Saturday 27 August 2022

Durham Book Festival - 13th - 16th October 2022


The Durham Book Festival programme has been announced.

The programme can be found here.

What will be of interest is that there are a number of events involving crime writers.

14th October 2022 Gala Theatre – 5:30pm – 6:30pm

An Audience with Alexander McCall Smith

15th October 2022 Gala Theatre – 1:00pm – 2:00pm

Murder and Mystery: Lucy Foley and Janice Hallett

15th October 2022 Gala Theatre – 3:00pm – 4:00pm

LJ Ross: The Big Read

16th October 2022 Gala Theatre Studio – 11:30am – 12:30pm

Baskerville Proof Party

The full festival programme and tickets will be available from Thursday 10th September 2022, at

Friday 26 August 2022

Shortlist for The Fingerprint Award 2022 announced


Crime novelists including Val McDermid, Janice Hallett and Abir Mukherjee have been shortlisted for the inaugural Fingerprint Awards.

The awards, which recognise the best titles in the crime genre and most of which are voted for by readers, are held as part of the Capital Crime Festival co-organised by Goldsboro Books owner and agent David Headley.

Shortlisted for the Crime Book of the Year is McDermid’s 1979 (Little, Brown), Mick Herron’s Slough House (John Murray Press) and Hallett’s debut, The Appeal (Viper), which won the John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger earlier this year. Also in the running is fellow debut novelist Sarah Pearse with The Sanatorium Transworld) and Eva Björg Ægisdóttir for her second novel, Girls Who Lie (Orenda).

Lisa Jewell and Paula Hawkins have made the cut for Thriller Novel of the Year with The Night She Disappeared (Cornerstone) and A Slow Fire Burning (Transworld) respectively, while Gold Dagger-winning M W Craven is in the running for Dead Ground (Little, Brown).

Multi-award winner author Mukherjee is among those shortlisted for the Historical Crime Novel of the Year for The Shadows of Men (Vintage), his latest Wyndham & Banerjee novel, alongside Daughters of Night by Laura Shepherd-Robinson (Pan Macmillan).

Two other categories will be selected solely by the Capital Crime advisory board, comprised of authors, bloggers, journalists and industry figures. The categories are the Industry Award of the Year, recognising the best marketing campaign, editorial work, or publishing strategy, and the Thalia Proctor Lifetime Achievement Award, marking an outstanding contribution to the crime-writing industry.

"My vision for Capital Crime was always to make it a festival for readers and what better way to celebrate the readers who make it all worthwhile than to give them the power to decide the winners of the Fingerprint Awards?" Headley said. "Narrowing down the incredible body of work published last year to six categories of five books [each] was no mean feat but with the well-informed advisory board we’ve gathered together, I’m confident that these shortlists represent the very best of crime and thriller writing from around the world."

Readers can vote for their preferred winners here by 19th September. The winners will be announced at 7.30pm on 29th September.

Capital Crime will be hosting pitch-an-agent sessions with David Headley (D H H), Emily Glenister (DHH), Camilla Bolton (Darley Anderson) or Phillip Patterson (Marjaq).The slots are open to all unrepresented ticket holders working on their crime novel (completed novels or full synopsis preferred) as part of the Next Generation of Voices afternoon takeover at the festival this autumn. To apply for a slot, contact

The shortlists in full:

Crime Book of the Year 2021

The Sanatorium by Sarah Pearse (Transworld)

1979 by Val McDermid (Little, Brown)

The Appeal by Janice Hallett (Viper)

Girls Who Lie by Eva Björg Ægisdottir (Orenda Books)

Slough House by Mick Herron (John Murray Press)

Thriller Book of the Year 2021

A Slow Fire Burning by Paula Hawkins (Transworld)

Dead Ground by M W Craven (Little, Brown)

The Night She Disappeared by Lisa Jewell (Cornerstone)

Knife Edge by Simon Mayo (Transworld)

Last Thing to Burn by Will Dean (Hodder & Stoughton)

Historical Crime Book of the Year 2021

A Net for Small Fishes by Lucy Jago (Bloomsbury)

The Shape of Darkness by Laura Purcell (Bloomsbury)

Daughters of Night by Laura Shepherd Robinson (Pan Macmillan)

The Shadows of Men by Abir Mukherjee (Vintage)

A Comedy of Terrors by Lindsay Davis (Hodder & Stoughton)

Debut Book of the Year 2021

Girl A by Abigail Dean (HarperCollins)

Greenwich Park by Katherine Faulkner (Bloomsbury)

Welcome to Cooper by Tariq Ashkanani (Amazon Publishing)

How to Kidnap the Rich by Rahul Raina (Little, Brown

Edge of the Grave by Robbie Morrison (Pan Macmillan)

Genre-Busting Book of the Year 2021

The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris (Bloomsbury)

How To Kill Your Family by Bella Mackie (HarperCollins) 

The Burning Girls by C J Tudor Penguin Books)

Eight Detectives by Alex Pavesi (Penguin Books)

What Abigail Did That Summer by Ben Aaronovitch (Orion)

Audiobook of the Year 2021

People Like Her by Ellery Lloyd (Pan Macmillan)

The Girl Who Die by Ragnar Jónasson (Orenda Books

True Crime Story by Joseph Knox (Transworld)

A Line to Kill by Anthony Horowitz (Cornerstone)

I know what I Saw by Imran Mahmood (Bloomsbury)

Wednesday 24 August 2022

2022 Killer Nashville Silver Falchion Awards


2022 Killer Nashville Silver Falchion Awards.

 Winners were announced at Killer Nashville.

