Tag Archives: crime

The Other Girl by Erica Spindler. Review 

Phew! What a roller coaster ride. I haven’t read such an engaging, well written thriller in a while. 

The Other Girl is authored by Erica Spindler best known for her ability to jump between genres, beginning with Mills & Boon style romances, fitting in some of her delicious crime thrillers featuring The Malones and Stacey Killian and even fitting in some cross genre crime/sci fi fiction with her Lightkeepers series. 

This new novel features a brand new detective Miranda Rader and I really hope that we get to see some more of Miranda in the future. Miranda comes from a troubled background, after getting busted for possession of pot when she was 15 and spending some time in juvenile prison, Miranda turned her life around and became a police officer. 

Miranda is brought in as lead detective to investigate the murder of a professor at the local university. Son of the prestigious President of the University, the pressure is on to find out who killed him in such a brutal way. As Miranda begins to put together the pieces which may link the dead man to a terrifying night from her past, suddenly she’s gone from Apple of the Chief’s eye to a suspect. The only people who seem to be on her side are her partner Jake and her best friend Summer who owns a bar (with a really cool name!) The Toasted Cat. 

But who can Miranda trust, it’s clear somebody is setting her up but who? Then she remembers there was another girl there that night, another girl who knows what happens and who exactly covered it up… but who is The Other Girl? 

This was a well written and fast paced novel. Erica has a wonderful way of writing and throws in particularly good red herrings, I’m not ashamed to admit that I fell for one of them hook, line and sinker. But there’s a sadness to this novel too as it shows how a woman must struggle in a man’s world, how someone who grew up on the wrong side of the tracks can be manipulated and disbelieved and the corruption within law enforcement, where money can buy you anything. 

Monster in the Closet by Karen Rose. Review 

I was really excited to receive an ARC of this novel as I love the Romantic Suspense series. 

Monster in the Closet is the 19th book in the Romantic Suspense series and the 5th in the Baltimore series. The Romantic Suspense series follows a makeshift family made up of a group of friends. There may be some spoilers here for the other books in the series but not this one, only because I can’t talk about any of the other characters without spoilers for previous books! 

We see old favourites in this novel such as Detective JD Fitzpatrick and his partner Lucy a medical examiner, who we were first introduced to in You Belong to Me. 

Paige Holden & Grayson Smith the private investigators from No One Left to Tell although they don’t feature heavily in this one. 

State attorney Daphne Montgomery & Special Agent Joseph Carter from Did you Miss Me? As well as Daphne’s son Ford. 

Clay Maynard & Detective Stevie Mazetti from Watch Your Back. 

Faith Corcoran & Special agent Deacon Novak from Cincinnati 1 Closer Than You Think. 

I love the way that Karen Rose expertly blends all of the characters into a relationship with each other. If you haven’t read the Romantic Suspense series before, each book focuses on one couple, how they get together and their romance, but alongside that runs a thriller element with a murder and the couple’s attempts to solve the murder and catch the killer. 

Monster in the Closet sees 2 children Jazzie & Janie in therapy at Daphne’s equine therapy centre. Their mother has been violently murdered and Jazzie hasn’t spoken since. But she’s finally opening up to the new intern therapist Taylor Dawson, but she’s got secrets of her own that she’s hiding and this is where the romance and suspense comes in. 

The difference with this one is that we know who the killer is right from the beginning and this creates an immediate frustration as we watch the characters attempt to discover who the killer is and gather evidence. 

Overall this was a great novel, picking up with the younger generation of the friend/family group. Once again it was fast paced and unputdownable and most importantly thoroughly enjoyable! 

A Mask of Shadows by Oscar De Muriel. Review 

‘Yer may nae. Do as I said, else I’ll punch yer snooty face.’ 

Welcome back to the notorious ‘Nine Nails’ McGray and his eloquent language when interviewing a potential witness. I fell in love with McGray when I read A Fever of the Blood last year and I was really pleased to be granted an ARC of A Mask of Shadows the third book in the series. 

Once more we see the beguiling if slightly eccentric McGray, along with his partner Ian Frey thrown into a mysterious entanglement of murder, mystery and the supernatural. This time there’s a banshee haunting Henry Irving’s performance of ‘The Scottish Play’. 

I love that Bram Stoker is one of the main characters in this book, it reminded me a little bit of the mini TV series Houdini & Doyle with the two men searching, one for supernatural causes (Doyle = McGray) and one for the reasonable explanation (Houdini = Frey). It has the same wonderfully entertaining banter between the two. I love that McGray treats Frey so badly calling him everything from a ‘pansy’ to ‘Percy’ after he finds out his middle name. Yet despite the good ribbing he constantly gives him, you can tell the two have a great connection and that McGray would miss Frey should he be sent back to London. 

