Evidence of Death by Peter Ritchie – a review BLOG TOUR

Today I am delighted to be kicking off the blog tour for Evidence of Death by Peter Ritchie published by Black and White Publishing.

In Evidence of Death Billy Nelson returns to his loyalist roots following his discharge from army service and leads a gang in a series of violent attacks. Being forced out of Belfast which has changed since he was there he moves to Edinburgh. Here he decides to get into the drugs business and take on the criminal underworld that stretches from Edinburgh to Glasgow and back to Belfast. It is newly promoted Grace Macallan who has to try and keep the streets of Scotland safe whilst dealing with police in Scotland, and Northern Ireland.

Evidence of Death by Peter Ritchie is the second in the Grace Macallan book, and although I hadn’t read his previous one there is enough in the story to fill in some of the background. This was a really interesting read that grabbed my attention from the start.

It is quite a violent novel, yet it doesn’t seem out of kilter with the book. Rather the violence draws you into the incredibly seedy and disturbing world that Billy Nelson inhabits. I particularly liked the character of Grace Macallan. She is tough, and doesn’t take any nonsense as you would expect. However we also get glimpses into a softer side of her.

There is a lot of police procedural in this book, yet that in no way distracts from the story. I actually found it fascinating learning details about how the police work. You almost felt like you were part of the investigation. I was also bizarrely drawn to some of the characters, even those who you are not meant to like, which says something about the quality of writing. Even mindless thugs have a different side sometimes!

I very much enjoyed this novel and look forward to reading more from Peter.

Evidence of Death is out on the 22nd February and can be purchased here.

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While You Sleep by Stephanie Merritt – a review

I was recently sent a copy of this from the publisher. When I’d originally agreed to read it the name hadn’t rung any bells. So it wasn’t until I received a copy of the book that it clicked Stephanie Merritt was SJ Parris, an author who I had had the pleasure of joining for dinner a few years ago at the Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival.

It begins, they say, with a woman screaming… Well in the case of While You Sleep in begins with Zoe arriving on a remote Scottish island from America. She wants to get away from her marriage and is hoping that some time away from everything will help restart her painting career. However things within the house are not as peaceful as she hopes. She starts hearing singing and ghostly happenings, which gets worse as she starts to learn more about the spooky history of the McBride house.

This was a really intriguing story that certainly kept my interest even though I’m not usually a fan of supernatural twists. However to me the supernatural element was very small and almost felt like an extra element rather than a way of making unbelievable things happen as can often be the case.

I have recently read a few novels that use a similar plot device (which I can’t say as I don’t want to give anything away) so I did guess partly one of the big twists. Yet this didn’t spoil my enjoyment in anyway.

I must confess to finding the sex scenes all a bit gratutuous, I understand the reasoning behind them in order to build up the suspense. Yet for me personally they just felt a bit at odds with the rest of the book. However the rest of the novel more than made up for it. The setting of this novel on a small remote island is incredibly evocative. The descriptions are suitably earie evoking the feeling of claustrophobia and isolation that is heightened by our main character arriving from America and settling into a place that is so different from where she has come from.

This is great story that keeps you interested until the end. I would recommend it to anyone who likes stories where the place plays as big a part as the characters.  

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The Book Case

So Tuesday was my first trip out with Bookcase For All. For those who don’t know the idea is that we provide books for the homeless and vulnerable in York. When people think of the city of York they think of historical buildings, great tourist attractions, and for those of us of a certain age the Blue Peter competition to design a boss for the ceiling of York Minster. Whilst there is no denying that York is a beautiful place and we are very lucky to live here, like most places there are those who are struggling with the high cost of living, and with life in general. York has a high population of homeless and it seems like this is a problem that is just getting worse.

One good thing however is that there are some fantastic organisations within York providing essential items to people in need. The Lunar Project concentrates of period poverty and provides an outreach service twice a week, as well as providing boxes of towels and tampons in schools. Another excellent project around is Kitchen for Everyone York (KEY). They provide a hot meal on a Tuesday night as well as a cooked breakfast on a Sunday. Mr F can sometimes be found cooking sausages and bacon at KEY on a weekend (which is great for me as it means he’s not stinking out my kitchen frying it!)

One idea that had been brewing with me for a while was the idea of providing books for those who would like them. You often see people on the streets quietly minding their own business reading a book. As someone who reads a lot it bothered me that not everyone can afford to buy books, and whilst I am a huge fan of the library, without an address you can’t get a library card. Having done a bit of research there was no specific place I could donate books to try and reach vulnerable people. Therefore the idea for Bookcase For All (BFA) was born, and thanks to KEY a venue was offered to trial.

