Blood Wedding by Pierre Lemaitre – a review.

Pierre Lemaitre is talking at the festival in the session entitled France Noir – Le Roman Policier. He was not an author that I had read before as I must confess to not normally reading many translated books. However I was lucky enough to get a copy of this from netgalley so I had to give it a go. Well I have definitely been missing out.

Main character Sophie is working as a nanny to Leo. She finds Leo murdered but with no recollection of where she was at the time. She has already lost her husband and her mother in law and is struggling with grief.  Worried that she has killed Leo during one of her frequent blackouts she goes on the run, and despite her failing memory she manages to outrun the police whenever they get close.  The other main character who we meet through his diary is Frantz, and we soon realise that both their lives are entwined with terrible consequences.

This was a really good story. The character of Sophie was very intriguing, she was likeable but in the back of your mind was always the death of the little boy. It was one of those stories where at times you wanted to shout at her to stop running and just talk to someone. However whilst there were certain bits that seemed a little far fetched this didn’t detract from the story at all.

The two different viewpoints give the story an interesting dimension that I really enjoyed. When the characters begin to cross paths you know that things are not going to be what they seem but it was still a book that kept you guessing right through to the end. The novel was described in the introduction as the new noir, and this novel was definitely along those lines.

This book is a great example of why I love the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival. The festival encourages you to read books that ordinarily you wouldn’t necessarily pick up, yet often are fantastic. I thoroughly enjoyed Blood Wedding and will definitely be looking out for his other work.

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Ten Days by Gillian Slovo – a review

Flying off to Turin on my own for a few days, meant I was keen to stock up my kindle before I went. In my quest to fulfill my TOPCWFC this included Ten Days by Gillian Slovo. I must confess that reading the description I’d seen originally this book didn’t really fill me with excitement. I’m not a huge fan of political thrillers (quite possibly because I don’t understand them!) However she is an author at the festival so I have to give it a go.

Well I couldn’t have been more wrong. This was an absolutely fantastic book. I literally read it in one train/plane journey.

The story starts with Cathy being woken by the noise of a police helicopter flying over the Lovelace Estate where she lives with her daughter Lyndall. Her on/off boyfriend Banji is about to leave without telling her. We then meet the other main characters, Peter Whitely the Home secretary with his eye on the role of PM, forced on by his pushy wife Frances. Finally there is the new police commissioner and friend of the PM, Joshua Yates.

The Lovelace is a housing estate that is on the brink of being pulled down, in an deprived inner city area. Cathy witnesses an incident between the local police and estate resident Reuben. The repercussions of this end up causing riots that soon spread across the country. It is these riots that form the background of a story that spans ten days and covers political infighting, racism, police corruption and all manner of relationships in-between, all intensified by the heatwave that is covering the country.

I really enjoyed this book. I felt that the characters were all well written, Cathy is obviously the main one that the book hinges around, the others come in and out with the strands all being evenly woven.

The novel is clearly based on the riots that started in London in 2011. However this is not meant to be a historical account of those events. Neither is it supposed to be an analysis of the riots, the reasons they happened, or lessons that should be learnt. It is a fictional story set around fictional riots. The descriptions of some of the incidents that happened are extremely vivid, and I especially liked the fact that you got the sense of how normally respectable people could get drawn into this kind of mob mentality.

There were a couple of characters that didn’t really sit right with me, mainly Banji. Without giving away any spoilers I wasn’t really sure about his actions at the end or why he’d do what he did. However that is a very minor criticism of what was a very good novel. It certainly made the hour delay in Grantham on my way to Stanstead and subsequent early morning flight go past quickly.

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Soho Honey by A.W.Rock – a review BLOG TOUR

I was sent a copy of this by the publishers Clink Street in exchange for an honest review.

The premise of this novel sounded interesting, and not like my usual choices which can often be a good thing. As the title suggests Soho Honey is set in Soho, London. The main character Branen had to leave the UK six years earlier due to his criminal past. He returns when his daughter is brutally murdered and Branen is asked to return to hunt down her killer. However he soon realises that unless he wants to spend the rest of his life running he will have to face up to his past.

