Sleepwalking, Synesthesia and other Stories – guest post by Ruth Dugdall

Delighted to welcome Ruth Dugdall to the blog today to celebrate the launch of her new book, The Things You Didn’t See. It’s a tense psychological thriller, a novel about families and love. It is about the nature of guilt and innocence. It is about the secrets we keep, especially from ourselves.

But more about the book later. First Ruth will be telling us a little about sleepwalking, synesthesia and other stories.

Over to Ruth…

When my mum was a girl she would inwardly groan if any relative ever bought her a book. As an adult the only ones she ever opened were cookbooks, and yet she is a natural storyteller. She likes dark tales, and she likes to tell them again and again. And she’s good at it – I haven’t watched Coronation Street in years but I know exactly what’s happening! I grew up with Mum’s stories, and would ask for specific ones the way you might ask for a favourite food or film, enjoying the familiarity of it.

One of my favourite stories was about my great Uncle George, who died before I was born. He was a poultry farmer, living in rural Lincolnshire. He was also a sleepwalker. His sleepwalking was well known locally, especially after the time he jumped through an upper floor window thinking he was still jumping fences on his horse.

One day, so the story goes, George had been culling chickens for market. Wringing their necks and tossing them into a steaming pile of feathers. That night his wife awoke in a panic to find hands tight around her neck. Someone was trying to kill her. She fought and screamed and, luckily, George woke up. He had been dreaming about those chickens.

Years later, I learned about people who had committed grave acts in their sleep, including murder. Some were terribly sad – one boy had killed his father, whilst dreaming he was defending the home from a burglar. Other cases seemed less believable, like the murderer who drove many miles to his victim’s home whilst apparently asleep.

Non-insane Automatism is the legal defence used when someone kills whilst asleep, meaning that they aren’t culpable because they were unconscious. When this defence is used, which isn’t often, the stats show that a jury will believe the suspect only half the time, the other half they convict. It is this defence that Hector Hawke gives in The Things You Didn’t See, after his wife Maya Hawke is discovered at the bottom of the stairs, shot in the head.

The second trait featured in the book is synesthesia, a neurological condition in which wiring in the brain works differently so the senses are blended in an unexpected way. Some synesthetic taste words, others see sounds as colour. There is an argument that we all have a little synaesthesia; many of us listen to music and experience emotions, or associate a smell with a place, or dislike certain words because of how they make us feel. It is a diverse trait, and studies have recently discovered a genetic link, but there is still much more to understand about it.

Holly Redwood is the paramedic who arrives at the farm after Maya’s shooting has been called in. She has a form of synesthesia, known as Mirror Touch, which means that she can feel what others feel. If she sees someone get slapped, her cheek stings. If she sees a couple kissing, she experiences that too.

When Holly sees Maya, who is unconscious and in a critical condition, she can feel her pain. But she can also feel emotions, and within the house are Maya’s husband and daughter. As suspicion builds about what really happened to Maya, Holly must work out what her overloaded senses are telling her, and establish if they can be trusted. For someone wishing to solve a crime, synesthsia can be a talent, so long as they know how to interpret their feelings.

The title, The Things You Didn’t See, refers to both traits: sleepwalkers don’t see clearly, even though they move with their eyes open. Synesthesics sense things beyond their vision. The crime at the heart of the book can only be solved if these two things are addressed, and Holly and Cassandra must work together to do this.

I don’t know if my mum will read my book, but I’m grateful to her for sharing her stories. And thank you for letting me share mine with you.

Thanks Ruth. The Things You Didn’t See is published on 24th April 2018 by Thomas & Mercer.

Her instincts are telling her something isn’t right…
On a chilly morning in rural Suffolk, Cassandra Hawke is woken by a gunshot. Her mother is clinging on to her life, the weapon still lying nearby. Everyone thinks it’s attempted suicide—but none of it makes any sense to Cass. She’s certain there’s more to it than meets the eye.
With her husband and father telling her she’s paranoid, Cass finds an unlikely ally in student paramedic Holly. Like Cass, she believes something is wrong, and together they try to uncover the truth. But is there more to Holly’s interest than she’s letting on?
With her family and loved ones at risk, Cass must ask herself: is she ready to hear the truth, and can she deal with the consequences?

