Friday 29 October 2021

Books to Look Forward to From Head of Zeus


January 2022

Was it an accident or assassination? When the former head of Israeli intelligence is killed on a paragliding trip, it's the latest in a series of 'accidental' deaths befalling key members of the American and Israeli governments. Mossad bring in terrorist hunters Aaron and Shoshana to investigate - and they know just who to call. Taskforce operator Pike Logan has been out of action for too long, so he jumps at the chance to take on the mission. An Iranian-funded militia group, operating in Iraq, has recently claimed responsibility for the deaths. But something doesn't add up, and Logan is determined to uncover the truth. He'll have to wade deep into the complex religious and political currents of the Israeli-Palestinian region, and it's up to the Taskforce to determine who is pulling the strings. What they find could have disastrous consequences not only for the Middle East, but for the entire world...End of Days is by Brad Taylor.

Disappearance of a Scribe is by Dana Stabenow. Cleopatra - seventh of her name, avatar of the goddess Isis, ruler of the Kingdom of Egypt - watches over her city. The war is over, but Alexandria, that once great beacon of learning and commerce, has suffered in its wake. Caesar has returned to Rome, and the queen must restore her city and her kingdom to their former greatness. But now a body has been found floating upright at the bottom of the sea, anchored in place by a cement weight around its feet. It's the second corpse to be found this way in two years, and the queen is concerned. With a city to rebuild and a kingdom to keep in line, Cleopatra cannot allow any more murders to interfere. So she sets Tetisheri - her Eye, her closest confidant and personal investigator - to make things right. As she delves deeper into the mystery, Tetisheri will discover secrets, conspiracy and danger far beyond her ken...

The Runaway is by Nick Petrie. When Peter Ash rescues a stranded woman, he finds she's in far deeper trouble than he bargained for... Peter Ash came home from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with only one souvenir: crippling claustrophobia due to PTSD. After years of living rough, he's trying hard to get back to a normal life - one where people aren't trying to kill him. And then he meets Helene, a young pregnant woman stranded on a remote Nebraska road. With no other rescuers in sight, Peter offers her a ride. But Helene's angry ex-cop husband is hot on her trail. It seems Helene has seen something she was never meant to see, and for Peter, protecting her will mean putting both their lives on the line..

February 2022

Betrayal is by David Gilman. Someone's going to start a war. And Raglan's just walked into the kill zone. It has been many years since Dan Raglan served in the French Foreign Legion, but the bonds forged in adversity are unbreakable and when one of his comrades calls for help, Raglan is duty-bound to answer. An ex-legionnaire, now an intelligence officer at the Pentagon, disappears. He leaves only this message: should he ever go missing, contact Raglan. But Raglan's not the only one looking for the missing man. From the backstreets of Marseilles, Raglan finds himself following a trail of death that will lead him to Florida, to the camaraderie of a Vietnam vet in Washington D.C., and into the heart of a bitter battle in the upper echelons of the US intelligence community. Pursued by both the CIA and a rogue female FBI agent, Raglan's search will place him in the cross hairs of an altogether more lethal organisation. Tracking his old comrade, he finds himself in the midst of deadly conspiracy, and on a journey to a fatal confrontation deep in the Honduran rainforest.

Sentinel Mesa is by Preston and Child. Forced to leave her post at the Santa Fe Archaeological Institute, Nora Kelly is left without a job and without any prospects. So when billionaire Lucas Tappan invites her to lead his excavation of the infamous Roswell landing site, she has no choice but to make a decision that could destroy her reputation. Armed with a healthy dose of scepticism, Nora reluctantly agrees to visit the site. When the preliminary scans of the area reveal a suspected Native American burial site, Nora takes a closer look. But this is no indigenous burial site. It's a crime scene, and a recent one at that. Nora uncovers two dead bodies, one with a bullet hole in its skull. Dead bodies mean this has become a case for the FBI, and Nora knows just the person to investigate - Special Agent Corrie Swanson. As Corrie and Nora dig deeper into the mystery, they will uncover more questions than answers. And the truth they seek will be even stranger than the conspiracy it hides behind.

The Last Commandment is by Scott Shepherd. Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt keep the Sabbath day holy. Thou shalt not kill. Christmastime in London: a period of joy and togetherness. Not for Metropolitan Police Commander Austin Grant, though. Three dead bodies have turned up on his patch, and the only thing they have in common is a number carved into their foreheads. A professor of ancient mythology, a sculptor of curious idols, frontman of The Blasphemers. It seems the killer is meting out their own justice, Biblically, punishing those who transgress the Ten Commandments. With seven commandments left, Grant sets the Met's best detectives to the case, scouring the capital before the zealot can strike again. But soon enough, a fourth victim turns up. In New York City. It appears Grant has a transatlantic manhunt on his hands. He's going to need all the help he can get from the NYPD if he's to stop the killer - before he reaches the last commandment.

A daredevil British agent goes behind enemy lines to search for a religious text that might hold the key to ending the Second World War. Basil St. Florian is an accomplished agent in the British Army, tasked with dozens of dangerous missions for crown and country across the globe. But his current mission, going undercover in Nazi-occupied France during World War II, might be his toughest assignment yet. He will be searching for an ecclesiastic manuscript that doesn't officially exist, one that genius professor Alan Turing believes may hold the key to a code that could prevent the death of millions and possibly even end the war. St. Florian isn't the classic British special agent with a stiff upper lip - he is a swashbuckling, whisky-drinking cynic and thrill-seeker who resents having to leave Vivien Leigh's bed to set out on his crucial mission. Despite these proclivities, though, Basil's Army superiors know he's the best man for the job, carrying out his espionage with enough charm and quick wit to make any of his subjects lower their guards. Basil's War is by Stephen Hunter.