Everyone warned me not to get too disappointed if I didn’t get any takers to start with, it takes time to build up trust with people. However, my first outing was a huge success with over ten books taken and lots of requests for different genres and themes. What struck me both at BFA and when I went out with the Lunar Project, is the absolute lack of greed of people with nothing. When we were out offering hot drinks, alongside socks and gloves people were only taking items if they needed them. At BFA anyone who came up to chat was told to take anything they wanted from my pile of books, yet people were not just grabbing anything. They were picking up, and looking and choosing just like a proper library.

The other thing that surprised me and really shouldn’t have is that readers are all similar no matter what their home life. They all love books. They love to talk about books – what they have read, what they would like to read, what they are currently reading. People who like to read all like to talk about what they read.

However, the big thing I noticed is how narrow my own reading choices are.  As you know I read crime fiction, therefore 99% of the books I own are crime fiction. Therefore all of the books that I had for my first BFA were crime fiction. To me this didn’t seem to be a problem, yet apparently there are some weird people out there who don’t read crime fiction. Luckily I was saved by a donation from a friend which meant I had a much more eclectic mix of books to offer.

What it has taught me though is I’m definitely going to need a better source of books than just my own bookshelves, so if anyone is in York and has any books they could donate do let me know.

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A Gallery of the Dead by Chris Carter – Q & A BLOG TOUR

I am delighted to welcome Chris Carter to acrimereadersblog today. Although I had of course heard of Chris, for some reason I hadn’t actually read any of his books. Therefore when I was invited onto his blog tour I jumped at the chance to discover someone new to me, and I can’t believe it has taken me so long. Gallery of the Dead is a chilling read about a serial killer who seemingly kills people at random. Each scene is played out in all it’s gruesome glory with some truly disturbing images. Yet there are also elements of humour and social interaction between the FBI and the local police that provide some welcome distraction from the murders. This is an excellent read that I would thoroughly recommend to those of you who like your crime fiction definitely hard boiled.

Welcome Chris and thank you for joining me. Gallery of the Dead is your 9th novel I believe all featuring Robert Hunter. Where did you get the inspiration for Robert?

Well, since I was writing a crime thriller, it was obvious that I needed a detective, so I just created one out of the blue.  At first, there wasn’t much thought put into his character.  I just created a detective that I thought would work.

Most people don’t know this, but my first novel – The Crucifix Killer – was supposed to be a stand-alone.  The original story didn’t end very well for Hunter and Garcia.  It was my agent who suggested that I made Hunter into a series character.  In our first meeting he told that he loved my story, but my ending didn’t work.  We discussed a whole spectrum of possibilities and I ended up re-writing the last twelve chapters of the book to move Hunter from a one-off character to a series one.

Do you still like your main character or ever think about killing him off so you can write about someone else?

I actually really enjoy writing Hunter stories, so much so that I actually miss the character when I an in between books.

Did you always want to be a writer?

No, not ever.  The truth is that I had never planned on writing a book.  I never thought about a career in writing and I never spent any time thinking up stories or developing characters in my head that I would one day want to write about.  My submersion into the world of books – writing books that is – came out of a dream I had back in 2007.  I didn’t exactly leave music to become a writer.  I had stopped being a professional musician many years before I had the dream that led me to write my first book.

I believe you have had a few varied jobs in your time, other than being a writer obviously, what was your favourite?

Hands down I would have to say being a musician.  I absolutely loved being on stage with a band

Can you tell us what a typical working day looks like for you?

My typical working day is quite boring, I would say.  I always start my days by reading what I wrote the day before and editing as much as I can.  I will then work all day until I reach my desired target (usually a certain number of words).  Some days I will get there quite quickly, others I will write all the way into the evening before reaching that target.  Some days I spend the entire day just researching something that I would like to include in the novel.

How would you spend a perfect afternoon away from work?

Easy – partying.

Are you an avid reader yourself? If so what are some of your favourite authors?

I know that this will sound quite sad, but for an Author, I read very, very little – around two books a year, if that.  I also don’t have a favourite writer.  Not now.  Way before I decided to write my first novel, I used to love reading Frederick Forsyth.  I guess I still do, he just doesn’t release as many books anymore.

Finally what are you working on next?

I am already working on my next novel.  I usually only take around one month off between books

Well I shall look forward to that, in the meantime I will definitely try and catch up on the previous adventures of Robert Hunter. Thanks very much for joining me Chris.

