CTG Reviews: THE SAMARITAN by Mason Cross

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To celebrate that THE SAMARITAN by Mason Cross is now out in paperback (and has been picked as a Richard & Judy Book Club Spring Read 2016) I thought I’d re-run my review, just in case you missed it the first time around …

What the blurb says: “When the mutilated body of a young woman is discovered in the Santa Monica Mountains, LAPD Detective Jessica Allen knows she’s seen this MO before – two and a half years ago on the other side of the country. A sadistic serial killer has been operating undetected for a decade, preying on lone female drivers who have broken down. The press dub the killer ‘The Samaritan’, but with no leads and a killer who leaves no traces, the police investigation quickly grinds to a halt.

That’s when Carter Blake shows up to volunteer his services. He’s a skilled manhunter with an uncanny ability to predict the Samaritan’s next moves. At first, Allen and her colleagues are suspicious. After all, their new ally shares some uncomfortable similarities to the man they’re tracking. But as the Samaritan takes his slaughter to the next level, Blake must find a way to stop him … even if it means bringing his own past crashing down on top of him.”

Since reading the first couple of chapters of The Samaritan in a teaser sampler I was dying to get my hands on this latest book by Mason Cross. And let me tell you, the wait was certainly worth it!

The Samaritan is packed with all the trademark heart-stopping action, break-neck pace, and twisting-turning plotlines that made Mason’s debut novel – The Killing Season – such a huge success.

In The Samaritan we also get to find out more about the past of mysterious ‘people finder’ Carter Blake (although don’t worry, he’s still pretty damn mysterious!). Jessica Allen is a great female lead – strong, determined and courageous in the face of extreme danger. She reluctantly accepts Blake’s assistance, but is less inclined to completely trust him. As they each follow their own lines of enquiry, gradually closing in on this most brutally sadistic of serial killers, they both become targets. Question is, can they get to the killer before the killer gets them?

Set in Florida and California, The Samaritan showcases some great locations (including one very creepy and atmospheric one that I can’t mention – sorry, it’d be too much of a spoiler) to create a vivid backdrop to the story.

With great characters, fab locations and a super-twisty plot, The Samaritan is an absolute page-turner. And I already can’t wait for the next Carter Blake novel – I think this is a series that’s going to run and run.

A fabulous must-read for thriller lovers – and one of my top reads of 2015  – I can’t recommend this book highly enough!

 

THE SAMARITAN has been picked as a Richard & Judy Book Club Spring Read 2016. To buy the book from WH Smith click here

To buy the book from Amazon click here

To find out more about Mason Cross and his books pop over to his website at www.masoncross.net and follow him on Twitter @MasonCrossBooks

 

[with thanks to Orion Books for my copy of The Samaritan]

CTG’s TOP READS 2015: THRILLER

Last week was all about my Top Crime Reads of the year. This week is all about Thrillers.

Here’s the second (and final) post of my Top Reads 2015: my Top Thriller Reads …

 

THE DARK INSIDE by Rod Reynolds

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“In this town, no one is innocent. 1946, Texarkana: a town on the border of Texas and Arkansas. Disgraced New York reporter Charlie Yates has been sent to cover the story of a spate of brutal murders – young couples who’ve been slaughtered at a local date spot. Charlie finds himself 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. Before long, Charlie discovers that powerful forces might be protecting the killer, and as he investigates further his pursuit of the truth could cost him more than his job …”

This debut novel from the uber-talented Rod Reynolds serves up a perfect slice of American noir. New York reporter Charlie Yates is a damaged man. Haunted by career problems and a failing marriage, he’s alienated many of the people close to him. With his employers desperate to be free of him for a while, he’s sent to cover a spate of double murders in Texarkana. He’s angry and isolated in an unfamiliar and unwelcoming place, but as he starts to make acquaintances with the locals and gets up to speed with the facts of the murders, he realises that the town, and the people in it, are hiding many more secrets than they’re willing to share.

Like a lovechild of Raymond Chandler and John D. MacDonald, with a smidgeon of Jim Thompson on the side, this is a relentless, dark and gritty tale about a man who cannot let go until he’s uncovered the truth of what is really going on inside the close knit community of Texarkana. Inspired by the true story of the unsolved Texarkana Moonlight Murders, with deeply drawn characters and a vividly claustrophobic atmosphere, THE DARK INSIDE is an utterly engrossing debut and one of my top reads of 2015 – an absolute must-read for all thriller fans.

