CTG Reviews: CUT TO THE BONE by Alex Caan

Cut to the Bone

What the blurb says: Ruby is a vlogger, a rising star of YouTube and a heroine to millions of teenage girls. And she’s missing. She’s an adult – nothing to worry about, surely? Until the video’s uploaded. Ruby, in the dirt and pleading for her life.

Who better to head up the investigation than the Met’s rising star, Detective Inspector Kate Riley? She’s leading a shiny new team, high-powered, mostly female and with the best resources money can buy. It’s time for them to prove what they can do. Alongside her, Detective Sergeant Zain Harris – poster boy for multiracial policing and the team’s newest member – has his own unique contribution to make. But can Kate wholly trust him and when he’s around, can she trust herself?

Ruby’s millions of fans are hysterical about what may have happened to her. The press is having a field day and as the investigation hurtles out of control in the glare of publicity, it becomes clear that the world of YouTube vloggers and social media is much, much darker than anyone could have imagined in their worst nightmares.

And the videos keep coming . . .”

CUT TO THE BONE is the latest debut coming out of Bonnier’s Twenty7 Books imprint, and it’s an outstanding edition to their line-up. Utterly contemporary, with a rapid pace and nail-biting tension from the get-go, it’s a super-twisty police procedural that kept me guessing right until the end.

The story starts with the disappearance of superstar vlogger, Ruby Day. This is a novel hot on technology – it’s bang up to date – but the human element is strong too, and Ruby’s story is heartbreakingly compelling. Bullied at school, Ruby turned to vlogging as a way to overcome her demons and help others. When her subscribers grew, she was catapulted into the spotlight, and with that came loyal fans, but also hangers on, and those looking to exploit her for profit. When she goes missing, DI Riley and DS Harris have a number of possible suspects who each has a stake in Ruby, but who would profit most from her disappearance? As the investigation cranks up, and more videos of Ruby in distress are released, it becomes clear that beneath the surface of Ruby’s business relationships and personal relationships there are darker, and seedier, motives than any of them could have possibly imagined.

The two main characters – DI Kate Riley and DS Zain Harris – make for an interesting pairing. Both damaged by the events in their past, they’re equally suspicious of others and find it difficult to trust people. They’re also both exceptional at what they do, and determined to get to the truth, and for justice to prevail (even if Zain’s version of justice may be a little more ‘hands on’ at times). Their origins – finding out why Kate Riley had to leave America and start over in the UK, and why Zain Harris is struggling to fit into his new role as a DS in Riley’s team – are fresh and original, and really made me want to spend time with them.

CUT TO THE BONE is perfect for readers who like their police procedurals fast paced, twisty-turny, and served with a side order of grit. I loved it, and can’t wait to read the next in the series.

CUT TO THE BONE is out in eBook now. You can buy it from Amazon here

Check out my interview with Alex Caan here and be sure to follow him on Twitter @alexcaanwriter

The #BreakingDead Blog Tour: Corrie Jackson talks about her London – the places that inspired the book

Breaking Dead

Today I’m delighted to be hosting a stop on the fabulous Breaking Dead Blog Tour and have Corrie Jackson take over the reins here at CTG HQ and talk about her London: the places that inspired Breaking Dead. Over to Corrie …

When it came to choosing a setting for my debut thriller, there was only one contender. Noel Coward famously remarked: ‘I don’t know what London’s coming to – the higher the buildings, the lower the morals’. From leafy squares and supercars to concrete jungles and crack-dens, London is a city bursting at the seams. Here are five of the capital’s gems that guest-star in the book.

The Covent Garden Hotel
In my novel, a grisly murder occurs on the third floor of fictional hotel, The Rose. My inspiration was this discreet establishment in the heart of the West-End. It’s a stone’s throw from where I used to work at Grazia magazine and I spent many a lunch meeting celeb-spotting at Brasserie Max (whilst hard at work, ahem). However, the sleek hotel lobby that appears in the book is based on another London institution: Claridge’s. Why the mish-mash? I have no idea; it just felt right.

