Tag Archives: theakston crime festival

A time of torment

Now that the Viking invasion of half term has finally departed, this week I treated myself to a trip into town to partake in one of my favourite pastimes – browsing round Waterstones bookshop. I like to head straight to the back of the shop avoiding all the gift buyers and get stuck into the crime section. As usual I start with the tables in the middle of the shelves which are piled up with books displayed by theme. Then I head to the start of the crime section, which is where my plan fell to pieces. It seemed they’d moved the section. I looked around in a panic, what’s a book shop after all without a good stock of crime fiction? This would be a complete torment for me to live in a city without a crime section in the bookshop. Yet it soon became clear that whilst the initial panic was unfounded, there was still crime novels galore, there was a new problem. The crime novels were now all just mixed in amongst a general fiction section stretching round the store.

This was not good for me. I don’t like change. I also like to be able to go into a bookshop and head straight to the crime section knowing that whatever I’m picking up is crime. I like to know I’m not going to pick up a book and end up with a mills and boon (which I was a big fan of when younger, mainly because Jilly Cooper was a lot harder to sneak past the parents but the sex scenes were just as good) or much worse something dungeons and dragons based. My reading matter rarely deviates from anything that isn’t classified as crime. This new layout therefore really seems to be rather at odds with what I like, so it was time to express my annoyance.

Clearly nowadays the idea of writing letters to the local newspaper is practically akin to sending smoke signals. Outraged from York has long been in retirement. Therefore I did what all modern annoyed people do and I took to twitter to express my disgust. Rather surprisingly I swiftly received a reply to my tweet from one of the most high ranking authors in crime fiction. Once I’d come down off the roof thanks to the excitement of getting the tweet, I actually read it. Suddenly rather than seeing the concept of all fiction being in one big pile as a negative thing, I was open to the idea that this actually was a good way to ‘broaden your horizons’

I do love is discovering new authors. One of the best things about both writing this blog and of course attending the festival is the joy of discovering new writers and styles that you wouldn’t necessarily pick up yourself. I have also in the past read non crime fiction and really enjoyed it. So I completely agree that mixing the books altogether could potentially mean I discover new authors which is obviously a good thing.

However there is still a part of me that is a little bit sad about this change. I always loved the fortnightly trip to the library and this hasn’t disappeared as an adult. The difference is now I always look for the little blue sticker with the handcuffs on it so I know I’m a getting a crime novel. Which leads me to the biggest issue that this is going to cause me, and that’s one of time. Whilst I’m looking forward to discovering new authors the sheer time I’m going to need to browse through all those books is scary. I wonder if part time working is feasible? Or maybe rather than seeing it as a Saturday morning treat I should just get a job in a bookshop.

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Alone

Well I’ve been abandoned for two whole weeks whilst Mr F goes on holiday. Whilst he’s off planting trees, or fixing schools, or some other worthwhile activity (He’s actually gone to Lesotho with a charity called Africa’s Gift  find out more here) I’m left behind all alone cleaning up cat sick and sorting out the recycling bins.

Now clearly I would not admit this to Mr F as the truth sometimes gets in the way of a good sulk over my abandonment (where he is there is limited internet access and electricity so I can get away with this admission) However there is a small part of me that is actually looking forward to a couple of weeks on my own.

Whilst of course I love him to bits, I do find men have a habit of getting in the way sometimes. I am someone who quite likes just pottering. I can potter in the garden planting seeds, watching birds, pruning something that I don’t really know what it is. I can potter in the house tidying things up (which actually just means putting anything I find in a big box as if you can’t see things then they don’t exist) or sorting things out. I can even potter round town looking in bookshops, or wondering round the market. However it’s hard to potter properly when there are two of you, as one is always wanting to do something.

I have a theory that the only reason sport was invented is to give people time on their own to potter. If I said to Mr F one Saturday morning, today I’m going to spend sorting out my bookshelves and reading my latest book he’d huff and puff a bit and come up with a list of activities he wanted to do. Clearly none of those would involve anything to do with books. That’s where football comes in. Never in a million years did I ever think I would religiously plot in my diary when the football was going to be on. Yet there I am with each match marked down knowing that no matter what else is going on in the world the football will keep him entertained for a while.

Being on my own for two weeks also means I can eat what I want without having to consult anyone. At the risk of sounding about 90 the first thing I bought after dropping Mr F off at the train station was courgettes. Although he’s not a fussy eater he does have some strange vegetable aversions including courgettes which are one of my favourite vegetables. I have tried to encourage him to eat them, I once made a three course courgette themed meal starting with courgette fritters, then courgette pasta finished with courgette and chocolate cake, yet he’s still not keen.