Ruth Dugdall studied English at university and then took an MA is Social Work. She worked in the Criminal Justice System as a social worker then as a probation officer. Her novels are informed by her experience, tackling human relationships at their most dysfunctional. She lives in California with her family.

Atholl Brose – an extract from Rebellious Spirits by Ruth Ball

Today I’m delighted to take part in the blog tour for Rebellious Spirits, by Ruth Ball, “A delicious history of Britain’s secret, exciting and often dangerous love affair with booze.”

Rebellious Spirits was shortlisted for the Fortnum & Mason Food Debut Drink Book of the Year Award in 2016, was one of the Guardian’s Best Drinks Books of 2015, and features 50 delicious cocktail recipes.

Glasses all topped up? Right then.  I’ve got an extract from the book for you – a look at the fascinating history (and a couple of recipes) for Atholl brose, an intriguing concoction!

Without further ado, over to Ruth…

Atholl brose

When looking for a good recipe you’ll find that there are as many variations of Atholl brose as there are Highlanders. To make matters worse, the only recorded recipes tend to be in the diaries of confused English tourists. But one thing on which every recipe agrees is the need for whisky and good heather honey.

The name comes from an old tale about the Duke of Atholl, who supposedly filled the well near a rebel leader’s camp with whisky, oatmeal and honey to make him too drunk to fight, although there’s no evidence that the story has any basis in truth. The name also comes from the mixture of oats and water that was carried as a drink by shepherds and was called brose, even though some modern versions choose to skip the creamy oatmeal in favour of rich dairy cream. In every version the Atholl brose is beaten to a froth and sometimes eggs are added to hold the froth a little better.  I have tried to combine a little of all of these to make my own version.

ATHOLL BROSE: THE ORIGINAL

Athol-brose – A compound highland drink. Sometimes, merely honey and whiskey; at others, honey, whiskey, oat-meal, and new milk.

Major Walter Campbell, The Old Forest Ranger (1850)

THE ALCHEMIST’S VERSION

50g rolled oats 350ml water 3 tbsp heather honey 2 egg yolks 250ml single cream 350ml whisky

Prepare the brose in advance by mixing the oats and water and leaving to stand overnight. In the morning, strain this with a cheesecloth or by pressing the liquid through a sieve with the back of a spoon. Beat the honey with the egg yolks in the bottom of a jug until pale and then mix in the cream. Add the brose and the whisky and whisk everything together until you have a good head of foam.

Queen Victoria was apparently fond of Atholl brose, and when she visited Atholl Castle she drank hers from a glass that had once belonged to the famous fiddler Niel Gow. So try to drink yours from a glass that once belonged to someone famous if you want to play queen.

 

Rebellious Spirits, by Ruth Bell is published by Elliot & Thompson (www.eandtbooks.com) in April 2018.  Huge thanks to Alison Menzies for the review copy. The blog tour continues tomorrow!

This week in books

This week has been a bumper week for #bookpost, especially from Orbit (thanks Nazia!)

First up was Brian McClellan’s Wrath of Empire.

The country is in turmoil. With the capital city occupied, half a million refugees are on the march, looking for safety on the frontier, accompanied by Lady Flint’s soldiers. But escaping war is never easy, and soon the battle may find them, whether they are prepared or not.
Back in the capital, Michel Bravis smuggles even more refugees out of the city. But internal forces are working against him. With enemies on all sides, Michael may be forced to find help with the very occupiers he’s trying to undermine.
Meanwhile, Ben Styke is building his own army. He and his mad lancers are gathering every able body they can find and searching for an ancient artifact that may have the power to turn the tides of war in their favor. But what they find may not be what they’re looking for.

then there’s Tyler Whiteside’s The Thousand Deaths of Ardor Benn


Ardor Benn is no ordinary thief. Rakish, ambitious, and master of wildly complex heists, he styles himself a Ruse Artist Extraordinaire.
When a priest hires him for the most daring ruse yet, Ardor knows he’ll need more than quick wit and sleight of hand. Assembling a dream team of forgers, disguisers, schemers, and thieves, he sets out to steal from the most powerful king the realm has ever known.
But it soon becomes clear there’s more at stake than fame and glory -Ard and his team might just be the last hope for human civilization.

