CWA Dagger In The Library 2014

jk

Readers to decide the Dead Good and CWA 2014 Dagger in the Library Award longlist for the first time

Nominations open Friday 1st August

For the first time ever readers will decide the longlist for the CWA Dagger in the Library Award as its sponsor Dead Good and the CWA relaunch the Award for 2014.

From Friday 1st August crime fans everywhere can nominate their favourite authors online (www.deadgoodbooks.co.uk/dagger) and the ten authors with the most votes will make up the long list. For the first time the vote will be digital only, making the CWA Dagger in the Library Award the only crime award to have an online reader nomination process.

Lynsey Dalladay, Community Manager for Dead Good, said: “We’re thrilled to be sponsoring this important award and giving it the attention it deserves. By asking the public to nominate their favourite talent, we’re putting power back into the hands of readers and allowing them to recognise and celebrate authors that consistently deliver top class crime fiction. Ours is the first crime award to do this, so we’re incredibly excited to see what crime readers choose.”

Director of the CWA, Lucy Santos said: “The CWA is delighted to be working with Dead Good and to relaunch the 2014 Dagger in the Library. Not only is at an opportunity to celebrate the best in crime writing but it is unique amongst our Daggers in that the public choose who makes it onto the longlist. What better excuse to find a quiet spot, grab your favourite tipple and investigate all the great crime fiction out there.”

Unlike most other literary prizes, the Dagger in the Library is awarded not for an individual book but for an author’s body of work.  One of six highly prized CWA Dagger Awards, which have been awarded to crime writers since 1955, judges that will decide this year’s shortlist and winner include author Steve Mosby, Lucy Santos and a panel of UK librarians.

Nominations close on September 1st 2014 and 2014 winner will be announced in November.

 

Neely Tucker- The Ways of the Dead

neelyWhen Sarah Reese, the teenage daughter of a powerful Federal judge, is discovered in a dumpster in a bad neighbourhood of Washington DC with her throat cut, the local police immediately arrest the three nearest black kids, bad boys who are members of a gang. Sully Carter, a veteran war correspondent, newly returned from the war in Bosnia with emotional scars far worse than the ones on his body, suspects there’s more to the case than the police would have the public know. With the nation clamouring for a conviction, and the bereaved judge soon due for a Supreme Court nomination, Sully pursues his own line of enquiry in spite of the obstacles thrown at him by government officials, the police and even his own bosses.

I had a sneaky eye on this one from the minute it arrived into the bookstore where I work, due to the temptation of a cover recommendation from Michael Connelly, and a Washington setting promising echoes of George Pelecanos. To be honest, I could not have been any more delighted with this book, as it not only delivered in spades from this starting point, but also imbued all the social critique and wry humour of The Wire too. I know. You’re intrigued now too aren’t you?

I will immediately put my hands up and confess that I do usually do a slight bodyswerve when reporters carry the weight of a crime book. With a few exceptions, I sometimes find that the plot overshadows the characterisation of such protagonists, and they merely become a conduit for whatever browbeating issue/murder investigation ensues. Not this one. Oh no. What Tucker delivers is not only an enthralling murder investigation (based on the real life case of the 1990’s Princeton Place murders), but a plot that is strengthened and illuminated by two of the best characters I have read for some time- reporter Sully Carter and his cohort, the streetwise gangster Sly Hastings, whose intimate knowledge and personal involvement with the seedy underbelly of Washington provides a regular source of information for Sully. Sully is a weary, cynical, PTSD suffering, former war reporter, physically and mentally scarred by his experiences. A little too keen on the drink, but a harbinger of not only a strong moral core, but a tenacity for justice and truth that shines through in his mercurial personality. I loved his character, whether dealing sensitively with bereaved families, facing up to the arrogant David Reese (father of the initial murder victim) who has tried to sink Sully’s career before, and his pure obstinancy when berated and sidelined by those intent on scuppering his investigation. Equally, Sly is a gem of a character, sassy, bursting with street smarts and possessed of an almost charming disposition that belies the violence he is so capable of meting out, and the fear he instils in others. Together, their exchanges are pure gold with Sully attempting to squeeze information out of Sly, and Sly pretty much only volunteering what suits him, but equally, very capable of a few surprises…

Despite the very character driven nature of the book, not only with Sully and Sly, but with the police officers, Sully’s work colleagues, local residents and the associates and families of the victims, the plot stands solidly throughout. Not only does it bring into focus the political power and wrangling inherent in Washington, but perhaps more ardently, puts into the spotlight the undercurrents of racial tension, urban crime and poverty that underscore the nation’s capital. In his writing, Neely Tucker gives a voice to the dispossessed and the ignored, especially in relation to his character’s linking of a series of murders where the victims cannot hope for the same pursuance of justice afforded to the likes of Sarah Reese, as the daughter of an influential figure. Through Sully Carter these voices resonate loudly in the book and it is gratifying to see that one man embodies the dogged determination to bring their killer to justice.