As well as all the time I’ll get to read books and potter round whilst eating courgettes, I finally get full control of the tv remote. The timing couldn’t be more perfect with the new series of criminal minds back on the television, and Masterchef having started again.

Also in terms of good timing, his departure has coincided with one of the most exciting things of the year. The release of the programme for the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival. This is a thing that takes time to digest properly. It has to be read through a couple of times, before lists are created of which authors I’ve already read, and which I need to start reading. The sessions have to be planned to see if there are any we could stand to miss to give a bit of breathing and reading space during the weekend. All of this takes time, and I’ll have lots of it on my hands.

Of course saying all that I am obviously going to miss Mr F loads, and am very proud of him, but somehow I think the time is going to fly by and I’ll no doubt wonder where it all went once he’s home.

 

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The Kill by Jane Casey – a review

I should start this review with a bit of a caveat. I’m completely biased about this book having had the great pleasure of sitting next to Jane Casey at this year’s murder mystery dinner at the Theakston’s Old Peculiar Crime Writing Festival. It was a lovely evening, with a great bunch of people on our table and therefore I really wanted to love this book.
Unfortunately that brings me to my second caveat. I was halfway through reading this when we went on holiday, and due to being lucky enough to own the hard copy of the book I decided to leave it behind whilst I went on my jaunt. Therefore I picked it up, three books and two weeks later, to try and remember where I’d left off. Obviously as I’m not known for my great memory this did cause some confusion.
The Kill starts with a group of police officers, including Maeve Kerrigan at a wedding party. They find out that a fellow officer has been killed. This starts a wave of police killings which Kerrigan and her boss Josh Derwent are desperate to solve, however they are soon in fear for their lives.
This was the first of the Maeve Kerrigan series that I’ve read, which combined with the fact I stopped half way through did mean I struggled with the plot a bit. However overall I’m pleased to say this was a good read. Although it is the third in the series, the novel works as a standalone story, I didn’t get the impression I was missing out on lots of background information. I enjoyed the mix of police action and the relationships between Maeve and her rather unpleasant boyfriend, as well as senior officers. I can’t say I particularly warmed too many of the characters except Maeve, although I enjoyed the fact that the characters weren’t one dimensional. They could spend half the book acting like complete idiots and then suddenly turn round and actually be quite nice, which is a pretty human trait.
The story itself was interesting, and the concept of the police being under attack, and the motives behind it were good. I especially liked the contemporary setting of the novel, with references to real world events such as the riots in 2011. When the policeman is found dead at the start of the novel, local politicians are soon quick to put the blame on the fact that allegedly the police shot an innocent boy.
Overall I enjoyed this book, despite the second half taking a bit of getting back into and would be keen to try the series from the start as I have a suspicion that if I started at the beginning this is a series that would really grow on me.

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The Long Fall by Julia Crouch – a review

As regular readers of my blog will know, Julia Crouch is a definite favourite of mine and a regular at the Theaksons Old Peculier Crime Festival. So her new novel was one of the first books I bought at this year’s event and I’m pleased to say The Long Fall didn’t disappoint.

The main character is Kate. She is a successful woman, married with a teenage daughter Tilly. Kate runs a charity that was set up in memory of her daughter who died when young. Tilly is getting ready to go backpacking to Greece, which for some reason Kate is very reluctant for her to do. Interspersed with the present day story are diary extracts from Emma. She is a young girl who went backpacking in the 1980s. Heading first to France and then on to Greece Emma meets up with two new friends but things don’t go to plan. Gradually the two stories unfold as Kate’s past comes back to haunt her and she finds out the truth about what happened in Greece.

This was a great easy read novel. I thought that the two parallel storylines worked well together and the diary extracts were an interesting way of telling Emma’s story. I did think that some of the twists were quite easy to guess but I don’t believe that is always a bad thing and the story was a real page turner.

I thought that this was a very atmospheric book and the descriptions of some of the places made me want to go backpacking (well 4 star hotel-ing at least) However I didn’t particularly warm to the character of Kate. I think she seemed particularly naive and as a supposed successful business woman I think some of the decisions she made were a bit out of character. However saying that one of the big themes of the story is guilt which can make people act in very strange ways, and no one really knows how they would react if there family was being threated.

As with all Julia Crouch novels the crimes are not described in a gruesome manner, the tension is built through description and plotting which makes a change from some of the other books I’ve read recently. I also like the fact they are completely stand alone novels without a recurring character which makes a nice change from alot of crime novels. If you are looking for a quick gripping read then I’d recommend The Long Fall.