One Bad Thing is by M K Hill. She thought she'd got away with it. She was wrong. Hannah Godley is an agony aunt on a London radio show Queen of Hearts. She's warm and empathetic; a good listener. Her catchphrase is: Be kind, always. But when a stranger phones in to tell a tragic story about her brother who killed himself after he was the victim of a terrible prank by two people, Hannah goes cold. Because she remembers Diane's brother well. In fact, all these years later, he still haunts her dreams. All because of that one bad thing she did when she was young... Is Diane just a sad, lonely woman looking for a friend, or does she know what Hannah did, and is looking for revenge? Because as Diane insinuates herself into her life and family, Hannah is going to discover that you can never truly escape that One Bad Thing you did - sooner or later, you're going to have to pay the price...

March 2022

Introducing your new crime thriller fix: Bristol detective DS George Cross, champion of the outsider, the voiceless and the dispossessed. DS George Cross can be rude, difficult, and awkward with people. But his unfailing logic and dogged pursuit of the truth means his conviction rate is the best on the force. An outsider himself, having been diagnosed with Autism spectrum disorder, DS Cross is especially drawn to cases concerning the voiceless and the dispossessed. Now, Cross is untangling the truth about a young woman who died three days ago. With no fingerprints, no weapon and no witnesses, the Bristol Crime Unit are ready to close the case. The coroner rules suicide: the woman had a long history of drug abuse. But her mother is convinced it was murder: her daughter has been clean and sober for over two years. DS Cross is determined to defy his bosses and re-open the case, even if it costs him his career. Soon he is mired in a labyrinth of potential suspects - but can he solve the case before his superiors shut it down for good? The Patient is by Tim Sullivan.

The Night Shift is by Alex Finlay. It's New Year's Eve of 1999 when four teenagers working late are attacked at a Blockbuster video store in New Jersey. Only one inexplicably survives. Police quickly identify a suspect, the boyfriend of one of the victims, who flees and is never seen again. Fifteen years later, four more teenagers are attacked at an ice cream store in the same town, and again only one makes it out alive. In the aftermath of the latest crime, three lives intersect: the lone survivor of the Blockbuster massacre who is forced to relive the horrors of her tragedy; the brother of the fugitive accused, who is convinced the police have the wrong suspect; and FBI agent Sarah Keller, who must delve into the secrets of both nights to uncover the truth about the night shift murders.

April  2022

The Fall is by Rachael Blok. The wind is cold this high up. The man shouts out, but nobody hears. The cathedral roof has caught his fall, but it will not hold him for long. The night is dark. And it is such a long way down... On Good Friday, the verger of St Albans cathedral was supposed to be preparing the Easter service. Instead he discovers a man lying dead, fallen from the famous fifty-foot-high spire. Did he jump, or was he pushed? For DCI Maarten Jansen, it's a simple case of suspected suicide. Until a stranger, Willow, who witnessed the jump, prompts a deeper investigation into a long-buried past, involving a mental hospital, a pregnant woman, and fifty years of silence. As Willow's own family history entwines with the case, Jansen starts to wonder how everything is connected.

May 2022

Sally Robinson was obsessed with family tradition. That's why, on a scorching August day, she dragged her family out for a picnic on Dedman's Heath. Sally imagined her picturesque children posing against the purple heathers and flowering yellow gorse of the South Downs: an envy-inducing post for her facebook page. Instead, the perfect mother and her perfect family were murdered. By a man who had murdered before, and will do so again. DI Toni Kemp, of Sussex police, must unravel a case which has shocked the county to its core. What she discovers will lead her to Bedford Hall, a grand country mansion, long ago converted into flats. Here in the middle of nowhere, where statues dot the lawn and peacocks scream in the bushes, six long-term residents have seen more than they should. But this is a community who are good at keeping secrets... The Companion is by Lesley Thomson.

June 2022

Katastrophe is by Graham Hurley. January, 1945. Wherever you look on the map, the Thousand Year Reich is shrinking. Even Goebbels has run out of lies to sweeten the reckoning to come. An Allied victory is inevitable, but who will reap the spoils of war? Two years ago, Werner Nehmann's war came to an abrupt end in Stalingrad. With the city in ruins, the remains of General Paulus' Sixth Army surrendered to the Soviets and Nehmann was shipped to Russia's arctic gulags. But now he's riding on the back of one of Marshal Zhukov's T-35 tanks, heading home with a message for the man who consigned him to the Stalingrad Cauldron. With the Red Army about to fall on Berlin, Stalin fears his sometime allies are conspiring to deny him his prize. He needs to speak to Goebbels - and who better to broker the contact than Werner Nehmann, Goebbels' one-time confidante? Swapping the ruins of Stalingrad for the wreckage of Berlin, swapping Joseph Goebbels for Joseph Stalin, Nehmann's war has taken a turn for the worse. The Germans have a word for it.

A missing girl. Buried family secrets. An absent father. Is the truth worth searching for? Summer, 1993. In the aftermath of her mother's suicide attempt, 16-year-old Prue must spend the summer holidays on a remote island in the Shetlands with her favourite Aunt Ruth and Uncle Archie, a man she's barely met since her aunt married him. Prue hopes to re-establish the relationship, and that her aunt might help her understand some of the parts of the past she has been forbidden to discuss by her mother - including the identity of her father. Prue soon finds out that her uncle was the only suspect in the disappearance of a local girl some twenty years ago. As she grows closer to him, she learns there are differing views on how the beguiling Evelyn O'Hara disappeared, but is her uncle innocent? Truth is something Prue has always had a fractured relationship with. A single version of the truth seems impossible for her to lockdown.. The Gone and the Forgotten is by Clare Whitfield.

Thursday 28 October 2021

The inspiration behind Shiver / Mind Games and Bodies in the Ice By Allie Reynolds


A hand protruding from the ice. That’s the gruesome image that provided the first spark of inspiration for my thriller Shiver. 