I also really liked how the character of Frey was developed in this novel. Usually he is the one trying to rein in McGray but this time he has a good Pop at people himself and it’s really great to see him get a pair of his own and I’m not talking tartan trousers! 

The novel features a ton of famous characters from actors Henry Irving and Ellen Terry to the aforementioned Bram Stoker and even a cameo from Oscar Wilde and mentions of friendships with Lewis Carroll. 

It is engaging from start to finish and I really didn’t have a clue who was behind everything. Nothing was clear as every time the author threw a red herring that’s all it seemed it be. Everyone stood a chance of being guilty and that is the truly clever skill of Oscar De Muriel that he is able to convince us that it might just be a supernatural explanation after all…. 

The House by Simon Lelic. Review 

‘When my hand slips from the knife, my first thought is that using it wasn’t as difficult as I assumed it would be. I feel elated, initially, until I notice the blood.’ 

Creepy stuff! The House is the first novel I have read by Simon Lelic and it was a thrilling experience. No pun intended! 
Syd & Jack move into their new house, excited for fresh beginnings. Both come from tough, if very different backgrounds. They’ve saved up, suffering through crummy bedsits and shared accommodation until they’ve finally afforded a place of their own, and despite it being in high demand their offer has been accepted. 

When Jack finds something gruesome in the attic he keeps it from Syd as well as everyone else. Something he’s going to really regret. A nightmare begins. 

When the reader enters the story Syd and Jack are writing down everything that’s happened to them. It’s clear they’ve been keeping secrets from one another and suspense and intrigue build as we, the readers try to work out what exactly has happened. 

There’s a master manipulator at work and this novel builds the suspense making you unsure of who to trust. I really enjoyed this novel and I’m looking forward to reading more from this author! 

The Lucky Ones by Mark Edwards. Review 

The Lucky Ones is the second novel by Mark Edwards that I’ve read. I really enjoyed Follow You Home the story of a couple who are traumatised by their experiences on holiday in Eastern Europe. 

The Lucky Ones is a different story completely. Although it keeps to the thriller element but this time it has more of a British Detective novel setting. 

A serial killer is at loose in rural England, in the tiny village where Ben lives with his son Ollie. Two women and a man have been murdered right after they reached their happiest point in life. Detective Imogen Evans has moved from the City of London Police to a more rural setting after the death of a colleague. Now she’s desperate to catch the killer and prove herself. 

The novel is very gripping. I started it one morning and by the evening it was finished, despite being at work all day, I just couldn’t put it down on the bus, on my lunch, in the bath and for the rest of the evening. The characters were easy to remember despite there being quite a few of them, all of them had endearing qualities (apart from the serial killer of course), and the killer was particularly well written. It was only in the last few pages that i started to suspect correctly who the killer was.

Mark Edwards takes the reader on a wild goose chase where there’s literally nobody we can trust. Everyone is a potential suspect and it is so cleverly written that it makes sense for the killer to know everything without giving away who they are.  Interesting back stories are also provided for the killer but again there’s even a twist to that plot too. I won’t say too much more as not to ruin the story or give spoilers but I’ll be recommending this to anyone who loves a good crime thriller! 

Author Interview – Helen Callaghan 

This month I had the privilege of interviewing the lovely Helen Callaghan, author of bestselling psychological crime thriller Dear Amy. You can read my review of Dear Amy here:http://ow.ly/NeVl30aMdEI

Not only has Helen been kind enough to share her experiences as an author, she is also giving away a signed copy of Dear Amy to one lucky reader of this interview. All you need to do is retweet this post to be in with a chance to win. 

1) What was your background and how did you get into writing? 

I’ve always written, is the short answer. I started doing it in a sustained way from my early teens onwards – by the time I left secondary school, the plan was that I was going to be a writer, and I’ve pretty much kept to it. The first draft of “Dear Amy” was completed nearly thirty years ago. For most of my life I was a bookseller, specialising in fiction, which is a fantastic job for a booklover, albeit not very well paid. But while I loved it, as time passed I started to get a little restless. I thought I’d like to get a degree, and so I studied for my A-levels at night school and ended up graduating in Archaeology (which has proven very useful, as the third book is going to be about archaeologists). 

After I graduated, I got into technical writing – producing software documentation, which is every bit as interesting as it sounds. For years I would write that during the day and during my commute and evenings I would write the novels. It was all very hard work, but great in a way, because I joined writing groups and made great friends who shared my passion for fiction. 

