Tuesday, 28 March 2023

Introducing Keera Duggan by Robert Dugoni - Extract from Her Deadly Game

Keera Duggan peered across the King County courtroom to the swinging wooden door and willed her father to walk in. Leaving him to lunch alone had been a mistake. The bailiff entered from a door behind the elevated bench and commanded the few people in the courtroom to rise as Superior Court Judge Ima Patel retook her seat behind her desk, instructed the three people in the gallery to sit, and invited Officer Greg Walsh to retake the witness stand. Walsh pushed through the railing gate and made his way past the jurors. He looked official in his navy-blue uniform and utility belt. His SPD badge glistened. Walsh wore the belt at the request of the young prosecutor standing at the adjacent table. Keera used to give officers the same advice, despite the efforts of many judges to prohibit weapons in their courtrooms. 

 Patel turned her attention to Keera. “Counsel,” she said. “Will Mr. Duggan be joining us this afternoon?”

Patrick Duggan had sparred with King County prosecutors for four decades, including Ima Patel before she ascended to the bench. “Sparring” was a polite term. Patsy had routinely knocked out prosecutors, earning his nickname, the Irish Brawler, a moniker he wore as a badge of honor. The prosecuting attorney’s office felt differently. Patsy had not been opposed to hitting below the belt, throwing elbows in the clenches, and rabbit-punching out of the break. He defended his clients the way he’d won a Golden Gloves boxing tournament as a young man—any way he could. But alcohol abuse had softened Patsy’s punches and slowed his reflexes, if not yet his razor-sharp mind, and prosecutors and jurists on the King County bench knew well his binge drinking. When she’d been a prosecutor, Keera had heard colleagues in the office say, “If you want a chance to beat the Brawler, save your best witnesses for the afternoons, and hope Patsy Duggan goes on a bender.”

Clancy Doyle, apparently now Keera’s client, looked at the empty chair at counsel table with genuine concern. With good reason. Keera sat second chair at this DUI trial only at the insistence of her eldest sister, Ella, now the managing partner of Patrick Duggan & Associates. Babysitting duty. Ella had suspected Patsy to be on the brink of a binge. Damned if she hadn’t been right.

 Keera knew almost nothing about the details of Doyle’s case.

 “Counsel?” Patel asked, sounding impatient.

 Keera rose and tugged at the lapels of her black suit. “Mr. Duggan has been detained,” she said, as if her father had a dental appointment that had run long. “I’ll conduct the cross-examination of Officer Walsh.”

 Patel’s lips nearly inched into a grin. Keera clearly wasn’t fooling at least one person in the courtroom. “Proceed,” Patel said.

 Officer Walsh looked tightly wound as Keera approached. He expected a confrontation. The prosecuting attorney, also young, inched to the edge of her chair, prepared to stand and defend Walsh with objections and interruptions intended to throw Keera off her game.

They wouldn’t.

Her Deadly Game by Robert Dugoni (Thomas & Mercer) Out Now

A defense attorney is prepared to play. But is she a pawn in a master's deadly match? Keera Duggan was building a solid reputation as a Seattle prosecutor, until her romantic relationship with a senior colleague ended badly. For the competitive former chess prodigy, returning to her family's failing criminal defense law firm to work for her father is the best shot she has. With the right moves, she hopes to restore the family's reputation, her relationship with her father, and her career. Keera's chance to play in the big leagues comes when she's retained by Vince LaRussa, an investment adviser accused of murdering his wealthy wife. There's little hard evidence against him, but considering the couple's impending and potentially nasty divorce, LaRussa faces life in prison. The prosecutor is equally challenging: Miller Ambrose, Keera's former lover, who's eager to destroy her in court on her first homicide defense. As Keera and her team follow the evidence, they uncover a complicated and deadly game that's more than Keera bargained for. When shocking information turns the case upside down, Keera must decide between her duty to her client, her family's legacy, and her own future.

More information about Robert Dugoni and his work can be found on his website. You can also find him on Twitter @robertdugoni and on Facebook.

Thursday, 23 March 2023

Barking Up the Right Tree with Leigh Russell

Part of the excitement of writing fiction is the seemingly never ending stream of challenges this poses for the writer. What is driving my killer to murder the victims? How will the killer manage to evade capture until the end of the book? And how is my detective finally going to track them down? To achieve a balance between unpredictability and plausibility is just one of the many challenges a crime writer faces. Questions like these have kept me happily occupied through the twenty books I have so far written for my detective, Geraldine Steel. 

The 19th title in my Geraldine Steel series, Final Term, was published in January 2023 and the 20th, Without Trace, is out in August, and the series seems set to continue for a while yet. When I wrote the first book in the series, Cut Short, I had no idea that it would even find a publisher, let alone be the first in a long running series. Yet here we are, and I’m still wondering about my killer’s motivation, and their escape from the crime scene, and how my detective manages to apprehend them. After twenty books, the challenges remain as demanding and enjoyable as ever.