Many years ago, I was a freestyle snowboarder, once in the top ten UK. I spent five winters living and training in the high mountains of France, Switzerland, Austria and Canada. I was obsessed with the icy white world at the top of a mountain. Even back then, I was a keen writer. I kept a journal where I tried to capture this incredible environment on paper, knowing that one day I wanted to write a novel set there. 

The high mountains are full of natural dangerous like cliffs, avalanches and changeable weather conditions. Glaciers can be riddled with crevasses – sometimes hidden by a thin layer of snow or ‘snow bridge’ so if you take just one step in the wrong direction, you could literally fall to your death. Snowstorms can blow in at short notice, cutting off roads and stranding people. All in all, it seemed perfect setting for a thriller but it took me years to hit upon the idea for Shiver.

Years later, while living in sunny Queensland, Australia, a news article caught my eye about some climbers out hiking in the French Alps that summer, who spotted a hand and two shoes protruding from the ice. They’d called in rescue teams who had uncovered the body of a man who’d gone missing thirty years earlier. The article went on to explain that with climate change causing glaciers to retreat, many more bodies are expected to emerge. I couldn’t get the creepy idea of bodies in the ice from my head. 

I did some further research and was shocked to learn that Mont Blanc area, where I’d spent my first winter season, was currently believed to hold 161 bodies of alpinists who’d gone missing over the years. I knew the high mountains were dangerous but I never realised they were quite so deadly. 

It struck me then that if someone goes missing in such terrain, we might not learn for years if their death is an accident or something more sinister – or perhaps they aren’t really there at all. The mountains provide a perfect place to disappear. When I asked myself who might wish to do away with someone in the mountains, the answer seemed obvious: a sporting rival.

As a former athlete, I love reading sports memoirs and sports psychology books. In particular, I’m interested in the mental aspect of sports. It’s been said that winning in a sport is as much as 90% a game of the mind – that two athletes might be equally naturally talented but the one who plays a better mental game will win every time. 

In a YouTube video I was fascinated to hear one athlete say this about his rival: he’s one of the most competitive people on earth. He plays real mind games. What exactly did he mean by ‘mind games’? Further research revealed countless tales of the sorts of games athletes play, in sports such as basketball, golf, boxing, soccer and rugby, where big money is on offer for the top players. Tactics included intimidation, trash talking (for example saying terrible things about another player’s wife or daughter), and generally trying to get under their opponent’s skin to rile them and make them crack. 

Thankfully I didn’t find any examples of such tactics being played in extreme sports like freestyle snowboarding, but my imagination went to work. In a dangerous sport and a dangerous environment, mind games could have deadly consequences, which made them perfect material for a psychological thriller. 

Athletes make great thriller characters, too, in my opinion. Focussed, driven… and quite possibly ruthless. I’m always surprised we don’t see more of them in crime and thriller novels. A storyline began to form in my head about a close-knit group of snowboarders vying to be the best. If they’re equally matched in terms of physical ability, they may have to resort to other measures to get ahead. How far might someone go to win? 

I’m happy to say that I didn’t play or experience any ‘mind games’ while I was snowboarding. If I had, I might not be here to tell the tale. But if you read Shiver, I hope you enjoy the mind games the characters play with each other and the reader – from the safety of your armchair.

Shiver by Allie Reynolds is out 28th October in paperback, priced £7.99 (Headline).

They don't know what I did. And I intend to keep it that way. When Milla is invited to a reunion in the French Alps resort that saw the peak of her snowboarding career, she drops everything to go. While she would rather forget the events of that winter, the invitation comes from Curtis, the one person she can't seem to let go. The five friends haven't seen each other for ten years, since the disappearance of the beautiful and enigmatic Saskia. But when an icebreaker game turns menacing, they realise they don't know who has really gathered them there and how far they will go to find the truth. In a deserted lodge high up a mountain, the secrets of the past are about to come to light.

Monday 25 October 2021

A Character in Search of a Story

Driving home late on a blustery and rainy night, my route took me past the magnificent lighthouse at St Matthew's Point. Lighthouses are mysterious and wonderful constructions, prone to inspiring writers, which was maybe in the back of mind when I decided to stop and take a closer look. I'd just come to the depressing realisation that the first book I'd written was not going to be the one that catapulted me to the top of the Sunday Times Bestseller List. I was going to have to write another. Anyway the lighthouse did its magic for me that night, when the opening scene of On The Edge - a woman hanging, unconscious and dreaming from the viewing platform of a lighthouse with no idea how she got there - came to me. That opening scene has never changed although its writing has improved over the years it took me to finish the book. 

My protagonist, Jenifry (Jen) Shaw must have been waiting for me at the lighthouse too, because she slipped into the car and started talking as I drove away. By the time I reached home I knew almost everything about her. And most important of all, I knew exactly how she spoke and if you know how a character speaks, you know how they think. Characters sometimes arrive more or less full formed to me - the ones that don't, I've learned how to work with to tease out - but none of them have sprung so full-bloodedly to life as Jen did that night. 

Anyway I had an opening scene and a character desperate to talk to me. What more did I need? I started writing the next day letting my imagination take me where it will and it took me to a lot of strange places. A few months later the first draft was on paper. A bit of tidying, no, a LOT of tidying and On The Edge Version ONE was ready for beta reading. I was still not that far along my 'learning to write' journey, so I honestly thought there'd be a bit of prose finessing to do and maybe a couple of scenes that didn't quite hit the mark. And I was ready to tackle them, to perfect my book before sending it out to the agents and publishers who I was sure would be eager to claim it for their own.

The truth when it came was difficult to swallow. While readers loved Jen, the plot left them cold. It was wild, they said. 'All over the place' is another phrase I remember. I took a deep breath - I am nothing if not tenacious - and rewrote. I eliminated the worst of the excesses: the woman who lived in a tree in Hyde Park; the stolen and hidden baby; and many other plot delights. Then I reread but even I could see what was left was no good, a weak tale, full of unlikely coincidences and plot holes. 

