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Newcastle Noir Sat 4th May 2019 @CollinsJacky @NewcastleNoir #NewcastleNoir

Saturday Morning : What’s Love Got To Do With It?

Moderator: Karen Sullivan

Now, I have always thought that there’s a special place in hell for people who put on panels before 10am, but thankfully the rest of Newcastle disagrees with me. The 9.30am panel with Lilja Sigurdardottir, Steph Broadribb, Will Carver and Doug Johnstone was a cracker.

The panellists started by saying a little about their books and the situation of their protagonists then they got down to the business of talking about love.

Doug Johnstone talked about protective love and the massive unrecognised army of young carers who just get on with it which he described as an ‘unrecognised phenomenon’. His novel Breakers touches on this as it also does on protective love, that of a brother for his younger sister and love on the wrong side of the tracks. Seventeen-year-old Tyler lives in one of Edinburgh’s most deprived areas. Coerced into robbing rich people’s homes by his bullying older siblings, he’s also trying to care for his little sister and his drug-addict mum.

Will Carver discussed connections and disconnections. His novel, Good Samaritans is a mix of dark thriller and domestic noir. Seth Beauman can’t sleep. He stays up late, calling strangers from his phonebook, hoping to make a connection, while his wife, Maeve, sleeps upstairs. Will describes his book as portraying a dysfunctional marriage where murder keeps it on track.

Steph Broadribb’s Lori Anderson is a single-mother and a bounty hunter. She’s as tough as they come, but when her family is threatened, she will do anything to keep them safe. All she wants is to be independent and provide for her child.

Lilja Sigurdardottir’s young mother Sonja was forced into smuggling cocaine to stop her son being taken away from her. Sonja is at the beginning of a relationship with someone and the custom’s officer who is chasing her is at the end of a loving relationship. What happens when the two intersect is what makes Lilja’s books Trap and Snare special.

Karen asked each author to pick a fictional love story they liked.Doug chose Drive. Lilja’s was Wuthering Heights. Steph picked True Romance and Will chose the Great Gatsby.

Then Karen asked the authors what was the most romantic thing they had ever done. Doug has written love songs. Steph has based a character in her books on someone she loves. Will Carver tracked down a bench in Central Park close to the one where Woody Allan proposed in Manhattan and proposed there. Lilja was 15 years younger than her now partner, who thought she was too young, so Lilja basically had to stalk her until she gave in (but that was a long time ago now and they are still very happy).

Panel 2 Rough Justice Moderator: Sharon Bairden

My next panel was with Michael J Malone, debut novelist Noelle Holten, Craig Robertson and Sarah Stovell.

Billed as a journey into crime’s darkest corners, where bad things happen close to home. Sharon asked the authors what their brand of rough justice was and if they enjoyed serving it outside the law.

Sarah talked about the emotional and psychological revenge meted out in her novel Revenge.

Discussing social commentary, Sharon asked Craig Robertson if that was a deliberate inclusion. Craig responded by saying it has to be deliberate. A writer needs to have the ability to tackle current issues, not least because there is so much that needs addressing.

Noelle talked about domestic abuse and that she wanted to show facets of the men who perpetrate as well as those who are victims of domestic abuse. Violence, she says, is learned behaviour.

The panel discussed what actually happens versus what can be explored in novels. Writing they agree, is about getting under the skin of your characters and empathising with them in order to make them three dimensional. General agreement too on blurring the edges between good and evil and how the best books are often in that subtle area between the two when an action can go either way.

Is there much of your background in your books, Sharon wanted to know?

Noelle, a former Senior Probation Officer, says there’s a lot of what she has learnt in her book, Dead Inside. Craig, a former journalist, has had a great deal of experience in dealing with people who have lost loved ones in high profile circumstances and those experiences inevitably feed his writing. Michael Malone says that writers, above all, are extreme people watchers. Sarah agrees that personal experiences always flow into her work, though she can’t quite get away from the fact that she has ended up in every one of her own books.

Is there anything you wouldn’t touch in your books, Sharon asked? Craig responded by saying that the more painful things are, the more useful they are to you as a writer. Michael agreed, stressing that writing is and should be an emotional experience.

The authors discussed adding lighter moments to their books, slipping in references to people they know, or in Michael’s case, giving his dog, Bob, a wee cameo.

On the question of a series or stand-alone, the panel was a little divided. Michael remarked that with a stand -alone novel, you were king of the world, whereas a series is like a pair of comfortable shoes, inasmuch as you know the characters so well. But then, as Craig suggested, sometimes that makes you want to kill them all off! Sarah wouldn’t rule out a series, but as her characters have a tendency to end up dead at the end of a book, that might be difficult.

Saturday PM Panel 3. LGBTQIA+ I Am What I am La Vie en Noir
Moderator: Jacky Collins

Our panellists for this ‘cupcake’ panel this afternoon were Paul Burston, Jonina Leosdottir and Derek Farrell.

Jacky kicked off the discussion by asking each author what brought them into writing crime?

Paul Burston used to write black, gay comedies. In 2009 he was dropped by his publisher and started to write a novel. About half way through he realised that the idea he had for the story was in fact a crime novel so re-wrote it.

Derek Farrell always read crime from an early age. His dad loved reading crime and they watched crime series on tv together from an early age. His view of life is that you should read what makes you happy whether that’s The Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew. He penned his first crime novel in the late 90’s, which then turned into 3 novels and a travelogue. He’s also written a historical novel. Farrell used to work for a bank with an HQ in the World Trade Centre, but then 9/11 happened and everything was chaos.

He attended a creative writing class where the task was to create a character and then destroy their life. He wrote about a man whose boyfriend found him in bed with the window cleaner and for the rest of his course people kept asking him about that character, so he knew he was onto something interesting.

Jonina Leosdottir had her first book published 31 years ago, and crime is a recent addition to her portfolio. Growing up she read everything and wrote copiously. Having her as a penfriend, she says, was like receiving War and Peace every time she wrote a letter. She was a journalist for 20 years then resigned after a row over an anti feminist spiritualist preacher.

Jonina then turned to writing fiction. She enjoys writing about relationships with the odd murder thrown in.

The panel discussed whether their books had an agenda. Paul is an Aids activist, and for him, his books are always political. He really hates the ‘gay best friend’ syndrome in books and so wrote a gay character with a straight woman best friend in The Closer I Get. His novel The Black Path is about a marriage in crisis in which the gay character was a catalyst. Writing a gay character, he says, is writing a character who knows fear. He said, and I really ached here, that he never holds his husband’s hand when they are out together, because of the fear that might induce in him.