Challenging and rewarding though writing is, sometimes we all like to branch out and try our hand at something different. As a reader, I like to mix my material up, following a gritty crime thriller with a cosy novel, and constantly dipping in and out of different genres. Over the past few weeks, for example, I’ve gone from Lee Child’s Jack Reacher to Alexander McCall Smith’s Mma Ramotswe - both crime but very different - along with with Margaret Atwood’s The Blind Assassin and Daphne du Maurier’s The Scapegoat, with Antony Horowitz’s Forever and A Day thrown into the mix.

The same applies to my writing, where I occasionally take a break from writing about Detective Inspector Geraldine Steel’s murder investigations to focus on something else. Having written a historical novel set in sixteenth century Venice, a dystopian novel written during lockdown, and a trilogy set in different locations overseas, I’ve crossed several ‘genre boundaries’. But throughout my busy and varied writing career, I’ve never considered myself ‘cosy’ - at least not in my writing. 

So it was with no expectations of finding a publisher that I wrote a cosy crime story last year. If I’m honest, while writing it, I didn’t even realise my story fell into the cosy crime genre. As with all of my books, I simply had a story in mind and followed it through to its conclusion, without considering its genre. Inspired by my daughter’s rescue puppy, Barking Up the Right Tree is my first cosy crime novel. As it turns out, it won’t be my last. Having read the manuscript, my publisher offered me a three book deal which, needless to say, I accepted with alacrity! And so my idea for Poppy’s Mystery Tales has been transformed into actual books. The series features an adorable little Jack Tzu - a cross between a Jack Russell and a Shih Tzu. Poppy, the star of the stories, was inspired by a real Jack Tzu I fell in love with as soon as my daughter introduced me to her. 

Many authors write more than one series - Martin Edwards, Ely Griffiths, L.C. Tyler, are just a few who spring to mind, and they are legion. Some publish different series under different names, but there was never any suggestion of my writing Poppy’s Mystery Tales under another name. I suspect my publisher is hoping to pick up a few sales for The Poppy Mystery Tales on the strength of my name. As for me, it’s complicated enough for me to live with one pseudonym. I’m not sure I could cope with having a third name! I still remember how surreal it seemed, the first time I signed a contract online. ‘That isn’t my signature,’ I thought. ‘It isn’t my handwriting. And it’s not even my name.’ Yet the contract was a document as binding as any other legal document. Something virtual had become real. This strikes me as entirely fitting, because in some ways the imaginary worlds inhabited by my fictional characters feel as real as the world where I live.

Geraldine Steel’s investigations look set to tax my ingenuity for a good few years yet, while Poppy’s Mystery Tales are already setting me different challenges… and I can honestly say I love writing both series! 

Barking Up the Right Tree by Leigh Russell (Oldcastle Books/ No Exit Ptress) Out Now

After losing her job and her boyfriend, Emily is devastated. As she is puzzling over what to do with the rest of her life, she is surprised to learn that her great aunt has died, leaving Emily her cottage in the picturesque Wiltshire village of Ashton Mead. But there is one condition to her inheritance: she finds herself the unwilling owner of a pet. Not knowing what to expect, Emily sets off for the village, hoping to make a new life for herself. In Ashton Mead, she soon makes friends with Hannah who runs the Sunshine Tea Shoppe and meets other residents of the village where she decides to settle. All is going well... until Emily's ex-boyfriend turns up and against the advice of her new friends, she takes him back. When Emily decides to investigate the mysterious disappearance of a neighbour, she unwittingly puts her own life in danger..

More information about Leigh Russell and her work can be found on her website. You can also find her on Facebook and on Twitter @LeighRussell 

Wednesday, 22 March 2023

Crimewave Heads to Bristol


A crimewave is headed to Bristol as CrimeFest sees more than 150 authors take part in the crime fiction convention this May.

CrimeFest, which is sponsored by Specsavers, has revealed its full line up for the four-day celebration of the UK’s most popular genre, hosted at the Mercure Bristol Grand Hotel from Thursday 11 to Sunday 14 May, 2023.

Alongside 2023 featured guests - stalwarts of the genre, Mark Billingham and Elly Griffiths – around 50 panels will explore everything from crime fiction set during World War Two, to the crime genre in the digital age.

Panellists include Andrew Child, co-author of the Jack Reacher novels, adapted as Reacher by Amazon Prime, author of the award-winning crime series set in India, Vaseem Khan, and Robert Thorogood, the creator behind the smash-hit BBC One series, Death in Paradise.

As Nielson book data report that sales of crime fiction in 2022 are up 19% pre-pandemic levels, one panel explores today’s ‘New Golden Age’ with the leading authority of the original Golden Age of crime fiction, Martin Edwards, alongside Janice Hallett, best known for her phenomenally successful debut, The Appeal. The panel is chaired by Agatha Christie’s publisher, David Brawn.

