Friday, 20 July 2018

Second thoughts by Cara Hunter

We’ve all heard about ‘second novel syndrome’. Three words to strike fear into the heart of any writer. As if it wasn’t hard enough to write one book, you’re then faced with having to do it all over again. And if the first book is even modestly successful the stakes are higher still.

I was really lucky with Close to Home. It was a Richard and Judy book club pick and that was just about the best launch-pad for a new series you could possibly dream of. I was also lucky in that I’d pretty much finished the second book before Close to Home was even published, so some of the pressure was off. But when I sat down to begin In The Dark I still faced all the usual challenges of writing a second novel, the first and most significant being to come up with a halfway decent idea.

And even if you have an idea, there are technical challenges with writing the second novel in a series, which aren’t the same as a second book as a standalone. Some things are easier, of course, as some key elements are in place before you start.

The setting, for example. In my case, the ‘much murdered’ city of Oxford, familiar to crime fans across the world thanks to the adaptations of Morse and Lewis and Endeavour (though I’ve made the conscious decision to locate the DI Fawley books in parts of the city that will be less familiar to TV viewers).  Like Close to Home, In The Dark was inspired in large part by North Oxford. It’s a perfectly preserved Victorian suburb, with tree-lined roads and huge Victorian mansions rising three or four storeys high. It’s a beautiful and respectable place so it’s all the more unthinkable as the setting for the terrible crime that Fawley finds there.

The central police team is also the same as in Close to Home. Not just Adam Fawley himself, but the team around him. The flashy DS Gareth Quinn who’s his own worst enemy; the sold and dependable DC Chris Gislingham; DC Verity Everett, who people underestimate at their peril; the just-a-bit-geeky DC Andrew Baxter, and PC Erica Somer, freshly escaped from a pretty disastrous relationship with Quinn she wishes she’d never started.

The great pleasure of any sequel is to re-engage with characters who intrigue you, and I have to confess I really love this team. The dynamics between them are really interesting to write, and their relationships are starting to evolve in fascinating ways. And there’s truth in that old cliché that your characters take on a life of their own – I know it sounds counter-intuitive to say that about people who exist only in your own head, but it really does happen. They start to do things you hadn’t planned, and as you dig through the layers you find things in their pasts that you hadn’t expected. 

Nowhere is that truer than with the character of Adam Fawley himself. I feel closest to him, of course, not just because he ‘carries’ the series, but because his sections are written in the first person, so I have to think myself into his head when I write for him. When I wrote Close to Home I had no idea it would turn into a series – I thought I’d be lucky enough if someone simply wanted to publish it. So I didn’t have a huge spreadsheet setting out how his character would be revealed over time, or how his personal life would develop. I’m starting to create one now, though! I remember hearing how the producers of The Archers have vast files about each of their characters – not just basics like age and height and colour of eyes, but all the things that have happened to them, and when.  Of course, mine is tiny by comparison, but I do know what they mean. Especially as right now I have Close to Home out, In The Dark imminent, No Way Out in final copyediting for publication in January, and I’m writing number four, so it’s easy to forget who did what and in which novel (it has happened!). And with three books written I do now have a clear idea of how Adam’s story is going evolve, and I hope readers who warmed to him in Close to Home will want to see how that plays out – how he faces up to the tragedy in his past, and the impact that is still having, especially on his relationship with his wife.

And I’m absolutely delighted that Penguin have now commissioned a fifth book as well, so that spreadsheet of mine looks likely to be growing for a while yet….

In The Dark by Cara Hunter ( Published by Penguin Books) Out now.

A woman and child are found locked in a basement room, barely alive.  No one knows who they are - the woman can't speak, and there are no missing persons reports that match their profile. The elderly man who owns the house claims he has never seen them before.  The inhabitants of the quiet Oxford street are in shock. How could this happen right under their noses? But DI Adam Fawley knows that nothing is impossible.  And that no one is as innocent as they seem . . .

Thursday, 19 July 2018

Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year 2018 announced


Stav Sherez has tonight (announced 19 July, 9pm) scooped the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Award for The Intrusions.

Now in its fourteenth year, the Award is considered one of the most coveted crime writing prizes in the country.

The Intrusions by Stav Sherez was a 2017 Guardian and Sunday Times book of the year, dubbed ‘A Silence of the Lambs for the internet age’ by Ian Rankin. The book was acclaimed by critics for its echoes of Emile Zola and influences from Graham Greene to Dostoyevsky.

