Thursday, 16 September 2021

‘Her Dark Things’: The Paintings at the Heart of Dark Things I Adore


Audra Colfax is the mysterious and captivating star painting student at the center of my debut thriller, Dark Things I Adore. She’s in her third and final year of a Boston-based MFA program in painting, working on her thesis collection, when she lures her predatory professor and thesis advisor, Max Durant, to her remote home in Maine. She’s told him that the invitation has been extended so that he may view her collection-in-progress and provide professional feedback – but they both know this is a ruse. Max is convinced Audra has invited him to her inner sanctum to consummate the long-simmering sexual tension he senses between them. But Max couldn’t be more wrong. Audra has lured the charismatic artist to Maine for much darker, much more devious reasons; indeed, every detail of their weekend away together is engineered toward one thing – revenge. 

As Audra executes her plan, guiding Max through the broken ephemera of his sordid past, Audra takes Max to her painting studio to look at her thesis paintings. Here is how Audra describes her project:

When I first started, I was working in these landscapes of the enlarged. Taking everyday items—but ones with significance to me—and blowing them up to a size that intensified their gravitas as well as their visible landscapes. The topography and emotion of things. An apple becomes an overwhelming erotic expression. A lantern becomes a harrowing stand-in for the passage of time. Meanwhile, there are these echoes—voices—within the objects themselves. Voices as objects; found objects

Here is a quick tour—without spoilers!—through the ten objects that Audra focuses on in her thesis collection “Her Dark Things,” the paintings at the center of Dark Things I Adore. The items are carefully selected by Audra to provoke Max; they are clues, they are indictments.  

  1. Enamel Lantern – this lantern has given generations of women the perfect light by which to sketch.

  2. Gold Dove Charm – this necklace was given as a gift from a mother to a child; it symbolized hope for the future. 

  3. Black-Capped Chickadee – the Maine state bird, and a creature with the ability to rise above. 

  4. Apple – fruit grown on the land of a Rockveil, Maine family, and a symbol of fertility and motherhood. 

  5. Scarf – a daughter’s favorite clothing item, and a reminder hung around their necks. 

  6. Flames – a scalding bonfire around which secrets were revealed. 

  7. Raven – the signature imagery, haunting and bleak, of a local Rockveil artist. 

  8. Birches and Boulders – signifiers of a harrowing and sacred location. 

  9. Baby Blanket – the item in which the baby who had been loved and feared in equal measure was swaddled.

  10. Rope – a lifeline, a last chance, a threat. 

    Dark Things I Adore by Katie Lattari (Titan Books) Out Now 

    Three campfire secrets. Two witnesses. One dead in the trees. And the woman, thirty years later, bent on making the guilty finally pay. 1988. A group of outcasts gather at a small, prestigious arts camp nestled in the Maine woods. They're the painters: bright, hopeful, teeming with potential. But secrets and dark ambitions rise like smoke from a campfire, and the truths they tell will come back to haunt them in ways more deadly than they dreamed. 2018. Esteemed art professor Max Durant arrives at his protege's remote home to view her graduate thesis collection. He knows Audra is beautiful and brilliant. He knows being invited into her private world is a rare gift. But he doesn't know that Audra has engineered every aspect of their weekend together. Every detail, every conversation. Audra has woven the perfect web. Only Audra knows what happened that summer in 1988. Max's secret, and the dark things that followed. And even though it won't be easy, Audra knows someone must pay. What comes to light, chapter by spellbinding chapter, is that one grand, grotesque act of selfishness committed by Max as a young man, followed by years of manipulating women for art, has set into motion the machinery of his own fatal undoing. A man should pay for his crimes, and no-one is more deserving of revenge than the women to whom he owes his career. He should go into this weekend far more vigilant, but he's distracted, as always, by an overwhelming desire to have his own way. But Audra, who is well aware that he's a monster, doesn't know everything that simmers beneath his surface.

Monday, 13 September 2021

Amazon Publishing New Voices Award finalists for 2021 announced!


Congratulations to the Amazon Publishing New Voices Award finalists for 2021! The Capital Crime advisory board along with Amazon Publishing editor, Victoria Haslam & Thomas & Mercer author, Tariq Ashkanani will decide on the winner very soon. Thanks to all who have voted for their favourites and to everyone that entered!

Friday, 10 September 2021

Audio Blog Tour - The Therapist by B A Paris

Today is the Shotsmag Confidential stop on #TheTherapist Audio Blog Tour. To listen to this audiobook sneak preview from the start, head over to @baparisauthor and follow the blog tour chain.

The Therapist by B A Paris (HarperCollins) Out Now 

Tell me your secrets.... When Alice and Leo move into a newly renovated house in The Circle, a gated community of exclusive houses, it is everything they've dreamed of. But appearances can be deceptive... As Alice is getting to know her neighbours, she discovers a devastating, grisly secret about her new home, and begins to feel a strong connection with Nina, the therapist who lived there before. Alice becomes obsessed with trying to piece together what happened two years before. But no one wants to talk about it. Her neighbours are keeping secrets and things are not as perfect as they seem...

Shots is delighted to be sharing a clip of the audio book today. 

You can also listen to B A Paris answer the question what would she have been if she hadn't become a writer here.

Have you got your copy of #TheTherapist? @HQStories

Thursday, 9 September 2021

Alec Marsh - A True Crime Story from the Annals of His History

The inspiration for ‘Ghosts of the West’, my new Drabble and Harris mystery, came during a boat trip on the Thames. We had just passed Rotherhithe and voice on the loudspeaker pointed out the Mayflower pub – named after the famous ship that took pilgrims to North America in 1620. The 102 would-be migrants aboard founded what would become the oldest continuously occupied settlement on the continent at Plymouth Bay in Massachusetts. (Another crowd founded Jamestown in Virginia 13 years before, but that was temporarily abandoned giving honours to Plymouth.)

As the title of ‘Ghosts of the West’ implies, the plot has at least something to do with the West – and as you’ll discover if you read it the Great Plains of the United States. Unsurprisingly it therefore has a strong Native American dimension.

Which soon fed into my motivation for writing the book. For as well as having the opportunity to venture into the Western genre – and who doesn’t like a Western? – but I also wanted to highlight what one could argue is one of the greatest crimes in American history. 