So with such a glowing review, there is little for me to add, except, you should buy this book. Free up some quality reading time, get yourself comfortable and prepare to be gripped and enthralled in equal measure. A great debut and I think Michael Connelly succinctly sums it up: “If this is Tucker’s first novel, I can’t wait for what’s coming next.”

Neely Tucker was born in Lexington, Mississippi and is a former war correspondent, who worked in many places where people would shoot you for free. He is the author of Love In The Driest Season, a memoir about war reportage. He is now a staff writer for The Washington Post. For more see www.neelytucker.com

(I bought this copy of The Ways of the Dead)

 

Chris Carter- An Evil Mind

84eca6cd644e34e2e4315253b35d2411

A freak accident in rural Wyoming leads the Sheriff’s Department to arrest a man for a possible double homicide, but further investigations suggest a much more horrifying discovery – a serial killer who has been kidnapping, torturing and mutilating victims all over the United States for at least twenty-five years. The suspect claims he is a pawn in a huge labyrinth of lies and deception – can he be believed?
The case is immediately handed over to the FBI, but this time they’re forced to ask for outside help. Ex-criminal behaviour psychologist and lead Detective with the Ultra Violent Crime Unit of the LAPD, Robert Hunter, is asked to run a series of interviews with the apprehended man. These interviews begin to reveal terrifying secrets that no one could’ve foreseen, including the real identity of a killer so elusive that no one, not even the FBI, had any idea he existed … until now.

This is the sixth outing for LAPD detective Robert Hunter and as regular visitors to this blog know, one that I have a particular affection for, having previously reviewed The Death Sculptor , The Hunter and One By One , and having read all the books in the series to date. I can confidently say that after the slight disappointment of One By One, Carter is back with a bang and with An Evil Mind there are shocks aplenty in store for the reader.

An Evil Mind is cited by the publisher as drawing most closely on individuals and murder cases encountered in Carter’s former career as a criminal psychologist. What is endlessly appealing about Carter’s writing is the authentic voice that permeates the books from this first hand experience, and I am an ardent fan of crime books written by those with a genuine knowledge and experience in the fields of criminal psychology and law enforcement. I concede that in normal authorial research there is a sense of reality brought the plots and premises created, but certainly in this book, the reader is hit even harder by the sheer malevolence of the main antagonist as it so grounded in Carter’s one to one experience. Combined with the strength of the narrative, and the oh- so teasing mini-cliffhangers, that he inserts at the end of nearly every chapter, An Evil Mind does metaphorically grab you by the throat from the outset, and spirals the reader into a miasma of violence and depravity from start to finish.

From the very start, the reader is absolutely shaken and stirred by the events that follow. For my money, Carter has written one of the finest opening chapters that I have read in terms of shock value. The transition from languid breakfast time in an all American diner to the impact (literally) of a freak occurrence that heralds a shocking opening to the book, is beautifully played out. I will only hint that not all people keep a spare tyre and tools in the trunk of their car! As the owner of said car, Lucien Folter, cannot help attract the attentions of local law enforcement, but on his arrest, says that he will only speak with his former friend and detective, Robert Hunter, and so the game is afoot. What follows is a titanic mental battle between the evil, clever and highly manipulative Folter, and Hunter, a man incredibly pre-disposed to navigate and decipher the actions and motivations of some of the most disturbed individuals with his innate intuition in relation to the darkest human psyches. As quickly as Hunter appears to break down the twisted actions of Folter, in a series of claustrophobic encounters with fascinating and entertaining verbal sparring, Folter begins to resemble an evil onion, with layers of perversity and wickedness that are revealed piece by piece. Folter has prepared a whole series of unique and nasty surprises for both Hunter and the FBI team, that Carter unleashes with a superb sense of pace and timing, so much so that as each chapter ends only the strongest reader will resist the temptation to stay firmly rooted to the spot to continue reading. (I couldn’t- and read this pretty much in one sitting). With reference to the ‘nasty surprises’ it is gratifying to see that Carter again pulls no punches in terms of the visual resonance of some of these images. Hence, I will reissue my standard warning that this book is not for the faint hearted or the easily spooked. Personally, I loved the ‘squirm’ factor of the more macabre elements of this plot, that are visceral, creepy and bring you up with a jolt. Beware of chest freezers as well…