I despaired. I considered abandoning it. Everybody loved Jen. Everybody found the opening intriguing. There were some great sequences. And some of the characters were promising. But without the glue of a story to hold the whole thing together it was a waste of time. What I had wasn't a book but a character in search of a story.

It was time to learn the hard work of writing and I tried. I gobbled up every book I could find on structure. I became familiar with the three-act structure and the five-act, the hero's journey and meaning of midpoint and inciting event. I learned how to turn a scene and build tension. It was all fantastic stuff but none of it gave me Jen's story. 

A wise woman told me to stop worrying about plot and to trust my instincts again. I had an array of characters as well as Jen. Why didn't I work on them and see where that led me. I did as she suggested and plunged myself into background work on one the minor characters who was eluding me. This involved researching the history of tin mining in Cornwall - no hardship because it's an absolutely fascinating subject. While I was researching, I came across Rosevale Mine. It's a small mine, abandoned since before the first world war but in recent years a small band of volunteers has been restoring it using traditional methods - a long, hard tedious job. 

Something about the notion of a small group of people undertaking such a project lodged itself in my head - indeed I have since though that I could write a whole novel about it - and wouldn't let go. Eventually it showed me a whole different side to the character I was working on and from this came the germ of an idea for a different story. A simpler one, that somehow tied the characters, the setting and the action sequences together in a way my previous plot hadn't. 

This story lay underground in all senses of the word. In things hidden beneath the surface and in the dark. In private passions and secret motives. I itched to start writing but I stopped myself. Instead I mined its possibilities. I tracked and planned. I examined each idea and made sure it wasn't leading me down a dead end that I'd struggle to escape from. And then I wrote it. 

I'd love to tell you it was snapped up by a publisher straightaway but the truth is it still needed refining, developing and tightening, although the seam of story pinning it together has stayed the same. 

On The Edge taught me a lot about everything to do with writing and a lot about myself as a writer. How it's a mixture of sweat and inspiration, of unconscious connections sparking naturally but needing to be developed critically. And about how I struggled with the latter. 

On the Edge by Jane Jesmond. (Verve Books) Out Now.

Jen Shaw has climbed all her life: daring ascents of sheer rock faces, crumbling buildings, cranes - the riskier the better. Both her work and personal life revolved around climbing, and the adrenaline high it gave her. Until she went too far and hurt the people she cares about. So she's given it all up now. Honestly, she has. And she's checked herself into a rehab centre to prove it. Yet, when Jen awakens to find herself drugged and dangling off the local lighthouse during a wild storm less than twenty-four hours after a 'family emergency' takes her home to Cornwall, she needs all her skill to battle her way to safety. Has Jen fallen back into her old risky ways, or is there a more sinister explanation hidden in her hometown? Only when she has navigated her fragmented memories and faced her troubled past will she be able to piece together what happened - and trust herself to fix it.

More information about the author can be found on her website. You can also find her on Facebook and on Twitter @AuthorJJesmond

Sunday 24 October 2021

November Books to Look Forward to from Bookouture


The girl in the photo was laughing, her head thrown back, her lips painted a bright red. Jessie could feel the simple joy reflected in that moment. And as she looked closer, she saw the same gold cross and chain that had adorned the first victim’s neck. When a young woman falls to her death from a parking garage, the Boston police department rule it as a suicide. But when Jessie Novak examines the scene, she isn’t so sure… The girl’s delicate hands are bruised and her fingernails torn: evidence of a struggle. Did someone push her from the roof? Then a second young woman is found dead, this time at the foot of her dorm building, her hands injured in the same way as the first victim’s with a gold cross and chain clutched in her fist. Jessie is convinced there is a connection and that a twisted killer is on the loose. Just as Jessie thinks she is closing in on the culprit, her worst fears are realized: a third girl is found dead. The gap between murders is closing: the killer is getting more confident. He will never stop until he is caught. But little does Jessie know that, while she works to pick up the trail of her suspect, he is already on hers. She is the only one who can stop this monster before he kills again—but to save the next innocent life, is she prepared to risk her own? Her Mother's Cry is by Roberta Gately.

The Second Marriage is by Jess Ryder. ‘They’re lying,’ my little stepson whispers, his blue eyes shining with tears as I tuck him into bed for the first time. ‘They think I’ve forgotten, but I remember everything. I know my mummy is still alive.’ My best friend warned me that it was too soon to marry Edward, a widower with an adorable but troubled little boy. She said we were moving too fast. But all I could see was a kind, loving man, struggling with grief, who needed my help. Yet as storm clouds gather above our small wedding ceremony, my hopes and dreams fall apart. None of my husband’s family turn up to support us. Instead of a honeymoon, we have a quiet night in. My wedding bouquet is placed on his first wife’s grave. And then my new stepson tells me he’s sure his mother is still alive. What does Noah remember and why is his father trying to make him forget? Have I been completely wrong about my husband? What happened to the woman who came before me, and how far will he go to stop me finding out the truth?

Recognition hits me as I look at the woman lying in the long grass. It’s my sister. Her hot-pink nails are chipped and caked with dirt, her blue eyes are cold and vacant. I desperately shake her, even though I know. She’s gone. Fresh out of the Military Police, Georgia Fell has returned to her Michigan island hometown a decade after she ran away. Late to meet her younger sister at a bar on the isolated tip of the isle, she arrives to her worst nightmare: Rachel dead, purple bruises around her slim, beautiful neck.When the police rule out murder, Georgia knows it can’t be true. Reluctantly, she must turn to the person she’s been avoiding since she came home. Georgia can’t forgive single dad Lincoln McNamara for his betrayal the night she left, but he has an in with the dangerous crew operating out of the roadhouse where Rachel was killed. The question is, can she trust him? But before she can convince Lincoln to help her, another local girl goes missing. How deep into the darkness of island life must Georgia go to find out the truth? And with an innocent girl’s life on the line, does she even have a choice? The Dark Water Girls is by Maegan Beaumont.

