Audio Book Addict’s Review: Laidlaw by William McIlvanney

Self-confessed audio book and crime fiction addict James Law drops by the CTG blog to talk about his most recent listen …

Laidlaw: Audible Audio Edition Cover

Laidlaw: Audible Audio Edition Cover

Laidlaw: A Laidlaw Investigation, Book 1

Author: William McIlvanney

Narrated by: William McIlvanney

Run time: 7 hrs and 17 mins

Unabridged – released on audiobook 02/05/2013

What the blurb says: “Meet Jack Laidlaw, the original damaged detective. When a young woman is found brutally murdered on Glasgow Green, only Laidlaw stands a chance of finding her murderer from among the hard men, gangland villains and self-made moneymen who lurk in the city’s shadows. Winner of the CWA Silver Dagger.”

The original coiner of ‘There’s been a murrrderr,’ this is the introduction to William McIlvanney’s Laidlaw, a detective in Glasgow that is different to many of his colleagues. Laidlaw seems to have a deeper understanding of criminals and the crime underworld – he sees the human traits that show that they are still people, despite their sometimes-terrible actions.

When a young girl is murdered Laidlaw picks up the scent and begins to navigate the Glasgow ganglands searching for the killer. To find her he must utilise a knowledge of the city that is hidden from many of his fellow officers, he must slip into the underbelly of society and understand that it is often not what people say, but what they don’t, that may lead him to his goal.

This novel is beautifully written and gripping from the start. I once heard Ian Rankin say that it was McIlvanney’s novels that influenced his own work. It was that comment that made me look for this book and I wasn’t disappointed. A self-confessed audio book addict, I loved the story, the vivid description of Glasgow and its people, and the narration. McIlvanney obviously knows his city and characters intimately and this comes across in the faultless delivery of this story.

The length was just right, although I would have happily listened for longer. I believe that the second book is being recorded and I will certainly be listening to it as soon as it is released.

Highly recommended.

[James Law bought his copy of the Laidlaw audiobook]

Events Alert: Jakob Arjouni book launch & Pancreatic Cancer UK Fundraiser

No Exit Press, in conjunction with Pancreatic Cancer UK, are holding a crime fiction event on Tuesday 26th November at Daunts in Holland Park, London, to raise funds and awareness for the disease and to celebrate the life of author Jakob Arjouni. The event will also mark the publication of his final novel: Brother Kemal.
Author Barry Forshaw will be hosting the event, and there will be German food and drinks in honour of Jakob’s nationality.
If you’re free on Tuesday night, why not pop over to Daunts to celebrate Jakob Arjouni’s literature, and help raise some money for a great cause. Here are all the details …
Crime Event Invite

Crime Event Invite

CTG Interviews: SJ Bolton author of Like This, For Ever

SJ Bolton (c) Mark Basse

SJ Bolton (c) Mark Basse

Today I’m delighted to be joined on the CTG blog by crime writer SJ Bolton, author of the Lacey Flint series, whose fabulous novel LIKE THIS, FOR EVER is now out in paperback. 

So, first question, like all of your novels, Like This, For Ever tells a dark, gritty and powerful story. What is it that prompted you to write a crime series?

I believe the most successful authors are those writing books that they would love to read themselves. I’ve never been a great fan of traditional crime fiction, veering instead towards stories of the supernatural. I love the dark, creepy atmosphere, the sense that normal rules don’t apply and that anything can happen (and usually does.) At the same time, such stories can be frustrating and I often have a sense of the writer feeling he needn’t bother tying up the loose ends because – hey – it’s the supernatural, and the ghost did it! Such a story might be enjoyable in the telling but will ultimately fail to satisfy. What I try to do is marry the two. A sort of crime/horror mash up, if you like, where the story is as dark and scary as those of the supernatural but in which the narrative is logical, explained and complete.

 

When you get the idea for a novel what usually sparks it for you – plot or character?

Quite often it’s location. I’ve long loved and feared the River Thames in equal measure, and find the lesser known stretches around Greenwich, Deptford and Rotherhithe completely fascinating, so it’s no surprise that they feature so much in Now You See Me, Like This, For Ever, and my current work in progress. After that, it’s plot. I’m very much a story-driven writer, and put a lot of time into planning the twists and turns of my narrative. Characters, I find, can usually look after themselves.

 

Tell us a little about your writing process, do you plot the story out in advance or dive right in and see where it takes you?

Were I to try the latter, it would take me straight to the gin bottle! My books have very complex plots. (Not by design, I hasten to add, I try every year to write a simple book but the blind alleys and red herrings just sneak their way in there.)  Knowing how complex they’re likely to turn out, I need at least the outline of a plan. Generally speaking, the more I can plan in advance, the easier the writing process. Sadly, my brain just isn’t big enough to hold an entire plot, so I have to plan as much as I can and hope to fill in the gaps as I go along.

 

What tips and tricks have you learnt that you’d like to pass on to any aspiring crime writers?

