CTG Reviews: Dead Man Walking by Paul Finch

Dead Man Walking cover image

Dead Man Walking cover image

What the blurb says: “DS ‘Heck’ Heckenburg is back and facing his most challenging criminal yet in unfamiliar territory. But tracking down a psychotic serial killer with the upper hand isn’t the only issue – it’s knowing who you can trust.

Consigned to a remote valley in the Lake District, DS Mark ‘Heck’ Heckenburg is getting used to a quieter life – a far cry from the bloodbath of his former division, the Serial Crimes Unit. But wherever Heck goes, trouble is never far behind.

Unknown to Heck, ‘The Stranger’ has returned. Last seen on Dartmoor ten years earlier, this prolific serial killer has found a new home. As a dense, frozen mist descends on the Lakes, The Stranger returns to his old ways, starting with two young women lost high on the hills. Only one girl is ever found – barely alive – but able to confirm Heck’s worst fears.

As The Stranger lays siege to the remote community, Heck helplessly watches as the killer plays his cruel game, letting off his trademark call before viciously picking off his victims.

And with no way to get word out of the valley, Heck has no choice but to play ball …”

Heck has started to build a new life for himself away from the stresses and unrelenting pressure of the Serial Crimes Unit. He’s got a new woman in his life – Hazel Carter, owner of The Witch’s Kettle pub – and a keen and resourceful work partner in DC Mary-Ellen O’Rourke. Things are looking good, but that’s all about to change!

This is a rollercoaster of a read from the get-go. Using the beautiful yet remote setting of the Lake District to the maximum, The Stranger waits until severe weather descends, cloaking the community and surrounding hillsides in freezing fog. One by one, the killer picks off their victims – first those dwelling outside the main village, then becoming bolder – targeting police officers, cutting off power and telephones, and isolating the community from the outside world.

As the body count rises, Heck has to grapple with an added complication. DSU Gemma Piper – his previous boss, and former lover – was a member of the original team assigned to catch The Stranger before he disappeared ten years earlier. When she hears that the killer has returned, she travels from London to the Lake District, pitching up in Heck’s new life and bringing all the memories, and the tensions, from before with her.

Told through multiple points of view, the reader follows Heck as he tries to alert the residents to the danger in their wake and then, as the killer closes in, seeks to get them to safety; you also get a wider perspective of what’s happening in other parts of the small community through the eyes of Gemma, Hazel, and a number of other villagers (and victims).

The sense of isolation and disorientation caused by the fog ramps up the tension as the killer stalks their prey. As the loyalties and motivations of those close to him are called into question, Heck has to decide who he can trust, and who he can’t. If he makes a mistake it’s likely to be fatal.

Packed with atmosphere, and super-charged with action, this is a creepy, unsettling and suspense-filled read.

Highly recommended.

 

[many thanks to Avon for my copy of Dead Man Walking]

 

CTG Reviews: The Target by David Baldacci

The Target cover image

The Target cover image

What the blurb says: “Government operatives Will Robie and Jessica Reel are faced with a lethal mission. An attack from North Korea looks likely as US involvement in an attempted coup is revealed, and a bond of trust has been broken at the very highest level.

Chung-Cha is a young woman who was raised in the infamous Yodok concentration camp. It’s a place where honour, emotion and compassion don’t exist. Cold, calculating and highly skilled, Chung-Cha has been trained to kill. And the task she has been given is to destroy the enemy at all costs.

A dangerous and deadly operation of cat and mouse plays out between East and West. But who will be hunter and who will be hunted when the true target is finally revealed?”

The Target hooked me into the story from the very first page. Will Robie and Jessica Reel make for a great, if rather unconventional, duo. Both highly specialist government operatives with years of difficult missions behind them, trusting other people doesn’t come easy to either of them, but with each other they’ve forged a rare bond. Which is good, because on their last mission they went against orders and now the Director is gunning for them, determined to test their loyalties to the limit before he’ll let them back into the field.

When a threat at the very highest level of national security is made, Robie and Reel are thrust into a succession of high danger missions that take every ounce of teamwork and skill they have to survive. This book is action packed and fast paced, but it also explores the characters of Robie and Reel, revealing more about their personal lives and those they hold dear (and would protect unconditionally).

One of the stand out elements of the novel is the deadly operative Chung-Cha. Raised in the Yodok concentration camp in horrendous conditions and with brutal treatment, she is a lethal assassin who strikes without emotion, or so her commanders would believe. Her journey is a compelling, shocking and thought-provoking narrative that adds another layer of emotion and depth to the story.

With high stakes, and ever-rising tension, this book is a must-read for thriller fans.

Highly recommended.

 

[with thanks to PAN for my copy of THE TARGET]

 

CTG’s Top Reads of 2014

There have been so many wonderful books published this year it’s been really hard to narrow it down to my most favourite. So, instead of my top five picks, this year I’ve made it my top nine (!).

Here they are, my top picks of 2014 …

Truth or Dare cover image

Truth or Dare cover image

TRUTH OR DARE by Tania Carver (Sphere)

Tania Carver is fast becoming one of my favorite authors. Every book is fresh and inventive, and as readers of the series will have come to expect, unflinchingly dark, creepy, and nail-bitingly tense.

