The Big Coffin Road Blog Read: Part Seven – The Body [read and RT for a chance to #WIN a copy of COFFIN ROAD by Peter May]

Coffin Road book jacket

Today I’m delighted to be hosting part seven of Peter May’s Big Coffin Road Blog Read. Today’s extract is ‘The Body’. If you’ve not had a chance to read the first six extracts from Coffin Road, skip down to the bottom of this post for details of the fabulous blogs you can find the extracts posted on. Then, it’s onto ‘The Body’ …

The Big Coffin Road Blog Read Part Seven: The Body

It is with a great sense of dissatisfaction that I leave the lighthouse, finally, locking it up behind me and replacing the keys below the stone. I have learned nothing, least of all about myself. The first spots of rain whip into my face on the edge of a sudden squall, and as I hurry from the gate I see rain sweeping in from the south-west, a long trailing arm of it, darker even than the cloud from which it falls. I start down the steep concrete path, but realise I will never reach the boat before the rain hits. And it is too late to go back. Instead, I make a dash for the ruined chapel, which is just a short sprint away across the grass. Its roof of stone and turf has collapsed in places, but still affords a degree of shelter. I stoop beneath the lintel of the open doorway, and turn to look out and see the island vanish in the rain that sweeps across it like mist.

I move back, then, into the chapel and stumble on something beneath my feet, having to steady myself with outstretched hand on the cold, damp wall. There is very little light, and it takes some moments for my eyes to adjust.

At first I find it hard to believe what I am seeing. A man is lying spreadeagled on the floor, legs outstretched and twisted at an impossible angle. His head is half turned, and I can see where it has been split open, pale grey brain matter congealed in the dried blood that has pooled around it.

I feel acid rising in my throat, from shock and revulsion. I swallow it back, and find myself gasping for breath. My legs have turned to jelly beneath me and will hardly support my weight. After several long seconds, I crouch down, fingertips on the floor to steady me, and force myself to look at his face. He is an older man, grey hair thinning. Mid, perhaps late, fifties. Corpulent. He wears an anorak and jeans, and what look like relatively new hiking boots. If he is known to me, I have no memory of him. But it is clear that he has not been freshly killed. Certainly not today, and probably not yesterday. And since there is no decay that I can see, or smell, he cannot surely have been dead for more than a few days.

A crack in my mind’s defences opens up to allow in the unthinkable. Three days ago I was here. On this island. The next day I was washed ashore on the beach at Luskentyre, all memory lost in a cloud of black dread, knowing that something terrible had occurred.

I look at this man lying on the floor in front of me, his head smashed in, and I ask myself the question that has been clotting in my stream of consciousness. Was it me who killed him?

I close my eyes, fists clenching, sick to my stomach at the thought of it. But it is a thought that won’t go away, growing inside me like a cancer. Is this why I have blocked all memory of the past? I stand up too quickly, blood rushing to my head, and stagger to the door, supporting myself on the stone as I lean out into the wind and rain to throw up acid and coffee.

I am shaking, tears springing to my eyes with the burning of the acid. It feels as if the earth has opened up beneath my feet and I am falling helplessly into eternity, or hell, or both. A short way off, to the east, I hear the growl of the sea as it rushes into a deep cleft in the cliffs nearly 200 feet below. And I am startled to see a group of people in brightly coloured waterproofs, fighting their way up the concrete path towards the lighthouse, leaning into the wind and the rain. Tourists, I realise. A group almost certainly brought out on Seatrek’s inflatable RIB from Uig, and landed below just before the squall struck.

Now shock at the thought that I might have killed this man combines with fear of being caught. Blinded by panic, and robbed of all reason, I dash out on to the slope just as the rain passes and a momentary break in the cloud sprinkles sunshine across the island like fairy dust. The tourists have almost reached the lighthouse above me, and I don’t look back to register if I have been seen. Locked instead in my cocoon of denial, I slither down the wet concrete and run down the steps with an almost reckless disregard for my own safety.