Derek Farrell says all his characters are really him. In his Danny Bird series, Danny throws himself headlong into his dream to turn the grimmest pub in London into the coolest nightspot south of the river. Sadly, everything doesn’t go quite as planned when his star turn is found strangled hours before opening night.
Fortunately, Danny has his best friend, Caroline, affectionately known as Caz to “help” him out. With aplomb, she has almost everything for the situation that Danny finds himself in, miniatures of booze to settle the nerves, lipstick and a compact mirror to make sure she’s in tip top style, or just cash to put in the till to keep things ticking over in the bar. Danny is smart but not socially confident whereas Lady Caz owns the world.

Jonina Leosdottir has written Y/A books, crime novels and a non fiction book about her own life. For 15 years Jonina was in a relationship that she had to keep secret. Her partner was a politician who feared that her opponents would take political advantage if they knew she was in a same sex relationship and so Jonina had to say in the closet for all that time. Eventually her partner became Prime Minister after the Icelandic banking crash and acknowledged their relationship, so she went at almost a stroke from being a hidden secret to meeting the President of China; from one extreme to the other.

There was an interesting discussion about the marketability of gay characters in books with Paul Burston pointing out that Val McDermid had had to put her Lindsay Gordon series to one side before becoming really successful and that Mary Hannah’s Kate Daniels character was really fortunate in taking off, otherwise she would have had to go.

Yrsa intervened to say that she realised she had not had many gay characters in her books over the last 10 years and wasn’t doing so well in portrayal terms. The panel discussed cultural appropriation, which they broadly agreed was not an issue and said that what they found offensive was the deliberate exclusion of gay characters rather than anything else.

Panel 4 Crime Cymru We’ll Keep a Welcome in the Hillside
Moderator: Gail (G.B.) Williams

This Welsh crime fiction panel comprised Matt Johnson – ex soldier, ex policeman. Matt Johnson is the author of the 2016 John Creasey CWA Dagger listed novel ‘Wicked Game’ and has written three books in the Robert Finlay series. Thorne Moore writes psychological mysteries, or domestic noir, exploring the reason for crimes and their consequences, rather than the details of the crimes themselves. After twenty years as a working actor, mainly in film and television, Phil Rowlands moved into the production side as a freelance writer and film producer. He has written feature films, TV and radio dramas, documentaries and animation series and worked as a script doctor. Siena is his first novel.

The panel started by discussing their own crime writing. Phil Rowlands writes psychological thrillers because he enjoys writing about ordinary people in extraordinary situations and because he enjoys writing about the aftermath of such events.

Thorne Moore figures that crime writing is as good a place as any to look at how people deal with adversity and to look into a character and their past.

Matt Johnson writes what he knows. A sufferer from complex post traumatic stress disorder, as a result of his time in the armed forces and police service. Writing began as part of his therapy.

G.B. Williams wanted to join the police force but failed the height restriction. She wrote romance with a plot, nut soon ditched the romance and kept the plot.

Each of these authors set their novels in Wales. What is it about Wales that casts such a wide spell? For Thorne Moore it is the thousands of years of history; the contrast between the cottages and the castles and the fact that everywhere you go there are bodies underfoot.
Phil Rowlands talks about the wonderful diversity of Wales which gives a sense of many worlds. The landscape is astounding and the darkness is blacker than elsewhere. It inspires a passion.
Matt Johnson undertook his selection and training exercises in the Brecon Beacons. It wasn’t until he went back some years later that he realised the beauty of it. He loves the remoteness and the potential for total isolation. the diversity of language, depending on where in the country you are, is another pull for the panel.

The authors discussed the formation of Crime Cymru as a way of bonding together and acting in their shared interests as well as being helpful to profile the crime writing community and to punch above their weight.

Panel 5. What Lies Beneath?
Moderator: Jacky Collins

I call this one the beautiful people panel. A killer line up of International authors from France, Norway, Germany and the UK discussing dark deeds and undercurrents. Simone Buchholz, Louise Beech, Thomas Enger and Johanna Gustawsson were our panellists. So, what brought them to crime fiction?

Simone was a journalist, predominantly writing for women’s magazines. She got bored, tried to effect an entry into sports journalism but the men wouldn’t let her in. She needed more roughness in her life and as an avid reader of James Ellroy and Raymond Chandler and Jakob Arjouni she thought it would be great to take the characters like those and to put them into contemporary Hamburg. 8 novels later she is still going strong.

Louise Beech describes herself as a ‘genre floozie’. She told us how she had sadly experienced being on the end of a murder investigation in real life after her grandmother died as a result of a home invasion. Her first crime novel is Called Star Girl. She wrote it after gaining confidence from writing her first 4 books and going darker, she says, felt natural.

Thomas Enger is Norwegian, a country with a tradition of gifting crime novels at Easter. As a teenager, his father was keen for him to read the classics, but he got easily bored. Then he found his way into the crime fiction section and read everything avidly. So when the urge to write came on him, crime was the natural choice. Thomas journey into publication was a long one. He wrote 4 novels in 15 years that were never published. He made his debut in 2010 and this summer will publish his 10th book.

Johanna Gustawsson was not a keen reader, but she grew up on a diet of Agatha Christie books and was a lover of Hercule Poirot, whom she found to be a brilliant man. In her book, Block 46, she wanted to write about her grandfather. Her own father hadn’t been such a great dad and she thought it was important to understand why.She started to research Buchenwald through the Nurnberg Trials and out of that came a book in part about a hero who could not be a father. Part historical, part contemporary Block 46 plumbs the darkness and looks at the horrific evidence of the nature of evil, while Johanna is channelling Poirot.

Jacky asked about recognition and wining prizes. Simone said that when she is writing it never feels good enough. She is massively insecure until an editor, critic or a jury says it is good. She really worries what will happen when no-one is interested any more. (never going to happen, darling). She has seen respected colleagues now in their 70’s and 80’s whose time has gone and she fears it.

Thomas agrees that kind of anxiety is very common. Is it good enough? Will readers love it? Awards are a huge pat on the back and help to instill confidence.

Louise takes the view that she loves writing and nothing else is guaranteed.

Johanna’s publisher told her that recognition takes around 5 years to achieve, but her book just took off. She sees her name on a book and is just in awe of being published. After that, prizes are just surreal and make her cry – a lot.

Some of their books are quite violent and Jacky wanted to know if these authors self censor? Simone talked about her protagonist, Chastity Reilly. Chastity’s mother left when she was 2 years old. Her father was a US soldier who shot himself when she was 20. So she is damaged. She tries to talk about what she feels but she can’t. She knows how to push her self destruct button. Simone writes about violence because she wants to rail against violence and to rid society of it.

