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Skin Deep by Liz Nugent @lizzienugent @GeorgiaKTaylor @PenguinUKBooks

Source: Review Copy

Publication: 15 November 2018 UK Paperback from PenguinUK

Pp: 384

ISBN-13: 978-0241979730

I could probably have been an actress.
It is not difficult to pretend to be somebody else.
Isn’t that what I’ve been doing for most of my life?’

Cordelia Russell has been living on the French Riviera for twenty-five years, passing herself off as an English socialite. But her luck, and the kindness of strangers, have run out.

The arrival of a visitor from her distant past shocks Cordelia. She reacts violently to the intrusion and flees her flat to spend a drunken night at a glittering party. As dawn breaks she stumbles home through the back streets. Even before she opens her door she can hear the flies buzzing. She did not expect the corpse inside to start decomposing quite so quickly . . .

Wow, what a book! Utterly mesmerising, completely propulsive and with a voice as stark and bleak as anything I have read.

Cordelia Russell is an astonishing character. She was born beautiful and in her daddy’s eyes she could do no wrong. She was the Queen of Inishcrann, or so he told her most days, though being Queen of a small island with a tiny population was perhaps not the most she could aspire to; but for now it was enough.

She knows she is special and that’s what drives her forward. From an early age she has learnt how to use what she has to get her own way and she does that with barely a thought for her impact on others. In short, Delia is cunning, manipulative, entirely without empathy and both shallow and narcissistic.

All the time I was reading the book I had the nature v. nurture argument rolling around in my head, but in the end I have had to conclude that perhaps some people are just born that way. Regardless, Delia is almost certainly a sociopath, if not a psychopath yet you can’t help feeling sad for her.

As she grows up, she is looked after by a range of people, most for reasons of human kindness, yet for Delia, these people are just a succession of opportunities to get what she wants.

Throughout the book there is an impending sense of disaster, it’s like watching an implosion in slow motion, and that’s where the real suspense lies. You know you want to look away; you’re sure you ought to look away, but you just can’t. Deeply affecting, horrifying and absolutely remorseless, Delia is a character who both compels and horrifies in equal measure.

This is really strong writing with more than one repellent character, but which nevertheless mesmerises the reader.

Verdict: A real triumph of prose writing that completely transfixes the reader and keeps you needing to read to the haunting and very fitting end.

N.B. This is a reprise of the review I published on Live and Deadly in April 2018

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About Liz Nugent

liznugent

Liz was born in Dublin, where she now lives with her husband, musician and sound engineer Richard McCullough.

Liz first began to write for broadcast in 2003. Between 2003 and 2013, she worked as a Story Associate on the popular television soap opera Fair City. She had several pieces accepted for Sunday Miscellany, a radio series on RTE Radio 1 specialising in nostalgic autobiographical writing.
Subsequently, she had two children’s stories accepted by the Fiction 15 series for the same broadcaster.

In 2006, her first short story for adults, Alice, was shortlisted for the Francis McManus Short Story Prize.
Liz went on to write a children’s animation series called The Resistors for TG4. Her half-hour drama, The Appointment was one of four winners chosen to be broadcast live on TG4 in the Seomra Sé series.
Liz’s radio drama, Appearances, represented Ireland at the New York Festivals in 2008.
She was the winner of an EATC bursary and writing workshops in Geneva and Berlin for pilot episode of drama series Campus in 2007.

Liz’s first novel Unravelling Oliver was published to critical and popular acclaim in Ireland in March 2014. It quickly became a firm favourite with book clubs and reader’s groups. In November of that year, it went on to win the Crime Novel of the Year at the Irish Book Awards and was long listed for the International Dublin Literature Prize 2016. She was also the winner of the inaugural Jack Harte Bursary provided by the Irish Writers Centre and the Tyrone Guthrie Centre in Dec 2014.

Her second novel, Lying in Wait, was released in July 2016. It went straight to number 1 in the Irish Bestseller lists, remaining there for nine weeks and spent eight months in the top ten.
In September 2016, Liz was awarded the Ireland Funds Monaco bursary and went to Monaco for a month to write in the Princess Grace Irish library.
In November 2016, Lying in Wait won the RTE Ryan Tubridy Show Listener’s Choice Award at the Bord Gais Energy Irish Book Awards. The book was also shortlisted in the Crime Fiction category. It has been long listed for the Dublin International Literary Award 2018.