TRUTH OR DARE starts with a Darren Richards being forced to make a horrific choice – his life, or that of his family. Right from the outset, the ‘Lawgiver’ shows just how serious he is about his mission to serve justice where he believes the criminal justice system has failed. Enter Detective Inspector Phil Brennan and his team – investigating what looks set to become a serial killer case in Phil’s new home of Birmingham.

What I especially admired in this book is the skillful way the author touches on issues of morality, social justice and economic deprivation in relation to attitudes and motivations towards crime, without ever becoming preachy. The characters feel real and fully drawn; the settings gritty, grimy and highly atmospheric.

Tightly plotted, with a rapid pace and twists that will blindside you, this is a super-moreish read.

The Good Girl cover image

The Good Girl cover image

THE GOOD GIRL by Mary Kubica (Harlequin MIRA)

This spellbinding debut thriller uncovers just how many dark secrets can be hidden behind a perfect family image. Schoolteacher, Mia Dennett, turned her back on her family’s extravagant lifestyle to work as an inner-city teacher and make her own way in the world. But when her boyfriend stands her up one time too many, a spare-of-the-moment decision to go home with the smooth and attractive Colin has horrifying consequences for more than just Mia.

Told through three main viewpoints – the mother, Eve, the kidnapper, Colin, and the cop, Gabe – each character shows the reader a different perspective on the events, and on Mia, leading up to, during and following the kidnapping.

With the viewpoints and timeline told out-of-sequence, the story builds the tension to the max as the details of what happened to Mia are uncovered. It’s a complex tale of deceit, jealously, fear, and love played out against the bustling, bright lights of Chicago and the frozen, unforgiving landscape of rural Minnesota in winter.

I found this artfully crafted story brutal at times, and yet so beautiful that it made me cry (and I can’t remember the last time a story did that). A stunning debut.

The Bones Beneath cover image

The Bones Beneath cover image

THE BONES BENEATH by Mark Billingham (Sphere)

THE BONES BENEATH takes Tom Thorne away from his home turf, reluctantly chaperoning one of the most dangerous criminals from his past on a trip to Bardsey Island to retrieve the body of a teenager. Part road-trip, part closed location mystery, the suspense builds from the outset.

Stuart Nicklin is a master manipulator without a shred of remorse for his victims and their families, yet he says he’s willing to lead the police to the body of one of his early kills in order for the boy’s mother to get closure. The catch –Thorne must be the police officer to escort him. But Thorne knows the trip isn’t about any sense of conscience Nicklin has, so why does he want to take a trip to the island now?

As Thorne and his team, along with prisoners Nicklin and Batchelor, make the journey there’s a real sense of impending doom.

The remote island makes the group geographically isolated. At the mercy of the weather, and limited by the small amount of equipment they could bring, the team start their search for the body. But finding it is only their first challenge.

The relationship between Thorne and Nicklin is grating and tense. Nicklin tries his upmost to taunt and provoke Thorne, while Thorne battles to keep his reactions in check. They’re well matched adversaries – smart, savvy and both determined to stop the other getting the upper hand. But as the full extent of Nicklin’s plan is put into play, the body count rises, and Thorne is forced to make an impossible choice.

This tense, suspenseful and claustrophobically gripping story hooked me in from the beginning and kept me reading into the early hours because I just couldn’t put the book down. A truly fabulous read.

The Distance cover image

The Distance cover image

THE DISTANCE by Helen Giltrow (Orion)

This is a stylish, espionage-type thriller with a bold and courageous female lead character. Karla (and her alter-ego Charlotte Alton) is super-smart, brave and principled (in her own very distinct way). But this job is different. To get a hit-man into ‘The Programme’ – an experimental prison that is meant to be impossible to break in or out of, and the hit-man is Johanssen – a guy she has a history with.

Karla takes the job, but as Johanssen assumes a new identity in order to enter The Programme, Karla gets increasingly suspicious of the client and their motives. The target of the hit is a woman, and the only information they have on her is a photo and an assurance that she did ‘something bad. Yet she seemingly has no identity, no history, and there is no record of her being inside the prison. Still, Karla has seen the CCTV footage – she knows that the target is inside and very much exists.

Concerned for Johanssen’s safety, Karla digs deeper to find the identity of the target and, in doing so, unravels the complex web of lies, bribes and murder. As she gets closer to uncovering the violent truth hidden behind the hit, Karla, and those close to her, become targets.

Set in the near future and played out over twenty-four days, the story is packed with tension. It’s told in the present tense, which adds to the momentum, and hammers along at a tremendous pace. The plot twists and turns, then twists some more and turns again. Dark, edgy and, at times, brutal, this is a stylish and highly original debut.

The Killing Season cover image

The Killing Season cover image

THE KILLING SEASON by Mason Cross (Orion)

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 Special Agent 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 serial killer 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.

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, go and read this book. I’m sure you won’t regret it.

The Long Way Home cover image

The Long Way Home cover image

LONG WAY HOME by Eva Dolan (Harvill Secker)

Another fabulous debut of 2014 is LONG WAY HOME. DS Mel Ferreira and DI Dushan Zigic from the Peterborough Hate Crimes Unit are called in to investigate the murder of an unidentified man, burnt alive in a garden shed. As they start their investigation the man is identified as an immigrant, but no one will talk about the murder. There are plenty of suspects though; from the owners of the shed who seem to be hiding something, to a convicted arsonist, and the local men who use (and abuse) cheap labour – the victim seems to have made plenty of enemies. Question is, who killed him and why?