2) What are your ambitions for your writing? 

I’d like to keep writing the psychological thrillers which I really enjoy. The process of creating them is very cathartic, because it’s about exploring what scares me – I find crime infinitely more frightening than the supernatural, for instance. At the moment I’m concentrating on the psychological thrillers because “Dear Amy” has been so well-received and my energy is there at the moment.

But that said, for years I wrote more speculative fiction. At some point I do have projects there I would love to revisit…
3) Which writers inspire you? 

Oh, there’s so many! I love the Brontes, Jane Austen, and every weird and obscure Gothic novel ever. When I was a teenager I was a huge fan of Angela Carter and my favourite guilty pleasure was Anne Rice. The writer that most inspired me was probably Iain Banks – I admired him hugely. He always took bold narrative risks in his books and at signings and events he was always the writer I most aspired to emulate. 

4) How much research went into writing Dear Amy? Where did the idea come from? 

It was really strange, as other things I’ve written have come together in bits and pieces, but the idea for Dear Amy appeared wholesale – I knew the heroine’s name, her dilemma, and its resolution. I wrote the first draft in a white heat, in just over two months. 

This, of course, was pre-internet and the research was practically non-existent. When I wrote the new draft, the need to do the research was part of what made it take so long. Some of that research was quite harrowing, such as the oversight that girls in care get compared to other girls, but some of it was very enjoyable. I got to do a lot of fun stuff, like visit houses that I would base the Grove upon. 

5) Are you working on anything new at the moment? 

I am! Well, two new things. Book Two went off to my editor a week ago, and I’ve started work on Book Three. Book Two is hopefully going to appear later this year – it’s the story of Sophia, who comes home from London to find that her mother appears to have committed suicide. As she tries to process this, she learns that her mother had been in a cult in her youth, and had recently been trying to publish a book on her experiences; a book that other ex-members of the cult would prefer not to exist. It doesn’t have a name yet, but the working title is “Morningstar”. 

Book Three is about an archaeologist, Fiona, who is invited up to join her friend Madison on her dig in the Orkney Islands (and also to emotionally support her as she’s split up after a tempestuous relationship with her long-distance boyfriend). But once she arrives, she discovers that not only has Madison vanished, but she appears to have been on online dating sites using Fiona’s picture and details… and beyond that, I don’t think I’ll say too much more!

6) What do you use to do your writing? Pen+paper, computer, typewriter etc. 

Mostly I work on my computer, but sometimes, if something is giving me trouble, I’ll take a notebook and a pen out with me and tackle it on the page. I like the freedom that paper and pen gives me to get things wrong, and the way that it shows my working – I can cross things out, move them round, and see the process in a way that you can’t do with the computer. It also gives me permission to get things wrong, which is so important. 

8) How often do you write? Do you set yourself a word target or just go with it when inspiration strikes? 

I do set myself a daily target – a thousand words. One of the most peculiar things that I learned about myself when I started writing full time is that the fact that I have so much more time does not, in any way, shape, or form, translate into more writing. 
However, when it is on fire, I can burn through it – and then you raise your head and it’s two, three in the morning, and it’s all passed by in the blink of an eye. That is the best feeling in the world – when you are so immersed in it you can’t feel the time pass.

9) What sort of publishing route did you choose and why? 

I didn’t really choose – or rather, circumstances had chosen for me. In 2009, I wrote a novel called Mephistophela – it was an SF thriller. 

2009 was what they called “interesting times” in the publishing world. Back then, indie publishing was still very much a developing field but had exploded outwards, as Amazon had opened the floodgates. Accordingly, a lot of the early stuff was of very variable quality – people were still feeling their way in terms of the importance of copy-editing, professional covers, etc. Nobody was quite sure what the marketing channels would be, what would work, how the good stuff would distinguish itself in the face of the sheer quantity of self-published books that were now appearing.

Traditional publishing was also panicking, I remember – people weren’t sure if print publishing (and print publishers) would go the way of the dinosaur. It was nearly impossible to sell anything to a traditional publisher at the time.

didn’t sell ultimately, but it generated a lot of interest from agents, and Judith Murray at Greene and Heaton, who took me on, stuck with me while it and then my next novel also didn’t take. When you’re represented by an agent, you’re nearly always looking at a traditional publishing deal – and that’s what I was submitted for. The second novel was a big, complicated epic based in multiple parallel universes, and the feedback was that it was quite a difficult project for a debut. They weren’t sure about it, but they liked me, apparently. 