Lying in Wait was chosen as part of the Spring 2017 list for the very prestigious Richard & Judy Book Club in the UK.

Liz was honoured to win the Irish Tatler Woman of the Year award in Literature in October 2017.

Aside from writing, Liz has led workshops in writing drama for broadcast, she has produced and managed literary salons, interviewed other writers and curated the literary strand of Skibbereen Arts Festival in July 2016.

You can follow Liz on twitter@lizzienugent

This review is part of a blogtour. See what other bloggers are saying about this fabulous book:

Skin Deep Blog Tour

Heart Swarm by Allan Watson @allanwatson12 @caffeinenights @BOTBS

Source: Review copy

Publication: 5 Oct. 2017 from Caffeine Nights Publishing

PP: 256

ISBN-13: 978-1910720813

 It feels like history is repeating itself when out-of-favour detective Will Harlan gets summoned to a crime scene in the village of Brackenbrae after a young girl is found hanging in the woods.

Five years ago Harlan headed up the investigation of an identical murder in the same woods; a mishandled investigation that effectively destroyed his credibility as a detective. The new case immediately takes a bizarre twist when the body is identified as the same girl found hanging in the woods five years ago.

The following day a local man commits suicide and the police find more dead girls hidden in his basement. The case seems open and closed.

Until the killing spree begins.

Harlan finds himself drawn into a dark world where murder is a form of self-expression and human life treated as one more commodity to be used and discarded.

The only clue that links everything is a large oil painting of ‘Sagittarius A’ – a massive black hole at the centre of the galaxy orbited by thirteen stars daubed in blood with the words – Heart Swarm

I’m also reading Wasp Latitudes by Allan Watson, which is Book 2 in the DCI Will Harlan series, so I thought I ought to start at the beginning and read the first book, Heart Swarm. Wow. I am so glad I did. Now, I like my crime on the dark side and it’s fair to say that this book fits squarely into the dark zone of my brain.

From its inventive opening to the large body count that follows, this is a book that grabs the reader by the short and curlies and never lets go.

Set in a small village just outside Glasgow, Heart Swarm introduces us to DCI Will Harlan. A man not without issues, something of a serial shagger and with a daughter he adores and a now remarried ex-wife who can’t stand to see him, his baggage is packed in trunks rather than a backpack. Harlan was once a damned good detective but he badly messed up a high-profile murder investigation and lost almost everything as a consequence, including his marriage. Since then he has been marginalised at work; overlooked for everything except the most tedious of cases

Now he’s living in a hotel close to Glasgow’s Necropolis, which feels more than suitable, run by an ex-con. It’s fair to say that Harlan never sets out to make friends, either at work or elsewhere.  He’s not an immediately likeable character, and he tends not to command unswerving loyalty from his team, though it does feel like his friendship is something you could rely on.

Cara McAuley, his sidekick is also an intriguing character. She has her own issues, but she is straight as a bat and a great foil to Harlan. Their relationship is complicated and can only get more so as the case progresses and Harlan has to keep more of what he learns to himself.

There are times in this book where Heart Swarm feels like a horror rather than a police procedural, but then murder is horrifying and some truly awful things do happen in the real world.  Watson does not shy away from any of these and his book deals with some gruesome issues from cults to paedophilia to necrophilia. Thankfully it stops just short of being overly graphic, but I’d still say that this is not a book for those who prefer their police procedurals to be bloodless.

Sometimes eye-wateringly dark, sometimes feeling slightly overblown, Watson brings us a book full of pace, great characters, a complex plot, the odd conspiracy theory and a host of twisted, gruesome moments.

Verdict: Well written, dark and occasionally making my stomach queasy, I’m so glad to be racing on to the next book!

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About Allan Watson

allan watson_

Allan Watson is a writer whose work leans towards the dark end of the fiction spectrum. He is the author of seven novels – Dreaming in the Snakepark, Carapace, The Garden of Remembrance, 1-2-3-4, Monochrome, Heart Swarm and Wasp Latitudes.

In between the books, Allan wrote extensively for BBC Radio Scotland, churning out hundreds of comedy sketches, in addition to being a regular contributor for the world famous ‘Herald Diary’.