A great deal of important soul-searching has gone on in the US and elsewhere in respect of the Atlantic slave trade and in the US, the plight and legacy of Southern slavery. But there’s been less attention on what happened to the original inhabitants of North America.

When those first colonists landed in North America, it is estimated that around 500,000 Native Americans lived across the vast continent, though some people believe it was much higher than that. By 1900, however, most are agreed however that just 300,000 Native Americans were left. At the same while the European immigrant population had risen from zero to more than of 76 million. 

In addition to seeing their population decline through warfare, outright oppression and having their ecosystems destroyed – I’ll come to that – the Native American popular had by then been shepherded into several hundred reservations. Today the United States has 574 federally recognised tribes spread over 326 Indian reservations covering 15 million square acres, an area of territory a littles smaller than Latvia (and you don’t need a geography degree to know that compared to the expanse of the Pan-Continental United States that’s not much.) 

So while ‘Ghosts of the West’ is set in 1938, the wider story of what happened between 1600 and 1900 is very much part of my narrative. In the book it is personified in the character of an aged chief named Black Cloud, who is in part inspired by Red Cloud (1822-1909), a real life chief of the Oglala Lakotas, a branch of the Great Sioux Nation, who was described by one prominent contemporary as ‘the Red Man’s George Washington.’

This means that, whatever the ostensible crimes at the heart of my story, the greatest crime touched on by the book is that committed by generations of European-white migrants. And it took hundreds of years. In a sense the stage of the ‘Indian wars’ that took place in the 1860s and 1870s in the great plains of the West, was the last major campaign in war last several hundred years.

Ultimately, it was won by exterminating the source of the Native Americans food and shelter, the buffalo – they ate its meat, used its hide for clothing and to weatherproof their tepees. American military strategists and leaders –President Grant among them – saw the annihilation of the buffalo as the solution to the ‘Indian problem.’ As a result some 30 million bison were massacred from 1850, with the last of the great herds destroyed in 1883-84. (Much of it was to feed the demand for leather in Europe, too.) With the bedrock of their civilisations destroyed Plains Indians had no choice but to accept life as farmers on the reservation.

That the lands set aside for reservations were often those that whites did not want will tell you something of the quality of the land. (‘The Wasichus [white men] had slaughtered all the bison shut us up in pens,’ said the medicine man Black Elk, bemoaning his starving people. ‘We could not eat lies.’) But in addition to coping with hunger and the enforced dependence on inadequate handouts, the Native American’s whole culture and belief systems were under grave assault. If you are a semi-nomadic warrior and a hunter who is forced overnight to become a farmer, what do you teach your children?

Of course the United States is not alone in having done horrific things in the past: Britain ruled an empire covering a quarter of the world’s population at its fullest extent in the 1920s, and sadly the long term effects of that corrosive colonialism can be observed still. But there is a point of difference: Britain, either willingly or at gunpoint, finally quit its colonies. As did the other European colonial powers, (with varying degrees of magnanimity). But the ancestors of immigrants Americans are still there and – for obvious reasons – aren’t going to go anywhere. 

The past,’ L P Hartley famously wrote, ‘is a foreign country; they do things differently there.’ Thank goodness for that. One of the benefits of fiction is that it helps us to remember and revisit our stories, including crimes of such enormity and general cultural acceptance that we sometimes don’t even see them for what they are. It also offers the chance to ask, ‘What if?’ And that’s an opportunity, too. 

Ghosts of the West by Alec Marsh (Headline Accent) Out Now

When daring journalist Sir Percival Harris gets wind of a curious crime in a sleepy English town, he ropes in his old friend Professor Ernest Drabble to help him investigate. The crime is a grave robbery, and as Drabble and Harris pry deeper, events take a mysterious turn when a theft at the British Museum is soon followed by a murder. The friends are soon involved in a tumultuous quest that takes them from the genteel streets of London to the wide plains of the United States. What exactly is at stake is not altogether clear - but if they don't act soon, the outcome could be a bloody conflict, one that will cross borders, continents and oceans... Meanwhile, can Drabble and Harris's friendship - which has endured near-death experiences on several continents, not to mention a boarding school duel - survive a crisis in the shape of the beautiful and enigmatic Dr Charlotte Moore?

More information about Alec Marsh and his Drabble and Harris series can be found on his website.  You can also follow him on Twitter @AlecMarsh

Wednesday, 8 September 2021

The Threat from Within by Mara Timon


A man enters a café with his right hand dug deep into his trouser pocket. It’s the way my first book, City of Spies begins and the way that during WW2, a Special Operations Executive agent would silently let his contacts know that the Germans were onto him. They had turned the agent into an unwilling trap, waiting to see who would approach him, widening their net before making arrests.

On 27 August 1942, SOE agent Peter Churchill (code-name “Raoul”) was parachuted into the south of France to organise the “Spindle" network. It began to attract other Resistance members and SOE agents. In early spring ’43, SOE agent Francis Cammaerts (code-name “Roger”) briefly visited and assessed the network as likely to be penetrated by the Germans. He was right, as the network soon found out.

Churchill’s courier, Odette Sansom (code-name “Lise”) was approached by a man who called himself Henri. Over a civilised cup of acorn coffee, he pleasantly explained that he was working for the Abwehr, German military intelligence, but claimed he was disillusioned. He said he was working with a contact she had, André Marsac, and although Marsac had been arrested they were trying to bring about the end of the war. He even showed her a letter where Marsac seemingly urged her to work with him.

Sensing something was off, Odette politely declined Henri/Bardet’s offer, informed SOE headquarters on Baker Street.

She was right about that. Hugo Bleicher, a senior non-commissioned officer in the Abwehr had feigned disillusionment to get close to Marsac and Marsac’s associate Roger Bardet. Bleicher arrested Marsac and persuaded Bardet to work for him as a double agent (Henri).

Here Odette made a very brave but very large error: she disobeyed SOE’s orders to flee. Instead, she remained and waited for Churchill. Bleicher arrested them and both were tortured before being sent to concentration camps, Odette to Ravenbruck and Churchill to Sachsenhausen.

Bardet didn’t stop there. He betrayed the Inventor network, leading to the arrests in late ‘43 of its organiser, wireless operator, and courier (all of whom were executed), resulting in the collapse of the network. In ’44, betrayed the head of the Donkeyman circuit, whom Bleicher also arrested, and subsequently executed.