You can find out more about Rod Reynolds by following him on Twitter @Rod_WR

 

THE WRONG GIRL by Laura Wilson

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“In 2006, three-year-old Phoebe Piper went missing on a family holiday. Despite massive publicity and a long investigation, no trace of her was ever found. Seven years later, Molly Jackson, aged ten and recently uprooted to a Norfolk village, finds her great uncle Dan dead in his bed. Molly remembers nothing of her early years, but she’s been sure for ages that she is Phoebe. Everything in her life points to it. Dan’s death brings his sister Janice back to Norfolk where she’s re-united with Molly’s mother Suzie, the daughter she gave up for adoption decades earlier. Janice discovers that a former lover, Joe Vincent, lives nearby. Joe was a rock star who, at the height of his fame, turned his back on public life. As she is drawn back into the past, Janice begins to wonder if Dan’s death and Joe’s reputation as a reclusive acid casualty are quite what they appear. And then Molly disappears.”

I found myself pulled headlong into Janice and Molly’s worlds. Through their narratives the reader discovers the events in their pasts that have shaped their sense of selves and identity, and how the secrets and suspicions that they hold influences each of their decisions in the present. One of the many joys of this book are the fabulous characters – they are so vividly drawn, and the dialogue pitch-perfect, that it feels like you’re watching real-life action unfold before you.

A twisting, turning mystery of tangled secrets, guilt and regret THE WRONG GIRL artfully combines the dark undertones of past trauma with a growing sense of impending doom. With stunning writing, vivid characters and bags of suspense, THE WRONG GIRL is a must read for fans of psychological thrillers.

To find out more about Laura Wilson and her books hop on over to www.laura-wilson.co.uk and follow her on Twitter @LWilsonCrime

 

THE DARKEST DAY by Tom Wood

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“He is darkness. She wants him dead. In a city starved of light, she might just succeed. She moves like a shadow; she kills silently: Raven. This elegant assassin has been on the run for years. This time though, she has picked the wrong target. The hitman known only as ‘Victor’ is as paranoid as he is merciless, and is no stranger to being hunted. He tracks his would-be killer across the globe, aiming not only to neutralise the threat, but to discover who wants him dead. The trail leads to New York … And then the lights go out. Over twelve hours of unremitting darkness, Manhattan dissolves into chaos. Amid looting, conspiracy and blackout, Victor and Raven play a vicious game of cat and mouse that the city will never forget.”

In the latest book in this fantastic series – The Darkest Day – Victor finds himself the target of a talented female assassin with a flawless kill record. Rather than going into hiding after escaping her first attempt on his life, Victor vows to eliminate her as a threat. Alternately threatening or charming information from Raven’s associates, Victor discovers her background and tracks her to a safe house in New York. The clues stack up, and he has everything planned in perfect detail to neutralise her. Then the power goes out in New York City and everything he was so sure about starts to become hazy.

The pace is unrelenting, the danger ever escalating, and Victor is forced to abandon his usual preparations and safe-guards in order to keep out of his pursuers’ – both legal and criminal – way. It’s fascinating to see this character, who is always so in control, plunged into a sustained environment of chaos and having to react to a far more unpredictable set of circumstances than before. Action packed, adrenaline fuelled, thriller writing at its best – THE DARKEST DAY is a must read for all crime thriller fans.

And find out more about Tom Wood and the Victor the Assassin series by hopping over to his website at www.tomwoodbooks.com and following him on Twitter @TheTomWood

 

COLD MOON by Alexandra Sokoloff

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“The hunt for mass murderer Cara Lindstrom is over. FBI Special Agent Matthew Roarke has been working for this moment: the capture of a killer who savagely hunts the worst of humanity. But Roarke remains traumatized by his own near-death at the hands of the serial killer who slaughtered Cara’s family…and haunted by the enigmatic woman who saved his life. Then the sixteen-year-old prostitute who witnessed Cara’s most recent murder goes missing, and suddenly pimps are turning up dead on the streets of San Francisco, killed with an MO eerily similar to Cara’s handiwork. Is a new killer on the loose with a mission even more deadly than hers? In the pulse-pounding third Huntress/FBI Thrillers book, Roarke will have to go on the hunt…and every woman he meets, even those closest to him, may prove deadly.”