Stav was presented the award by title sponsor Simon Theakston and broadcaster Mark Lawson at the opening night of the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival. The annual Festival, hosted in Harrogate, is the world’s biggest celebration of the genre.

Stav said: “I’m so shocked. Thank you so much for everyone who reads books, everyone who buys books, and talks about them. The world is full of hardships, but we have so much great stuff in culture and it means so much that there’s something to hide in.

Stav talked about the inspiration of social media offering a new vein of storytelling and criminality.

The Intrusions are the stuff we have all around us – all the static and scatter of TV and phones – everything is impinging on our consciousness and you don’t have time to think. So many great crime writers have come before us that have used all the great plots – Christie, James Ellroy – it’s good to have new criminality to deal with. But it’s not only criminality, the internet is affecting politics, it’s affecting elections, it affects us and our kids.

Sherez beat off stiff competition from the shortlist of six, whittled down from a longlist of 18 crime novels published by UK and Irish authors whose novels were published in paperback from 1 May 2017 to 30 April 2018.

The 2018 Award is run in partnership with T&R Theakston Ltd, WHSmith, and The Mail on Sunday.

Stav Sherez collected a £3,000 cash prize, as well as a handmade, engraved oak beer cask made by Theakston Old Peculier.

The winner was decided by the panel of Judges, comprising literary and media figures chaired this year by Lee Child, alongside a public vote.

The Intrusions is structured around the lead character – Carrigan’s - visits to the hospital to visit his mother who suffered a stroke.

Stav said: “I didn’t know anyone who died from stoke, then a year into writing the book my dad had his first stroke, and was in and out of hospital rewriting scenes I’d already imagined. Philip Roth in his book at his father’s death was shocked at himself writing notes, in a way it’s remembering the dead, making sure their stories are never lost, which is in a way is what all literature is about.”

A special presentation was made to John Grisham - the winner of the ninth Theakston Old Peculier Outstanding Contribution to Crime Fiction Award.
Grisham joins Lee Child, Val McDermid, Sara Paretsky, Lynda La Plante, Ruth Rendell, PD James, Colin Dexter and Reginald Hill as recipients of the Award.

John Grisham said: “About twenty years ago I attended a Chelsea football match with my close friend and editor, Oliver Johnson.  Afterwards, we retired to a pub and I had my first pint of Theakston Old Peculier.  Others followed.  It’s my favourite beer in the world.” 

He added: “I want to thank you for your loyal readership over the years, because of you, the readers, people like myself and Lee Child are lucky enough to do what we do. Thank you very much.

Title sponsor and executive director of T&R Theakston, Simon Theakston, said: “We’re particularly delighted to honour John Grisham. He is truly a giant of the genre, having sold 300 million books worldwide, with nine of his novels being adapted by Hollywood. His appearance at the Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival marks the first time he’s visited Yorkshire, something that will be remembered in Harrogate history for many years to come. The fact that he is a devotee of Old Peculier only adds to our delight!



The shortlist in full:
Mick Herron, Spook Street
Val McDermid, Insidious Intent
Denise Mina, The Long Drop
Abir Mukherjee, A Rising Man
Stav Sherez, The Intrusions
Susie Steiner, Persons Unknown

Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Books to Look Forward to from Bonnier Zaffre


July 2018

They sought the truth. A team of explorers seek ancient treasures, hidden in a secret cave. At first it seems they will return empty handed. Then their luck turns. They found a nightmare.  But the team's elation is short-lived as they become trapped there in the dark, with little possibility of escape. Then events take an even more terrifying turn. For not all secrets are meant to be found… The Anomaly is by Michael Rutger.

Every working mum has had to face it. The guilt-fuelled, anxiety-filled first day back in the office after maternity leave. But this working mum is one of a kind. Meet Alexis Tyler. An elite covert agent within Her Majesty's Secret Service. Her first project  back is a high-stakes hit of global significance and the old boys network of government espionage is far from ready for the return of an operational mother. But woe betide anyone who ever tells Alexis Tyler 'you can't'. She will have it all. Or she'll die trying . . . And yes, she damn well will be home for bath time.Killing It is by Asia Mackay.