It might read like an espionage thriller, but this was a true story; one with tragic consequences.

Who can you trust, when you’re behind enemy lines?

This is the strapline for my second book, Resistance, which has an element of betrayal from within the Resistance. While the Germans might not have been effective with their agents sent to Britain (all were captured, some turned to work for the Allies), but German Intelligence networks were incredibly effective within France.

In City of Spies as well as Resistance, double agents infiltrated Resistance networks. While the people I described in my books were fiction, unfortunately people like Bardet who were willing to betray their country and their comrades were all too real.

And if a SOE agent or Resistance fighter couldn’t be turned into a willing double-agent through money or threats, they could be used as a trap to attract others. 

Or they could be tortured and perhaps give up a name of someone else.

Knowledge of the location of an allied drop, could result not only in arrests and executions, as well as the Germans taking custody of the goods or personnel involved in that drop.

So, imagine it’s 1943 and you’re a new agent for Special Operations Executive. Maybe you were recruited because you spoke French, or maybe you volunteered. On Day 1 of your training, you are told that only half of you are expected to survive. You look at the men and women around you. You’re apprehensive but remain in place. 

You spend the next months training. You learn weaponry and weaponless combat. You learn to blow things up, how to follow someone and how to hide in plain sight. You learn a number of skills that you never dreamed of, and then you’re sent behind enemy lines.

Maybe you went by ship, maybe you parachuted out of a plane, or maybe you landed in a Lysander or some other small aircraft. Regardless, you hope that the reception committee hasn’t been compromised. 

If you survive getting to France, you might start forging links with other members of the Resistance. Some you tentatively begin to trust.

But trust is a commodity you can’t afford.

Because who can you trust, when you’re behind enemy lines, and not all your enemies are German?

Resistance by Mara Timon (Bonnier Zaffre) Out Now.

Three women. One mission. Enemies everywhere. May 1944. When spy Elisabeth de Mornay, code name Cecile, notices a coded transmission from an agent in the field does not bear his usual signature, she suspects his cover has been blown - something that is happening with increasing frequency. With the situation in Occupied France worsening and growing fears that the Resistance has been compromised, Cecile is ordered behind enemy lines. Having rendezvoused with her fellow agents, Leonie and Dominique, together they have one mission: help the Resistance destabilise German operations to pave the way for the Normandy landings. But the life of a spy is never straightforward, and the in-fighting within the Resistance makes knowing who to trust ever more difficult. With their lives on the line, all three women will have to make decisions that could cost them everything - for not all their enemies are German.

More information about Mara Timon can be found o her website. You can also follow her on Twitter @MaraTimon and on Facebook.

Tuesday, 7 September 2021

The Long Game: From Short Story Author to Danish Noir Crime Novelist, by Heidi Amsinck

Can I write a crime novel? For years, my answer to that question was a flat ‘No’. Some writers do long, some short, I would say, planting myself firmly in the latter category. I devoured crime novels – especially of the Nordic Noir variety – but somehow, when it came to my own work, I preferred stories distilled down to a single chilling epiphany. Preferably one involving little old homicidal Danish ladies.

Until lockdown happened and I sat down to write. And kept writing. And writing. And writing. Stuck for months in my London flat with nowhere to go, except daily walks, and an enormous TBR pile which had curiously lost its appeal, I soon found myself with a finished draft for my debut novel, ‘My Name is Jensen’.

What happened? After all, it wasn’t as if I hadn’t tried before. I began jotting down notes for the book in 2018 after publishing ‘Last Train to Helsingør’, my collection of Danish twilight tales for Radio 4, and, like all short story writers, I had been asked a thousand times when I was going to write a novel. But every time I had sat down to it, I had ended up writing something short, giving into what I had started to think of as a guilty pleasure.

Nor is it down to the shorter form being in any way faster. With very few exceptions, most of my short stories were written over periods of two or three years: after spending a few weeks drafting, I would put them away to stew for ages, before rewriting, rewriting and rewriting. You get the picture.

Yet, while living through the early days of the coronavirus horror show, that all changed for me. I badly missed the city of my birth, and my loved ones back home, so writing a novel set in Copenhagen, with the city very much centre stage, was pure escapism. 

And then my characters began to turn up, demanding to have their stories told. The journalist Jensen who (like me), was a London Correspondent for years, and who (unlike me) has returned home to Denmark. Gustav, the teenage delinquent, whom Jensen is forced to take on as a journalist apprentice. And DI Henrik Jungersen, her on-off married lover who guiltily feeds her titbits from the police investigation.

I always knew that my novel was going to begin in Magstræde, one of Copenhagen’s oldest streets, a twisted lane with red and yellow townhouses leaning over the cobbles. A lumpy mound in the freshly fallen snow turns out to be the body of a young man. From that point on, during those early months of the first lockdown, the plot spiralled, sometimes to an extent where the only way I could regain control was through a complicated mosaic of flash cards laid out all over my dining table – a different colour for each story arc, and neon stickers for the timeline. 

It is a method I have reused for Book 2 in the Jensen Thriller series, written during spring this year as I went for my first COVID vaccination and then the second, followed by my first visit to Copenhagen in 18 months. The first thing I did after hugging my family was to visit all my favourite haunts – the canals, the leafy suburb where my late parents met as youngsters, the Lakes and the harbour. 

I never used flash cards for my short fiction, admittedly, but I did write out story arcs in my notebooks. Always. A novel, it turns out, is not so different after all. Writing in the Guardian, George Saunders, author of Lincoln in the Bardo, put it perfectly when describing how he made the leap: “It was as if, over the years, I’d become adept at setting up tents and then a very large tent showed up: bigger frame, more fabric, same procedure.”

You might still be able to tell that I am started out writing short stories. My chapters are brief and numerous. Treating each like a little tale in its own right made them so, as did my years of trimming away words to fit the radio format. But the end result is the same: a setting, a group of characters and a series of dark events that utterly change them.

A story is a story is a story, after all.