COLD MOON is a serial killer story with a difference – this killer is female. Driven by the need to confront ‘It’ – evil – Cara Lindstrom targets those in society who prey on the innocent and the helpless. The story starts with her awaiting trial for murder, but it soon becomes clear that she may not be the only person fighting back against those men who prey on vulnerable women. Detective Roarke – the man responsible for Cara being in jail – is conflicted about the upcoming trial. On the one side he knows Cara is a killer, on the other he is becoming increasingly sympathetic to her cause. And he cannot deny that he’s attracted to her either.

Set in California, COLD MOON shows the glamour and the grime, the privileged (and those who abuse that privilege) and the disadvantaged. It’s highly atmospheric, with compelling, dynamic characters and vivid, rapid-paced action. With super-charged tension and nail biting suspense, this is a real page turner of a read.

To find out more about Alexandra Sokoloff hop over to her website at www.alexandrasokoloff.com and follow her on Twitter @AlexSokoloff

 

THE SAMARITAN by Mason Cross

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“When the mutilated body of a young woman is discovered in the Santa Monica Mountains, LAPD Detective Jessica Allen knows she’s seen this MO before – two and a half years ago on the other side of the country. A sadistic serial killer has been operating undetected for a decade, preying on lone female drivers who have broken down. The press dub the killer ‘The Samaritan’, but with no leads and a killer who leaves no traces, the police investigation quickly grinds to a halt. That’s when Carter Blake shows up to volunteer his services. He’s a skilled manhunter with an uncanny ability to predict the Samaritan’s next moves. At first, Allen and her colleagues are suspicious. After all, their new ally shares some uncomfortable similarities to the man they’re tracking. But as the Samaritan takes his slaughter to the next level, Blake must find a way to stop him … even if it means bringing his own past crashing down on top of him.”

The Samaritan is packed with all the trademark heart-stopping action, break-neck pace, and twisting-turning plotlines that made Mason’s debut novel – The Killing Season – such a huge success.

In The Samaritan we also get to find out more about the past of mysterious ‘people finder’ Carter Blake (although don’t worry, he’s still pretty damn mysterious!). Jessica Allen is a great female lead – strong, determined and courageous in the face of extreme danger. She reluctantly accepts Blake’s assistance, but is less inclined to completely trust him. As they each follow their own lines of enquiry, gradually closing in on this most brutally sadistic of serial killers, they both become targets.

Set in Florida and California, The Samaritan showcases some great locations (including one very creepy and atmospheric one that I can’t mention – sorry, it’d be too much of a spoiler) to create a vivid backdrop to the story. With great characters, fab locations and a super-twisty plot, The Samaritan is an absolute page-turner. I already can’t wait for the next Carter Blake novel – I think this is a series that’s going to run and run.

To find out more about Mason Cross head over to his website at www.masoncross.net and follow him on Twitter @MasonCrossBooks

 

UNTOUCHABLE by Ava Marsh

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“Stella is an escort, immersed in a world of desire, betrayal and secrets. It’s exactly where she wants to be. Stella used to be someone else: respectable, loved, safe. But one mistake changed all that.

When a fellow call girl is murdered, Stella has a choice: forget what she’s seen, or risk everything to get justice for her friend. In her line of work, she’s never far from the edge, but pursuing the truth could take her past the point of no return. Nothing is off limits. Not for her – and not for them. But is anyone truly untouchable?”

Stella (real name, Grace) is an escort by choice. She enjoys her job and the financial freedoms it brings, although she does sometimes wonder if she’ll ever be able to stop. That all changes when another high-end escort she recently worked with is murdered. Suddenly she’s feeling on edge with even her regular clients. Unwilling to believe the Police’s version of events, and plagued by the feeling that her friend was killed for something she knew rather than who she was, Stella can’t move on. Taking matters into her own hands, she sets out on her own search for the truth, but as she begins to get closer to finding the identity of the killer it becomes clear that her quest could have deadly consequences.

Unflinchingly authentic, this thriller gives a peep into the world of a high-class escort, from the clients and the money, to the drama and tension the profession causes in their personal relationships [but beware, if you don’t want to read graphic sex scenes, this book might not be your thing!]. It’s a real page-turner of a read – darkly funny at times, heart-breaking at others – with a riveting mystery at its heart. As pacey as Lee Child, racier than EL James, and utterly gripping – Untouchable is unmissable!

To find out more about Ava Marsh pop over to her website at www.avamarsh.co.uk and be sure to follow her on Twitter @MsAvaMarsh

 

TENACITY by JS Law

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“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.

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.