Best Action Adventure

The Pilate Scroll by M.B. Lewis

Best Attendee Action Adventure

Killers!: A Natalie McMasters Mystery by Thomas A. Burns, Jr.

Best Comedy

Big Fat F@K Up by Lawrence Allan

Best Cozy

Suitable for Framing by Lori Roberts Herbst

Best Attendee Cozy

Murder in the Master – A Chesapeake Bay Mystery by Judy L Murray

Best Historical

After Alice Fell by Kim Taylor Blakemore

Best Investigator

Girl Missing by Kate Gable

Best Attendee Investigator

10 Days: A Dee Rommel Mystery by Jule Selbo

Best Juvenile / YA

Leisha’s Song by Lynn Slaughter

Best Attendee Juvenile / YA

Leisha’s Song by Lynn Slaughter

Best Mystery

An Ambush of Widows by Jeff Abbot

Best Attending Mystery

Bluff by John De Dakis

Best Nonfiction 

The Home for Friendless Children by C.L. Olsen

Best Sci-fi / Fantasy

Tomb of the Queen by Joss Walker

Best Short Story Collection / Anthology

House of Crows by Lisa Unger

Best Southern Gothic

A Curse of Silver and Blood by Kimberly A Banks

Best Attendee Southern Gothic

A Curse of Silver and Blood by Kimberly A Banks

Best Supernatural

Our Trespasses by Michael Cordel

Best Suspense

The Reunion by Kiersten Modglin

Best Attendee Suspense 

The Next Wife by Kaira Rouda

Best Thriller

The General's Briefcase by Ray Collins

Best Attendee Thriller

Fallen Star: The Divine Devils Book 2 by R Weir

Hat tip: Janet Rudolph and Mystery Fanfare

Tuesday 23 August 2022

When real crimes ‘spark’ novel ideas by Sherryl Clark


I often wonder how many crime writers, like me, turn to the pages of the newspaper first that deal with crime reports and investigative articles on real life murders. One of my longtime favourite crime reporters is John Silvester, at The Age in Melbourne, who has a weekly column called “The Naked City” (and a fascinating podcast as well).

It was from Silvester’s early books, co-written with fellow journalist Andrew Rule, that the first ideas and sparks came for my crime novel, Trust Me, I’m Dead. They wrote extensively about the Melbourne Gangland Wars in which over 20 people were murdered, but the ones that stuck with me the most were those where innocent women and children were killed or were witnesses.

One of these was Jane Thurgood-Dove, shot in her driveway in front of her kids – for no apparent reason. She had no gangland connections at all. It took a long time before police discovered the actual hit was supposed to be on another woman, wife of an underworld gangster, who lived up the street. And who in Melbourne could forget the brazen shotgun and pistol murders of Jason Moran and Pat Barbaro in a van in which five kids were sitting in the back seat? Two of them were Moran’s twin children.

Up until then, many people in Melbourne figured if crims were knocking each other off in a war, who really cared? But after these killings, things changed, not least the intensity of police actions to quell the war. In my novel, this idea that innocent women and children get caught up in violence through no fault of their own plays out through Judi Westerholme’s brother, who is murdered despite appearing to have changed his life and started again. Answering the question of why becomes vital so Judi can save her own life and that of her niece.

When it came to writing Mad, Bad and Dead, another crime against a woman and child was like a nagging tug at the back of my mind. Vicki Jacobs, who was living in country Victoria in 1999, was shot in the head and body while lying in her bed. Police said it was a cold-blooded execution. The most horrific part of this was that Ms Jacob’s six-year-old son was asleep next to her when it happened. As well, a young niece was sleeping in another room. That callous murder and trying to imagine what the children went through sparked the initial chapters of Mad, Bad and Dead.

It was believed that Ms Jacobs’ murder was in retaliation for her testifying against her ex-husband who had murdered two mechanics in South Australia. The court was told the murders were ordered on behalf of the Hells Angels motorbike club. Ms Jacobs had been offered police protection, but felt she didn’t want her young son to grow up away from family and friends.

For my novel, rather than follow the realities of this case, I used it as an inspiration. It meant I needed to come up with my own motive for the murder of my character, Kate, which of course included finding a credible villain and plenty of red herrings. I sometimes feel like a magpie, with a huge box of cuttings from newspapers and a number of true crime books to delve into for sparkers (I find the ones that are collections of newspaper articles the best. 

