Tuesday, 21 March 2017

BEST OF CRIME with Cally Taylor

Welcome to my latest BEST OF CRIME feature, looking at crime writers' top picks, from their favourite author and fictional detective to their best writing tip. 

Today I'm delighted to welcome 


to share her BEST OF CRIME... 

My all-time favourite crime novel isn’t actually by a crime author. It’s The Collector by John Fowles who also wrote The French Lieutenant’s Woman. It’s a brilliantly creepy novel about a young man who abducts a young art student and keeps her locked up in his cellar. I found the power play between the two main characters utterly fascinating and I thought the ending was superb. A more contemporary author that I’m a huge fan of is Belinda Bauer. All novels are very different from each other but they’re all brilliantly written and feature her trademark black humour and wit. I particularly recommend Rubbernecker, Blacklands and The Beautiful Dead.

I don’t think you can beat The Silence of the Lambs as an example of a truly brilliant crime film. The cast – Anthony Hopkins, Jodie Foster and Ted Levine – are at the top of their game and the plot is faultless. Respect to the director Jonathan Demme for turning an excellent book into an outstanding film.

Where to start? In recent years we’ve been spoilt with top notch TV dramas, both here and across the pond. Happy Valley, Luther, True Detective, Call of Duty, Broadchurch and The Wire all jump into my head when I think about quality TV drama. Then there’s the original Scandinavian broadcast of The Bridge which was utterly brilliant. I binge watched the first three series over a couple of weeks and was bereft when it ended. Saga Norén is an amazing character and I can’t wait for series four to air. 

I know Sophie Hannah chose Dexter but I have to agree with her choice. Dexter is such an unusual character. I love that he kills to the code that his father defined (basically, bad guys). I also love how socially awkward he is and the touches of dark humour. It’s rare to root for the killer but I was desperate for Dexter to evade capture. 

I’m a big fan of the Sherlock home reboot on the BBC. I always used to see Sherlock Holmes as very dry and dusty, a Victorian gentleman in a deerstalker, but Benedict Cumberbatch (and the team of writers) have breathed new life into him and now he appeals to a whole new audience.

Without giving too much away there’s a fabulous scene at the end of Paula Daly’s book Keep Your Friend’s Close where a flaw in the antagonist (only briefly mentioned at the beginning of the book) is used by the main character to kill her off. I thought it was a ridiculously clever way to kill someone off and actually said ‘bravo!’ when I read it. Brilliant.

I’m sure another scene will jump into my dead the minute I finish this interview but right now the most memorable death scene I can think of is Mrs Danvers dying in a fire, with burning wood falling all around her in Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. 

I’m a big fan of Google Earth and Street Maps when it comes to researching my novels. As a non-driver I can nip across Bristol, or the country, to check out a location for one of my books. I also read a lot of articles online about abnormal psychology and use YouTube to watch old documentaries.

I always start my novels this way – I think about what my main character wants more than anything else in the world then I throw obstacles in her way to stop her from achieving it. I also give her a character flaw that makes it harder for her to obtain her goal. I’ve been told I’m a very ‘pacy’ writer and that’s because I’m easily bored. I don’t particularly enjoy writing descriptive passages and prefer to focus on action and dialogue. In the words of Elmore Leonard I ‘try to leave out all the parts that readers skip’. I think that’s good advice for any writer. 

C.L. Taylor is the Sunday Times bestselling author of psychological thrillers THE MISSING, THE LIE and THE ACCIDENT.

Find Cally Taylor on her FB page, join her mailing list and find her on Twitter - @callytaylor


Publisher's description
"Look after your daughter's things. And your daughter…"
When a stranger asks Jo Blackmore for a lift she says yes, then swiftly wishes she hadn't.
The stranger knows Jo's name, she knows her husband Max and she's got a glove belonging to Jo's two year old daughter Elise.
What begins with a subtle threat swiftly turns into a nightmare as the police, social services and even Jo's own husband turn against her.