To learn more about JS Law go over to his website at www.jslawbooks.com and be sure to follow him on Twitter @JSLawBooks

 

THE GIRL WHO WOULDN’T DIE by Marnie Riches

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“HE’S WATCHING HER. SHE DOESN’T KNOW IT…YET. When a bomb explodes at the University of Amsterdam, aspiring criminologist Georgina McKenzie is asked by the police to help flush out the killer. But the bomb is part of a much bigger, more sinister plot that will have the entire city quaking in fear. And the killer has a very special part for George to play…”

This fast paced thriller is Marnie Riches debut novel and the first book in the Georgina McKenzie series. Opening with a bombing on campus at the University of Amsterdam, the stakes are high from the off and continue to escalate as criminology student, Georgina ‘George’ McKenzie gets drafted in to help the police, and specifically Detective van den Bergen, gather intelligence from within the student and wider communities. Experienced cop – Detective van den Bergen – is a great pairing for George. Whereas she is headstrong and prone to charge into a situation, he is analytical and considered (and a bit of a hypochondriac) – but both are determined and single-minded about the need to get to the truth behind the killings and bring those responsible to justice, and they’re not afraid to go against direct orders to achieve their goal.

Bold and fearless, George is quick to piece together the evidence, and gets frustrated by the slowness of the police. As the stakes escalate, and the danger draws closer, she takes increasingly bigger risks – putting herself (and her friends) in danger. One of those friends is Ad – who George enlists to help her check out the evidence and run her own investigation. Between them they’re often a few steps ahead of the Police and end up feeding information to van den Bergen. The story hurtles along at a breakneck pace as George and Ad track their suspects across Holland and Germany, and it seems sure that they’ll soon have the killer. But George is hiding a secret past, and as the ghosts of her past come back to haunt her, she realizes she’s going to need all her street smarts to foil the killer and keep her friends, and herself, alive. A nail-biting, seat-of-your-pants read – The Girl Who Wouldn’t Die is a great read for those who love action thrillers and fabulous introduction to a great new series.

You can find out more about Marnie Riches and her books by hopping over to www.marnieriches.com and following her on Twitter @Marnie_Riches

 

THE ABRUPT PHYSICS OF DYING by Paul E. Hardisty

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“Claymore Straker is trying to forget a violent past. Working as an oil company engineer in the wilds of Yemen, he is hijacked at gunpoint by Islamic terrorists. Clay has a choice: help uncover the cause of a mysterious sickness afflicting the village of Al Urush, close to the company’s processing facility, or watch Abdulkader, his driver and close friend, die. As the country descends into civil war and village children start dying, Clay finds himself caught up in a ruthless struggle between opposing armies, controllers of the country’s oil wealth, Yemen’s shadowy secret service, and rival terrorist factions. As Clay scrambles to keep his friend alive, he meets Rania, a troubled journalist. Together, they try to uncover the truth about Al Urush. But nothing in this ancient, unforgiving place is what it seems. Accused of a murder he did not commit, put on the CIA’s most-wanted list, Clay must come to terms with his past and confront the powerful forces that want him dead.”

This epic story is a spell binding read. Highly atmospheric, it feels grounded in the Yemen landscape, with the tension of a country on the brink of civil war sparking from every page. Rugged and resourceful, Claymore ‘Clay’ Straker has an incredible personal journey from “company man”, there to do a job – no more, no less – to smooth the way with the local people and get the oil company closer to their profit targets, into a dynamic eco-warrior, determined to get to the truth of what’s really causing the children in Al Urush to become so sick, and to put a stop to it – whatever the personal cost.

THE ABRUPT PHYSICS OF DYING is a thought provoking and heart wrenching book. It exposes the horrors some are willing to inflict in pursuit of riches, it shows the lengths others will go to in order to stop them, and it highlights the scars and wounds left both in the earth and on flesh as a consequence. This emotive subject, combined with fabulous writing, a great cast of characters, and a super-fast pace makes it a must read thriller and a stunning debut.

To find out more head to the Orenda Books website at www.orendabooks.co.uk/paul-e-hardisty and follow Paul on Twitter @Hardisty_Paul

 

I LET YOU GO by Clare Mackintosh

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“In a split second, Jenna Gray’s world descends into a nightmare. Her only hope of moving on is to walk away from everything she knows to start afresh. Desperate to escape, Jenna moves to a remote cottage on the Welsh coast, but she is haunted by her fears, her grief and her memories of a cruel November night that changed her life forever. Slowly, Jenna begins to glimpse the potential for happiness in her future. But her past is about to catch up with her, and the consequences will be devastating …”

Opening with a hit-and-run incident which leaves a five-year-old boy dead, this hard-hitting psychological thriller grabs you by the heart and keeps you captive 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.