In looking for good villains this time, it was a saying that nagged at me – “mad, bad and dangerous to know”. I discovered a criminal, Christopher Binse, who called himself “Badness” (a nickname given to him in jail) and at one point, put a public notice to police in the newspaper saying, “Badness is back”. He also used to send Christmas cards to police signed Badness. Binse is an intriguing subject, seeming to have no qualms about enjoying himself while he robbed banks and carried out other armed robberies. He was put in a boys’ home when he was 14, deemed “uncontrollable”, and abused and beaten while there. Now 53, he’s been inside for 36 of the last 40 years, often in solitary confinement and at one point, in shackles.

Binse doesn’t feature in Mad, Bad and Dead at all, but he partly inspired my hitman, as have others who kill for money. That chilling ability to murder or commit crimes with no regret or compunction is something that sends a shudder through us all. One police officer said of Binse, “I would be genuinely frightened if I saw him on the street.”

As for “mad, bad and dangerous to know”? It’s believed to have first been said by Lady Caroline Lamb to describe Lord Byron. The mind works in mysterious ways!

Mad, Bad and Dead by Sheryl Clark (published by Verve Books) Out Now

A dead employee. A missing child. Anonymous phone calls in the dead of night. Judi Westerholme's troubles aren't over yet...  Already struggling to juggle co-running the local pub along with her new childcare responsibilities for her orphaned niece, Judi does not need her life to become any more complicated. Yet, as usual, complications arrive in spades: she starts receiving threatening, late-night phone calls before discovering one of her employees, Kate, shot dead. Judi finds herself caught up in a murder investigation, as well as the hunt for the Kate's fourteen year-old daughter, who has been missing since the murder. Add in the uncertainty of her relationship with Melbourne-based D.S. Heath and the fact that her estranged mother's nursing home keeps urging her to visit, and Judi might finally be at breaking point.

Thursday 18 August 2022

The Ilkely Literature Festival - 7 - 23 October 2022


The Ilkely Literature Festival programme has been announced.

The programme can be found here

What will be of interest is that there are a number of events involving crime writers.

Sat 8th Oct at 1:30 pm - Ilkley Playhouse – Wildman

Shrabani Basu: Arthur Conan Doyle and the Mysteryof the Parsee Lawyer.

Sat 8th Oct at 3:30 pm - Kings Hall

Simon Mayo: Tick Tock

Sat 15th Oct at 3:30 pm - All Saints' Church

Rosemary Shrager: The Last Supper

Sat 22nd Oct at 7:30 pm - Ilkley Grammar School, B-Hall

Dr Angela Gallop: How to Solve a Crime.

Tuesday 9 August 2022

August Books from Bookouture


The Girl on Wildfire Ridge by Leslie Wolfe. Her face, beautiful even in death, gazed open-eyed at the azure sky. Her brown, silky hair fanned around her head, bringing out the pallor of her skin. Her lips were slightly parted as if she was still breathing, as if she was whispering her goodbyes. On a hot summer’s day, the sleepy town of Mount Chester is thrown into turmoil when seventeen-year-old local girl Jenna goes missing. Within hours, the case takes an agonizing turn when her body is discovered in the isolated mountains. Detective Kay Sharp rushes to the scene, hiking for miles to the base of Wildfire Ridge. From the markings on Jenna’s body, it’s clear that she was brutally murdered. Near the victim, Kay finds a butterfly-shaped hair clip with a set of fingerprints that could be a vital clue. In the hunt for the truth, Kay turns the small town upside down. She learns that Jenna changed dramatically over the past months, no longer the popular girl who always wore a smile on her face. Kay is certain whatever happened to Jenna recently must be the key to her death. When forensics from the butterfly hair clip comes back, the fingerprints don’t match Jenna’s. Then Kay makes a breakthrough that turns her blood to ice. Jenna was in contact with someone linked to Kay’s own past—and the secret she has spent the last sixteen years burying. If the truth comes out, it could destroy her. With the clock ticking, and every minute critical, Kay is up against the toughest case of her career. Can she risk everything to confront the past she has been running from, and save another innocent girl before it’s too late?

In the small town of Crooked Creek, where the Appalachian Mountains climb into the clouds, nineteen-year-old Mandy’s Spring Break takes a sinister turn. Detective Ellie Reeves races straight to the scene, driving through the winding roads to the abandoned orphanage. Ellie saves the teenage girl but discovers human remains that have been there for thirty years, ever since the home for children closed down. Her heart shatters at the thought that they might belong to the helpless orphans. Working day and night on the case, Ellie searches for the orphanage’s files, but they have been stolen—somebody is clearly trying to cover their tracks. As she interviews the residents of the mountain community, Ellie finds out that almost everyone connected to the children’s home has disappeared. Then a woman is found dead, her body marked with a strange symbol. When Ellie learns that the victim used to work at the orphanage, it’s clear that a twisted killer is trying to stop the truth coming out. Ellie vows to solve this case that spans decades and, when her research into the meaning of the symbol leads her to a local business at the heart of recent controversy, she’s on the right track. Can she bring the secrets to light before another innocent person is murdered? And when she gets too close to uncovering the truth, will she survive? Hidden Bones is by Rita Herron.