No one believes that Elise is in danger. But Jo knows there's only one way to keep her child safe – RUN.

The Escape is being published by Avon on 23 March 2017.

Look out for more BEST OF CRIME features coming soon.

Monday, 20 March 2017

The Birdwatcher by William Shaw

The Birdwatcher
By William Shaw
Published by riverrun (Paperback - 9 February 2017)
ISBN: 978-1784297244

Publisher's description
Sergeant William South has always avoided investigating murder. A passionate birdwatcher and quiet man, he has few relationships and prefers it that way.
But when his only friend is found brutally beaten, South's detachment is tested. Not only is he bereft - it seems that there's a connection between the suspect and himself.
For South has a secret. He knows the kind of rage that killed his friend. He knows the kind of man who could do it. He knows, because Sergeant William South himself is a murderer.

Moving from the storm-lashed, bird-wheeling skies of the Kent Coast to the wordless war of the Troubles, The Birdwatcher is a crime novel of suspense, intelligence and powerful humanity about fathers and sons, grief and guilt and facing the darkness within.

My verdict
Having seen crime writers raving about The Birdwatcher on social media, I decided to treat myself to one of the glossy Goldsboro Signed Limited Edition Hardbacks. And I'm certainly glad that I did.

DS William South is a quiet man leading a solitary existence, with birdwatching on the isolated marshes as his only passion in life. A neighbourhood police officer with no desire for the limelight, he is reluctant to get involved in a murder investigation, even when he discovers that the victim was one of his neighbours, a fellow birder and possibly his only friend.

The Birdwatcher intrigued me from its brilliant first few lines, leaving me wondering what secrets DS William South was hiding. It's written in sharp succinct narrative with natural dialogue and vivid descriptions of the haunting bleak landscape. The characters are well developed and the slow-burning plot is cleverly constructed.

As the story gradually unfolds, we learn more about South's childhood in Northern Ireland through a series of flashbacks dotted throughout the book. This links the present day murder with events nearly 40 years earlier.

An intelligent yet also quirky read, The Birdwatcher kept me gripped right until the end, with some surprises along the way. It's far more than just 'another police procedural' and definitely a book to recommend.

Friday, 17 March 2017

Watch Me by Angela Clarke

Watch Me
By Angela Clarke
Published by Avon (12 January 2017)
ISBN: 978-0008174613

Publisher's description
The body of a 15-year-old is found hours after she sends a desperate message to her friends. It looks like suicide, until a second girl disappears.
This time, the message is sent directly to the Metropolitan Police – and an officer’s younger sister is missing.
DS Nasreen Cudmore and journalist Freddie Venton will stop at nothing to find her. But whoever’s behind the notes is playing a deadly game of hide and seek – and the clock is ticking.


My verdict
I thought that Watch Me was a step up from Follow Me. It felt more serious and more refined, with weightier narrative, more developed characters and more realistic dialogue.

The story picks up soon after Follow Me with original characters - Nas and Freddie - alongside some new ones, now that police officer Nas has been transferred to a different department. While Watch Me could possibly be read as a standalone, I do think readers will find it easier if they read Follow Me first to understand the characters' backstories.

The plot is tense and gripping, with plenty of twists and turns, and kept me guessing all the way through. Nas and Freddie are on a race against the clock, with 24 hours to save a missing girl, which added to the tension and pace.

This crime thriller series is current and modern, using social media to showcase crimes. So far it has covered Snapchat, Twitter and Instagram, and I look forward to seeing what's next.

I received an Advance Reader Copy.

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

BEST OF CRIME with David Young

Welcome to my BEST OF CRIME feature, looking at crime writers' top picks, from their favourite author and fictional detective to their best writing tip. 

Today I'm delighted to welcome 


to share his BEST OF CRIME... 

William Ryan. I missed out on Bill as a tutor on my MA at City University London – I was a year too early. But I love his Korolev series set in Stalin’s Soviet Union and am delighted to hear he’s at work on more. His standalone The Constant Soldier was excellent too – no books of his have disappointed me.