Louise reckons that as long as it is part of the story and theme then anything goes. Done in the right way, any topic should be available. Thomas Enger agrees that its fine if the story warrants it. He knows one of his publishers was warming his hands over some gruesome murders in his books, so he did feel he had to oblige just a bit. He doesn’t seek these scenes out though, now they are less and less there deliberately.

Johanna’s books can be quite graphic as they are serial killer novels, but she tries to do that through feelings, or smell or seen through someone’s eyes rather than to paint the violence. She writes only 10% of what she knows happened and some scenes she can’t write at all. She cant and won’t do gratuitous violence, but then neither can any author on this panel.

Jacky wound up the panel by asking what these authors have learnt on their writing journey.

Simone says – take more risks.
Louise – the act of writing has got better
Thomas – now will part plot the beginning and the end of his novels but he allows for a dynamic process as characters develop along the way.
Johanna has always been and always will be a plotter but she has learned to trust herself more.

Panel 6 Saturday Night Showcase Going Back to My Roots
Moderator: Miriam Owen

Sometimes you just know when you are in the presence of real class. John Harvey and Gunnar Staalesen were in conversation. Whwther they were discussing football or Varg Veum and Charlie Resnick, there was much to learn from these two authors.

Gunnar has lived with Varg Veum for 43 years. John Harvey uses Resnick to examine and illustrate societal changes. Both authors are interested in real events happening in real places to inform their work.

Staalesen describes Maigret, Chandler Ross McDonald and Dashiel Hammet as all writing in the realistic tradition, alongside Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo who helped define the Scandinavian crime genre with their 1960s and ’70s Martin Beck series. The French were early adopters of crime fiction.

John Harvey and Gunnar Staalesen

John Harvey wrote pulp fiction and took whatever he was asked to do, so has written westerns, Herbie books (Herbie Rides Again).He’s glad people now don’t have to do that because the option of self publishing has come in.

Gunnar recalled that in Norway in the ’50’s there were maybe 5-10 crime fiction novels published, usually by non writers. Then in the 70’s an explosion of younger crime writers happened after Sjowall and Wahloo.

Gunnar referenced Louis Masterson (AKA Kjell Hallbing), a Norwegian author who between 1966-1985 wrote the hugely popular Morgan Kane series of western novels – a series of books about the fictitious Texas Ranger (later U.S. Marshal) Morgan Kane. He was hugely successful and his books sold incredibly well, but he wasn’t respected because he wrote westerns. Staalesen also commented on the decline of independent bookshops especially in the UK and remarked that fixed pricing of books in Norway had prevented this happening there.

What, asked Miriam Owen, did the authors like most about writing. John Harvey said it was the satisfaction of knowing you had crafted a really good sentence, or when you had got a scene to really work. The incidental pleasures that make it all worthwhile.

Gunnar loves to write stories. The biggest pressure is writing the story for the first time; all the other drafts and edits are hard work, not pleasure. John Harvey enjoys writing short stories and poems and indeed, he says he will not write another novel.

Both authors enjoy the theatre. Gunnar writes regularly for theatre and John got a lot of pleasure from adapting Resnick for the stage. Actually witnessing an audience getting pleasure from and reacting to his writing was a real treat, along with the collaborative nature of the project.

Well, gentle reader, that was my day and there were loads of panels I did not get to. But now it was time to visit the bookshop and sample the cocktails on offer before heading to the silent disco and later ‘eat my gun’….

Back later with Sunday’s panels.

Newcastle Noir Day 1, Friday 3rd May 2019 @NewcastleNoir @CollinsJacky #NewcastleNoir

I am so excited to be at Newcastle Noir. I’ve never been before and this year the programme is exceptional. The North East’s own crime writing festival has moved venues this year and is being held in the very central City Library. The facilities and the access are really good and it has the benefit of sending a signal of being a Festival that anyone can attend.

The fact that a number of people dropped in today to attend a session is a hopeful sign that this signal is being heard both loudly and clearly.

I got to Newcastle just after 2pm which meant that I had already missed two cracking sessions, but I was still able to attend a further 4 today.

First off was New Kid in Town, with Adam Peacock, Christoffer Petersen, GB Abson and Alison Belsham. These four relatively new authors discussed their writing journeys.

Adam Peacock, Christoffer Petersen, GB.Abson and Alison Belsham

Alison Belsham initially started writing with the ambition of becoming a screenwriter-and in 2000 was commended for her visual storytelling in the Orange Prize for Screenwriting. In 2001 she was shortlisted in a BBC Drama Writer competition. Life and children intervened but, switching to fiction, in 2009 her novel Domino was selected for the prestigious Adventures in Fiction mentoring scheme.

In 2016 she pitched her first crime novel, The Tattoo Thief, at the Pitch Perfect event at the Bloody Scotland Crime Writing Festival and was judged the winner. The Tattoo Thief was bought by Trapeze books and published in May, 2018.

Adam Peacock grew up in South Shields before leaving to study a degree in music and technology at the University of Hull. Following his return to his hometown, Adam spent seven years as a teacher in a local college. The pent up anger he felt as a teacher, he says, in no way contributed to his willingness to kill people in his books. Having always been an avid reader, Adam took up writing after being encouraged to do so by his PGCE tutor. He went on to produce a number of short stories, winning the Writers’ Forum Magazine competition on two occasions, before trying his hand at a novel. That one didn’t go anywhere, but he got it out of his system.

A crime fiction fan, Adam eventually set about writing a crime novel set in the North East and eventually the idea forAdam’s debut novel, Open Grave,was born. He grew up in South Shields and wanted to write a novel set in and around the area. He kept seeing places in South Shields that would be great for burying a body, he says.

Now, as well as writing, he is a trade union official and his members include prison lecturers, which is helpful when he wants to get an informed view on breaking out of a prison.

Adam’s book was picked up by Bloodhound Books and was published last September.

Christoffer Petersen lives in southern Denmark. In 2006 he and his wife moved to Greenland and spent seven years learning about what he says is one of the most exciting countries and cultures in the world. There, he says, weather and terrain means everything. Because of the variability of the weather, the Greenlanders are very spontaneous, just reacting to their environment as it changes.

While in Greenland, Christoffer started writing crime stories and thrillers set in Greenland and the Arctic. He graduated from Falmouth University with a Master of Arts in Professional Writing, adopted his wife’s surname, got picked up by an agent after self publishing and has not looked back since.

G.D. (Garry David) Abson was born in County Durham, England, and brought up on army bases in Germany and Singapore before returning to the UK. He developed a lifelong obsession with Russia after studying the revolution at school and Russian politics at university as the Soviet Union collapsed.
Shortlisted for the C.W.A. Debut Dagger, his first novel, Motherland was a
Times/ Sunday Times Crime Club Star Pick.

