Burned and Broken – Mark Hardie

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The charred body of an enigmatic policeman – currently the subject of an internal investigation – is found in the burnt-out shell of his car on the Southend sea front.

Meanwhile, a vulnerable young woman, fresh out of the care system, is trying to discover the truth behind the sudden death of her best friend.

As DS Frank Pearson and DC Catherine Russell from the Essex Police Major Investigation Team are brought in to solve the mystery of their colleague’s death, dark, dangerous secrets begin to surface. Can they solve both cases, before it’s too late?

An interesting one, this. It starts with the death of a policeman, then jumps back in time four days, leaving us with the grim knowledge of things to come. It’s a cracking opening scene. Indeed for me the strongest parts of the story were the start and end, with the middle just starting to meander a little before the plot takes hold again and delivered a pretty satisfying conclusion. The story does like to play around in its chronology too – you need to be paying close attention not only to who said or did what to who but also when!

There’s a nice subplot weaving through the book about Donna, a young girl who’s come from the care system and her friend Malc. A pair of intriguing characters, with plenty of depth and, of course, a few secrets. At times I found myself more interested in what they were up to than the central investigation into the body.

I liked Russell and Pearson as a duo. Both interesting in their own ways, and I was pleased to see that this is the first in a series featuring them. Keen to see what Mark Hardie does next. If there was any criticism to be had, it could have done with more of a sense of place – the story could have been set in any seaside town in the south of England. Regular readers of this blog will know that I do love a story which makes you *feel* the place the story inhabits, and for me, there wasn’t enough of that here. It’s a minor niggle though.

That said, Burned & Broken is a solid police procedural and an entertaining read. Worth checking out if that’s your sort of thing.

You can find Mark on twitter @MarkHardieCrime.

Burned and Broken is published by Little, Brown @LittleBrownUK and is out now in ebook, paperback on 4th May 2017.

Plenty more on the blog tour today – go check some of my fellow bloggers out!

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Behind Her Eyes – Sarah Pinborough

Today on the blog I’ve got an extract from Sarah Pinborough’s masterful thriller, Behind Her Eyes.
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Much acclaimed all over social media towards the end of 2016, Behind Her Eyes is a beautifully written thriller which gradually winds you in, then smacks you about the chops with one of the most original and surprising endings I’ve ever read. The hashtag on twitter is #WTFthatending – entirely appropriate!

Without further ado, here’s a snippet from the chapter four.

~~~~~

LOUISE

No names, okay? No jobs. No dull life talk. Let’s talk about real
things.

‘You really said that?’
‘Yes. Well, no,’ I say. ‘He did.’
My face burns. It sounded romantic at four thirty in the afternoon two days ago with the first illicit afternoon Negroni, but now it’s like something from a cheap tragi-romcom. Thirty-four-year-old woman walks into a bar and is sweettalked by the man of her dreams who turns out to be her new boss. Oh God, I want to die from the awfulness of it all. What a mess.
‘Of course he did.’ Sophie laughs and immediately tries to stop herself. ‘No dull life talk. Like, oh, I don’t know, the small fact I’m married.’ She sees my face. ‘Sorry. I know it’s not technically funny, but it sort of is. And I know you’re out of practice with the whole men thing, but how could you not have known from that he was married? The new boss bit I’ll let you off with. That is simply bloody bad luck.’
‘It’s really not funny,’ I say, but I smile. ‘Anyway, married men are your forte, not mine.’
‘True.’
I knew Sophie would make me feel better. We are funny together. We laugh. She’s an actress by trade – although we never discuss how she hasn’t worked outside of two TV corpses in years – and, despite her affairs, has been married to a music exec for ever. We met at our NCT classes, and although our lives are very different, we bonded. Seven years on and we’re still drinking wine.
‘But now you’re like me,’ she says, with a cheery wink. ‘Sleeping with a married man. I feel less bad about myself already.’
‘I didn’t sleep with him. And I didn’t know he was married.’
That last part isn’t quite true. By the end of the night, I’d had a pretty good idea. The urgent press of his body against mine as we kissed, our heads spinning from gin. The sudden break away. The guilt in his eyes. The apology. I can’t do this. All the tells were there.
‘Okay, Snow White. I’m just excited that you nearly got laid. How long’s it been now?’
‘I really don’t want to think about that. Depressing me further won’t help with my current predicament,’ I say, before drinking more of my wine. I need another cigarette. Adam is tucked up and fast asleep and won’t move until breakfast and school. I can relax. He doesn’t have nightmares. He doesn’t sleepwalk. Thank God for small mercies.
‘And this is all Michaela’s fault anyway,’ I continue. ‘If she’d cancelled before I got there, none of this would have happened.’
Sophie’s got a point though. It’s been a long time since I’ve even flirted with a man, let alone got drunk and kissed one. Her life is different. Always surrounded by new and interesting people. Creative types who live more freely, drink until late, and live like teenagers. Being a single mum in London eking out a living as a psychiatrist’s part-time secretary doesn’t exactly give me a huge number of opportunities to throw caution to the wind and go out every night in the hope of meeting anyone, let alone ‘Mr Right’, and I can’t face Tinder or Match or any of those other sites. I’ve kind of got used to being on my own. Putting all that on hold for a while. A while that is turning into an inadvertent lifestyle choice.