A compelling and moving story, from the brutal murder, to the horrendous conditions immigrant workers are found to be living in, their callous treatment and the cheapness of human life to the trafficking gangs and local racketeers. DI Zigic and DS Ferreira battle to bring the guilty to justice against the backdrop of a city where the undercurrent of radical tension is high and the threat of violence never far away.

Beautifully crafted, artfully plotted and deeply thought provoking, this stunning debut is the beginning of a fantastic new crime series.

Better Off Dead cover image

Better Off Dead cover image

BETTER OFF DEAD by Tom Wood (Sphere)

BETTER OFF DEAD has terrific pace, a contemporary, gritty feel and, rather unexpected for a novel whose protagonist is an assassin, a real depth of heart.

In this story, Victor (the Assassin) is called by an old contact, now enemy – Russian crime boss Norimov – and asked to protect his estranged daughter who is being targeted by an unidentified gang. At first Victor refuses, but finally agrees to find and protect Gisele in honour of her dead mother, who was his friend.

In London, Victor realises that finding Gisele may be more problematic than he’d first anticipated. When he locates Gisele things aren’t any clearer. She has no idea who is after her, and is highly reluctant to go with him. He manages to persuade her, and that’s when the serious attacks begin.

Forced to rely on his instincts and training, Victor battles to keep Gisele safe as they try to unravel the real motive driving those that are targeting her. The bond that grows between Gisele and Victor makes them an engaging pair. Gisele’s a fast learner and a brave co-protagonist. She’s also rather adept at challenging Victor, acting rather like a moral compass in the more violent moments.

With some fabulous action scenes, and ever increasing stakes, this is a breath-taking read from start to finish. A must read for fans of action thrillers.

Dear Daughter cover image

Dear Daughter cover image

DEAR DAUGHTER by Elizabeth Little (Harvill Secker)

Told from the point of view of Jane “Janie” Jenkins DEAR DAUGHTER tracks the IT girl turned criminal as she searches to find the truth about her mother’s murder – did she do it? If she didn’t, who did and why?

It’s an action-packed, cross-country race of a read as Janie follows the few clues she has to the secrets in her mother’s past – the family Janie’s never met, the childhood her mother never spoke about – hunting out anyone who can help her find out what links her glamorous, wealthy mother to a small town out in the middle of nowhere.

But it’s not easy with the media, and an especially determined blogger, out to find her. So Janie goes undercover, transforming her super bitchy, razor sharp-witted, and hair to die for self into a more wallflower-esq alter ego. And it works, for a while. But as she digs deeper, and starts to uncover the secrets hidden for so long by her mother, and those of other members of the close-knit community, her true identity – and the danger that brings – is discovered.

Janie is a real love-to-hate protagonist – smart and resourceful, and I loved riding along with her on the hunt for the truth. Mystery, suspense, a non-stop pace and a wonderfully quirky, strong female narrator – this book has them all. I read it in a single weekend.

The Dying Place cover image

The Dying Place cover image

THE DYING PLACE by Luca Veste (Avon)

When the body of a murdered teenager is found outside a church, Murphy and Rossi are called in to investigate. As they delve deeper into the case it becomes clear that someone, or some people, are taking teenagers off the street and holding them against their will, trying to ‘re-train’ them through a brutal form of national service.

Veste’s Liverpool is an unsettling, dangerous place where frustrations between the older generation and the young run high. Told through multiple points of view, the story highlights the impact of violent crime on victims’ families – on the parents whose children don’t ever return home and on the adult children whose elderly parents fall victim to teenage gangs. It also shows how grief can twist into vengeance and how that can be a powerful motivator, exploring the theme of vigilante justice in an up-close and disturbingly convincing way through the eyes of the characters.

As in Dead Gone, Murphy and Rossi are a brilliantly paired double act; the strong bond between them showing through their ever-present banter, and their unswerving loyalty in the face of adversity.

A fast-paced police procedural that keeps you guessing right to the end, THE DYING PLACE is a truly gripping read.

 

So that was 2014. I can’t wait to find out what wonderful books 2015 has in store …

CTG Reviews: WANT YOU DEAD by Peter James

Want You Dead cover image

Want You Dead cover image

What the blurb says: When Red Westwood meets handsome, charming and rich Bryce Laurent through an online dating agency, there is an instant attraction. But as their love blossoms, the truth about his past, and his dark side, begins to emerge. Everything he has told Red about himself turns out to be a tissue of lies, and her infatuation with him gradually turns to terror. Within a year, and under police protection, she evicts him from her flat and her life. But Red’s nightmare is only just beginning. For Bryce is obsessed with her, and he intends to destroy everything and everyone she has know and loved – and then her too…”

DCI Roy Grace returns in the latest book in Peter James’ best selling detective series – Want You Dead. He’s juggling the new responsibilities of parenthood with planning for his approaching wedding when his team is called to inspect the scene of an apparent suicide. But the suicide is suspicious, and when the dead man is found to be the current boyfriend of Red Westwood, a women whose previous boyfriend – Bryce Laurent – is known for his violent outbursts, Grace and the team are pulled into a deadly race against time to find the killer before he strikes again.

