CTG Reviews: TENACITY by J.S. Law

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What the blurb says: “A brutal murder. A lone female investigator. Two hundred metres below the ocean’s surface, the pressure is rising … Suicide must be investigated, especially when a Royal Navy sailor kills himself on a nuclear submarine only days after his wife’s brutal murder.

Now Lieutenant Danielle “Dan” Lewis, the Navy’s finest Special Branch investigator, must interrogate the tight-knit, male crew of HMS Tenacity to determine if there’s a link. Isolated, and standing alone in the face of extreme hostility, Dan soon realises that she may have to choose between the truth and her own survival. Justice must be served, but with a possible killer on board the pressure is rising and her time is running out …”

This debut novel from J.S. Law is a tense read from start to finish. Danielle “Dan” Lewis – a top investigator with more than a fair share of secrets hidden in her past – is brought in to investigate the alleged suicide of a member of HMS Tenacity’s Ship’s Company. Right from the get-go it’s clear that the odds are stacked against her – Tenacity’s men are a close-knit team and they don’t want anyone – especially a woman – poking around in their business.

Despite the hostility towards her, Dan presses on with the investigation. Master-At-Arms John Granger lends his support (although there are unresolved tensions between the pair that make for a tricky working relationship) and it seems that the investigation will manage to move forward. Then Tenacity gets the order to dive, and Dan has to continue the investigation on-board beneath the ocean’s surface. As she studies the nuances of the case and interviews the men, Dan begins to uncover the lies and secrets hidden within Tenacity’s history, and the danger that might still lurk within.

Like the novel’s title suggests, Dan is a tenacious lead character and someone that, as a reader, I found it easy to root for. She’s a survivor of injustice, using her own experiences as fire to fuel her unrelenting determination to achieve her goal – utterly focused on searching out the truth, even when it puts her own life in danger.

As an ex-submariner, author J.S. Law’s detailed knowledge of the Navy and submarines shines through to make for a highly authentic and atmospheric setting. The uniqueness of the tightly sealed environment of HMS Tenacity is made increasingly claustrophobic through the ever-increasing build-up of jeopardy.

Gritty, super-charged with tension and claustrophobically atmospheric, TENACITY is a real page-turner of a read – perfect for fans of military thrillers and police procedurals.

Highly recommended.

 

[Many thanks to the lovely folks at Headline for my copy of TENACITY]

 

Hot Tips: crime fiction debut authors to watch out for in 2015

Over the past few months I’ve been really privileged to get early reads of three fabulous novels that will be coming out later this year and I just couldn’t wait to tell you all about them …

SJI Holliday

SJI Holliday

SJI Holliday – BLACK WOOD

If you like psychological thrillers then Susi Holliday’s debut BLACK WOOD is one to watch out for in March. Twenty-three years on from the incident in Black Wood that left Claire paralysed and Jo with deep mental scars, a man walks into the bookstore where Jo works bringing the memories, and the desire for vengeance flooding back. Sergeant Davie Gray is hunting a masked man who has attacked several women near the disused railway line – is there a connection between Jo’s visitor and the attacks? As DS Gray unravels the shocking secrets, broken friendships and festering resentments hidden beneath the surface of the sleepy village of Banktoun, he finds himself in a battle against time to solve the case before Jo finds herself with blood on her hands. Keeping you guessing to the very end, this masterfully unsettling thriller will have you on the edge of your seat and stay with you long after you’ve finished reading – a must-read for all fans of psychological thrillers.

