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Book reviews ... Author interviews ... and anything else I think might be of interest to writers and readers.

Monday, 12 March 2018

CRIME WRITING: GETTING PUBLISHED - at Solus Or Writing Retreat

I am very pleased to tell you that I am now running a writing retreat in Scotland with my husband, Alex Walters, and we are holding a crime writing course in April. Details are below.


CRIME WRITING: GETTING PUBLISHED 

23-27 April 2018 

This retreat is aimed at participants who are writing crime fiction and now want to take the next steps to getting their work published.  We'll cover topics such as:

•    Working with crime genres – what do readers, agents and publishers expect? 

•    Writing a series or a standalone 

•    Creating interesting, credible and three dimensional characters 

•    Plotting (and how to fill plot holes!) 

•    Choosing and making the best of your settings 

•    Routes to publication and how to prepare for them. 

The retreat will include a mix of taught sessions, one-to-ones and critiques, informal evening readings and Q&As, and free writing time, all tailored as much as possible to participants' specific needs, interests and preferences. 

The retreat will be run by Alex Walters and Margaret Kirk. 

Alex is the author of nine critically acclaimed and best selling crime novels published by Quercus, Harper Collins and Bloodhound Books, with series set in locations as diverse as Mongolia, Manchester and the Scottish Highlands. 

Margaret's debut novel, Shadow Man, published by Orion, was the winner of the Good Housekeeping Novel Writing competition 2016. Shadow Man is the first in a series featuring DI Lukas Mahler set in Inverness and the Highlands. 

The price of the retreat is £600 for an en-suite room or £560 for a room without en-suite facilities.  

Participants can arrive any time in the afternoon of 23 April and depart in the morning of 27 April. The price includes, as well as all tutoring and individual critiques and mentoring, four nights' accommodation, full board catering (as described in What's Included) from dinner on the Monday evening to breakfast on the Friday, and all our usual retreat facilities.

If you're interested in attending, please see our contact details on the Solus Or website

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Did You See Melody? by Sophie Hannah



Did You See Melody?


I loved this book. It has everything. A brilliant setting. An inexplicable mystery. And great characters.

When Cara Burrows decides she needs to escape from her family she ends up at the very swish Swallowtail resort in Arizona. She arrives in a state of exhaustion just wanting to collapse into her hotel room bed and sleep. But there's a problem. When she gets to her allocated room and opens the door, two people are already in there.

Cara becomes certain that one of the occupants of the room is Melody Chapa, who was supposedly murdered several years earlier and whose parents are in jail for the crime.

The story explores Cara's experiences from that moment on as her discovery leads her into danger. This part of the narrative is intercut with accounts from the past that deal with Melody's early life and her abduction and murder. There's some interesting stuff here about how the aftermath of her disappearance is dealt with by the authorities and the US tendency towards trial by television.

As we move towards finding out the truth about Melody, Cara must ensure her own safety and become reunited with the family she so recently wanted to get away from.

The plot is complex, original and entertaining and the ending was so unexpected that I had to go back and read the last few pages again.

Highly recommended.

I received a review copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley.

You can find out more here.


Sunday, 20 August 2017

The Vanishing Of Audrey Wilde by Eve Chase


The Vanishing Of Audrey Wilde

By Eve Chase 


When Jessie and her family move into Applecote Manor she thinks it will be a new start for all of them, and that her stepdaughter, Bella, might finally settle down and begin to come to terms with the loss of her own mother. Little does she know that her family’s life is about to be impacted on by events that happened to another family many decades ago.

One thread of the story deals with the present day story of Jessie while another recounts the events of a summer in the 1950s when the narrator, Margot, and her three sisters visit their aunt and uncle at Applecote. This triggers memories of a previous summer, five years earlier, when their cousin, Audrey Wilde, disappeared never to be seen again.

Margot’s similarity to her missing cousin results in her being drawn into some uncomfortable, and ultimately dangerous situations. Following her through this experience is gripping and intriguing.

The dual narrative works well with both threads being equally compelling and the added interest of being able to pick up the subtle links between the two. Ultimately the two threads entwine at the end providing a very satisfying conclusion.

The mystery of what happened to Audrey is central to the story, but there is so much more to the plot than that. In both the past and present narratives we explore some really complex relationships between the different characters and how they trigger and influence events.

Some poignant themes are explored in this novel. Mothers bereft of their children, and children bereft of their mothers, is a strong link between the two threads of the story. Another is what it means to be sisters and the importance of that relationship. And love and longing, when you feel like you are always second best, also makes an appearance.

The characters and the relationships between them are beautifully drawn, and this results in a satisfying and emotional read.

I received a review copy of this book from the publishers via Netgalley.

You can find out more here.


Thursday, 17 August 2017

The House by Simon Lelic



The House



I found this to be a challenging but intriguing read. Structurally, it is interesting. The first section of the book is an account of events leading up to the present written in tandem by the two main characters, Jack and Sydney. From midway through we pick up the story as it moves forward.

In the early chapters, We learn that Jack and Syd are a young couple who are desperate to get onto the London housing ladder but find that all the properties they want slip through their fingers. Until one day they make a bid on a rather unusual house and learn, to their surprise, that they have been successful

So far, so good. But shortly after they move in weird things start to happen including Jack finding a dead cat in the attic.

It is interesting reading Jack and Syd’s different perspectives on events and seeing the ways in which they are not being entirely honest with each other. Partly as a result of this, neither comes across as entirely likeable.

Things get more complicated when Syd takes an interest in a young local girl, Elsie, who is a victim of domestic abuse at the hands of her father. Domestic abuse resonates for Syd, and ultimately is a huge theme and driver of the plot for this story. Elsie also turns out to be one of the most sympathetic characters in the book. I found myself really rooting for her.

Manipulation and deceit are at the heart of the story. Who is really pulling the strings behind recent events? What are Jack and Sydney hiding from each other? Is Sydney still a victim of her past?

This is a novel in which nothing is as it seems, and which will deliver surprises not just at the end but throughout.


Thanks very much to the publishers for a review copy of this book.

You can find out more here.


Monday, 31 July 2017

Friend Request by Laura Marshall


Friend Request


What would you do if you received a Friend Request on Facebook from someone you believed had been dead for years?

When it happens to Louise it sets in train a series of events that put her and others in serious danger. At first she has no idea if the 'Maria' who has sent her a friend request is genuine or not, so she starts to track down other friends from the time in order to attempt to piece together what is going on.

The present day narrative is interspersed with flashbacks to Louise's schooldays in the 1980s and the past and present collide when Louise decides to attend a school reunion and comes face to face with people who knew Maria in the past. But who has organised the reunion and why?

As well as being a gripping thriller, I found Friend Request quite a poignant story as well. It deals with the tensions and jealousies between school girls and the ways in which that can spill over into adult life really well, and also depicts Louise's broken marriage from her childhood sweetheart Sam, and her relationship with her young son in a touching way.

Through many twists and turns the tension doesn't let up and ultimately the truth of what happened back then, and what is happening now is revealed in an explosive ending.

I received a review copy of this book from the publishers via Netgalley.

You can find out more here