He occasionally masquerades as a composer/musician, collaborating with crime writer Phil Rickman in a band called Lol Robinson with Hazey Jane II whose albums have sold on four different continents (Antarctica was a hard one to crack)

Allan lives and works in Glasgow, Scotland, but has never worn the kilt or eaten a deep fried Mars Bar. He also once spent three days as a stand-in guitarist for the Bay City Rollers, but he rarely talks much about that…

https://allanwatson.blogspot.com
 
 Twitter – @allanwatson12
See my review of Wasp Latitudes on Nov 14th

 

 

The Winters by Lisa Gabriele @sophpainter @vintagebooks @HarvillSecker

Source: Netgalley review copy

Publication: November 18th 2018 from Harvill Secker

PP: 336

ISBN-13: 978-1787301191

After a whirlwind romance, a young woman returns to the opulent, secluded mansion of her new fiancé Max Winter – a wealthy senator and recent widower – and a life of luxury she’s never known. But all is not as it appears at the Asherley estate. The house is steeped in the memory of Max’s beautiful first wife Rebekah, who haunts the young woman’s imagination and feeds her uncertainties, while his very alive teenage daughter Dani makes her life a living hell. As the soon-to-be second Mrs. Winter grows more in love with Max, and more afraid of Dani, she is drawn deeper into the family’s dark secrets – the kind of secrets that could kill her, too.

Yes, this blurb is indeed reminiscent of one of the greatest stories ever written, Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca. Deliberately so, for The Winters is a contemporary re-imagining of this classic psychological thriller. Though it stands in its own right, the author has liberally borrowed from the plot to create an American version with similarities, but many differences, too.

Wealthy New York Senator, Max Winter is in the Cayman Islands when he meets a naïve young woman working in the marina where he hires his yachts for fishing trips. Max Winter is a widower with a teenage daughter and soon our lonely Cinderella is caught headlong in a whirlwind romance as he sweeps her off her feet.

Soon they are engaged to be married and he takes her back to Asherley, his ancient family mansion in the Hamptons.

Such grandeur is alien to our Cinderella and she soon finds that the presence of Max’s deceased first wife, Rebekah, looms large in the mansion, from her photographs everywhere to the top floor of the grand house which is where she had her quarters and which remain as they were when she was alive.

As if that were not enough, Max’s daughter Dani, seems to be going through a mega teenage rebellion and is both difficult and resentful towards the bride to be. Full of unsuppressed rage and dark as the solitary nights at Asherley, Dani is a whirlwind of emotions all of which are directed at our protagonist, leaving her feeling emotionally bruised.

A story of family secrets, obsession and lies, this is a light and entertaining reworking of the original story with some very different plot twists and a huge helping of dark and brooding menace.

Verdict: It’s not the original, but it’s entertaining enough and a fast paced read.

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About Lisa Gabriele

lisagabriele

Lisa Gabriele is a Canadian novelist, television producer and journalist. She was the show runner for Dragons’ Den from 2006-2012. Gabriele is the author of Tempting Faith Di Napoli and The Almost Archer Sisters, both national bestsellers. ‘Tempting Faith Di Napoli’ will be developed as a TV series by Insight Productions. Her  novel, The Winters, a re-imagining of Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca, was  published in Canada and the U.S. in the fall of 2018.

 

Dark Nights, Dark Deeds in Grantown on Spey. The Wee Crime Fest – Part 2 of 2 @BookmarkMarjory @michaelJmalone1 @DouglasSkelton1 @NlBro @CraigRobertson @AlexSokoloff @Alexincrimeland @StuartMacBride @EngerThomas @foreva48 @HighlandWriter @22_ireland

 

Saturday 3 November 2018

Dead in the USA – Trump That

After a hearty breakfast at my hotel I headed off to the Pagoda for the first of Saturday’s sessions. Alexandra Sokoloff and Douglas Skelton were discussing Dead in the USA – Trump That, with Neil Broadfoot in the Chair.

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Alexandra kicked off proceedings by suggesting that there is no greater evil and no greater crime than that which is happening in America right now. She finds real crimes and real evil in the White House and she can’t begin to think about finishing her next novel until she knows for sure what the mid-term elections will bring.

For Alex, the need to address and confront the real evils in our society is incredibly important and as an artist she can’t step away from that. Alex started off writing horror and suspense, but soon found that it is real life evil that is the most scary. In her Huntress series (which sparks and crackles and is awesome she wanted to address the evil done to women and children.