~~~~

Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough is out now, published by HarperFiction. You can find Sarah Pinborough on twitter @sarahpinborough.

Sarah Pinborough

The day I found out I had a book deal – guest post by TM Logan

Today I’d like to welcome TM Logan, author of Lies, to the blog to talk about the day he found out that he’d got a book deal.

Over to you Tim…

The day I found out I had a book deal
It was April Fool’s Day. A Friday afternoon. I was at work, about to go into a meeting, when I saw an email from my agent pop up on my phone. The subject line was simply ‘Hello’.
I had a little ‘What if…?’ moment, and made a mental note to check the email later.
An hour later I came out of my meeting and caught up on some other work issues. I picked up my mobile, looked at the subject line of the message from my agent, put the phone down again. Didn’t open the email.
I realise this sounds a bit weird. I guess most people would have read the email straight away. To be honest, I was trying not to think too much about LIES at this point: the manuscript had gone out some weeks earlier and so far I’d heard nothing back. The doubt was starting to creep back in – a previous book of mine had gone out to publishers in 2013, had lots of positive feedback but didn’t get picked up. Maybe LIES was destined to go the same way.
Since that previous experience I had chosen my moments when looking at emails from my agent, so I could prepare myself for whatever news she had. Depending on the update, I reckoned I’d either be banging my head on the desk or dancing around the office – but at this point no-one at work had any idea that I had written a book, and I wanted to keep it under wraps until I had something concrete to tell them.
Driving home, I tried to think about Playoff Weekend instead. This is the last big event in the UK ice hockey calendar. My team – the Nottingham Panthers – had qualified for the first time in three years and I was looking forward to a weekend of games to round off the season.
Basically, I was trying not to think about the book.
I didn’t actually sit down to look at the message until 5.30pm, several hours after it had landed. I took my laptop into the kitchen and opened the email.
Hi Tim,
I have some lovely news which I wanted to tell you on the phone but I didn’t want to interrupt your work day unceremoniously! So since the day’s drawing to a close and I want you to have this news before the weekend… We have two offers for LIES!
I read on, not really believing it, feeling my heart banging in my chest. One of the offers was a two-book deal with Bonnier, who wanted to publish LIES on their Twenty7 imprint.
The email continued.
They said about LIES: “…It’s hard to put into words how refreshing it was to read this, amidst a sea of perfectly competent but ever-more-unexciting psychological thrillers. I think Tim’s writing style is incredibly accomplished for a first novel, and had me gripped from the word go – and it was interesting to see that as I circulated the manuscript to more and more people internally, in each case they came to me within minutes of beginning the manuscript to say they were already hooked…”
I read it all, then read it again, not really believing it. Said something unprintable. The stupid part of my brain was saying: April Fool? (surely it was too late in the day…)
Still not really believing it, I told my kids. They both came over and hugged me and we all sat down, in a state of collective shock. I had been waiting for this moment for such a long time, but now it was here I didn’t know quite what to do. At this point, my wife walked in from work to find the three of us sitting in the kitchen, stunned into silence. She assumed the worst.
‘What’s up?’ she said, looking at my expression. ‘Is everything alright? Are you OK? What’s happened?’
‘I got a book deal,’ I said, finally managing a smile.
It wasn’t an April Fool. But it didn’t feel real at the time, and there are moments when it still doesn’t now, if I’m honest…