Peter May pendant le salon Polars du Sud à Toulouse en 2013

Peter May pendant le salon Polars du Sud à Toulouse en 2013

Below me, Seatrek’s red and black Delta Super X RIB rises and falls on the swell, anchored a few feet away from the jetty. I see a man waiting aboard her for the tourists to return. He calls to me as I reach the foot of the steps as if he knows me, voice raised above the wind and the sea. But I ignore him, dragging my tender back down the steps and leaping recklessly into her, almost capsizing her in the process. I don’t even look in his direction as he calls again, pulling instead on the starter cord, almost frantic in my desire to be gone from this place. It coughs into life on the third pull, and I gun the throttle, banking away against the incoming waves to race out across the bay to where Coinneach’s Sundancer awaits me.

I nearly fall overboard as I transfer from one to the other, but scramble safely on to the stern, before hauling the inflatable aboard and tethering her. I fire up the motor and accelerate hard away to the south-east. I look back only once as I round the eastern tip of Eilean Tighe, and see the distant figure of the man who called to me still standing in his boat, watching me go.

Coffin Road by Peter May is out now in hardback (Quercus). Here’s the blurb: “A MAN is washed up on a deserted beach on the Hebridean Isle of Harris, barely alive and borderline hypothermic. He has no idea who he is or how he got there. The only clue to his identity is a map tracing a track called the Coffin Road. He does not know where it will lead him, but filled with dread, fear and uncertainty he knows he must follow it. A DETECTIVE crosses rough Atlantic seas to a remote rock twenty miles west of the Outer Hebrides of Scotland. With a sense of foreboding he steps ashore where three lighthouse keepers disappeared more than a century before – a mystery that remains unsolved. But now there is a new mystery – a man found bludgeoned to death on that same rock, and DS George Gunn must find out who did it and why. A TEENAGE GIRL lies in her Edinburgh bedroom, desperate to learn the truth about her father’s death. Two years after the discovery of the pioneering scientist’s suicide note, Karen Fleming still cannot accept that he would wilfully abandon her. And the more she discovers about the nature of his research, the more she suspects that others were behind his disappearance.”

You can buy your copy here 

FOR A CHANCE TO WIN a hardback copy of COFFIN ROAD here’s what you need to do:

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 me on Twitter, so that I 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) I will draw the winner at random (4) No cash alternative (5) The competition closes for entries at 9pm GMT on Friday 22nd January 2016 (6) The judge’s decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into.

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

 

And, don’t forget to check out all the other fabulous extracts on The Coffin Road Blog Read here …

The Big Coffin Road Blog Read Banner

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

Event Alert: Peter May at Waterstones Piccadilly on 27th January 2015

Runaway cover image

Runaway cover image

On Tuesday 27th January 2015 Peter May, author of the best selling Lewis Trilogy and the fabulous standalone Entry Island, is going to be visiting Waterstones Piccadilly to talk about his new standalone novel RUNAWAY. Sounds like it’s going to be a great evening.

Here are the details …

PETER MAY talking with Barry Forshaw (crime reviewer for the Financial Times)

Venue: WATERSTONES PICCADILLY – 203-206 Piccadilly, London W1J 9HD

Tickets: £5/£3

Tel for tickets: 020 78512400  Website: http://www.waterstones.com/events

And a bit more about RUNAWAY …

What the blurb says: “The decision for five teenage boys to leave their homes in Glasgow in 1965 and head to London is led by Jack Mackay when he is expelled from school. His friends need little incentive to run away from their abusive families and dead end jobs to pursue fame and fortune as a band. However, the boys find their dreams to be devastatingly different from reality, and within less than twelve months of their departure, only three of them return home, their lives irrevocably damaged.

Fifty years later in 2015 a brutal murder takes place in London and the three men, who are now in their sixties, are forced to return to the city to confront the demons which have haunted them and blighted their lives for five decades.”

CTG Reviews: Entry Island by Peter May

Entry Island cover image

Entry Island cover image

What the blurb says: “Detective Sime MacKenzie’s life in Montreal is one of loneliness and regret. And so when he is assigned to a seemingly open-and-shut murder case on a remote island 850 miles from the Canadian mainland, he departs readily. But Sime’s time away will be anything but a holiday. And Entry Island will prove anything but a haven. Sime may have left his domestic demons behind, but waiting for him in the Gulf of St. Lawrence is a far darker destiny.”