Nielson book data also reported an “increased appetite” in ‘cosy crime’ in 2022 book sales. The panel, ‘Keeping it Cosy’ features the former journalist turned mystery writer, Fiona Veitch Smith, and author of the Lady Hardcastle mysteries, T E Kinsey.

Marking the 70th anniversary of the publication of Casino Royale, the first James Bond novel, this year’s Ghost of Honour commemorates Ian Fleming. The panel includes the first female 007 author, Kim Sherwood. She will be joined by Corinne Turner, managing director of Ian Fleming Publications, with panel moderator, Simon Brett.

Also attending from Colorado is the winner of last year’s CrimeFest Specsavers Debut Crime Novel award with Winter Counts, David Heska Wanbli Weiden. The Professor of Native American Studies and Political Science at Metropolitan State University of Denver is an enrolled citizen of the Sicangu Lakota nation. He was named by the New York Times as one of “the most critically acclaimed young novelists working now.”

He will feature on a panel with the Icelandic novelist, playwright, and former wife of the Prime Minister of Iceland, Jónína Leósdóttir.

The former police detective turned author, Graham Bartlett appears on the panel, ‘Society: What Crime Fiction Says About Us’. Bartlett has advised some of the biggest names in crime fiction to inject reality into procedurals, and has now turned to crime fiction, with his debut, Bad for Good.

Panellists also include the son of Dick Francis, the crime writer Felix Francis, creator of the Cait Morgan Mysteries Cathy Ace, the international number one bestselling author, Liz Nugent, and Antony Johnston, the New York Times-bestselling creator of Atomic Blonde, the hit movie based on his graphic novel.

Bristol author The Sunday Times bestselling author, C. L. Taylor, who has sold nearly two million copies of her books in the UK alone, also features. As does the multi-million bestselling author Adele Parks, who will be discussing plot twists in ‘A Twist in the Tale’ with her fellow blockbusting author, Lisa Jewell, who has topped the New York Times and Sunday Times charts.

Author, playwright and TV and radio producer Simon Brett features on a panel ‘Partners in Crime’, chaired by Kate Ellis, best known for her series of detective novels which blend history and mystery.

Kia Abdullah, whose novel Take it Back was a Guardian and Telegraph thriller of the year will be on the panel, ‘Protagonists Under Pressure’ with the Scottish author, Caro Ramsay.

Leading minds from the genre include the Financial Times crime fiction reviewer and genre expert, Barry Forshaw, the chair of the Crime Writers’ Association and all-round publishing polymath, Maxim Jakubowski, alongside the President of the Detection Club - the novelist and leading authority on crime fiction, Martin Edwards.

Highlights include the annual Pub Quiz with the journalist and author Peter Guttridge as the Inquisitor; Peter is also the Toastmaster at the annual CrimeFest Awards.

Bristol-born Dame Mary Lesley Perkins DBE co-founded the optician chain and is an avid reader. Dame Mary will attend the CrimeFest gala dinner and awards presentation, which features the CrimeFest Specsavers Debut Crime Novel Award. The annual CrimeFest awards are now in their 16th year and honour the best crime books released in 2022 in the UK.

Director and co-founder of CrimeFest, Adrian Muller, said: “The fact that sales of the genre continue to rise, and it now dominates our TV screens shows the remarkable appeal of crime fiction. The line-up this year illustrates the wealth and breadth of topics behind a genre that not only offers escapism and entertainment, but can also give insights and comment on pressing issues in society.

Donna Moore, co-founder of CrimeFest, added: “CrimeFest is a chance for readers and authors to mingle in a friendly, accessible, and fun setting. We hope people will come along, and be inspired.

Panel topics explore humour in crime fiction, serial killers, psychological thrillers, and the importance of settings. A Fresh Blood panel will also showcase debut authors.

For those who think it’s a crime to miss Eurovision, CrimeFest will also be screening the Eurovision Final Song Contest on Saturday 13 May in the convention hotel.

CrimeFest runs at the Mercure Bristol Grand Hotel from 11-14 May, 2023. For details and to book, go to: https://www.crimefest.com/

Sunday, 19 March 2023

Left Coast Crime 2023 Left Award Winners


The Lefty Awards were announced on Saturday night at the Left Coast Crime Convention in Tucson, Arizona. 

Lefty Nominees for Best Humorous Mystery Novel

    Bayou Book Thief  by Ellen Byron (Berkley Prime Crime)

Lefty Nominees for Best Historical Mystery Novel (The Bill Gottfried Memorial) for books set before 1970

    Anywhere You Run by Wanda M. Morris (William Morrow)

Lefty Nominees for Best Debut Mystery Novel

    Shutter by Ramona Emerson (Soho Crime)

Lefty Nominees for Best Mystery Novel (not in other categories)

    Like a Sister by Kellye Garrett (Mulholland Books)

Congratulations to all the winners and the nominated authors.