In his second novel, Black Wolf, Captain Natalya Ivanova’s investigation links the death of a young woman on the outskirts of St Petersburg to the Decembrists, an anti-Putin dissident group whose acts of civil disobedience have caught the eye of the authorities. Natalya soon realises she is not the only one interested in the case, as government security services wade in and shut down her investigation almost before it has begun.

So where are the good guys?
Gary Abson’s detective, Senior Investigator Natalya Ivanova, is trying to find her way in the dark, corrupting, seductive, and chaotic country that is Putin’s Russia. She is straight as a die and can’t abide corruption. Her husband is pragmatic, having learnt to live with the corruption as a part of daily life. Her stepson is trying to avoid corruption while they are bribing those who can help to get him out of being conscripted. Natalya is helped enormously by expert senior criminologist, Leo Primakov, a man who sees the world in black and white. Her one true ally Primakov has to buy equipment out of his own pocket and rely on American TV shows to help him keep up to date with his science.

Christoffer Pedersen’s quiet, chain smoking Constable David Maratse is invalided off the force, and moves to a small settlement to live the life of a subsistence hunter and fisherman. But when his long line hooks the body of a politician’s daughter, he finds himself both prime suspect and lead investigator in Greenland’s most sensational murder case. Maratse works with Police Sergeant Petra Jensen in a trilogy that not only investigates crime but also explores themes of identity.

Adam Peacock’s protagonist, Jack Lambert, has just come out as gay
with an unsurprising negative impact on his relationship with his wife and daughter. He’s in his mid-30’s, with a chip on his shoulder and he also has a complicated relationship with Pathologist Rosie Lynnes, who is struggling to understand his new sexuality status. Lambert ran with a hard gang when he was younger and now heads up his police team. A troubled D.I. he doesn’t it seems, tick too many of anyone’s boxes.

Alison Belsham’s newly-promoted DI Francis Sullivan is something of a surprise.
Francis Sullivan is not your average D.I. Intelligent and thoughtful, he is young in both years, at 29, and in experience. He’s just been promoted above another experienced detective, which means he already has a lot to prove and his boss isn’t exactly thrilled to have a rookie in charge either.

Sullivan knows he lacks experience, but he has family he needs to look after and he needs the promotion. Not much of a drinker, it is the church he turns to when he needs to talk things through.

So besuited Francis isn’t exactly in his element when, in the midst of a Brighton Tattoo convention, it becomes clear that there is a killer about who is selecting victims for their body art. When he teams up with tattoo artist, divorcee Marni Mullins, to track down a sadistic killer, this pairing discover an unexpected chemistry.

PANEL 2 Friday 3 May 2019 The Romanian Connection. BalkanNoir to BucharestNoir.
Moderator: Quentin Bates.

I find that all crime festivals are brilliant events to attend and I love meeting new authors and hearing about their books. Newcastle Noir this year had lots of especially good panels and two that I think will be unrivalled anywhere else this year.

The first of these was from Team Romania. Anamaria Ionescu was born in 1976 and has lived in Bucharest all her life. She qualified as lawyer but for the last 20 years has been a producer with the Romanian Broadcasting Company. Her debut publication was a book of short stories in 2009, followed by a second short story collection and three novels. Her novel based on the 1989 fall of the Communist regime The Christmas That Never Came was one of Tritonic Publishing’s best sellers in 2017. She has also contributed to five collections of short stories including Bucharest Noir (Tritonic 2017) and Gastro Noir (Tritonic 2018).

Teodora Matei was born in 1971 and lives in the city of Ploiesti in Prahova county. She writes in a range of genres from sci-fi and fantasy to mystery, thriller and romance. She has contributed to nine literary collections. Her work includes novels co-written with Lucian Dragos Bogdan; two volumes of short stories and 4 novels of her own. Her fantasy novel, Master of the Castle is one of Tritonic Publishing’s best sellers.

Quentin Bates, Teodora Matei, Anamaria Ionescu, Bogdan Hribb

Bogdan Hribb was born in 1966 in Bucharest. After graduating as a civil engineer he was variously a photographer, journalist, advertising agency director and book editor. He has a PhD in photojournalism is currently a lecturer at the National University of Political Studies and Public Administration. He is the author of the Stelian Munteanu series of which Kill the General, the fourth in the series, is the first to be translated into English. The Greek Connection is the first in the series, now also translated into English.

In Zodiac four murders are committed in four different locations. Each body has strange markings. The only thing that connects them is that they are all from the same small spa town, Voineasa. Two very different investigators team up to investigate. Trained killer, Sergiu Manta and Police Inspector Marius create a tense interplay as they edge their way to the truth.

Living Candles conveys the murkier side of living in urban Romania. This is a place where everyone knows the other’s business; where pensioners gossip outside the entrances to blocks of flats so close together you acn see the atmosphere between them and where the machismo is so thick, you could cut it.

Kill The General features Stelian Munteanu. Lover, killer, Bucharest boy, Stelian is a hero of our times. A book editor with a sideline in international police work, is in a position where he has to kill the General whose book he has just published. Will he pull the trigger? Described as an exciting and suspenseful thriller, this is a ‘roller coaster ride through some of the transitions which have taken place over the last decades in Romanian history’.

Each author talked about their books and their protagonists. Stelian Munteanu was a sniper during his military service, now he is both a journalist and a maverick. He has friends amongst the Secret Service and the spy community so he can often pick up on snippets of useful information. The first of Bogdan’s books is a police procedural, then a historical thriller akin to a Romanian Da Vinci Code. The third is a military thriller based around a foreign vessel with a Romanian crew and the 4th is Kill the General. The 5th is about the absurdity of news.

Anamaria’s protagonist is a true to life character with a hint of James Bond. A cold blooded murderer, but sensitive. His morals tend to get in the way of doing his job efficiently anbd part of his struggle is trying to cope with that dilemma.

Teodora’s protagonist is Antonio. Fat, balding, he is an average man doing an average job. He has a boring wife and 2 naughty children, and he is only a little bit unfaithful.His lack of fidelity tends to be more in the thinking than the doing.

What makes Balkan noir special, Quentin asked? The authors felt that it was everything they had been through from Communism and a dictatorship through to the difficult transition. Romanians are survivors who have learned to appreciate good food, and a beautiful environment, while still struggling with issues such as corruption and smuggling.

We learned that Romanian crime fiction struggles in its own country because readers seem to prefer translated fiction from big names outside the country and so no big name has as yet broken through. But next year there will be a volume of Bucharest Noir – the creme de la creme translated into English and it is hoped that will gain some traction.

All in all a fascinating panel, and something very special from Newcastle Noir. I bought one of each of these author’s books and can’t wait to get started.