You think you know the people next door… What if they know you better? I always dreamed of moving back home to Ridgeview Pines, with its white fences and sloping lawns. I wish it had happened under different circumstances, but now I’m here I feel safe and ready for a fresh start with my little family. The first thing I do every morning is pick up my phone and check The Neighbour List—our local message board. Maybe the people next door know a little too much about where their neighbours are and what they’re doing, but it’s safer that way, isn’t it? And my husband—he wouldn’t dare sneak behind my back with so many eyes watching. Just when I’m beginning to relax, a woman I’ve known since I was small is found dead on the white tiles of her bathroom floor. I watch messages of condolence flood my screen. No one else suspects a thing. But I know that among all these friendly people, watching out for one another, someone knows more than they’re sharing. And I wonder—how far back do they remember, and who’s next? We Live Next Door is by Laura Wolfe. 

Missing Daughter is by Kiersten Modglin. When I wake up with the sun in my eyes the morning after my daughter’s birthday party, I know something is very wrong. I go straight to her room but feel a surge of panic when I see an empty bed. Downstairs everything is totally quiet, and the front door is locked. Why didn’t I hear her scream? Who took our little girl? My husband says I’ve been struggling since Skylar was born and that sometimes I forget things. But I remember every moment of my daughter’s party—including him locking the door after our family and friends left. Yes, we both had a drink and I slept heavily but I know I would have heard my child cry. A good mother always does. My therapist says I need to stand up for myself. She wants me to confront my husband about the woman I heard him talking to the other night when he thought I was asleep. And about the child’s toy that I found that does not belong to Skylar. Is he hiding something? But as the hours race by I soon realize I was totally wrong about everything that happened that night. I thought I’d put my past behind me long ago but I was wrong. All I know is this: I’ll do whatever it takes to save my child.  Will you believe me?

The Safe Place is by L A Larkin. Her heart pounds at the sound of footsteps outside her cabin in the woods. The snap of a twig tells her someone is close by. As she treads lightly towards the back door, she says a silent prayer—don’t let him find me… Ever since Jessie Lewis reported her boyfriend, fire chief and local hero, for beating her, she’s been an outcast from the small town of Eagle Falls. And when someone sets fire to a house in the woods, killing the entire Troyer family, the locals turn on her again, taking her very public argument with Paul Troyer as proof that she lit the match. Devastated that anyone could think her capable of murder, Jessie turns to Ruth. New in town, and an ex-FBI agent, Ruth could be the exact person Jessie needs to smoke out the murderer. But can she trust her with her life? Days later, another house linked to Jessie is set ablaze. Combing the ashes for answers, she catches sight of an inscription she hasn’t seen since her childhood—since she lost someone very close to her. Is the killer is coming for her next? As local wildfires take hold of the town and everyone is evacuated, Jessie knows she must put herself in unthinkable danger to catch the killer. And when she does, will she have the strength to take them down first?

25 years ago he took a girl. Today he takes another. One August afternoon, eight-year-old Grace Lennard skips into the garden of the childcare centre she attends and vanishes into thin air. Hours before, Steven Harte walks into Halesowen police station and confesses to having information that will lead Detective Kim Stone to Melody Jones – the little girl who was taken from a playground exactly twenty-five years ago. But something about his confession is off and Kim dismisses his claims. Arriving at the scene of Grace’s disappearance, Kim finds a chilling piece of evidence: the heart bracelet belonging to Melody. Now Kim must play Steven’s twisted game if she is to find Grace alive. But they’re going to play by Kim’s rules. With only twenty-four hours to make every second of Steven’s interrogation count, and scan his behaviour for hidden clues, Kim and her team soon link Steven to the abduction of several vulnerable girls – two were kept for a year and then released, unharmed – but where are Melody and the others? Then small bones are discovered in the grounds of a local park, and Kim fears the worst. Kim may be close to convicting a killer, but there’s another who wants revenge against her – Dr Alex Thorne – the evil woman Kim did her best to keep behind bars. Alex is about to reveal a shocking secret to Kim that will hit her where it hurts the most. And if Kim lets Alex mess with her head, she might not be able to save Grace and find the other missing girls in time. Stolen Ones is by Angela Marsons. 

My husband was not a monster. No matter what they say… The day my husband, Michael, stepped in front of a lorry after being questioned by the police, my world fell apart. He was devoted to me and our six-year-old daughter. But they’d connected him to the disappearance of a young mother from our tiny village. Now I stand at Michael’s funeral, clutching my little girl’s hand, with tears in my eyes as I insist to all our friends that he died an innocent man. Yet the questions have started, and nothing I say will stop them digging for the truth. But none of them can read the secrets in my heart, or know about the phone I found hidden in his toolbox… I’m determined that my daughter will not remember her father as a monster. I will erase any hint of wrongdoing in this house whatever the cost. Because to keep my daughter safe, the last thing I need is for people to start looking at me… The Widow is by K L Slater.

The New Family is by Victoria Jenkins.  Can you really trust the family next door? Brooke is delighted when Oliver decides to rent her old family home with his three-year-old son Finley. Finally someone to bring happiness to the rundown house across the street. They seem like the perfect tenants, but Brooke is a little unnerved when they move in with just a single bag between them. Where are their belongings? When Brooke asks Oliver about his past, he quickly changes the subject. Her best friend tells her to leave it, after all Brooke has been through enough trauma in her life. But Brooke can’t shake off the feeling that something isn’t right. Why aren’t her new tenants’ names listed anywhere online? Then Brooke arrives home to find orange flames dancing in the upstairs windows. As her whole life goes up in smoke, she is convinced it wasn’t an accident. And when she finds Finley drawing a picture of an angry burning house with terror in his eyes, her blood runs cold. What is Finley so frightened of? And why does Oliver snatch the drawing away the moment he sees it? Brooke is convinced Finley is in serious danger, but given her past, she’s not sure anyone will believe her. Is Brooke ready to face up to her own demons to save the little boy? And when the truth is finally revealed, who is really the one in danger?

