CTG’s #threewordbookreviews – ANACONDA VICE by JAMES STANSFIELD

IMG_1431

Today is the first post in my new feature series – three word book reviews – where I’ll be reviewing the books I’ve read in just three words (it’s more than a challenge than you might think!).

First up is ANACONDA VICE, a debut thriller from crime writer James Stansfield published this month by new-kids-on-the-block Manatee Books.

My verdict: FAST-PACED. DAZZLING. ACTION.

(Yes, I know that technically ‘fast-paced’ could be counted as two words, but i’ve added a hyphen so I’m counting it as one!)

To find out more and buy the book in ebook or paperback format click this link to Amazon

 

CTG REVIEWS: TWO O’CLOCK BOY by MARK HILL

 

Today I’m delighted to be a part of Mark Hill’s blog tour for the debut that’s taking the UK by storm – Two O’Clock Boy.

What the blurb says:

“TWO CHILDHOOD FRIENDS… ONE BECAME A DETECTIVE… ONE BECAME A KILLER…

Thirty years ago, the Longacre Children’s Home stood on a London street where once-grand Victorian homes lay derelict. There its children lived in terror of Gordon Tallis, the home’s manager.

Then Connor Laird arrived: a frighteningly intense boy who quickly became Tallis’ favourite criminal helper. Soon after, destruction befell the Longacre, and the facts of that night have lain buried . . . until today.

Now, a mysterious figure, the Two O’Clock Boy, is killing all who grew up there, one by one. DI Ray Drake will do whatever it take to stop the murders – but he will go even further to cover up the truth.”

From the chilling prologue to the nail-bitingly intense final pages this London-set police procedural had me hooked.

Longacre Children’s Home burnt to the ground thirty years ago, but the horrors that occurred during the time it was open still haunt those that grew up there and the adults that had dealings with the place. Most of them just want to forget, but someone won’t leave the past behind – they are picking off the people who grew up at Longacre – and dragging back up all the secrets that have been burried for thirty years.

Enter newly promoted DS Flick Crowley and her mentor and boss DI Raymond Drake. Two dynamic detectives determined to get to the truth behind the murders – and also two people with connections to the Longacre themselves. As their professional and personal lives colide, and they try to piece together the evidence as the body count rises, can they work together to find the killer or will the memories and questions the investigation raises force them apart?

I loved this story with its strong procedural detail and gritty, authentic feel to the narrative. Flick and Ray are two great new police characters and, as the investigation puts increasing pressure on their relationship, I was fascinated to find out how things would play out.

The story twists and turns, ratcheting up the tension with every chapter as one-by-one the past residents of the Longacre are singled out by the mysterious Two O’Clock Boy. As more secrets get exposed, and Flick and Ray get ever closer to the killer, the pace accelerates to full throttle, propelling you into the edge-of-the-seat show down and shocking revelations at the climax.

The Two O’Clock Boy is a masterful debut and a real must-read for lovers of police procedurals and detective stories – I recommend you add it to your ‘to read’ stack immediately!!

 

You can find out more about Mark Hill by popping over to his website at www.markhillauthor.com and following him on Twitter @markhillwriter

The Two O’Clock Boy is out in paperback and eBook now – you can buy it here from Amazon and here from Waterstones

And don’t forget to check out all the stops on the Two O’Clock Boy One Hot Blog Tour…

 

Rearview man in coat walking along urban subway from above

#DeepDownDead DEBUT DIARY: THE BLOG TOUR IS ROLLING!

blog-tour-poster

 

As Crime Thriller Girl I’ve hosted stops on loads of blog tours, but it feels kind of strange that it’s now my debut novel that’s getting a tour!

Strange but very cool!

I’ve been blown away by the number of stops on the DEEP DOWN DEAD blog tour and am totally indebted to the fabulous bloggers who are taking part. There’s going to be reviews, interviews, giveaways and guest blogs from me (and some double acts with a few of my writing mates).

Check out the dates above for details.

Wooooohoooooo – we’re off and rolling!

 

The #ARisingMan Blog Tour: Abir Mukherjee talks about his lead character, Captain Sam Wyndham

image001

I’m delighted to host a stop on Abir Mukherjee’s A Rising Man Blog Tour. Abir is the winner of the Telegraph Harvill Secker Crime Writing Competition. A Rising Man is his debut novel and is out later this week on May 5th.