Red is a survivor of domestic abuse, determined to rebuild her life after being betrayed and brutalised by the man she loved. She’s started a new career, and is beginning to date again. But when her boyfriend is found dead, and she starts to catch glimpses of her ex – Bryce Laurent – her confidence begins to crumble.

Bryce is a smart and terrifying villain, able to be both utterly charming and brutally violent. Obsessed with Red, and destroying her and all she holds dear, anyone who threatens his success instantly becomes a target.

Told in short chapters, with points of view alternating between viewpoint characters including Grace, Red Westwood, Bryce Laurent, and Sandy (Roy Grace’s wife who disappeared many years previously) the tension continues to rise as Brighton becomes the setting for a series of devastating fires. Alongside the case, Grace and his fiancé – Cleo – prepare for their wedding, but unknown to them, in the background someone is watching – Sandy, Grace’s first wife, who has now been declared legally dead.

The story twists and turns at break-neck pace towards its dramatic showdown with plenty of shocks along the way. It’s a must-read for fans of the series, and all those who love police procedurals.

Highly recommended.

 

 

Your chance to win: The Escape and The Target by David Baldacci #bookgiveaway

This week I’m thrilled to be partnering up with those wonderful folks over at Pan MacMillan as a stop on the David Baldacci Blog Tour and to offer one lucky reader the chance to win a copy of David Baldacci’s latest books – The Escape (out in hardback last week) and The Target (published in paperback last week).

Here’s some more about the books …

The Escape cover image

The Escape cover image

The Escape by David Baldacci

What the blurb says: “Military CID investigator John Puller has returned from his latest case to learn that his brother, Robert, once a major in the US Air Force and an expert in nuclear weaponry and cyber-security, has escaped from the Army’s most secure prison. Preliminary investigations show that Robert – convicted of treason – may have had help in his breakout. Now he’s on the run, and he’s the military’s number one target.

John Puller has a dilemma. Which comes first: loyalty to his country, or to his brother? Blood is thicker than water, but Robert has state secrets which certain people will kill for. John does not know for sure the true nature of Robert’s crimes, nor if he’s even guilty. It quickly becomes clear, however, that his brother’s responsibilities were powerful and far-reaching.

With the help of US intelligence officer Veronica Knox, both brothers move closer to the truth from their opposing direction. As the case begins to force John Puller into a place he thought he’d never be – on the other side of the law – even his skills as an investigator, and his strength as a warrior, might not be enough to save him. Or his brother.”

With masterful storytelling and a quick-fire pace that’ll have you hurtling through the pages unable to put the book down, The Escape is a must-read for all thriller fans.

 

The Target cover image

The Target cover image

The Target by David Baldacci

What the blurb says: “A time to kill – or a time to die? The mission is to enter one of the most dangerous countries in the world. The target is one of the toughest to reach. The result could be momentous – or it could be Armageddon.

There is no margin for error. US government operatives Will Robie and Jessica Reel have to prove they are still the best team there is. But are they invincible when pitted against an agent whose training has been under conditions where most would perish?

An old man is dying in an Alabama prison hospital, it seems there is one more evil game he has still to play. And it’s a game which comes close to home for Reel and Robie. But this time the stakes might be way too high.”

The Target hooked me into the story from the very first page. Will Robie and Jessica Reel make for a great, if rather unconventional, duo. With high stakes, and ever-rising tension, this book will leave you breathless.

About the author …

David Baldacci has published twenty-eight novels – all have been national and international bestsellers, and several have been adapted for film and tv. His books have been translated into more than forty-five languages and sold in over eighty countries. He’s received many accolades for his writing, and most recently was inducted into the International Crime Writing Hall of Fame, and received the Barnes & Noble Writers for Writers Award. You can find out more about him by popping over to his website http://davidbaldacci.com/ and follow him on Twitter @davidbaldacci

So, to the competition …

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

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 on Twitter, so that 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 9pm GMT on Sunday 30th November 2014 (6) The judge’s decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into.

Good luck!

 

The Escape by David Baldacci is out now £18.99 (Macmillan)

The Target by David Baldacci is out now £7.99 (Pan)

For more opportunities to win David Baldacci books check out the rest of the blog tour stops …

 

David Baldacci Blog Tour Poster

David Baldacci Blog Tour Poster

CTG Reviews: Madras Miasma by Brian Stoddart

Madras Miasma cover image

Madras Miasma cover image

What the blurb says: “Madras in the 1920s. The British are slowly losing the grip on the subcontinent. The end of the colonial enterprise is in sight and the city on India’s east coast is teeming with intrigue. A grisly murder takes place against the backdrop of political tension and Superintendent Le Fanu, a man of impeccable investigative methods, is called in to find out who killed a respectable young British girl and dumped her in a canal, her veins clogged with morphine.
As Le Fanu, a man forced to keep his own personal relationship a secret for fear of scandal in the face British moral standards, begins to investigate, he quickly slips into a quagmire of Raj politics, rebellion and nefarious criminal activities that threaten not just to bury his case but the fearless detective himself.”

Madras Miasma is the first book in the Detective Le Fanu mystery series. Set in the 1920s it gives a glimpse into the life and challenges of a forward thinking detective at a time of rising unrest and change in India.

Le Fanu is an engaging protagonist. His meticulous attention to detail reminded me a little of Agatha Christie’s Poirot, and his determination to follow the evidence, without bowing to those in society who expected special treatment, makes him a likeable and courageous hero.