Entry Island is a standalone novel from Peter May, the award-winning author behind the highly acclaimed Lewis trilogy.

It starts with the murder of a wealthy businessman at his home. The number one suspect: his wife. She’s also the only witness. But when Detective Sime MacKenzie and the eight-strong team of detectives and crime scene investigators reach Entry Island they find that the case may not be as easy to solve as their leader, Lieutenant Crozes, had hoped.

Sime is the odd one out. He’s the only native English speaker within the French speaking team, and has only joined them for this case due to the principle language of Entry Island being English rather than French. With unresolved tensions between him and his ex-wife, Marie-Ange – the team’s forensic expert – the atmosphere is far from comfortable. What’s more, Sime finds himself inexplicably drawn to the widow of the murdered man, and is unable to fight the feeling that somehow he knows her.

As the investigation gets underway, Sime finds that the insomnia he’s been suffering since his marriage break-up is getting worse. Now, in the few minutes sleep he is able to snatch, he recalls the vivid stories his Grandmother told him of his ancestors: crofters who had lived on the Isle of Lewis, who were removed from their homes during the brutal ‘clearings’ initiated by greedy landlords who wanted to replace them with sheep, and forced onto boats to ‘the new world’.

The descriptions of the two main locations: the modern-day Entry Island, and the historical look-back at the Isle of Lewis, really bring the settings to life. They conjure up strong images of the geography, the close-knit communities and their cultures. For Sime, the past and the present are strangely linked, and as the story progresses, connections and similarities between his own family history and that of the prime suspect emerge.

For me, this novel was a real treat. I loved the sleep-deprived, conflicted, and often confused character of Sime for his determination to get to the truth no matter who, or what, was pressuring him to finish the investigation fast. Often battling his inner monologue as much as his colleagues, he follows every lead no matter now unlikely, even when it puts him in personal danger.

The author artfully weaves the modern day investigation and the historical story of Sime’s ancestors together, hinting at connections between the two but never quite revealing the implications of the past on the present until the final resolution.

A hauntingly compelling, highly atmospheric read.

Highly Recommended.

[With many thanks to Quercus for my copy of ENTRY ISLAND]

CTG Interviews: Peter May author of the Lewis Trilogy and new standalone Entry Island

Peter May

Peter May

I’m delighted to be joined on the CTG blog today by Peter May, author of the fabulous Lewis Trilogy,  whose new book ENTRY ISLAND is out this month.

So, first question, as well as writing the award winning Lewis Trilogy, you’ve had successful careers as a journalist and a television and screenwriter. What was it that attracted you to becoming a novelist?

I always wanted to be a novelist – since I wrote my first book at the age of four!  My parents taught me to read and write before I went to school and the first thing I did was write a story, and with my mum’s help sewed the pages together to make a book.  (You can see the result on YouTube:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XTxOEfwclh0 )  Journalism was my way of trying to make a living as a writer, since jobs as novelists were not exactly thick on the ground.  Journalism led me into television, and a lucrative career as a scriptwriter, editor and then producer.  But I quit all that (including the income) in the mid-nineties to try, finally, to make my living writing books.  And, well…  I’m still here.

Your new book, Entry Island, is just out. Can you tell us a bit about it?

Entry Island is a story that takes place in two time frames – contemporary and historical.  The contemporary element is set in Quebec, Canada, and more specifically the Magdalen Islands in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.  A detective, Sime Mackenzie, from Montreal is sent with an investigation team to the tiny Entry Island – the only English-speaking island in the Magdalen archipelago – following the murder of its wealthiest resident.  But on arrival he finds that the victim’s wife, and prime suspect in his murder, is unaccountably familiar to him, even although they have never met.  The historical story is told through dreams and recollections of diary entries read to the detective by his grandmother when he was a child.  It tells the tale of a young man (whose name Sime shares) growing up in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland in the 19th century at the time of the Highland Clearances, when tens of thousands of people were driven out of their homes and forced on to boats for the New World.  When the young man and his family are brutally evicted, he finds himself on a boat bound for Quebec.  At a certain point both stories converge and the link between them, along with a resolution to the Entry Island murder, is revealed.