And Louisa Morgan’s A Secret History of Witches

An ancient and dangerous power is being handed down from mother to daughter through some of the most consequential historic events of the last two centuries.
After Grandmére Ursule gives her life to save her tribe, her magic seems to die with her. Even so, her family keeps the Old Faith, practicing the spells and rites that have been handed from mother to daughter for generations. Until one day, Ursule’s young granddaughter steps into the circle, and magic flows anew.
From early 19th century Brittany to London during the Second World War, five generations of witches fight the battles of their time, deciding how far they are willing to go to protect their family, their heritage, and ultimately, all of our futures.

Phew. Should keep me busy for a while.

Just finished reading Jack Grimwood’s excellent cold war thriller Nightfall Berlin. Look out for a review as part of the blog tour in early May.

In 1986, news that East-West nuclear-arms negotiations are taking place lead many to believe the Cold War may finally be thawing.
For British intelligence officer Major Tom Fox, however, it is business as usual.
Ordered to arrange the smooth repatriation of a defector, Fox is smuggled into East Berlin. But it soon becomes clear that there is more to this than an old man wishing to return home to die – a fact cruelly confirmed when Fox’s mission is fatally compromised.
Trapped in East Berlin, hunted by an army of Stasi agents and wanted for murder by those on both sides of the Wall, Fox must somehow elude capture and get out alive.
But to do so he must discover who sabotaged his mission and why…

And last but not least, I’ve just started reading Doug Johnstone’s Fault Lines, which is out soon from Orenda Books. Another early May blog tour!


In a reimagined contemporary Edinburgh, in which a tectonic fault has opened up to produce a new volcano in the Firth of Forth, and where tremors are an everyday occurrence, volcanologist Surtsey makes a shocking discovery. On a clandestine trip to The Inch – the new volcanic island – to meet Tom, her lover and her boss, she finds his lifeless body. Surtsey’s life quickly spirals into a nightmare when someone makes contact – someone who claims to know what she’s done…

What are you reading this weekend?

The Ice Swimmer – Kjell Ola Dahl

When a dead man is lifted from the freezing waters of Oslo Harbour just before Christmas, Detective Lena Stigersand’s stressful life suddenly becomes even more complicated. Not only is she dealing with a cancer scare, a stalker and an untrustworthy boyfriend, but it seems both a politician and Norway’s security services might be involved in the murder.

With her trusted colleagues, Gunnarstranda and Frølich, at her side, Lena digs deep into the case and finds that it not only goes to the heart of the Norwegian establishment, but it might be rather to close to her personal life for comfort.

Regular readers of this blog might recall that I reviewed Kjell Ola Dahl’s Faithless around this time last year (almost to the day – I should have gone earlier on the blog tour!).

The Ice Swimmer is the sixth book in his Oslo Detective series, again featuring our old friends Gunnarstranda and Frølich. But the case here really belongs to Lena Stigersand. A body is pulled out of the freezing waters of Oslo Harbour in the run-up to Christmas. But was it an accident, or was there something more sinister afoot?

Kjell Ola Dahl has delivered another classic slice of Nordic Noir with The Ice Swimmer. It’s dark and atmospheric, with a real sense of menace building up as the story unfolds. It was great to see Gunnarstranda and Frølich back in action, though they do take a back seat to Lena this time round. It’s her case and her dogged determination to see it through, often pushing close to, if not over, the limits her bosses set. I’d loved to have seen a little more of Frølich, but we can’t have everything!

Don Bartlett is on translation duties again, and the writing is once more punchy, with a brevity and clarity that’s instantly recongisable. Kjell Ola Dahl has a way with short, snappy sentences which took me a while to get into the style and rhythm of (as it did with Faithless), but as with the previous book, once the story really gets going, you’re hooked.

I loved the character of Lena. She’s complex and human and feels very real. I know that might sound like an odd thing to say – aren’t all characters supposed to be real? But I felt that she had something extra, an added depth to her character that I really enjoyed.