Local Girl Missing is by Lisa Regan. Through swirling dawn fog, they follow the trail of discarded items at their feet: a tube of glittery lip gloss; a cell phone; a cracked make-up compact, broken chunks of ivory powder spilling into the grass. Then the mist parts—just for a second—to reveal a beautiful young girl on the ground, her pale lips frozen forever in a silent scream… On a winding mountain road into the small town of Denton, Pennsylvania, Detective Josie Quinn finds the body of a local teenage girl, Dina Hale. The sight of plum-colored bruises gathering around the girl’s neck pierces Josie’s heart, but the discovery of a second girl’s empty purse in the dirt nearby gives her a flicker of hope that one person, at least, made a lucky escape. Dina’s parents are grief-stricken as the town rallies together in a desperate search for the second girl, Alison Mills, who waitressed with Dina at a local hotel. The two best friends were on their way to a shift when they were attacked. Josie was too late to save Dina, but she won’t rest until Alison is home safe. Hitting a dead-end with interviews, Josie thinks she’s on to something when a photo surfaces suggesting Alison was romantically involved with one of the hotel staff. But when Josie arrives at the man’s house to find a bullet in his head, and the house ransacked, the case comes crashing down. Evidence of frantic searching at both crime scenes has Josie convinced a twisted killer is on a hunt for something very personal and precious. And that they won’t stop until they find it. But how many innocent lives will be destroyed before Josie can uncover the missing piece at the heart of this deadly puzzle? And what sacrifices will she have to make to find Alison alive?

The Ex Between Us is by Nicola Marsh. I thought my life was perfect. Cal and I have been together forever, high school sweethearts who share a beautiful son. But when we grow apart, we know it’s best to separate and try to stay friends. My best friend, Jo, has been an absolute rock for me. She’s known Cal since school too, and knows all my secrets, understands all my highs and lows. She encourages me to start dating again- though I’m uncertain, I’ve only ever been with Cal. But I decide to give it a go – what harm can it do? Then threats start landing at home and at work. At first it’s small things but when I disturb a masked intruder on my doorstep in the dead of night, I know someone is out to hurt me and I’m frightened about what might happen next. Jo’s becoming more distant too, and I start to wonder can I trust her? Does she know more about these threats than she’s letting on? Until she comes to my house, completely terrified, and tells me someone has left a menacing message at her house and she fears for her life. Everywhere I turn, my world seems to be falling apart. It’s clear someone is coming after my family and oldest friend… Someone that knows us intimately and will stop at nothing to destroy us. But can I stop them before it’s too late?

Behind closed doors is a secret someone is willing to kill for. I walk into the bright, open living room of my new apartment, and I know this is the fresh start I’ve been dreaming about. As I double lock my pretty red door each night, I feel like I can finally be happy. I can finally be safe. But when I’m woken one night by the sound of my neighbours arguing through the wall. I swear I hear one of them saying my name. Why would they be talking about me? Michaela and Kirsty seem so nice, always stopping to chat when we pass in the hallway, and inviting me round for a glass of wine after work. I know I’m being paranoid, but then my favourite hair clip goes missing and I start to feel like someone’s watching me. Nobody was meant to know where I am. And I was careful. I did everything right. But I can’t help but fear my past has caught up with me and this time, I might not escape… The House Share is by Carla Kovach.

Perfect Parents is by L G Davis I gave them my baby… but can I trust them? Giving away my child is the hardest decision I have ever had to make. But when I move into the Thorpes’ stunning home so they can support me through the pregnancy, it seems like they are everything I could have hoped for. They cook me delicious, healthy meals and make sure I’m getting the best medical care. They never question my background, or why I am giving them my child. But before long, I begin to wonder if something is very wrong with the Thorpes. I try to ignore how Travis lets his hand linger on mine for a little too long, and how Marcia comes to check on me during the night. I tell myself that when they control and monitor my movements, it’s just because they care. Keeping my baby safe and making sure they are going to the perfect family means everything to me. But when a threatening note turns up outside my door and I begin to unravel the Thorpes’ secrets, I realise I may not make it out of here alive. After everything I’ve been through, I’m not going to give up without a fight. And I’ll do anything to keep my baby safe…

Meet Dulwich Village’s most daring resident, Beth Haldane. Mother to a sweet little boy, owner of a sulky cat… and solver of mysteries? It’s a crisp spring day in Dulwich Village when Beth arrives at the intricate iron gates of Wyatt’s School for her new job as the historian’s assistant. But on a lunchtime stroll admiring the pristine grounds of this five-hundred-year-old institution, Beth is shocked to stumble over the body of her new boss Alan Jenkins: spectacles askew, his mustard-yellow tweed jacket covered in blood. Gossip about outsider Beth spreads like wildfire. The parents in the playground are all whispering: did she bump him off to get her hands on his job? Desperate to clear her name and protect her own little boy, Beth turns her research skills to hunt for the true killer. She soon discovers Alan rubbed his fellow teachers up the wrong way… could the handsome headmaster be involved? Why did Beth see a flash of the school receptionist’s bright pink jumper at the murder scene? And what is the groundskeeper hiding? When Beth returns from her sleuthing to find her office in disarray and documents missing from the archives, it’s clear this prestigious school hides a deadly secret. But with parents and teachers panicking that the long-protected reputation of Wyatt’s is under threat, will Beth herself be in the murderer’s sights before the school bell rings? The Murder Mystery is by Alice Castle.