My Name is Jensen by Heidi Amsinck is published by Muswell Press on 31 August at £14.99

Guilty. One word on a beggar’s cardboard sign. And now he is dead, stabbed in a wintry Copenhagen street, the second homeless victim in as many weeks. Dagbladet reporter Jensen, stumbling across the body on her way to work, calls the only person she can think of – DI Henrik Jungersen, her married ex-lover. The front page is an open goal, but nothing feels right…When a third body turns up, it seems certain that a serial killer is on the loose. But why pick on the homeless? And is the link to an old murder case just a coincidence? With her teenage apprentice Gustav, Jensen soon finds herself putting everything on the line to discover exactly who is guilty.

Monday, 6 September 2021

In Memoriam -Robert Richardson


Robert Richardson 1940 - 2021

Robert Richardson, journalist and crime writer, has died aged 80.

He enjoyed a life-long career in journalism with the Welwyn & Hatfield Times before a move to national newspapers including the Daily Mail, and as a sub-editor on The Independent and The Guardian.

He turned to crime writing in 1985 with The Latimer Mercy (also entitled An Act of Evil), a deliberately traditional mystery with the flamboyantly-named Augustus Maltravers as his detective, which won the CWA’s John Creasey Award for best first novel. 

It was the start of Richardson’s long association with, and stalwart supporter of, the CWA. He was to become, uniquely, the only crime-writer to serve as Chairman twice – in 1993-94 and again in 2006-07 – and was involved in the Association’s activities long after the last of his nine novels Victims appeared in 1997.

In 2020 he was award The CWA Red Herrings Award for giving generously of his time and expertise, benefiting not only the CWA but the wider crime-writing community. 

The Latimer Mercy by Robert Richardson (Victor Gollancz Ltd)

The story begins with the theft of the Latimer Mercy Bible, which contains the misprint ''merry'' corrected by the martyr Hugh Latimer during the 16th century. Augustus (Gus) Maltravers, playwright, is visiting his sister and brother-in-law in Vercaster when the treasure is stolen from the cathedral. A planned festival there goes on, nonetheless, and Gus's friend Diana Porter is a smash hit in the one-woman show he has created for her. Then Diana vanishes, as suddenly as the Bible, and the dramatist helps the police interrogate the many suspects, including members of the clergy. A small clue leads Gus to the guilty person but not in time to prevent a hideous crime.

Perfect Crime Writing Festival 2021


9 – 9.45am: 


10 – 11am: 

Murder on the Mersey: Margaret Murphy (moderator), Caz Finlay, David Jackson, Amanda Brooke. Liverpool is a city steeped in culture and history – but it is also a city of stark contrasts, and its dark side has inspired many authors, from literary giants to saga writers. Join us for Murder on the Mersey, where four local (and international!) crime writers, Amanda Brooke, David Jackson, Margaret Murphy (aka Ashley Dyer) and Caz Finlay will discuss the impact of this beautiful and often troubled city on their writing.

11:15 – 12:15pm: 

Writing in the Margins: Ann Cleeves, Elly Griffiths, Rhiannon Ward (Chair) Ann Cleeves, Diamond Dagger winner and author of the Vera and Shetland novels, in conversation with Elly Griffiths. Chaired by Rhiannon Ward, these two fabulous writers will discuss the marginal/coastal locations in their crime novels, touching on the importance of nature, isolation and forgotten communities in their writing.

12:15 – 1:00pm: 


1:00 – 2:00pm: 

Gritty and Gripping: Mel Sherratt, Heather Burnside, Noelle Holten, Caz Finlay(moderator) What makes a book unputdownable? What makes a reader keep turning the pages? Gritty and gripping are just some of the words used to describe the novels of these three fantastic authors. Chaired by Caz Finlay, these bestselling authors will discuss just how they put the grit and grip into their thrillers, and what they think keeps their readers coming back for more.

2:15 – 3:15pm: 

Golden Age Fiction: Sophie Hannah and Martin Edwards. CWA Diamond Dagger winner Martin Edwards is an authority on British crime fiction, awarded the Edgar, Agatha, Macavity, and HRF Keating Awards for his non-fiction book The Golden Age of Murder. He is also follows in the footsteps of Agatha Christie, as current Chair of the Detection Club. Sophie Hannah is a multi-award-winning, international bestselling author of psychological chillers, and a dedicated Agatha Christie fan. For almost forty years after her death, Christie’s family famously rebuffed any suggestion that they might pass the authorial baton to another author yet, to date, Sophie has written four Poirot ‘continuation’ novels, with the Christies’ full blessing. These two clearly have a lot to talk about. And if you like your murder framed in a more elegant era, this is a must-see!

3:15 – 4:00pm: 

Signings and Social: Your chance to mix with fellow attendees and some of our special author guests, buy the latest crime fiction releases from our authors, and have your books signed.


3:15 – 4:00pm

:Crime Writing workshop with David Jackson. Crafting the Killer Pitch: As novelists of commercial fiction, we are in the business of selling ideas – to agents, to publishers and, ultimately, to readers. Our chances of success increase dramatically if we can express those ideas in ways that are brief and snappy and carry a punch that sends our intended audience reeling. In this short workshop David Jackson describes techniques that will help you in devising story pitches that have exactly that tight, powerful focus. (REQUIRES SEPARATE TICKET WHICH CAN BE BOOKED AS AN ADD-ON WHEN YOU BUY YOUR PERFECT CRIME TICKET)

4:00 – 5:00pm: 

Truth and Lies: Ann Cleeves and Prof James Grieve. What is the truth behind the fiction? Professor James Grieves’s long career in forensic pathology has taken him around the globe and involved a number of high-profile cases. Prof Grieves has also brought the weight of his extensive real-life knowledge and experience to bear on panel discussions between authors and scientists across the UK. So, what does he make of writers’ attempts to bring realism to their fictional crimes? Find out in a fascinating and revealing chat between these two friends.

5:15 -6:15pm: 

Mind Games: M W Craven, Margaret Murphy, Susanna Beard, Barry Forshaw (moderator) The psychology of the murderous mind has fascinated readers since Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heart, and crime readers demand psychological depth in contemporary mysteries. But why are we so obsessed with damaged psychologies and the criminal mind? And what is it like to get into the mind of a killer? Barry Forshaw talks to three bestselling authors who really put the psycho into their psychological fiction.

Tickets can be bought here.

