Tag Archives: tess gerritsen

When the Music’s Over

Once again the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival is over for another year. The whirlwind of books, authors, crime and intrigue has finished. The dead bodies have been scraped off the pavements, the books have been transported back inside bricks and mortar buildings and us readers have gone back to our mundane office life hankering after a world where we could get paid to read.

As always this was another great weekend, created by the fantastic team at Harrogate International Festival’s, with a wonderful programme committee lead by the excellent Peter James. The programme was jam packed to the point that it was difficult to find a session that could be missed. Missed, some had to be though, as this isn’t just about listening to talks, there are free books to be collected, passports to be stamped thanks to Crime files on tour, people to chat to and even fingerprints to be taken and crimes to be solved.

Unfortunately one of the biggest crimes this year at the festival was  the signing queues. For some reason WHSmiths decided to ditch the age old Harrogate tradition of one queue for all, instead opting to have separate queues for each author. This meant that if you had more than one author you wanted to meet you had to queue numerous times and it was never certain which queue was for who. However this lack of management did probably lead to one of the biggest shocks of the whole weekend – an unlikely friendship was struck up between me and my arch rival, the bookseller.

Every year the same two booksellers turn up with their big pile of books, they go into no sessions, have little interest in the authors and just want to get the books signed to sell them on. Every year, because I’m known for my calm and tolerant persona, this really winds me up as they are always at the front of the queue. However this year, in the face of adversity me and the Bookseller drew on our great british spirit and joined forces sorting some of the queues ourselves. See there is always a silver lining and its amazing how suddenly having a common aim can unite enemies.

Every year there are some fantastic sessions and this year was no exception. Julia Crouch chaired an interesting discussion about domestic suspense which included Paula Hawkins and the award winning Claire Mackintosh, whereas Tess Gerritsen took to the stage alone and was absolutely amazing. The discussion between Val McDermid and Susan Calman was definitely a highlight for me. Both have a great sense of humour and it’s clear there was a real friendship there which always makes the panels more entertaining. 

Surprise of the weekend was the ‘Out of Africa’ panel. It was informative and entertaining and I came away with another new author to try.That being said though, it does mean that technically I didn’t get to complete the TOPCWFC2016 as I hadn’t been aware Leye Adenle was attending. Yet I’ve created another rule for my challenge which is, if I didn’t know in advance they would be there it doesn’t count. Therefore I have officially ticked off another one on my list of 40 things to do.

The festival is not just all books either, there is beer, wine, football, and even music. I was lucky enough to meet the excellent Mark Billingham, who whilst signing my book asked if I’d ever heard a song called Candi’s Room by Bruce Springsteen. Mark, as well as his main character Thorne, are well known lovers of music, so this would have been a great opportunity to impress him with my expertise. But no, instead of saying something witty  I stuttered that I thought Brotherhood of Man had done something too. Well the look of disappointment on his face was just embarrassing, why couldn’t I have picked something cooler?? That surprisingly was the end of our conversation.

From the Thursday evening awards, through the final session with Yorkshire chap Peter Robinson it has once again been a fantastic weekend. I’ve come away with tons of book, including lots of new authors to try, and I can’t wait to do it all again next year!

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The Forty (nine) Steps

Back in the dim and distant time that was 2012 when I was but a much younger thing I set myself my first ever Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival Challenge (TOPCWFC). In case you don’t know this was for me to read a book by every author at the festival that year.

Well it quickly became apparent that that was rather an impossible feat, and I narrowed it down to reading something from at least one author from each session was much more manageable. Well its now 2016, I’ve just turned 40,  and so it is fifth time lucky for the TOPCWFC.