Childhood Sweetheart is by Wendy Clarke Bang. Bang. Bang. I jump as the knocks on the window crash above the roaring wind outside. Who could it be, at this late hour? I open the curtains and peer outside. ‘Hello?’ But the dark, the rain and the empty lane are all I see. It’s been eleven years since I last saw Jonah, after his brother died that stormy summer night. And now, without warning, he’s back, living in his old house next door just like old times, on the remote Scottish island that is home. Where I used to imagine we’d stay, together, forever, sharing our lives and our secrets as we always had. But that was before. Jonah’s not the sweet boy I once knew. His mood is changeable, his behaviour unstable, our brief conversations are forced and awkward. And then the knocks on my window begin. It can only be him, but why, and what does he want? I used to love him. Now I don’t even want to invite him in. Because after all these years, I see our childhood secrets, the ones we swore never to reveal, in a newly terrifying light. Was his brother’s death truly an accident? Could Jonah’s secrets have been worth killing for? And how safe am I now, on this isolated island, with the man I used to love…?

The love of your life… or a deadly mistake? It’s hard, meeting your ex after so much time apart. You remember the tears and accusations, the desperate look on his face as he punched the wall, but you try not to show it. You smile politely, even while your heart beats faster. You watch as he looks down into the stroller, at the beautiful blond-haired blue-eyed baby kicking his little legs in the sunshine, whose innocent smile lights up your world. You see his face change. You know what he’s thinking. The next day he calls. His voice is shaking. He wants the truth. Is it his child? You hesitate, your throat dry, good and bad memories swirling in your mind. You’ve missed him so much… but can you ever trust him again? You decide that the most important thing is doing what’s right for baby Tom. But months later, when the sirens wail in the night, you have to admit: you never thought either of you would go this far… The Ex is by S E Lynes

The Beach Party is by Amy Shepherd. We were all at the party. Which of us wanted her dead? As the smoke from the bonfire spirals into the night sky and the cool drinks slip down our throats, none of us can take our eyes off Lacey. She dances in the dunes, her long golden hair damp from her late-night swim, her smile dazzling, her blue eyes closed. Everyone who is close to Lacey sits by the smoky fire. Her adoring boyfriend, who holds onto her, perhaps a little too tightly. Her little sister, always in Lacey’s shadow, sifting fine soft sand through her fingers, never taking her eyes off Lacey. And me. Sad and full of rage, after an argument forced the man I love to leave the party early. When the fire burns out, we stumble away from the beach, along the cliff path – faces burned by the wind, hearts full of secrets. But Lacey never makes it home. The next morning, her body is found in the sand dunes, a heart-shaped locket missing from around her neck. Who would have thought our beach party could end the way it did? Close friends gathered on the last night of a long hot summer – which one of us could have killed the girl everybody loved?

The society wedding of the decade has everything: the blushing bride, beautiful flowers… and the groom arrested before he can walk down the aisle? Thank goodness Lady Swift is on the guest list! Lady Eleanor Swif isn’t normally one for grand social occasions, but who can resist a wedding? Especially when it’s her old friend, Constance Grainger, marrying the most eligible bachelor in town, Lord Peregrine Davencourt. Eleanor is taking Gladstone the bulldog as her plus one, with a smart new bowtie to match her bridesmaid’s dress. But the big day is ruined when the groom is arrested for murder before he makes it to the altar. In a baffling twist, it turns out he was already engaged to the lovely Daisy Balforth, who has been found dead at the local inn with Lord Davencourt kneeling over her. The gossip pages will have a field day! The distraught bride-to-be asks Eleanor to clear her fiancé’s name, as she’s certain he wouldn’t hurt a fly. With help from handsome Detective Seldon, Eleanor examines the evidence. But she’s barely had time to write down her suspect list before Constance’s father is set upon by a bearded stranger on the golf course. Clearly there is more to this story than Eleanor first thought, but can she catch the real killer before the wedding turns into her wake? Death Down the Aisle is by Verity Bright.

Monday 8 August 2022

Extract from The Lost Diary of Samuel Pepys

Shots are pleased to host an extract from the debut novel 

The Lost Diary of Samuel Pepys 

The Lost Diary of Samuel Pepys by Jack Jewers (Moonflower Publishing)

It is the summer of 1669 and England is in dire straits. The treasury's coffers are bare and tensions with the powerful Dutch Republic are boiling over. And now, an investigator sent by the King to look into corruption at the Royal Navy has been brutally murdered. Loathe to leave the pleasures of London, Samuel Pepys is sent dragging his feet to Portsmouth to find the truth about what happened. Aided by his faithful assistant, Will Hewer, he soon exposes the killer. But has he got the right man? The truth may be much more sinister. And if the real plot isn't uncovered in time, England could be thrown into a war that would have devastating consequences ...