Despite the lack of Hunter’s normal partner in crime Detective Garcia, who always proves a useful and humorous foil to the pensive and slightly tormented, but charming Hunter, Carter forms an effective circle of cohorts for him in this. The interaction between Hunter and the FBI team, in particular, the feisty agent, Courtney Taylor, more than compensates for the lack of Garcia, and Taylor definitely added a different frisson to the narrative, which lightened the overall darkness of the plot. As the book rattles towards an incredibly tense, violent and exciting ending, the torment that Folter projects on Hunter and the team is nerve shredding and simply brilliant. I liked this book very much, providing as it does, not only a tense and disturbing thriller, but in its perfect placing of brutal shocks reveals itself as a violent flight of fancy, that entertains throughout.

Born in Brazil of Italian origin, Chris Carter studied psychology and criminal behaviour at the University of Michigan. As a member of the Michigan State District Attorney’s Criminal Psychology team, he interviewed and studied many criminals, including serial and multiple homicide offenders with life imprisonment convictions. http://www.chriscarterbooks.com

Visit Book Addict Shaun at here for another review of An Evil Mind and an interview with Chris Carter.

(With thanks to Simon & Schuster for the ARC)

 

 

A. D. Garrett- Believe No One

garrett

Forensic expert Professor Nick Fennimore has engineered lectures in Chicago and St Louis – a ploy to get to Detective Chief Inspector Kate Simms. She’s in the United States on sabbatical with St Louis PD, and he’s keen to see her again. Simms is working with a ‘method swap’ team, reviewing cold cases, sharing expertise. But Simms came to the US to escape the fallout from their previous case – the last thing she needs is Fennimore complicating her life.

A call for help from a sheriff’s deputy in Oklahoma seems like a welcome distraction for the professor – until he hears the details: a mother dead, her child gone – echoes of Fennimore’s own tragedy.

Nine-year-old Red, adventuring in Oklahoma’s backwoods, has no clue that he and his mom are in the killer’s sights. Back in St Louis, investigators discover a pattern: victims – all of them young mothers – dumped along a 600 mile stretch of I-44. The Oklahoma and St Louis investigations converge, uncovering serial murders across two continents and two decades. Under pressure, the killer begins to unravel, and when a fresh body surfaces, the race is on to catch the I-44 killer and save the boy.

 

Having reviewed the first collaboration between crime author Margaret Murphy and forensic scientist Professor Dave Barclay, Everyone Lies , here last year, I was looking forward to Believe No One, the second in the series. Relocating DCI Kate Simms and forensic expert Professor Nick Fennimore to the USA for the duration of this book was a brave and original move, so was interested to see how effectively this would work…

Without a doubt, all the essential tensions and unspoken chemistry between the main protagonists, so evident in Everyone Lies, shone through and the characterisation of Kate and Nick was pitch perfect. I like the more dysfunctional aspects of their characters very much, Nick’s through the loss of his wife and child, and Kate through the pressures of her professional and personal life as a high ranking female detective. I also loved the premise of Kate hot-footing it to America at the earliest opportunity, to provide some distance from her suffocating relationship with Nick, only for Nick to appear in a true ‘tah-da’ fashion, like a genie from the bottle. The ramifications of the intensity of their investigation in the first book, and Nick’s continuing torment over his own personal tragedy, provide a solid base for the development of their of their relationship throughout the course of their American sojourn. Sometimes, I did want to give Nick a good shake, as he does come across at times as too much of a little wounded puppy, rather than adhering to the adage that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, and somehow undermining his professionalism as a forensic psychologist of some distinction. Likewise, Kate is a little indulgent with him at times, whilst trying to distance herself, so these less admirable facets of their characters, make them altogether more human, and interesting for the reader, manipulating our empathy back and forth between them.