You can find out more about Clare Mackintosh by hopping over to her website at http://claremackintosh.com/ and following her on Twitter @claremackint0sh

 

 

 

 

 

The (Not So) Secret Diary of a Slice Girl #BloodyScotland (part 2)

L-R: Kati, Elizabeth, Lucy, CTG (me!), Susi, Alex (c) Eoin Carey

L-R: Kati, Elizabeth, Lucy, CTG (me!), Susi, Alex (c) Eoin Carey

So I’m one of The Slice Girls – a group made up of crime writers, a publicist, and me – who took to the stage (actually, onto the bar) to perform a number at Bloody Scotland’s Crime in the Coo cabaret night. And this is how it happened …

I got ‘the call’, or rather, ‘the IM’ about four months ago. A short message from Slice Girls leader, Alexandra Sokoloff, that simply said, ‘Steph, do you sing?’ It was a simple question, but answering it made me feel a little like Neo in the Matrix – should I take the red pill or the blue one – what should I say? No. Yes. Kind of, well, there was that one time I sang with Danny La Rue …

In the end, I said yes. And so, it began. Well, after Harrogate in July, it began, anyway. I got sent the lyrics and the music for The Cell Block Tango from Chicago, was allocated my part (the “POP” monologue, and given instructions to practice. And practice I did. I also watched Chicago the film, watched clips of the Cellblock Tango performed on Broadway, and also by an all-male cast as part of a Broadway Backwards charity event (and the best rendition of the song in my book!).

L-R: Kati, Elizabeth & Lucy (c) Eoin Carey

L-R: Kati, Elizabeth & Lucy (c) Eoin Carey

But, as the months, weeks and days counted down to Bloody Scotland, I’d still only practiced on my own and in private. The fear set in. What if I forgot the words? What if I couldn’t do it in front of other people? Luckily I wouldn’t be up there alone, I was a Slice Girl now, and I’d be performing with fabulous crime writers Kati Hiekkapelto, Lucy Ribchester, SJI Holliday and Alexandra Sokoloff; and awesome Simon & Schuster senior publicist Elizabeth Preston. I told myself it was going to be fun (and I tried to believe it).

Before long, it was time. I arrived on Friday evening (late, as usual) at the Bloody Scotland Crime Writing Festival, and missed the first practice. Not such a great start, but at least I’d made it to the hotel – and the bar. I soon forgot my nerves after a few drinks, but the next day – Saturday, performance day – they were back, along with all the ‘what ifs’.

But I needn’t have worried – Alexandra had a plan. She gathered us together and had us rehearsing for as long as it took to change six people who’d never sung together into a group that might have a chance of looking like they knew what they were doing. There was choreography to learn too. And the challenge of actually getting up onto the bar in the first place (without putting our heels through the barstool covers). But we practiced, and practiced, and weirdly it was kind of fun.

So, to the evening. We met up at the hotel and headed down to the Curly Coo for our technical rehearsal at 7pm (with the bar due to open at 8pm). Dressed in our costumes we got more than a few odd looks from people out and about in Stirling. We had our rehearsal, with the lights being put up and cameras being fixed in place around us, and then, as the doors were about to be opened, I allowed myself a large glass of wine – for courage, you understand.

L-R: Lucy, CTG (me!), Susi, Alex (c) Eoin Carey

L-R: Lucy, CTG (me!), Susi, Alex (c) Eoin Carey

There were some fantastic performances – Val McDermid singing with Doug Johnstone on guitar, Mason Cross reading a rather entertaining one-star review, and numerous brilliant others. But I have to admit it was hard to concentrate knowing that soon we’d be up on the bar, performing our song.

When crime writer (and Maestro of the evening) Craig Robertson gave us a twenty-minute warning two things happened. First, we all got another drink, and second, we started running through our monologues, quietly, in the upstairs hallway.

Then it was time, and we made our way through the crowded bar, climbed up onto the bar (me in a far less elegant fashion than the others), and the music started …

And, you know what, it actually wasn’t as terrifying as I thought it’d be. All the way up to the music starting, I felt the fear – absolute and utterly terrifying. But all the practices of the day had done their work, and we all remembered our words, sung in time and had a very fun time. There’s even a bit of video around, taken by crime writer Mari Hannah – you can watch it here

So a massive thank you to Alexandra Sokoloff for pushing me out of my comfort zone, to the Bloody Scotland Crime Writing Festival for letting it happen, and to my fellow Slice Girls – Alex, Kati Hiekkapelto, Lucy Ribchester, SJI Holliday, Elizabeth Preston.