I must admit to being slightly overwhelmed by the start of this novel. The book begins with a long list of names of characters such as Snowman, and Whitey and abbreviations of the varying secret agencies that are involved in the story. It looked like an awfully long list, however I skipped over that and carried on.

This is a very gritty novel that covers pretty much all the darkest elements of society including drugs, gangsters, and prostitutes, even a bit of bee keeping. It was quite an evocative novel with descriptions vividly conjuring up the seedy side of Soho that you imagine would make a great film.

Soho Honey was quite a slow story to begin with. You know from the blurb on the back that Branan’s daughter is going to get killed, but it takes a good third of the book for things to start to happen. Despite the ending I suspect that this is the start of a series, and therefore this book was very much about setting the scene for later novels.  Once the story gets going however the pace picks up.

The writing was good and it seemed to flow well. The book is split into different parts with very short chapters which I liked. Once you understand whose viewpoint each part comes from then it was easy to follow. None of the characters, including Brenan, were I thought particularly likeable but that’s not always a bad thing especially in a book like this.

Overall despite the slow start this was a good novel. There were some elements such as the writing style I really enjoyed although I suspect it was not really my kind of thing. I would imagine that for fans of 007 this would be a real treat.

 

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Distress Signals – Q and A with Catherine Ryan Howard

As you may remember I recently read an excellent novel called Distress Signals based around the idea of cruise ships. I’m now delighted to be able to welcome to acrimereadersblog the author of that novel, Catherine Ryan Howard who has agreed to answer some questions.

Thanks for joining me Catherine, and thanks for the advanced copy of your debut novel. What was the inspiration behind the story in Distress Signals?

Back in late 2011 I read an article by Jon Ronson in the Guardian’s Weekend magazine which detailed a number of mysterious or unexplained disappearances from large cruise ships. He mentioned the International Cruise Victims organisation, which really struck me because I thought cruise ships were sunny, idyllic places where people went to have relax and have fun and drink cocktails with little umbrellas in them. I’d never once associated them with anything dark or untoward. I started doing research online and I was really quite shocked at what I found. I thought, A cruise ship is the perfect place to get away with a murder. And then, You should write a novel about that.

Exactly what I had always thought. Certainly not now, I think you may have put me off cruising for life. What would you say your typical working day is like?

I am the world’s worst procrastinator, so it’s 90% coffee-making and Twitter. 3pm is the danger time because I work from home and that’s usually when a nap suddenly starts looking like a REALLY good idea. It also almost always involves a trip to Starbucks. I love a wet (i.e. no foam) venti latte and two years or so ago I moved from Cork, which had just ONE Starbucks at the time, to Dublin which has one on every corner, so it’s difficult to resist the temptation. Plus, it helps resist the naps!

I did not know that wet meant no foam, I’ve always taken the wet part for granted when ordering coffee! Obviously it would include coffee, but what else constitutes your ideal afternoon off work?

Maybe lunch in the Pepperpot café in Powerscourt Townhouse Centre (near Grafton Street in Dublin), book-shopping in Dubray Books (on Grafton Street) and then a read-in-one-sitting session with my purchase on the couch at home until the sun goes down.

That sounds like my kind of afternoon. Do you read a lot yourself and if so who are your favourite authors?

I haven’t got much reading for pleasure done in the last couple of years, because I’ve been at college full-time AND editing Distress Signals and writing Book 2, but normally yes, I do. My favourite authors are Michael Connelly and Harlan Coben. I also love Tana French, Caroline Kepnes, Gillian Flynn… Outside of crime/thrillers, I love Kazuo Ishiguro and Lionel Shriver. And Jess Walter wrote what is probably my favourite book of the last five years, Beautiful Ruins. I could go on – the list is endless, really!

If you were not a writer what would be your ideal job?

For a very long time I dreamt of having a very specific job: a Biosafety Level 4 virologist specialising in the Ebola virus and working at the United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infection Diseases in Fort Detrick, Maryland. (Don’t ask!) It’s probably for the best I stuck with the writing instead…

Hmm, moving swiftly on! What are you working on next?