Bywater Street
I wanted my protagonist, Sophie Kent, to live somewhere classy but charming. This Chelsea cul-de-sac, complete with pastel houses and shiny black railings, hits the spot. Sophie lives at number seven (my old house number in Fulham). London trivia: John Le Carre’s fictional MI6 intelligence officer, George Smiley, lived at number nine. Sophie is in good company!

Corrie Jackson
Wild Honey
The tense dinner between Sophie and her dad takes place at this Mayfair hotspot (although I renamed it L’Ondine in the book). The restaurant is within spitting distance of Conde Nast (the publisher of VOGUE, GLAMOUR and GQ) and it became our unofficial HQ when it first opened in 2007. I’m happy to say every meal I’ve eaten at Wild Honey has ended better than the one in the book.

Berkeley Square
Historians know it as the residence of two former Prime Ministers: Winston Churchill and George Canning. I know it as the setting for the annual GLAMOUR Women of the Year Awards (a celeb-packed, debauched affair). I set my fictional fashion show here but combined it with another memory. In 2011, designer Erdem held his spring/summer show in a giant white tent in the middle of Bedford Square. I reported on the backstage antics for GLAMOUR and the essence of the show appears in Breaking Dead.

Albert Bridge
Built in 1873, the bridge is nicknamed ‘The Trembling Lady’ because it vibrates when large numbers of people walk across it. I used to live in Pimlico and my running route took me along Embankment towards Albert Bridge (the same route Sophie walks in the book). My heart lifted the moment I spotted this candy-floss pink bridge dotted with twinkling fairy lights. Sophie, on the other hand, associates it with her brother’s death. Mainly because I liked the idea of her tragedy being entangled with such a beautiful landmark.

A big thank you to Corrie for making the CTG Blog a stop on her tour and talking to us about the places that inspired BREAKING DEAD. 

Intrigued to find out more about BREAKING DEAD? Here’s the blurb: “Newspaper journalist Sophie Kent is hanging by a thread following her brother’s suicide, her personal life in chaos. When the mutilated body of a Russian model turns up in an upmarket hotel on the eve of London Fashion Week, Sophie recognises her from a recent interview and knows she could have saved her. Eaten away by guilt, she throws herself headfirst into the edgy, fast-paced world of fashion with one goal in mind: to catch the killer. Only then can she piece her grief-stricken self back together. As she chips away at the industry’s glittery surface, she uncovers a toxic underworld rife with drugs, secrets, prostitution and blackmail. Battling her demons and her wealthy, dysfunctional family along the way, Sophie pushes her personal problems to one side as she goes head to head with a crazed killer; a killer who is only just getting started…”

BREAKING DEAD is out today in eBook (and will be released in paperback in September). To buy the eBook from Amazon click here

To find out more about Corrie Jackson pop over to her website here and follow her on Twitter @CorrieJackson

And be sure to check out all the other fantastic stops along the BREAKING DEAD Blog Tour …

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#GIVEAWAY: RT for your chance to #WIN a book bundle of #ATappingAtMyDoor #TheDarkInside #SpareMeTheTruth

 

A Tapping at my Door

It’s friday, so I reckon that’s a good excuse for a competition! And you’re in for a treat as the giveaway today is for a book bundle of three of this weeks awesome new crime thriller releases – David Jackson’s A Tapping At My Door, Rod Reynolds’ The Dark Inside, and CJ Carver’s Spare Me The Truth.