Saturday, 18 March 2023

CrimeFest Programme


The Crimefest Programme has been announced. The full programme can be found here.

Thursday 11 May 2023

13:30 – 14:20

Police Procedurals: Getting it Right and Making it Real

14:40 – 15:30 

Protagonists Under Pressure: Putting your Characters in Danger (Panel 1)
Telling Tales: Keeping Secrets and Telling Lies (Panel 2)

15:50 – 16:40 

High Octane: A Thrills and Spills Ride (Panel 1)
Partners in Crime: When Two (or more) Heads are Better than One (Panel 2)

17:00 – 17:50 
Authors Remembered (Panel 1)

A Twist in the Tale: Turning the Plot on its Head (Panel 2)

20:00 – 21:30:

 CRIMEFEST Pub Quiz, with crime writer and critic Peter Guttridge as Inquizitor. Prizes to be won!


Friday 12 May 2023

09:00 – 09:50
Keeping it Cosy: The Gifted Amateur (Panel 1)

All in the Mind: Psychological Thrillers (Panel 2)

10:10 – 11:00
Dark Times: Crime Fiction Set in and Around WWII (Panel 1)

This is a Modern World: Crime in the Digital Age (Panel 2)

11:20 – 12:10
More than One: Serial Killers and Multiple Murderers (Panel 1)
A Captive Audience: Locked Rooms and Limited Suspects (Panel 2)
The Ones You Least Expect: Keeping the Reader Guessing (Panel 3)

12:30 – 13:20 
Humanity in the Darkness: Finding Hope in Crime Fiction (Panel 1)

New Golden Age? Today’s Mystery Fiction (Panel 2)

Keeping Them Close: How Well Do You Know Your Friends? (Panel 3)

13:40 – 14:30

Unspeakable: When Bad Things Happen (Panel 1)

Science Fact and Science Fiction (Panel 2)

Guilt and Innocence (Panel 3)

14:50 – 15:40

Location, Location, Location: The Importance of Setting (Panel 1)

Job Titles: Choosing What Your Protagonist Does For a Living (Panel 2)

A Little Bit Spooky: Adding a Sprinkle of the Supernatural (Panel 3)

16:00 – 16:50

Historical Crime Fiction: Today Reflected in History? (Panel 1)

It’s Personal: The Private Lives of Police Protagonists (Panel 2)

Spying For A Living (Panel 3)

17:10 – 18:00
Cat and Mouse (Panel 1)

A Battle Between Good and Evil?: Protagonist vs Antagonist (Panel 2)

18:30 – 19:30
CrimeFest hosts the Crime Writers’ Association’s Dagger Announcement Reception

Saturday 13 May 023

09:00 – 09:50

Debut Authors: An Infusion Of Fresh Blood (Panel 1)

Close to Home: Murder in the Family (Panel 2)

10:10 – 11:00
Featured Guest Interview

11:20 – 12:10
High Stakes: Risking it All (Panel 1)

Black is the Night: Cornell Woolrich (Panel 2)

Historical Crime Fiction: Choices, Research and Making It Work (Panel 3)

12:30 – 13:20 


3:40 – 14:30
A Stranger in Our Midst: The Danger of the Outsider (Panel 1)

Greed, Power, Money, Revenge…: Motives for Murder (Panel 2)

Evening All: the Enduring Allure of Police Procedurals (Panel 3)

14:50 – 15:40

16:00 – 16:50

Humour: When Murder Makes us Laugh (Panel 1)

Society: What Crime Fiction Says About Us (Panel 2)

English Riviera: It’s not all Sunshine and Ice Cream (Panel 3)

17:30 – 18:15: 

Pre-Gala Dinner Reception (All Full Pass holders welcome)

CRIMEFEST Awards Dinner– ticket holders only

Sunday 13 May 2023

09:30 – 10:20
Debut Authors: An Infusion Of Fresh Blood (Panel 1)

The Indie Alternative (Panel 2)

10:40 – 11.30

Tight Knit: Where Everyone Knows Your Business (Panel 2)

11:50 – 12:40
Criminal Mastermind Quiz

Friday, 17 March 2023

2023 ITW Thriller Award nominations


Best Hardcover Novel

The Violence by Delilah S. Dawson (Del Rey)

Things We Do in The Dark by Jennifer Hillier (Minotaur)

The Fervor by Alma Katsu (Penguin/Putnam)

The Children on the Hill by Jennifer McMahon (Simon & Schuster)

Two Nights in Lisbon by Chris Pavone (MCD)

Sundial by Catriona Ward (Macmillan)

Best Audiobook

Young Rich Widows by Kimberly Belle, Fargo Layne, Cate Holahan, Vanessa Lillie (Audible) Narrated by Dina Pearlman, Karissa Vacker, Helen Laser, Ariel Blake