Less successful for me was the actual realisation of the investigation that both Kate and Nick find themselves immersed in. There was nothing fundamentally wrong with the plot, which I found compelling, as the hunt is on for a serial killer, and serial killers, by and large always provide good morbid entertainment for the average crime reader. The little twists and turns of the investigation were pleasing enough, although I did find the direct echoing of Nick’s personal tragedy, with the disappearance of women and children, a little forced at times. Being a prolific reader of American crime fiction, I can’t quite put my finger on why, but I did feel that there was a certain lack of authenticity about the realisation of the American characters. I did begin to feel that they could have been transposed to any country, and felt they lacked a real sense of ‘being American’. I don’t know if this was due in part to the stiffness of the dialogue when Kate and Nick were interacting with their American counterparts, which to me didn’t carry the cadence of realistic American speech patterns, or just an overall weakness in capturing the feel of the American location generally. It was almost as if the plot and the development of Kate and Nick’s characters took prominence over the attention that should have been afforded to rooting the story in the location chosen and imbuing the American characters with an authentic voice.

However, criticisms aside, I would still recommend this book, along with the first, as a solid pick for crime readers. With the experience of Margaret Murphy accrued from many years as a crime writer, and the intricacy and detail of the forensic psychology that Professor Dave Barclay brings to the collaboration, the foundation is built for a long-running series. I, for one, am very interested to see what Kate and Nick get involved in next…

A. D. Garrett is the pseudonym for the writing collaboration of prize-winning thriller writer Margaret Murphy and forensic scientist Professor Dave Barclay. Margaret Murphy is the author of nine psychological thrillers. She lectures on writing and is a former Royal Literary Fund Writing Fellow. She is founder of Murder Squad, a touring collective of crime writers, and was Chair of the Crime Writers’ Association in 2009-10. Professor Barclay holds two university posts and is a forensic adviser to the police forces and the media. He was Head of Physical Evidence at the UK National Crime and Operations Faculty for 10 years. He is currently working for several UK police forces and a state of Australia on high profile murders. He is part of the ‘Murder, Mystery and Microscopes’ team which aims to explain the real science behind popular crime fiction via a national series of public lectures http://www.margaretmurphy.co.uk/

(With thanks to Constable & Robinson for the ARC)

Tim Adler- Blog Tour 14-19th July- Surrogate out now…

Tim blog tour Delighted to take part in this week’s blog tour heralding the publication of Tim Adler’s second crime thriller Surrogate. Following Tim’s debut stand alone thriller Slow Bleed reviewed here  Surrogate is an equally tense psychological thriller focusing on the possible pitfalls of choosing the wrong person to bear your child. Not all dreams come true in a good way. Read on for an extract,  and Raven’s review follows…

EXTRACT

I climbed over a hillock and then dropped down onto the sand. Despite the fog, I could make out how bleakly beautiful it was. I started trudging across the corrugated moon landscape and dug my phone out of my waterproof.

She answered after the third ring. “It’s me,” I said. “I’m here. How will you find me?”

“Don’t you worry about that,” she replied. “Just keep walking. Are you sure you weren’t followed?”

“Yes,” I lied. “I’m alone.”

She ended the call, and I turned to face the way I had come. Blankness had already swallowed up the railway station and car park, and you could barely see your hand in front of your face. I kept on walking just as Mole had instructed me to. It had become eerily quiet. The only sounds were the suck of each footfall and the occasional plangent bark of a seagull high above my head. That and the sound of my breathing. I pictured us as figures in a painting she had shown me once, a flat Dutch landscape with two tiny people walking towards each other.

She emerged out of the fog as if somebody had breathed on glass. She was pushing our baby daughter in a buggy and was weighed down with a holdall she was carrying. My first instinct was to check whether Nancy was all right. Our darling baby was buttoned up against the cold, snuggled up in some kind of sleeping bag.

Emily, too, was zipped up, wearing a parka, and my heart thickened in surprise as she removed her fur-trimmed hood.

She had shaved all her hair off.

My wife was completely bald, and she was crying…

RAVEN’S REVIEW:

  surrogateHow much is your child worth? That’s the question Hugo and Emily Cox must answer when they get a ransom demand for their child – from Alice, the surrogate mother they paid to carry their baby. The police are helpless. No law has been broken — the baby belongs to their surrogate. And Hugo has a secret he’s keeping from his wife that makes their search even more desperate. Now Hugo and Emily must find their missing daughter… even if it costs them everything they own.

Having made the leap from established non-fiction author to thriller writer, Adler’s first book Slow Bleed was well received among the reviewing community and readers alike, and I enjoyed the debut. Admittedly in my opinion there were slight flaws with the first, but what is interesting with Surrogate is the noticeable growth of confidence, and more  fluid writing style in evidence here, making for a very readable and intriguing thriller.