Douglas Skelton’s The Janus Run set in a very cinematic New York City is a new departure from his previous Scotland set novels. He began to write it after fellow author Craig Robertson suggested he try writing something set away from Scotland

Douglas sees a real affinity between Glasgow and NYC and as a huge cinema fan, he already feels like he knows New York very well.  Douglas is a very visual writer, he thinks in terms of cinematic scenes when he writes them and as an author wants to convey that visual aspect into the reader’s head.

Alex has a substantial background as a screenwriter and she uses that to inform her writing style and structure. Both authors have quite different approaches to writing though. Alex is a real planner and plots pretty much everything before she writes while Douglas has no process at all. He just starts with a sentence and an idea and runs with it.

Whilst Alex will write her series of books as if she were writing a TV series, with each book being a Season at a time and will know her story arc trajectory pretty thoroughly before she starts.

When he was writing The Dead Don’t Boogie, he was 45,000 words or so in before he began to think he’d better come up with a plot! But then, as he says, that’s what second and third drafts are for.

The authors talked about the support they get from other writers and how important it is to have that support network in place.

They discussed location as a character in their novels and Douglas talked about incorporating the rise of hatred in the world into his work when Neil asked how much the real world bled into their books. Alex of course confronts this head on in her Huntress series.

Asked about their writing influencers and who they like to read, Alex cited Denise Mina and Val McDermid along with Thomas Harris’ early work and Douglas says that his go to writer is Ed McBain.

Next for these writers is Book 6 in the Huntress series, which Alex is drawing to a close for now and Douglas has a new book coming out next year, titled Thunder Bay which sounds amazing! Both books will be very high on my ‘must read’ list as these are two awesome writers.

 

Me and My Book – We’ve Got Issues

Michael J Malone and Craig Robertson were interviewed by Caro Ramsay.

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Caro remarked on the very strong starts to both Craig’s The Photographer and Michael Malone’s After He Died.

Craig also talked about Murderabilia, his book about the macabre habit of collectors who buy items associated with ‘celebrity’ murderers and whether these items are imbued with evil. He horrified many in the audience when he talked about the items he had bought as part of his research which included a lock of Charles Manson’s hair. It is really a very creepy thing to do when you think about it.

Caro asked each author how they go about ensuring they manage to portray their female characters accurately and with insight. Michael grew up with a twin sister which really helped him to understand what issues women have when growing up and Craig, of course, has Alex Sokoloff to keep him on the correct path.

Michael talked about his strong interest in the way that the brain works and how different men and women can be when it comes to talking, especially about emotional issues. He is really interested in the mental and emotional connections. He spoke about men’s socialisation and the idea of the men’s shed network and how the right situation was required in order for men to discuss their personal lives and emotions.

This led to a wider discussion about mental health and responsibility of authors to make sure they  t get things right. Michael talked about PSTD and those who suffered from the trauma after Lockerbie and the terrible way that we as a society treat servicemen and women coming home after terrible battlefield experiences.

Craig talked about an increasing fascination with how much of ourselves we are prepared to divulge to social media; how much information we give away freely. He also feels quite passionately that  that dealing with some of the issues that social media throws up are of interest to younger readers as that’s where the next generation of readers are coming from.

There were some lovely humorous moments too, as Caro laid into Craig for his less than kind treatment of animals in at least one of his books and Craig tried to deflect her by suggesting that he was becoming almost vegan. Though having him claim that you don’t have to kill animals to make black pudding was somehow more gruesome than all the beheading you might care to mention.

 

Authors and Their Lives of Crime

Stuart MacBride and Neil Broadfoot chatted to Douglas Skelton in the first session of the afternoon

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MacBride is the author of 12 Logan MacRae novels, the most recent of which is The Blood Road; 2 Ash Henderson books, 4 stand-alones, several short stories and 1 children’s books. Stuart has many awards for writing, including the CWA Dagger in the Library Award. The Dagger in the Library is a prize for a body of work by a crime writer that users of libraries particularly admire. Only librarians can nominate authors for the award. It is one of the most prestigious crime writing awards in the UK. All of that, however, pales into insignificance when you see how proud he is of his award in 2014 for stovie making in the World Stovies Championship. You can see his recipe here.

Neil Broadfoot’s protagonist is Connor Fraser, an ex-policeman in Northern Ireland and now a close protection officer. Inspired whilst watching the annual Scotland versus England Bloody Scotland football  match, Neil found himself looking across Cowane’s Yard and thinking to himself….’now that looks like a great place to dump a body…..and wouldn’t it be great if it were decapitated and with its head on a spike nearby’….