The Lies I Tell by Julie Clark (Audible) Narrated by Anna Caputo, Amanda Dolan

The Photo Thief by J. L. Delozier (CamCat Publishing) Narrated by Rachel L. Jacobs, Jeffrey Kafer

Things We Do in The Dark by Jennifer Hillier (Macmillan Audio) Narrated by Carla Vega

The Silent Woman by Minka Kent (Blackstone Publishing) Narrated by Christine Lakin, Kate Rudd

Best First Novel

The Resemblance by Lauren Nossett (Flatiron Books)

Blood Sugar by Sascha Rothchild (Penguin/Putnam)

Dirt Town by Hayley Scrivenor (Dirt Creek)

A Flicker in the Dark by Stacy Willingham (Minotaur)

The Fields by Erin Young (Flatiron Books)

Best Paperback Original Novel

The Lies I Told by Mary Burton (Montlake Romance)

No Place to Run by Mark Edwards (Thomas & Mercer)

Unmissing by Minka Kent (Thomas & Mercer)

The Housemaid by Freida McFadden (Grand Central Publishing)

Anywhere You Run by Wanda Morris (William Morrow)

The Couple Upstairs by Holly Wainwright (Pan Macmillan)

The Patient's Secret by Loreth Anne White –(Montlake Romance)

Best Short Story

Russian for Beginners by Dominique Bibeau (Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine)

The Gift by Barb Goffman (Down & Out Books)

Publish or Perish by Smita Harish Jain (Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine)

33 Clues into the Disappearnce of My Sister by Joyce Carol Oates (Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine)

Schrödinger, Cat by Anna Scotti (Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine)

Stockholm by Catherine Steadman (Amazon Original Stories)

Best Young Adult Novel

Our Crooked Hears by Melissa Albert (Flatiron Books)

Sugaring Off by Gillian French (Algonquin Young Readers)

Daughter by Kate McLaughlin (Wednesday Books)

What's Coming to Me by Francesca Padilla (Soho Teen)

I'm the Girl by Courtney Summers (Wednesday Books)

Best E-Book original

Evasive Species by Bill Byrnes (Self-published)

The Couple at Causeway Cottage by Diane Jeffrey (HarperCollins)

The Seven Truths of Hannah Baxter by Grant McKenzie (Self-published)

The Hollow Place by Rick Mofina (Self-published)

Fatal Rounds by Carrie Rubin (Self-published)

ITW will announce the winners at ThrillerFest XVIII on Saturday 3 June 2023 at the Sheraton New York Times Square Hotel, New York City.

Congratulations to all the finalists!

The British Book Awards shortlists 2023


The British Book Awards shortlists have been announced!

The complete shortlists can be found here

Crime and Thriller shortlist 

Bamburg by L J Ross

Murder Before Evensong by Reverend Richard Coles

The Bullet That Missed by Richard Osman

The Paris Apartment by Lucy Foley

The Twyford Code by Janice Hallett

Wrong Place, Wrong Time by Gillian McAllister

Thursday, 16 March 2023

Charlotte Duckworth on The inspiration behind The Wrong Mother

The Wrong Mother is my fifth psychological suspense. Since my first novel, The Rival, was published, I’ve released a new novel every year. Unsurprisingly, it becomes more challenging, the more novels you have written, to come up with ideas and concepts that feel fresh. There are so many brilliant suspense novels published every year and every author I know lives in dread of accidentally copying someone else’s premise.

I’m fortunate that I do have a loose ‘theme’ connecting all my novels – they all examine a different aspect of contemporary parenting. The Rival explores one high-flying woman’s devastation when she loses her job while pregnant; Unfollow Me explores the obsession some people have with ‘mummy influencers’; The Perfect Father examines the downfall of a stay-at-home dad who kidnaps his own daughter, and The Sanctuary follows five pregnant women as they head off for a pre-natal yoga retreat. 

So when I came to write my fifth book, I knew I wanted to stick to exploring the myriad ways people parent today. And it was pure serendipity that I came across an article in the Guardian, talking about the rise of ‘co-parenting agencies’. I couldn’t believe such a thing existed, but they do – agencies which aim to match up men and women who want to have children but are single, and don’t necessarily want to wait to find the perfect romantic partner before becoming a parent.

To me, this theme felt very much in line with my other novels, and so, the decision was made. But as any writer will tell you, having a theme or an idea is only the starting point. There’s always that crucial question: and then what? 

A man and woman get paired up on a co-parenting app… and then what?

The helpful thing about having had four novels published already is that I can look back at my reviews, and take advice from my readers about what they enjoyed and what did and didn’t work for them. I knew from my bestseller, The Perfect Father, that people really enjoyed having their opinions of a character change dramatically throughout the course of a novel. I decided this was a trope I wanted to incorporate in this book too.

I also knew that they love a midpoint twist. There’s a huge twist in The Perfect Father, and I decided again to try to pull off something similar in The Wrong Mother. I can’t tell you much more without filling this piece with spoilers but I knew I wanted to write about two women, and have the readers’ opinion of them both change drastically throughout the book. I also wanted there to be at least one moment when the reader is stunned enough to have to read the page twice.

