blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: When The Dead Come Calling – Helen Sedgwick*

A murder investigation unearths the brutal history of a village where long buried secrets threaten a small community. When psychotherapist Alexis Cosse is found murdered in the playground of the sleepy northern village of Burrowhead, the local police force set out to investigate. It’s not long before they uncover a maelstrom of racism, misogyny and homophobia. But there’s worse to come. Shaken by the revelations and beginning to doubt her relationship with her husband Fergus, DI Georgie Strachan soon realizes that something very bad is lurking just below the surface. Meanwhile someone – or something – is hiding in the strange, haunted cave beneath the cliffs. When The Dead Come Calling is a tense, atmospheric thriller which grips to the very last page.

 

My thoughts:

I enjoyed this because I’m fascinated with places like Burrowhead, where the ancient world meets the modern and small town drama. I live in the North London suburbs and it’s quite diverse and part of the city in a way, which small towns and villages aren’t, so life in a place where everyone knows you feels alien to me.

I imagine it makes it harder to solve crime too, it can’t possibly be someone you know, it must be an outsider, a stranger. But of course, anyone of us could be living alongside a murderer and never know.

This book feels very timely, with its themes of racism, homophobia and misogyny, we are living in dark times where these awful types of thinking are resurgent and seem more common than ever, fuelling crime and fear; and it is this environment that Helen Sedgwick taps into.

The writing is tight and clever, the plot realistic to how a small police force would have to work, solving multiple crimes at the same time, often very disparate victims and suspects to round up and interview. The murder can’t always take precedent and so the reader, much like the investigators, must be patient in solving it.

 

HELEN SEDGWICK is the author of The Comet Seekers, selected as a best book of 2016 by the Herald, and The Growing Season, shortlisted for the Saltire Society Fiction Book of the Year in 2018. She has an MLitt in Creative Writing from Glasgow University and won a Scottish Book Trust New Writers Award. Before she became an author, she was a research physicist with a PhD in Physics from Edinburgh University. She now lives and writes in the Scottish Highlands. http://www.helensedgwick.com/ @helensedgwick @PtBlankBks

 

Helen Sedgwick on the writing of WHEN THE DEAD COME CALLING ‘When the Dead Come Calling was inspired by a visit to St Ninian’s Cave in the Scottish borders – it’s a cave on a wild beach that became a place of pilgrimage in the Middle Ages. Even today, the cave is filled with crosses made out of twigs and ribbons, prayers scratched onto stones and offerings left in the crevices of the rock. It’s a creepy place. I also wanted to write about rural life, having recently moved from Glasgow to the Highlands. It is a very different world. I absolutely love living in the country (a bit like Georgie loves it in the book) but that doesn’t mean I can’t see there are some pretty big issues. The lack of diversity, lack of opportunities, and the isolation are very real problems. And you do come across casual racism and homophobia, and often it has been left unchallenged because of the limits of the community itself and the lack of new experiences. So, I wanted to write about how people in small rural communities turn a blind eye to these problems, about the urban/rural class divide that leads to people in the city dismissing those in the country, and how history and inaction make us all complicit… But at the same time I wanted to write about how people in small communities can be exceptionally kind and warm and how living in a remote place can make you feel more connected to the past and to the landscape. It’s easy for people to judge the country without having lived there, but there’s a lot more to it than people think. I’ve also had an interest in false memory syndrome for years. I wrote two unpublished novels before writing my debut The Comet Seekers, and one of them was a literary thriller about false memory syndrome. The book remains unpublished for a reason (I was still learning to write and it wasn’t good enough!) but the research I did all those years ago fed into the plot for When the Dead Come Calling. Memory is fascinating and also poorly understood, and I keep being drawn back to how our minds create and recreate ‘memories’ that can end up being very different to the lived experience that they relate to. Our brains actually rewrite our own memories over time. That idea kept calling to me, wanting to be written about. It was at a crime writing event at Wigtown Book Festival that I got the idea for the main character of Georgie Strachan. There was a discussion about how fictional detectives always need to be broken or damaged in some way, and I wanted to turn that on its head. Is it possible to write a crime book in which the detective is just a good person who wants to see the best in everyone, despite evidence to the contrary? I started thinking about what would happen to a good, almost naive detective working in a broken world, and that world became Burrowhead.’

