Shortlists for the 2014 CrimeFest Awards Announced

CrimeFest logo

CrimeFest logo

The shortlists have been announced for the annual CrimeFest Awards!

Now in its seventh year, the winners of the 2014 CrimeFest Awards will be revealed at the CrimeFest Gala Awards Dinner on Saturday, 17 May 2014. It promises to be a great night, and I can’t wait to find out which of the books from the fabulous novels shortlisted are going to be awarded the prizes.


The shortlisted authors and books are …


The Audible Sounds of Crime Award:  for the best crime audiobook first published in the UK in 2013 in print and audio format, and available for download from (Sponsored by Audible UK).


Ben Aaronovitch for Broken Homes, read by Kobna Holdbrook-Smith (Orion Audio)

John le Carré for A Delicate Truth, read by John le Carré (Penguin)

Robert Galbraith for The Cuckoo’s Calling, read by Robert Glenister (Hachette Audio)

Peter James for Dead Man’s Time, read by Daniel Weyman (Macmillan Audio)

Peter May for The Chessmen, read by Peter Forbes (Quercus)

James Oswald for Natural Causes, read by Ian Hanmore (Penguin)


The eDunnit Award: for the best crime fiction ebook first published in hardcopy and  electronic format in the British Isles in 2013.


A.K. Benedict for The Beauty of Murder (Orion)

Thomas H. Cook for Sandrine (Head of Zeus)

Sara Gran for Claire DeWitt and the Bohemian Highway (Faber and Faber)

Elizabeth Haynes for Under a Silent Moon (Sphere)

Val McDermid for Cross and Burn (Sphere)

Derek B. Miller for Norwegian by Night (Faber and Faber)

Denise Mina for The Red Road (Orion)

Thomas Mogford for Sign of the Cross (Bloomsbury)

George Pelecanos for The Double (Orion)

Anne Zouroudi for The Feast of Artemis (Bloomsbury)


The Goldsboro Last Laugh Award: for the best humorous crime novel first published in the British Isles in 2013 (Sponsored by Goldsboro Books, the UK’s largest specialist in first edition, signed books).


Colin Bateman for Fire and Brimstone (Headline)

Alan Bradley for Speaking from Among the Bones (Orion)

Colin Cotterill for The Axe Factor (Quercus)

Shamini Flint for A Calamitous Chinese Killing (Little, Brown)

Carl Hiaasen for Bad Monkey (Little, Brown)

Suzette A. Hill for A Little Murder (Allison & Busby)

Derek B. Miller for Norwegian by Night (Faber and Faber)

Teresa Solana for The Sound of One Hand Killing (Bitter Lemon Press)


CrimeFest runs 15th – 18th May 2014 in Bristol, UK, and will be featuring guest authors including Mark Billingham, Yrsa Sigurdardottir and Simon Brett, who will be joined by the likes of Ben Aaronovitch, Jasper Fforde, Nicci French, Lars Kepler and Peter James.

The CrimeFest programme includes a full schedule of panel events and interviews, and aspiring crime novelists can also attend the CrimeFest Crime Writing Day, which includes a workshop with M.R. Hall and William Ryan, and a Pitch-an-Agent event where aspiring authors can pitch their unpublished manuscript to a top line-up of literary agents.

To find out more about CrimeFest, and the authors attending the convention, pop over to

I AM PILGRIM by Terry Hayes

I AM PILGRIM cover image

I AM PILGRIM cover image

Out in paperback this month …

What the blurb says: “Pilgrim – the codename for a man who doesn’t exist – who once headed up a secret espionage unit for US intelligence. Before he disappeared into deep-cover retirement, he put all his experience into the definitive book on forensic criminal investigation. But that book will come back to haunt him.”

Pilgrim has retired from the spy life. He’s walked away from the job, written his book, and disappeared into a new life in a new country. But when NYPD cop, Ben Bradley, comes to call he realises that he didn’t erase his previous life (or lives) as thoroughly as he’d thought. Drawn back to New York, Pilgrim is pulled in to help solve a seemingly unsolvable crime – a woman found in a bath of acid, all forensic evidence destroyed. He recognises the case – it’s straight from the pages of his book – and finds only one small clue to the whereabouts of the killer. But that small clue, and the horrifying discovery of the US intelligence agency, sets Pilgrim on the first steps of an against the clock race to prevent a devastating attack on his country.

It’s tough to give a worthy description of I AM PILGRIM. Perhaps it’s a spy thriller, it certainly immerses the reader into the world of espionage and counter-intelligence, like a cross between Bourne, 24 and Homeland. But it’s also more than that. As a reader it feels like you’ve been sucked inside the private world of Pilgrim – you see what he sees, know what he knows, and feel what he feels – and that’s one hell of a scary place!