The detective, Le Fanu, and his Sergeant, Habi, soon discover that the young woman found dumped in a canal is a ‘fisherwoman’ from England – an unmarried lady on a ‘fishing’ expedition to India to find a wealthy husband. As they track her movements during the final days of her life, they find a web of secrets and scandalous goings on, and come under increasing pressure from senior officials to modify their investigation.

What I especially enjoyed about this novel was the strong sense of place and the vivid descriptions of setting, society and customs which pulled me into the narrative and made me feel the heat of the sun, the rising political tensions, and the challenges between the old guard and more progressive police work.

Packed with mystery and suspense, this is an engaging read.

Recommended.

 

To find out more about Brian Stoddart and his writing hop on over to his blog at http://professorbrianstoddart.com/category/a-madras-miasma/ 

[with thanks to Brian Stoddart for my copy of Madras Miasma]

CTG Interviews: P D Viner, author of Summer of Ghosts

Summer of Ghosts cover image

Summer of Ghosts cover image

 

Today I’m delighted to welcome author P D Viner – author of the recently published Summer of Ghosts – to the CTG blog. 

So, to the questions …

Your latest book – Summer of Ghosts – came out a few weeks ago. Can you tell us a bit about it?

August was an incredibly busy month as on August 1st my second novella, The Ugly Man was released as a free download and on August 14th the paperback of my first novel, The Last winter of Dani Lancing, came out as well as the hardback of Summer of Ghosts.

So, I want to start by telling you that The Last Winter of Dani Lancing is the story of three people who have been traumatised by violence and left damaged and untethered from life as something happened to the girl they loved. In 1989 Dani Lancing went missing and for 22 years her parents, and the man who loves her, are frozen in their pain and loss. Her mother, Patty, was a crime journalist and she gave up her work to devote all her time to investigating the crime. Jim Lancing, Dani’s father, is left alone except for the spirit (if that is what it is) of his daughter who lives with him – and Dani’s boyfriend, Tom Bevans becomes a policeman as he needs to make up for the fact that he could not protect her. Tom Bevans, who rises to the rank of Detective Superintendent, but who is known to all his colleagues as The Sad Man due to the incredible loss he bears with him, heads up a serious crimes unit that deals with sexually motivated murders of young women. These three characters, the trinity of the pained, are all haunted by what happened to Dani in some way, they are all paralysed by their grief for 22 years. Then, out of the blue, a clue is revealed – something that could reveal what happened to her all those years ago. But it leads all three of them back down into the hell of Dani’s death… they will discover the truth of her death but it is at a great cost.

Summer of Ghosts (Hardback out Aug 14 2014) continues the story six months after the first novel. Jim and Patty are dealing with the truth of Dani’s final days (spoilers) but Tom has had a kind of breakdown. For six months he has wallowed in his self-pity and sense of loss – but he has to get back to work as the beautiful skin murderer has returned. Four years before, Tom swore to three mothers he would solve the murders of their daughters… but he failed. Now there may be a fourth victim – the daughter of the man who helped Tom try to find Dani all those years ago. A man called Franco, who also heads London’s biggest drugs gang – a man who is ruthless and cruel, a killer. Together he and Tom must track down the most dangerous man in Europe. Oh and Tom needs the best investigator he knows to help him: Patty Lancing.

Together they follow a train of events that take them from Greenwich to death inside a royal palace in Brighton, to the heart of darkness inside a war in Africa and finally to a showdown with a corrupt policeman and a man who has killed hundreds if not thousands. And, heartbreakingly, there is more about the death of Dani Lancing for her parents to uncover. For them the nightmare will not end.

So, Summer of Ghosts carries the story begun in The Last Winter of Dani Lancing, on a step further but it can be read as a stand-alone thriller without the sense that you are missing something. The plot twists and it is a real page turner, but the intention is also to drag you into the emotional lives of Tom, Patty and Jim. Reviewer and crime writer Stav Sherez said: Summer of Ghosts is strong, assured and with a plot that will poke your heart. I always love fiction that draws you into the lives of the characters – and that is always my intention.

 

And does Summer of Ghosts end the story for Tom Bevans and Patty and Jim lancing?

No, I have always planned the mystery of Dani Lancing to emerge over three books and there are also four novellas that deepen the understanding of the characters. Two of those novellas are already available as FREE downloads from all good ebook stockists. They are The Sad Man, which is a 110 page book that details the case in 1999 that made Tom Bevans’ career and allowed him to set-up operation Ares – his serious crimes unit that investigates sexually motivated, multiple murders. The second is The Ugly Man (120 pages) and is set in the heatwave of 1976 and has Patty dispatched by her newspaper to a sleepy Derbyshire village to investigate a brutal murder – and it leads to her uncovering thirty years of secrets and lies.

Next year the cycle of stories will be concluded by a third novel and two more novellas. It will not be the end of the line for Patty or Tom but will conclude this story. I have always loved linked books and while each one can be read alone, if you do read them as a set, then the tension does build and build. I hope when they are all done that my publisher will release a box set or a single volume collection with the novellas fitted in between the novels as I intend them to be read… that will be very exciting.

The Last Winter of Dani Lancing cover image

The Last Winter of Dani Lancing cover image

 

Summer of Ghosts examines some strong themes including loss and grief. What was it that sparked the inception of the story – the characters or the plot (or something else)? 