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No time for goodbye

The tents have gone, the bar is empty, and the dead body outline has been taken up from outside the front door, yes the annual Theakston’s Old Peculiar Crime Writing Festival has finished for another year. Despite the rain which was an unwelcome new addition to the festival, normally the organisers are able to arrange for glorious sunshine, once again it was an absolutely fantastic weekend.

Arriving on Thursday afternoon as soon as you drive up the path there is an unmistakable buzz that says you are in for a real treat. The tents were even bigger than last year, there was an outdoor bar and the whole thing was set around one of the best bookcases I’ve ever seen.

Anyone who has any interest in books will by now know that J K Rowling made an appearance as Robert Galbraith, an event which surprisingly was completely wizard free. However this was only one of many many fantastic sessions put together by programme chair Steve Mosby of which it’s almost impossible to choose a favourite.

There was no doubt that for me Lynda La Plante was definitely a highlight. It showed exactly what I love about this festival. I went along with a pre-conceived idea, I had seen a lot of her tv credits but had only read one of her books so I was in two minds as to whether to go. Yet she completely blew me away. She was funny, charming, interesting and intelligent, and it definitely goes down as the session I laughed the most in. I came away wanting to immediately rush out and buy all her back catalogue.

Unfortunately the back seat and boot of the car were already full with all the other books we’d bought so I thought it best to wait until I got home. Thanks to Mr F a copy of Twisted is now on the top of my ‘to read’ pile, a pile which could conceivably be described as more a tower than a pile. The number of books I came home with possibly out did even last year’s tally, as it is completely impossible to sit and enjoy listening to authors talk without wanting to go and read their books. I can’t guarantee I’ll manage to get through as many as Natalie Haynes who in the turning to crime session said she’d read about 220 novels last year, but I’ll give it a go.

As always there are some interesting debates and points of view put forward, during one session James Smythe suggested what is possibly both the best and the worst idea ever. He thought that one way of getting people to read books they wouldn’t usually read was by changing bookshops around so that books are stored a-z rather than by category. This could be a good way to find new books, but would mean that a quick trip to the bookshop would actually end up taking me all day.

People familiar with this festival will know that listening to the authors up on stage is only one part of the fun, celebrity author spotting adds another dimension, which author eats the most for breakfast, who was the last still standing in the bar at night, will people make it to the morning sessions, and of course the most important question of all, will anyone join us to make a team for the Saturday night quiz. Excitingly for us this year we were actually joined by the lovely Tony Thompson, although our performance was rather dismal compared to this years winning team lead by Stav Sherez.

The weekend is certainly not a relaxing one, its non-stop with sessions and book signings back to back throughout with little time for chatting. Yet it is definitely one of my most favourite ways to spend a weekend, finished off as always by a quick Betty’s lunch before heading home to sort through all my new books. Its a wonderful weekend,  and a great way of finding new authors, plus you never know what interesting knowledge you’ll pick up, who knew cabbage shows up the same as blood in some forensic tests. I’ll be more careful with my cabbage chopping in future!

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Like this, Forever by Sharon Bolton – a review

I picked this book up on a whim as it was part of some of the free books that I was given at the Festival. As it was a proof copy it didn’t have any blurb on the back so I wasn’t really aware of what the story was about. The quotes on the cover were enough to make it stand out from the pile on my dressing table and grab on my way out to catch a train.

I was certainly not disappointed that I had done. The main character that the book focuses on is Barney. Children are going missing and when their bodies turn up they have been drained of blood. Young Barney lives with his Dad and is obsessed with searching for his mum who he believes is living in London somewhere. He also follows the investigation into the disappearance of the children following updates on the special facebook page set up to discuss the murders.

Barney lives next door to Lacey who is a policewomen currently on sick leave after a traumatic experience whilst on duty (dealt with in a previous novel I believe) He asks her to help him find his mum, and in the process of helping she finds out more than she bargained for.

I really enjoyed this book. I don’t believe that I’ve read any Sharon (or S.J as she was previously known) Bolton before although I will definitely be reading more. Throughout the story I was kept guessing as to the perpetrator and there were numerous possibilities all intertwining different stories, for example the teacher who takes a special interest in Barney, his friends with their own lives and families, the football coach who is always busy on the same nights, the man who posts on facebook. At no point did I guess the true identity.

I thought that the inclusion of social media worked well, especially as it gave a good insight into how children interact via these sites nowadays. It was an interesting mix of normal police investigation led by Dana Tulloch and a childrens viewpoint and their belief that they can find out who did it.

Unlike a lot of books this was a book that didn’t waste words. Although I felt slightly that I missed parts of the story, for example who does Lacey go and visit in prison? I suspect that most of these are either things that would be clearer if I had read previous Lacey novels, or indeed will get cleared up in the next book. Hopefully I don’t have to wait until next years festival to get a copy of that one!

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