The story revolves around the somewhat privileged son of a business entrepreneur, whose father’s grasping and ruthless business style, has caused trouble for the reputation of the family’s insurance business, and his heir apparent Hugo. On reflection, Hugo is not a particularly bad guy and it’s interesting to see how his his world is turned upside down by meeting the flighty, artistic Emily (or ‘Mole’), and how they begin to forge a future together. Due to a nasty twist of fate, that makes them unable to conceive a child naturally, they call on the services of a surrogate to complete their family. However, Hugo is soon to discover that the female of the species is deadlier, and infinitely more devious, than the male, as a series of violent events find him framed for murder and looking for answers. I am somewhat reluctant to reveal too much of the plot, as the gradual inclusion of well-placed reveals, and surprising revelations drive the narrative forward, and shift your perspective of who is good, and who is bad. The plot is controlled throughout, and I did enjoy the confusion and angst experienced by the hapless Hugo at the hands of these women. Yes, it could be said that the plot feels vaguely familiar, but I think that Adler manipulates the premise well, and this certainly did not impinge on my enjoyment of the book generally.

Overall, the characters are well-formed, and despite the less admirable facets of their personalities, I engaged with them throughout, even the ones imbued with scheming minds and general wickedness! I did feel varying degrees of sympathy with them all as the plot progressed, as their dark motivations and damaged psyches are brought to the fore. Even though I cottoned on to one character’s secret, the pace of the story and engaging writing style carried me along nicely to the conclusion, although out of sheer devilment, and to frustrate the reader I would have used the genuinely frightening, but beautifully described atmosphere of Chapter 38 as my closing chapter. See- you will all have to read the book now to find out why…

So all in all, an enjoyable thriller, and a good choice for a summer holiday read.

Surrogate is available to buy from Amazon

 

timTim Adler is an author and journalist who has written for Financial Times, The Times and the Daily Telegraph among others. His debut psychological thriller Slow Bleed went to number #1 in the Amazon Kindle psychological thriller chart. The Sunday Times called Tim’s latest non-fiction book The House of Redgrave “compulsively readable” while The Daily Telegraph gave it 5 stars. Tim’s previous book Hollywood and the Mob — an exposé of how the Mafia has corrupted the movie industry – was Book of the Week in The Mail On Sunday and Critic’s Choice in the Daily Mail. Tim is former London Editor of Deadline Hollywood, the US entertainment news website. Before that, he edited film trade magazine Screen Finance — described by Evening Standard as “highly influential” – as well as TV business magazine New Media Markets. He regularly features as a pundit on BBC Radio 4′s Today, BBC Breakfast and Sky News. Follow on Twitter @timadlerauthor

M. J. Arlidge- Eeny Meeny

eenyThe girl emerged from the woods, barely alive. Her story was beyond belief. But it was true. Every dreadful word of it. Days later, another desperate escapee is found – and a pattern is emerging. Pairs of victims are being abducted, imprisoned then faced with a terrible choice: kill or be killed. Would you rather lose your life or lose your mind? Detective Inspector Helen Grace has faced down her own demons on her rise to the top. As she leads the investigation to hunt down this unseen monster, she learns that it may be the survivors – living calling cards – who hold the key to the case. And unless she succeeds, more innocents will die . . .

CONTAINS SPOILERS- Already having been selected for Richard and Judy’s summer book club and attracting a great deal of attention from press reviews and crime bloggers alike, I rose above my normal resistance to heavily hyped books as debut novel, Eeny Meeny- the first of a projected series- really appealed to me.

Set in and around the city of Southampton, a typical inner city, Eeny Meeny quickly reveals itself as a serial killer thriller/police procedural. Revolving around a series of double kidnappings, where one captive is called upon to make a literally life or death decision, Eeny Meeny grabs you by the throat from the opening chapter, and ramps up the terror meter inch by inch as the book progresses. As each duo is imprisoned in increasingly dark and claustrophobic locales, their lives hinge on the moral dilemma presented to them. However, as a slight weakness in the plot, I felt that there could have been a more interesting moral struggle in their psyches, as to my mind with the dislikeability of some of the captives I found the decisions rather clear cut. Also it occurred to me that one means of despatch could have been used to despatch two at the same time, recalling the poisoned berries episode in The Hunger Games, and could have frustrated our evil kidnapper’s cunning plan.