Follow Susi on Twitter @SJIHolliday and check out her great blog at https://sjihollidayblog.wordpress.com

 

 

JS Law

JS Law

JS Law – TENACITY

With over a decade working on Nuclear Submarines, JS Law brings a gritty authenticity to the unique setting of TENACITY. The story follows military Special Investigator Danielle ‘Dan’ Lewis as she’s called to investigate the circumstances of an alleged suicide on board the nuclear submarine TENACITY. Only she knows what might have motivated him to take his life, but as she starts to puts together the pieces of the puzzle surrounding the dead man’s last days, she realises all is not as it first seemed. Determined to delve deeper, she makes herself a target as she battles the hostility of the ship’s company and gradually starts to unravel the secrets protected by them. Steadfast in her quest for the truth, Dan is brave and resourceful, and with much of the action taking place inside the confined quarters of the submarine, this military police procedural takes the ‘locked room’ mystery to a new level of suspense. High tension and high drama make TENACITY a gripping must-read for thriller and police procedural fans. Look out for it in July.

Follow JS Law on Twitter @JSLawBooks

 

 

Rod Reynolds

Rod Reynolds

Rod Reynolds – THE DARK INSIDE

Fresh out of the City University Creative Writing MA (Crime Fiction) Rod’s novel – THE DARK INSIDE – is a perfect slice of American Noir. It follows New York reporter Charlie Yates as he travels into the deep South to cover a spate of horrific murders where the targets are couples parked up in date spots. Set in the 1940s Texarkana, a town on the border of Texas and Arkansas, it’s an atmospheric and dark tale with Charlie very much the outsider in the unwelcoming and claustrophobic-feeling small town. Despite the hostility of the locals, Charlie finds himself drawn into the case and compelled to help the beautiful Lizzie – the sister of the only victim who survived one of the killer’s attacks. But as Charlie digs into the evidence he starts to uncover secrets that many people in Texarkana want to keep hidden – at any cost. A page-turner from start to finish, with twists that’ll take your breath away, THE DARK INSIDE is an absolute must-read for all crime thriller fans. Look out for it in September.

Follow Rod on Twitter @Rod_WR

 

AND, there are three more debuts that I’m really looking forward to reading:

Sarah Ward’s IN BITTER CHILL published in July. Hop on over to www.crimepieces.com to see Sarah’s fantastic crime fiction blog and find out more about IN BITTER CHILL. Follow her on Twitter @sarahrward1

Rebecca Bradley’s SHALLOW WATERS is out now on Kindle (so, I know, technically not a 2015 debut, but as it published in December 2014, I’m counting it!). Pop over to www.rebeccabradleycrime.com to find out more about SHALLOW WATERS and follow her on Twitter @RebeccaJBradley

Paul E. Hardisty’s THE ABRUPT PHYSICS OF DYING which is out now on Kindle and will be published in paperback in August by Orenda Books. To find out more about THE ABRUPT PHYSICS OF DYING hop over to Twitter and follow @OrendaBooks and @Hardisty_Paul

CTG Reviews: The Long Fall by Julia Crouch

The Long Fall cover image

The Long Fall cover image

What the blurb says: “Greece, 1980: You are a bright young woman with a brilliant future ahead of you. Then you do the worst possible thing a person could do to someone else: you are guilty of the greatest transgression. How do you go on to live a life?

Now: To the outside observer, Kate Barratt has it all: the wealthy husband who was once mistaken for George Clooney, the brilliant, feisty daughter, two homes in London and Cornwall, and understated designer wardrobe and a satisfying sideline as figurehead for a worthwhile charity. But all is not as comfortable as it seems, because Kate harbours a terrible secret that no-one in her current life knows anything about. A secret that hails back to a different time, when she was a skinny, dirty, punk-haired teenager who took too many drugs and nearly threw herself off an Athens hostel roof.

Then, one day, in Starbucks near Tottenham Court Road Tube Station, that secret appears out of the past to face her. Can Kate carry on with the life she has built for herself? Or does it mean that everything is completely, irrevocably, changed?”

It’s very hard to review this book within giving any spoilers, but I’ll do what I can!

Set across two points in time, and two countries, Julia Crouch artfully weaves the story of what happened to Emma – a young, naïve and curious teenage traveller on her first visit to Greece in 1980, with that of present day Kate – a wealthy wife and mother, and founder of international children’s charity ‘Martha’s Wish’.