You can never truly know what goes on behind closed doors… My darling son, Sam, is marrying his childhood sweetheart and I couldn’t be prouder of the man he’s grown into. Walking out on his abusive father all those years ago was the best thing I ever did. And today he stands, tall and handsome, saying ‘I do’ to my dream daughter-in-law. If I hadn’t pushed them together all those years ago, he might never have found a girl as perfect as Lauren. It’s true what they say, mother always knows best. But weeks later, Lauren is dead and police cars fill the driveway of their idyllic countryside home. As they question Sam, I sense he’s hiding something. Why won’t he look me in the eye? And who does he rush off to meet as soon as the police are gone? Desperate, I do what every good mother would do: I let myself into Sam and Lauren’s bedroom. What I see, I will never be able to forget. My son’s beautiful new wife was hiding a dangerous secret. Can I clear my son’s name? And could my life be in danger now too? The New Wife is by Sue Watson.

Hurrying along the dark, snow-covered path, she knows she’s not alone when she hears the light tread of someone behind her. Panic rising in her chest, she picks up the pace. But she doesn’t even have a chance to scream before everything goes black. When a beautiful young woman is reported missing from her hotel room on the outskirts of Black Rock Falls, Sheriff Jenna Alton and her deputy David Kane are devastated to discover her pale, lifeless body trapped beneath a frozen lake nearby. It’s Jenna who finds the single pearl earring buried in the frosted grass that gives them their first lead. Just as Jenna has the remaining hotel guests safely back in their rooms, the killer strikes again, and another victim is found in one of the hotel’s lakeside cabins. Next to his bloodied body is a second pearl earring. What does it mean, and why is the killer leaving them for Jenna to find?Interviewing witnesses, Jenna discovers that both victims were seen arguing with other residents hours before their deaths. Could the murderer be out for revenge, and how many more bodies will follow before they are truly satisfied? As a blizzard cuts the hotel off from Black Rock Falls, Jenna and her team are trapped with the killer. Then she receives a terrifying call from a teenage girl who thinks the murderer was in her room as she slept. Can Jenna save her from becoming the next victim? And how many more innocent lives will be taken before the snow thaws? Fallen Angel is by D K Hood. 

Death on a Winter's Day is by Verity Bright. Christmas at the castle with holly, handmade gifts, snowflakes and… is that a body under the tree? Someone call Lady Swift! Winter, 1921. Lady Eleanor Swift, amateur sleuth and reluctant lady of the manor, has been invited to spend Christmas in Scotland, at the beautiful castle of her dear friends Baron and Baroness Ashley. Even her favourite companion, master of mischief Gladstone the bulldog, is coming along to share a slice of turkey. As snow begins to fall outside, the rather mismatched group are cozy by the roaring fire, sharing a tipple over a plate of Mrs Trotman’s famous mince pies. But after what was supposed to be a fun party game, Mr Eugene Randall is found dead at the feast. A somewhat unpopular business associate of the Baron’s from across the pond, it seems Mr Randall has certainly upset somebody. Was it what he said about Scottish whisky? The killer must be in the castle… and when the Baron is arrested, Baroness Ashley begs Eleanor to investigate. Determined not to let her friend down, Eleanor sets about questioning the remaining partygoers. All too swiftly, someone else is found dead, having apparently fallen from a high balcony. As if one murder wasn’t enough to put a twist in the tinsel! Eleanor knows she’s skating on thin ice now. And when she discovers a hidden document that points the finger of suspicion at the unlikeliest of suspects, she realises there’s more to the story. Can Eleanor catch the killer before it’s time for Christmas dinner?

You get us what we want. Or your wife dies. And we will make it hurt.” Jerome Prentice is a good guy. Loyal to a fault, he always stays on the right side of the law. But everything changes the night he is awoken by the sound of masked kidnappers entering his home. Holding him at gunpoint, they drag his beloved wife Alicia out of the house with a promise to kill her if he goes to the police. Their demand: betray the company he’s worked for his entire adult life. They think he’ll do anything to save his wife. But they don’t know that they’re messing with the wrong man. Because Jerome might be a good guy. But betrayal doesn’t come easily to him. And he’s not a man who will go down without a fight. What’s more, he will hunt the people who’ve taken Alicia to the ends of the earth. And if they’ve hurt even one hair on her head, he’s going to make them pay… The Hostage is by John Ryder.

From behind the curtains, Sarah spotted the man coming out of the house, followed by the woman. It would be strange seeing people in the property. She wondered how much it would change their lives. For now, she would bide her time and hopefully get to know them better. She needed to gain their trust. When I met Richard, I fell for him instantly. He was able to give me everything I had always wanted, the dream house, security and above all, love like I’d never known. We lived a quiet life in the middle of nowhere; we didn’t need anyone else. So, when the empty house next door is sold, I am wary. Will our neighbours invade the perfect life Richard has built for us? As soon as I meet Juliette and Danny, I am reassured. Overwhelmed by grief after the death of their young daughter, they have moved in search of a quiet life and a chance to start again. Over dinner one evening, we hit it off instantly and I know they are just the neighbours we need. All is well until Juliette spots a young girl in our garden. Richard convinces her that she is seeing things, that it’s the grief taking over. But Juliette won’t let it go. She is sure she saw a child. She believes that Richard is threatening her. She starts to think that I’m not safe. I need to convince Juliette that she’s imagining it. I need to keep Richard happy. If I am to protect everything I have built for myself, she must never find out the truth. That my perfect life is built on the deadliest lie. The Life She Wants is by Mel Sherratt.