Maybe I was just overthinking, and unfortunately to further mar my enjoyment I was constantly reminded of another crime book, which used an incredibly similar premise. Overall, however, there was enough gore and violence to sate my imagination with some terrific graphic scenes, but as I felt little or no empathy with the captives’ plight, I began to lose interest in them as people, and was much more interested in which gruesome manner they would eventually meet their maker. I also found the final double kidnapping a bit too well signposted, and the last victim’s fate woefully predictable, as it is a well-used tenet that any main protagonist struggling with their inability to form an emotional connection with anybody, does eventually mange to do so, but it all ends in tears. Also, when the identity of the kidnapper was revealed, I did chuckle to myself as I had, when not long into the book, said to a fellow reader, ‘Oh, does ___ have a ___ as this would be a blindingly obvious reason for these kidnappings?” Ho hum. So all in all, a good writing style in terms of atmosphere, location and tension, let down by an all too tenuous plot.

Having already been quite critical of the plot, I feel it would be unfair to lay into the characterisation too much, although personally I did find the main police protagonist, DI Helen Grace, a little strained. I think that the level of emotional damage that she encapsulated did feel a wee bit unbelievable, and following the well worn path of emotionally crippled detectives with addictive personalities I grew tired of her quite quickly. In my opinion, as the plot progresses it becomes abundantly clear (a) why she is like this (b) why she needs to be like this, to necessitate the outlandish plot arc and (c) her life is not going to get any better any time soon. I didn’t like her particularly, but by the same token, I didn’t enjoy not liking her, which you do sometimes get pleasure out of, with dislikeable characters. Her fellow police cohorts were neither here nor there, and I felt a compulsion on behalf of the author to tap into well-worn cliches in terms of their home lives and personal relationships. In such a competitive publishing market , I suppose there is much to be said for using the familiar and well-used tropes of a successful sub genre, so a clever move on the part of Arlidge, but there was a rigidness and, dare I say it, wooden feel to most of the characters.

Because I have a habit of not reviewing books as soon as I have read them, I do think long and hard as to how much I have enjoyed a book, and equally if I would recommend it to others. I can see that Eeny Meeny is a great choice for Richard and Judy, in much the same way as S.J. Watson’s Before I Go To Sleep, as I think it will divide reader’s opinions and certainly has many points both good and bad to discuss (as I have found out discussing with others who have read it). However, I was not entirely convinced by Eeny Meeny, so am afraid that it is not at the top of my list of recommends, despite what Dick and Jude say…

Read more reviews of Eeny Meeny at:

Crime Fiction Lover

Liz Loves Books

Material Witness

Judging Covers

(With thanks to Penguin for the ARC)

This is All Around the World*

Originally posted on Confessions of a Mystery Novelist...:

MCHello, All,

One of the best things about the online crime fiction community is sharing books we’ve loved, and getting ideas from others’ top reads. In that spirit, I’d like to remind you if you did know, and tell you if you didn’t, about Petrona Remembered. 

Petrona Remembered is a blog dedicated to the memory of the late and much-missed Maxine Clarke, a true friend of the crime fiction community. The aim of the blog is to develop a resource of great crime novels that crime fiction fans can use to broaden their horizons, and that those new to the genre can use to get started on their own crime-fictional journeys. I’ve no doubt Maxine would have been pleased at the idea of a blog that gathers posts by crime fiction lovers from all over the world.

Now that you’ve got the background, here’s some exciting news about…

View original 258 more words

Blog Tour- John Burley- No Mercy

No Mercy Blog BannerTo promote the release of debut thriller No Mercy (US title The Absence of Mercy) Raven Crime Reads is pleased as punch to bring you an exclusive extract from this harrowing tale of suspense, brutal murder and dark secrets that lie beneath the surface of a placid, tight-knit town. Perfect for fans of Harlan Coben and Linwood Barclay this is a page turning thriller that will keep you hooked…

EXTRACT

This is not the beginning.

Up ahead, a young man sporting jeans and a black T-shirt walks casually down the concrete sidewalk. He hums softly to himself as he ambles along, Nike-bound feet slapping rhythmically on the serpentine path he weaves through the late afternoon foot traffic. He is perhaps fifteen – not truly a young man yet, but certainly well on his way – and he walks with the energy and indifference of one who possesses the luxury of youth but not yet the experience to appreciate its value, or its evanescence.