June 8th

It was an hour after midnight and the whorehouse was on fire.

I was woken from a slumber by shouting from somewhere down the corridor. My head was light from wine and the pleasures lately taken. I looked around, but there was no sign of the girl who had been here when I shut my eyes. The last I could remember was her going to fetch more wine.

Then I caught it on the air. The smell of burning.

I slid from the canopied bed and immediately stumbled across the floor, my legs caught up in the shirt that hung down over my bare legs. I felt for my boots.

The noises from the corridor grew louder. Panicked screams and the pounding of feet along the old wooden floorboards. I pulled on my boots as quickly as I could, my eyes straining to see in the near- darkness. Then, picking up the small clay oil lamp that provided the room’s only illumination, I grabbed my little satchel and opened the door.

A cloud of acrid smoke stung my eyes and filled my lungs, causing me to choke. Figures ran past the doorway, shapes in the billowing smoke, their flickering lamps floating by like spectres.

Holding my arm to my mouth, I forced myself out into the corridor. All around I could hear screams of panic. People jostled against me, desperate to reach the staircase and the safety of outside.

In the crush, the lamp was knocked out of my hand and it shattered on the floor. A lick of flame from the spilled oil ignited a pair of silk curtains.

The smoke was growing thicker by the moment. I could hardly see a thing. All I could do was run with the crowd and pray that they knew their way around the building better than I did.

We rounded a corner and all of a sudden, the air cleared a little. I could make out an open space with a tall ceiling, the glint of gilded walls, and a skylight through which the moon illuminated the hazy air. I recalled going through an atrium as the girl led me to her chamber. That meant we were on the top floor, with three storeys between us and the safety of the street.

‘This way.’ Mother Quick stood at the top of a wrought-iron staircase, holding a lit candelabra. Her pink silk gown was dishevelled and torn down one side, her tall wig tilted askew.

‘Move!’ she repeated, as a crush of men and women ran past me and down the stairs. Only now could I see that some of them were naked.

I did not follow.

‘Mr Pepys, you must go,’ shouted Mother Quick.

‘Have you seen Mr Hewer? The man I came in with. I must find him.’

She thought for a moment, sweat making rivulets through her thickly powdered face.

‘He was at cards in the parlour. You’ll find him outside. Now go.’

A great billow of black smoke made us both choke. We held on to each other, gasping for breath.

It was then that we saw them.

Standing at the entrance to the corridor, flames rising around them, they looked more like devils than men. Four of them, dressed in the clothes of fine gentlemen, but with hair styled into rigid spikes. One carried a flaming torch.

Behind them the silk drapes that lined the corridor were ablaze. Looking around for new quarry, the men saw us and grinned.

With horror I saw that their teeth were filed into points like the fangs of an animal.

Mother Quick gripped my arm. ‘Mr Pepys. Run.’

I could hear their terrible cries behind us as we fled down the stairs. I knew without doubt that if they caught us we would be bludgeoned to death on the spot. And then Mother Quick tripped over her skirts, dropping the candelabra to the ground.

We were plunged into darkness.

Had the bawd let go of me at that moment then I do not think I would have survived. Fortunately, she knew the building inside and out. I held onto her for my very life, following blindly as she jerked right and left. We ran along a corridor, skirting around furniture that I could neither see nor remember from when I had last come this way, an hour or so ago, when the night had seemed so very different.

I heard an almighty crash behind us as one of our pursuers ran into a piece of furniture, or perhaps one of the fashionable objects d’art Mother Quick had littered about the house. Either way, it bought us precious seconds. As we half-tumbled down the last flight of stairs we heard dreadful screams from above; whether it was clients of the house, or those brutes consumed by the inferno of their own making, I could not tell.

But I had no intention of finding out.

We burst out of the open door and collapsed onto the hard ground of Bankside, coughing the acrid air from our lungs. I felt the sweat pouring off my brow turn cold in the night air and I thought for a moment I would vomit.

I turned just in time to see three of the wild men crashing through the door. I attempted to pull Mother Quick into the shadows, but they ran straight off into the night, whooping and hollering. As they passed us I saw that their cudgels were stained with blood, and they carried whatever valuables they had been able to take from the house as they went.

I staggered to my feet and turned to help Mother Quick, but she had already gone in search of her girls.

‘Sam!’ A voice cut through the darkness.

I turned to see Will Hewer running towards me. His white shirt was torn and smeared with dirt, his natural blond hair turned almost black with soot and ash. Like me, he had been forced to leave without his wig. He grasped my arms, scanning my face with concern.

‘God be praised! I couldn’t find you. Are you hurt?’

I started to reply but fell to another fit of coughing. Will slung my arm around his broad shoulders and led me across the cobbled street.

‘Who were they?’ I managed to sputter.

‘I know not. They looked like devils. But I think they have gone.’