His novel No Man’s Land touches on Brexit, paratroopers and radical independence, which is interesting as Stuart then mentioned that his next book also deals with radical independence. Stuart refers to this kind of synergy as morphic resonance where crime fiction will often reflect not just society’s interests but also a sense of place and time and where we are in the world, politically and philosophically.

The pair discussed their writing processes from huge whiteboards and super sticky post it notes to how you know you are winning when your characters start talking back to you. Needing he felt, to change his process somewhat, Stuart changed his up by writing  The Blood Road as 6, 1 hour episodes, of a screen play.  Stuart was also hugely entertaining with his recounting of the nature of his short story, Daphne MacAndrews and the Smack-Head Junkies, which he describes as his attempt to write cosy crime. One character is murdered and another is castrated, but, he says, apart from that it is very like an Agatha Christie.

Stuart is also very knowledgeable about the life and times of A.A.Milne and was very entertaining on the subject of who some of the characters in Winnie the Pooh were really like. St

Next from these two entertaining and informative writers is a new Logan Macrae book and then possibly a third Ash Henderson novel from Stuart. Neil Broadfoot has a rough story arc for Connor Fraser mapped out up to Book 7, which is great news.

 

The Series Crime Unit

The final Saturday panel was Caro Ramsay, Alex Gray and Thomas Enger talking about their respective series.

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Alex’ most recent book is the 15th in the D.S.I. Lorimer series and was inspired by a real life death she learned about whilst undergoing a forensic science course, where at first the death looked like one thing but proved to be entirely another. This led to her thinking about appearance versus reality and incorporating this idea in her most  book Only The Dead Can Tell. The book is about human trafficking, which, as the panel discussed is now the third highest form of global organised crime after drug trafficking and gun running.

Thomas Enger talked about his beautifully written Henning Juul series, the last of which Killed, has now been published.  Crime reporter Henning Juul thought his life was over when his 6 year old son was murdered after an arsonist set fire to his home. Now he is about to finally find out who that killer is, and why. This is a dark, intense and emotive series which I’d highly recommend.

Caro Ramsay hurts people for a living and then does it all over again as an author. Her 10th Anderson and Costello novel, The Sideman sees one of her protagonists going rogue. After 20 years as the working partner of D.C.I. Colin Anderson, Costello has chucked it all in and gone solo.

Discussing their writing processes, its clear that each has a different approach that works for them. Thomas spent 6 months planning his Henning Juul series before he started writing, though he says he knew he had to leave room for things to change as he went along.

Alex Gray has an idea – what she calls a ‘what if’ moment and then makes no plan but writes intuitively and listens to her characters as she writes, because they will tell her what happens next.

Caro, on the other hand, writes the end first, then what she calls ‘the good bits’ (by which she means the story spikes) and then the ‘other stuff’.

Thomas, writing this emotionally intense character did try to inject some humour into his character as leavening. Alex is getting to know William Lorimer better with every book, but she does not feel she knows him too thoroughly. She describes it as like ‘having a friend you get to know better every year.’

Is Caro Ramsay Costello? Alex Gray thinks she might be, though Caro says there are bits of both characters in her and Alex says there are parts of Maggie in her.

None of the authors is especially enamoured of the Tartan Noir and Scandi/Nordic Noir labels, though they do acknowledge that there are some close synergies between the writing in these countries. They share a ‘dark night of the soul’ mentality and have the same kind of humour.

CRIME AND DINE

On Saturday night Sharon and I headed out for a small libation before the excellent Crime and Dine event of the Festival. We were treated to a very nice three course dinner and our table h was visited for a course by a number of authors. At our table we were able to chat to Neil Broadfoot, Thomas Enger, Stuart MacBride, Michael Malone and Craig Robertson. The conversation was excellent with questions around Craig’s murderabilia and some other strange recounting, to recipe suggestions for Charles Manson’s hair, to places Thomas had seen on his walk that day which all looked like good dumping sites for bodies. So good people of Grantown, if you go down to the woods today, you’re sure of a big surprise…..

After such a great day it was off for a reasonable early night to be sure to be fit for the next day’s panel

The Morning After The Crime Before – Killer Women

The Wee Crime Fest tradition is that the Festival’s last session takes place on Sunday morning with bacon rolls and tea and coffee. A great way to start the day in a friendly atmosphere and to reconnect with the folk you met the night before.

