Tag Archives: crime fiction

Death in the Stars by Frances Brody – a review BLOG TOUR

As anyone who knows me knows, I’m not normally a fan of historical fiction. Despite a degree in history, on the whole I prefer my crime to be a more modern gruesome experience. However I do like my crime to have smart powerful women and a good mystery, and the Kate Shackleton series most definitely has those.
I was lucky enough to read a previous novel by Frances and despite my initial reservations I absolutely loved it. Therefore I jumped at the chance to be part of the blog tour for Frances’ latest novel Death in the Stars.

Death in the Stars is set in 1927 and starts during the total eclipse. The enigmatic Italian singer Selina wants to view the eclipse from the Giggleswick School. According to the Astronomy Society this is going to be the best vantage point. She asks Mrs Shackleton to accompany her and her friend Billy on their flight to the school. During this visit Billy is found dead, which increases Selina’s fears that people close to her are dying in suspicious circumstance. Kate Shackleton runs an investigation agency so is clearly intrigued and starts to look into what is happening.

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. This is the 9th novel in the series. I haven’t yet read all of them although am looking forward to going back to the start. However, each of her novels work just as well as a standalone one. I really enjoy all the background in the stories. The descriptions of places ranging from windswept Yorkshire Dales, to inner city Leeds variety houses really bring the stories to life. I think the character of Kate Shackleton is intriguing; although some of her back story has been revealed in the books I’ve read so far it is her that makes me want to start the series from the beginning to find out more about her life. She comes across as a Miss Marple type with added glamour and confidence.

Death in the Stars is an absolutely charming book, and its setting in the 1920’s is the perfect backdrop to this cast of characters. I would recommend to anyone who likes a bit of glamour and gentleness with their murders. This series has definitely changed my mind about historical fiction.

Death in the Stars by Frances Brody was out on the 5th October.

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Angels in the Moonlight by Caimh McDonnell – a review BLOG TOUR

I am delighted to today be taking part in the blog tour for the latest novel by Caimh McDonnell . This one is a prequel to the fantastic Dublin trilogy series.

Angels in Moonlight introduces us to Bunny McGarry. As we know from the previous novels Bunny has some rather unorthodox policing methods, and although he may be younger in this story he certainly hasn’t changed.  Whilst his methods might not strictly toe the policing line they do get results, and it is those results his bosses want to see when he is tasked with bringing down one of Dublin’s most notorious gangs. What is different in this prequel is that we get to see another side of Bunny, he has a softer side that isn’t always evident in his previous cases. We find out how he met Simone who he has mentioned in the other novels.  Although obviously the course of true love never runs smoothly, and this is no exception in Bunny’s case. On top of work and love life Bunny is worried about his straight laced partner Gringo. Gringo’s marriage is on the rocks but it is clear he is hiding something more worrying.

I am a big fan of humour in my crime fiction and this most definitely has that in spades. Caimh McDonnell manages to mix a police procedural with funny escapades incredibly skilfully. This novel felt like a bit of slower read than the previous ones, but that is rather deliberate I imagine as it gives you more of an insight into the detectives head. The writing is funny, but there is an element of sadness within this novel which for me really made this stand out.

The characters are all well written, and although there are a lot of them they are easy to keep track off. Obviously I don’t want to give away any spoilers but you should definitely look out for the nuns! I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and would recommend any of this series. I‘m very much looking forward to the final in the trilogy.

Angels in the Moonlight is out now

 

 

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Scorn – Q and A with Paul Hoffman – BLOG TOUR

Today I am pleased to welcome Paul Hoffman to acrimereadersblog. His novel Scorn is being released today. Scorn is about a physicist who turns to eating priests.

Thanks for joining me Paul. What was the inspiration behind Scorn?

A few years ago I was watching a news item on the BBC where its Vatican correspondent concluded by saying that the Catholic Church must deal with the issue of child sexual abuse in order to regain its moral authority. The response to this, it seems to me, is to ask: what moral authority? Answering this question is where the book begins with two rather unusual policemen (when they were soldiers together in Iraq they were known as The Butchers of Basra) investigating the hideous murder of several priests. I wanted to write about my Catholic upbringing in boarding school but do so in an entirely different way – not as a litany of horrors visited on children (though some of that is inevitable) but to celebrate our resistance to the faith that tried any means possible to control our every thought, word and deed. We mocked them (not in their hearing, of course), made up sermons in which appalling eternal tortures were visited on small boys for ridiculous dietary infractions (eating bats was one I particularly loved) and so on. I’ve always loved a good police procedural and I wanted to use the pleasures they give to go into territory not usually associated with crime novels.

Have you always been a writer?

My writing draws heavily on my past and the more than twenty five jobs I’ve had as an adult ranging from boardman in a betting shop, lift attendant, frozen food packer at 10 below zero, teacher in one of the worst and best state schools in England, businessman, and screenwriter. The most interesting of these was the ten years I spent as a film censor at the BBFC. It was there that I started writing fiction but not until I was already in my mid-thirties. I was also writing a screenplay simultaneously based on part of the novel I was writing. This was made into another cop thriller starring Jude law as the very peculiar but charming murderer and Timothy Spall as the sly cop caught between his liking for the man he’s investigating and his determination to get to the bottom of the deaths for which he could be responsible. Sadly a great cast was squandered by terrible direction. It was the second worst experience of my life.