Saturday 23 October 2021

Newcastle Noir 2021


The panels for Newcastle Noir have been announced. 

Panel 1 - 10.00 – 10.45 In the Line of Duty

Robert Scragg, Howard Linskey and Tariq Ashkanani

There’s something about a police procedural that takes the reader to the heart of the crime and up close and personal with those bringing law and order to dark, disturbed places. With three authors who set their investigations locally, nationally and a bit further afield, we kick off NN2021 by examining what makes a successful fictional detective and why we’re ever drawn to watching them uncover the truth.

Panel 2 - 11.15 – 12.00pm Murder She Wrote… and So Much More!

LJ Ross, Judith O’Reilly and Fiona Erskine

Creating protagonists that linger long after the last page is turned, capturing the essence of place, bringing us plots that keep us twisting and turning, but what if an author’s crime writing was not their first calling? These best-selling authors all had a life before thrilling us with their gloriously dark tales and this session will look at how these earlier experiences may have influenced the text and why crime fiction is now so important to them.

Panel 3 - 12.30 – 1.15pm From Whitley Bay to Blackwood Bay

Ann Cleeves and SJ Watson

The crime scene is an integral part of crime fiction and the impact of the evil committed there is even greater when it happens right on our doorstep. In this panel we’ll discuss writing home or away, creating fictional close-knit communities, and portraying ordinary lives turned upside down by unexpected, shocking events. Oh, and if we’ve time, we’ll ask these highly acclaimed authors what happens when your gripping page-turner of a novel becomes all-important viewing. Not to be missed!

Panel 4 - 1.45 – 2.30pm North by Northwest

Rob Parker and SE Moorhead

From across the Pennines, we bring you crime writing that packs more of a punch than Tyson Fury. An ex-soldier and ex-convict on one last mission for an old friend, a detective sergeant with the heart of a lion, and a neuropsychologist whose new technology might just catch a menacing serial killer. No, we’re not talking about the authors, but rather the protagonists they have created who are willing to risk everything to see justice served.

Panel 5 - 3.00 – 3.45pm Will We Ever Get Out of Here?

Chris McGeorge and DL Marshall

Edgar Allen Poe, Agatha Christie and Gaston Leroux first showed us the criminally delicious tension and intrigue that was to be found in the locked-room mystery. Fast forward 80 years and our authors on this panel will demonstrate the tremendous flexibility of this mystery subgenre. Nowadays the scene of the crime has grown to encompass actual areas, like houses or islands. The suspense lies in knowing that you may be next!

Panel 6 - 4.15 – 5.00pm Don’t Look Away!

Michael J Malone, Louise Beech and Sarah Sultoon

Writing stories that dare us to consider what we often prefer to ignore takes great skill and sensitivity. Given the overwhelming success of a similar panel at previous NN festivals, we wanted to explore further how fact informs fiction when treating such highly sensitive issues. To that end we have brought together three thought-provoking authors who are highly accomplished in bringing the reader face to face with the shocking and unthinkable.

Panel 7 - 5.30 – 6.15pm Something Wicked this Way Comes!

Matt Wesolowski and ES Thomson

What do a curious Victorian apothecary and an elusive contemporary podcaster have in common? With their darkly atmospheric and chilling tales, we’ll hear how these authors have written award-winning and critically acclaimed crime fiction with a grippingly Gothic touch. We’ll also consider how the creepy, the macabre and the sinister continue to fascinate and resonate down through the centuries. Not for the faint hearted, dare you join us?!

Panel 8 - 7.00 – 7.45pm Daring to be Different

Mari Hannah, Trevor Wood and Harriet Tyce

Crime fiction is often thought to be a highly predictable and formula-driven genre, yet our closing panel brings together authors whose writing has proved this is not always the case. Every so often a voice comes along daring to break the mould, offering us award-winning, critically acclaimed stories with a refreshing edge. Come celebrate Northern crime writing with us in the company of three authors who write with the courage of their convictions.

Tickets can be bought here.


Sunday 5th December 2021


10:00am – 20:00


Newcastle City Library

33 New Bridge Street West

Newcastle upon Tyne


Friday 22 October 2021

Andrew Wilson Book Launch and literary talk


Andrew Wilson, author of Beautiful Shadow, the first biography of Patricia Highsmith (Strangers on a Train, The Talented Mr Ripley, Carol), talks about Highsmith’s life, her newly published – and at times shocking – diaries, and her influence on writing his own thriller Five Strangers. Five Strangers has just been published too.

Signed books will be available!


Date: 26 November 2021

Time: 6:30 pm - 11:30 pm

Cost: Free

Sign up here.

Thursday 21 October 2021

A Crystal Clear Crime - The Glencairn Glass Short Story Competition

 The Glencairn Glass launches its first ever crime short story competition with the theme:

“A Crystal Clear Crime”

For the past two years, the world’s favourite whisky glass – The Glencairn Glass – has featured as headline sponsor of the prestigious McIlvanney and Bloody Scotland Debut crime-writing prizes, celebrating the finest in Scottish crime writing talent. This week The Glencairn Glass is building on this creative collaboration by launching its very own crime short story competition, in partnership with Scottish Field Magazine.

The Glencairn Glass is looking to celebrate up-and-coming literary talent through this exclusive competition from October to December.

The competition opens for entries on 20th October and runs until 31st December, inviting all budding crime writers to build their stories around the theme: ‘A Crystal-Clear Crime’ in no more than 2000 words.

The judging panel for the inaugural competition will comprise Deborah Masson, 2020 winner of the Bloody Scotland Debut Crime Novel of the Year with her book ‘Hold Your Tongue’, Peter Ranscombe, Scottish Field’s drinks columnist and author of the historical thriller ‘Hare’, as well as Glencairn’s marketing director Gordon Brown, who has written eight crime novels with his latest, ‘Thirty-One Bones’, written under the pseudonym Morgan Cry. Gordon is also one of the founding directors of the Bloody Scotland International Crime Writing Festival.