The last session of the Wee Crime Fest saw Michael J Malone in conversation with Margaret Kirk, Sandra Ireland and Helen Forbes.

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Helen is a former editor, veterinary nurse and now an ex-lawyer in Civil Litigation in social welfare law, which she describes as ‘very difficult’ which is why she no longer does it. Her protagonist is D.I. Joe Galbraith and her novels In the Shadow of the Hill and Madness Lies, are set in Inverness and Harris.

Sandra Ireland was a correspondent for her local newspaper before completing her MLit at Dundee University, and has also worked as a tour guide for the Barry Mill in Angus, a National Trust property. Her novel, Bone Deep, is set by a mill and she describes it as the reader getting ‘two stories for the price of one.’

Margaret Kirk’s novel Shadow Man won the Good Housekeeping Debut Novel Award in 2016. Her elevator pitch is succinct as she describes her book as ‘The North Coast 500 with bodies’.

Location is clearly incredibly important in each of these writers novels.Helen thought it was time for a police procedural to be set in the Highlands and Islands (she began writing before Peter May’s books were published) and she was really very interested in the area.

Sandra Ireland was fascinated by her time working at Barry Mill. She found that the atmosphere changed at different times of the day and there were so many stories of mills; each mill has a kelpie and she combined those stories with the Border Ballad of the Cruel Sister to create a Gothic story with a contemporary setting, but full of history.

Margaret Kirk was fascinated by the idea of someone born in Inverness but who had been away (working in the Met) for a long time and then returned. She wanted to look at how things had changed. She liked the idea of exploring how Inverness had grown from a town to a City, but still in many respects retained the mentality of a Highland town. She deliberately chose to make her book a journey from Inverness to Dornoch up the coast; wanting people to explore the flavour of the Highlands and its history and contrasts.

The writers discussed their early bookish influences. For helen it was the Famous Five and then later, Neil Gunn. For Sandra, Catherine Cookson and the Brontes were her early inspiration and Margaret was an out and out Sherlock Holmes fan.

Their writing processes are very different and the discussion about editing processes was fascinating. It is clear that a good editor, whilst they can be a shock to a new author, can make all the difference.

That was the last session of the Festival and it was a great way to round off a fabulous weekend. You can find my account of the Friday night here. Don’t forget to also check out Sharon Bairden’s blog about the weekend here.

Once again, I have had such a blast at the Wee Crime Festival. You could not want for better hosts than Marjory Marshall, her friends and family and all those who volunteer and make the weekend such a huge success.

The Pagoda was a fabulous venue and a really great chance to hear from some of our best writers up close and personal.

This is such a bargain weekend, you really do need to check it out! All this and fabulous Highland scenery. What more could you want? Roll on next year!

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Fallible Justice (Wilde Investigations #1) by Laura Laakso @LLaaksoWriter @LouiseWalters12 #crime #urbanfantasy

Source: Review copy

Publication: 8th November 2018 from Louise Walters Books

PP: 384

ISBN-13: 978-1999780937

In Old London, where paranormal races co-exist with ordinary humans, criminal verdicts delivered by the all-seeing Heralds of Justice are infallible. After a man is declared guilty of murder and sentenced to death, his daughter turns to private investigator Yannia Wilde to do the impossible and prove the Heralds wrong.Yannia has escaped a restrictive life in the Wild Folk conclave where she was raised, but her origins mark her as an outsider in the city. Those origins lend her the sensory abilities of all of nature. Yet Yannia is lonely and struggling to adapt to life in the city. The case could be the break she needs. She enlists the help of her only friend, a Bird Shaman named Karrion, and together they accept the challenge of proving a guilty man innocent. So begins a breathless race against time and against all conceivable odds. Can Yannia and Karrion save a man who has been judged infallibly guilty?

Do you remember when you were a child, going to see Peter Pan for the first time in the theatre, and clapping as loud as .you could to save Tinkerbell’s life because you believed in fairies with all your heart? I do, and that’s more than 50 years ago for me. Well, Laura Laasko’s world made me believe just as much and that makes it very special indeed.

Of course, I also I blame James Oswald, I really do.  Magical/urban fantasy crime is not something I would normally choose to read, but I think all those Tony McLean novels have softened my brain to this approach to crime. It’s a bloody good thing too, because Fallible Justice is a corker.