August 2018

Murder Mile by Lynda La Plante is set at the height of the 'Winter of Discontent'. Can Jane Tennison uncover a serial killer? February, 1979, 'The Winter of Discontent'. Economic chaos has led to widespread strikes across Britain. Jane Tennison, now a Detective Sergeant, has been posted to Peckham CID, one of London's toughest areas. As the rubbish on the streets begins to pile up, so does the murder count: two bodies in as many days. There are no suspects and the manner of death is different in each case. The only link between the two victims is the location of the bodies, found within a short distance of each other near Rye Lane in Peckham. Three days later another murder occurs in the same area. Press headlines scream that a serial killer is loose on 'Murder Mile' and that police incompetence is hampering the investigation. Jane is under immense pressure to catch the killer before they strike again. Working long hours with little sleep, what she uncovers leaves her doubting her own mind.

The chilling first novel in the internationally bestselling Inspector Eschenbach series.  In the case of murder, there's always more to the story . . .  On a blazing hot day in the heart of summer, a renowned banker is shot dead whilst out on the golf course. There are no witnesses, and no obvious suspects.  When Commissioner Eschenbach is assigned to the case, he knows that someone must be hiding something.  And as he delves deeper into the victim's life, he starts to uncover a past darker than any he could have imagined, and secrets that spread wider than he could possibly believe.  Die in Summer is by Michael Theurillat.





Monday, 16 July 2018

Books to Look Forward to from Hodder & Stoughon & Mulholland Books




July 2018

He is one of the world's most ruthless terrorists, codenamed Saladin. He plans and executes devastating attacks and then, ghost-like, he disappears.  Ten years ago he blew a plane out of the sky above New York - and now he's killed dozens in a London strike.  But one of the latest victims is related to the acting head of MI5, who knows exactly who she wants on the case: Spider Shepherd. Dean Martin, a psychologically damaged former Navy SEAL, is the only person in the world who can identify Saladin. But Martin was killed ten years ago - wasn't he?  Shepherd must find Martin and take him back to the killing fields on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. Revenge on the world's most wanted terrorist is long overdue, and Shepherd is determined to be the one to deliver it . . .   Tall Order is by Stephen Leather.

Careless Love is by Peter Robinson.  A young local student has apparently committed suicide. Her body is found in an abandoned car on a lonely country road. She didn't own a car. Didn't even drive. How did she get there? Where did she die? Who moved her, and why?  Meanwhile a man in his sixties is found dead in a gully up on the wild moorland. He is wearing an expensive suit and carrying no identification. Post-mortem findings indicate he died from injuries sustained during the fall. But what was he doing up there? And why are there no signs of a car in the vicinity?  As the inconsistencies multiply and the mysteries proliferate, Annie's father's new partner, Zelda, comes up with a shocking piece of information that alerts Banks and Annie to the return of an old enemy in a new guise. This is someone who will stop at nothing, not even murder, to get what he wants - and suddenly the stakes are raised and the hunt is on.

The only thing worse than finding out that your husband is dead, is discovering the secrets he left behind.  Annabel's seemingly perfect ex-patriate life in Geneva is shattered when her  banker husband Matthew's plane crashes in the Alps. When Annabel finds clues that his death may not be all it seems, she puts herself in the crosshairs of powerful enemies and questions whether she really knew her husband at all. Meanwhile, journalist Marina is investigating Swiss United, the bank where Matthew worked. But when she uncovers evidence of a shocking global financial scandal that implicates someone close to home, she is forced to make an impossible choice.  The Banker’s Wife is by Cristina Alger


Some Die Nameless is by Wallace Stroby.  Ex-mercenary Ray Devlin is living a simple life off the grid in Florida, when a visit from an old colleague stirs some bad memories - and ends with a gunshot. Soon Devlin is forced to face a past he'd hoped to leave behind, as a member of a private military force that helped put a brutal South American dictator in power. Tracy Quinn is an investigative journalist at a struggling Philadelphia newspaper. What appears at first to be a straightforward homicide draws her and Devlin together, ultimately entangling them in a conspiracy that reaches to the highest levels of the US government.  Before long, they become the targets of a ruthless assassin haunted by his own wartime memories. For Devlin, it could mean a last shot at redemption. For Tracy, the biggest story of her career might just cost her her life.

The Death Knock is by Elodie Harper.  Three women have been found dead in East Anglia. The police deny a connection. TV news reporter Frankie smells a story...  Ava knows that the threat is real. She's been kidnapped by someone claiming to be the killer: a stranger who seems to know everything about her.  As Frankie follows the case, she enters a terrifying online world where men's rage against women may be turning murderous - and where her persistence might just make her a target. And Ava must struggle not only to stay alive... but to stay sane.