Although not ‘crime’ as such, I thought Bridge of Spies was a great film. Probably my favourite of recent times. With a cracking performance by Tom Hanks.

I started Spiral/Engrenages at Series 5, then devoured the previous four series and have been chomping at the bit for Series 6. The detectives are all fab – I love Laure, Gilou and Tintin as a team. But as well as the gritty realism of the police work, what makes it so special is the behind-the-scenes machinations at the Palais de Justice. Judge Robain is possibly my favourite character.

Lou Ford in Jim Thompson’s classic, The Killer Inside Me. It was one of our set books list on my Creative Writing MA, and one which perhaps made the biggest impression. It’s disturbing how likeable someone so evil is, which is testament to Thompson’s superb writing. 

I’m loving Inspector Borowski on All4’s Walter Presents. In fact, it runs Spiral/Engrenages a close second for my favourite TV show, although the stories are more variable in quality than those in the French drama. At the heart of it are the great performances by Axel Milberg in the lead role as the Kiel-based German detective. A fabulous character. 

The full-body gilding used to kill Goldfinger’s secretary in the James Bond film based on the Ian Fleming novel of the same name. It was thought at the time that painting the entire body could cause asphyxiation, which is why a small portion of actress Shirley Easton’s body was left unpainted in the film. In fact, as long as you can still breathe through your nose or mouth, allegedly this wouldn’t happen. I don’t intend to test it out anytime soon. 

I rather like the opening of RN Morris’s A Gentle Axe. An elderly woman searching for firewood in frozen St Petersburg discovers the body of a swarthy peasant swinging from a tree with a bloodied axe in his belt. Nearby, is a suitcase containing the body of a dwarf – his head split in two by an axe. So atmospheric.

There’s an excellent blog about East Germany called The GDR Objectified, written by a Canadian, John Paul Kleiner. It really is a treasure trove for anyone interested in the GDR. Great pieces about two key settings in my latest novel, Stasi Wolf – Halle Neustadt and Oberhof. Oberhof is my main protagonist Oberleutnant Karin Müller’s hometown, and you can find John Paul’s take on it here

Writing what you know is of course a great tip. But I rather enjoy turning it on its head. I’m passionate about researching, and then writing about, what I don’t know. For me, it makes it all more exciting. I never visited East Germany before the Wall came down, yet I have a novel series set there. My main character is female. And when I started out, I couldn’t speak German beyond ordering a beer or booking a hotel room (I’ve been learning but haven’t advanced much).

I’ve recently discovered Cadbury’s Dairy Milk Chopped Nut chocolate – it’s got the same luxurious feel as the Milka broken hazelnut version. But most of the time I try to stay healthy with nuts and dried cranberries without the chocolate – washed down by Asda Earl Grey tea (cheaper than Twinings but tastes just as good).

About David Young

David Young was born near Hull and, after dropping out of a Bristol University science degree, studied Humanities at Bristol Polytechnic. Temporary jobs cleaning ferry toilets and driving a butcher’s van were followed by a career in journalism on provincial newspapers, a London news agency, and international radio and TV newsrooms. He now writes in his garden shed and in a caravan on the Isle of Wight, and in his spare time supports Hull City AFC.

Find David Young on his website, Facebook page and on Twitter - @djy_writer

About Stasi Wolf

Publisher's description
East Germany, 1975. Karin Müller, sidelined from the murder squad in Berlin, jumps at the chance to be sent south to Halle-Neustadt, where a pair of infant twins have gone missing.
But Müller soon finds her problems have followed her. Halle-Neustadt is a new town - the pride of the communist state - and she and her team are forbidden by the Stasi from publicising the disappearances, lest they tarnish the town's flawless image.
Meanwhile, in the eerily nameless streets and tower blocks, a child snatcher lurks, and the clock is ticking to rescue the twins alive . . .

Stasi Wolf was published by Zaffre on 9 February 2017.

Look out for more BEST OF CRIME features coming soon.