Gordon Brown commented: “We’re very excited to be launching the Glencairn Glass crime short story competition, supported by the team at the Bloody Scotland International Crime Writing Festival along with the Culture and Business Fund Scotland, working with Scottish Field. We are delighted to invite both experienced and novice authors, alike, to take a stab at entering (excuse the pun!) and wish all entrants the best of luck.

Three prizes will be available for the winning trio of authors: the first prize winner will receive £1000, whilst the two runners up will each receive £250. All three winners will also receive a set of six bespoke engraved Glencairn Glasses to enjoy their favourite dram with. The overall winning entry will be published by Scottish Field in spring 2022 as well as on The Glencairn Glass website.

All short story entries must be uploaded at with the competition closing at midnight on the Friday 31st December 2021. Details can also be found at The winners will be announced in March 2022.

Blood Ties and the return of Ben Devlin by Brian McGilloway


In 2011, I wrote the final words of The Nameless Dead, the fifth in the Ben Devlin series. It was a strange experience. I already knew as I wrote the book that my publisher at the time would not be continuing with the series. The book then, while always intended as another instalment in Devlin’s story, also revisited some of the characters from Borderlands, bringing the series full circle in a way so that, if it was the end, it could serve as a satisfying conclusion.

My leaving Devlin behind also reflected the status of the Border itself in some ways. When I started Devlin, in 2002/2003, the Good Friday Agreement had, in effect, facilitated the removal of the last of the military infrastructure off the border crossings. Still, after so many years, the border was still a very real presence, at a psychological level at least, even after the border posts had gone. But, as I wrote the Devlin books over the next seven or eight years, charting the development of his growing friendship with Jim Hendry in the north, that psychological border began to weaken too. In the real world, I drove back and forth across the frontier without any awareness of its presence. My children were growing up, not really knowing what it meant in any concrete way. That may be why, by the time I’d written four Devlins, I turned my attention to the North and introduced a new character in Lucy Black with Little Girl Lost. I went back to Devlin for that fifth novel in 2011 to round out his story.

And then he stopped speaking to me., just as the border itself seemed to vanish.

The Nameless Dead came out in 2012 and, with that, I was out of contract. And then, for some reason, a year later, Little Girl Lost began to take off, both here and in the US, selling over half a million copies in a few months between the two territories and offering me a chance to keep telling stories. But the readership, and my focus, seemed to be on Lucy and her stories. Once or twice, I began to write a new Devlin story but found his voice was not there. The story was not his.

Brexit changed that. All at once, the border became a feature of conversation again, of discussion in the media – over here at least, though, strangely, seemingly not in Britain. Sides were redrawn, tribal identities reasserted. The psychological border reappeared. And with that, Devlin re-emerged in my consciousness.

Devlin has always been a punchbag for me – a chance for me to work out how I feel about things, and to explore my own responses and reactions based on his. Two years ago, I lost my dad after a short illness. It left me reeling – we were very close and Devlin’s kindness and decency were very much a reflection of my father, a truly kind, gentle man himself. So, while I did not set out to write a book that reflected on the loss of my father, it was natural that when I heard Devlin’s voice again, had his story begin to compel itself on me, it should be a story of loss and grief. One that looks at how family changes over time and the relationship between fathers and their sons.

It was important to me that Devlin should be the voice who tells that story in Blood Ties. The Devlin books have always explored the borderlands – the grey areas between certainties – and Devlin himself has always reflected an awareness that, here in the border area especially, there are no simple answers, no simple definitions. Devlin is father to both his son and his own father in this book, and yet also still a son himself, learning from both his parent and child. But now his children are moving on to college and his parents have passed: all the things by which he defined himself have changed. And, in the book, he must redefine himself. Or, at the very least, learn to accommodate those changes in his own sense of self-identity.

So, identity became the key theme of the novel, as reflected by the epigraph from the wonderful Elizabeth Jennings poem of that name. Issues of victimhood and the habit (in Northern Ireland especially) of creating a hierarchy of worthiness among victims, as if one person’s grief is more deserving than another’s, feed into that same theme of how we create an identity for ourselves and how it is created for us by others. In this book, the lines between victim and perpetrator are blurred and Devlin must constantly reassess how others are defined by his community even as he tries to redefine himself.

I am grateful to have found Devlin’s voice again, though in all honesty, it is not far from my own. I’m grateful to have him as a way to work out how I feel about the world. And I’m hugely grateful that anyone else would be kind enough to continue following both of us on that journey by reading one of these stories.

Blood Ties by Brian McGilloway (Constable) Out Now 

How can a dead woman avenge herself on her killer twelve years after her murder? This is the puzzle facing Ben Devlin in his latest case. He is called to the scene of a murder - a man has been stabbed to death in his rented room and when his identity is discovered Devlin feels a ghost walk over his grave as he knows the name Brooklyn Harris well. As a teenager, Harris beat his then-girlfriend Hannah Row to death, and then spent twelve years in prison for the murder. As Devlin investigates the dead man's movements since his release it becomes apparent Harris has been grooming teenage girls online and then arranging to meet them. But his activities have been discovered by others, notably a vigilante, who goes straight to the top of Devlin's list of suspects... until he uncovers that Harris was killed on the anniversary of Hannah's death - just too big a coincidence in Devlin's books. So Hannah's family join the ever-growing list of suspects being interviewed by his team. And then forensics contact Devlin with the astounding news that blood found on Harris's body is a perfect match to that of Hannah Row's. Yet how can this be; the girl was murdered many years ago - and Devlin doesn't believe in ghosts.

More information about Brian McGilowaay and his books can be found on his website. You can also follow him on Twitter @BrianMcGilloway.