Get to the end of the first draft as quickly as you can. Don’t listen to that small, snide voice telling you that it’s rubbish, that the idea will never work, that you need to bin it and start something else. Finish the draft. There is no problem that can’t be fixed. There is no piece of writing that can’t be improved. And the task always looks so much more manageable when you are working with a complete, if imperfect, manuscript. The biggest hurdle facing aspiring writers isn’t getting a publisher, it’s getting finished.

 

And after Like This, For Ever what’s next for Lacey Flint. Do you have another novel in progress, and if so when will we be able to read it?

Lacey Flint No 4 has just gone into production. I’m not allowed to announce the title yet, but in it we see that Lacey, having been through the mill in previous books, has turned away from her promising detective career and gone back into uniform. She’s joined the marine unit of the Metropolitan Police and bought a houseboat moored at Deptford Creek. One day, out swimming, she meets a mermaid.  It will be published in May 2014.

 

Sounds fantastic. A huge thank you to SJ Bolton for dropping by and answering our questions.

LIKE THIS, FOR EVER cover image

LIKE THIS, FOR EVER cover image

I reviewed LIKE THIS, FOR EVER back in April when the hardback come out and highly recommend it. Here’s what I said …

What the blurb says: “Bright red. Like petals. Or rubies. Little red droplets. Barney knows the killer will strike again soon. The victim will be another boy, just like him. He will drain the body of blood, and leave it on a Thames beach. There will be no clues for detectives Dana Tulloch and Mark Joesbury to find. There will be no warning about who will be next. There will be no good reason for Lacey Flint to become involved … And no chance that she can stay away.”

It’s hard to write a review of this novel without included spoilers and I don’t want to spoil the story for you. So all I’m saying is that Barney, an eleven-year-old boy with a gift for spotting patterns, is looking for the connections to help him solve the child murders while he’s home alone while his Dad works late. He’s also Lacey Flint’s neighbour.

The story is shown primarily from three perspectives – Barney’s, Lacey’s and Dana’s. This lets you, as the reader, in on a lot more of the facts than any one of the main characters have – a sure-fire recipe for heart-banging moments!

The story is artfully plotted, with many possibilities for who is behind the killings. This, and the multiple twists and turns, create an unputdownable puzzle that kept me reading well into the night.

But it wasn’t just the puzzle that kept me reading. SJ Bolton creates such deeply drawn characters, like the smart, often strong and yet also emotionally fragile heroine, Lacey Flint, that I felt compelled to read on just to stay with them on their journey within the story.

As well as motivation to murder, the story touches on a number of themes including modern-day vampire culture, online stalking and how social media influences, aids and inhibits investigations.

Utterly gripping, tense and suspenseful: this is a real page-turner of a crime novel.

 

Event Alert: Iceland Noir Festival of Crime Fiction

Iceland Noir Poster

Iceland Noir Poster

Fancy a weekend away?

Love crime fiction?

If the answer to both those questions is YES then this is the perfect event for you: the first Iceland Noir Festival of Crime Fiction is taking place from the 21st – 24th November in Reykjavik, Iceland.

As well as a stellar line-up of fabulous crime writers appearing in the interviews and panels including Zoe Sharp, Quentin Bates, Ragnar Jonasson and Nick Quantrill, there’s a special screening of Ann Cleeves’ Shetland TV series pilot, a crime writing workshop hosted by author William Ryan, and the chance to go on a whole bunch of tours to some of the stunningly beautiful Icelandic locations nearby including whale watching trips and a hunt for the Northern Lights.

It sounds amazing.

For more information, pop over to the Iceland Noir website at www.icelandnoir.com 

CTG Reviews: Dead Man’s Time by Peter James

cover image

cover image

What the blurb says: “A vicious robbery at a secluded Brighton mansion leaves its elderly occupant dying. Millions of pounds’ worth of valuables have been stolen.

But as Detective Superintendent Roy Grace, heading the enquiry, rapidly learns, there is one priceless item of sentimental value that her powerful family cherish above all else. And they are fully prepared to take the law into their own hands, and will do anything – absolutely anything – to get it back.

Within days, Grace is racing against the clock, following a murderous trail that leads him from the shady antiques world of Brighton, across Europe, and all the way back to the New York waterfront gang struggles of 1922, chasing a killer driver by the force of one man’s greed and another man’s fury.”

The ninth novel in Peter James’ award-winning Roy Grace series finds Detective Superintendent Grace juggling his job with the challenges of being a new parent. Sleep deprived and wishing that he could spend more time at home with Cleo and their baby son, Noah, instead Grace finds himself heading up the investigation into the robbery and violent assault of an elderly widow.

This story has all the hallmarks of a classic Peter James novel – tight plotting, lots of twists and turns, great attention to detail. It also combines the present-day crime with a past mystery which begins in Brooklyn, 1922, when a young boy witnesses the murder of his mother and the abduction of his father.