Here’s the blurb: “1919. Calcutta. Captain Sam Wyndham, former Scotland Yard detective, is a new arrival to Calcutta. Desperately seeking a fresh start after his experiences during the Great War, Wyndham has been recruited to head up a new post in the police force. But with barely a moment to acclimatize to his new life or to deal with the ghosts which still haunt him, Wyndham is caught up in a murder investigation that will take him into the dark underbelly of the British Raj. A senior official has been murdered, and a note left in his mouth warns the British to quit India: or else. With rising political dissent and the stability of the Raj under threat, Wyndham and his two new colleagues – arrogant Inspector Digby and British-educated, but Indian-born Sergeant Banerjee, one of the few Indians to be recruited into the new CID – embark on an investigation that will take them from the luxurious parlours of wealthy British traders to the seedy opium dens of the city.”

Today, Abir Mukherjee is dropping by to tell us a bit more about Captain Sam Wyndham. Over to Abir …

Sam is an ex-Scotland Yard detective and veteran of the First World War who’s been scarred by his experiences and finds himself in Calcutta looking for a fresh start.

Life’s not exactly done him many favours. His mother died when he young and he was packed off to a boarding school in the middle of nowhere, which he was forced to leave when the money ran out. From there he pretty much fell into becoming a policeman, a job which, fortuitously, he’s rather good at. He’s quickly promoted from a beat copper to CID and then to Special Branch. The coming of the war derails his career and in 1915, he enlists in the army, mainly to impress the girl he loves into marrying him.

After a year of sitting in a trench and being shot at, his superiors realise that his talents could be put to better use and he’s transferred to Military Intelligence. He’s wounded close to war’s end and is shipped home, recovering in time to find that his wife has died in an influenza epidemic.

Scarred by his experiences, and because there’s nothing left for him in England, he accepts the offer of a job with the Imperial Police Force in Calcutta.

Like anyone else, Sam’s a product of his experiences. He’s always been an outsider, but what he saw during the Great War – the carnage, the futility and the ineptitude of those in authority – has left him cynical. He likes to think he sees the world for what it is, rather than blindly swallowing other people’s preconceptions and prejudices, and in this sense, he is a man of the modern age, and a man with a conscience. But I don’t think he’s as ‘modern’ as he likes to think he is. In truth, his unwillingness to accept what he’s told is as much down to his general stubbornness and distrust of authority as it is to any sense of open-mindedness, and despite his protestations to the contrary, I think there are certain racial taboos he’s not willing to break.

He has a rather dark, gallows sense of humour, which colours much of his outlook on life, and I think this is a reaction to what he’s been through. The war and the death of his wife have destroyed his faith in a god, and he’s come to see the world as a cruel and arbitrary place where any search for meaning or justice is absurd and ultimately futile. If he has a philosophy, it would be similar to Kierkegaard, not that Sam would ever have read any of the man’s work.

Finally, I think Sam’s come to India to find something. He doesn’t know what it is, and I don’t know if he’ll ever find it, but it’ll be an interesting to see where it goes and I’m looking forward to the journey.

Big thanks to Abir Mukherjee for making the CTG blog a stop along his A RISING MAN Blog Tour, and for dropping by to tell us more about his lead character – Captain Sam Wyndham – from A RISING MAN. It’s a fabulous book, and you can catch my review of it here on Saturday. 

A RISING MAN is out this week on May 5th. You can buy it from Waterstones here or Amazon here.  

To find out more about Abir follow him on Twitter @radiomukhers

And don’t forget to check out all these fab tour stops …

ChhwPMoW4AAFXXB

CTG Reviews: I LET YOU GO by Clare Mackintosh

 

Unknown

What the blurb says: “A rainy day. The deafening squeal of brakes. By the side of the road, a boy, dead from a hit-and-run. A mother bereaved. Jenna flees—her life, her trauma, and her grief—catching a bus to Wales where she starts a solitary life in a seaside village.There, she keeps to herself in a ramshackle cottage, working to heal and hesitantly befriending the neighborly townspeople. Slowly she starts to cope with her grief and—inspired by the sand and waves—begins to explore the art she gave up with her past life, even beginning to consider a better future. But then the shocking twist comes, and the reader no longer knows what to believe. A sensational front-page trial becomes the centerpiece of the second half, and a menacing new character emerges.

Opening with a hit-and-run incident which leaves a five-year-old boy dead, this hard-hitting psychological thriller grabs you by the throat and keeps you pinned until the very last page.