And so, we have Faye and Rachel. Faye is 39 and single and desperately wants a child of her own – desperately enough to sign up to a co-parenting app, where she’s matched up with wealthy Louis. The pair embark on the quest to have a baby together. 

But a year later, Faye is on the run from Louis with the baby in tow. Meanwhile, Rachel is in her 60s and lives alone, but rents out a room in her small cottage. Faye responds to Rachel’s room advert, hoping to have found a safe sanctuary. Faye and the baby move in, and everything starts to unravel for them all…

The final piece of the puzzle for the novel was the setting. I started writing the first draft in October, and my deadline was the middle of December. I thought it might be fun to set the novel at the same time – and thus I got to write about Bonfire Night, that peculiarly British event where we burn effigies and send fireworks up into the sky.

I also knew that I didn’t want to set this book solely in London. I lived in London for many years and now live just outside of it, but I want my novels to explore all parts of the UK. The Sanctuary is set in Devon, but for The Wrong Mother I thought it would be fun to set most of the action in a remote Norfolk village.

I absolutely loved writing these two characters, and playing with the reader’s perception of them both. It was immense fun to write this book, and I hope the reader will experience the same joy when they read it. 

The Wrong Mother by Charlotte Duckworth (Quercus Publishing) Out Now 

One mother on the run. A safe place to hide. But you can't escape the past forever . . . Faye is 39 and single. She's terrified she may never have the one thing she always wanted: a child of her own. Then she discovers a co-parenting app: Acorns. For men and women who want to have a baby, but don't want to do it alone. When she meets Louis through it, it feels as though the fates have aligned. But just one year later, Faye is on the run from Louis, with baby Jake in tow. In desperate need of a new place to live, she contacts Rachel, who's renting out a room in her remote Norfolk cottage. It's all Faye can afford - and surely she'll be safe from Louis there? But is Rachel the benevolent landlady she pretends to be? Or does she have a secret of her own?

You can find out more information about Charlotte and her books on her website. You can also follow her on Twitter @charduck and on Instagram @charduck. 

“She looked a right miserable cow in that photo” - Behind the celebrity headlines we love! ny L C North

I’ve always had a certain fascination with celebrities. The who is dating who, going where, doing what, lure of glossy magazines. And based on the millions of weeklies sold every year, not to mention the tabloid headlines, and click-bait websites promising to tell all, I’m not the only one. 

And yet, alongside my fascination is an awareness of how strange the concept of a celebrity is, and how this group of individuals are treated in society. We place them on a pedestal and applaud their status in one breath, and in the very next, we seem to take great pleasure in pulling them back down. We consider them not like us. Not human. But delight in their mistakes. When they act human.

Weight gain woes

Too skinny

Did you see those spots?

Outfit malfunction

What was she thinking?

Miserable cow.

Every story comes with a sense that perhaps they deserve it. They chose to step into the spotlight, that harsh media glare, didn’t they? An entire grotesque industry has grown out of this twisted obsession. Paparazzi, editors, journalists and a whole lot more. But it isn’t just the magazines and tabloids anymore, it’s social media too. It’s not one headline, one story, but thousands and thousands of people commenting, sharing, chatting in tweets and posts, painting their own versions of the story, without ever considering the person underneath the sheen of that celebrity status. 

And let’s be honest, do any of us stop to consider how much truth there is behind the headlines? 

“Officially photos of Melanie Lange were hot property. Unofficially photos of Melanie looking miserable, upset or angry were the money shots”

Bill Cutting, former paparazzi photographer

This is a quote from my novel, The Ugly Truth. Bill isn’t real, but his words and the sentiment came from an interview with a paparazzi photographer who built his entire career following Britney Spears, snapping the “money shots” that will pay his bills. 

Let’s think about that for a moment. Rarely do we see a story about a celebrity popping into their local supermarket to buy groceries – that’s far too mundane. Far too normal. It’s the scowling red face of rage, the fuming set of a mouth, the teary fight with a boyfriend that hits the front pages. 

But peel that headline back and we might see a woman out to buy some flowers for her friend’s birthday. It’s a normal day. She’s running errands, getting on with life just like you and me. When suddenly, ten people with cameras appear and start shouting at her. 

“Melanie, Melanie, Melanie”

“Is it true you’re sleeping with your personal trainer?”

“Give us a smile”

“Where are you going? Meeting a boyfriend? A girlfriend?”

She tries to ignore it, telling herself - just as we do - that she signed up for this. But the group of photographers are all men and they surround her. Nowhere to go now. It’s intimidating. Scary. She starts to panic and has to push to get away. The flowers get squashed and now she’s upset and scared and angry, and she throws the ruined bouquet at the group and runs away.