Yannia Wilde is one of the Wild Folk, someone who draws power from the natural world and requires the natural world to live and breathe. She has left her rather strict enclave in the country for reasons she alludes to but which are never clearly articulated and now lives in Old London, the City of London being the part where most magical people dwell.

London is a place where magical people and humans co-exist, with regulators on both sides who determine guilt or innocence. This shared set justice principles governs both communities and they often work together.

Working as a private investigator and hindered only by her genetic condition of Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, which leaves her in constant chronic pain, for there are no magical cures for this illness. Constantly remembering her own painful past in the Wild Folk enclave  she now lives as a bit of an outsider, working with an apprentice, a Bird Shaman called Karrion.  Karrion has a fine arts degree and a penchant for piercings and dressing as a goth.

Yannia is hired by a Mage, the daughter of a man condemned to die in five days time. He has been judged guilty by the Heralds of Justice, known for their infallibility when it comes to truth and judgement. So when Yannia accepts the job, she knows it is likely to be an impossible task and accomplished in an even more impossible timescale.

Utilising, in the main, straightforward investigative skills, enhanced a little by her friends and use of some of her intuitive powers, she sets out on a dangerous path to track down the real killer.

Cleverly merging detective fiction with urban fantasy Lassko brings a different dimension to a structurally standard crime mystery.

This novel works for a host of reasons. The writing is excellent, with strong and vivid descriptive passages that really earth you into the sights, smells and sounds that Yannia experiences. There is richness and lyricism in this prose. You can see through her eyes and that really makes the novel come to life in full, vibrant colour. The characters are both excellent and intriguing and the partnership between Yannia and Karrion , teacher and student, is nicely light and full of humour as well as caring. This is a pairing that works really well.

Nor is this a book that is all fairies and light (there are no fairies). There is darkness and danger here a-plenty, not always from obvious sources and some of the observations of death are pretty full on.

I loved the characters in this book from the enigmatic Wishearth, to the Met’s D.C. Jamie Manning and the delightful Lady Bergamon, they are all people I would want to encounter between the pages of a Wilding novel again.

Multi-faceted, diverse characters and a sharp and focussed plot with an escalating pace driving a race against time, together with a surprising conclusion all combine to make this one of my top reads. This is a beautifully imagined world in which I totally believed.

Verdict: If you are looking for top class crime writing that is different, this definitely fits the bill.

Amazon                                     Waterstones

About Laura Laakso

Laura-Laakso

Laura is a Finn, who has spent most of her adult life in England. She is currently living in Hertfordshire with a flatmate who knows too much and their three dogs. Books and storytelling have always been a big part of her life, be it in the form of writing fanfiction, running tabletop roleplaying games or, more recently, writing original fiction. When she is not writing, editing or plotting, she works as an accountant. With two degrees in archaeology, she possesses useful skills for disposing of or digging up bodies, and if her internet search history is anything to go by, she is on several international watch lists.

Follow Laura on Twitter @LaaksoWriter and visit her website here

DARK NIGHTS, DARK DEEDS;DEATH IN GRANTOWN. The Wee Crime Fest Grantown on Spey Part 1, Friday 2nd November. @BookmarkMarjory @MichaelJMalone1 @NiBro @DouglasSkelton1 @AlexinCrimeland

It was with loads of excitement that Sharon Bairden and I set out from Glasgow on Friday morning to make the trip to Grantown on Spey for one of my highlights of the year, The Wee Crime Fest, run by the redoubtable Marjory Marshall of the ace independent bookshop, the Bookmark.

 

marjory marshall

It was one of those cold clear crisp days when the Highlands loook so beautiful and driving up was a real joy. We made a couple of stops along the way. At the halfway point, we stopped for a coffee and one of the biggest scones I have ever seen at the House of Bruar. Sharon was amazed at the size of this amazing shopping venue, home to cashmere heaven.

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Duly fortified, we headed onwards to Grantown. Once we were within spitting difference, we stopped for lunch at Muchrack House, where we ate what must surely have been one of the best steak pies ever.

 

Then it was but a hop skip and a jump into The Square, Grantown, where we were staying for the weekend.

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This year, all the main events are being held in The Pagoda, an excellent and accessible venue which worked really well, and visitors like ourselves were able to avail ourselves of a pie and Prosecco before the theatrical premiere of the season.