Sunday, 5 September 2021

September Books to Look Forward to from Bookouture


Bring Her Home is by S A Dunphy. She had taken only one step towards the hotel when she heard the car door opening, and then something had her by the shoulders in a grip like steel. Penny tried to fight, but it was no good. The last thing she heard as consciousness drifted away was the whisper of a familiar song… On a cold night in October a pretty, blonde girl named Penny O’Dwyer is snatched from the quiet main street of a small, coastal town in the west of Ireland. No one saw anything, and a desperate search leads nowhere… Until her abductor sends a video declaring Penny only has ten days to live and a deadly countdown begins. Criminal behaviourist Jessie Boyle hoped never to work a case in Ireland again. But when her career in London is cut short by a brutal tragedy, she returns to her homeland to grieve – only for her oldest friend to call in a long overdue debt. ‘Help us catch this monster and bring Penny home. We need you, Jessie.’ Throwing herself into the investigation, Jessie makes a chilling discovery: Penny wasn’t the first girl to be taken. As her team find more missing women, she becomes convinced that a serial killer has been hiding in plain sight for years. Nothing seems to tie the victims together, until Jessie realises that each abduction site is linked to the old Irish myths she read as a child. Time is running out for Penny, and Jessie’s only hope is to understand the killer’s twisted logic. But he is closer than she imagined… and Jessie is next in his sights. Will she risk everything to save an innocent life?

She pulls the door of her office closed and hurries over to her beaten-up old Toyota parked in a deserted alley. Slipping into the driver’s seat, she checks the rear-view mirror, and her heart stops. Staring back at her are the dark eyes of a stranger. She opens her mouth to scream, but it’s already too late… When secretary Annie Parkes is snatched from the street outside of her workplace, David Kane is tasked with finding her. Strong, highly skilled, and secretive, he’s a loner and an outsider; the only man the military trust to find Annie before her kidnappers make good on their promise to kill her. But as Kane pulls Annie from a derelict building, gunshots ringing through the deserted streets around them, he realizes rescuing her is just the beginning. He needs to keep her close to find out who is behind her capture, and to keep her safe. Hiding out in a remote part of town, Kane feels the walls he put up around himself many years ago begin to slip in front of Annie. Could she be more than just a job? With an old enemy hot on his tail, showing any weakness could be fatal—but when Annie is dragged back into danger once again, could he already be too late? Lose Your Breath is by D K Hood.

The New Home is by Chris Merritt. You never know what’s happening behind closed doors… Freya loves her new home on a quiet suburban street. And her beautiful neighbour Emily is everything she’s ever wanted in a best friend. Finally, she has somebody to share her secrets with over a glass of wine. But as Freya watches her new friend setting the table for dinner one evening, she sees something shocking that makes her think that Emily’s life might not be as perfect as it seems. Days later, Emily and her daughter vanish… When you meet Emily’s husband, you will think you know what he’s hiding. You will ask yourself whether Emily and Freya really did meet by chance. You will think you know what happened to Emily and her little girl the night they went missing. But when you discover the truth, it will shake you to your core and you will lie awake at night wondering if you can ever really trust the people in the house next door...

The rain hammers the glass outside. My husband has stoked the wood burner with a fresh supply of logs, and I’ve just put a joint of beef in the oven. It’s the most clichéd Sunday afternoon ever, and it’s the most heavenly one, too. Little do I know that days later, the ash in the fire will be all that remains of us… My perfect life… I thought I had it all – a dream job as a doctor in small town, a stunning home and a family I adore – but that illusion shattered the moment my husband Jeremy left on a work trip and vanished without a trace. Now my son and I are all alone in the world. My missing husband… My best friend thinks Jeremy had an accident up in the mountains, that I’ll never see him again and need to move on. I know he loves us too much to ever abandon us, but my head is still spinning with the texts I found on his phone before he left. Did I ever really know the man I married? The night I can’t remember… Everything changed the night of the medical conference weeks before Jeremy disappeared. I wrack my brains for answers, but my memory goes blank after my first drink. Ever since, I’ve felt like I’m being followed and can’t explain why panic thunders in my chest every time I see my newest patient. If he’s not local to the village, then why does he seem so familiar? And so dangerous? As I piece together the shards of what really happened that fateful evening, only one thing can possibly be true: everyone is lying, even me… The Trapped Wife is by Samantha Hayes.

The Couple Upstairs is by Shalini Boland. Our new home was supposed to be a chance to leave our past behind. But was moving here the worst mistake of our lives? All our friends and family were gathered, glasses raised to toast our fresh start. It should have been a night for happiness and celebration. Zac and I had worked so hard for this: our first home together, just minutes from the sea. But the dream quickly turned into a nightmare… We’d invited our neighbours too. I wanted to make a good impression – to show them we’re exactly the sort of people they want living on their street. I hadn’t thought about who they might be, the strangers I was letting in. It was going so well. There was laughter in the air and the wine was flowing. But then I noticed the narrowed eyes, the whispers. And then the lights went out. As my heart thumped in my chest, all the little things that had been going wrong since we moved here flashed through my mind: the food poisoning, the arguments, the flood of nasty reviews shaking my business. Am I going crazy? Or is someone trying to destroy us?

When Lady Swift is invited to her old school, she walks through familiar classrooms, finds her favourite books in the library… and surely that’s not a body? Time for a lesson in murder! Autumn, 1921. Lady Eleanor Swift is invited to her old school, St Mary’s, as a guest speaker. Her favourite teacher, Mrs Wadsworth, has asked that Eleanor talk about her intrepid travels around the globe – travelling the Silk Road by bicycle, crossing the Himalayas and even befriending the Maharaja of India. But in the circumstances, perhaps it would have been a good idea to talk about her career as a daring detective… Because no sooner has Eleanor brushed up on her times tables then she is greeted by terrible news: Mrs Wadsworth has been murdered. Eleanor is utterly devastated but she owes it to her dearest teacher to find out who killed her and why. So, alongside Gladstone the bulldog, it’s best paw forward to track down a villain. But when the art teacher is also found dead, Eleanor is sure someone is trying to do away with the people who taught her everything. As Eleanor delves into possible motives, she discovers a clue in the most unlikely place: her mother’s old school diary. Does the route to the murderer lie within a secret passageway her mother uncovered? Can Eleanor nail the culprit in time or is the killer coming for her next? A Lesson in Murder is by Verity Bright.