When The Dead Come Calling BT Poster.jpg

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in this blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

books, reviews

Book Review: Sloot – Ian Macpherson

A post-postmodern crime novel set on the clean streets of Dublin’s leafiest suburb, Sloot has at its heart an accidental detective who’d rather write his own Celtic-screwball-noir than solve the crime, and a narrator who loses the plot. Literally. Sound complicated? Not so. Thanks to a revolutionary structure, The Inquisitive Bullet, it’s simplicity itself. Detours include proof that psychoanalysis is the oldest profession, validation of the dictum `For what is comedy but tragedy with loose trousers’, and a brief aside on the possibility of an Irishman having multiple birth mothers. While the plot bullet speeds, inquisitively, towards its target – the final full stop.

My thoughts:

I must admit, I got a little confused by this book. I got a bit lost in the strange detours of the plot and the slightly mad bits. But it is a very clever concept, playing with the rules of metafictional narratives and the genre of crime fiction intelligently and with flair.

It seems like a straightforward crime novel at times, but with all the little side plots and the narrator going a bit off on several of their own tangents, it’s a lot more complex and has a depth to it despite its’ slim appearance.

I was kindly gifted a copy of this book with no obligation to review. All opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: What She Saw Last Night – MJ Cross*

Jenny Bowen is going home. Boarding the Caledonian Sleeper, all she wants to do is forget about her upcoming divorce and relax on the ten-hour journey through the night.

In her search for her cabin, Jenny helps a panicked woman with a young girl she assumes to be her daughter. Then she finds her compartment and falls straight to sleep.

Waking in the night, Jenny discovers the woman dead in her cabin … but there’s no sign of the little girl. The train company have no record of a child being booked on the train, and CCTV shows the dead woman boarding alone.

The police don’t believe Jenny, and soon she tries to put the incident out of her head and tells herself that everyone else is right: she must have imagined the little girl.

But deep down, she knows that isn’t the truth.

My thoughts:

Trains have famously been the place where crimes take place – thanks to a certain Agatha Christie. But instead of a grand trip across Europe, Jenny is taking the sleeper to Edinburgh when the crime she says she witnessed takes place.

The plot that unravels goes to places you don’t expect – what seems like a straightforward case of murder and maybe missing person turns out to be a lot more dangerous and shocking.

The plot whizzes along, the writing is tight and carries you along with it, just like a train.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in this blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

reviews, books

Book Review: The Forest Lake Mystery – Palle Rosenkrantz*

Detective Sergeant Eigil Holst is on holiday in the countryside when the body of a baby is washed up on the banks of a nearby lake. The local magistrate orders the lake to be drained and the body of a young woman is discovered, naked and weighed down with stones tied to her feet and neck. Her identity is a mystery.

Holst then takes it upon himself to find out where this woman came from, why she was in this remote location and who could have had motive to kill her. His investigations take him across Scandinavia and into central Europe as, gradually, he realises that the solution to the mystery could have huge implications on his own future.

My thoughts:

Considered the first Danish crime novel, now published in a new translation, the author lends his name to the Danish crime writing awards. First published in 1903, this is another book that deserves to be more widely known and read.

A lot more convoluted and complex a case than it first appears, the plot criss crosses Europe as Detective Holst searches for the truth of the murdered woman in the lake. This is a clever and confident novel, intelligently plotted and tightly paced.

Fans of the genre should definitely get themselves a copy.

*I was kindly sent an advance copy of this book with no requirement to review. All opinions remain my own.

reviews, books

Book Review: The Iron Chariot – Stein Riverton*

The Iron Chariot (Paperback)

On a blazing hot summer’s day, holidaymakers at a guesthouse on a Norwegian island are shocked to discover a fellow guest has been found murdered out on a desolate plain. The nameless narrator, an author, was the last person to see the victim alive; shortly afterwards, he was disturbed by a noise like ‘a rattling of chains’. A local tells him this is ‘the iron chariot’, which is said to presage death.

Detective Asbjorn Krag is summoned from the capital of Kristiania, and sets about investigating the murder. When a similar death occurs on the plain, it is again preceded by the eerie sound of the iron chariot, which leaves no tracks. Mystery is added to mystery when the victim turns out to be a man believed to have died several years earlier.