You can find TM Logan over on twitter @TMLoganAuthor.

Lies is published by Bonnier Zaffre/twenty7 and is available in ebook now.

lies tm-logan

 

When Joe Lynch stumbles across his wife driving into a hotel car park while she’s supposed to be at work, he’s intrigued enough to follow her in.

And when he witnesses her in an angry altercation with family friend Ben, he knows he ought to intervene.

But just as the confrontation between the two men turns violent, and Ben is knocked unconscious, Joe’s young son has an asthma attack – and Joe must flee in order to help him.

When he returns, desperate to make sure Ben is OK, Joe is horrified to find that Ben has disappeared.

And that’s when Joe receives the first message…

Warren the 13th on Friday the 13th

Ah, Friday the 13th. Unlucky for some, or so they say. Me? I’m quite happy with *this* Friday the 13th because it’s my birthday! Not so lucky for Warren the 13th though…

We first meet Warren in The All-seeing Eye…
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Meet Warren the 13th. He’s the lone bellhop, valet, groundskeeper, and errand boy of his family’s ancient hotel. It’s a strange, shadowy mansion full of crooked corridors and mysterious riddles—and it just might be home to a magical treasure known as the All-Seeing Eye. But if Warren is going to find the hidden treasure, he’ll need to solve several other mysteries first: What is the strange creature lurking in the hotel boiler room? Who is the ghostly girl creeping around the garden’s hedge maze? And why is the hotel’s only guest covered in bandages?

then again in book 2, The Whispering Woods…
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This sequel to Warren the 13th and the All-Seeing Eye begins soon after the first book’s conclusion. Twelve-year-old Warren has learned that his beloved hotel can walk, and now it’s ferrying guests around the countryside, transporting tourists to strange and foreign destinations. But when an unexpected detour brings everyone into the dark and sinister Malwoods, Warren finds himself separated from his hotel and his friends—and racing after them on foot through a forest teeming with witches, snakes, talking trees, and mind-boggling riddles.

I *loved* these two books. They’re aimed at middle grade, 8-12 year olds and are quirky, charming, with some gorgeously gothic illustrations, reminscent of Edward Gorey or Tim Burton. The stories bounce along and are great fun.

You can read a short story featuring our hero in this downloadable activity booklet, along with puzzles and a recipe for Chef Bunion’s Sugar Cookies. Enjoy!

Both Warren the 13th books are available now and are published by Quirk Books. Many thanks to Jamie for the sneak peek!

The reality behind the fiction – guest post by CJ Carver

I’ve had CJ Carver as a guest on the blog before and I’m delighted to welcome her back for a second appearance. CJ has a new book, the follow-up to her fantastic Spare Me The Truth. It’s called Tell Me a Lie – more of that later.

First, CJ is here to talk about the reality behind the fiction and how the culture of a country influences the story.

Ready? Sitting comfortably, with a large mug of your beverage of choice? Of course you are. Over to CJ…

For a thriller writer, Russia has everything you could possibly want.  Spies, oligarchs, corrupt officials, gulags, the FSB and vodka.  Lots of vodka.  Which is why, when my character Jay McCaulay in Back with Vengeance awakes in a Moscow hotel with no idea how she got there, she initially blames her memory loss on the vodka.