When I began writing The Last Winter of Dani Lancing (then titled Three Drops of Blood), I had not thought about going beyond that story. TLWODL is dark and full of rage and pain – all the resentment I felt about my business being destroyed (I had a small audiobook company with my sister and we produced audio books of Shakespeare and the classics for GCSE and A level students) in the financial meltdown and the fear I had surrounding being the father to a two-year old when I was unemployed and in my forties… well, all of that was channeled into the book. Grief and just what we will do for love and to revenge ourselves on those who hurt our family – that was the touchstone that set the tone for the first book. As I wrote that story there was a tipping point, and I became so engrossed in the character’s lives that I began to imagine further – where they could go after the big reveal in Durham cathedral – the point where they finally know the truth of Dani’s disappearance and what happened to her. Then I thought: okay, what would happen to Jim and Patty after the truth was finally revealed. Could they stay together now? How did you cope with knowing the truth after twenty-two years of being in the darkness? How would they cope… that was the question, and the same was true for Tom; for him the finale of TLWODL is like a bomb exploding. I had to know more!

And that is one of the things that I often find series of books (and especially crime) gets wrong. The character just resets for the next book and is fine again… and I didn’t want that. I wanted the weight of the truth to sit heavily on my characters (especially as book three is going to beat them down to the essentials of their humanity) because that is life, human beings dwell in bad news, they get depressed and resentful and petty and angry and let stuff fester for months and years.

Summer of Ghosts keeps the sense of loss from the first books, though it becomes skewed as the world view shifts. Firstly we have three girls who have been murdered. We meet them in TLWODL as a background case – in fact we see Tom visiting the murder scene of the third victim – but in this book Tom is haunted by the fact that he failed these girls. We also have a major new character: Franco. Well I say new – actually we did meet him in the first book but he was a minor (though interesting) character then. Now he is the head of a large drugs ring and he wants out. He is a man who has killed many, created destruction everywhere he has gone… but… can he have a good heart? Could he, in some way, have a sense of morality, even if it is skewed and hard for us to see? That was what fascinated me about his life and the world he operated in – a world where violence is everywhere and life is cheap. It is the opposite of the world of the first book where one life is everything and one act of violence has destroyed the lives of Dani, Tom, Patty and Jim.

 

As a highly successful audio and film-maker, what was it that attracted you about writing fiction?

Success? Ha. As a film-maker I had some early success but after three years trying to make two projects I had written, I gave up and ran away to join the circus. The world of film is so tough and I just folded. I wrote two novels then and they lie under my bed like two deformed children. I feed them raw meat once in a while – but nobody was interested in them. Setting up my audio business was a way of being creative and making a living and working with actors and musicians with achievable budgets. I could direct hamlet with 21 actors and afford to make it and then sell it. They also won awards and got great reviews… but the business relied on library sales and after the financial crisis all libraries slashed their budgets and I was out of a job. I turned back to fiction writing as a way to salve my soul. Also I had a two year old and she needed me to pick her up from pre-school and have her two days a week (my remarkable wife has a real job) and so writing fitted the lifestyle I had. It was crazy to think that this time could get published – and so I didn’t think like that, I just wrote for me and I loved the puzzle of solving this mystery in my head. As it became more complex I had to get cleverer – writing crime is quite addictive you know. So that was that – I fell into an old love due to circumstance and (fingers crossed) this time it worked… as long as I keep killing.

 

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

It is somewhere between the two. Of course when I began TLWODL it was all fragmented as I learned how to craft a story over 100,000 words. With Summer of Ghosts, I had an idea of where I was going and I knew the ending – but it was the research process that filled out the bare bones. I spent a few days with the Sussex police – including a night out in a first response unit and with the 999 team – and that propelled areas of the story forward. The truth about being a professional writer as opposed to a part-time hopeful, is that you have deadlines to meet. I had less than 6 months to write Summer of Ghosts and so you have to be better prepared and plan more. That being said, every time I sat down to write the story would take me be surprise in so many ways. With the third book (in my head I am calling it The Fall of Hope) I have spent a day in a Victorian prison and spoken to a charity for victims. I know the broad outline of the book and have two notebooks full of ideas, but over the next 4 months I will write the first draft and it will take on life of its own.

 

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

Write. I did a two-year creative writing course that was excellent and it didn’t teach me to write but it challenged me to flex my writing muscle and try different styles and think about who I was and what I wanted to say. During the course I began the book and at the end of the course I had 67,000 words and I had shared almost all of it with ten people who had helped me grow my characters. Having people you trust to take the journey with you is great – but we all have different circumstances. If you want to get published you have to write a book. Judge your own efforts with a critical eye and don’t be afraid to throw out large swathes. Write and re-write and discover what makes you tick as a writer. Don’t be afraid.

 

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

Well there are only 4 months left and mostly I will use that to write the first draft of my third novel. As I said earlier the Dani Lancing mystery is 3 novels and 4 novellas, so I also have a novella to edit and a novella to write.

The other creative project, pinging about in my head, is a TV show I have written an extended outline for. This year I sold TV rights for TLWODL to Warner TV. It will almost certainly come to nothing but has been exciting (I do like a conference call with Hollywood) – but during the process I was thinking a lot about crime TV and was approached by a UK production team who also wanted to option Dani. I turned them down, but pitched them a new idea, written specifically for TV. They liked it, so I have written the 5 episode break-down and will make that into a script (in my spare time). It will probably never get made (I find it much easier to be pessimistic about TV and movies) – but I have really enjoyed writing it and I think it is bloody good. Anyway I shouldn’t get bored over the next six months.