Drawn unwillingly into the investigation, the narrator is puzzled by the enigmatic detective’s apparent inaction, and troubled by unfolding events. These begin to take a toll on his mental wellbeing and he sinks into a state of dread, exacerbated by mysterious happenings at the cabin where he is staying.

So profound is his unease that he feels he must leave the island. Then Krag promises to tell him the solution to the mystery…

My Thoughts:

Voted the best ever Norwegian crime novel, written over 100 years ago this has recently been re-translated into English in a new edition.

Scandi noir is big business now, but when this clever book was first written crime fiction was in its infancy and it certainly deserves to be more widely known and read.

The unnamed narrator is firstly a witness to a murder and then becomes attached to the case by the investigating detective who requests his assistance.

The method by which the detective unravels the case, and the mystery of the iron chariot, is very clever and not one you see coming. Detective Krag, like his English cousin Sherlock Holmes, is a very smart man with a keen nose for the solution to the crimes he investigates.

This deserves to be held in the same regard as the early English language detectives from the same period and be much more widely read, the roots of Scandinavian crime writing are here.

*I was kindly sent an advance copy of this book with no requirement to review. All opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: The Sound of Her Voice – Nathan Blackwell*

Detective Buchanan remembers every victim.
But this one he can’t forget.

The body of a woman has been found on a pristine New Zealand beach – over a decade after she was murdered.

Detective Matt Buchanan of the Auckland Police is certain it carries all the hallmarks of an unsolved crime he investigated 12 years ago: when Samantha Coates walked out one day and never came home.

Re-opening the case, Buchanan begins to piece the terrible crimes together, setting into motion a chain of events that will force him to the darkest corners of society – and back into his deepest obsession…

My thoughts:

Written by a former police officer, set in New Zealand, this is a dark and gripping thrill ride of a novel, taking the standard police procedural to a darker place. Matt Buchanan is haunted by the murder he couldn’t solve, and leaving the force has not helped him forget. Returning to investigate a similar crime years later, will he find his answers?

What was interesting was the attention to detail and the mental processes of an investigator that comes from having been in that role, although I hope the author doesn’t have unsolved crimes haunting him in the same way.

This was a really interesting take on the genre and I look forward to seeing what else Nathan Blackwell writes next.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in this blog tour, but all opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: Blind Witness – Vicki Goldie*

In 1922 a blind WW1 veteran and former intelligence officer attends a weekend with his aristocratic wife and her family at a country house in the New Forest, Hampshire, England. Fourteen people sit down to dinner on the Friday night; by the end of the weekend there are two murders, an attempted murder and a suicide.

This is book one in a series of humorous murder mysteries and introduces young sleuths The Hon Melissa Charters and her war veteran husband Major Alastair Charters.

The pair collaborate using Melissa’s powers of observation and Alasdair’s old skills gained in the Secret Intelligence Service to investigate the events unfolding over the weekend. A murder mystery with a spy plot told from many different points of view in the tradition of Simon Brett, M C Beaton and Kerry Greenwood.

Will our investigators discover who is behind the murders?

Vicki worked as a Chartered Librarian for the Royal National Institute of Blind People and then for the past 19 years in public libraries in Bournemouth and Poole. There she enjoyed arranging and attending writing courses and author events, including such luminaries as Fay Weldon and Peter James. With the Reading Agency and other librarians round the country she reviewed and selected books for The Radio Two Book Club. All the time writing away in her spare time.

Born in California but brought up in England she was introduced to the Golden Age of crime authors at an early age by her mother. She is married to a blind physiotherapist, and it is from his mother, born in a large country house in Devon (now a hotel), educated by governess and with a cut glass voice like the Queen, that she absorbed real life stories about the twenties and thirties.

She has always had a fascination with the Art Deco period and the Golden Age of crime writing. She has been filling her house with Art Deco inspired artefacts and clothing for 40 years.

Blind Witness is her debut novel and is the beginning of the Charters Mysteries Series featuring Major Alasdair Charters and The Honourable Melissa Charters.

My thoughts:

This was a really interesting take on the classic detective novel. Alasdair has lost his sight in the war and is struggling with the changes his disability has wrought on him, but an old friend in the intelligence services offers him an opportunity to solve a series of murders during a country house weekend.

Evoking Christie, Allingham and the other queens of crime with its setting and period, this is an excellent addition to the canon. I can’t wait to see what Goldie writes next.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.