I’m fascinated by Russia.  I visited Moscow during its dissolution in the early nineties.  I met with factory workers in Samara and farmers in Bishkek.  I learned that the people chain smoke, that they’re flashy and love their bling.  They’re deep thinkers and blunt to the point of rudeness, but more interestingly, they’re passionate and fiercely loyal to their country.  And so, the beautiful Ekaterina Datsik was born in Tell Me a Lie.  She’s a combination of all the Russians I met, good and bad, generous and mean, which makes her the perfect enigmatic foil against Dan Forrester’s quest for the truth.

The plot for Tell Me a Lie is driven by Russia’s culture.  The peoples need for a great leader even if he (never a she) imprisons, exiles or executes millions of people without due process.  Look at President Putin.  He’s a ruthless, cold-blooded, corrupt ex-KBG officer but the majority of Russian’s revere him for being a “strong man” thanks to being brainwashed by the media.

I always play the “what if?” game when plotting a new book.  And with Tell Mea Lie I wondered: what if the people found out about Putin’s media manipulation?  His siphoning off billions into his and his cronies’ accounts in the Cayman Islands?  Would they rise up against the government officials like they did against the Tsars and tear down their dachas, kill them?

As I said, Russia is fertile ground for a thriller writer.

And so is Australia.

The land down under doesn’t just have sharks, deadly snakes and spiders, it has a dark and bloody history of their treatment of Aborigines, where over 100,000 children were taken from their families in the 1950s in an effort to try and “breed them white”.

I didn’t set out to write about what is now called the stolen generation, but when my protagonist India Kane in Blood Junction starts looking for her roots, this ugly history begins to make itself known through an Aboriginal policeman who befriends her.  I used it as a sub-plot, which enriches the story and hopefully informs as well as entertains.

Australian culture is perceived to be barbecues on the beach, but there’s a nasty underbelly under all that golden sand.  There’s political corruption, xenophobia and misogyny, all good fodder for novelists, but this is counterbalanced by the Aussies immense generosity, forged from surviving the outback perhaps, or even their convict history.

The culture of a nation isn’t just defined by the social behavior of its people, but by its arts and psychology, and its history, and when I delve into each, a plethora of plots and sub-plots appear until I’m clutching my head wondering which to choose.

Thanks CJ.

Tell Me A Lie by CJ Carver is published by Zaffre on 12th January 2017 in paperback and eBook. I loved Spare Me The Truth, so can’t wait to read this one! You can follow CJ Carver on twitter @C_J_Carver

tell-me-a-lie

A family in England is massacred, the father left holding the shotgun.
PC Lucy Davies is convinced he’s innocent
A sleeper agent in Moscow requests an urgent meeting with Dan Forrester, referencing their shared past.
His amnesia means he has no idea who he can trust.

An aging oligarch in Siberia gathers his henchmen to discuss an English accountant.
It’s Dan’s wife
From acclaimed and award-winning author CJ Carver, this is the next gripping international thriller in her brilliant Dan Forrester series.

The Dry – Jane Harper

The Dry - Jane Harper

I just can’t understand how someone like him could do something like that.

Amid the worst drought to ravage Australia in a century, it hasn’t rained in small country town Kiewarra for two years. Tensions in the community become unbearable when three members of the Hadler family are brutally murdered. Everyone things Luke Hadler, who committed suicide after slaughtering his wife and six-year-old son, is guilty.

Policeman Aaron Falk returns to the town of his youth for the funeral of his childhood best friend, and is unwillingly drawn into the investigation. As questions mount and suspicion spreads through the town, Falk is forced to confront the community that rejected him twenty years earlier. Because Falk and Luke Hadler shared a secret, one which Luke’s death threatens to unearth. And as Falk probes deeper into the killings, secrets from his past and why he left home bubble to the surface as he questions the truth of his friend’s crime.

