Now regular readers of this blog will know that every year at Harrogate one of my favourite panels is always the New Blood panel. 4 debut authors chosen by queen of crime herself, Val McDermid. Therefore you can imagine my delight to be told that this year the panel is going virtual! Just when I thought my tbr pile was finally going down I’ve got 4 more books to add, and they all sound fantastic.
This year’s panelists are:
– Deepa Anappara – Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line (Chatto & Windus)
– Elizabeth Kay – Seven Lies (Sphere)
– Jessica Moor – Keeper (Penguin)
– Trevor Wood – The Man on the Street (Quercus)
The New Blood 2020 panel will be streamed on Saturday 25 July on harrogateinternationalfestivals.com
Since 2004, the best-selling Scottish author of the Tony Hill & Carol Jordan series has curated an annual celebration of the most formidable debuts taking the crime and thriller genre by storm, with an invitation to join the line-up of the world’s largest and most prestigious crime fiction festival: Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival.
This year, Deepa Anappara has been selected for her part coming-of-age, part detective mystery Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line, a heart-breaking and thought-provoking social commentary of modern India’s slums that has been recognised for the Women’s Prize. Elizabeth Kay is on the list for her explosive Seven Lies, taking domestic noir to a whole new level in a deliciously dark blurring of truth and lies, and Jessica Moore is recognised for her brutal and beautiful Keeper, the addictive literary thriller that has had everyone talking. Concluding this year’s New Blood contingent is Trevor Wood and his debut The Man on the Street, a gritty thriller set on the streets of Newcastle.
Val McDermid said: “I have been hosting the New Blood showcase since the festival began in 2003 and, in my book, discovering and sharing new talent with an eager audience is the best job in crime fiction. I know exactly what I’m looking for on my quest: fresh and distinctive voices, a well-told, convincing story and the almost indefinable sense that these authors all have much more to say. Deepa, Elizabeth, Jessica and Trevor tick all of these boxes and more, and if this year’s debuts share a theme, it is the irresistible and devastating way in which crime fiction shines a light on our times: homelessness, domestic violence, child trafficking and mental health are all dissected with an unflinching gaze. Whilst we can’t gather en masse at the Old Swan Hotel in Harrogate this year, I hope that readers will enjoy our virtual introduction to these brilliant new writers.”
The unveiling of McDermid’s selection has become one of the most anticipated moments of the publishing calendar, with readers on the lookout to uncover their new favourite author and add the ‘next big thing’ to their bookshelves.
Former ‘New Blood’ alumni include Clare Mackintosh, SJ Watson, Stuart MacBride, Liam McIlvanney and Belinda Bauer, as well as three authors on this year’s shortlist for the UK’s most prestigious crime writing award – Theakston Old Peculier: Abir Mukherjee, Jane Harper and Oyinkan Braithwaite, who was chosen just last year for her Booker longlisted My Sister, the Serial Killer.
As part Harrogate International Festivals’ year round programme of events, each year the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival welcomes the world’s famous authors each year to Harrogate’s Old Swan Hotel – the scene of Agatha Christie’s mysterious disappearance in 1926 – for a celebration of the crime genre like no other.
This year’s instalment – which formed part of Harrogate International Festival Summer Season – was cancelled, with much sadness, due to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, and so the 2020 ‘New Blood’ showcase will be streamed on the festival’s HIF Player on what would have been the legendary weekender on Saturday 25 July 2020.
Val McDermid will also interviewed by Mark Lawson about the legacy of the New Blood panel, discussing the vital role of the showcase in giving a platform to new writers in the industry and the crime community, and giving a peek behind the scenes into how and why she chooses the books.
Trevor Wood said: “As a kid I dreamt of playing in the cup final. I’m a fraction older now but being chosen for Harrogate’s New Blood panel feels exactly like that did.” Jessica Moor said: “To have been chosen for this panel, which has included some of my favourite new authors of the last decade, and to have been chosen by the legendary Val McDermid, is a such an honour.” Deepa Anappara said: “I am thrilled and honoured to be picked for the New Blood panel, and grateful to Val McDermid for her immense generosity and support of debut novelists.” Elizabeth Kay said: “I’m absolutely thrilled to have been selected for such a prestigious event. The ‘New Blood’ panel has an incredible history, and I’m delighted to be participating this year alongside three really exciting other authors.
At this year’s festival I was lucky enough to meet debut author Robin Morgan-Bentley who was promoting his novel The Wreckage which I have recently read.
The Wreckage begins with Ben, a teacher who is on his way to work as normal. However this day Adam, in a last despairing act, jumps in front of Ben’s car succeeding in killing himself. In the aftermath Ben struggles to come to terms with what has happened, and to try and assuage his guilt he starts to develop a friendship with Alice, Adam’s widow, and her young son Max. However is this what Alice wants, and how will either of them manage to move on?
