dry.

He has a gun.

Once you have seen it, once your brain has run through identification options in order to positively identify that this thing in front of you is in fact a weapon, your adrenaline will kick in. The fight or flight reaction taking effect. Whatever else unfolds around you, your attention will be trapped, caught on the hook that is the weapon – the thing that could kill you.

Author Emma Kavanagh (c) Matthew Jones

Author Emma Kavanagh (c) Matthew Jones

It makes sense, doesn’t it? That evolution should design us to pay attention to things that can present a danger to us. We only have so many cognitive resources, and so when something threatening appears in our environment, we often experience what is known as attentional spotlighting – the focus on one particular object with the exclusion of everything else.

Now, imagine what this will mean for a firearms officer. We train them to look for weapons within their environment. Especially guns. A gun can kill them, not to mention the innocent civilians that surround them. BUT! Once they have spotted a gun, their next job is to keep their attention as open as possible. In other words, we’re trying to force them to fight back against the teachings of evolution. Because when your attention is focused on the gun alone, you may not see the child that is running towards you, directly into the line of fire. You may not see that there is another gun, this one closer, its owner with their hand on the grip.

We do this with training, by putting officers in high-stress situations and teaching them to countermand their own natural instincts. We train these officers over and over again, so that, when their lives are threatened, they are able to perform in a way that will save their own lives, and those of others.

A massive thank you to Emma Kavanagh for joining us today and for giving a glimpse into this specialist area of training.

You can follow Emma on Twitter @EmmaLK and for a sneaky peak at hidden hop over to Dead Good Books to read an extract … http://www.deadgoodbooks.co.uk/index.php/extract-hidden-emma-kavanagh/

And be sure to drop by next week to read our full review of hidden.

Also, make sure that you check out all the other fabulous tour stops taking place as part of the blog tour:

Hidden Blog Tour

Joanna Briscoe (c) Jason Alden

Joanna Briscoe (c) Jason Alden

Today I’m handing over the reins of the CTG blog to Joanna Briscoe whose latest novella TOUCHED is published today. Joanna is the author of Mothers and Other Lovers, Skin and the highly acclaimed Sleep with Me which was published in ten countries and adapted for television.

She spent her  early years in ‘the village of the damned’ – Letchmore Heath in Hertfordshire – which was the location for the celebrated 1960 film based on John Wyndham’s novel The Midwich Cuckoos – and the inspiration for her Hammer novella TOUCHED.

So, over to Joanna …

A Writer’s Life

There is much that is unglamorous about a writer’s life… and much that is privileged. At the moment, I walk through a King’s Cross that changes daily, and have a swim, on the way to the British Library, and this feels amazing.

It’s true that there are lots of publishing parties, award parties, and I hang out with lots of other authors, but I wouldn’t really wish this career on my children. It’s too solitary, neurotic, insecure… How I dream, so often, about being with other people, in an office, on a film set, in a school. Just being surrounded by people working, instead of labouring in silence, would be amazing.

Yet, as with most writers, I am driven to do this. It doesn’t feel like a choice, rather, a compulsion.

TOUCHED cover image

TOUCHED cover image

TOUCHED has collected some rave reviews and is an eerie ghost story, and a chilling and creepy tale.

Here’s the blurb: “Rowena Crale and her family have moved from London to a cottage in a picture perfect English village. But despite their efforts, the cottage resists all attempts at renovation. Walls ooze damp, stains come through layers of wallpaper, ceilings sag, and strange voices emanate from empty rooms. And then, one by one, Rowena’s daughters go missing….”

To find out more hop over to Joanna Briscoe’s website at www.joannabriscoe.com and follow her on Twitter @JoannaBriscoe