I truly had a bloody brilliant time!!

L-R: Elizabeth, Lucy, CTG (me!), Susi, Alex (c) Eoin Carey

L-R: Elizabeth, Lucy, CTG (me!), Susi, Alex (c) Eoin Carey

 

L-R: Lucy, Elizabeth, Alexandra, Susi, Kati, CTG (me!)

L-R: Lucy, Elizabeth, Alexandra, Susi, Kati, CTG (me!)

What happened at the brilliant #BloodyScotland Crime Writing Festival 2015 (Part 1)

Whose Crime Is It Anyway? (c) Eoin Carey

Whose Crime Is It Anyway? (c) Eoin Carey

The Bloody Scotland Crime Writing Festival is one of those festivals that goes from strength to strength. This year the organising team, led by the ever sparky Dom Hastings, put on a fabulous programme of events from panels to interviews, an awards dinner, a pub cabaret, and a football match – there really was something for everyone. In fact, it was so good it’s taken me a week to recover enough to blog about it!

The weekend kicked off with Val McDermid and Peter May in conversation, followed by Whose Crime is it Anyway? – with TV presenter Hardeep Singh Kohli throwing out the challenges to crime writers Christopher Brookmyre, Kevin Wignall and Caro Ramsay to improvise on the spot. Once the opening events finished, as ever at crime writing festivals, the rest of the evening was spent in the bar at the Stirling Highland Hotel with a glass of wine (or two, or three …).

Scotland v England

Scotland v England

On Saturday, I wasn’t able to get to many events as I was in training for a special performance with The Slice Girls at the Crime in the Coo event later that evening. But I heard great things about the Killer Women panel – Louise Millar, Helen Giltrow, and MJ McGrath – who discussed whether the Woman is deadlier than the Male? The thought provoking Self Publishing session with Alexandra Sokoloff and Allan Guthrie, and the New Crimes panel with debut authors Lucy Ribchester (The Hourglass Factory), Chris Dolan (Potter’s Field), SJI Holliday (Black Wood) and Mark Legatt (Names of the Dead) – which all sound like fabulous reads.

In the afternoon, in a brief pause between practices, I did get along to the Breaking the Law panel which had dynamic law buffs Steve Cavanagh, Neil White and Jeffrey Siger, along with Craig Sisterson, talking about the difference between the law in crime thrillers and crime fact, how they draw on their real life experiences in their writing, and the legal thrillers that they especially admire. After that, it was a quick sprint to get ready for the Crime in the Coo before meeting my fellow Slice Girls for one final practice (more about that on the blog tomorrow!)

(c) Eoin Carey

(c) Eoin Carey

After a late, late night on Saturday, my start on Sunday wasn’t especially early! The first event I got along to was the Thriller panel with Simon Kernick, Tom Wood, G.J. Brown and Mason Cross. In a lively debate they talked locations – whether to visit them or not, and the perils if you don’t, the fun of writing “lone wolf” characters, and about their routes to publication (the key, so they say, is not to let rejection stop you).

Then, with the sky getting darker by the minute, it was a short walk up the hill to the bowling green at Cowane’s Hospital where the Bloody Scotland Crime Writers Football Match: Scotland v England was happening. After Scotland’s convincing win last year there was a lot at stake, and as the game kicked off both teams looked very determined. In a tense game, where the players had to contend with alternating sunshine and pouring rain, the two sides looked pretty evenly matched with goal keepers Luca Veste (England) and Craig Robertson (Scotland) kept busy as both sides battled it out to win.

(c) Eoin Carey

(c) Eoin Carey

At the end of the match, the score was 5-5.

The Scotland goals came from Mark Stanton, Christopher Brookmyre, and Doug Johnstone (3). For England the scorers were Vincent Holland-Keane (2), Col Bury (2) and Howard Linskey. The team captains – Ian Rankin (Scotland) and Simon Kernick (England) held the trophy aloft and then, as the rain got heavier, it was time to trot back down the hill (to the bar!).