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

Amazingly dull. I write for a couple of hours a day usually. I always stop as soon as I feel I’m having to make an effort to go on. Writing is rooted fundamentally in playing. No child, or golfer, or reader for that matter goes on playing or reading when they’ve had enough of playing or reading. They just stop. And that’s what I do. I write with the intention of all times of giving pleasure by taking pleasure in what I do. Despite this I find writing very tiring as if I’ve been using up huge amounts of energy. I’m ashamed to say that I spend the rest of the time sleeping or generally lazing about and thinking.

How would you spend a perfect afternoon away from work?

Generally lazing about and thinking. I find enormous pleasure in just wandering about in my head. This was a habit I picked up in boarding school because as well as being violent it was also very boring. I constructed enormously long novels in my head in which I was, of course, the central character and therefore brave, noble and heroic, and kept them going for months at a time.

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

I used to be a voracious reader but not so much now because I find – it’s not true for a great many authors – that writing fiction drains the energy for reading it. It’s a pity, but there it is. The priests used to describe me as wicked and lazy and they may have had a point. Now I tend to dip into my reading habits of the past when I want to look at how someone I admire pulled off some tricky piece of storytelling. In the past month I’ve gone to Ecclesiastes, Catch 22, The Secret Agent, a scene in Julius Caesar where Brutus and Cassius row and then make up, and a scene in one of George Macdonald Fraser’s Flashman books where he has a conversation with Abe Lincoln. But I’ll steal from anywhere: one of my books has a line I took from a shampoo advert

Finally, can you tell us a little bit about what you’re working on next?

I’m just about to finish the fourth part of The Left Hand of God trilogy called The White Devil. The first three books deal with the violent life of precociously cunning but psychologically damaged fifteen year-old Thomas Cale as he slips back and forth over the line between good and evil and the thousand shades of grey in between. The fourth book sees him twenty years later having been blackmailed into assassinating John of Boston, a character who is part JFK and part Abe Lincoln.

Thanks very much Paul. 

Scorn by Paul Hoffman is published 7th September by Red Opera, £7.99 in paperback

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Death in Dulwich – Q and A with Alice Castle – BLOG TOUR

Today I am delighted to welcome Alice Castle to acrimereadersblog. Alice is the author of Death in Dulwich, which I was lucky enough to read on a recent train journey down to London.

Death in Dulwich introduces us to single mum Beth. She has recently got a job as an archivist in a local school. However her first day doesn’t really go to plan when she discovers the body of her boss. Obviously Beth is one of the first to be a suspect so she sets out to clear her name.

Thanks for joining me Alice. I enjoyed Death in Dulwich, and thought the character of Beth was great. Did your writing skills come naturally or did you have to attend courses to help you develop that creative side?
I’ve always loved to write. When I was about ten I started my first magazine, Good Mousekeeping. By the age of eighteen I had a holiday job on Woman’s Own. My first newspaper article was published in the Sunday Telegraph when I was twenty. When I left university, I started work on various newspapers including The Daily Telegraph, The Evening Standard, The Daily Mail, and The Times. I worked on The Daily Express as a feature writer for six years, then moved to Brussels and worked on both the English language magazines there, The Bulletin and Away. Brussels inspired my first novel, Hot Chocolate, which was initially published in German. Then when I returned to the UK I started editing and writing for the European Commission and then eventually produced Death in Dulwich.

Good Mousekeeping sounds a great read! What books/authors inspired your writing journey?
The first book I fell in love with was The Horse and His Boy by C S Lewis but I loved everything by E Nesbitt, Nancy Mitford, and P G Wodehouse, then progressed to crime via Sherlock Holmes, Agatha Christie, Margery Allingham, P D James, and Ruth Rendell. There’s nothing nicer than discovering that an author I click with has written a whole series for me to devour. I do read more hard-boiled crime, like Jo Nesbo and Patricia Cornwell, but I have a special place in my heart for cozy crime, where the puzzle is more important than blood on the carpet – or walls.

Do you have any writing rituals? What are they?
I always write first thing in the morning, even though I’m not really a morning person. I write at least a thousand words a day if I’ve got a book on the go. Sometimes that can be done in a flash, sometimes it can take hours. If I’m at the editing stage, I do as much as I can bear!

If you could have written any literary character, who would it be and why?
Oh, I’d love to have written Elizabeth Bennett. She’s a wonderful heroine whose firecracker spirit has resonated down the years and inspired so many other writers and film makers. She grows so much during the course of the novel and her scenes with Darcy are some of the finest and most complicated prose I’ve had the pleasure to read.

Within your genre, is there a subject that you would never write about? What? Why?
I don’t think I would ever dip my toe into writing about really sadistic killings. I just don’t enjoy reading about torture, and I think I would hate writing it too – though of course a simple stabbing is absolutely fine!