Your books always have a fabulous sense of place about them, what’s your secret to creating this?

Many of my early writing experiences, from the start of my teens on, were screenplays of movies I wanted to make.  I always had a very visual sense of storytelling, and when I began to realise that I didn’t need a multi-million pound budget and a film crew to tell those stories, I took that visual sense with me into the writing of my books.  Basically, I described the pictures in my head.  I went to all those places in my mind and wanted to take the reader there with me, to experience them as real.  Not just visually, but sensually as well.

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

I spend four to five months developing and researching an idea.  Then I brainstorm for a week and write a very detailed storyline that runs anything up to 20,000 words.  From there I set myself a very disciplined schedule, rising at 6am and writing 3000 words a day.  The book is finished within six to eight weeks.

What advice would you give to those aspiring to publication as crime writers?

Write about what you know.  And remember that no matter how clever your story, readers won’t get involved unless they care about the characters.  Don’t be put off by rejection.  It happens to all of us.  After all, “The Blackhouse” was rejected by every major publisher in the UK, and the Lewis Trilogy has now sold more than a million copies.

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

A crazy year lies ahead.  I am in the research and development phase of a new book, which I hope to write in the late spring.  I have books tours in the UK and France, and the USA at the end of the year.  I will be at festivals in Harrowgate, Edinburgh and Bloody Scotland, and in this Scottish Homecoming year, VisitScotland are keen to use my books as a magnet for foreign visitors to Scotland.  A visit to Canada might also be in the offing.

Sounds like 2014 is going to be hectic! A huge thank you to Peter for dropping by the CTG blog. 

[Stop by on Friday to read my review of the fabulous ENTRY ISLAND]

Event Alert: An Evening with Peter May at Waterstones Piccadilly

Entry Island cover image

Entry Island cover image

Looking for something to do once the party season is over? Well, look no further. Waterstones Piccadilly are hosting ‘An Evening with Peter May’ on 21 January 2014. At the event, Peter will be discussing his new book ‘Entry Island’.

Tickets are £5 (£3 for Waterstones cardholders) and include a glass of wine or soft drink. To book your ticket, either ask in store, call 02078512400 or email events.piccadilly@waterstones.com

Peter May was an award-winning journalist and successful screenwriter before turning his hand to novels. His first book in the Lewis Trilogy ‘The Blackhouse’ was a Richard and Judy summer read and a Sunday Times top 10 bestseller. ‘The Lewis Man’ and ‘The Chessmen’ were also Sunday Times bestsellers. The series has now sold over 1 million copies. Peter’s next novel ‘Entry Island’ will be published by Quercus in January 2014.

I’ll be reviewing ‘Entry Island’ in January, but, until then, here’s a sneaky peep at the blurb: “When Detective Sime Mackenzie boards a light aircraft at Montreal’s St. Hubert airfield, he does so without looking back. For Sime, the 850-mile journey ahead represents an opportunity to escape the bitter blend of loneliness and regret that has come to characterise his life in the city.

Travelling as part of an eight-officer investigation team, Sime’s destination lies in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Only two kilometres wide and three long, Entry Island is home to a population of around 130 inhabitants – the wealthiest of which has just been discovered murdered in his home.

The investigation itself appears little more than a formality. The evidence points to a crime of passion: the victim’s wife the vengeful culprit. But for Sime the investigation is turned on its head when he comes face to face with the prime suspect, and is convinced that he knows her – even though they have never met.

Haunted by this certainty his insomnia becomes punctuated by dreams of a distant past on a Scottish island 3,000 miles away. Dreams in which the widow plays a leading role. Sime’s conviction becomes an obsession. And in spite of mounting evidence of her guilt he finds himself convinced of her innocence, leading to a conflict between the professional duty he must fulfil, and the personal destiny that awaits him.”

Related articles

Competition Alert: WIN a fabulous bundle of Quercus Crime Books!