Packed with suspense, each scene of the book reveals a little more of the horrific chain of events that Kate has tried her whole life to keep hidden, and the extreme lengths she has gone to in order to do so. Kate is a compelling character, so damaged by her past and the grief of losing her youngest daughter, yet desperate to atone for what happened and driven to make a difference through her charity work. When a person from her past tracks her down, Kate’s secret past collides with her present and threatens to destroy all she has worked for, and puts those she loves into the very danger she has sought her whole adult life to avoid.

This dark and chilling story of love, betrayal and guilt shows how one moment of violence can result in a chain reaction that continues across the decades. Highly atmospheric, with fabulously flawed and complex characters, and a super twisty plot, it’s a great read.

The Long Fall is domestic noir at its very best.

Highly recommended.

[Many thanks to Headline for my copy of The Long Fall]

CTG Interviews: Julia Crouch, author of The Long Fall

The Long Fall cover image

The Long Fall cover image

Today I’m delighted to welcome Julia Crouch to the CTG blog.

Famous for her darkly chilling novels of domestic noir, Julia’s latest book – The Long Fall – is published this week in paperback, eBook and as an audio download. 

So, to the questions …

Your latest book – The Long Fall – is out this week. Can you tell us a bit about it?

I started off wondering how someone could continue a life after being guilty of the worst possible transgression.

The story is set in two time frames – 1980 and 2013. The 1980 sections are the diary of 18 year old Emma who is backpacking solo through Europe in her year off. At the end of her journey, something awful happens. The 2013 part is about Kate, a wealthy, high profile charity campaigner, Hedge Fund Manager’s wife and mother to drama student Tilly. When someone turns up from Kate’s past, her superficially perfect life begins to disintegrate around her.

The book takes place in Greece and London, what was it about these particular places that inspired to you to pick them?

I have always loved Greece – I go there whenever I get the opportunity. My first proper visit was as a lone, backpacking eighteen year old. I kept a diary of what I got up to while I was there, and I have mercilessly raided the detail in it for The Long Fall. On the very edge of Europe, Greece is a country of contrasts – of ancient and modern, of East and West, of land and sea. I knew I wanted to set part of the story on an island – as distant, disconnected and isolated as possible – and my son Owen told me about Ikaria, which his Greek girlfriend Eva took him to a couple of years ago. It seemed perfect and, since the novel starts with a fall from a cliff, the idea of the island named after Icarus, the boy who fell when he flew too close to the sun, seemed too perfect to resist.

I had to go and research the island – an arduous task for a Grecophile such as myself – and found to my delight that it was perfect – wind-buffetted with enormous, looming black and grey cliffs, deserted perfect beaches, a jungly interior and a world untouched as yet (touch wood) by mass tourism. Setting is as important to me as my characters and plot, so it was really, really exciting to find Ikaria. I spent a week there, driving a tiny Chevy Matiz over almost impassable mountain roads, exploring mountain villages and isolated bays.

I wanted the contrast of Kate’s world to the Greek scenes to be very stark. A couple of years ago I did a photoshoot for a magazine and they had hired a gorgeous house in a converted school in Battersea. It’s vast – all enormous high ceilings, white walls and wooden floors. The people who own it live in it – although they were away for the day of the shoot – and there’s a big photograph canvas of the family on the kitchen wall. They are beautiful. The impression is one of a perfect life.

I was just beginning to think about The Long Fall at the time, and it seemed to me that this would be the perfect building for Kate to inhabit – gated, turretted luxury. So I’m afraid I ‘stole’ it!

As a trailblazer of the hugely popular Domestic Noir, how would you describe the characteristics of the sub-genre?

Domestic Noir doesn’t necessarily mean a home setting, but it’s often in there somewhere. it’s about the things people do to each other in the name of love. It’s about the levels at which we can deceive ourselves and others, and how we manage to live with our secrets. It can include police and murders, but that’s certainly not essential. The mystery lies in the why – rather than the whodunnit. Because it is rooted in messy old life and relationships, it doesn’t always provide the neat ending of more traditional crime fiction.