This time I’m feeling pretty hopeful.  As you’ll know I wrote a list of 40 things I’m going to do this year, it could be called 40 steps to making this year ‘The Year of Me’ (Spot The Middle reference there) Completing the TOPCWFC is one of those. The programme has been released and as always it looks like a fantastic weekend. There are some of my favourite authors returning including the excellent Peter James, Tess Gerritsen and Martina Cole. Val McDermid is doing a double hitter this year being in conversation on Friday night and of course doing my favourite New Blood panel. There is also what is sure to be one of my top ranked panel discussions ‘Domestic suspense – the killer behind the front door’ featuring five of my favourite female authors including Julia Crouch and Paula Hawkins.

As well as those who I’ve seen before there are some new faces to the festival although not new to crime fiction such as Jeffery Deaver the writer of the Lincoln Rhyme thrillers most of which I’ve already read. Then there are others such as Gerald Seymour who is a new name to me although he has actually just written his 32nd book.

This year if my maths is correct there are 48 authors appearing alongside comedians, playwrights, forensic podiatrists, and radio producers. Of these I’ve read 26 already, so only 22 to go. That shouldn’t be too hard to do surely? Thanks to netgalley I’ve already made a start on A Rising Man by Abir Mukherjee and I recently purchased a novel by Ysra Sigurdardottir so fingers crossed I’m well on the way to completion for the first time ever! (There is nothing wrong with a bit of optimism)

 

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The October List

The blog has been a bit quiet for the past few weeks. Yet again work has gotten in the way of blogging, plus there was the small matter of a couple of week’s holiday in the good old USA to take up my time. Long distance travel is always a good time to catch up on reading as there isn’t much else to do on an 8 hour flight, especially one that didn’t even provide a tv (considering even the squirrels are obese in America, their planes are surprisingly small!)

However as much as I do love reading crime novels I like to start a holiday with a good selection of guidebooks, and lists of must see places. So with New York, Boston and New England to research in one trip the novel reading was put to one side for a bit. I’ve realised I do become a bit obsessed with ticking things off lists though, in fact I’ve been known to write things on lists just to tick them off. New York therefore became one long blur of tourist attraction after tourist attraction, punctuated occasionally by the search for a good pint of beer in order to keep Mr F happy. Luckily with the American’s love of all things Halloween there were plenty of festive themed ales to choose from.

It’s easy to understand how some of the authors of the best novels in recent times were inspired by America. We stayed in a motel at Weir’s Beach, which was a lovely seaside resort. I can imagine at high season the place would have been packed. However arriving the day before Columbus day things were rather more subdued. In fact other than the woman who checked us in, we didn’t see another sole. Apart from a bloke chopping what I hope were logs in the morning, I didn’t catch his name although it did sound suspiciously like he said it was Norman. Robert Bloch had probably signed in the visitor book if I’d looked closely.

During a session at the festival a couple of years ago there was a discussion around why so many crime writers hail from Scandinavia, and although I’m paraphrasing a bit they said it was because the Scandinavian countries had such a low crime rate and were so pretty that they had to make up scary things themselves. The same may be said of Portland, Maine. From my experience of a short drive to Portland, it’s a beautiful place and the views over the sea from the lighthouse we visited were stunning. Certainly not the stuff of horror, however it doesn’t stop the output of prolific horror writer Stephen King who is based there.

Probably the best views of the holiday (apart from seeing a baby black bear walking along the side of the road) came from a visit to a place called Castle in the Clouds. Although I was very disappointed to find it wasn’t a castle at all but just a big house built in 1914. I used to live in a flat that was built in 1620 so something 100 years old isn’t really that impressive. The view over the Lake was stunning however, and whilst not crime related was apparently where some of the film ‘On Golden Pond’ was set.

In between New York and New England we spent a couple of nights in Boston. One of my favourite authors is Tess Gerritsen, who sets her Rizzoli and Isles novels in the city. As a fan of the TV show as well I was quite excited about the prospect of finding the police department where it is filmed. Until Mr F did a quick internet search and found the show is actually filmed on set miles away from Boston. We had to content ourselves with following the freedom trail instead, which came with a handy painted line on the road to follow so no map reading necessary.