The Prizes!

The Prizes!

Love crime fiction? Well, you’re in for a real treat. Those darling people over at Quercus have teamed up with the CTG blog to give away a gorgeous set of novels just perfect for the avid crime reader.

The lucky winner will receive a copy of the following books: Alex by Pierre Lemaitre, The Chessmen by Peter May, Screams in the Dark by Anna Smith, The Gift of Darkness by V.M. Giambanco, and The Deliverance of Evil by Roberto Costantini.

How to enter
To enter all you need to do is send a tweet to @crimethrillgirl Your tweet must include the answer to this question: Where is Peter May’s novel ‘The Chessmen’ set? [hint, check out the prize descriptions below!] Your tweet must also include the hashtag #CTGQUERCUS. [You’ll also need to be follow us on Twitter, so that we can send you a direct message should you win].

If you’re not on Twitter don’t worry. You can also enter by emailing crimethrillergirl[at]gmail.com. Give your email the header CTGQUERCUS and be sure to include the answer to the question: Where is Peter May’s novel ‘The Chessmen’ set? [hint, check out the prize descriptions below!] plus your name and address.

Rules
(1) One entry per reader (2) UK residents only – due to postage costs – sorry! (3) We will draw the winner at random from the entries containing the correct answer (4) No cash alternative (5) The competition closes for entries at 10pm GMT on Tuesday 24th December 2013 (6) The judge’s decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into.

THIS COMPETITION IS NOW CLOSED AND THE WINNER HAS BEEN NOTIFIED

The prizes
Here’s the blurb for each of the fabulous books  …

THE CHESSMEN by Peter May

Fin Macleod, now head of security on a privately owned Isle of Lewis estate, is charged with investigating a spate of illegal game-hunting taking place on the island. This mission reunites him with Whistler Macaskill – a local poacher, Fin’s teenage intimate, and possessor of a long-buried secret. But when this reunion takes a violent, sinister turn and Fin puts together the fractured pieces of the past, he realises that revealing the truth could destroy the future.

ALEX by Pierre Lemaitre

In kidnapping cases, the first few hours are crucial. After that, the chances of being found alive go from slim to nearly none. Alex Prévost – beautiful, resourceful, tough – may be no ordinary victim, but her time is running out. Commandant Camille Verhœven and his detectives have nothing to go on: no suspect, no lead, rapidly diminishing hope. All they know is that a girl was snatched off the streets of Paris and bundled into a white van. The enigma that is the fate of Alex will keep Verhœven guessing until the bitter, bitter end. And before long, saving her life will be the least of his worries.

SCREAMS IN THE DARK by Anna Smith

Crime reporter Rosie Gilmour has learned to be tough … The places she’s been and the stories she’s covered, she’s had to be. Her experience stands her in good stead for a grisly new investigation: the body of a refugee in a Glasgow canal, missing limbs and vital organs. He’s not the first person to go missing – are there vigilantes at work or is there something far more sinister going on? It’s up to Rosie to find out – but will what she discovers leave her with murder on her hands?

THE GIFT OF DARKNESS by V.M. Giambanco

Twenty-five years ago in the woods near the Hoh River in Seattle, three boys were kidnapped. One did not come home. A quarter of a decade later, a family of four is found brutally murdered, the words thirteen days scratched near their lifeless bodies. To stop a psychopath, Detective Alice Madison must go into the woods and confront the unsolved mystery of the Hoh River Boys. She must forget her training and follow her instincts to the terrifying end …

THE DELIVERANCE OF EVIL by Robert Costantini

On 11 July 1982, Elisa Sordi was beautiful. Commissario Michele Balistreri was fearless. Italy was victorious. A killer was waiting … On 9 July 2006, with Sordi’s case twenty-four years old, and Balistreri haunted by guilt and regret, Italian victory returned. And so did Sordi’s killer … But this time Michele Balistreri would be ready. This time he would fear no evil.

To find out more about these fabulous novels hop on over to the Quercus Books website at http://www.quercusbooks.co.uk/blog/2013/11/30/for-the-crime-lover/