Pre-order Gallery of the Dead from amazon

 

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Deep Blue Trouble by Steph Broadribb – a review BLOG TOUR

I am a big fan of crime stories featuring gutsy females. In fact one of my favourite females of all time is the fantastic Stephanie Plum by Janet Evanovich. Therefore when I heard that there was a new bounty hunter on the shelf I jumped at the chance to read her.

Deep Blue Trouble is actually the second novel by Steph Broadribb to feature her character Lori Anderson. Lori is a single mother to Dakota and a fearless bounty hunter. In Deep Blue Trouble Lori’s daughter has cancer and she needs help from Dakota’s father JT. Unfortunately JT is on death row. In order to try and save him Lori takes a deal whereby if she can capture Gibson ‘The Fish’ Fletcher then the FBI will allow JT to walk free. As Fletcher heads to California, Lori follows him and here she teams up with local bounty hunter McGregor. However their different ways of working soon cause problems.

This was a superb novel that I thoroughly enjoyed reading. It is a thrilling, action packed read that once you pick up you find hard to put down. Lori Anderson is a great character that manages to combine her caring mothering side, with an action packed no nonsense streak. It’s great to be able to read about a strong independent woman who is fierce and loyal and able to look after herself.

I must confess to being surprised that this was an American setting (yes the clue is in the bounty hunter bit!) Having heard Steph speak in Hull I’d assumed that it would be British. However it is clearly a testament to the quality of writing that within a couple of pages I had completely forgotten my British bias and was swept up in Lori’s world. The story zips along at a fair old rate, however there are also moments of calm where you can feel how desperate Lori’s situation is.

Although I wish I had read Deep Down Dead first, this novel completely works as a standalone as there is enough information to catch up on the story. I will certainly be going back and reading Deep Down Dead now and I can’t wait to find out what will happen next in Book 3.

For more reviews of Deep Blue Trouble and to find out more about author Steph Broadribb please do visit the other stops on this blog tour, including my fellow blogger today https://broadbeansbooks.wordpress.com/

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City Without Stars by Tim Baker – a review BLOG TOUR

A while ago I read Fever City which was a fascinating portrayal of the Kennedy era (review here) Therefore I was delighted to be asked to join the blog tour for his latest novel City Without Stars.

City Without Stars is described as an epic novel. Which I have to say would normally put me off as I find in the film world that just means overly long. However I’m glad I hadn’t seen that before I agreed to read it as this was absolutely fascinating and certainly not too long.

The novel is based in Ciudad Real, Mexico where a deadly war is erupting between rival drug cartels. Alongside this, hundreds of female sweatshop workers are being murdered, which policeman Fuentes believes is linked to the main drug lord El Santo.  Activist Pilar is trying to take matters into her own hands and arranging protests at the sweatshops to try and improve conditions and make people take the killings seriously. She starts working with Fuentes and also gets involved with journalist Ventura. As they investigate further the name that keeps arising is that of the Padre Marcio, a local hero who is known for his work with orphans. No one wants to believe that he can be involved, yet there is evidence they can’t ignore.

This was an interesting read. It’s certainly not one for the feint hearted. As with Tim Baker’s previous novel, this is a story that intertwines fact and fiction to create a fascinating insight into a corrupt and dangerous society. It is a violent novel, by necessity, as the world it is depicting is cruel and harsh. Yet it is also a story of hope and good trying to overcome evil.

Mainly the story is told with chapters focussing on the main characters. Yet they are also interspersed with other personalities and scenes including some women who end up victims. However despite the many characters, it is easy to keep track of and I felt the writing flowed easily. For me, one of the strengths of the novel is the portrayal of the females within it. Despite the high number of victims, there are also some incredibly strong characters that are standing up for change throughout immensely difficult circumstances.

This is an incredibly evocative novel, that is disturbing yet captivating at the same time. I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys a powerful story with characters that will stay with you long after the final page.

 

 

 

 

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Veronica’s Bird – Guest post BLOG TOUR

 Today I am delighted to welcome Richard Newman to acrimereadersblog. He is a ‘ghost’ writer and among others he has written Veronica’s Bird, the true life story of Veronica Bird who became the Governor of Armley Prison. 

Veronica’s Bird is a fascinating tale of a woman’s rise from a tiny house in Barnsley. Abused by her brother in law, she ran away and joined the prison service. Showing her determination she turned around her first posting within a year, she then went on to be honoured by the Queen and even got asked to help improve conditions in Russian Prisons. This is a remarkable story that is told with a warmth and humour that belies the struggles that Veronica had to go through.