Could you tell us a little about your writing process, do you dive right in, or plan the story out first?

Usually, I just dive in and start a story, researching as I go along. I keep writing until I reach the end, even if I know things have to change quite radically in the earlier stages of the novel to support my new discoveries. This I call draft zero, because no one ever sees it except me. Then I go back and rewrite the entire thing, building a firmer structure for the plot, excising loads of guff and putting in hopefully more focussed material. For me, this is the most exciting way to write, because every day you discover something new about your characters and story.

However, it can be difficult to fit this style of working into a publishing schedule. The Long Fall is the first book of a new contract I signed with my publishers Headline, and to secure that I had to put together a pretty clear outline of the story, long before I started. The plot I came up with was quite detailed and so clear that it changed very little in the writing – so I knew what each scene had to do, where the characters had to go. I didn’t know exactly how I was going to structure it, though, so there was still quite a bit of head scratching at the end of draft zero. It is probably a quicker way to finish a novel, but I have to say I have reverted to my old approach for the novel I am currently working on (working title, rather imaginatively, novel #5) and, while it is scarier, I find it more exciting writing, as E L Doctorow put it, “…like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”

What advice would you give to new writers aspiring to publication?

Write the best novel you possibly can, then edit it and make it better. Don’t be in a hurry to submit. Do your homework finding an agent – do they represent authors you like? Do they deal with your genre? See what they say on Twitter. Follow submission guidelines slavishly – they all have different rules, so you will have to work around them, which is a good thing. Be patient. Be polite. Be prepared for rejection, but also be prepared to work on editing suggestions from agents. If you are rejected, there will be a good reason. Try to work out what it is.

If you want to self-publish, pay someone to edit your novel, and try to forget that you are paying so that you listen to their edits. Pay someone to typeset it and design the cover. Learn the business. You have to be aware that you are going into business not only as a writer but also as a publisher. It’s a lot of work.

And lastly, what does the rest of 2014 have in store for you?

Novel #5 will take up the next five months, and we’re beginning to plan Dark & Stormy Brighton 2015 (the crime festival I launched this year with Emlyn Rees and Ray Leek). I’m putting together proposals for three more novels – a process I really enjoy. And something might be happening in Hollywood, although that’s all I’m allowed to say right now. Other than that, I’m promoting The Long Fall all over the shop: I’ll be at Harrogate, Bloody Scotland and Edinburgh Book Festival, as well as many other libraries, bookshops and festivals around the country. Good job I love writing on trains!

Sounds like 2014 is shaping up to be a very busy year!

A huge thank you to Julia Crouch for dropping by and chatting about The Long Fall and her writing process. To find out more about Julia and her books pop on over to http://juliacrouch.co.uk/

 

And watch this space for our review of The Long Fall – coming soon.

Book Launch: The Lost by Claire McGowan

display at launch event

display at launch event

Earlier this week I was excited to attend the book launch of Claire McGowan’s new book, The Lost.

Her debut novel, The Fall, was one of my favorite books of 2012, so I’ve been really looking forward to getting my hands on a copy of The Lost.

The launch party was held at the fabulous Goldsboro Books, just off Leicester Square, London. The place was full to bursting and I was thrilled to get a signed copy of the book.

Set in Ireland, The Lost is the first of a new series featuring forensic psychologist, Paula Maguire.

What the blurb says: “When two teenage girls go missing along the Irish border, forensic psychologist Paula Maguire has to return to the home town she left years before. Swirling with rumour and secrets, the town is gripped with fear of a serial killer. But the truth could be even darker. 

Surrounded by people and places she tried to forget, Paula digs into the cases as the truth twists further away. What’s the link with two other disappearances from 1985? And why does everything lead back to the town’s dark past – including the reasons her own mother went missing years before?

As the shocking truth is revealed, Paul learns that sometimes it’s better not to find what you’ve lost.”

Sounds great – I can’t wait to start reading …