We reached the shelter of an empty stable. Amid the warm, sweet smell of horses, well fed and kept, Will leaned me against a wall, where I gasped in the cold air, trying to recover my strength. The nag in the stall next to us eyed me with nervous curiosity and then went back to chewing hay.


I could hear the concern in his voice, and was suddenly aware of how unaffected he seemed by our narrow escape. By contrast, my hands shook, and water streamed from my stinging eyes.

There was an explosion and the sound of falling glass as the top floor windows blew out, flames engulfing the silk curtains that hung on the other side. I felt a pang of sadness as I looked over at the grand old townhouse, once known as the sapphire of the stews, the very pinnacle of the Southwark brothels. Soon it would be gone forever.

Mother Quick strode back and forth on the hard dirt road, her face tight-lipped with anger and pain. She was so close to the flames, I feared her voluminous skirts might catch an ember and be set alight, but she seemed not to notice. The nightwatchmen had started to arrive with buckets of sand and water, and she was ready to take command whether they liked it or not.

‘Sam?’ Will said again, placing a hand on my shoulder. ‘Time to go.’

‘Of course,’ I replied, looking down at my filthy and torn undershirt. ‘Elisabeth will murder me.’

‘We shall stop at my house first. I shall lend you a suit of clothes.’

With one last look at the awful scene, we set off in search of a boatman to take us home.

Sunday 7 August 2022

The Inspiration for Guilt by Heather Burnside


It is interesting how the idea for a novel can lead to others until you end up with a whole series. Sometimes you can find other ideas occurring even when you think the series is complete. This happened with The Working Girls, which began as a single novel called The Mark. That initial novel gradually grew into five, and my latest release, Guilt, is a spin off from The Working Girls

When I wrote The Mark, I intended it to be a standalone having already written two trilogies. However, it was through research for The Mark that I felt compelled to write further books around the world of working girls. The Mark features journalist, Maddy, who goes to interview sex workers in a seedy pub for an exposé about their lives. She is spotted by ruthless pimp, Gilly, who takes an unhealthy interest in her, which soon turns into obsession, placing Maddy in grave danger.

As part of my research, I wanted to find out more about sex workers. As well as reading autobiographies of former working girls and watching videos about their lives, I visited two charities in Manchester where I interviewed staff. MASH provides support to sex workers and Lifeshare offers help to young homeless adults. There are big overlaps between homelessness in young women and sex work. Many of them offer sexual favours in return for a bed for the night, a meal, or drugs, which can eventually become a regular pattern. 

A particular series of videos grabbed my interest. They showed interviews with working girls who were candid about their lives. Many of them had similar backgrounds including homelessness, broken homes, the care system and dysfunctional families with alcoholic or addict parents. 

Despite their shared experiences, each girl had her own distinct personality. The more I watched the videos, the more I wanted to write about their lives. Therefore, each subsequent book after The Mark tells the story of a different girl. My spin off novel, Guilt, continues the story of Laura and her daughter, Candice, which began in book three, Crystal.

As the series progressed, I became aware that Candice would have become an adult by the time in which Guilt is set so I wanted to do something that would link her to Laura’s past. At first, I decided to make her a police officer but, at the age of twenty, I realised that she would not be old enough for a senior role within the force, which was where I would have placed her.

Then another idea came to me, connected to something Laura had done years previously: 

At the time in which Guilt is set, Laura has moved on with her life. No longer a working girl and drug addict, she now runs a successful chain of fashion boutiques. She has worked hard to overcome her addictions and provide a better life for herself and for Candice who is now at university. 

Unfortunately, in the past Laura took some drastic action to beat her addictions and it is this action that comes back to bite her in a devastating and dramatic way. Somebody knows what she did, and they won’t stop until they see her destroyed. Not content with ruining her businesses, they want to destroy everything she holds dear including her relationship with her daughter. 

In Guilt Candice is living the student life, meeting new friends through university and summer jobs. She also has a loving boyfriend, Thomas. Laura dotes on Candice and does her best to make up for past mistakes. Everything is going well until somebody starts targeting Laura’s businesses and then her staff. The stress affects Laura so badly that she is in danger of slipping back into old habits and this causes conflict between mother and daughter.

Guilt works well as a continuation of the series, and I have brought in some characters from previous books including Trina, the feisty but fair madam of a brothel who is also Laura’s supportive best friend. Although Guilt continues the story which began in Crystal, it can be read as a standalone novel. The same applies to all the books in The Working Girls series, which are linked through their characters and setting although each one tells a separate story.

Early reviewers have said that they loved finding out what happened to the working girls later in life and they liked seeing the re-emergence of earlier characters. I hope my readers will enjoy Guilt as much as they have enjoyed the rest of the series.

Guilt’ by Heather Burnside is just published by Head of Zeus as a paperback original at £9.99

Someone knows what she did... Businesswoman Laura Sharples owns a fashionable chain of clothing shops, but not so long ago she called herself Crystal and worked the streets of Manchester. Although she's moved on, she's never forgotten how far she had to go to beat her addictions and raise her daughter, Candice. But when Laura's business is repeatedly vandalised, she begins to fall back into old habits to cope with the stress. As the attacks escalate, the police have no leads. But Laura is terrified: someone must know the truth about who she used to be... And they won't stop until she loses everything.