The predator watches the young man turn a corner, disappearing temporarily from view behind the brick exterior of an adjacent building. Still, he maintains a respectable distance, for although he has an instinct for how to proceed, he now relinquishes control to something else entirely. For as long as he can remember he has sensed its presence, lurking behind the translucent curtain of the insignificant daily activities of his life. The thing waits for him to join it, to embrace it – observes him with its dark and faithful eyes. But there are times – times like this – when it waits no longer, when the curtain is drawn aside and it emerges, demanding to be dealt with.

The young man in the black T-shirt reaches the end of the street and proceeds across a small clearing. On the other side of the clearing is a modest thatch of woods through which a dirt trail, overgrown with the foliage of an early spring, meanders for about two hundred yards until it reaches the neighbourhood just beyond.

The predator picks up his pace, closing the distance between them. He can feel the staccato of his heart kick into third gear, where power wrestles fleetingly with speed. The thing that lives behind the curtain is with him now – has become him. Its breath, wet and heavy and gritty with dirt, slides in and out of his lungs, mixing with his own quick respirations. The incessant march of its pulse thrums along eagerly behind his temples, blanching his vision slightly with each beat. Ahead of him is the boy, his slender frame swinging as he walks, almost dancing, as if his long muscles dangled delicately from a metal hanger. For a moment, watching from behind as he completes the remaining steps between them, the predator is struck by the sheer beauty of that movement, and an unconscious smile falls across his face.

 

john-author-photoDuring his undergraduate years, John also trained as a paramedic/firefighter and served for many years in that capacity in a busy 911 jurisdiction in Montgomery County, Maryland, just north of Washington, D.C.  He later completed a Master of Science program in medical pathology at University of Maryland, Baltimore and went on to attend medical school, earning his Doctor of Medicine from Rosalind Franklin University in North Chicago, Illinois.  He then returned to Baltimore to complete an emergency medicine residency training program at University of Maryland/Shock Trauma Center.

After graduating from residency, John moved with his family to California, where he began work on his first novel.  Four years later, the manuscript was purchased by William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins.  The Absence of Mercy  was published in November of 2013.  It received the National Black Ribbon Award in recognition of an author who brings a fresh voice to suspense writing.

John and his family currently live in the San Francisco Bay area where he works as an emergency department physician.  He is also hard at work on his next novel. Visit John’s website here: John Burley.com

Dan Smith Blog Tour- The Inspiration Behind Red Winter

Dan Smith Blog Tour (2)

Delighted to welcome Dan Smith to Raven Crime Reads to mark the release in paperback of Red Winter which transported readers to the icy wastes of 1920’s Russia. Kolya has deserted his Red Army Unit to return to his wife and children, but finds his home village silent and empty. The men have been massacred in the forest and the women and children have gone. In this remote, rural, Russian community, the folk tales mothers tell their children take on powerful significance. The terrifying legend of Koschei, The Deathless One, begins to feel very real, as Kolya discovers as he embarks on a quest to find his wife and children, and tries to outrun the dark secrets of his past. Here, Dan explains the inspiration for this haunting and atmospheric thriller…

It’s not always easy to explain exactly where a story has come from. Often it starts with the smallest idea, not much more than a fleeting thought that takes root like a seed carried on the wind. But once it settles, it puts out its web and catches other ideas that happen to be blown its way. The seed of Red Winter came to me on the icy breeze that whipped across the snow in The Child Thief. There’s a moment in that novel when the main character is alone in the woods and remembers the stories about Baba Yaga that his mother told him when he was a child; stories his wife repeats to his own children; stories that encouraged me to delve a little deeper into the strange world of Russian folk tales.

I read many of these skazkas, about peasants making deals with the devil, corpses coming to life, cheaters being punished, witches, and lucky drunkards, but there was one particular character who stood out. Koschei the Deathless. He is a terrible, demonic figure who cannot be killed; a creature who steals the hero’s wife, forcing him to endure a series of arduous tasks in order to rescue his beloved. Koschei stayed with me, a shadow lying locked behind a closed door in my thoughts, until my own children turned the key and let him out.

One afternoon I was walking in some local woods with my family when my son suggested we detour from the track. We ventured away from the other walkers and pressed on into the thicker trees. We found ourselves deeper in the woods, where the gnarly trunks grew close together, and when the sun began to set, the cold air darkened and the world felt like a more dangerous place. Of course, I remembered the skazkas and, getting into the spirit of the spooky woods, I told my son and daughter about Baba Yaga and about Koschei the Deathless. Well, like Luka in The Child Thief, my skin began to prickle at the thought of there being something out there, watching through the trees, and I was relieved when we finally came out of the woods onto the path leading back to our car. Safe and sound.