First book read of 2017 and it’s a corker. The Dry is set in the town of Kiewarra, a small farming community which hasn’t seen rain for two years. Aaron Falk is back in town for 18 hours to attend the funeral of his friend Luke, but soon gets embroiled in the investigation. After all, he and Luke grew up together and some secrets shouldn’t ever come to light…

The Dry is a gritty, superbly atmospheric crime noir where the heat and tension in the small tight-knit community practically ooze off the page and the pages demand to be turned. Jane Harper weaves a net of intrigue packed with twists and turns, secrets and lies more than the odd red herring along the way. There’s a deft sleight of hand going on as the plot unfolds leaving you thinking that you’ve finally figured it out, only for the cards to be turned over one by one and, of course, the lady has vanished.

The story reveals itself through the current day investigation by Falk and local cop Raco into the murders, but also via a series of flashbacks to Falk’s younger days growing up in the town with his best friend Luke. It’s neatly done and each time we jump back in time, something new is revealed which alters our perception on events both past and present.

All the more spectacular for being a debut, The Dry should be quite firmly on your list of books to read in 2017. I will be very surprised if it doesn’t grace my books of the year list come December.

You can find Jane Harper on twitter @janeharperautho, or at her website. The Dry is published by Little, Brown on 12th January 2017.

Many thanks to Grace at Little, Brown for the review copy of this book.

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Deep Down Dead – extract and GIVEAWAY

Delighted to be part of the blog tour for Steph Broadribb’s fantastic thriller, Deep Down Dead.

DEED DOWN DEAD BF AW.indd

 

I’ve reviewed it already here and it made my list of books of the year for 2016. It really is a fantastic read.

Today I’ve got an extract from the book for you, and also a very special giveaway, courtesy of Karen at Orenda Books.