Thanks very much Alice. Death in Dulwich is out now:

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Exquisite by Sarah Stovell – a review

I received a surprise copy of this from the publisher and have only just got around to reading it. Exquisite is the new novel by Sarah Stovell, and Exquisite it really is.
The story follows two women and is told purely from their points of view. Bo is a successful author who lives in the lake district with her husband and two daughters. Occasionally she teaches at a creative writing retreat. It is here that she meets our other protagonist, Alice. Alice is a young aspiring writer, who lives in Brighton with her ‘artist’ boyfriend. Alice and Bo soon become friends, but it is then that things start to spiral. As their relationship develops further, you are left not knowing who to trust. Is young Alice being preyed on by a manipulative older women, or is Bo the victim of an unhinged stalker?
Having previously just finished a hard going (but still good) novel, Exquisite was the perfect next read. I loved this and could not put it down, consequently I actually read it over a couple of days (my late marks at work just keep rising thanks to books!) Throughout the novel I couldn’t decide which of the two main characters I believed. As soon as I thought I had it figured out something else would get thrown in that would change my mind.
I felt both characters were well written, and you ended up liking and disliking them both in equal measure. My only slight criticism is that I struggled to place what year the novel was set in. At the start Alice had to go to the library to send emails which surely no one does nowadays? However putting aside that very minor gripe, this was a fantastic book.
The novel was set mainly in the Lake District and using this small, and to me relatively unknown, setting added to the mystery around the character of Bo. Was she really happy living in the quiet town she had chosen for her family, or was she craving some excitement instead? The writing seemed to flow gently, building up the atmosphere around the two women. Without wishing to give away any spoilers there was one scene that was quite shocking, jarring as it did with the rest of the story. This just added to the tension of what I felt was a superbly plotted book.
Exquisite was an excellent novel and I would thoroughly recommend it.

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The Monster’s Daughter by Michelle Pretorius

I was sent a copy of this by the publishers Melville House, and I agreed to review it having already said that historical fiction isn’t really my thing. This however sounded interesting as it was described as a historical thriller set in South Africa which is a country that has always intrigued me.

The Monster’s Daughter is the debut novel by Michelle Pretorius. The novel is a story in three parts. It’s a thriller, a historical novel and also a bit science fiction. It starts in 2010 when we are introduced to Alet, a disgraced police constable who has been reassigned to the small town of Unie. Here she discovers the body of a woman burned beyond all recognition. Her investigations soon lead her to believe there is a serial killer stalking women.  Alongside this murder mystery we are treated to a potted history of the country’s violent past, starting in 1901 at the height of the Boer war. Linking these two elements are Tessa and Benjamin who were in a British concentration camp where a doctor was conducting some grim experiments.  

This was not an easy read. There were a lot of characters to keep track of, and the jumping around of the timelines meant that it was sometimes hard to keep up with the story. However considering it included both science fiction and historical elements, two things I’m not a huge fan of in my crime novels, this was completely worth the effort.

This was a superb novel. The writing was incredibly evocative and upsetting at times. I had a very basic knowledge of South African history and found this part of the novel absolutely fascinating. The violence and hatred jumped out of the page as we travelled from the Boer War, through Apartheid to the present day. The landscape and the heat, alongside the tensions of the time were evident, all the while with the back drop of a modern day murder investigation.

The characters themselves, whilst perfectly well rounded, for me did come secondary to the historical elements. The story was interesting and I think just the modern day part on its own would have been a decent story, yet the rest of elements were really what made this an absolute stand out book.

Sometimes it is good to read something out of your usual type and The Monster’s Daughter was definitely one of those times.

 

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Little Sister by Isabel Ashdown – a review

I went along to a few of the fringe events at this year’s festival, one of which was a writing masterclass which was fascinating. Whilst there I picked up a copy of a couple of Isabel’s novels and as Little Sister was on the top of the pile when I got home this was the first of my new books I read and I’m glad I did.

Little Sister is set on the Isle of Wight. Jess and Emily are sisters who were estranged when young, but recently reconciled. Emily is married to James and she brought up his daughter Chloe as her own. Chloe was delighted when she became an older half sister to Daisy. However now Daisy has gone missing, taken from the family home on New Year’s Eve whilst Jess was supposedly looking after her. The story follows the grief and fear within the family as they struggle to deal with their missing child. We also gradually find out more of the relationship between Emily and Jess and what happened all those years ago.

This was a great quick read that I thoroughly enjoyed. The cast of characters was quite small which gave the story a claustrophobic feel which is further compounded by the setting on the Island. The story itself is a little bit slow to start but I liked that as it felt the tension was being built up quite realistically. The novel is mainly told from the viewpoints of Emily and Daisy. This means that you are forever questioning who is right and who is wrong, every time you think you know what is happening another twist was thrown at you.

I would thoroughly recommend this novel. It is a great summer read, especially if like me you have ever spent a childhood holiday on the Isle of Wight.

 

 

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