The final event of the festival was Literary Agent, Jenny Brown, interviewing bestselling crime thriller writer, Linwood Barclay, who was on his first visit to Scotland. To a packed audience, Linwood talked about his writing career, his latest book Broken Promise – the first of a sequence of three connected stories – and on creating a story with a killer hook. Very interesting and highly entertaining, this was the perfect session to end the festival with. Then it was back to the bar, for one final night, before setting off home the next morning.

Jenny Brown interviewing Linwood Barclay (c) Eoin Carey

Jenny Brown interviewing Linwood Barclay (c) Eoin Carey

Next year the Bloody Scotland Crime Writing Festival runs from 9 – 11 September 2016. If you love crime fiction then you absolutely need to be there – put the dates in your diary and book a hotel, now! Trust me, this is one festival that you won’t want to miss out on.

But, of course, there’s something that I haven’t told you about in this blog post – just what happened at Crime in the Coo on Saturday night.

If you want to know, pop back tomorrow for my “(Not so) Secret Diary of a Slice Girl post. 

In the meantime, here’s a sneaky peep …

The Slice Girls on the bar at The Curly Coo (c) Eoin Carey

The Slice Girls on the bar at The Curly Coo (c) Eoin Carey

CTG Reviews: The Samaritan by Mason Cross

cover image

cover image

What the blurb says: “When the mutilated body of a young woman is discovered in the Santa Monica Mountains, LAPD Detective Jessica Allen knows she’s seen this MO before – two and a half years ago on the other side of the country. A sadistic serial killer has been operating undetected for a decade, preying on lone female drivers who have broken down. The press dub the killer ‘The Samaritan’, but with no leads and a killer who leaves no traces, the police investigation quickly grinds to a halt.

That’s when Carter Blake shows up to volunteer his services. He’s a skilled manhunter with an uncanny ability to predict the Samaritan’s next moves. At first, Allen and her colleagues are suspicious. After all, their new ally shares some uncomfortable similarities to the man they’re tracking. But as the Samaritan takes his slaughter to the next level, Blake must find a way to stop him … even if it means bringing his own past crashing down on top of him.”

Since reading the first couple of chapters of The Samaritan in a teaser sampler last September I’ve been dying to get my hands on this latest book by Mason Cross. And let me tell you, the wait has certainly been worth it!

The Samaritan is packed with all the trademark heart-stopping action, break-neck pace, and twisting-turning plotlines that made Mason’s debut novel – The Killing Season – such a huge success.

In The Samaritan we also get to find out more about the past of mysterious ‘people finder’ Carter Blake (although don’t worry, he’s still pretty damn mysterious!). Jessica Allen is a great female lead – strong, determined and courageous in the face of extreme danger. She reluctantly accepts Blake’s assistance, but is less inclined to completely trust him. As they each follow their own lines of enquiry, gradually closing in on this most brutally sadistic of serial killers, they both become targets. Question is, can they get to the killer before the killer gets them?

Set in Florida and California, The Samaritan showcases some great locations (including one very creepy and atmospheric one that I can’t mention – sorry, it’d be too much of a spoiler) to create a vivid backdrop to the story.

With great characters, fab locations and a super-twisty plot, The Samaritan is an absolute page-turner. And I already can’t wait for the next Carter Blake novel – I think this is a series that’s going to run and run.

A fabulous must-read for thriller lovers – and one of my top reads of 2015 so far – I can’t recommend this book highly enough!

 

[with thanks to Orion Books for my copy of The Samaritan]

 

 

Events Alert: BritCrime 2015 – a free online crime fiction festival on 11-13 July!

BritCrime Festival logo

BritCrime organiser and author, Helen Smith

BritCrime organiser and author, Helen Smith

BritCrime 2015 is a brand new sparkly crime fiction festival that will run for the first time from 11 – 13 July 2015. Instigated by author Helen Smith, the festival will feature more than forty crime authors taking part over the three-day festival.

The free festival – yes, that’s right – FREE – will take place entirely online. There’ll be live Q&A panel discussions on the BritCrime Facebook page as well as ‘Meet us in the (virtual) Bar’ sessions for late night chat and japes.

In the run up to the festival there’ll be lots of exciting things going on – giveaways, video sessions and interactive Google Hangouts. You can also sign up to get the festival email updates – and be entered into the draw to win a Kindle Paperwhite.