Panel 3

Here Come The Girls
Moderator: Dr Claire Nally

Judith O’Reilly, Madeleine Black, Lucy Foley and Alexandra Sokoloff

Claire Nally asked each of the panellists to say something about their journey as a writer.

Alex Sokoloff was a theatre child, which is where she first learnt the art of storytelling. She started writing for the theatre and then went to LA where she was a screenwriter for 10 years, until, as she says, she snapped and wrote a thriller. She is currently adapting her (absolutely terrific) Huntress series for TV.

Lucy Foley came to writing after having been a reader for many years. Previously an editor for a publishing house, she credits that experience with making publishing less intimidating for her and that gave her the courage to write her own book. One thing she has learnt, though, is that you should never try to edit your own book.

Madeleine Black never intended to be a writer. Her book came out of her work with The Forgiveness Project, following her experience of being gang raped as a young woman. She went into the Forgiveness Project to share her story and learn to get past her experience. After that, they suggested that she share her story more widely so that others could learn from it and as she says, she practically ‘vomited’ the book. Since then she has gone on to be a motivational speaker and counsellor.

Judith O’Reilly was a journalist for over 20 years, some of it as part of the Parliamentary Lobby. She set up a blog that went viral leading to her first non-fiction book, a bestseller called Wife in the North that recounts her attempt to move her family and her life from cosmopolitan London to rural Northumberland. That was followed by A Year f Doing Good, in which she setout to see if doing one good deed every day for a year could make you a better person. (Her verdict: it didn’t).

Then she wrote and self published her first thriller – Killing State, which has now been picked up by Head of Zeus. Her second thriller is due out early next year.

The panellists discussed the women in their books. Madeleine wrote her book so that she could say to women that it is possible to get past what has happened to them; to refuse to be a victim. Judith’s women refuse to be put in a corner; they have their own dynamic and refuse to know their place.

All thought their books would easily pass the Bechdel Test –
a way of evaluating whether or not a film or other work of fiction portrays women in a way that is sexist or characterized by gender stereotyping. To pass the Bechdel test a work must feature at least two women, these women must talk to each other, and their conversation must concern something other than a man.

Lucy’s book, The Hunting Party, set in the Highlands in a remote Hunting Lodge, is driven by female friendships and her fictional female characters are able to both conform to their roles and at the same time slightly subvert them.

Alexandra just got so angry that the numerous serial killer books were really about the serial rapes of women who were then subsequently murdered. The brutalisation and exploitation of violence against women is something she abhors. Her series is about a serial killer who is a woman and it is easy to understand why and how she chooses those that she kills.

Are these women writers feminists? Judith says its hard to be otherwise, everything is political. Alex reckons that women should not have to define themselves that way. Lucy went to an all girls school, where, she says, she was taught that everything was possible. It was only after she left that everything started to go wrong.

Alex talked a bit about the reasons women kill, pointing to how few female serial killers there are. They tend to be either the ‘Angel of Death’ type or in pairings with a man where they are the more submissive partner. Yet women have so many more reasons to want to kill.
Madeleine talked about the power of sharing stories and shattering the shame that women and men can feel; to give a voice to the voiceless. A lively discussion ensued about the exploitation of violence in commercial crime fiction, with most agreeing that if its there for commercial exploitative reasons that is to be condemned, but that for explanation and background it can be justified. But you can always tell the difference, the writers agreed.

What’s next for each of these writers? Madeleine Black is a Unicef Ambassador and has just come back from South Africa where she gave a talk and met women’s groups and next up she will be participating as a speaker in the Glasgow Ted Talks.

Lucy Foley’s next book will revolve around a wedding and possibly a murder…

Judith O’Reilly’s next thriller will continue the adventures of Michael North, assassin and spy-for-hire – or as she refers to him, the new British, modern Bond.

As for Alexandra Sokoloff, she was inspired by a recent visit to Iceland and her next book will be Icelandic set with witches…

The Lindisfarne Prize

We took a short break from panel discussions to attend the prize giving for The Lindisfarne Prize.

The Lindisfarne Prize for Debut Crime Fiction is a literary prize which recognises outstanding writing in the genre of crime or thriller fiction, sponsored by the author L J Ross and in association with the Newcastle Noir Festival. It is open to all new writers who are from, or whose work celebrates, the North-East and who have not previously had their work published in any form. Entrants must submit a short story of no more than ten thousand words or the first two chapters and a synopsis of their work in progress, to be considered. 

Four writers were shortlisted; Keith Dickinson, Frank Hutton, Cressida Downing and Wes T. Mead.

The winner, who receives a prize of £2500 to support the completion of their work, as well as free editorial and mentoring services from Cheshire Cat Books and funding towards a year’s membership of both the Society of Authors (SoA) and the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi) was announced by L.J.Ross as Cressida Downing, who received her award from the Lord Mayor of Newcastle.

Cressida Downing with L.J. Ross

Friday Night Showcase: White Queen, Yrsa Sigurdardottir

Next up was the fabulous Queen of Icelandic Noir, Yrsa Sigurdardottir in conversation with Jacky Collins, the inimitable Dr. Noir.

Yrsa was writing plot driven children’s stories because she was unimpressed by what was on offer in Iceland for her own children, when she was approached by 2 Icelandic publishers and asked to try writing a crime novel. So she wrote the first three chapters (In English) and that book was sold to first 13, then later 35 countries. She knows when she starts if she is going to be writing a series, but for Yrsa it is important to stop when she starts to get bored, so around 6 in a series is her maximum.

Yrsa Sigurdardottir

She also loves to write stand-alones because then, as she says, all the characters are disposable. She has, she admits, found some inventive ways to dispatch people off their mortal coil and reckons the vacuum cleaner was her favourite! Very few people in Iceland are killed by guns, since shooting is something done by hunters, so many in Yrsa’s books are stabbed, hanged or drowned.

When writing the first in her new Children’s House series, she was very angry about a case that had been in the Icelandic papers involving a child and so her first in that series is perhaps a little more violent than it might otherwise have been.

She explained that she always thought she would be a doctor, but one summer, while she was away working at sea, her parents decided she would not suit that life and instead signed her up to take an engineering course.

Listening to Yrsa talk about her writing method, it is clear that she is immensely well organised and methodical. Her plot lines are always clear in her head before she starts writing and as I have reported before, she submits her book on a chapter by chapter basis.

Jacky asked Yrsa about the process of turning her book, I Remember You into a film. Yrsa was very clear that she did not want to be involved in the adaptation. They are, she says, two very different things. The book is the child and the author the parent. The film is the grandchild and it is not proper for the parent to be involved in the conception of the grandchild. The good news though is that the same company is now planning to make The Undesired.