I’m finishing the first draft of Book 2, which is another standalone thriller due out this time next year.

I can’t wait! Thanks very much for answering my questions Catherine. I look forward to reading your new book next year.

If you would like to find out more about Catherine, or Distress Signals see below:

Read a preview of the first three chapters here:

https://catherineryanhoward.com/access-your-exclusive-preview/

Amazon.co.uk link:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Distress-Signals-Incredibly-Gripping-Psychological/dp/1782398384

ABOUT CATHERINE: 

Catherine Ryan Howard was born in Cork, Ireland, in 1982. Prior to writing full-time, Catherine worked as a campsite courier in France and a front desk agent in Walt Disney World, Florida, and most recently was a social media marketer for a major publisher. She is currently studying for a BA in English at Trinity College Dublin.

http://www.DistressSignalsBook.com

http://www.CatherineRyanHoward.com

Twitter: @cathryanhoward

Instagram: @cathryanhoward

Facebook: facebook.com/catherineryanhoward

 

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The Forty (nine) Steps

Back in the dim and distant time that was 2012 when I was but a much younger thing I set myself my first ever Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival Challenge (TOPCWFC). In case you don’t know this was for me to read a book by every author at the festival that year.

Well it quickly became apparent that that was rather an impossible feat, and I narrowed it down to reading something from at least one author from each session was much more manageable. Well its now 2016, I’ve just turned 40,  and so it is fifth time lucky for the TOPCWFC.

This time I’m feeling pretty hopeful.  As you’ll know I wrote a list of 40 things I’m going to do this year, it could be called 40 steps to making this year ‘The Year of Me’ (Spot The Middle reference there) Completing the TOPCWFC is one of those. The programme has been released and as always it looks like a fantastic weekend. There are some of my favourite authors returning including the excellent Peter James, Tess Gerritsen and Martina Cole. Val McDermid is doing a double hitter this year being in conversation on Friday night and of course doing my favourite New Blood panel. There is also what is sure to be one of my top ranked panel discussions ‘Domestic suspense – the killer behind the front door’ featuring five of my favourite female authors including Julia Crouch and Paula Hawkins.

As well as those who I’ve seen before there are some new faces to the festival although not new to crime fiction such as Jeffery Deaver the writer of the Lincoln Rhyme thrillers most of which I’ve already read. Then there are others such as Gerald Seymour who is a new name to me although he has actually just written his 32nd book.

This year if my maths is correct there are 48 authors appearing alongside comedians, playwrights, forensic podiatrists, and radio producers. Of these I’ve read 26 already, so only 22 to go. That shouldn’t be too hard to do surely? Thanks to netgalley I’ve already made a start on A Rising Man by Abir Mukherjee and I recently purchased a novel by Ysra Sigurdardottir so fingers crossed I’m well on the way to completion for the first time ever! (There is nothing wrong with a bit of optimism)

 

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Distress Signals by Catherine Ryan Howard – a review

I was sent a copy of Distress Signals from the publisher. This is Catherine’s first novel, and a fantastic debut it is.

Adam’s girlfriend Sarah has supposedly been on a business trip to Barcelona, but doesn’t return to their home in Ireland. He starts to panic especially when the police are not particularly helpful. Days later he receives her passport in the post with a note on in saying ‘I’m sorry-S’. As he tries to find her he connects her to a cruise ship called the Celebrate. He then finds out that a woman named Estelle disappeared previously in similar circumstances, and she is not necessarily the first to go missing from the ship.

This was a great novel that I absolutely sped through. The disappearance of Sarah is intriguing, and throughout the story there are twists and turns that keep you guessing.

Within Distress Signal you get to hear from three different main characters all with their own stories. The character of Corinne who works on the cruise ship is clearly hiding something, and you wonder why someone of her age and health is still working. There is the young Romain who lives in Paris. Then there is Adam who is the main narrator. It’s not until the end of the novel that the stories all intertwine.