 

A huge thank you to P D Viner for popping over to see us at the CTG blog and letting us grill him. It sounds like he’s going to be busy for good while yet!

To find out more about P D Viner and his books, hop on over to his website at: http://pdviner.com/

CTG Reviews: Personal by Lee Child

Personal by Lee Child cover image

Personal by Lee Child cover image

What the blurb says: Someone has taken a long-range shot at the French president but failed to kill him. The suspected sniper has serious skills and is a hard man to find. Reacher tracked him down once and put him in jail. Now he’s asked to hunt him again, and put him away permanently.
Tracking the shooter will take Reacher from France to England after a killer with a treacherous vendetta. He’ll need to uncover who did the hiring and what’s behind the assassination attempt before executing his orders.”

As a massive fan of Lee Child’s writing, I must confess that it was a huge thrill and a privilege to get to read an advance copy of PERSONAL.

In PERSONAL – the latest novel and nineteenth in the Jack Reacher series – Reacher spots an advert in the Personals from a military colleague asking him to get in touch. He owes this guy from way back and so Reacher being Reacher, he makes the call and finds himself pulled into a high profile case that threatens international security.

There’s been an attempt to assassinate the French president. The sniper fired from a range of fourteen hundred yards, more than three-quarters of a mile. There are very few people in the world that could have made the shot, and one of them has a bad history with Reacher. Question is, was he the one who pulled the trigger? And, if he was, can Reacher track him down before he tries again at the London G8 summit?

Partnering up with young agent Casey Nice, Reacher follows the trail, taking him from the US to Paris, on to London and back to the US. But with half-truths and bureaucracy at every turn, the inter-agency team remains a step behind their person of interest. With the time ticking away, Reacher takes matters into his own hands – in a way that only he can.

This is a fast paced, action packed story, with all the twists and turns you’d expect from a Reacher novel. Reacher himself is as witty and smart as ever, and a strong mentor for Casey on her first operational mission on overseas soil. And it’s great to see Reacher making a trip across to Europe. I particularly loved the London scenes, and picturing this great anti-hero in locations that I know.

Cinematic and slick, this heart-thumping, page-turning read is a must for all thriller fans.

Highly recommended.

 

PERSONAL is out today in the UK, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand, and on September 2nd in the US and Canada.

[with big thanks to Random House – Bantam Dell for my copy of PERSONAL]

Guest Blog: Michael Sears talks about storytelling, family and the importance of reading

Michael Sears

Michael Sears

Today, Michael Sears, Edgar-nominated and Shamus-winning author of Black Fridays, drops by the CTG blog to talk about storytelling, family and the importance of reading …

I come from a family of storytellers. There were five children and to get any attention in that crowd, you had better have a good tale to tell. My father left me both his sense of humor and his heart, but it was my mother who fed my love of reading and language.

She was a powerful story teller and still is; it is her voice that is most heard at a family gathering. My cousins tell about a time when she was visiting and in the middle of telling a good yarn, a paper napkin, too close to the dinner candle, burst into flame. Without pausing for as much as a deep breath, or missing a beat in her story, my mother poured her water glass over the conflagration, doused the fire, and wrapped up the whole mess in another napkin. They were all in awe of her.

The various adventures of Freddy the Pig, in a series of two dozen or so books by Walter R. Brooks, introduced to me the idea of character, despite the fact that the few humans in the stories barely spoke. Freddy, Jinx the cat, and the cow, Mrs. Wiggins were all sharply drawn, complex characters with points of view, strengths, and weaknesses that made them distinct. They were talking animals, but they were more human to me than the Hardy Boys, who I could never keep straight. Frank was the older one, right?

One of the many benefits of being an avid reader, is that when your nose is deep in a book, parents think you are working and leave you alone. I was not excused from chores or having to do homework, but they couldn’t insist that I play with my little brother while I was reading.

I remember sometime in high school telling my father that I was reading War and Peace and he asked me, “Why?” “Because it is a challenge,” I answered. “It is the longest book I have ever read.” I don’t remember much of the story, but I do remember that it was very long. It was a challenge.

But a few years later, I was a lifeguard for the summer at a private club on a deserted stretch of Fire Island. The only access was by boat, or a mile hike along the beach from the next club, which was much fancier and had a ferry that ran to it (that was my daily commute). The club would get very busy on the weekends, but there were many days during the week when I was the only person there – all day. I couldn’t shut the beach down unless the weather or surf conditions warranted, so I sat there and read. I read all of Shakespeare that summer. Imagine the thrill it was for me to read aloud Henry V, or Lear, or Prospero, seated on a tall lifeguard’s chair, with the constant roar of breaking waves as background. It was a glorious summer.

I don’t understand writers who claim not to read. Not every reader has a book in them, but every writer must know what has gone before, if only to avoid the most common mistakes. Being a writer, now with two books published and a third due out next year, places me on a great timeline that stretches back for millennia. Like Homer, and the various writers of the tales of Gilgamesh or Beowulf, I am also a bard. A storyteller.

Mortal Bonds cover image

Mortal Bonds cover image

A big thank you to Michael for dropping into the CTG blog today. 