Yrsa also spoke about her pleasure in being involved with Ragnar Jonasson in creating a debut Icelandic novelists prize, of attending that dinner with Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and of her hope that soon the work of Oskar Gudmundsson (also at Newcastle Noir this year) would be available to a wider public. Oskar Guðmundsson’s ‘Hilma’—with its strong
female characterization and mind-of-the-murderer
insights—took Iceland by storm when it was published and his follow up Blood Angel has also been very successful there.

Then it was time to relax and enjoy the delights of Newcastle and the Newcastle Noir authors cabaret. But as you know, what happens in cabaret, stays in cabaret, so I’ll be back with Saturday and Sunday’s highlights soon.

4×4 with Douglas Skelton, author of Thunder Bay @DouglasSkelton1 #guestpost #ThunderBay

Regular readers of this blog may recall my review of the excellent, atmospheric, chilling crime novel, Thunder Bay by Douglas Skelton. You can read my review here.

I caught up with Douglas recently at one of his many excellent events around Scotland and took the chance to find out a little more about Douglas and his writing.

As part of a new feature on my blog, I asked Douglas to respond to my 4×4 questions.

4 key characters in your book, Thunder Bay, and why they are important.

Obviously, the first character has to be Rebecca Connolly. She is the protagonist and the story is built around her and her need to find answers, not just regarding the events of 15 years before but also her own family history

Roddie Drummond would be next. His return to the island is the catalyst for everything that follows.

Mhairi Sinclair may have been murdered 15 years before the action takes place, but she figures prominently in the flashbacks and she casts a long shadow over the lives of those who remain.

Finally, the island itself. Stoirm. Its history, its folklore, its landscapes are important to the story and to the characters. It is fictional but I had to make it real.

4 pieces of music that you listened to when writing or which make you think of Thunder Bay

I choose the music I listen to when writing carefully. It has to fit the mood of the book or the particular chapter. And generally, the music is a film score or classical. Writing a book takes a long time so there’s a variety of music playing. Among the sounds for Thunder Bay, I had Rachmaninov’s Isle of the Dead and Sibelius’ Symphony No 2, as well as two scores by John Williams – the 1979 Dracula and The Fury. 

4 places that remind you of Thunder Bay. 

Stoirm is fictional but I’ve used various locations as a base for it. The island itself is an amalgam. One part of my family is from Gigha so there’s bits of that in there. The wildness is from Mull. The exposed western coast, and the high seas of the bay itself, is from a trip on Harris, when I visited a bay on a stormy day and the waves raged in. I loved it. The mountain in the book is based on Schiehallion in Perthshire. So if I were to visit all of these places now they would make me think of Thunder Bay and Stoirm.

4 films that convey the atmosphere you are writing about in Thunder Bay

Basically, any film with a community either hiding something or refusing to acknowledge it, especially if an outsider arrives to expose it. ‘Bad Day at Black Rock’, for instance, sees Spencer Tracy appearing in an isolated town with secrets. The 1984 version of Agatha Christie’s ‘Ordeal by Innocence’, with Donald Sutherland, is another. I haven’t seen it for many years but I do seem to recall there being a very dark edge to it. The book and film ‘Mystic River’, with its ensemble cast and the darkness at their heart. Finally, perhaps surprisingly, ‘The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance’, with its message that the past is not necessarily what we thought it was.

What’s next?

I’m currently writing a new book featuring Rebecca. It’s not set on Stoirm – there’s only so much you can do with an island and it’s not Midsomer – but back on the mainland. At the moment it’s called ‘The Blood is Still’.

I’ve also got a few events lined up – I’m in Blairgowrie on May 11 to talk about Thunder Bay and do a You the Jury. I’m in Waterstones Inverness on 20th May; in the Highland Bookshop, Fort William on 21st May and in Waterstones, Oban on 22nd May. The Four Blokes ( four crime writers, Neil Broadfoot, Gordon Brown, Mark Leggatt and Douglas Skelton) are looking for that plot in the Southside Fringe in Glasgow on May 23 and we’re bringing Carry on Sleuthing: Murder at the Knickerage to Glasgow in June.

My thanks to Douglas Skelton. You can buy Thunder Bay at all good bookshops or via these links:

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The Innocent Ones by Neil White @neilwhite1965 @HeraBooks #TheInnocentOnes

Source: Review copy
Publication: 24 April 2019 from Hera Books
PP: 383

Three lives cut short. Two decades of silence. One evil secret.

By day, the park rings with the sound of children’s excited laughter. But in the early hours of the morning, the isolated playground is cloaked in shadows – the perfect hiding place to conceal a brutal murder.

When London journalist, Mark Roberts, is found battered to death, the police quickly arrest petty thief, Nick Connor. Criminal defence lawyer, Dan Grant, along with investigator Jayne Brett, are called to represent him – but with bloody footprints and a stolen wallet linking him to the scene, this is one case they’re unlikely to win.

Until help comes from an unlikely source…when the murder victim’s mother says that Connor is innocent, begging Dan and Jayne to find the real perpetrator.

Unravelling the complex case means finding the connection between Mark’s death and a series of child murders in Yorkshire over twenty years ago. Father of two, Rodney Walker, has spent years in prison after being convicted of killing of 6-year-old William and 7-year-old Ruby back in 1997.

But when Mark Roberts gets on the trail of the story, convinced that Walker is innocent, he exposed secrets that have long been buried. Secrets so dark, someone will kill to keep them hidden.

Dan and Jayne are in a race against time to uncover the truth – before a killer silences them forever.

I requested this book to review because I had seen a few people remarking on how much they were enjoying it. It’s certainly a very good read. I hadn’t realised that it is the third novel in a trilogy, but that didn’t at all dent my enthusiasm as it reads perfectly well as a stand-alone.

Our protagonists are lawyer Dan Grant and investigator Jayne Brett.  When Mark Roberts, a journalist, is brutally murdered in Highford, petty criminal Nick Connor is arrested pretty quickly. There’s a ton of evidence against him and though he protests his innocence, Dan is having a hard time finding a convincing defence.

But when a surprise visitor to his office casts doubt on Connor’s guilt, Dan is intrigued enough to look into Mark Roberts in more detail and to try and find out what he was working on.

In The Innocent Ones, two plot strands dance around each other until they finally intersect and begin to show a more complete picture.  Over two time periods, 1977 and the present day, Dan must make the connection between two child murders, for which a man is serving a jail sentence and the bludgeoning to death of our investigative journalist.

Detective Inspector Andrew Porter, now retired, was the policeman who conducted the original investigation into the child killings and he’s doing all he can to make sure everyone understands that they caught the right man.

