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.
As you all know I’m a big fan of the New Blood Panel at the festival and am always keen to read these before the event. However to be honest none of them really jumped out at me this year. Obviously wanting to ensure I completed the challenge I still continued and therefore recently finished The Clinch by Martin Holmen.
This is not my usual fair. The cover shows a boxer, and it’s a historical setting which I’m not a fan of usually. However I’m glad I persevered as this was fascinating. Set in 1930s Stockholm, Harry Kvist is an ex-boxer earning a living by collecting debts for people. Mainly this involves him finding people who have defaulted on bike payments, and him repossessing the bikes. Sometimes however he is asked to collect bigger debts, which is how he ends up paying a visit to Zetterberg. Unfortunately the following morning things take a turn for the worst and suddenly Kvist becomes a prime suspect in a crime. His only alibis are either the man he spent the night with, which would send them both to prison, or a prostitute who saw him, but she isn’t around.
Despite my dislike of boxing I really enjoyed this novel. The character of Kvist was a big contradiction in my head. He was standoffish, thuggish and fairly unpleasant, however somehow you still routed for him and wanted things to go his way.
The most fascinating element for me though was the history of Stockholm. My knowledge of the area is pretty limited, mainly drawn from reading writers such as Camilla Lackberg so it was a different perspective to see it from a historical point. There is a lot of description which although does at times slow the story down, for me made it interesting. The writing and setting gave it a distinctly dark feeling, at times claustrophobic, which is made more so by the limited friendships that Kvist seems to have.
It’s quite a graphic novel, but then it is obvious from the description and the cover that this is going to be the case and I don’t always think that is a bad thing. Clinch is the first of a trilogy and I will be interested to see how the books pan out. Martin Holmen said in the New Blood panel that the second and third novels are well on their way so there shouldn’t be too long to wait.
This was a book I had picked up and looked at a few times in bookshops recently. So I was very pleased to see that it was to be featured in my favourite panel of the Theakston’s Old Peculiar Crime Writers Festival, the New Blood one. As I’ve said before if it’s good enough for Val McDermid it is good enough for me so I purchased my copy.
Disclaimer centres on Catherine. She’s a successful film maker, who has recently moved into a new house with her husband Robert. One night she picks up a book that she finds on her bedside cabinet, which she has no recollection of buying (not quite sure why she doesn’t think a book just arriving like this is strange but let’s gloss over that bit!) The standard disclaimer at the front that states ‘the characters are not based on real life’ has been crossed out. As Catherine starts to read she realises that the strange book is about her. The story in it is describing a secret relating to her son that she has tried to bury. Things become even more sinister when her drop-out son also says he’s recently read a copy of the book which had been pushed through his flat door one day. The other main character in Disclaimer is Stephen who has recently lost his wife, and spends his days talking to her in his head whilst he sorts out her clothes. It soon becomes clear that Catherine and Stephen are linked.
Disclaimer is one of those stories that to really enjoy you are best not knowing much about it, so it’s difficult to review properly. However I can say I thought it was a really good story that I read over 5 days (whilst going to work and having the occasional social outing) Every time I thought I was going to guess the ending, there was another twist and off it went again.
Throughout the story I kept changing my perspective of who was good and who was bad, and I can’t say any of them were particularly likeable but that’s often the case with this type of novel. It would all have been much simpler had Catherine just told her husband the truth, but then she thought she would never be found out.
There were a few unnecessary bits, and i thought the ending was a little weak. Yet despite this I thought Renee Knight’s debut novel was excellent and look forward to seeing her at the festival in July.
As readers of this blog will know I’m a huge fan of Elizabeth Haynes having originally met her in the toilets at the festival a few years ago. At that stage she was in the New Blood panel. This is now her fourth novel, and according to the internet is the start of a new detective series.
In Under a Silent Moon the story starts with two women being found dead the same night in the same village. Barbara has apparently killed herself by driving her car over a cliff. Polly has been murdered whilst home alone. Detective Lou Smith is charged with finding out who killed her and she soon starts to uncover the secret side not only of Polly but those around her including her best friend Flora. As the investigation continues it becomes clear that the two victims might be linked.
I really enjoyed this book. The story is set over a week with each chapter spanning a day. The novel is interspersed with police reports and emails which gave a really good impression of the actual investigation. It also meant that you felt like you were given all the information to solve the crime. I guessed quite early on who the murderer would likely be but that didn’t ruin my enjoyment at all as I still wanted to know the how and why. I liked the fact that the investigation was laid out clearly and it was easy to follow. It almost reminded me of some books I remember having as a child where you basically got to make decisions which changed the ending of the book. You actually felt that you were investigating the crime.
Whilst I thought the story and writing were excellent, I wasn’t overly enamoured with either the main Detective Lou Smith or any of the other police team except analyst Jason. Lou just seemed a bit weak to me, she’d had an affair with Andy until she found out he was married with children. Surely you’d know that one of your colleagues had children? She then jumped straight into a relationship with Jason, which seemed a little unprofessional. Although in my head he was a bit of a Brad Pitt lookalike so maybe that was understandable. I think reading a new detective is always difficult as you don’t have any background of them, so I hope that like many other fictional detectives Lou Smith will grow on me.
I think Under a Silent Moon is the start of what will become a very popular new series with an interesting take on the police procedural. It just goes to show that the New Blood panel is never wrong and I look forward to reading more.