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The first event is now something of a Wee Crime Festival tradition, the unveiling of the premiere of the new play what Douglas Skelton wrote, featuring the Carry on Sleuthing team of Caro Ramsay, Michael J. Malone, Margaret ….., Alex Gray and Neil Broadfoot. This time the cast was ably supplemented by rear ender,  John Coughlan and Marjory Marshall, Street urchin no 2.

 

 

This years’s offering was the Mysterious Affair at Pyles, a farcical whodunnit. No turn was left unstoned, no pun unexploited in this rambunctious affair about the unexplained death of a proctologist, Emma Roid.

I can’t begin to tell you how good the jokes were, nor how amazing the performances of the cast turned out to be, so I won’t. What I will say is that Michael J. Malone’s accent talents were again put to sterling use, his glossy hair both flowed and glowed and Caro’s wart grows larger with every performance.

 

Neil Broadfoot expanded his part (oo,err missus) and Alex Gray’s bunches complemented beautifully the stand out nature of Douglas Skelton’s ears.

The audience adored it all, and even although all the clues were there, it was not easy to work out who had actually dunnit. Fortunately, we were given the answer so all was well.

Then it was off for a wee drink and a decently early night before Saturday’s slightly more serious sessions.

*HUGE BARGAIN KLAXON* Gordon Brown’s Craig McIntyre series #99p #Thriller #CraigMcIntyre @GoJaBrown @StridentPublish

Oh my goodness. Be quick if you want to snap up a humongous bargain. The top rated Craig McIntyre thriller trilogy is now on sale for a limited time at only 99p per e-book!

What are these books you ask? Why they are top notch action thrillers with a protagonist who never lets up. These are fast paced action thrillers to keep you on the edge of your seat.

Find out a little more below: Book 1 in the trilogy:DARKEST THOUGHTS

darkest thoughts

.ONE OF THE READING AGENCY’S 2017 BOOKS OF THE YEAR!

Conspiracy thriller. Craig McIntyre’s mere presence can transform people’s darkest thoughts into action. Your inner self can be deadly. On an Iraqi street, McIntyre finds himself at the center of an event that leaves several people dead. Ex-military, now a bodyguard, he has no idea how they died. Others think he is responsible the catalyst. They have no issue with that. Indeed, they are intent on harnessing Craig s dark talent for creating chaos…and will let no-one stand in their way. Who are McIntyre s pursuers? What do they see in him that he cannot see in himself? And what will happen to him if he is caught? Worse, what will happen to those closest to him if he escapes? As he struggles to come to terms with events, and with the possibility that he really is a vehicle for anarchy, can he stop his darkest thoughts turning to revenge?

BUY Darkest Thoughts HERE for only 99P

Book 2 in the Trilogy, FURTHEST REACHES

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You can only run for so long. Craig McIntyre’s mere presence removes people’s inhibitions and turns their darkest thoughts into actions. Having fled across America to evade capture by arch-enemy Senator Tampoline, McIntyre is persuaded to work alongside him in the national interest. The US Strategic Petroleum Reserve has been destroyed by a white supremacist group. The attack has been hushed-up and time is of the essence if national and global economic meltdown is to be avoided. As McIntyre tries to apply his unique ability to salvage the situation, it is hard to know who is working harder to thwart him: his allies or his enemies. It might be safer to stay ahead of both. McIntyre will never forgive Tampoline for what he has done. He is not even sure he can suppress his animosity in pursuit of the greater good…

BUY Furthest Reaches HERE on e-book for only 99p.

Book 3 in the Trilogy DEEPEST WOUNDS

DEEPEST WOUNDS

“A high octane thriller with a killer pitch” Live and Deadly

As Craig McIntyre tries to escape bounty hunters from the Dark Web, he discovers that his details are linked to a clandestine government project. Might it hold answers to his past as well as dangers for the present? Back on the run in North America, McIntyre hooks up with some unlikely allies. But can he trust them any more than those who want to use him to shape the future…and to further their personal ambitions? Have those behind Factor really given up on their pursuit of him? Or is McIntyre being reeled in with some politically toxic bait? McIntyre is the key to an explosive secret that could change mankind forever.

Buy Deepest Wounds HERE for only 99p on e-book.

That’s three fantastic thrillers folks for less than £3. Can’t say fairer than that!

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