There is plenty of action and a lot to admire in this tense legal thriller that beautifully deploys a host of writerly tricks to mislead, deceive and misdirect the reader along a serious of seriously twisty paths.

The Innocent Ones is a book that kept catching me by surprise and held my attention well throughout.  Dan and Jayne make for well-drawn, believable characters, and their relationship is another nicely played aspect which adds to the authenticity of the book.

Pacy and with well described locations offering a distinct sense of place, this dark and twisty legal thriller has fairly ramps up the tension to give you all you need for a compelling murder mystery.

Verdict: Twisty, dark and surprising, this is a tense legal thriller to keep you guessing. Currently 99p. What on earth are you waiting for?


Neil White was born and brought up around West Yorkshire. He left school at sixteen but studied for a law degree in his twenties, then started writing in 1994. He is now a lawyer by day, crime fiction writer by night. He lives with his wife and three children in Preston.

The Beekeeper of Aleppo by Christy Lefteri @Christy_Lefteri @ZaffreBooks #bookreview

Source: Review copy
Publication: 2nd May 2019 from Bonnier Zaffre
PP: 384
ISBN-13: 978-1785768927

In the midst of war, he found love
In the midst of darkness, he found courage
In the midst of tragedy, he found hope
The Beekeeper of Aleppo
What will you find from his story?

Nuri is a beekeeper; his wife, Afra, an artist. They live a simple life, rich in family and friends, in the beautiful Syrian city of Aleppo – until the unthinkable happens. When all they care for is destroyed by war, they are forced to escape.

As Nuri and Afra travel through a broken world, they must confront not only the pain of their own unspeakable loss, but dangers that would overwhelm the bravest of souls. Above all – and perhaps this is the hardest thing they face – they must journey to find each other again.

Gosh this is a harsh but beautiful book. Beautifully written, certainly. It’s the story of Nuri, a beekeeper and his family. Nuri and his cousin Mustafa are beekeepers who make and sell a range of goods from their honey across Aleppo. Nuri loves those bees; he watches them closely until he understands them and learns their behaviour; understands what they are capable of.

He and Afra, his artist wife, live in Aleppo with their son, Sami. They are not well off, but their life is good and they love living in Aleppo.  But difficult times are coming. Mustafa sees this and sends his wife and daughter away to England. He himself plans to follow with his son as soon as he can sort out the business.

Nuri and Afra love Aleppo and despite Mustafa’s urgings, decide to stay in Aleppo. But as war comes ever closer to the city, an act of vandalism takes their livelihood away. At the same time, Mustafa has to flee the country in fear for his life, leaving Nuri and Afra to decide what to do. Alas, their indecision is their undoing and soon they too have no choice but to flee.

With lyrical prose and using a literary device which at first I thought would annoy me, but which in fact acts as a clever bridge between one time period or place and another, Lefteri shows us the physical and emotional journey of this couple as they try to make their way towards England to join Mustafa.

The story alternates between their arrival in England and the ‘processing’ they have to go through to be classified as refugees with asylum status, interspersed with flashbacks to their journey from Syria through Turkey and Greece.

Broken, shattered physically and emotionally, Nuri is incapable of coping with everything he and Afra experience and their relationship becomes another casualty of the war they are fleeing from. In some ways I’d have loved to have heard more of Afra’s inner thoughts. For her, I think this whole journey was worse than for Nuri and his emotional immaturity in the face of their losses sometimes feels very cruel indeed, which helps to make this deeply moving story feel rooted in reality.

The Beekeeper of Aleppo is an emotional, sometimes harrowing read and highlights only too well why people have to leave their homelands and become stateless refugees. The journey of Afra and Nuria is a common one, though they are lucky in so far as they have some money and they are able to survive. Not everyone is nearly so fortunate.

Even so, recognising that there do have to be checks and safeguards, it is difficult to acknowledge the sheer difficulty of their experience of coming to England and to understand what they have to go through in order to have the possibility of feeling safe.

The story of bees is nicely woven throughout the novel. They are a symbol of hope; the possibility of a future.

Verdict: Ultimately hopeful, this is a moving and beautifully written story that highlights the personal stories behind the headlines. Highly recommended.

Amazon                                                                                      Waterstones

Christy Lefteri is the child of Cypriot refugees and was brought up in London. She is a lecturer in creative writing at Brunel University. The Beekeeper of Aleppo was born out of her time working as a volunteer at a Unicef supported refugee centre in Athens.

LISA GRAY – MY WRITING JOURNEY @lisagraywriter #guestpost #debut

I am really delighted to welcome debut Scottish author Lisa Gray to my blog today. A seasoned journalist who has covered everything from books to football, Lisa’s first novel is called Thin Air.

Thin Air is published on June 1st, unless you are an Amazon Prime member, in which case it is one of the books you can select as part of the Amazon Firsts programme and is available to you right now, for free!

So first, let’s find out about Lisa’s book, Thin Air – the first in her Jessica Shaw, P.I. series.

She investigates missing persons—now she is one.

Private investigator Jessica Shaw is used to getting anonymous tips. But after receiving a photo of a three-year-old kidnapped from Los Angeles twenty-five years ago, Jessica is stunned to recognize the little girl as herself.

Eager for answers, Jessica heads to LA’s dark underbelly. When she learns that her biological mother was killed the night she was abducted, Jessica’s determined to solve a case the police have forgotten.

Meanwhile, veteran LAPD detective Jason Pryce is in the midst of a gruesome investigation into a murdered college student moonlighting as a prostitute. A chance encounter leads to them crossing paths, but Jessica soon realizes that Pryce is hiding something about her father’s checkered history and her mother’s death.

To solve her mother’s murder and her own disappearance, Jessica must dig into the past and find the secrets buried there. But the air gets thinner as she crawls closer to the truth, and it’s getting harder and harder to breathe.

Sounds exciting, doesn’t it? I have my copy and can’t wait to get reading. In the meantime, I’ve asked Lisa to tell us about her writing journey.

Over to you, Lisa.

As a kid, I couldn’t get enough of books. Charlotte’s Web, Charlotte Sometimes, books that didn’t have the name Charlotte in the title.

In my teens, I was obsessed with Judy Blume, Sweet Valley High, and the Point Horror series. At night, when the lights were out and I should’ve been in bed asleep for school the next day, I’d be reading ‘just one more chapter’ by the glow from the streetlight outside my bedroom window.

I loved writing, too. The physical act of putting down words on paper. At one point, I had more than 25 pen pals all over the world. Back in the good old days when people actually wrote real letters on nice stationery, rather than sending emails, texts and WhatsApp messages.

I knew pretty early on that I wanted to write for a living – but being an author seemed ridiculously out of reach. So I decided I’d be a journalist and write for Smash Hits and Just Seventeen instead because, of course, that was much more realistic! 