 

After a final night back in New York it was heading home time, and back to reality. It’s potentially given me an idea for a new challenge though, to read a crime novel set in every city I’ve visited. That sounds to me like its time for a new list to be created, and my train journey back from working in Manchester might be a good time to start.

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Last to Die by Tess Gerritsen – a review

last to die

Last to Die is the latest in the Rizzoli and Isles series. In this story, Maura Isles is taking a holiday to go and visit the young boy Rat (now called Julian) who helped save her life in a previous book. Unfortunately as always with books no holiday is ever straight forward, and Isles is soon caught up in Rizzoli’s latest case. Three children were orphaned in violent circumstances and a few years later a similar fate befalls their foster families. These three survivors end up at Evensong, a school for children who have suffered violence. This school is run by the bizarre Memphisto Club, an underground Masonic type group who use their considerable wealth to try and fight evil (a bit like batman!)

I’m a big fan of Tess Gerritsen and especially the Rizzoli and Isles pairing. Whilst I don’t think this was one of her best books, it is still pretty good. As usual the plot is relatively complicated, but this is one of the pleasures of reading a book by this writer. This book seemed a little slower than usual, but I think that was a deliberate ploy to emphasis the change in location. The pace of life in the middle of a city surrounded by people would obviously be faster than in a school that is completely isolated and surrounded by fences.

The relationship between Isles and Julian also seems to change the dynamics of the plot and made Isles seem softer. There is much less medical detail than in previous stories, and by changing the location the usual family background from Rizzoli’s side is missing with the husband and child only being given token mentions. There is a bit of comic relief in the form of a bridesmaid dress though!

The school where the three children (and therefore Rizzoli and Isles) end up is a boarding school and it did feel a little bit to me like it was the start of an Enid Blyton style series. The school has a club called the Jackals who are fascinated by forensic science and manage to help Rizzoli and Isles solve the crime. It would be a good basis for a new teenage set of books, which may indeed be her aim.

Like I say this isn’t her best, but whilst I wouldn’t recommend this as a first delve into Tess Gerritsen’s novels, for those readers who know a bit of the background to the series and like the style its another good story.

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Bloodstream by Tess Gerritsen – A review

This book has been sat on my bookshelf for quite a well, as she technically wasn’t part of the TOPCWFC but I recently found it in the pile so got stuck in.

After her husband’s death, Dr Claire Elliot moves to the small town of Maine, with her teenage son. She hopes that relocating to this small quiet town will be a good opportunity for her son to put his past indiscretions behind him and for them both to make a new start with her running the towns medical practice. As with all good stories unfortunately it doesn’t quite work out like that. Not long after they arrive her son’s school mates start murdering each other and it soon becomes clear that things are not quite what they seem. People are quick to blame the fact the children are just bad, and it takes a while before the town link what’s happening now to a similar event 100 years previously.

This was not a Rizzoli and Isles book, which as I’d just finished watching the fantastic tv series of the same name did disappoint me a little, I really should read the blurb on the back a bit more. I am a big fan of Tess Gerristen and we saw her talk during the festival in Harrogate in 2011. So I hate to say it, but I didn’t think this novel was one of her best. The story was not particularly original, and could almost have been called Erin Brockovich.

However I think that Tess Gerritsen is such a skilled writer, she still manages to create tension and intrigue, and leaves you guessing the outcome right til the last few pages. I must admit that I did skip over some of the lengthy medical descriptions as they were a little long, but then the main character of the book was a doctor so its to be expected and the one of the authors skills is being able to intermingle medical knowledge, with suspense.

Half way through I got some Stephen King flashes (at the risk of upsetting people everywhere I’m afraid I’ve never managed to finish a Stephen King novel, not saying they are not good. I just get a bit lost) and I began to think that the story was heading to the dark side. But I’m glad to say that as ever Tess Gerritsen did not disappoint.

All in all I would say its definitely worth a read, but wouldn’t rush to read it twice. I am however looking foward to the next Rizzoli and Isles outing.

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