 

HERE’S MORE ABOUT THE BOOKS …

A TAPPING AT MY DOOR by David Jackson: “Home alone one evening, Terri Latham is disturbed by a persistent tapping at her back door. She’s relieved to discover the culprit is a raven, and tries to shoo it away. What she doesn’t know is that it is the prelude to a terrifying attack – Terri’s body is found in her garden the next day with her eyes gone and a dead raven placed across her face. DS Nathan Cody, just back to work after an undercover mission that went horrifyingly wrong, is put on the case to determine the significance of the raven left at the crime scene. As flashbacks from his past begin to intrude, Cody realises he is battling not just a murderer, but his own inner demons too. And then the killer strikes again, and it becomes all too apparent that the threat isn’t to the people of Liverpool after all – it’s only to the police. As more police officers are killed, Cody finds himself in a race against time to catch the killer.” A gripping and gritty police procedural, this is the first in a fab new series. You can find out more about David Jackson and his books at http://www.davidjacksonbooks.com and follow him on Twitter @Author_Dave

 

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THE DARK INSIDE by Rod Reynolds: “Disgraced New York reported Charlie Yates is sent to Texarkana to cover a spate of brutal murders – young couples slaughtered at a local dating spot. He is drawn into the case by the beautiful and fiery Lizzie, sister to one of the victims, Alice – the only person to have survived the attacks and seen the killer up close. But Charlie has his own demons to fight, and as he starts to dig into the murders he discovers that the people of Texarkana have secrets that they want kept hidden at all costs …” This debut thriller is a perfect slice of American Noir. You can follow Rod Reynolds on Twitter @Rod_RW

SPARE ME THE TRUTH by CJ Carver: “Dan Forrester, piecing his life back together after the tragic death of his son, is approached in the supermarket by a woman who tells him everything he remembers about his life – and his son – is a lie. Grace Reavey, stricken by grief, is accosted at her mother’s funeral. The threat is simple: pay the staggering sum her mother allegedly owed, or lose everything. Lucy Davies has been forced from the Met by her own maverick behaviour. Desperate to prove herself in her new rural post, she’s on the hunt for a killer – but this is no small town criminal. Plunged into a conspiracy that will test each of them to their limits, these three strangers are brought together in their hunt for the truth, whatever it costs. And as their respective investigations become further and further entwined, it becomes clear that at the centre of this tangled web is a threat more explosive than any of them could have imagined.” Fast paced with plenty of twists and turns, this is a great conspiracy thriller. Find out more about CJ Carver and her books at http://www.cjcarver.com and follow her on Twitter @C_J_Carver

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*** THIS COMPETITION HAS NOW CLOSED AND THE WINNER HAS BEEN NOTIFIED ***

 

HOW TO ENTER …

For a chance to win, all you need to do is tweet the link to this post (using the Twitter button below) OR retweet one of the CTG tweets about the giveaway. You’ll also need to follow us @crimethrillgirl on Twitter so we can send you a direct message should you win.

Rules: (1) One entry per reader (2) UK residents only – due to postage costs – sorry! (3) We will draw the winner at random (4) No cash alternative (5) The competition closes for entries at 11pm GMT on Friday 8th April 2016 (6) The judge’s decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into.

Good luck!

#ATappingAtMyDoor Blog Tour: David Jackson on the importance of “Bum Glue”

A Tapping at my Door

Today I’m delighted to welcome the lovely David Jackson to the CTG blog for a stop on his #ATappingAtMyDoor blog tour. Following the success of his Callum Doyle novels, A Tapping At My Door is the first book in a fantastic new crime series featuring DS Nathan Cody. As well as being a best selling crime writer, David is a university lecturer, so he knows the challenges of juggling two jobs. In this post he’s sharing just how he manages to do both, with the help of a little “bum glue” …

To an author, bum glue is important stuff. You can’t buy it in a shop (you could try asking for it, but I dread to think what you’d get), but you’re going to need plenty of it if you’re going to get that novel finished.

Bum glue is a term used to represent the staying power you’ll need to keep your butt in a chair while you write. Writing – or at least writing well – can be hard work, and many of us will avoid hard work if we can get away with it. This is especially true when there are untold numbers of other demands on our time.

It’s no different for me. I’m not a full time author: I have a day job as a university academic. I have a family. I also want a life. I want to watch TV and read and socialise and sit in the garden and go on long walks and sleep. All that quickly eats into the precious commodity called time.

So how on earth do I get my books written? People ask me that a lot. And I have two answers – one philosophical and one practical.