This was a fabulous book that seemed very accomplished for a debut novelist. I wouldn’t personally class this as a thriller in the traditional sense of a ‘grab you by the seat of your pants and hang on’ type of story, however it was absolutely gripping. From the dramatic start to the story that absolutely hooks you in, things slow down a little as both Alice and Ben come to terms with what has happened. The tension then starts to build back up as the relationship begins to grow and we find out more about the characters.
The story is told from the veiwpoints of both Alice and Ben. This is a really clever trick that means you see the same moment but from a different interpretation which adds to the tension in the novel. I found both characters equally likeable and annoying at times. Whilst clearly you have sympathy for them both having been through a horrific experience. You also want them to take a look at their actions and think of the consequences.
It’s tricky to say too much about the plot without giving away the twists but the story takes a darker turn towards the end and there are things I did not see coming. When I met Robin Morgan-Bentley I got his autograph and he asked me who my favourite author. I definitely enjoyed this novel as much as a Patricia Cornwall one!
I find Christmas an odd break. I had two weeks off work, so therefore you’d think I’d have loads of time, yet it always disappears in a flash of seeing people, drinking and the constant round of ‘how was Christmas, what are you doing for new year’. Therefore although I’ve managed to fit in a bit of reading my reviewing has really gone done the pan. Despite being someone who refuses to make New Year’s resolutions, if I was going to make one it would be to review more in 2020. So I am kicking off 2020 with a great novel, The Mother’s by Sarah J Naughton.
I have had this on my TBR pile for ages, however to be honest the idea of four mothers in a novel put me off picking it up. I assumed it would be a lot of women moaning on about children and motherhood and how tired they are etc. However I couldn’t have been more wrong. This was a story of four women who had met because they were pregnant at the same time, and became friends. Skip to four years later and the friendship is still growing strong, until one of the husbands goes missing. The police are stumped as to where he has gone, and talking to the friends throws up more questions than answers. Are they really such good friends? Would they keep each others secrets?
I read this quickly in a couple of sittings as I found it really drew me in. The characters were an odd bunch of people. You knew that on paper they didn’t work as friends, but then you also know in real life often the most unlikely people form strong bonds for a ariety of reasons. I enjoyed the style of writing that seamlessly switched between then and now as the secrets were gradually unfolded.
I enjoyed all the characters, although I wasn’t too keen on the detective Iona. She didn’t seem very well rounded to me, and spent more time worrying about her love life than actually focusing on the crime. However that is only a minor criticism and actually the police investigation is a very small part of this story. They mystery unravels through the viewpoints of the women, and I found myself frequently changing my mind as to what was happening.
This was a very accomplished debut novel that I would very much recommend. The Mother’s is available on amazon
I was given a free copy of this at the festival last year, and it has only just reached the top of my rather teetering ‘to be read’ pile.
My Sister is the debut novel by Michelle Adams. It tells the story of Irini who was given away by her parents at the age of three. They chose to keep her sister Elle rather than her, a decision which she has never understood. Over the years Irini has had sporadic contact with her sister, but every time it has ended badly with her sister seemingly always getting her trouble. Now a grown up living with her boyfriend, Irini hasn’t had any contact with her family for years. However when she finds out that her mother has died she heads back to the family home for the funeral. It becomes clear that there are secrets around every corner and Irini becomes determined to find out the truth about why she was given away.
This was a good read, and I enjoyed it. The story was interesting and the intrigue behind why parent’s would chose one sister over the other kept the pages turning. Yet there was just something that didn’t really work for me. I have read quite a few books around Sisters over the past, being one of a pair of sisters myself this premise always intrigues me. Yet these two just left me a bit cold. Don’t get me wrong, the story itself was a good drama. The writing had a nice easy flow about it, and it was a fast read. Yet for me, I just felt that there were a few too many incidents that were a little implausible. I also thought personally that the ending was rather abrupt and slightly out of left field. Although on the other hand it may have been that I missed some of the hints as I did get a little bored in the middle and maybe didn’t concentrate as I should.
What I did like was the sense that this was a novel that could have been set in any era. Ignoring the obvious mobile phone references, it had quite an eerie feel to the story which was quite unusual. Most of the action takes place in a big Gothic style old house with dusty unused rooms. The house is in a village full of local people who love a gossip but won’t interact with strangers. Overall the story itself was good, and I wanted to find out the truth as much as Irini but it unfortunately just didn’t blow me away. However it is a debut novel and I would certainly look out for Michelle Adams’ next one.