Nothing Important Happened Today – Will Carver

Nine suicides. One cult. No leader.

Nine people arrive one night on Chelsea Bridge. They’ve never met. But, at the same time, they leap to their deaths. Each of them received a letter in the post that morning, a pre-written suicide note, and a page containing only four words: Nothing important happened today.

That is how they knew they had been chosen to become a part of The People of Choice: a mysterious suicide cult whose members have no knowledge of one another. Thirty-two people on a train witness the event. Two of them will be next. By the morning, People of Choice are appearing around the globe. It becomes a movement. A social-media page that has lain dormant for four years suddenly has thousands of followers. The police are under pressure to find a link between the cult members, to locate a leader that does not seem to exist.

But how do you stop a cult when people do not know they are members?

Nothing Important Happened Today is, in a word, extraordinary.

Another word you might choose would be ‘dark’. And hoo boy, is it dark. I thought that Will Carver’s previous book, Good Samaritans was dark (and it most definitely is), but that’s like a little ray of sunshine on a bright spring morning compared with this, Carver’s latest. It’s like nothing I’ve ever read before. And I read a *lot*.

Trigger warnings – if you hadn’t guessed from the synopsis above, Nothing Important Happened Today deals with suicide. And lots of it. And up close and very visceral in places. Very much not for the faint-hearted.

So, nine people who have never met turn up at the same moment on the same day on the same bridge, and jump to their death. No-one falters. No-one has second thoughts. Yet they all jump as one.

What follows is an absolutely fascinating tale of how they got there, interspersed with perfect miniature portraits of each of the nine, and the others who follow.

It’s Carver’s ability to craft such intimate pictures of their lives is what gives this story such an emotional punch, and it’ll leave you reeling. The pace is breakneck, leaving you absolutely no room to recover. I devoured this in a day.

Good Samaritans showed Carver as an author to watch. Nothing Important Happened Today cements that as an author to watch very very carefully. He’s one of a kind, and part of me is kind of glad. I’m not sure I could handle more than one of him.

Nothing Important Happened Today by Will Carver is published by Orenda Books in November 2019

Many thanks to Karen Sullivan at Orenda Books for the advance copy of Will Carver’s book for review.

The Black Hawks – David Wragg

Delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for David Wragg’s The Black Hawks. More about the book later – first, a guest post!


Where did the Black Hawks come from?

Or “Whence came the Black Hawks?” if you like your titles pithy but archaic

Minor spoilers ahead, but if you’ve already read the blurb there shouldn’t be anything too destabilising

History

History was one of my favourite subjects at school. It’s no secret that you don’t have to look far with many works of fantasy to see their historical inspirations (cough Wars of the Roses cough), and I’m no great exception to the rule – no matter what horrors you can imagine, there’s always some historical bastard who got there first, often with considerably more enthusiasm. The period that most fascinated me was the Italian Wars of the 15th and 16th Centuries, featuring treachery, intrigue, mercenary companies and wars by proxy, shocking assassinations and an overmighty church intent on carving out its own territorial legacy. Astute readers may be able to draw some parallels in the book.

Classic Fantasy

I grew up immersed in Classic Quest Fantasy, from the Hobbit onwards, and internalised much of what I read as How Things Should Be Done. There should always be a journey, and a rag-tag band coming together to save the day from a terrible threat. Against that, however, we must balance…

My spiteful nature

I’m a contrary sod, and have an alarming tendency to do the opposite of what’s expected of me, simply because. The Black Hawks is the first of a two-part story (the Articles of Faith series) – a bilogy, not a trilogy, as my agent has begged me to stop calling it. I planned it as two instead of three just to be different. Many of the book’s events and characters are likewise a reaction to my much-loved fantasy tropes, starting with…

The also-rans

Fantasy has a tendency to put heroes front and centre (especially Heroic Fantasy, for some reason), from common-or-garden chosen ones to the Greatest Warrior Who Ever Lived to the Last Scion of the Bloodline and so forth. I thought it would be satisfying to focus more on those at the sharp end, who are just trying to scrape a living together while a fantasy plot-line rages on in the background. What might happen, for example, if you or I found ourselves caught up in the whirlwind of your standard fantastical intrigue?

Well, we’d almost certainly die immediately, so I had to take a few liberties with the story.

Personal experience

It’s not a huge spoiler to say Chel, the main character in the book, gets hurt.

A lot.

As well as a genre fiction, I’ve enjoyed a bounty of chronic pain in various forms since my teens. I thought it might be nice to share some of that day-to-day unpleasantness with my protagonist.