But what if I had been alone? And what if I had returned home to find my family gone? What if Koschei the Deathless had whisked them away?

Raven’s review:

untitledFollowing his remarkable Ukranian set thriller The Child Thief, Smith returns with another foray into the dangerous and inhospitable territory of Eastern Europe, transporting the reader to the icy wastes of Central Russia 1920. From the very first page you are instantly filled with a sense of dread observing through a returning soldier’s eyes, a village lying still and silent with only the sounds of nature to fill the void. As Nikolai Levitsky observes the Marie-Celeste like environs of his former home, it becomes clear that something evil has cast its pall over the village; the men have been slaughtered and along with these men’s families,  Levitsky’s wife and children are nowhere to be found. Could this really be the work of Koschei, the Deathless One, a terrifying figure from Russian folklore or  is Levitsky’s fate tied to the consequences of a country in the grip of political and military terror…

What strikes me most about the book is the breadth and depth of Smith’s depiction of location and atmosphere, as we follow Levitsky’s cross country quest in search of his family. As a reader your senses are assaulted at every turn with the harsh and uncompromising nature of the landscape, chilling you to the core as the weather and terrain hamper Levitsky’s progress. In my naivety I believed that there are only so many ways of describing the biting conditions of a Russian winter, but Smith consistently implements such vivid descriptions of these surrounds that further embed themselves in your mind, constantly enriching your reading experience. Likewise, the grim realities of survival within these conditions are unflinchingly described throughout, so much so that you cannot look away and that touch on your humanity as to how people can carve a life for themselves with so much poverty and fear. Not only do they have to survive the daily grind, but find themselves unwitting victims in a turbulent and blood-stained period of Russia’s political history.

No character embodies these characteristics more than Nikolai Levitsky himself, a soldier and officer, now compelled to desert, who is cast into an emotional turmoil by the death of his brother, the disappearance of his family, and a man striving to come to terms with and escape from the horrors he has witnessed in the theatre of war. Levitsky is an essentially moral man, beginning to question his deepest held beliefs and assuming the role of a questing knight as his journey unfolds, and by his interactions with those the damaged souls he encounters along the way; Anna, a young girl who has lost her family, and with Tanya and Lyudmila, two fearless women who have their own reasons for tracking the Koschei. As their courses collide with the vestiges of Levitsky’s previous military life, there are powerful scenes of violence and heartbreak that are truly haunting, and which typify not only the propensity for immoral actions in a war torn country, but what betrayals people must stoop to in order to survive.

With its spare and uncompromising portrayal of  the historical period, the intertwining of perfectly placed references to traditional Russian folklore, the harsh environment that chills you to the marrow throughout, and a cast of characters that cannot fail to engage the reader, Dan Smith has produced another remarkable thriller.

Growing up, Dan Smith followed his parents across the world to Africa, Asia and South America. Now living in Newcastle with his family, his writing is still inspired by all corners of the globe. His debut novel DRY SEASON won critical acclaim and an array of prize nominations, including a shortlisting for the Author’s Club Best First Novel Award. His second novel DARK HORIZONS was followed in 2012 by THE CHILD THIEF and in 2014 by THE DARKEST HEART. Find out more about Dan at  www.dansmithbooks.com Follow on Twitter @DanSmithAuthor

 

International Crime Month- Launch Event- Waterstones Piccadilly July 9th 2014

Calling all crime fiction lovers!

image003

 

Leading independent publishers Serpent’s Tail, Melville House, Europa Editions and No Exit Press get together to bring you International Crime Month, a celebration of one of the most vital and socially significant fiction genres of our time.

The launch event will take place at Waterstones’ Piccadilly on the 9th of July at 7pm.

Authors Mallock (Europa) and Adrian McKinty (Serpent’s Tail) will discuss their writing with Barry Forshaw, author of Euro Noir (No Exit Press) and one of the country’s foremost authorities on crime fiction, and with Serpent’s Tail founder Pete Ayrton.

Join us for a glass of wine and a unique opportunity to meet some of Europe’s most twisted criminal masterminds….

More info on Waterstones’ website.

The event is free but places are limited: please reserve your place in store, via 020 785 12400 or email piccadilly@waterstones.com.

image004