Michael Sears’s Mortal Bonds, the follow-up to Black Fridays, marking the return of financial investigator Jason Stafford in a sensational story of fraud, murder and redemption is out now, published  by Duckworth Publishers.

 

Re-blog: David Khara stops by to talk about The Bleiberg Project

cover image

cover image

Last year David Khara, author of The Bleiberg Project, dropped by the CTG blog to talk about the launch of his new conspiracy theory action thriller eBook. As The Bleiberg Project – the first in the Consortium Thriller series – has now come out in paperback we thought we’d re-blog the interview and excerpt. 

But, before we get started with the interview, here’s a little taster of the book (please note contains strong language):

Excerpt:

“Besides work and getting high, what do you do all day?”

No answer. You’re out of luck, pal. I’m pig-headed. “The journey will seem shorter if we talk, don’t you think?”

He sighs. “When I’m not on an assignment, I paint.” I can’t help laughing. “You think that’s funny?”

“I’m picturing you on a stool with your palette and brush, gazing at a green valley or a snowy mountaintop. Sorry, but with your look and build, it’s funny!”

“If you’re just going to make fun of me, the trip is going to seem very, very long.” He clams up.

“There’s no harm in a little fun. OK, I’ll stop,” I snort, laughing even louder. Why do giggling fits always hit at inappropriate times?

“What about you? Besides driving home from clubs dead drunk, what do you do?”

Bastard. That’s below the belt. On second thought, I guess I deserved it. “I try to survive. I thought about blowing my brains out, but I’m too much of a coward. So I drink. I smoke like a chimney. Every day, I destroy myself a little bit more.”

“Suicide isn’t a sign of bravery, but of giving up. We all make mistakes. You don’t judge somebody by the number of blows they can give.”

“What do you judge somebody by, Mr Freud?”

“The number of blows they can take.”

His words hit home. “You’ve taken a lot, right?” I ask. A long, long beat.

“More than you can ever imagine.”

Why am I not surprised? This guy’s been around the block. I’d bet my life on it. “How do you do it?”

“Pardon me?”

“Blowing guys away like that. How do you do it?”

“Who said it was easy?” He sighs heavily. A long awkward silence.

(Excerpted from The Bleiberg Project by David Khara. First published in French as Le Projet Bleiberg, ©2010 Editions Critic. English translation ©2013 Simon John. First published in English in 2013 by Le French Book, a digital-first publisher specializing in best-selling mysteries and thrillers from France.).

And now, for the interview …

So David, your new book, The Bleiberg Project, is a thriller with links to World War II. What was it that inspired you to write a novel along that theme?

The whole idea for The Bleiberg Project idea came while I was driving to my office, listening to the news. A pharmaceutical company was doing research on an orphan disease that touched fewer than 100 kids in Europe. A man said that the study was being ended because the budget was 50,000 euros short. I was stunned. These companies make tons of money, amazing profits, and 50,000 euros is a drop in the ocean. When I got to my office, I started looking into the subject and found articles establishing links between Nazi and Japanese scientists during WWII and pharmaceutical companies. I also found information about how Allied governments were interested in the results of immoral and incredibly cruel human experiments. Through my research, I realized the world we live in rose up from the ashes of war, and was built on the corpses of 60 million victims. I wanted to write about it, through entertainment to make it more bearable.

What research do you do to ensure the atmosphere, locations and characters feel authentic?

The answer is pretty easy: 1000 hours listening to survivors, watching documentaries over and over again, and reading biographies. The point was not for me to merely tell the stories. I needed to get in the minds of both victims and criminals. I wanted to be there with them. This inspired many of the characters of the series, even those set in the present day. And everything that happens in the past is, at one point or another, is based on the truth.

Tell us a little about your writing process, do you plot out the story events before sitting down to write, or do you drive right in and see where the story takes you?

It is a very delicate mix of both. I’ve got a few dots I need to link together to get the whole picture. I do not use notes, nor do I write an outline. I know what I’m going to write, and since the novels are built as puzzles with chapters taking us back in time, I have everything in mind before starting. That means I constantly think about it. There is just no day off when I start working. Still, the absence of a written script gives the characters some space to explore unplanned directions. My job is then to make sure they don’t stray too far from the plot and my goals.

How do you organise your writing day: do you have a favourite time and place to write?

My writing day is a well-established ritual. I write in my garden, a cup of coffee on the left side of my computer, and my cigarettes (bad, I know) on the right side. I put sunglasses on, then headphones because I need music to keep me in the mood of each chapter. With that, I’m ready for 6 to 8 hours of intensive writing. I usually work from 10 in the morning to 6 in the evening, with a break for lunch. When I’m not in the mood for writing, I go back to my research.

And what’s next for you, are you planning your next novel, or already well into the writing of it?

The Morgenstern Project, the third book in the Consortium thriller series, was just released in France, so I’m traveling a lot for book signings and interviews. My next novel is planned, and I’ll start writing it pretty soon and it is about time because I’ve had it in mind for three years now and lots of readers ask for it. The Bleiberg Project movie production should move to a new phase soon, which will have a direct impact on my schedule. 2014 will be a very busy year, believe me.

A big thank you to David Khara for dropping by to talk to us. To find out more about David and The Bleiberg Project, you can check out the link below:

Web page: http://www.thebleibergproject.com