(Hell is) Other people

I’m old enough to have had a lot of jobs and worked on many projects, and in every one of them it’s been the people alongside me who have made or wrecked the experience. It’s possible to perform horrible, mindless drudgery and still look forward to a day of glorious chat with brilliant colleagues; conversely, a shower of dreadful bastards can swiftly torpedo the dreamiest posting. Given the chance, I’d assemble my own mercenary crew in a heartbeat. But you don’t often get to pick your colleagues – and nor do my characters.

This modern world

The book, and its sequel, contain a few more modern parallels than I’d first intended. Some will be obvious, some more subtle, but it shows we can’t help being influenced by our creative climate. Black Hawks 1 was first drafted in 2015 in relative peace (then revised many times since), but book 2 was written in the chaos of 2016. You can see what you make of it next year.

The Black Hawks are unleashed on 3rd October.

The Black Hawks by David Wragg is published by HarperVoyager. Many thanks to David Wragg for the guest post, and to the publisher for the copy of David’s book for review. You can find David Wragg on twitter at @itsdavewragg, or at his website https://www.davewragg.com/

Life as a knight is not what Vedren Chel imagined. Bound by oath to a dead-end job in the service of a lazy step-uncle, Chel no longer dreams of glory – he dreams of going home.

When invaders throw the kingdom into turmoil, Chel finds opportunity in the chaos: if he escorts a stranded prince to safety, Chel will be released from his oath.

All he has to do is drag the brat from one side of the country to the other, through war and wilderness, chased all the way by ruthless assassins.

With killers on your trail, you need killers watching your back. You need the Black Hawk Company – mercenaries, fighters without equal, a squabbling, scrapping pack of rogues. Prepare to join the Black Hawks.

Darkdawn – Jay Kristoff

The greatest games in Godsgrave’s history have ended with the most audacious murders in the history of the Itreyan Republic.

Mia Corvere, gladiatii, escaped slave and infamous assassin, is on the run. Pursued by Blades of the Red Church and soldiers of the Luminatii legion, she may never escape the City of Bridges and Bones alive. Her mentor Mercurio is now in the clutches of her enemies. Her own family wishes her dead. And her nemesis, Consul Julius Scaeva, stands but a breath from total dominance over the Republic.

But beneath the city, a dark secret awaits. Together with her lover Ashlinn, brother Jonnen and a mysterious benefactor returned from beyond the veil of death, she must undertake a perilous journey across the Republic, seeking the final answer to the riddle of her life. Truedark approaches. Night is falling on the Republic for perhaps the final time.

Can Mia survive in a world where even daylight must die?

Holy[1] fuck[2]. Darkdawn[3]: magnificent[4]!


[1] It’s a story about gods. The gods of day and night, and what happens when they fall out. And boy, do they fall out.

[2] There is a *lot* of smut. No, I’m not complaining either.

[3] Book 3 of the Nevernight Chronicles. It has come to my attention recently that some of you (mentioning no names) haven’t read Nevernight yet. I have been talking about this book FOR EVER. I will pimp it to you at the drop of a hat. I will pimp it to a hat, given half a chance that it might actually read it. I recommended it to a friend at work last week when he spotted Darkdawn on my desk, and not only did he read it, he went out and bought Godsgrave *and* he’s nearly finished Darkdawn.

[4] Can you write a review in a footnote?[5]

[5] I mean, what sort of pretentious arse would do that, gentlefriends?[6]

[6] Let’s give it a go, shall we?

Darkdawn. Hooyah. It’s the final chapter in our murderous little Mia’s story. And no, that’s not a spoiler. Jay Kristoff did warn us, all the way back in Nevernight, page one.

This is very much the end. But what a glorious end it is. It’ll make you laugh, it’ll make you cry, it’ll make you put the book down and glare it at. It is a just and right finale to my favourite trilogy, and my favourite assassin/gladiati/pirate.

Oh yes. There are pirates this time round. Cloud Corleone, with his four bastard smile, is just a glorious, glorious character. And there’s a pirate king too.

Look, gentlefriend. You’re one of two sorts of people.

One – you’ve read Nevernight and Godsgrave, in which case you’ve almost certainly bought a copy of Darkdawn and read it already. Nothing I say, and no amount of footnotes will make the slightest difference to you.

Or two – you’ve not read Nevernight (or Godsgrave), in which case you need to rectify that IMMEDIATELY, at which point you’ll be the first sort of person, in which case this review will mean nothing to you, etc etc.

Go, read the books. Laugh, cry, blush at the smutty bits, and when you’re done, we can talk.

Talk about the stabby bits, the funny bits, the pirates and gladiators and assassins and cats made of shadows, of the mountain of murderers, the gods, everything.

Then we’ll go back to the books and read all about a girl called Mia. For we love her so very very much.

Thank you, Jay Kristoff.