More inormation about Heather Burnside and her work can be found on her website. You can also find her Twitter @heatherbwrites

Saturday 6 August 2022

Shamus Award Winners 2022


The 2022 Shamus Award Winners from the Private Eye Writers of America have just been announced. The Shamus Awards are for private eye novels and short stories first published in the United States in 2021.

Best P.I. Hardcover:

Family Business, by S.J. Rozan (Pegasus)

Best Original P.I. Paperback:

Every City Is Every Other City, by John McFetridge (ECW Press)

Best First P.I. Novel

Lost Little Girl, by Gregory Stout (Level Best)

Best P.I. Short Story

Sweeps Week,” by Richard Helms (EQMM, July/August)

Congratulations to all the nominees and winners!

Friday 5 August 2022

In The St Hilda's Spotlight - Anna Bailey


Name:- Anna Bailey

Job:- Author

Twitter:- @annafbailey


Tall Bones is Anna Bailey's debut novel which was inspired by her experience of small town America. It has been shortlisted for the Goldsboro Glass Bell Award. Tall Bones was published in the US under the title Where he Truth Lies. Anna Bailey was a Theakston's New Blood author in 2021. It was also longlisted for the Theakston Crime novel of the Year Award in 2021. it was also a Sunday Time's Bestseller.

Current book? (This can either be the current book that you are reading or writing)

I’m currently reading Dalva by American author Jim Harrison, which follows a woman returning home to rural Nebraska in search of the son she once gave up for adoption. I only recently discovered his work, but he’s already become a favourite – there’s so much passion and fondness in the way he writes about the wild landscapes of the US.

Favourite book?

The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry has been one of my firm favourites ever since I reread it as an adult several years ago. I don’t have anything very clever to say about it, except that I think it’s the loveliest book I’ve ever read. But in terms of books I can just jump back into and reread bits and pieces of over and over again, Annie Proulx’s collection of short stories, Close Range, is one I’m always returning to. Her writing is just astounding, her sense of humour brutal and brilliant, and much like Jim Harrison, I love the way she writes about landscapes.

Which two characters would you invite to dinner and why? 

Lady Catherine de Bourgh from Pride and Prejudice and Dorian Gray. I’d like to see them eviscerate each other.

How do you relax?

I watch the most awful, low budget 2000s-era horror films and drink cheap prosecco.

Which book do you wish you had written and why? 

We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson. It’s like a perfect crisp autumn day condensed into a novella, and I love it when female characters get to be genuinely, delightfully unhinged.

What would you say to your younger self if you were just starting out as a writer.

Stock up on toilet paper, there’s going to be a global pandemic next year.” I don’t know actually, I feel very disconnected from myself in the past – I think I’d just tell them to keep going, and that the feeling of holding their completed novel in their hands is absolutely worth all the blood, sweat and tears they poured into it.

How would you describe your latest published book?

When a teenage girl disappears from a small town deep in the Rocky Mountains, the ensuing investigation unearths terrible secrets about her very religious, very isolated community.

With Town and Country: Green Lanes to Mean Streets being the theme at St Hilda's this year, Where is your favourite town and where is your favourite country? Why have you chosen these?

There’s a little town called Mont Dore in the mountains of central France which I want to say is my favourite. My partner is French and for the past three years we’ve taken our vacation there every summer – we hike and read and write and eat well, it’s so relaxing, and the surrounding country is my favourite kind: great forests of pine trees and waterfalls and rugged mountains, on one of which my partner proposed to me, so it has a very special place in my heart.

What are you looking forward to at St Hilda's?

It’s a genuine honour to have been invited to St Hilda’s and I’m really looking forward to meeting the other brilliant speakers, as well as getting to spend time in Oxford, which I haven’t visited post-lockdown, so it’ll be lovely to be back.

Tall Bones by Anna Bailey (Transworld) Out Now

When Emma leaves her friend Abi at a party in the woods, she believes that their lives are just beginning. Many things will happen that night, beneath the stark beauty of the stars, but Emma will never see her friend again. But what happens next in Whistling Ridge is so much more than the story of a missing girl. It's a spellbinding story that will keep you guessing, a story of surprises and secrets, regrets and rage, love and lies. Abi's disappearance cracks open the façade of this small town, peeling away the layers of its past. Even within Abi's own family there are questions to be asked - of the older brother whom Abi betrayed, of the shining younger sibling who hides his wounds, of her mother and her father - both in thrall to the fiery preacher who has an unsettling grasp on the whole town. And then there is Rat, the outsider, whose exciting presence is a catalyst for change. Anything could happen in a tinder-box like Whistling Ridge. All it will take is just one spark...the truth of what happened that night at the Tall Bones.

Information about 2022 St Hilda's College Crime Fiction Weekend and how to book tickets can be found here.