As Pilgrim pursues the man believed to be preparing a terrorist attack on US soil, he learns how the events in his life have led him to believe in the absolute necessity of the devastation he is planning. What I found particularly powerful about this story is how it builds a vivid picture of the life of the antagonist. It allows the reader to understand his conviction, although not forgive the horrendous actions he chooses to take as a result.

And the book is a brick: 700 pages of captivating story. By the end, not only had I learned more than I’d ever imagined about the intelligence world, travelled around the world, and been pulled along by the story, reading well into the night to discover what would happen next, but I’d also developed some pretty good muscle tone on my biceps! [although I guess this isn’t so relevant if you read the story on Kindle!]

A must-read for fans of spy thrillers, action thrillers and stories which have you thinking about the characters, and their world-apart realities, long after you’ve finishing reading the final page.

Highly recommended.


[Many thanks to Corgi Books for my copy of I AM PILGRIM]

CTG Reviews: The Poison Tree by Erin Kelly

The Poison Tree cover image

The Poison Tree cover image

What the blurb says: “It is London in the sweltering summer of 1997. Karen is a strait-laced, straight-A university student. When she meets the impossibly glamorous Biba, a bohemian orphan who lives in a crumbling mansion in Highgate with her enigmatic brother Rex, she is soon drawn into their world. As the summer progresses, Karen becomes tangled up in their tragic family history and the idyll turns into a nightmare, culminating in murder.

A decade later, Karen collects Rex from prison. Together with their nine-year-old daughter Alice, they try to settle into family life. While Rex has served his time, Karen keeps dark secrets that mean she has her own life sentence to serve. What happened that summer casts a terrifying shadow over her future. Will the past catch up with her?”

I have to confess that this book has been in my To Be Read pile for months. Having opened it up, I was hooked by the claustrophobic immediacy of the prologue and read the whole thing in a single weekend, cursing myself for not having got to it sooner.

After the panicked situation in the prologue, Chapter One starts with conflict of a different kind, Rex is coming home from prison and Karen, Alice and Rex are all having to adjust. As they start to live, for the first time, as a family, Karen finds herself remembering the sequence of events that led to murder all those years before.

This is one of those books that gets into your head and keeps you trying to guess what happened. The reader knows that Karen has secrets, things she’s never told anyone, not even Rex. As the 1997 timeline unfolds, Karen turns from disciplined student to bohemian party girl. The writing is so vivid, the descriptions so atmospheric, that you can almost feel the heat on your skin, see the wine in your glass and imagine yourself joining in with the endless house parties hosted by Biba. But as the long, hot summer plays out, and Biba’s behaviour becomes increasingly erratic,  cracks, tensions and jealousy cause events in the seemingly carefree household to take a deeply sinister turn.

I especially loved the characters of Karen – the diligent student on a journey of self discovery, Rex – the sensible, reliable one who’d do anything for his sister, and Biba – beautiful, neurotic and gifted. As the story progresses, and the events of 1997 return to threaten Karen and her family in the present, the tension reaches its climax and Karen is, once again, pushed to her limits. Like all great psychological thrillers, this story keeps you guessing what will happen right to the very end, and finishes with a shocking dramatic twist.

The Poison Tree was a major ITV drama, a Richard & Judy Summer Read in 2011, and was longlisted for the 2011 CWA John Creasy (New Blood) Dagger Award.

Highly recommended.

CTG Reviews: The Beauty of Murder by A K Benedict

The Beauty of Murder paperback cover image

The Beauty of Murder paperback cover image

What the blurb says: “Stephen Killigan has been cold since the day he came to Cambridge as a senior lecturer. Something about the seven hundred years of history staining the stones of the university has given him a chill he can’t shake. When he stumbles across the body of a missing beauty queen, he thinks he’s found the reason. But when the police go to retrieve the body they find no trace of it. Killigan has found a problem – and a killer – that is the very opposite of reason.

Killingan’s unwitting entry into the sinister world of Jackamore Grass will lead him on a trail of tattooists, philosophers, cadavers and scholars of a deadly beauty. As Killigan traces a path between our age and seventeenth-century Cambridge, he must work out how it is that a person’s corpse can be found before they even go missing, and whether he’s being pushed towards the edge of madness or an astonishing discovery.”

Wow. Wow. Wow. They are the first three words (or one word repeated) that comes into my mind on finishing The Beauty of Murder.

This is a literary crime thriller which ticks all the boxes with a flourish: intriguing characters, fascinating storylines, gorgeous settings, beautiful prose and a sprinting pace. And it’s A K Benedict’s debut novel.