PS – if anyone has a spare ARC of Darkdawn to complete my collection, I will love you forever. I might even send you a cake.

Sleep – M.K. Boers

A marriage made in heaven, a murder made in hell.
Why kill the man you love?
Lizzy was struggling, everyone knew that.
He shouldn’t have done those things.
He shouldn’t have pushed her so hard.
And now, her children, her marriage, her hope – gone.
It was all her fault, she knew that, but was there a chance of redemption?
Lizzy Dyson’s on trial for her life. She knows she must pay for what she did, even if it wasn’t planned, but will the jury believe her?

I’m delighted to be taking part in the blogtour for M.K. Boers’ Sleep. I’ve got a Q&A with the author for you today.

What was the inspiration behind Lizzy’s story?

I wanted to explore what drives a woman to murder. Having experienced anger & frustration in my own relationships, I wanted to explore what could possibly push someone that far, especially someone who still loved their spouse so much. For women it can be hard juggling so much: work and running a home, and then if they choose to have children it’s even more. If they start to feel unsupported by their partner it can really tip the balance. I wanted the reader to understand and even feel sympathy for her.

Why did you use the topic of miscarriages as one of the factors?

Having children isn’t always that straightforward, although many men and women think it is. A large majority of women suffer miscarriages but you only find this out when you experience one yourself, as I did between my two children. Mine was early on but it was still an emotional ride, but I have many friends over the years who have had multiple losses & some quite late on. It can destroy a person and a marriage. It’s a subject that isn’t talked about very often, if at all. And although I only touched on it lightly with Tony’s character, it affects men too. I considered his affair to be, in some ways, his way of dealing with that loss and what was happening to his wife.

Lizzy clearly suffered a breakdown; did you find that difficult to write?

I didn’t, it sort of wrote itself. From the opening it is clear that Lizzy has had a break from reality and lost it completely. I have spent time in therapy myself, both in my early 20s and early 40s due to a traumatic childhood, so I understand the process of analysing and taking yourself apart and putting yourself back together. I knew what a therapist would say or do, and how they would direct her to help her gain clarity. In some ways they were the easiest parts of the book for me.

This is your first psychological thriller, do you plan to write more?

I don’t tend to write within genre lines. I didn’t really know what this book was until another writer friend read it and defined it. I always tend towards darker stories, even horror, particularly in terms of people’s minds – my flash collection Mostly Dark contains many of them. But I also like exploring science fiction and am currently working on a sequel to my novella The Game (found in my short story collection, Slipping Through). In this story a the dark villain is playing mind games with his victims forcing them to chase him through different parallels universes in attempts to get to their own time. What can I say, a sick mind intrigues me.

And finally, who was the most difficult character to write in Sleep & why?

Tony was actually quite hard because I liked him. He had a good heart and really loved Lizzy. I found it hard to turn him into a bad guy. For a while I wasn’t sure he was coming across bad enough until my early readers expressed a hatred of him. I think maybe because Lizzy is the main point of view and she still loved him that it was hard for me as the writer not to as well.

(Mostly Dark & Slipping Through are written under pen name Miranda Kate)

You can get a copy of Sleep, by M. K. Boers here.

You can find out more on her website, or Twitter @PurpleQueenNL

Miranda Kate spent her early childhood in Surrey, in the south of England, and her teens moving round the UK, but currently resides in the Netherlands. Miranda has been featured in several Flash Fiction anthologies, and has published two collections, one of dark flash-fiction tales, called Mostly Dark, and another of science-fiction stories, called Slipping Through. The latter containing a short novella, for which a sequel is forthcoming.

The Puppet Show – M.W. Craven

A serial killer is burning people alive in the Lake District’s prehistoric stone circles. He leaves no clues and the police are helpless.

When his name is found carved into the charred remains of the third victim, disgraced detective Washington Poe is brought back from suspension and into an investigation he wants no part of.

Reluctantly partnered with the brilliant but socially awkward civilian analyst, Tilly Bradshaw, the mismatched pair uncover a trail that only he is meant to see. The elusive killer has a plan and for some reason Poe is part of it.

As the body count rises, Poe discovers he has far more invested in the case than he could have possibly imagined. And in a shocking finale that will shatter everything he’s ever believed about himself, Poe will learn that there are things far worse than being burned alive…

I bought The Puppet Show following a load of my bookblogger friends raving about it. Serial killer, dysfunctional detective pairing, sounds right up my alleyway.

They were right. I stayed up far too late one night on holiday powering through this book more or less in a single sitting (if you ignore the break to go get some food). A proper page-turner, this one!

Washington Poe (and what a great name *that* is) is summoned back from suspension to investigate a murder in his patch of Cumbria. The victim, as with the first two, has been burned alive. But this one has something carved into his chest. Carved when the victim was very much alive.