So in late 2013, Judith asked me what else I had on my plate. I’d mentioned that years ago I’d completed a psychological thriller and she suggested dusting that off, giving it a light edit, and then running it past publishers that had liked the previous work, but hadn’t bitten. It was a job that would take perhaps eight weeks, at most.
Of course, the minute I opened the old files, I realised it would take a lot longer than that – the more you write, the more you develop, and I was gazing into a snapshot of how I wrote thirty years ago! In the end it took thirteen months to prepare the new draft, but when I did, there was an auction and it sold in ten days. 

I couldn’t believe it. Still can’t, in many ways. I’m always waiting for the other shoe to drop. 

10) How do you market your books? What have been your marketing successes and failures? 

I’m lucky in that Michael Joseph handle the marketing and PR side of things, and they are astonishingly creative people. They have amazing ideas – for instance, when the proofs for Dear Amy came out, they mocked up copies of letters from the book and tied them to the proofs with twine. They got me media appearances and blog opportunities and took me around to meet booksellers, which is easily the nicest way to spend a day when you’re a writer, as it involves being in bookstores. 

For my own part, I have a website with a blog, and a Twitter and Facebook page. Easily the biggest marketing hit for me is Twitter, as I can interact with people who liked the book, retweet reviews and event news, etc. It’s quite time-consuming to do properly, and it means I can’t use Twitter as the same timewasting opportunity that I used to, but it does reward the time I spend on it. 

On the other hand, I’ve not updated the blog in a while, and nobody’s crying out for it. I think that running a blog is its own specialist and very demanding thing, and readers are more likely to frequent review blogs or aggregate blogs than author blogs (I’m exactly the same myself). I keep wanting to relaunch it, as I do enjoy writing the articles for it, but the last nine months have just been mental and it’s not really justifying how timeconsuming maintaining it would be. Perhaps when Morningstar comes out I’ll relaunch it. 

11) If you could be the original author of any book what would it have been and why? 

Ooh, that’s a tough one! I could guarantee I would give you different answers from one day to the next! Tonight though, I feel like it’s ‘The Secret History” by Donna Tartt. There is something very cold, clever and cruel in it – it is a perfect meditation on crime and punishment.

12) What are your views on good and bad reviews? How much do you think the success of books relies on reviews? 

I was thinking about this recently, funnily enough. I worked out that my own book purchasing justifications break down as roughly: 

40% drifting through the bookstore/browsing a publisher’s email newsletters and thinking “Oh, that sounds like a cool thing to read”

40% personal recommendations

20% reviews. 

As a writer, however, my relationship with my reviews is naturally a bit more complicated. I remember reading my first bad review and it was as though a complete stranger had come up to me and slapped me. But of course, nobody writes a book that everybody loves – anything with any texture is going to rub at least one person up the wrong way. 

Like everyone else, I’ve read books that I don’t reckon are much cop, and yet they become massive international bestsellers regardless. But in all of those instances (and there aren’t that many of them), the book hasn’t succeeded because it is a good book, but rather because it is offering some unfiltered, unadulterated experience that readers can’t get elsewhere. It’s worth being attentive to what that offering is, and why it is so popular. There’s always a tension between what we enjoy reading and what is good for us, or rather, what we publicly admit to, and studying the gap between those things is often instructive. 

You can buy Helen’s debut novel Dear Amy on Amazon here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B019DD8CPE/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1

You can also find Helen on the following social media pages: 

Website: http://www.helencallaghan.co.uk

Twitter: @hecallaghan

Facebook (author page not personal): [https://www.facebook.com/hecallaghanauthor/]

Blog: http://www.helencallaghan.co.uk 

Goodreads: [https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6277538.Helen\_Callaghan]

Amazon author page: [https://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B001KE8XFY]

Thank you so much Helen for taking part in my monthly author interview and sharing your experience as a bestselling author! 

March Interview – Mike Wells 

This month I caught up with Mike Wells author of (among many) the Lust, Money and Murder series. You can get book 1 here: http://ow.ly/zarI308OMCv

What was your background and how did you get into writing? 

My background is in engineering—I have a Ph.D. from Vanderbilt University. As I was finishing that, I started my own business and became an entrepreneur, but I’ve been writing fiction ever since I was a teenager. I’ve done all kinds of different types of writing—press releases, newsletters, academic papers, advertisements, user’s manuals, and of course my thesis and dissertation. All of that helped with fiction writing. And of course the marketing experience I had owning my own businesses also helped in crafting books that I felt inspired to write but would also sell.

What are your ambitions for your writing? 

World domination.  
Seriously, I suppose I would like to see some of my books be successful enough and widely enough read to be made into Hollywood movies with A-list actors.  