The headline reads: MELANIE LANGE IN TEMPER TANTRUM, and the accompanying article tells us about a celebrity who snatched up a bouquet of flowers and threw them at an unsuspecting shop keeper. If we cared to look beyond the story (and that’s what it is) we’d see a work of fiction, and it was this concept of what lies behind the headlines that formed the inspiration for The Ugly Truth

I wanted to see the person and the truth beneath the celebrity and the headlines about them. The main character in The Ugly Truth is Melanie Lange. She is a fictional celebrity thrust into the spotlight at fifteen years old when she becomes one of Britain’s most sort after models. The two decades she spends in the spotlight draw parallels to the people and stories we know well. Britney Spears, Paris Hilton, Cheryl Cole, and countless more. 

Imagine trying to balance on that pedestal day after day after day while the world around you throws rocks, grabs at you, tries desperately to pull you down. What do daily attacks do to someone’s mindset? What chance do their relationships stand of surviving? And who can they trust in a world where everyone is out to make money from them, including their families? 

When Melanie Lange disappears, her father, Sir Peter Lange, says she is being cared for in a private mental health clinic. But her ex-husband and best friend say she’s been kidnapped. The media will say whichever gets them the most views.

Told in the same Tweets, documentary transcripts and headlines we expect from celebrity news, The Ugly Truth asks whose side are you on? #SaveMelanie #HelpPeter

The Ugly Truth by L.C. North (Transworld Publishers Limited) Out Now

Melanie Lange has disappeared. Her father, Sir Peter Lange, says she is a danger to herself and has been admitted to a private mental health clinic. Her ex-husband, Finn, and best friend, Nell, say she has been kidnapped. The media will say whichever gets them the most views. But whose side are you on? #SaveMelanie #HelpPeter

More information can be found on her website.

You can follow the author on Twitter @Lauren_C_North and on Facebook.

Photo credit ©Ross Dean Photography

Tuesday, 14 March 2023

CrimeFest Announce 2023 Award Shortlists


CrimeFest, one of Europe’s leading crime writing conventions, has announced the shortlists for its annual awards.

Now in its 16th year, the awards honour the best crime books released in 2022 in the UK.

The awards feature the hotly-contended Specsavers Debut Crime Novel Award which offers a £1,000 cash prize.

This year sees former detective turned advisor, Graham Bartlett, on the debut shortlist. Bartlett is known for advising some of the biggest authors in the crime genre, including Peter James, Mark Billingham, and Elly Griffiths, to help inject reality into their plots involving a crime or police officer. Now, Bartlett has put himself on the line with his debut, Bad for Good.

He's not the only former member of the police on the shortlist. John Sutherland served in a variety of ranks for the Met Police before he retired in 2018, and is shortlisted for his debut, The Siege.

They face strong competition from six other shortlisted authors, including Canada’s vice president and editorial director of the publishing house Simon & Schuster, Nita Prose, with her debut The Maid, which was a No.1 New York Times bestseller, a BBC Radio 4 Book at Bedtime and has already picked up the Ned Kelly Award for Best International Crime Fiction.

The eDunnit Award for the best e-book, sees giants of the genre in contention, including Ian Rankin for A Heart Full of Headstones, Sara Gran for The Book of the Most Precious Substance, Michael Connelly with Desert Star and Chris Brookmyre for The Cliff House.

The H.R.F Keating Award for best biographical or critical book on crime fiction sees TV’s Queen of History, Lucy Worsley, take on the Queen of Crime with Agatha Christie: A Very Elusive Woman.

A Private Spy, The Letters of John le Carré 1945-2020, edited by Tim Cornwell, is also shortlisted, as is crime fiction expert Barry Forshaw’s Simenon, The Man, The Books, The Films: A 21st Century Guide on the legendary and influential crime writer.

The Last Laugh Award sees Mick Herron’s Bad Actors on the shortlist. The Jackson Lamb series of dysfunctional British intelligence agents has become a major adaptation for Apple TV, starring Oscar-winner Gary Oldman. Herron’s up against Elly Griffiths with The Locked Room, Antti Tuomainen with The Moose Paradox, and the late Christopher Fowler for Bryant and May’s Peculiar London.

Elly Griffiths also features in the Best Crime Novel for Children (aged 8-12) shortlist with A Girl Called Justice: The Spy at the Window. She’s up against the acclaimed Anthony Horowitz for Where Seagulls Dare: A Diamond Brothers Case and M.G. Leonard’s Spark.

Nominees for the Best Crime Novel for Young Adults (aged 12-16) include Holly Jackson with Five Survive, Finn Longman’s The Butterfly Assassin and Sophie McKenzie’s Truth of Dare.

Adrian Muller, Co-host of CrimeFest, said: “The Specsavers Debut Novel Award has become one of the most coveted, and we’d like to thank Specsavers for their on-going support in celebrating new talent. We are also proud to be one of the few genre awards that recognise and celebrate e-books, humour, children, and Young Adult crime fiction novels. Our inclusive awards reflect the values of our convention, and showcase the incredible diversity and reach of the genre which dominates today’s cultural landscape.