Make Them Sorry is by Sam Hawken.  Camaro doesn't particularly want to get involved with other people's lives, other people's problems. But she can tell that the woman in her gym is looking for help. And when she learns that Faith has a stalker, she agrees to give her a few defence lessons.  She's not expecting the stalker to become so violent so quickly. Or to have been hired by someone. Faith, it seems, has made some serious enemies... and now they're going after Camaro too.  They're about to find out that that was a mistake.

 August 2018

This is a fact: Ryan Summers walked into Three Rivers College and killed thirteen women, then himself.  But no one can say why.  The question is one that cries out to be answered - by Ryan's mother, Moira; by Ishbel, the mother of Abigail, the first victim; and by DI Helen Birch, put in charge of the case on her first day at her new job. But as the tabloids and the media swarm, as the families' secrets come out, as the world searches for someone to blame... the truth seems to vanish.  All The Hidden Truths is by Claire Askew.



The Red Ribbon is by H B Lyle.  Captain Vernon Kell's fledgling secret intelligence service faces being shut down before it has even begun its job of saving the Empire from German and Russian spies.  Harassed by politicians, like the ambitious Winston Churchill, bullied by Special Branch, undermined by his colleague Cumming's ill-advised foreign ventures and alarmed at his wife's involvement with militant suffragettes, Kell is making no progress in tracking high-profile leaks from the government. To make matter worse, his only agent, Wiggins, would rather be working on cases of his own. Wiggins grew up on the streets, one of the urchins trained in surveillance by Sherlock Holmes and known as the Baker Street Irregulars. He has promised to avenge the death of his best friend, and to track down a missing girl.  But when his search takes him towards a club in Belgravia - a club containing a lot of young women and presided over by the fearsome Big T, one of his former gang-mates - Wiggins is drawn into a conspiracy that will test both his personal and his professional resolve.

September 2018

London, 1952. Dick Bourton is not like the other probationer policemen in Notting Hill. He's older, having fought in Europe and then Korea. And he's no Londoner, being from a different planet. Cotswold farming stock. Then there's Anna, the exotically beautiful White Russian fiancee he has brought back to these drab streets and empty bombsites. She may as well come from   The new copper also has a mind of his own. After an older colleague is shot by a small-time gangster they are chasing in a pea-souper fog, something nags at Bourton's memory. He begins to make connections which his superiors don't want to see, linking a whole series of deaths and the fogs that stop the city in its tracks. Desperate to prove himself and his theories, Bourton fails to notice the fear which his mysterious bride is doing her best to conceal - and overcome.  Soon both Anna and Bourton are taking dangerous paths into the worst fog London has ever known...  "London had gone. As he stepped through the wicket, a dry smoky chill puffing over the lintel, everything that made the city - skyline, street signs, crowds, scarlet double-deckers - had disappeared, lost in the murk. I can't see the kerb, for God's sake, let alone Barker's across the road. He looked both ways, the chill crawling down his neck . . . Coshing gangs will love this. And our man. But we're on your trail, sunshine. He raised his hat to Marling, locking up behind. Tomorrow we nab you." Breathe is by Dominick Donald.

In The Prometheus Man, Reese hunted down his brother's killers - and destroyed any chance at a normal life. He stole the identity of a CIA agent, exposed a grisly stem cell experiment to enhance the human body, and made himself an enemy of the United States. Now Tom lives on the run with the woman he loves, knowing he'll lose her one day because a life with him is a life without a future.Thousands of miles away, in an abandoned oil rig off the Alaskan coast, a new Prometheus lab operates in secret. When the test subjects - all death-row inmates - revolt and slaughter their way out, the entire world is shocked and terrified. Knowing authorities will hunt them to the ends of the earth, they crash the power grid in half the continental U.S., and 100 million people are thrown into chaos.  As a nation collapses on itself, Tom is offered a deal: help bring in the men responsible, and he can come home. He signs on for a recon mission, but finds that it will take him to places and force him to do things far darker than he ever imagined.  The Pandora Equation is by Scott Reardon.

Do you ever feel that prickle on the back of your neck, as though someone's watching you?  Someone is watching Hannah.  Her name is Ruby, and her job as CCTV operative means she can follow Hannah everywhere she goes.  It's against the law, but Ruby can't help herself.  And there's no harm in just watching. Until just watching isn't enough . . .  So the next time you get that feeling, and you think you're alone . . . think again.  Her Watchful Eye is by Julie Corbin.

