Tag Archives: theakstons crime festival

Sunburn by Laura Lippman – a review BLOG TOUR

sunburnI was lucky enough to meet Laura Lippman at the Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival a couple of year’s ago and have always been a fan of her books. Therefore I jumped at the chance to be the final stop on the blog tour for her latest novel Sunburn.

Polly is on a family holiday to the beach when she walks off leaving behind her husband and daughter. She lands in a small town in Delaware and gets a job at the High Ho restaurant. She is soon joined by the mysterious Adam who gets a job as a cook. Whilst he is obviously following Polly for some reason, it is soon clear that he also has secrets. As they both become more drawn into each other’s worlds the lines between truth and lies get more blurred.

This was a really intriguing story. Whilst it wasn’t one you’d class as fast paced, it felt almost hypnotic in it’s telling. It has been likened to some of the classic noir tales such as those by James M. Cain and that is a great comparison. It starts off as a relatively simple premise, we are lead to believe that Polly is the kind of woman who can leave her child behind and therefore is uncaring. Yet as the story flows you realise that things are not as black and white as they seem. Adam could be Polly’s hero turning up just when she needs someone. Yet there is more to him than meets the eye and it soon becomes clear he is not necessarily the person we are first led to believe.

This was change from my usual books, but I really enjoyed it. The gentle pace made for a nice relaxing read on a train. However the twists were certainly there and even though you feel you know most of the story by the time you are halfway through there is still so much that is unknown you just have to carry on. I really liked the fact that everytime I thought I had a handle on who was good and who was bad something else became clear and thoughts changed.

It’s hard to say more without giving away the plot, but suffice to say for me the ending was perfect. I would thoroughly recommend Sunburn especially if like me you enjoy reading a strong female lead in a very compelling story.

Sunburn is available here https://www.amazon.co.uk/Sunburn-Laura-Lippman-ebook/dp/B0771X1KMX

Don’t forget to visit the other stops on the blog tour.

SUNBURN_blog tour (1)

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Rattle by Fiona Cummins – a review

I received a copy of Rattle by Fiona Cummins in the goody bag at the festival back in July. It wasn’t one that I heard of before although my sister had seen in advertised. Needless to say the cover picture of the rib cage and the line on the back stating ‘a psychopath more scary than Hannibal Lecter’ meant this seemed right up my street, and it most certainly was.

Rattle introduces us to Detective Etta Fitzroy. She is investigating the case of Clara who has gone missing.  This isn’t her first missing child case, and sadly for young Jakey it won’t be her last. Both missing children suffer from unusual bone conditions.  It is this that singles them out for the ‘Bone Collector’ who is looking to add to his families heirlooms.

I can honestly say I thought this was one of the best books I have read in ages and I couldn’t stop reading. The premise of a man who abducts children being followed by a troubled detective with family issues isn’t that original. Yet the twists and turns within this story really did make it feel ‘new’. The main character of Etta was ok, and despite her issues, to me she felt like a detective that actually put the job first. This can often be lacking in female leads and was refreshing. However what I really liked was the insights we got into the characters involved. Many of the chapters are told from the point of view of the familes, so you really feel like you know them and care about them, they are not just faceless victims.

Some of the scenes within Rattle are truly chilling. I really enjoyed the style of writing, and the descriptions within the novel. The visions they conjure up in part of the book will stay with you after it’s finished. I love a good serial killer story, especially one that has you double checking all the doors are locked before you carry on reading. The Rattle certainly did that. It was the perfect balance of scary thriller, and excellent character led story.

This was one of the best books I have read all year, and an incredibly accomplished debut. An excellent addition to this year’s goody bag and I hope there is lots more to come from Fiona Cummins.

 

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Death at the Seaside by Kate Brody – a review BLOG TOUR

I was lucky enough to receive a copy of this from the publisher. This was the second novel by Francis Brody that I have read this year as Francis was appearing at the festival earlier in the year.

This is not my usual type of reading to be honest, as I usually prefer something with a bit more of a modern twist, however I thoroughly loved this novel.

Kate Shackleton is a private investigator. She usually has a nice quiet August so she decides to treat herself to a little holiday and heads off to visit an old friend in one of my favourite places, Whitby. Of course it would be quite a dull book if it was purely about Kate’s paddling in the sea and eating kippers, so it’s not long before she meets a dead body, and finds out her friends daughter Felicity has gone missing. Felicity has left only a note and a pawn ticket for her mother’s watch guard. The jeweller who took the watch guard also happens to be Felicity’s Mother’s new gentleman friend. Kate obviously gets drags into the investigation and brings along her faithful staff.

This is definitely a story that would be classed as a cosy crime. There is no blood and gore, just a nice gentle mystery albeit with a dead body and some fortune telling thrown in. The novel is a lovely read especially if you know Whitby at all. The descriptions of places Kate visits and walks summon up vivid images of Whitby as it would have been in the 1920’s when the novels are set.

I did feel that the story was a little bit slow in parts. However I suspect that is more down to the difference between this and my usual reading fare, rather than anything wrong with the story itself. This is the kind of novel that you leaves feeling quite cheered up when you finish (despite the dead body) and the ending made me smile.

If you enjoy a nice ‘cosy crime’ novel along the lines of a Miss Marple then you definitely need to pick up some of Francis Brody’s work.