Hosted in Bristol, CrimeFest is one of the biggest crime fiction events in Europe, and one of the most popular dates in the international crime fiction calendar, with circa 60 panel events and 150 authors attending over four days.

Featured Guests at the convention this May are Mark Billingham and Elly Griffiths.

Leading British crime fiction reviewers and reviewers of fiction for children and young adults, alongside the members of the School Library Association (SLA), form the CrimeFest judging panels.

CrimeFest was created following the hugely successful one-off visit to Bristol in 2006 of the American Left Coast Crime convention. It was established in 2008. It follows the egalitarian format of most US conventions, making it open to all commercially published authors and readers alike.

 All category winners will receive a Bristol Blue Glass commemorative award.

The 2023 Shortlists in full


In association with headline sponsor, the Specsavers Debut Crime Novel Award is for debut authors first published in the United Kingdom in 2022. The winning author receives a £1,000 prize.

- Amen Alonge for A Good Day to Die (Quercus)

- Graham Bartlett for Bad for Good (Allison & Busby)

- Nita Prose for The Maid (HarperCollins)

- Oriana Rammuno (translator: Katherine Gregor) for Ashes in the Snow (HarperCollins)

- Joachim B. Schmidt (translator: Jamie Lee Searle) for Kalmann (Bitter Lemon)

- Hayley Scrivenor for Dirt Town (Macmillan)

- John Sutherland for The Siege (Orion Fiction)

- Stacy Willingham for A Flicker in the Dark (HarperCollins)



The eDunnit Award is for the best crime fiction ebook first published in both hardcopy and in electronic format in the United Kingdom in 2022.

- Chris Brookmyre for The Cliff House (Abacus)

- Michael Connelly for Desert Star (Orion Fiction)

- M.W. Craven for The Botanist (Constable)

- Sara Gran for The Book of the Most Precious Substance (Faber & Faber)

- Ian Rankin for A Heart Full of Headstones (Orion Fiction)

- Peter Swanson for Nine Lives (Faber & Faber)


The H.R.F. Keating Award is for the best biographical or critical book related to crime fiction first published in the United Kingdom in 2022. The award is named after H.R.F. ‘Harry’ Keating, one of Britain’s most esteemed crime novelists, crime reviewers and writer of books about crime fiction.

- J.C. Bernthal & Mary Anna Evans for The Bloomsbury Handbook to Agatha Christie (Bloomsbury Academic)

- John le Carré (edited by Tim Cornwell) for A Private Spy: The Letters of John le Carré 1945-2020 (Viking)

- Martin Edwards for The Life of Crime: Detecting the History of Mysteries and their Creators (Collins Crime Club)

- Barry Forshaw for Simenon: The Man, The Books, The Films (Oldcastle Books)

- Sian MacArthur for Gender Roles and Political Contexts in Cold War Spy Fiction (Palgrave Macmillan)

- Lucy Worsley for Agatha Christie: A Very Elusive Woman (Hodder & Stoughton)


The Last Laugh Award is for the best humorous crime novel first published in the United Kingdom in 2022.

- Christopher Fowler for Bryant & May's Peculiar London (Doubleday)

- Elly Griffiths for The Locked Room (Quercus)

- Mick Herron for Bad Actors (Baskerville)

- Cara Hunter for Hope to Die (Viking)

- Mike Ripley for Mr Campion's Mosaic (Severn House)

- Antti Tuomainen for The Moose Paradox (Orenda Books)


This award is for the best crime novel for children (aged 8-12) first published in the United Kingdom in 2022.

 - Elly Griffiths for A Girl Called Justice: The Spy at the Window (Quercus Children's Books)

- Anthony Horowitz for Where Seagulls Dare: A Diamond Brothers Case
(Walker Books)

- Sharna Jackson for The Good Turn (Puffin)

- M.G. Leonard for Spark (Walker Books)

- Robin Stevens for The Ministry of Unladylike Activity (Puffin)

- Sarah Todd Taylor for Alice Éclair, Spy Extraordinaire! A Recipe for Trouble (Nosy Crow)


This award is for the best crime novel for young adults (aged 12-16) first published in the United Kingdom in 2022.

- Holly Jackson for Five Survive (Electric Monkey)

- Patrice Lawrence for Needle (Barrington Stoke)

- Finn Longman for The Butterfly Assassin (Simon & Schuster Children's)

- Sophie McKenzie for Truth or Dare (Simon & Schuster Children's)

- Ruta Sepetys for I Must Betray You (Hodder Children's Books)

- Jonathan Stroud for The Notorious Scarlett and Browne (Walker Books)

CrimeFest runs at the Mercure Bristol Grand Hotel from 11-14 May, 2023. For details and to book, go to: https://www.crimefest.com/