The Perfect Daughter is by Kerry Wilkinson. Rain pounds the windscreen in the pitch-black evening. She knows this winding country road like the back of her hand, dodges the potholes with ease. But then she hears a crunch. A thud. She slams on the brakes. Since Katie’s dad left it’s just been the two of us, but we’re a team – singing in the kitchen at cheesy pop songs, tackling her homework. My teenage daughter is everything to me. But one night, as we’re curled up in front of the TV, the messages start. I keep my phone away from Katie so she can’t see the terrifying words: I know what you did. Now you’re going to do something for me… I have no choice but to obey. Because if I go to the police, come clean about what I did to protect my girl, all the questions and prying eyes would soon discover Katie’s secret too. And that would tear her life apart. So I drive where they tell me, do what they say, send the photo evidence they want. I feel sick when they ask me to cause someone harm, and it’s clear they know everything about our lives. I thought I was keeping a secret to keep my girl safe. But have I actually put her in even more danger?

Scarlet Drew is new to London’s criminal underworld, but she’s hell bent on making a name for herself as joint head of the family firm alongside her aunt Lily. But when Scarlet finds herself alone with a rival business owner at a black-tie event, she is little prepared for what happens next. Determined not to let the drunken lech get away with his crime, Scarlet hatches a plan for revenge – she’s going to steal his most valuable asset and put her name on the map. But as she gets to work, she fails to notice a silent stranger watching her every move. Someone knows exactly what she’s up to, and is plotting their own way to get their hands on the priceless goods. Face to face with a new enemy, Scarlet fears the Drews may have finally met their match. With the whole family at risk, it’s going to take everything they have to stop their empire going up in smoke. But will everyone survive the fight? Her Rival is by Emma Tallon

Marissa lives alone in her tiny one-bed apartment. It’s quiet and safe; all she’s ever wanted. But when the police knock on her door with the news that her last remaining family member has died, she comes face to face with the family secret she has spent a lifetime running from. A witness saw her car outside his house that day, but Marissa knows she’s innocent. She hasn’t seen her uncle in years and remembers going to bed in her own home that night. But she’s had blackouts before and can’t always trust her memory. Days later, Marissa’s neighbour is found dead in his home, exactly like her uncle. It was no secret that Marissa didn’t get on with her neighbour, but she’d never want to see him hurt. What She Did is by Carla Kovach.

The Liar's Child is by Sheryl Browne. I’ll do anything to protect my daughter… When I pick my beloved daughter Poppy up from school one afternoon, my mind races when I see the little girl holding Poppy’s hand. With the same heart-shaped face, long brown hair and dark eyes, the two girls look identical. In fact, they look like sisters. Is the secret I’ve been holding on to for so long about to be revealed? That night, I cuddle Poppy even harder, desperately trying to decide what to do. And then my husband’s phone vibrates. A message. And then another. And another. All from a number I don’t recognise. Is someone going to tell my husband what I did? Could I be about to lose everything I have worked so hard to protect? But I’ve spent so long hiding the truth, I never stopped to wonder if I was the only liar in the family… The only thing I’m sure of is that nobody is going to take my child away from me.

She lifted up her granddaughter from the cot, clutched her to her chest and, without looking at her beautiful daughter lying dead on the floor of her bedroom, ran from the house. Only when she was outside did she let a wail escape her lips, frightening the baby who joined in her screams. When Isabel Gallagher is found murdered on the floor of her baby’s nursery by her mother, it’s a gruelling case for Detective Lottie Parker. Isabel’s pyjamas have been ripped, her throat cut and an old-fashioned razor blade placed in her hand. As Lottie looks at the round blue eyes and perfect chubby cheeks of Isabel’s baby daughter, she can’t understand who would want to hurt this innocent family. That very same day she receives a call with devastating news. Another young mother, Joyce Breslin, has gone missing, and her four-year-old son Evan has been abducted from daycare. Lottie is sure that the missing mother and son are linked to Isabel’s death, and when she finds a bloody razor blade in their house, her worst fears are confirmed. Desperate to find little Evan, Lottie leaves no stone unturned as she delves into Isabel and Joyce’s pasts and when she realises the two women have been meeting in secret, she knows she must find out why. But when Joyce’s body is found in a murky pond and some little bones are found on a windy hillside, it feels as if this merciless killer will stop at nothing. The bones aren’t Evan’s but can they give Lottie the final clue to find the innocent child before more lives are taken? Little Bones by Patricia Gibney.

Inspired by the true crime story of the Rillington Place murders comes a chilling, fictional re-telling of one of Britain’s most infamous serial killers. Queenie Osbourne is the talk of London. Rising to fame as a singer after the Second World War, she is about to head to New York to make her fortune. On the surface John Reginald Christie is an ordinary man. By day he wanders the bustling city streets. By night he is entertained by Queenie and her band. He is always searching for prey. Soon a young waitress named Joy catches his eye and his dangerous obsession begins. Joy is preparing to wed Charles Gilchrist, one of the city’s most eligible bachelors. But Queenie has always held a flame for him and the spark between them is obvious. When Queenie commits the ultimate betrayal against Joy, she knows her bright future is at risk. With nowhere else to turn, there is only one man who can help her. But Queenie has no idea of the dark secrets which lie behind the door of 10 Rillington Place. As Christie watches her approaching, will he risk everything for his highest-profile victim yet? The Girl at My Door is by Rebecca Griffiths.

The Silent Witness is by Carolyn Arnold. It’s 4 a.m. when her mom shakes her awake. “Get up baby, we’re going to play hide and seek.” The little girl presses back into the dark space, holding her breath as she hears the shots ring out. She knows she’s next… When the bodies of a local family are discovered on a quiet street in the small town of Dumfries, Virginia, Detective Amanda Steele takes charge of the case. Brett and Angela Parker were shot three times each, leaving no hope of survival, and their tidy suburban home has been ransacked. But there is no sign of their beloved six-year-old, Zoe. Zoe is the same age as Amanda’s daughter was when she died, and Amanda can’t bear the thought of another little girl in danger. She’s organizing a search for the child, when she notices something strange about the ottoman at the foot of the Parkers’ bed. She opens it to find Zoe, mute and traumatized, but alive. With Zoe completely uncommunicative, Amanda must find another way to untangle what destroyed this seemingly perfect family. It’s clear that the killer is searching for something the Parkers had, and until she has this monster behind bars, Amanda fears that he may return for Zoe. When she learns that Brett Parker cut short the family’s recent lakeside vacation, she wonders why. What happened at that lake house, and did it ultimately get them killed?Amanda heads out to Lake Chesdin on the feeling it might be key to the case, and when she finds a cell phone in the murky waters next to the Parker cabin, she knows she’s made a breakthrough. But then terrible news reaches her from Dumfries; Zoe has been taken from her school playground.Someone wants to silence the Parker family for good, can Amanda catch them before the little girl she’s desperate to protect pays the price?