The philosophical answer is that, if you want something badly enough, you will always find time for it. Nobody who is thinking of having kids says they haven’t got the time. It’s a given that you will make time. You may be constantly tired and irritable, and you may have to say goodbye to a social life, but you will make time. Think of writing a book as a slightly less intense version of the ordeal that is child-raising, and you’ll be fine!

Those of you who haven’t already decided that writing a book sounds like the seventh circle of Hell will want to be rewarded with something a little bit more practical at this point, so here’s my tip of the week.

Jackson, Dave

First of all, get out of the mindset that writing HAS to be regular and HAS to be of uniform consistency. Writing is not a bowel movement! I sometimes go for days without writing a word, and that’s okay. I’ll make up for it on another day. Getting worked up about missed sessions can lead to guilt, a sense of failure, and ultimately quitting.

Next, stop searching for all those hours you think you’ll need. The likelihood is that you won’t find enough of them, and again you’ll get frustrated. Instead, find minutes. Ten of them will do. Maybe even five. Even the busiest of us can find five spare minutes. And in those five minutes, write like hell.

If you do this, two things will happen. The first is that you will have made a start, and that’s half the battle (Initium est dimidium facti, as the Romans were fond of saying). The other thing is that, once you’ve got into your story, you won’t want to finish. And nor should you. Your five minutes are up – so what? Just keep the momentum going. Five minutes will quickly become ten, and before you know it you’ll have been writing for half an hour or more.

Later in the day, find another five minutes and repeat. The secret is to trick your own mind into believing that the task is not as daunting as it appears.

Got five minutes now? Sure you have. Why not write some words?

 

Big thanks to the fabulous David Jackson for chatting to us today about bum glue.

A TAPPING AT MY DOOR is the first book in a fantastic new crime series featuring Nathan Cody. Here’s the blurb: “A woman at home in Liverpool is disturbed by a persistent tapping at her back door. She’s unnerved to discover the culprit is a raven, and tries to shoo it away. Which is when the killer strikes. DS Nathan Cody, just back to work after an undercover mission that went horrifyingly wrong, is put on the case. But the police have no leads, except the body of the bird – and the victim’s missing eyes. As flashbacks from his past begin to intrude, Cody realizes he is battling not just a murderer, but his own inner demons too. And then there’s a second murder, and Cody realizes the threat isn’t to the people of Liverpool after all – it’s to the police.”

A TAPPING AT MY DOOR is out in hardback and eBook on the 7th April. You can pre-order it here from Amazon.

You can find out more about David Jackson by hopping over to his website www.davidjacksonbooks.com and following him on Twitter @Author_Dave

And be sure to check out all the other great stops along the route of the A Tapping At My Door Blog Tour:

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CTG Reviews: MAESTRA by L. S. Hilton

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What the blurb says: “Judith Rashleigh works as an assistant in a prestigious London auction house but her dreams of breaking into the art world have been gradually dulled by the blunt forces of snobbery and corruption. To make ends meet she moonlights as a hostess in one of the West End’s less salubrious bars – although her work there pales against her activities on nights off.

When she stumbles across a conspiracy at her auction house, she ends up in a battle for her life. Alone and in danger, from the French Riviera, to Rome and Paris, all Judith has to rely on is her consummate ability to fake it amongst the rich and famous …”

This book has been compared to The Talented Mr Ripley and Gone Girl, and although I can see echoes of these books in the style of MAESTRA it doesn’t follow an established path, but rather beats its own rather original way into the genre.

Judith is not an especially likable character, but she certainly is interesting. When she discovers some shady practices going on in the auction house she works at, and gets fired for refusing to overlook them, she sees her carefully constructed life on the edge of the wealthiest social circles start to crumble. But when a client at the hostess bar she moonlights at offers her a weekend away, she starts to see potential for clawing her way back in. Things don’t go as planned though, and a chain of events are set in motion that transform Judith from a scheming social climber to a cold blooded murderer who will do whatever it takes, to whomever it takes, to get what she wants.