The characters are all well written. Adam is likeable and on the whole I felt sorry for him. However you can’t help but think he brings some of it on himself. He is a struggling writer, but is definitely more struggling than writing. His girlfriend has supported him for years seemingly without getting any support herself. It was interesting to follow him as it slowly dawns on him that his life wasn’t necessary as perfect as he thought it was. The writing was good and I can honestly say I now know more about maritime law than I ever realised I would do.

I would thoroughly recommend this novel, although if you are setting off on a cruise any time soon I would maybe leave Distress Signals until you come back. An excellent debut and I look forward to reading more from Catherine.

 

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Absolute Friends – updated list

So this week I’ve turned 40, which I have to say did not turn out to be the momentous occasion I thought it would be. In my head for some reason turning 40 was a huge deal. It’s half way through my life (although I have a 90 year old grandmother so I’m hoping I’m not quite there yet) and I thought this would be marked somehow. I don’t know how, maybe the Taj Mahal would appear in our garden, a troop of dancing elephants would shimmy down the Close singing happy birthday, I’d start wearing matching underwear and always carry a handkerchief. In reality, other than which box I tick on official forms absolutely nothing changed. I had a lovely day and thoroughly enjoyed myself but I didn’t change. I still haven’t brought about world peace, or done a handstand on the top of the Eiffel Tower, or anything particularly noteworthy.

This did cause me some consternation, and I was rather miserable when I woke up on my second day of my 40th year. Luckily I met a friend for lunch, who gave me just the kick up the backside I needed. She’d even bought me a book of things to do now that you’re 40. Her very good suggestion was to write a list of 40 things I want to do, and then actually do them. I’m a big list writer, although I’m not so good at the actual doing of the items. They don’t have to be big things like walking the Camino de Santiago as someone I know is doing (You can follow his blog here) They can be small things.

Another very good suggestion from a friend, was not just to write a list of things I want to do but also a list of 40 things I’ve already done that I enjoyed or am proud of. Both of these are excellent suggestions that I am going to be taking up.In fact by the end of the day I’d already knocked off one item from my list. I went to a lovely restaurant called Rattle Owl which I’d wanted to go to for ages and a friend took me as a birthday treat.

The day also reminded me that although I may not yet have found a way to stop slugs eating my cabbages or written a best selling novel, I have an awful lot of good friends which already means I have something to show for 40 years. So today after making 30 cupcakes for my party on Saturday I have begun my list. I still need lots more ideas but its a good start. Turning 40 may be just another number but doesn’t mean I can’t make this a momentous year (or at least a momentous list)

My 40 things to do

  1. Eat at the Rattle Owl
  2. Complete the TOPCWF 2016
  3. Afternoon tea at the Grand (My friend has already volunteered for that)
  4. See Orangutans in Borneo (actually a possibility as I’m going to Thailand at the end of the year)
  5. Eat a pizza in Italy
  6. Learn how to take good pictures
  7. Learn how to ride a bike
  8. Learn how to crochet
  9. Do a park run in at least 4 different cities (I was going to say 40 but thought that was rather excessive)
  10. Go on a wine tasting course and actually put it into practice (no more ordering ‘red wine, whatever is cheapest’!)
  11. Bluebell walk
  12. Horse ride on a beach (I do ride horses so its not such a long shot)
  13. Grow sweetcorn
  14. Ride in a hot air balloon
  15. Visit Blackpool
  16. Visit the Tower of London
  17. Go on a Jack the Ripper walk
  18. Visit Cromer
  19. Go on a pony trek
  20. Paint a picture
  21. Make a chinese meal from scratch
  22. Visit 4 news National Trust Houses
  23. Ride on a steam train
  24. Do an open water swim
  25. Take 4 different pictures of Roundhay Park across the 4 seasons
  26. Run 4 10ks
  27. Row a boat
  28. Visit Yorkshire Wildlife Park
  29. Go to the Manchester Sealife Centre
  30. See an Opera
  31. Go to the Horse Trials
  32. Collect pine cones in a wood
  33. Go on a bat walk
  34. Have a picnic
  35. Visit to the seaside
  36. Watch a sunrise outside
  37. Glass walk over Tower Bridge

 

 

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