Unsurprisingly, I never did write for Smash Hits or Just Seventeen but I did become a journalist. I spent 15 years as a sports reporter before giving it up to be a content writer at a national newspaper.

By then, I was heavily into crime fiction. I devoured everything written by Karin Slaughter and Mark Billingham. I started going to the Harrogate crime writing festival and I met a lot of authors – aspiring, newly-signed, established. I wanted to be one of them. Hell, I wanted to be Karin Slaughter!

I spent a lot of time talking about writing a book and not actually doing any writing. I finally realised what was holding me back: fear of failure. What if I was the one who was a big flop who couldn’t get an agent or a book deal? Then a bigger realisation dawned on me: it was a hell of a lot worse to not even try.

So I finally started to write my novel. It would be about a private investigator who finds out her whole life has been a lie. Someone who investigates missing persons for a living and then discovers she, herself, has been a missing person for the last 25 years. 

I finished the first draft and submitted to a handful of agents. Two didn’t get back to me, the others rejected it. Dejected, I shoved it in a drawer and decided I’d write another book, this one set in Scotland. But I couldn’t stop thinking about my Los Angeles-set manuscript. I dusted it off, read it again and, this time, I could see everything that was wrong with it and what needed to be fixed.

I completely redrafted and sent to three trusted early readers: authors Douglas Skelton and Susi Holliday, and super-blogger Liz Barnsley. They all gave positive feedback. Susi recommended it to her agent

And my life changed just like that.

Her agent, Phil Patterson, hadn’t gotten around to reading the first draft I’d submitted to him a few months earlier (thankfully!). But he asked to read the new version in late 2017. By April 2018, I not only had a fantastic agent – I also had an offer for a two-book deal with Thomas & Mercer, Amazon Publishing’s crime and thriller imprint.

It’s hard to believe that my book will soon be in the hands of readers. Thin Air had about 20 different titles and my PI, Jessica Shaw, had even more names before I settled on one that was just right.

Weirdly, though, Charlotte was never in the mix…

As mentioned, Thin Air is available now on Amazon First, or pre-order here: Amazon

Lisa Gray has been writing professionally for years, serving as the chief Scottish soccer writer at the Press Association and the books editor at the Daily Record Saturday Magazine. Lisa currently works as a journalist for the Daily Record and Sunday Mail. This is her first crime novel. Learn more at

Hunting Evil by Chris Carter @simonschuster @annecater #HuntingEvil #bookreview

Source: Review copy
Publication: 2ND May 2019 from Simon & Schuster
PP: 496
ISBN-13: 978-1471179525

‘Every story one day comes to an end.’

As roommates, they met for the first time in college. Two of the brightest minds ever to graduate from Stamford Psychology University.

As adversaries, they met again in Quantico, Virginia. Robert Hunter had become the head of the LAPD’s Ultra Violent Crimes Unit. Lucien Folter had become the most prolific and dangerous serial killer the FBI had ever encountered.

Now, after spending three and a half years locked in solitary confinement, Lucien has finally managed to break free. And he’s angry.

For the past three and a half years, Lucien has thought of nothing else but vengeance.

The person responsible for locking him away has to pay, he has to suffer.

That person … is Robert Hunter.

And now it is finally time to execute the plan.

The Robert Hunter series is one of my favourites; it’s a series I turn to when I want to lose myself in a book, shutting out the world and immersing myself in the world of serial killers with violent minds and the man whose job it is to catch them.

Hunting Evil is the latest in Chris Carter’s Robert Hunter series. Hunter by name and by nature, Robert is in charge of the Los Angeles Police Department’s Ultra Violent Crime Unit. (I always read that and think of the unit with a glowing violet hue).

Hunter and his partner and closest friend, Carlos Garcia are really up against it in this latest book. Though Hunting Evil is the follow on book to An Evil Mind, it isn’t necessary to have read the first in order to enjoy Hunting Evil. What you would get though, is a strong sense from the off of what a fiendishly grotesque mind this antagonist has and the lengths to which he will go in the name of his deadly ‘research’.

Lucien Folter is our antagonist. A game player. A killer with an intelligent and acute eye, who knows how to think ahead and whose ability to read people has lead him to become Hunter’s nemesis.

Once college roommates, Hunter was responsible for catching Folter and sending him to a high security prison. Now, just three and a half years later, Folter has made a dramatic jail break, leaving behind him a trail of dead bodies and a message for Hunter.

Lucien is not happy, he wants revenge on Hunter and knowing him as well as he does from their college days, he has a pretty good idea of how to get it.

Carter does an excellent job of showing us how the brightest and most psychopathic mind of his day works to create the mayhem, doubt and guilt in Hunter that will drive him to exactly where Folter needs him to be.

Against a backdrop of inter-agency squabbling between the US Marshall’s office, the FBI and the LAPD, Hunter finds himself isolated from his peers in a game of cat and mouse the rules of which only he and Folter know how to play. Using deep thinking, and critical analysis, Hunter will have to not only anticipate Folter’s game but work out how to stop him before innocent lives are lost.

Folter will set the rules for this deadliest of games, and many people will die as a consequence, as Hunter struggles to work out what the twisted mind of this cold and deadly psychopath will do next.

It’s good to see Garcia have a bigger role in this book, too. He has really come into his own as Hunter’s partner and friend, even if Hunter can’t yet bring himself fully to open up to anyone, because the danger he attracts as a result of his job makes him fearful of creating more targets for the warped and twisted minds he deals with. This makes Hunter the archetypical loner; a renegade within a system bound by rules that he’s always going to have to step outside of.

Utilising a series of fairly short, sharp chapters to enhance the propulsive mechanism of the book, Carter has created another heart pounding, pacy read full of tension, twists and shocking moments. It’s a fast and furious read that’s bound to delight fans of Carter’s previous books, and to create some new ones.

Verdict: Bloody, compelling, addictive– another fabulously macabre journey into the world of a psychopathic serial killer and the man who has to bring him down.

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Chris Carter was born in Brasilia, Brazil where he spent his childhood and teenage years. After graduating from high school,he moved to the USA where he studied psychology with specialisation in criminal behaviour. During his University yearshe held a variety of odd jobs, ranging from flipping burgers to being part of an all male exotic dancing group.

He worked as a criminal psychologist for several years before moving to Los Angeles, where he swapped the suits and briefcases for ripped jeans, bandanas and an electric guitar. After a spell playing for several well known glam rock bands,he decided to try his luck in London, where he was fortunate enough to have played for a number of famous artists. He has toured the world several times as a professional musician.

A few years ago he gave it all up to become a full time writer.

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