Prologue

Today

I open my eyes and the first thing I see are the cuffs. Flexing my wrists, I test their weight and try to ignore the dull ache in my right hand
where the gash across my skin has dried crusty brown. The bruising on my forearms has turned a deep purple. From the way my ribs feel, I figure they must look the same. I keep my breathing shallow; seems it hurts a little less that way. I look up.
He’s sitting opposite me, arms folded, legs stretched out beneath the table. Waiting. In this windowless box it’s impossible to tell how much time has passed. Still, I can’t look at him, not yet, so I focus just below his eyes, where the dark shadows lie. My heart’s racing, a voice in my head screams, run, just run. I want to, I surely do, but I can’t. For all that’s gone down, someone has to pay. It’s time for me to pony up.
‘You lookin’ at me now? Good. So answer the question.’
Same Kentucky accent, but he’s not at all how I’d imagined. Guess that’s the way it goes when your only contact has been by cell. I force myself to meet his gaze, swallow down the nausea, try not to let fear distort my voice. ‘Can’t believe all you hear.’
‘Tell me why.’
Now the moment’s come, I don’t know if I can. Was he in on it? Should I trust him? Sure, he looks the part. He’s wearing the uniform black suit, smart and efficient, shades hooked inside the breast pocket. He’s a little older than I’d imagined, nearer fifty than forty, and wears his hair on the long side, slicked back to keep it tamed. He runs his hand through it, smoothing the strands into place. I wonder if he’s nervous. I sure as hell am.
His cold stare says he figures that I’ll talk eventually. All he need do is wait, because time’s almost up for me. Every second I baulk, the people I love get dragged further from me. So we both know I have to give it up on his promise, tell him enough to end this, to stop all the talk of death row. But there’s an order to these things, and we both know that too.
He puts a plastic beaker on the desk, pushes it from his side to mine. Inside there’s a red liquid, two shades paler than blood. ‘Drink.
Medical said you’re dehydrated.’
They’re right. My mouth’s drier than gator hide in August. Can’t remember the last time I drank or ate properly. Shit like that hasn’t figured much these past few days. The drink looks real tempting, but I need something from him first. This situation, it’s all about power. If I do something for him, the balance swings over to his side, but if he does something for me, I get it a little more on mine.
I glance down at the cuffs. Look back at him. Wait.
He takes the hint. Leans across the table with the keys in his left hand, ready. As he moves, I catch the scent of his cologne – lemon, clean and sharp. Hope he’s that way too. I have to trust him; we’re all out of time to do anything else.
I push my hands over the wooden veneer towards him, palms up. The torn muscle in my shoulder feels like it’s on fire. I don’t let it show; bite back the pain. He uncuffs me, slips the bracelets and key into his jacket pocket. Eases back in his chair. Watching, again.
That’s first base, right there.
So I drink. Show willing. Know I need the fluids, can’t risk the dehydration muddling my mind, confusing the story. Have to tell it right. The liquid’s raspberry-flavoured water. It’s sweet, too sweet, and stings the corner of my mouth where I’ve taken one too many punches. I grimace at the taste. ‘So how does this work?’
He stares right back at me. ‘Tell me everything.’
I jerk back, spooked. Try not to wince at the spur-sharp pain in my side. He’s moving way too fast. You can’t jump from first base to fourth, it ain’t polite and I can’t allow it.
The pain doesn’t fade. Nausea rises real fast and bile hits the back of my throat. I cough. Makes my bruised ribs hurt like a bitch. I bite my lip and press my arm against my side. Show no weakness. ‘I have to get out of here, take my daughter home.’
He shakes his head. Leans forward, elbows on the table, face level with mine. ‘Not going to happen. This situation? It’s real serious. You’re in no kind of position to be making demands.’
He’s testing me. Wants to know how desperate I am. The answer? Real desperate, but I know way better than to let that show. This game here is all about timing. What I say, and whether he believes me, that’ll be the difference between life and death. ‘So what then?’
He stares at me, unblinking. Leans closer. ‘Tell me the real story. Multiple homicide an’ the rest that’s gone down? There’s no one else can help you. I’m the guy you’ve got to convince. Right now, and right here.’
The room seems to shrink. The space feels airless, more claustrophobic. What he’s just said, I hate it. I want to howl at the unfairness of it all, punch him until he feels the pain too. But I don’t, because I know that he’s right. I’ve got no other choice but to trust him. So I put down the beaker. Watch the liquid ripple once, twice, before lying still. Count in my head, all the way up to ten, then look up and meet his gaze. I can’t delay any longer, need to move us on to second, defuse the situation. ‘Honey, I can give you answers, just as soon as I know we’ve got a deal.’
He sits back in his chair, and crosses his legs, real relaxed. Keeps eye contact. ‘Depends.’
There’s a certainty about him, a determination that’s somehow quite attractive. He plays hard to get real well; oftentimes I like that. Not today, though. Not now. Hard to get is hard to read, and one wrong move, one wrong word, will only end one way: everyone I love gone. ‘I’m listening.’
‘You tell me what happened. No bullshit, just the absolute truth from start to finish. Do that, then I’ll tell you if we’ve got a deal.’
No guarantee, but I figure it’s my best shot. So I nod, and let him take third. Act like it’s my idea, though. Force a smile as I swallow down the fear. ‘You best get comfortable, sweetie. This’ll take a little while.’
He nods, and I know that it’s time. Now I have to get us to fourth, tell the story right, secure a deal.
There’s a click as he switches on the audio recorder. He leans forward and places it on the table, dead centre. Looks me right in the eyes. ‘You’re up.’
And so I tell him.

~~~~~

Phew! Told you it was good. And now, time for a giveaway. Hopefully this rafflecopter thing will work as I’ve got a *signed* copy of Steph’s book to give away!

Follow me (@dakegra), Steph (@crimethrillgirl) and Karen (@orendabooks), tweet about the giveaway and leave a comment. Simple!

The giveaway runs until Sunday night (15th Jan) and a winner will be picked early next week. Good luck, and get tweeting!

click here to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway

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