Stephen Killigan is a likable guy – he’s smart, likes a beer (or two, or more), and is looking for love. He also wants to do the right thing when he discovers the body of a missing woman. But being a good citizen soon turns out to be the start of a journey that threatens to destroy all he holds dear. When the police find no trace of the body, Stephen is determined to find out what happened to her. But as he finds clues to the mystery, each one makes less sense than that before it. Is he losing his mind as so many suggest? As the body count rises, and the links of the modern-day murders with those in 1635 become clearer to him, Stephen becomes the prime suspect. Yet he finds an unlikely friend in Inspector Jane Horne, who is trying to solve the series of seemingly unsolvable cases whilst keeping her own private health battles secret from those at work.

The Beauty of Murder is filled with unusual, memorable supporting characters like Stephen’s friend, Satnam, who likes a few beers and loves the girl in the library, and Robert Sachs, the “poncey philosopher who loves himself” who muses over the beauty of the dead. I think my favorite of these is Iris Burton, the eccentric academic who takes it upon herself to teach Stephen Killigan about time travel including what to carry in your kit bag and how to avoid paradoxes (in my mind she was played by Helena Bonham Carter!).

The relationship between Stephen Killigan and Jackamore Grass has real Sherlock/Moriarty feel to it: two highly intelligent men pitting their wits (and their lives) against each other to solve the mystery (in Stephen’s case) and win the game (in Jackamore’s case). Jackamore, who finds getting away with murder tiresomely easy, is pleased to at last have a worthy opponent, but as Stephen hones his skills and closes in on the truth, Jackamore starts to pick his victims from those close to Stephen.

Quirky, mind (and time) bending, and compulsively addictive, this is an outstanding literary crime thriller. I can’t wait to see more from this author.

The Beauty of Murder is out on 10th April in paperback and available for pre-order over on the Amazon website right now.

Highly recommended.

[I bought my copy of The Beauty of Murder]

Event Alert: London Book Fair’s Author HQ: Events for Aspiring Authors

London Book Fair Logo

London Book Fair Logo

This week London Book Fair takes over Earls Court, London. Author HQ has been set up for established and aspiring authors and I hear that they’ve loads of things on offer at this year’s Fair. Sponsored by Kindle Direct Publishing, LBF are hosting a three day seminar programme from Tuesday 8th – Thursday 10th April, with speakers including publishers, authors and agents, all ready to share their advice and experience on how to get published.

Each day of seminars start with an Introduction to Publishing, where four experts will present a whistle-stop tour of publishing in 45 minutes – and a quick fire publishing industry overview, with an editor, literary agent and bookseller talking about their specific areas of expertise. There will also be a daily slot by independent bestselling authors who will discuss using Kindle Direct Publishing and CreateSpace to fuel readership growth.

There’s also the chance of having a free professional photo shoot at Author HQ (sponsored by Kobo Writing Life) and you can book your slot online at

Attendees are  invited to come along and support ten authors taking part in The Write Stuff, a Dragon’s Den-style panel event which will see them pitch their books to a panel of four literary agents. And, after each busy day, there’s the chance to have a drink and network with other authors and publishing professionals.

For more info, and to check out the full Author HQ programme hop on over to:


CTG Reviews: TAKEDOWN by Brett Battles and Robert Gregory Browne

TAKEDOWN cover image (Kindle)

TAKEDOWN cover image (Kindle)

What the blurb says: “After an op in Istanbul goes sour, all Alexandra Poe wants is a little down time, and a chance to finally sell off the family vacation home in Key Largo which carries too many painful memories.

Instead, she finds herself on a private Bahamian island, working with Deuce and Cooper to relieve a human rodent of some very sensitive codes, and to take down one of the world’s most notorious terrorists. Just another job for Stonewell International. Or is it?

What Alex doesn’t realize is that she’s about to get caught up in a twisted maze of shifting allegiances that forces her to face those painful memories head on–even if it’s the last thing she ever does…”

This second book in the Alexandra Poe thriller series is actually the first one I’ve read. The series is a collaboration written by two authors already well known in the genre – Brett Battles (Barry Award winning author, founder member of Killer Year, and member of International Thriller Writers and Mystery Writers of America) and Robert Gregory Browne (AMPAS Nicholl Fellowship-winning screenwriter and ITW Thriller Award-nominated novelist).

It’s an action-paced, fast paced, adrenalin-rush of a read from the opening chapter to the last. Alexandra Poe is a skilled and smart operative, hunting her mark and adapting her plans as problems threaten the mission. She’s used to being in control, but on this job something is different – her focus is off, the conflict she’s feeling over an offer on her parents’ beach house is preying on her mind.

Then people from her personal life start showing up in the most unexpected, and dangerous, locations. It seems that the job on the beautiful Bahamian island isn’t all that she and the team believed it to be. As the bodycount rises, and danger closes in, Alexandra has to figure out who she can really trust, because one wrong move and her and her team won’t be making it off the island alive.

I devoured this book in a weekend. It’s a fun and lively read, and a must for all those who enjoy a fast-paced action thriller.

Highly Recommended.


[I bought my own Kindle copy of TAKEDOWN]