Saturday, 4 September 2021

Williams & Whiting acquire world English publishing rights to the works of Francis Durbridge


Williams & Whiting have acquired world English publishing rights to the radio and television serials, film screenplays, previously unpublished stage plays and synopsis of Francis Durbridge who was the twentieth century's foremost writer of thrillers for radio and television best known for his Paul Temple radio serials, Tim Frazer television serials along with standalone tv serials such as The Scarf, MelissaBat Out of Hell and Portrait of Alison.

Many of the scripts included in this deal have never been published before in any form and have only recently been discovered having been thought for a long time to be lost. The initial three titles The Scarf (tv serial), Paul Temple and the Curzon Case (radio serial) and La Boutique (radio serial) will be published later this year (2021)

Friday, 3 September 2021

Telos Commits to Crime Through Time


Telos Publishing have picked up a new crime anthology edited by USA Today Bestselling author Samantha Lee Howe

The book, titled Criminal Pursuits: Crimes Through Time, has been put together by Samantha Lee Howe to raise money for the charity POhWER which works to give a voice to those struggling with Human Rights issues in the UK.

'I am so pleased with the authors who stepped up and provided their amazing crime stories for this worthy cause,' said Howe. 'The tales we have assembled are cracking pieces of work, and cover all manner of criminal activity from the very first Caveman detective, to a woman who writes to the world’s worst killers. I'm proud to have curated such an amazing selection.'

The authors taking part are: A A Chaudhuri, Raven Dane, Caroline England, Paul Finch, Samantha Lee Howe, Rhys Hughes, Maxim Jakubowski, Awais Khan, Paul Magrs, Sandra Murphy, Amy Myers, Bryony Pearce, Christine Poulson and Sally Spedding.

Helen Moulinos, the CEO of POhWER, said 'Meeting Samantha Lee Howe in 2020 was a gamechanger. She helped me to see through fresh eyes how relevant POhWER’s work was not only to people living in the UK but globally. Samantha’s introductions to the writers in this book made this incredible charity project possible. This anthology helps us to expand our reach, help more people and further our work to serve millions who are slipping between the cracks of public services'.

Stephen James Walker from Telos Publishing said 'Telos Publishing is delighted to have this opportunity to raise money for the valuable work being done by POhWER to help  disadvantaged groups. Criminal Pursuits is a cracking collection of short stories by a group of top-notch authors, taking readers on a thrilling historical journey through the darker side of human nature while at the same time giving them the chance to support an excellent cause.'

Publication was agreed between Stephen James Walker from Telos Publishing, and Samantha Lee Howe.

CRIMINAL PURSUITS: CRIMES THROUGH TIME is published on 10 October 2021.

Thursday, 2 September 2021

On becoming a real author by Alan Johnson


Alan Johnson is a former MP for Kingston Upon Hull West and Hessle. His memoirs have won the Royal Society of Literature Ondaatje Prize and the Specsavers National Book Awards "Autobiography of the Year”. The titles of his four memoirs all come from the titles of songs that the Beatles have either written or performed.

When I once told a book festival audience that I wanted to write fiction some wag responded by suggesting I write my Party’s next election manifesto. I was still an MP and thick-skinned enough to withstand the gentle humour of someone who’d paid good money to hear me talk about my four volumes of memoir.

The desire I’d expressed was genuine. Apart from the fact that I’d practically exhausted all the available material, I was sick of writing about myself. My memoirs had done well but I didn’t feel entitled to consider myself a proper author until I’d done the really difficult bit; developing plot and character.

I was already enamoured with the actual process of writing. Politics doesn’t involve much in the way of creativity and it’s practitioners rarely have the luxury of seeing an idea through to fruition. Former Prime Minister Harold Macmillan, when asked by a journalist to identify the greatest threat to his administration, famously answered “events dear boy, events”.

I was always buffeted by events as a politician and to an even greater extent as a trade union leader before that, which is why I so valued the almost complete control that writing gave me. I say “almost complete” because, although I was solely responsible for the way I told my story, the story itself was preordained. I could describe the characters but not invent them; follow the plot but not create it. Writing fiction is much harder but infinitely more satisfying. Suddenly I was the dictator I’d so often wished I was in my previous life (although I’d have been a benign one - obviously).

So, I wanted to write fiction but why crime fiction? I’ve devoured a lot of mysteries, particularly in my formative years. It began with a battered paperback copy of a Georgette Heyer detective story that somehow found its way into my bedroom. It wasn’t very good. Heyer’s forte was, of course, the Regency novel but the book was good enough to encourage me to further explore the genre.

Before long I was taking my precious collection of ‘Charles Buchan’s Football Monthly’ magazines to the Popular Book Shop in Shepherds Bush to swap them for a bagful of paperbacks by inter-alia Agatha Christie, Raymond Chandler, Ngaio Marsh, Leslie Charteris and Margery Allingham.

By the time the Beatles released their twelfth single in June 1966 I really did “wanna be a Paperback Writer” (but only if I failed in my bid to be a rock star). I was a sixteen years old shelf stacker at Tesco having left school the year before. In a way school stayed with me because my brilliant English teacher, Mr Carlen had given all his pupils a list of 40 books they should read. The actual list hasn’t survived but I remember Bleak House (with the wonderful Inspector Bucket) being on it along with Rogue Male and The Moonstone. Dickens, Geoffrey Household and Wilkie Collins wrote thrillers that seemed to escape narrow categorisation. They were just good books.