As Grace and his team investigate the present day crime, the two stories begin to intertwine through factors common to both – Gavin Daly, an elderly multi-millionaire with an unfulfilled promise, and a stolen broken pocketwatch.

As Grace pieces the evidence together it becomes clear that his team are not the only people hunting for the killer. With several leads eliminated, he follows the trail of stolen goods first to Spain and then to New York. The only problem is, his dedication to the case may well have blinded him to a threat much closer to home.

The theme of family is strong in this book. Peter James artfully interweaves the past and present crime stories, making the powerful and, at times ruthless, Gavin Daly a compelling and empathetic character. It’s also a fascinating glimpse into the world of New York gangs in the 1920s and the darker side of the UK antiques trade.

With fast-paced action, great characters and a pair of intriguing and emotive crimes to solve, Dead Man’s Time is a real page-turner.

Highly Recommended.

[With thanks to Pan MacMillan and Midas PR for my copy of Dead Man’s Time]

Competition Alert: CWA Debut Dagger & CRIMEFEST FLASHBANG

CRIME WRITERS ASSOCIATION DEBUT DAGGER

Entries are now open for the 2014 CWA Debut Dagger competition. The competition is open to unpublished writers with entries judged by a panel of top crime editors and agents, and the shortlist sent to publishers and agents. First prize is £700, sponsored by Orion, and all shortlisted entries receive a professional assessment of their work. The entry fee is £25 and you’ll need to sent the first 3000 words (or fewer) of your novel along with a 500-1000 word synopsis of the rest of the novel.

The Debut Dagger closes on Friday 31st January 2014. The shortlist is announced at CrimeFest in May 2014 and the winner at the CWA Dagger Awards Dinner later in the year.

To find out more, hop on over to http://www.thecwa.co.uk/daggers/debut/

 

CRIMEFEST FLASHBANG COMPETITION


CRIMEFEST’s FLASHBANG writing competition challenges you to write a flash-fiction crime story in no more than 150 words.

Prizes include a pair of weekend passes to CRIMEFEST 2015 and other crime-related goodies. Shortlisted entries will be compiled by a judging panel of leading crime reviewers, and Zoë Sharp, author of the Charlie Fox series, will be the final arbiter. The judges are on the lookout for flashes of crime storytelling brilliance in 150 words or less. The entry fee is £2 (only one entry allowed per person).

Entries close at midnight on 3rd March 2014. The longlist will be announced on 7th April, the shortlist announced on 21st April and the winners announced at CRIMEFEST in May 2014.

To find out more, pop over to www.flashbangcontest.wordpress.com

CTG Reviews: The Woman in Black: Angel of Death by Martyn Waites

cover image

cover image

What the blurb says: “Autumn 1940, World War Two, the Blitz. Bombs are raining down, destroying the cities of Britain. In London, children are being removed from their families and taken to the country for safety. Teach Eve Parkins is in charge of one such group, and her destination is an empty and desolate house that appears to be sinking into the treacherous tidal marshes that surround it.

EEL MARSH HOUSE.

Far from home and with no alternative, Eve and the children move in. But soon it becomes apparent that there is someone else in the house; someone who is far deadlier than any number of German bombs …

The Woman in Black.”

 

I’ve long been a fan of Susan Hill’s The Woman in Black, having read the book and watched the play at the theatre, so I was intrigued to see how Martyn Waites approached the writing of a sequel.

I wasn’t disappointed.

Angel of Death is every bit as chilling, heart-thumping and edge-of-your-seat thrilling as the original.

The central character, Eve Parkins, is a courageous woman. Kind and fiercely protective of the children in her charge, she’s a more approachable teacher than her boss, Mrs Hogg. As they leave London she feels especially protective of one particular child, Edward, who has recently been orphaned.

It’s difficult to go into plot details without spoiling the story for you, but what I can say is that Eel Marsh House is every bit as scary as in the first story. Now it’s rotting, the mould eating away at its structure, decay destroying its contents. This story will have you looking at mould in a whole other way, and watching the shadows in case they start to follow you.

When Eve, Mrs Hogg, and the children arrive at the house bad things start to happen. Edward becomes increasingly distant from Eve, his only solace found in an ancient and mouldy Mr Punch puppet. It isn’t long before Eve realises that they are not the house’s only occupants.

And as for The Woman in Black, well she’s a menacing presence. Watching. Manipulating. Killing.

Given that this is a sequel the presence and identity of the Woman is not a secret from the reader. She has more ‘on the page’ time than in the original book – you see her before the characters do, and because of her history you can guess what she’s thinking and you know what she’s capable of. But Waites still manages to keep the tension high, building the suspense towards a nail-biting, hiding-behind-a-cushion-as-you-read conclusion as The Woman in Black turns what should be a safe haven for the evacuees into a place more horrific than their worst nightmare.

Highly Recommended.

 

[With thanks to Arrow Books and Hammer for my copy of The Woman in Black: Angel of Death]