Participating authors include Quentin Bates, Jenny Blackhurst, Rebecca Bradley, Graeme Cameron, Steve Cavanagh, Tammy Cohen, Mason Cross, Julia Crouch, Eva Dolan, Steven Dunne, Mark Edwards, Chris Ewan, Paul Finch, Helen Giltrow, Sarah Hilary, Susi Holliday, Jane Isaac, Amanda Jennings, Emma Kavanagh, Anya Lipska, Colette McBeth, M J McGrath, Fergus McNeill, Clare Mackintosh, Michael J Malone, Ava Marsh, Alex Marwood, K T Medina, Daniel Pembrey, J F Penn, Nick Quantrill, Marnie Riches, Craig Robertson, Mel Sherratt, Alexandra Sokoloff, Helen Smith, C L Taylor, Simon Toyne, Luca Veste, Louise Voss, Sarah Ward – that’s A LOT of authors!!

Author, Mason Cross

Author, Mason Cross

And you can ask them anything! Want to know what sparked the idea for a book? – you can ask them; want to learn how to pick locks or how to turn your teenage diary into a murder story? – there’ll be tips for that too; wondering what it’s like to go from real life detective to crime fiction writer? – that’s something you can ask as well.

On Saturday 11th and Sunday 12th July the live Q&A sessions will run from midday to 10pm (UK time) with the ‘Meet us in the Bar’ sessions live after the panels from 10pm to midnight.

On Monday 13th July there’ll be highlights from the BritCrime Festival, a report from ThrillerFest (New York), BritCrime authors on tour: looking forward to Harrogate, Bloody Scotland and Bouchercon, and ‘What’s next for BritCrime? – more exciting stuff to come.’

Author, Eva Dolan

Author, Eva Dolan

So whether you love murder mysteries, police procedurals, private investigators, thrillers, romantic suspense or domestic noir (or all of them!) by getting online and involved, you’ll be able to take part in this fantastic new festival wherever you live – and FOR FREE!

So be sure to follow @BritCrime on Twitter, and then hop on over to the festival website at www.britcrime.com to find out more, register, and start thinking of all the questions you’d like to ask the authors …

See you at BritCrime!

CTG Reviews: The Killing Season by Mason Cross

 

The Killing Season cover image

The Killing Season cover image

The Killing Season was one of my top reads of 2014. It’s now out in paperback, and to celebrate I thought I’d re-run my review …

What the blurb says: “When Caleb Wardell, the infamous ‘Chicago Sniper’, escapes from death row two weeks before his execution, the FBI calls on the services of Carter Blake, a man with certain specialised talents whose skills lie in finding those who don’t want to be found. A man to whom Wardell is no stranger.

Along with Elaine Banner, an ambitious special agent juggling life as a single mother with her increasingly high-flying career, Blake must track Wardell down as he cuts a swathe across America, apparently killing at random.

But Blake and Banner soon find themselves sidelined from the case. And as they try desperately to second guess a man who kills purely for the thrill of it, they uncover a hornets’ nest of lies and corruption. Now Blake must break the rules and go head to head with the FBI if he is to stop Wardell and expose a deadly conspiracy that will rock the country.”

The Killing Season has everything I love about action thrillers – the intrigue, the danger, the chase and the multi-layered characters. And, it’s Mason Cross’ debut novel, which makes it all the more impressive.

The main character, Carter Blake, is something of an enigma – charismatic, highly skilled, and at the top of his game. But he doesn’t let power and politics get in the way of his investigation, and he makes sure justice is brought, whatever the personal cost. So pairing up with Elaine Banner makes for an interesting working relationship – she’s career-driven and has her eyes on the next promotion, working with a talented maverick like Blake gives her a set of problems she can well do without.

The antagonist – sniper Caleb Wardell – is a smart and cunning adversary, engaging Blake and Banner in a deadly game of cat and mouse. The tension is high from the get-go and just keeps on rising.

So as Banner and Blake pursue Wardell, following the evidence, trying to find a pattern and anticipate his next move, the body count continues to rise. Blake’s the only person who is able to get close, and Banner starts to realise that sometimes the only way to get the job done right is to step away from procedure and follow your instinct.

As Blake and Banner get closer to the truth, they become targets – in the sights of Wardell and someone in the Agency itself – question is, can they get to them both in time, and get out alive?

I cannot sing this novel’s praises highly enough – it’s a joy to read, utterly engaging and kept me hooked right from the first page to the last. There’s high stakes and high tension, and the chemistry between Blake and Banner sizzles off the page.

If you love action thrillers, if you love crime fiction, go and read this book. I’m sure you won’t regret it.

Highly Recommended.

[with thanks to Orion for my copy of The Killing Season]

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