What I liked about this story is the unpredictable nature of the main character. She’s ruthless and cold bloodied, yet loyal and fiercely attached to any true friends she has. She’s also driven and smart – a flawless chameleon with a flair for reinvention – and takes risks so big and dramatic that it has you holding your breath.

Well written and fast paced, and with a scandalous peep into the world of art dealing and a liberal amount of sex, MAESTRA is a fun and enjoyable read.

 

MAESTRA is out now. To buy the book from Waterstones click here, or to buy it from Amazon click here

CTG Interviews: David Young debut author of Stasi Child

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In celebration of STASI CHILD being published in paperback by Twenty7 Books today, I’m re-running my interview with author David Young. STASI CHILD is David’s debut novel and the winner of the PFD 2014 Crime Prize. Here’s what he told us when he popped along to CTG Towers to chat about the book, his writing process, and his route to publication …

Your debut, STASI CHILD, is out this month. Can you tell us a bit about it?

It’s a crime thriller – part historical crime, part police procedural, part thriller, and I guess a dash of Cold War politics to boot. What it’s not is a traditional Cold War spy thriller – although it’s set in the era of the Cold War. It tells two parallel stories: one in third person past through the eyes of a female detective in the state police, Oberleutnant Karin Müller, who’s trying to solve a gruesome murder but has to battle obstacles put in her way by the secret police, the Stasi. The other, in first person present, follows the life of a 15-year-old female inmate of a communist Jugendwerkhof – which loosely translates into ‘youth workhouse’ or reform school. The two stories eventually collide in a climax on the snowy slopes of northern Germany’s highest mountain, the Brocken, near the border with the west. I think fans of Tom Rob Smith’s Child 44 would enjoy it, and also those who read Anna Funder’s non-fiction account of the Stasi’s methods, Stasiland.

STASI CHILD is set in East Germany in 1975. What drew you to writing about this moment in history?

No-one had yet written a crime series set in East Germany – at least not in English as the original language. So I thought it filled a gap in the market, was something a bit different and – given the success of books like Child 44 and AD Miller’s Snowdrops – could prove popular. The idea originally came from reading Stasiland while on a self-booked (and at times chaotic) mini-tour of eastern Germany with my indiepop band about seven years ago. I was fascinated that you could still feel the ghost of the communist east even though the Berlin Wall had been torn down, at that time, twenty years earlier. Müller’s office is underneath Hackescher Markt S-bahn station – where we played our Berlin gig. So I wanted to choose a time when East Germany was perhaps at its most confident, and yet with enough years to fit a series in, if the first book sold well.

Given the modern historical setting, how did you go about researching the book?

A mixture of things, really. Watching films like The Lives of Others and Barbara, episodes of the original East German detective show, Polizeiruf 110, and the current German TV series set in the period, Weissensee – which is a great watch but inexplicably, and annoyingly, only has English subtitles on the second of its three series so far. I also read a lot of memoirs of inmates of Jugendwerkhöfe, that sort of thing, and true crime books by former GDR detectives. I don’t speak German – so it was a case of tearing out pages, feeding them into an OCR programme via a scanner, and then putting it all through Google Translate! What came out was barely intelligible, but you could pick out the facts even if the actual storytelling was mangled beyond repair. I also had great fun visiting all my locations, and interviewing former East German detectives (with the help of translators). So I loved the research, and I’m itching to get back out to Germany again. I also keep telling myself I must learn German!

You recently completed the City University MA in Creative Writing (Crime Fiction), how do you think this helped you on your journey to publication?

I think it was the key to it, really. We had some great tutors who were all published crime writers: Claire MacGowan, Laura Wilson and Roger Morris were mine – although William Ryan, who writes in a similar genre to me, has now joined. Roger introduced me to Peter May’s Lewis trilogy, and the structure of Stasi Child – with its twin narrative – is quite similar to May’s The Lewis Man. Claire nurtured the original idea, Laura worked on the nuts and bolts as my main novel tutor, and then both of them read and fed back on the full draft. The result was that Stasi Child won the course prize sponsored by the literary agents, PFD, and by the shortlisting stage a young PFD agent, Adam Gauntlett, had already declared his hand in wanting to represent me.