Loved this from the start – the unlikely but brilliant pairing of Poe and Tilly really made this story shine for me. Along with the Cumbrian setting which Craven depicts so well, you can really feel the sense of place in the mist-shrouded hillsides.

The Puppet Show is a strong police procedural, with all that entails – plenty of suspects (and victims), and plenty of following the trail of breadcrumbs, toasted as they may be by the Immolation Man.

I particularly loved Tilly – ace analyst, genius at computers, data, stats and gaming. Socially awkward at first, it’s her growing relationship with Poe as he takes her under his wing and starts to shine that lifts this from your regular buddy cop pairing.

I’m looking forward to the further adventures of Poe and Bradshaw, and luckily book 2, Black Summer, is out already! There are some perks to being late to the party.

The Puppet Show by M.W. Craven is published by Constable, and is out now.

Violet – SJI Holliday

Carrie’s best friend has an accident and can no longer make the round-the-world trip they’d planned together, so Carrie decides to go it alone.

Violet is also travelling alone, after splitting up with her boyfriend in Thailand. She is also desperate for a ticket on the Trans-Siberian Express, but there is nothing available.

When the two women meet in a Beijing Hotel, Carrie makes the impulsive decision to invite Violet to take her best friend’s place.

Thrown together in a strange country, and the cramped cabin of the train, the women soon form a bond. But as the journey continues, through Mongolia and into Russia, things start to unravel – because one of these women is not who she claims to be…

Carrie and Violet set off on a journey on the Trans-Siberian Express. Strangers one day, travelling (and drinking) companions the next. But are either of them who the other thinks they are?

Let’s see:

  • Unreliable narrator? Check.
  • Psychological mystery? Check.
  • Glorious setting? Check.
  • Mysterious, murderous shenanigans? Check.

Absolutely loved this one, and sped through it in a single sitting. SJI Holliday’s previous book, The Lingering showed that she’s a dab hand at the old psychological thriller, and Violet is no exception.

It’s one of those books where you just know something Really Very Bad is going to happen, and Holliday seems to revel in dangling that Very Bad thing juuust in front of your nose, so tantalisingly close so you can almost touch it, then BAM, out of left field the actual Very Very Bad Thing just takes you out and leaves you glaring at the page for a moment before diving back in.

You may never speak to a stranger on a train ever again.

Hugely enjoyable, and highly recommended.

And can we just take a moment to bask in the glory that is the cover of the book? Sterling work!

Violet, by SJI Holliday is published by Orenda Books in September 2019 in ebook, and November in paperback. Many thanks (as ever) to Karen @OrendaBooks for the review copy.

The Bone Ships – RJ Barker

Two nations at war. A prize beyond compare.

For generations, the Hundred Isles have built their ships from the bones of ancient dragons to fight an endless war.

The dragons disappeared, but the battles for supremacy persisted.

Now the first dragon in centuries has been spotted in far-off waters, and both sides see a chance to shift the balance of power in their favour. Because whoever catches it will win not only glory, but the war.

RJ Barker, author of the wonderful Wounded Kingdom trilogy is back. This time we’re taking to the high seas, ships made from the bones of giant sea dragons and a more than generous helping of adventure and hijinks.

Now, I must confess that I’ve not read many ship-based books. Barker clearly has, and his love of them just shines through every page. After a bit of a slow start where we’re introduced to the world and characters, the adventure really kicks in and it’s full speed ahead.

And what a world it is – shipwives and deckchilder, arkeesian sea monsters and ships made from their bones. Fleet ships and Black Ships of the dead. There’s an awful lot going on in the first quarter of this book in setting all of this up, and introducing us to our main characters – Joron Twiner, former ship’s captain, sorry, Shipwife of the Tide’s Child and Lucky Meas who takes his place (with some force) and molds Joron’s rag-tag crew into one worthy of the name.

I struggled a little with the opening of The Bone Ships, information-heavy as it is. But knowing Barker’s skill at weaving a cracking story I pressed on and was richly rewarded with a grand old adventure. As I said earlier, he has a clear love of this setting, and it really shows through. The world he’s created here is so utterly different from The Wounded Kingdom, yet just as rich with detail.

He’s also got a gift for character. Meas and Twiner are both brilliant, one the supremely confident, capable shipwife, the other initially a no-hoper who learns that he’s more than he thinks possible.

The Bone Ships is the first of The Tide Child trilogy, and I’m intrigued to see where RJ Barker takes us next.

The Bone Ships by RJ Barker is published by Orbit Books and is out in September 2019.
Many thanks to Nazia Khatun and Orbit Books for the advance copy to review.