The Ice Swimmer is a great police procedural, with an added dash of political intrigue, shady goings-on at an international level but with a real, personal undercurrent. It’s a later book in the Oslo Detectives series, but could easily be read as a standalone.

If you like your Noir of the Nordic variety (and hey, who doesn’t?), this is an excellent addition to the genre. Highly recommended.

The Ice Swimmer by Kjell Ola Dahl is published by Orenda Books in April 2018.
Many thanks to Karen @OrendaBooks for the review copy and @AnneCater for inviting me onto the blog tour.

Hall of Mirrors – guest post by Christopher Fowler

Today I’m delighted to welcome Christopher Fowler to the blog as part of the tour for his new Bryant & May book, Hall of Mirrors.

Without further ado, I shall turn the floor over to Mr Fowler…

ARTHUR BRYANT: ‘These hippies are selfish and irresponsible. I’ll tell you what made our nation the bastion of patrician morality it is today; the ability to be profoundly miserable. It’s one of our greatest strengths, to be ranked beside shutting the boozers at ten thirty and regarding the waterproof mackintosh as an acceptable item of clothing.’
– From ‘Hall Of Mirrors’

In case you haven’t encountered them before, the Bryant & May mysteries are a bit different. Readers often ask me what they’re most similar to, and I’m really hard pushed to think of anything they’re like.

You could say that Arthur Bryant and John May are Golden Age detectives who’ve been left behind in a modern urban world. They head the Peculiar Crimes Unit, London’s oldest specialist police team, a division founded during WWII to investigate cases that could cause national scandal or public unrest. (My father worked in something very similar.) They’ve been there forever but won’t leave – and why should they when they still solve the cases that defeat everyone else?

The technophobic, annoying Bryant and smooth-talking modernist May, together with their glamorous sergeant Janice Longbright, head a team of misfits who I suppose are just as likely to commit crimes as solve them. The books are written chronologically, but I’ve cunningly arranged it so that they can be read out of order (in fact, some volumes benefit from doing so).

The cases take on the different styles of the classic detective stories.
The latest one, ‘Hall of Mirrors’ is, incredibly, the 16th volume featuring my senior detectives. This one, according to Bryant’s deeply unreliable memoirs, is set back in swinging London, in a grand country house called Tavistock Hall. Back then the detectives were young and energetic (they’re always playing silly word games) and are ready to solve a proper country house murder.

The interesting thing about writing flashback cases is getting immersed in the period and writing about the recent past with a fresh eye. I had a lot of fun with the fashions! Although ‘Hall Of Mirrors’ is very mischievous, comedy still requires a moral viewpoint. Humour and tragedy go together very well in crime novels. However, I have to follow a set of rules, one of which is that the serious parts of my plot are taken seriously, while the comedy comes from character.

It helps that my detectives are facing mortality, as it lets me use graveyard humour. I’m very careful to respect victims and honour them over villains. I don’t like books in which women are always the victims, and even when I’m being funny there is a serious intent underpinning the laughter. The mysteries reflect the way we learn to deal with life, and you’ll always find a strong underpinning of reality in the books. There are often arcane details about hidden or secret London that I’ve discovered in old libraries. Many of the weirdest facts I use are absolutely true.

Having said that, I love writing Arthur Bryant most of all, because he’s so mischievous, and is usually described as looking like a disreputable teddy bear. He gets away with being rude to people because he’s everyone’s cheeky old grandfather, and knows that people will miss him when he’s gone.

You can find Christopher Fowler on Twitter- @Peculiar.

Hall of Mirrors was published in hardback by Doubleday on 22nd March 2018.

The year is 1969 and ten guests are about to enjoy a country house at Tavistock Hall. But one
amongst them is harbouring thoughts of murder…
The guests also include the young detectives Arthur Bryant and John May – undercover, in disguise
and tasked with protecting Monty Hatton-Jones, a whistle-blower turning Queen’s evidence in a
massive bribery trial. Luckily, they’ve got a decent chap on the inside who can help them – the one
armed Brigadier, Nigel ‘Fruity’ Metcalf.