It wasn’t until about five years ago that I read my first Maigret, ‘Inquest on Bouvet’, a slim, green Penguin Crime paperback which could easily have been in that Popular Book Shop selection. Published in 1963 with the price (2’6 in old money) printed on the cover, I picked it up in another second hand bookshop whilst on holiday. Like almost all Maigret books it’s more novella than novel running to just 152 pages. I read it on the beach in one day and I’ve read about five Maigret’s a year since. All 75 are newly available, reprinted and retranslated, in a wonderful initiative by Penguin/Random House. It is Georges Simenon’s creation, rather than Conan-Doyle’s that I consider to be the greatest of all fictional detectives.

I hope ‘The Late Train to Gipsy Hill’ carries at least a modicum of what I learnt from so many great crime novels (although I also hope it’s not derivative of any). I’m not hoping for the Nobel Prize that Simenon so bitterly resented failing to win. I just wanted to write a book that is as pleasurable for it’s purchasers to read as it was for me to write.’

The Late Train to Gipsy Hill by Alan Johnson is published in hardback by Wildfire Books on 2nd September 2021 

Gary Nelson has a routine for the commute to his rather dull job in the city. Each day, he watches transfixed as a beautiful woman on the train applies her make up in a ritual he now knows by heart. He's never dared to strike up a conversation . . . but maybe one day. Then one evening, on the late train to Gipsy Hill, the woman who has beguiled him for so long, invites him to take the empty seat beside her. Fiddling with her mascara, she holds up her mirror and Gary reads the words 'HELP ME' scrawled in sticky black letters on the glass. From that moment, Gary's life is turned on its head. He finds himself on the run from the Russian mafia, the FSB and even the Metropolitan Police - all because of what because this mysterious young woman may have witnessed. In the race to find out the truth, Gary discovers that there is a lot more to her than meets the eye...

Wednesday, 1 September 2021

Why I chose to write my debut psychological thriller SHE’S MINE in the first person. By A.A. Chaudhuri

She’s Mine, my debut psychological thriller with Hera Books, is my first foray into writing in the first person, having used the third person narrative for my Kramer & Carver legal thriller series. 

I always enjoy exploring the mindsets of my characters – who and what is motivating them to behave in the way they do. Even with The Scribe and The Abduction, I made a conscious effort to do this, i.e., not just take my readers on a straightforward mission to unearth and track down the culprits alongside my lead protagonists, but also allow them to see things through the culprits’ eyes, just because I feel this adds substance to the story, enabling readers to connect with and relate to all of the characters on a deeper level; even induce them to feel some level of sympathy for the wrongdoers, having been offered an insight into their inner turmoil and often painful backstories. 

There is no hard and fast rule that psychological thrillers should be written in the first person, however, just because the genre is primarily focussed on the characters’ states of mind. Least of all the first-person present, which is what I chose to do with She’s Mine. So long as the novel contains key elements of the genre – the lead character perhaps having a dark secret or flaw which makes them potentially unreliable – it is of course perfectly possible to effectively portray them within a framework of disquiet and mystery, as is the typical mood of this genre, through the third person narrative.

Having said that, I chose not to do this with She’s Mine, principally because I felt the crux of my novel, which centres on a mother’s (Christine Donovan) grief for her missing child, and the ensuing dark and twisty turn of events that swiftly unravel after she receives a note revealing her daughter is not dead, along with the pervading sense of unease, mistrust and tension that exists between her and other characters, called for a more personal approach. Christine’s guilt for her neglect, but more so revolving around a secret she feels contributed to her child’s disappearance, also lies at the heart of the novel, and so I felt it imperative to see things through her unique perspective, and that of those closest to her, so as to give the reader a deeper and more profound insight into the excruciating pain and turmoil she is forced to endure day after day, as well as the first-hand effect her behaviour has had on others. I didn’t feel this could be conveyed as powerfully via the third person narrative which, by definition, is more detached and reliant on the author’s description of a character’s behaviour and speech rather than via said character’s natural stream of thought. Moreover, although readers may, understandably, blame Christine for losing her child owing to her past misdeeds, it was crucial to me that they should also feel some compassion for her, and I found the first-person narrative – hearing her voice, her suffering in their heads – to be a more effective way of achieving this. 

Obviously one can describe a character’s pain and emotions through the third person narrative, but there is always a danger of it coming across as contrived and lacking in depth and heart, the author sometimes ‘telling’ too much of the story, rather than ‘showing’ it through a character’s own distinct voice and actions which, admittedly, can be deceptive because we as readers don’t know if what he or she is saying can be trusted. But then again, isn’t that the point of the psychological thriller genre? To be unsure of what you are being told is the truth, thereby heightening the intrigue on the part of the reader and their impetus to keep turning the pages?

I think that fans of psychological thrillers rather enjoy the feeling of being deceived by the author – the sense that they’re not being given the whole story but rather a skewered version of the truth. This uncertainty is what adds to the overall experience and addictive nature of the genre, and I think this can often be better achieved by only seeing events through the eyes of a particular character at any given moment.

Writing in the first person also allowed me to connect more deeply with my characters even though I, unlike my readers, know the outcome of the story and what my characters are hiding. With She’s Mine, I became so invested in my characters, I really felt like I was living every moment with them, feeling their pain and inner turmoil, which was important given the subject matter of a lost child; something that was often hard to write about being a mother myself.

Similarly, because the events of the book move along fairly swiftly, constantly switching between different characters’ viewpoints, I chose to write in the first person ‘present tense’ with a view to ramping up the pace even further, as well as intensifying the prevailing sense of claustrophobia and uncertainty my characters operate in.

I really enjoyed my first experience of writing in the first person and feel sure it won’t be my last.

She’s Mine is published by Hera Books in e-book on 18th August and paperback on 26th August:

Her missing daughter was just the start of the nightmare. Twenty years ago, Christine Donovan took a call she should have ignored while shopping. In those few seconds while her back was turned her toddler, Heidi, was kidnapped. She’s never been seen again. Despite having two other children with husband Greg, Christine remains guilt-stricken that her neglect caused her child to be stolen, while haunted by a secret that consumes her. Just as she takes measures to finally heal, a note is posted through her door, with the words she has always longed to hear: Heidi isn’t dead. Christine might finally get the answers she craves - but what she doesn’t know is that finding her daughter will uncover dark secrets close to home. In seeking the truth, Christine might destroy everything that she loves … so how far is she willing to go to find Heidi?