In the remote Swedish wetlands lies Mossmarken: the village on the edge of the mire where, once upon a time, people came to leave offerings to the gods.  Biologist Nathalie came in order to study the peat bogs. But she has a secret: Mossmarken was once her home, a place where terrible things happened. She has returned at last, determined to confront her childhood trauma and find out the truth.  Soon after her arrival, she finds an unconscious man out on the marsh, his pockets filled with gold - just like the ancient human sacrifices. A grave is dug in the mire, which vanishes a day after. And as the police investigate, the bodies start to surface...  Is the mire calling out for sacrifices, as the superstitious locals claim? Or is it an all-too-human evil?  The Forbidden Place is by Susanne Jansson 

The attack dog had its jaws clamped round the target's forearm and had sunk its teeth into his flesh. Danny could see the dark stain of blood through his night-vision goggles. The screaming had stopped. The target was staring blindly into the darkness, but he clearly knew there were armed men approaching him...  Helmand Province, Afghanistan. The Taliban are on the rise.  A top-secret SAS kill team is assassinating high-value targets. It is bloody, violent, relentless work, suitable only for the Regiment's most skilled and ruthless head hunters.  Like Danny Black.  But when Danny joins the kill team, he learns that Taliban militants are not his only problem. There are elements within the British Army who want to bring the SAS to book. And there are elements within the SAS who have their crosshairs on Danny himself.  Framed for a sickening war crime, Danny finds himself hunted in a brutal, dangerous terrain where his wits, training and strength may not be enough to survive.  And in a world where his enemies are closer than he could have imagined, he must do whatever it takes to get to the truth. If he fails, it will mean the end not only of Danny Black, but of the SAS itself.  Head Hunters is by Chris Ryan.


October 2018

John Grisham returns to Clanton, Mississippi in The Reckoning to tell the story of an unthinkable murder, the bizarre trial that followed it, and its profound and lasting effect on the people of Ford County.  Pete Banning was Clanton's favourite son, a returning war hero, the patriarch of a prominent family, a farmer, father, neighbour, and a faithful member of the Methodist church. Then one cool October morning in 1946. he rose early, drove into town, walked into the church, and calmly shot and killed the Reverend Dexter Bell.  As if the murder wasn't shocking enough, it was even more baffling that Pete's only statement about it - to the sheriff, to his defense attorney, to the judge, to his family and friends, and to the people of Clanton - was 'I have nothing to say'.  And so the murder of the esteemed Reverend Bell became the most mysterious and unforgettable crime Ford County had ever known.

Shell Game is by Sara Paretsky.  Legendary sleuth V.I. Warshawski returns to the Windy City to save an old friend's nephew from a murder arrest. The case involves a stolen artifact that could implicate a shadowy network of international criminals. As V.I. investigates, the detective soon finds herself tangling with the Russian mob, ISIS backers, and a shady network of stock scams and stolen art that stretches from Chicago to the East Indies and the Middle East.   In Shell Game, nothing and no one are what they seem, except for the detective herself, who loses sleep, money, and blood, but remains indomitable in her quest for justice.

It's been five years since Mia and Brynn murdered Summer Marks, their best friend, in the woods.  Increasingly obsessed with a novel called The Way into Lovelorn and by their fan-fiction imagining of its sequel, the girls were drawn by an undertow of fantasy into the magical world they'd created. But eventually, their delusions turned sick, and the Shadow, Lovelorn's central evil, began to haunt them.  Or so the story goes. The only thing is: they didn't do it.  Brynn and Mia have both found different ways to hide from their notoriety, seeking refuge from a world that hates them-a world that will never feel magical, or safe, ever again.  On the anniversary of Summer's death, a seemingly insignificant discovery resurrects the mystery and pulls Mia and Brynn back together once again. But as past and present, fiction and reality, begin again to intertwine, Brynn and Mia must confront painful truths they tried for so long to bury-and face the long shadow of memory that has, all this time, been waiting.  Broken Things is by Lauren Oliver.

November 2018

Wedding bells are set to ring as Dandy Gilver, family in tow, arrives in windswept Wester Ross on Valentine's Day. They've come to celebrate Lady Lavinia's fiftieth birthday and to meet her daughter Mallory, a less-than-suitable bride-to-be for Dandy's son Donald.  But soon love is the last thing on Dandy's mind when the news breaks that Lady Lavinia has been found dead, brutally murdered in the middle of her famous knot garden. Strange superstitions and folklore abound among the Gaelic-speaking locals. But , Dandy suspects that the tangled boughs and branches around Applecross House hide something much more earthly at work . . . A Step so Grave is by Catriona McPherson.