The scene is set for what could be the perfect country house murder mystery, except that this particular get-together is nothing like a Golden Age classic. For the good times are, it seems, coming to an end. The house’s owner – a penniless, dope-smoking aristocrat – is intent on selling the estate (complete with its own hippy encampment) to a secretive millionaire, but the weekend has only just started when the millionaire goes missing and murder is on the cards. But army manoeuvres have closed the only access road and without a forensic examiner, Bryant and May can’t solve the case. It’s when a falling gargoyle fells another guest that the two incognito detectives decide to place their future reputations on the line. And in the process discover that in Swinging Britain nothing is quite what it seems…
So gentle reader, you are cordially invited to a weekend in the country. Expect murder, madness and mayhem in the mansion!

Christopher Fowler is the author of more than forty novels (fifteen of which feature the detectives Bryant and May and the Peculiar Crimes Unit) and short story collections.
The recipient of many awards, including the coveted CWA ‘Dagger in the Library’, Chris has also written screenplays, video games, graphic novels, audio plays and two critically accalimed memoirs, Paperboy and Film Freak. His most recent book is The Book of Forgotten Authors, drawn from his ‘Invisible Ink’ columns in the Independent on Sunday. Chris divides his time between London’s King Cross and Barcelona.

Void Black Shadow – Corey J. White


Mars Xi is a living weapon, a genetically-manipulated psychic supersoldier with a body count in the thousands, and all she wanted was to be left alone. People who get involved with her get hurt, whether by MEPHISTO, by her psychic backlash, or by her acid tongue. It’s not smart to get involved with Mars, but that doesn’t stop some people from trying.

The last time MEPHISTO came for Mars they took one of her friends with them. That was a mistake. A force hasn’t been invented that can stop a voidwitch on a rampage, and Mars won’t rest until she’s settled her debts.

This is the second book in Corey J. White’s Voidwitch Saga, the first being the splendid Killing Gravity (a ‘a kick-ass, whip-smart sci-fi short story/novella’). Book 2, Void Black Shadow continues in much the same vein. Mars Xi, genetically engineered psychic voidwitch is on a mission to retrieve one of her friends, and woe betide anyone who gets in her way.

The action is bloody, brutal and relentless. Mars is brilliantly acerbic and pissed off with anyone who gets between her and her target, which turns out to be 90% of the people we meet in this book. So much blood. So much mayhem. So much fun.

The writing style is punchy and taut, with no time wasted. This book is short and to the point (often brutally so – did I mention all the blood?), and unlike some of its contemporaries, doesn’t wallow around waiting for stuff to happen. It’s a gloriously refreshing thing. Devoured in a couple of sittings. Loved it. Bring on book 3

Void Black Shadow by Corey J. White was published in March 2018 by Tor.com. You can find Corey over at his website, coreyjwhite.com or on twitter @cjwhite

I picked up Corey’s first book from a recommendation in Warren Ellis’ excellent email newsletter, Orbital Operations. He mentioned book 2 recently so I dashed off to order it, only to find out that previous me had already done so. I are so smart. 🙂

This week in books – 21-03-2018

This Week in Books is a feature hosted by Lipsy at Lipsyy Lost and Found that allows bloggers to share:

What they’ve recently finished reading
What they are currently reading
What they are planning to read next

(though I spotted it on Jo’s Book Blog – go say hi!)


Last book(s) read:

Everything About You, by Heather Child (Orbit, April 2018)
Freya has a new virtual assistant. It knows what she likes, knows what she wants and knows whose voice she most needs to hear: her missing sister’s.
It adopts her sister’s personality, recreating her through a life lived online. But this virtual version of her knows things it shouldn’t be possible to know.
It’s almost as if the missing girl is still out there somewhere, feeding fresh updates into the cloud. But that’s impossible. Isn’t it?

Really enjoyed this – it’s dark and disturbing in places. If you like Black Mirror, then you’ll love it.

One Way, by SJ Morden (Gollancz, Feb 2018)
ONE WAY opens at the dawn of a new era – one in which we’re ready to colonise Mars. But the contract to build the first ever Martian base has been won by the lowest bidder, so they need to cut a lot of corners. The first thing to go is the automatic construction… the next thing they’ll have to deal with is the eight astronauts they’ll sent up to build it, when there aren’t supposed to be any at all. 