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The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware – a review

This was the second novel by writer Ruth Ware who I first encountered at the festival last year (so excited by her debut novel were me and the Sister we even got dressed up for photos!) so I was very pleased to get a free copy of the Woman in Cabin 10 via netgalley.

The Woman in Cabin 10 starts off with a break in at journalist Lo Blacklock’s flat. She is already quite highly strung and this understandably causes her to go into a state of paranoia and panic. In order to help get over the break in she accepts an assignment on a cruise ship. It is supposed to be ten days of pure relaxation and sightseeing. Unfortunately the first night of sailing Lo thinks she sees a woman pushed over board. Despite there not being anyone reported missing she is adamant this has really happened and won’t let it go. Due to her fragile mental state and excessive drinking no one else believes her. Interspersed with us finding out what is happening on board we also hear from her friends and colleagues who are worried that she seems to have disappeared.

Whilst this was an enjoyable read I don’t think it was quite as good as the first novel. It did unfortunately feel a little bit similar to Girl on a Train to me. However saying that, I really enjoyed Girl on a Train so that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The main problem was that I didn’t really like the main character. She was incredibly annoying, and whilst you care about the crime that may or may not have been committed a lot of the time you wanted to just tell her to leave it alone.

Yet despite that I did enjoy reading this. It was another fun fast read and at no point did I guess the outcome which kept me turning the page to find out what was happening. I like the style of novel that uses an unreliable narrator and this certainly ticked that box. The setting on a cruise ship was interesting as it gave it that locked room feel where the list of suspects is limited and you get an incredibly claustrophobic feel.

This is the second book I’ve read recently based on a cruise ship (Distress Signals by Catherine Ryan Howard being the other one) and it is a fascinating setting. Overall I did enjoy this and will certainly be looking out for more from Ruth Ware

 

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The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena – a review

This was a book that was being heavily promoted at the recent festival, and although I got a key ring advertising the book I didn’t actually get to pick this one up (lack of money not withstanding, my lack of Olympic weightlifting prowess does mean that you have to draw the line at book buying once the bag becomes too heavy to lift) However the following day when I sat down to go through all my books I was lucky enough to find that the lovely Mr F had snuck a copy of this one into the pile.

The Couple Next Door is about married partners Anne and Marco. They have been invited to a party by their neighbour who is insistent that children are not allowed. When Anne and Marco’s babysitter cancels, rather than stay at home they decide to still go to the party and just take a baby monitor with them. Clearly this is all going to end in tears. When they return the baby has been taken, and their lives start to fall apart.

This was a fast fun read, that would make a perfect holiday book. You know straight from the off that the baby is going to go missing so there is no mystery there, but the story focuses on who has taken the baby and the interplay between the varying cast members.

This was a novel written in the third person which kind of works, although there were some aspects where you almost felt you were being spoon fed a bit too much. There was a lot of telling rather than showing, but that’s down to the style of writing. Once you get used to this then the story soon starts to take off. There were plenty of twists and turns along the way and although bits of it were easy to guess, there was enough red herrings and shocks to keep you interested. One thing that I liked was the fact that it focuses completely on the characters and you don’t really get a sense of place, it could be based anywhere.

The characters are all quite annoying and I didn’t really care about them, but yet I still really wanted to know what was happening. Some of the actions are  bit far fetched but the story carries you along so fast that you don’t mind. Overall I really enjoyed this book and it was clear why it was such a hit at the festival.

 

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I See You by Clare Mackintosh – a review

As anyone with any vague interest in the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival will know, Clare Mackintosh really was the author of the weekend, her debut novel I let You Go having won the 12th Crime Novel of the Year. Therefore it would have been criminal of me (I know it’s a clichéd pun but the old ones are often the best!) not to have picked up her newest novel to get signed at the festival. I See You was therefore on the top of my to read pile when I got home and I picked it up that night. Well that was my fatal error, as I couldn’t put it down after that.

I See You begins with Zoe seeing her picture in the classified section of the newspaper. Her boyfriend and teenage children say that it’s obviously a mistake and must just be someone who looks like her. Even her friends are insistent it is just a mistake. Zoe however isn’t convinced and soon finds out that she is not the only person being targeted with photos in the paper. We then meet Police officer Kelly who has been working on a case involving pick pockets on the tube. She believes that there may be some link to the newspaper picture and tries her hardest to be able to investigate.

It’s a difficult book to review without giving away any of the plot, and I think it is definitely a book that is most exciting to read without knowing what is going to happen. Suffice it to say I thought this novel was excellent. This really was a book that I couldn’t put down. Each time I thought I had guessed what was going on another twist would be thrown in and I would realise how wrong I was. The ending was good, although at first I was left a little flat by it, but once I’d finished everything suddenly made sense.

There is an interesting mix of characters, all of whom seem to be living normal mundane lives. It is this ‘normality’ that makes the whole premise of this book all the more disturbing. We are all creatures of habit, and have certain routines that we follow every day whether it be our walk to work, or where we buy our lunchtime sandwich. Yet that routine is exactly what makes Zoe a target in this book. Do you know who is watching you?

This was a fantastic novel that more than lived up to the award winning I Let You Go.  I definitely recommend I See You, if you are a fan of a twisty psychological thriller, best not read whilst on the tube though.

 

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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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