Which writers inspire you? 

A lot of different writers inspire me—Thomas Hardy, Stephen King, Nora Ephron, Rod Serling, and David Mamet to name a few.

Your books are really detailed on the ins and outs of law enforcement and different job roles, how much research goes into writing them? Where do your ideas come from? 

A lot of research goes into every book. I spend many hours reading relevant media articles, blog posts, travel websites, law enforcement procedures handbooks, etc. Sometimes I travel to a place specifically to do research—for example, I went to Washington, D.C. and toured the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, where U.S. paper money is made, for the fist Lust, Money & Murder books. I also often query experts, usually via email or the social networks, such as former Secret Service agents or lawyers or doctors or coroners when I have a specific question and can’t find the answer.

My ideas usually come from something I see in real life and my imagination takes over when I ask “What if?” type questions.

Are you working on anything new at the moment? 

I’m always working on something new—right now that’s Lust, Money & Murder Book 10 – Black Widow, and I’m also working on the outline for another book.

What do you use to do your writing? Pen+paper, computer, typewriter etc. 

I mostly use an iPad with an external bluetooth keyboard because it’s so light and I can take it anywhere. I do a lot of writing outside of the house—at the beach, at cafes, etc. I use Apple’s Pages app and then at the end convert to MS-Word for uploading to publisher websites.

Would you ever consider writing in a different genre or is there a genre you wish you could write?   

I write in a lot of different genres already—YA science fiction, YA adventure—I’ve even published a romantic comedy called Secrets of the Elusive Lover. To me, genre is mostly setting and plot structure. It’s not that hard to switch genres if you spend some time studying that genre and understand what the reader expectations are. At the end of the day, great stories are about interesting conflicts between people, and between ourselves and our inner demons. Genre is secondary to that.

How often do you write? Do you set yourself a word target or just go with it when inspiration strikes? 

I would never finish a novel, and doubt anyone else would, either, just going when inspiration strikes. I don’t have a specific word count I target each day—I make myself put in four hours. Sometimes all four hours are taken up with plotting or editing what I’ve already written. But I know from experience I average about 1,500 words a day, which means it take me about three months to finish a novel, not including editing/proofreading time (another month at least)

What sort of publishing route did you choose and why? 

I spent quite a few years with some very good NYC and London agents trying to sell my work, and they were never able to do it without me having to make some major compromise that I wasn’t willing to make, so I never sold a book that way. With the advent of ebooks, I saw a way to reach readers myself and bypass that system and produce my books exactly the way I want them to be, so I went for it.  

How do you market your books? What have been your marketing successes and failures? 
I use lots of different methods to market my books, but the main one is social media, and primarily Twitter. One of my failures was setting up my own ebook store. That didn’t work because I learned that people don’t want to set up a new account just to buy one author’s books. Also, there was a lot more customer support required having my own store, so I closed the store and decided that it was better to let Amazon, Apple, B&N, etc. handle all that for me.

If you could be the original author of any book what would it have been and why?  

For me, this question doesn’t apply, because I think every author who is writing from the heart could not have ever written any other author’s book—it’s impossible. I’ve never wished I’d written any other author’s book maybe because I know that. To want to do that is like not wanting to be who you are, not appreciating your own uniqueness. I like Mike Wells just fine and I’m very happy with every book I’ve published. If not, I wouldn’t have published them, and there are quite a few of mine still in the drawer which I don’t think are good enough (yet).

What are your views on good and bad reviews? How much do you think the success of books relies on reviews? 

I’m not sure the success of a book is that closely tied to the reviews. I’ve seen some bestsellers that have pretty mixed reviews, if not flat out bad reviews. Very often the reviewer has the wrong expectations for the book in terms of the genre or sub-genre. For example I have had some bad reviews of Lust, Money & Murder particular written by science fiction reviewers. Why they decided to review that book is beyond me—it’s not science fiction and not advertised that way. But of course if you think it’s science fiction and were to read it with those expectations, it would be terrible! 

Website: http://mikewellsblog.blogspot.com.cy

Twitter: https://twitter.com/MikeWellsAuthor

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/lmm1free 

Blog: http://mikewellsblog.blogspot.com.cy

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/130859.Mike_Wells
Amazon author page: https://www.amazon.com/Mike-Wells/e/B004MCEC1U

 Thanks so much for taking the time to interview me, Leonie, I’m honored!

Thank you so much for taking the time to be interviewed and answer my questions Mike, the honour is all mine! 

You can read my review of the first book in the Lust, Money and Murder series here: http://ow.ly/Gbxo308ONTk