Frank – father, architect, murderer – is recruited for the mission with the promise of a better life, along with seven of his most notorious fellow inmates. As his crew sets to work, the accidents mount up, and Frank begins to suspect they might not be accidents at all. As the list of suspects grows shorter, it’s up to Frank to uncover the terrible truth before it’s too late.

A murder mystery on Mars. Frank is a fantastic, complex character and Mars is a brilliant setting. Recommended.


Currently reading:

Cross Her Heart, by Sarah Pinborough (HarperCollins, May 2018)
Promises only last if you trust each other, but what if one of you is hiding something?
A secret no one could ever guess.
Someone is living a lie.
Is it Lisa?
Maybe it’s her daughter, Ava.
Or could it be her best friend, Marilyn?

I adore Sarah Pinborough’s writing. She has a fantastic ability to draw you into the lives of her characters before pulling the rug out from under your feet, leaving you questioning whether the rug was ever there or if you’ve just imagined it. I’m about 20% of the way through and have my suspicions, but I’ve been here before with her other books and been hugely surprised by the twists and turns of her storytelling.

The Pull of the River, by Matt Gaw (Elliott & Thompson, April 2018)
In The Pull of the River two foolhardy explorers do what we would all love to do: they turn their world upside down and seek adventure on their very own doorstep.
In a handsome, homemade canoe, painted a joyous nautical red the colour of Mae West’s lips, Matt and his friend James delve into a watery landscape that invites us to see the world through new eyes.

Just started this and already have a hankering for a canoe and a long weekend on the river…

I bought Illuminae, by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff on my birthday *last* January, so figured it was about time I got to it. Plus Rob Boffard and Kate from For Winter’s Nights recommended it to me. It’s startlingly good and splendidly… different. It’s “told through a fascinating dossier of hacked documents—including emails, schematics, military files, IMs, medical reports, interviews, and more.”  Weird, but brilliant.

This morning, Kady thought breaking up with Ezra was the hardest thing she’d have to do. This afternoon, her planet was invaded.

The year is 2575, and two rival megacorporations are at war over a planet that’s little more than an ice-covered speck at the edge of the universe. Too bad nobody thought to warn the people living on it. With enemy fire raining down on them, Kady and Ezra—who are barely even talking to each other—are forced to fight their way onto an evacuating fleet, with an enemy warship in hot pursuit.

But their problems are just getting started. A deadly plague has broken out and is mutating, with terrifying results; the fleet’s AI, which should be protecting them, may actually be their enemy; and nobody in charge will say what’s really going on. As Kady hacks into a tangled web of data to find the truth, it’s clear only one person can help her bring it all to light: the ex-boyfriend she swore she’d never speak to again


Next up:

I’m on the blog tour in April for The Ice Swimmer, by Kjell Ola Dahl from Orenda Books. Sounds great!
When a dead man is lifted from the freezing waters of Oslo Harbour just before Christmas, Detective Lena Stigersand’s stressful life suddenly becomes even more complicated. Not only is she dealing with a cancer scare, a stalker and an untrustworthy boyfriend, but it seems both a politician and Norway’s security services might be involved in the murder.
With her trusted colleagues, Gunnarstranda and Frølich, at her side, Lena digs deep into the case and finds that it not only goes to the heart of the Norwegian establishment, but it might be rather to close to her personal life for comfort.


New books:

This is  a bit of a departure from the template, but I thought it’d be interesting to see which books have turned up/been bought this week. As it’s the first one, I’m going to include the books which have arrived in March so far!

  • Rowan & Eris, by Campbell Jeffrys
  • Come and Find Me, by Sarah Hilary
  • How to Survive in the Wild, by Sam Martin & Cristian Casucci
  • The Long Drop, by Denise Mina
  • The Punishment She Deserves, by Elizabeth George
  • The Bishop’s Pawn, by Steve Berry
  • The Pull of the River, by Matt Gaw
  • How It Happened, by Michael Koryta
  • Pandora’s Boy, by Lindsey Davis

That’s me for this week.

What are you reading this week? Picked up any new books?