Jenna has left everything behind to make a new life for herself in Wales. At first she stays inside the remote cottage she’s rented, not engaging with the community, and reliving the horror she’s been through, unable to see a way through her grief. But as the months pass, she gradually begins to forge tentative relationships and starts to believe that perhaps it is possible to continue living. That’s the moment the past catches up with her with terrifying consequences.

Meanwhile, Detective Inspector Ray Stevens hasn’t given up on getting justice for the little boy killed in the hit-and-run. Although his superior officers have told him to move onto other cases, and his wife is getting increasingly irritated by his lack of support in helping resolve the problems their son is having at school, he continues to work the case supported by Kate, the newest Detective Constable in his team. As his home life becomes tenser, and the case remains a mystery, Ray and Kate get increasingly closer as they spend more and more time investigating the details in secret.

With brilliantly drawn characters, and a hard-hitting emotional core to the story, this is a truly gripping novel. From the hauntingly atmospheric winter at a Welsh seaside town, to the claustrophobic terror of Jenna’s inner demons, and the tenacious determination of Ray and Kate to bring justice to a case no matter how long it might take, this is a thought-provoking book.

Beautifully written, and with a twist that will have you gasping out loud (it did me!) I Let You Go is an utterly compulsive read, and one that will stay with you long after you’ve read the final page.

Undoubtedly one of my top reads of 2015 when it came out in the UK, I Let You Go is published in the US by Berkley Publishing on May 3rd.

I LET YOU GO is out tomorrow. You can buy it from Barnes & Noble here or from Amazon.com here

Find out more about Clare Macintosh via her website here and follow her on Twitter @claremackint0sh

ILetYouGo_FightClub

The #JIHADI Blog Tour: PANTSER OR PLOTTER? MY JIHADI BREAKTHROUGH by Yusuf Toropov

 

unspecified-2

It’s a real pleasure to welcome Yusuf Toropov to the CTG blog. Yusuf is an American Muslim writer, he’s authored and co-authored a number of non-fiction books and has had plays produced off-Broadway. His highly acclaimed debut novel – Jihadi: A Love Story – is published by Orenda Books and is out now.

Today, Yusuf’s kindly agreed to talk about his experience of writing a novel, and whether he’s a pantser or a plotter …

There are, Plot Whisperer author Martha Alderson tells us, two kinds of fiction writers: writers who navigate by the seat of their pants, making stuff up as they go along, often without any clear sense of where a scene might actually belong in the book’s sequence … and writers who delight in plotting out events, conflicts, and resolutions ahead of time before attempting to actually write a scene.

Martha’s right. If you’re a writer, you either want to know where the scene fits in your running order before you start to work on it, or you don’t. You’re one or the other, a Pantser or a Plotter. ‘Yeah but I’m both, yeah but I’m neither, yeah but yeah but yeah but.’ Ssh. It’s true. Now just keep reading. If you write fiction, there’s a breakthrough waiting for you here, the same one Martha made possible for me, and the only way for you to get it is to assume for a moment that you do lean one way or the other. And trust me. You do. This is just the reality of writing stories.

Alderson’s book, which you should read if you are writing a novel or even thinking about doing so, makes two important points about all this. First and foremost, you need to figure out which of the two groups you fall into.

I am a classic Pantser. I’m the guy who stumbles ahead without letting the fact that I haven’t set up much of a plot yet stop me. Even if there is a clear plot structure to a story I’ve been working on for a while, I tend to try to forget about it while I’m writing. I actually prefer the sensation of not having the least clue where a given scene is going. I love accidents, and I get some of my best stuff from noticing when something that I tried came out wrong – but interesting.

Case in point: the character Fatima Adara, from my novel Jihadi: A Love Story. Most people tell me she’s the most memorable thing about the book. Yet I stumbled across her. She was supposed to appear in one scene. I wrote about 50,000 words of the novel before I realized that she was a major character. (They weren’t all good words – I threw about half of them out.)

You read right: 50,000 words. Now, if you’re a Plotter, I suspect you just cannot imagine yourself investing the word counts that I did in a story that hadn’t yet identified all of its major characters. And you know what? You’re right. I probably shouldn’t have. At that point, I was traveling without a map. Which brings us to Alderson’s second big point, and the breakthrough she made possible for me and, maybe, for you.