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So, what’s it like having your debut novel published? What’s your best moment so far?

Because my publishers Twenty7 (part of the Bonnier group) are e-book first, the biggest thrill was getting a physical copy of the proof. It’s got a slightly different cover, very minimalist, which I love. I’ve only got one copy, though, and the publishers have run out now so I guard it with my life. And then in the last few days [after the eBook publication], Stasi Child became the fourth bestselling Kindle book in the UK, and the number one bestseller in Historical Fiction – for ebooks and paperbacks. It’s fallen back since, but that was a champagne moment, figuratively sitting on top of luminaries such as Robert Harris, Hilary Mantel …well, everyone who’s anyone in historical fiction. Ha! It’ll probably never happen to me again. We made sure we kept the screenshots of the charts!

STASI CHILD is the first in the Karin Müller crime series, can you tell us anything about the next book?

Yes Karin returns, but this time in the model East German new town of Halle-Neustadt, where underneath the ideal communist city gloss, dark things are happening a few months after the closure of the Stasi Child case. The Stasi are heavily involved again, and we also learn more about Karin’s past – with several surprises in store for her. It follows the same twin narrative format, but the second narration this time is darker, more disturbed, and unreliable. In fact the whole thing is darker and more disturbed, which is slightly worrying as most people seem to think Stasi Child’s about as dark as you can get.

And, finally, what does the rest of the year have in store for you?

Initially, I’ll be concentrating on promoting the Stasi Child. Then it will be a combination of reshaping book two with my editor at Bonnier, and researching book three with a trip to Germany. Oh, and I might finally get around to starting to learn German … but no promises!

 

You can find out more about David by checking out his website at www.stasichild.com and follow him on Twitter @djy_writer

Stasi Child is a great read, perfect for fans of historical crime fiction. Here’s the blurb: “East Berlin, 1975: Questions are dangerous. Answers can kill. When murder squad head Oberleutnant Karin Müller is called to investigate a teenage girl’s body found riddled with bullets at the foot of the Berlin Wall, she imagines she’s seen it all before. But when she arrives she realises this is a death like no other: it seems the girl was trying to escape – but from the West.

Müller is a member of the People’s Police, but in East Germany her power only stretches so far. The Stasi want her to discover the identity of the girl, but assure her the case is otherwise closed – and strongly discourage her asking questions. The evidence doesn’t add up, and it soon becomes clear that the crime scene has been staged, the girl’s features mutilated. But this is not a regime that tolerates a curious mind, and Müller doesn’t realise that the trail she’s following will lead her dangerously close to home.

The previous summer, on Rügen Island off the Baltic Coast, two desperate teenage girls conspire to escape the physical and sexual abuse of the youth workhouse they call home. Forced to assemble furniture packs for the West, the girls live out a monotonous, painful and hopeless life. Stowing away in the very furniture they are forced to make, the girls arrived in Hamburg. But their celebrations are short-lived as they discover there is a price on freedom in the DDR…”

STASI CHILD is out now. To buy a copy via Amazon click here

When CTG went to … David Young’s Stasi Child book launch

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Last week I went along to Waterstones Richmond to the book launch of debut crime writer, and fellow City University Crime Writing alumni, David Young. David’s fantastic historical crime thriller, Stasi Child, is published by Twenty7 Books next week. The launch was a packed event, with lots of food, drink and even a fabulous book-shaped cake.

As part of the event, David read an extract from Stasi Child, and was then kept busy at the signing table for much of the evening.

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Stasi Child is out on the 11th February.

You can read my review of it here and be sure to drop back on Thursday when I’ll be posting my interview with David.

To pre-order Stasi Child from Waterstones click here

To pre-order Stasi Child from Amazon (or buy the eBook) click here