So Richard when did you know you were going to be a writer?

The first smidgen of an idea that I thought writing might be for me, other than filling in a tax form, was when I was living in the Middle East, some forty years ago. No television worthy of being labelled a programme, the radio in fast Arabic, no bars or theatre…. you get the picture, so I began to explore the idea of writing a faction based upon the love letters found in Ludwig van Beethoven’s desk after he died, a story which fascinated me. It took me twelve and a half years of research (there were 28,000 books and two million articles to consider) so, quite popular then, and, at the end of it all, ‘Crown of Martyrdom’ was born. Born also was a love of writing which caused ‘The Potato Eaters’ and ‘The Horse that screamed’ to follow. I jumped from novels to writing about fascinating, living, people which brought forth ‘A Nun’s Story’ which became a Sunday Times best-seller, and now Veronica’s Bird is to be launched 23rd January 2018. In January I will revert to novels again to finish off ‘Stepping down’ a story of retirement and the traumas which can flow from the decision to retire. After that, well on the stocks, is the story of my life in the Middle East. Life was very funny out there in the Seventies, yet fascinating. This is to be titled ‘Cockroach on my shoulder’.

Can you tell us what a typical day looks like for you? 

My typical day always lies within a well-formed groove, though not groovy if you get what I mean. We (Julia my wife, and I) are usually up by seven a.m.: well, the dog, Crumble, is already letting us know the day has been approved by her. I make breakfast, a serious affair for a serious meal. By 9 a.m. my eyes are straying towards my computer (though I hand-write my novels first) and by two minutes past the hour I’m on the keyboard in my library, surrounded by books and the smell of frying bacon still attached to my hair. At 10.10 I stop to go to a local gym and am back in harness again, if glowing slightly, in an hour. I work until 12.30 when lunch beckons (a light affair) preceded by an Amontillado followed by my turn at the dog walk along the banks of the River Wharfe.

By 2 p.m. I usually take, paragraph by paragraph, that which I have typed up previously and begin to re-write, again by hand, numbering each so they slot in easily later. I may do this 3-4 times, each time refining the words, still marvelling at the English language. By 6p.m. the sun has sneaked behind a rogue sycamore tree; time for a Campari with lots of ice and soda before supper. Television alternates with reading and so to bed at 10 p.m. There’s not the scrap of a night owl about me – I leave such things to my three sons, who are, I believe, experts.

How would you spend a perfect afternoon? 
A perfect afternoon is a summer Sunday afternoon, with, perhaps, eight friends sitting around a lunch table, the beef ribs bare, like oak trees in winter, the crumbs of an apple strudel being removed from the floor by a pink tongue (no, not mine, it belongs to Crumble) and just listening to my farmer friends discussing the amount of barley they have harvested or hear the pride as they talk about a new bull ‘….down in ‘ter field.’ Beef is very rare; Cliquot very cold, conversation crackling like a log fire in January.

Are you an avid reader yourself? If so, which authors do you find yourself returning to time and again?

For all my reading, I alternate each time between fiction and biography. Morris West has been read to death with such masters as The Devil’s Disciple. Running my eyes down the shelving in front of me I see a good old-timer – I have 17 books by him – Nevil Shute (being of that age I am still disturbed by ‘On the beach’), Kazuo Ishiguro, of course and then a whole series of stories of Carol Drinkwater’s Olive Farm. Alan Bennet: anything he writes is a natural if you live in Yorkshire and Boris Johnson to raise a smile. Michael Connelly’s plots are extraordinary and to contrast this, I will top up from time to time with any of the Russian classics. I had such a good translation of War and Peace in a two-volume paperback, I had it bound in leather!

Veronica Bird does not write at all; she issues the stories to me, I take them down and she approves. A typical day for her is to give a talk somewhere in the north of England. So much in demand is she, for her stories of life in Russian prisons, that she is already fully booked for June next year. She talks for an hour, exactly, without notes and has the ability to change the subject of her talks if required on a re-booking. No, one day though can be called typical for she is so busy with so many differing diary commitments, retaining her life-long interest in the prison service. She has a love of gardening and a large garden to maintain, friends to entertain and a commitment to see that as many people as possible read her story.

Thanks so much for joining me Richard. Veronica’s Bird is available now:

Amazon UKhttps://www.amazon.co.uk/Veronicas-Bird-Thirty-five-inside-officer-ebook/dp/B077NXT42X

 

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