It is this: Once you know which writing camp you fall into, Pantser or Plotter, you have to make a conscious effort to compensate for certain inherent weaknesses you bring to the table as a writer.

unspecified-3

If you’re a Plotter, Alderson asks you to consider that your likely weaknesses as a writer include the following: Compelling emotion may be lacking from some of your scenes. Ring any bells? Plotters, this is for you. In addition to plotting, you need to push yourself outside your comfort zone. You need to go beyond outlining. You need to find a way to experience, on a personal level, what your protagonist is experiencing. You need to notice what that obstacle she’s encountering feels like, on a sensory level, not just on an analytical level. You need to be there personally and get hurt, fall in love, be terrified, whatever. You need to experience whatever is happening first-hand if you really want to write about it. (This is something that Pantsers usually have no problem with, by the way.) You’ve got to put yourself into the character’s situation, live the scene, and notice what the emotion feels like before you start writing. Otherwise, you may ‘finish’ your book, but you may find that it is filled with scenes that don’t actually engage the reader on a gut level. Ouch.

If you’re a Pantser (like me) your likely weakness looks like this: You may never finish the damn book, because you’re ‘writing’ without a structure – travelling without a map. Pantsers, this is for you (and me): You just don’t like establishing specific plot points and themes ahead of time. You say it ‘handcuffs’ you. If you do ‘finish’ the book, though, you may find that Act Three has little or nothing to do with Acts One and Two. Again: Ouch. This was my big weakness as a writer, and overcoming it was my breakthrough. I really, really did not want to bother with setting up a Plot Planner (Alderson’s primary writing tool) when I began reading her book, but by the time I was done with it, I knew I had to go outside my comfort zone. So I identified the five essential Alderson turning points for my story, and I put them up on the wall, using her Plot Planner tool. On that wall, I started laying out a clear sequence of scenes, in outline. (A first for me.) Doing all this was not my first instinct. It wasn’t how I was used to writing. But it needed to happen.

As a result of going out of my comfort zone, I figured out, not only that Fatima was independent, intelligent, and a devout Muslim, but also what the big decision ended up making in Act Three of my novel was, and how it needed to be set up in Act One. Also how she connected to the novel’s themes. Also what, specifically, she heard in the very first scene she was in that affected my protagonist in Act Two. All that stuff I didn’t know before I completed my Plot Planner, and I have Martha to thank for it.

You can buy Martha Alderson’s indispensable book The Plot Whisperer here. You can buy Jihadi: A Love Story, on which I might still be working if it hadn’t been for Martha’s work, here.

A huge thank you to Yusuf for talking with us today about his writing process and how he wrote his debut novel – Jihadi: A Love Story. As a fellow pantser, I’m heading over to check out The Plot Whisperer right now!

I also highly recommend you check out Jihadi: A Love Story. Here’s the blurb: “A former intelligence agent stands accused of terrorism, held without charge in a secret overseas prison. His memoir is in the hands of a brilliant but erratic psychologist whose annotations paint a much darker picture. As the story unravels, we are forced to assess the truth for ourselves, and decide not only what really happened on one fateful overseas assignment, but who is the real terrorist. Peopled by a diverse and unforgettable cast of characters, whose reliability as narrators is always questioned, and with a multi-layered plot heaving with unexpected and often shocking developments, Jihadi: A Love Story is an intelligent thriller that asks big questions. Complex, intriguing and intricately woven, this is an astonishing debut that explores the nature of good and evil alongside notions of nationalism, terrorism and fidelity, and, above all, the fragility of the human mind.”

The Jihadi: A Love Story Blog Tour is running now. Be sure to pop over to all the wonderful stops …

unspecified

CTG Reviews: STASI CHILD by David Young

image001

The fabulous STASI CHILD, written by debut author David Young, is published in paperback next week on the 11th February.

To celebrate, I’m re-running my review …

What the blurb says: “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 young 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 David Young’s debut novel and the first in the Oberleutnant Karin Müller series.

Striving for justice whatever the cost is second nature to Müller. She’s a determined, strong and courageous detective, following the evidence and questioning anomalies even when warned off by some very powerful and threatening people. Defying instructions, she leads her team to find the truth hidden beneath the propaganda and cover-ups. But despite her hard-line stance in her job, in her personal life her relationships are imploding and as she juggles the conflict at home with an increasingly tense situation at work, it’s not long before Müller herself could be in danger.

Chillingly authentic and set in our recent-past, this pacey page-turner of a police procedural is filled with fear, power struggles and intrigue making it one hell of a debut novel.

To find out more about David Young follow him on Twitter @djy_writer

To pre-order the paperback (or buy the kindle edition) of STASI CHILD from Amazon click here

To pre-order STASI CHILD from Waterstones click here