A Quick Chat with ‘Dead Man’s Grave’ Author Neil Lancaster

Former policeman turned crime writer, Neil Lancaster

You can also read a review of Dead Man’s Grave from me, here:

This novel began with a chap called John Fisher telling you a story. What was it about that story, do you think, which struck you so strongly?

It just grabbed hold of me almost instinctively. The wild and remote tumbledown graveyard, literally miles from anywhere in Caithness and then a grave that simply says, “This Grave Never To Be Opened.” What a way to grab a readers’ attention. I write contemporary thrillers, but the place just reeked of history, so I wanted to find a way of writing my kind of book, but with it’s feet in the 1830s. It was fun.

I love how the novel begins in one way and then shifts on its axis very quickly to be something a reader might not expect. How important is that for you as a writer to not allow your readers to be ahead of the plot?

I’m never quite sure how these things work. I just set out to write a book that I’d like to read. I hadn’t really considered how the book morphs from a procedural into a full on thriller. I let the characters decide how the story goes, and I just like to see how the narrative progresses. Maybe I should plan a little more, but I’m not sure my books would be any better if I did.

You are based on the Black Isle now. Did setting great chunks of the novel in and around areas familiar to those of us who live and work here – Rosemarkie, Berriedale Braes, Latheron – add an extra frisson for you?

Very much so. Scotland is home now, and I love it deeply. I want to tell stories set in areas I know well. I think readers get a kick of a story being told in their back yards.

The novel obviously exists pre-Covid. I know a lot of writers are grappling with this dilemma but will Covid play a part in your future work, do you think?

I’ve taken a decision to ignore COVID. I just don’t want to talk about distancing, masks and tests, I want to give readers escapism. Once we are well past it, maybe I’ll give it a mention, but for now, the novels are set in what ever time people think they are, whether it’s before or after. My books are a COVID free zone.

Max Craigie has a similar(ish) background to both you and Tom Novak in terms of a military beginning before service with the Met, as well as Scotland being in the mix. Are those autobiographical echoes touchstones you begin with in the writing or is a way of ensuring that you make the novels appear as true to life as possible?

Well, the link is really vague. We are all ex-servicemen turned cops, but that’s kind of it. Much of it is because I don’t have to research backstory too much. There is such a vibrant crime writing scene in Scotland that I really wanted to be part of, so I chose to write about the country I live in. Plus, the scenery is so staggering that it can be deployed almost as an extra character when giving the book a sense of place. I think it allows me to add a real sense of atmosphere that is pretty unique to Scotland.

The cover of Neil Lancaster’s latest novel, Dead Man’s Grave

A further echo I notice from your previous work is the role of police corruption. Obviously, the success of Line of Duty has raised the profile of this issue again in the recent past but you’ve been there for a long time. How important an issue is it in terms of Police Scotland and what can be done to improve the situation?

Serious, organised crime needs corruption to function. Not just in terms of law-enforcement, but with the legal profession, banking, solicitors, money laundering. They operate hand-in-hand. It is thankfully very rare, but a tiny proportion of corrupt officials can cause disproportionate damage to policing and the legal system. I don’t actually watch LOD, not really my cup-of-tea, but the theme of corruption is fascinating. I’m interested in the route to corruption. What makes previously good people become corrupt? What is the backstory? Taking a single tenner from a criminal at the start of your career can define the rest of it.

Dead Man’s Grave is your fourth novel. Are you finding it easier to write as you get further in or is each a challenge in a different way?

Well, I’ve written two others in this series already, so it seems not. The follow up to Dead Man’s Grave is undergoing edits right now, and the third is with my agent. I love writing both series, but you do need a little time to let the creativity come back and leave you fresh to write some more. I’ve written essentially 3 books in 12 months, so a little break before I start again to let the ideas breathe will be a good thing.

I’m making the assumption that this is going to be a series of books as it has all the hallmarks of being set up that way. How far ahead have you planned if this is the case and how long would you like the series to run for?

As long as people want to read them, I’ll keep writing them, always assuming that I keep getting the ideas. I’ve assembled a little cast of characters, you’ll meet them when Craigie 2 comes out next year, so I can see me writing more.

What is a typical writing day for you?

It varies enormously. I write for probably 4 hours a day if I’m in the groove, but it can be more or less. I’m lucky that I don’t have a day job, so I can devote my time to writing. There’s always other stuff to do, particularly on the run up to publication regarding publicity etc.

What are your long term goals with the writing?

Just to keep writing, as long as folk want to read what I produce, I’ll keep doing it.

Was Dead Man’s Grave’s long listing for the William McIvanney Prize a complete surprise or had you had an inkling beforehand? How has the nomination affected you and what will you do to celebrate if you win?

I had no idea whatsoever. I knew that I’d been entered for it, but didn’t expect to get longlisted. It’s been really flattering and to be mentioned in the same breath as Val McDermid, Chris Brookmyre, Stuart MacBride and Denise Mina is just so cool.

What colour is Monday?

When I was commuting 3 hours a day, 6 years ago it was blue. Now it’s all multi coloured, same as every other day.

Having followed you on social media, I love the videos of Peggy dancing for the bin men. Was she pleased to be featured as Nutmeg in this novel or has the attention gone to her head?

Peggy was actually in 2 of the Novak books. Nutmeg is a real dog, that belongs to my great friends. I’ll probably take her along to book signings. She’s a really sweetie.

What is the question you wished interviewers and readers would ask but never do?

Do you fancy a pint?’

Many thanks to Neil for taking the time to answer some questions about his latest novel. You can find more about Neil and his work at https://neillancastercrime.co.uk/

A Dead Man’s Grave But a Very Much Alive Talent

‘Dead Man’s Grave’ by Neil Lancaster

For those keen to know more about Neil Lancaster and Dead Man’s Grave, Neil kindly agreed to speak to me about his writing routine and this latest book. You can find the interview here:

This grave can never be opened.
The head of Scotland’s most powerful crime family is brutally murdered, his body dumped inside an ancient grave in a remote cemetery.
 
This murder can never be forgotten.
Detectives Max Craigie and Janie Calder arrive at the scene, a small town where everyone has secrets to hide. They soon realise this murder is part of a blood feud between two Scottish families that stretches back to the 1800s. One thing’s for certain: it might be the latest killing, but it won’t be the last…
 
This killer can never be caught.
As the body count rises, the investigation uncovers large-scale corruption at the heart of the Scottish Police Service. Now Max and Janie must turn against their closest colleagues – to solve a case that could cost them far more than just their lives… (Synopsis courtesy of
https://harpercollins.co.uk/products/dead-mans-grave-ds-max-craigie-scottish-crime-thrillers-book-1-neil-lancaster?variant=39314373050446)

The cover of Neil Lancaster’s latest novel, Dead Man’s Grave

‘“Crime is common. Logic is rare. Therefore, it is upon the logic rather than upon the crime that you should dwell,”’ she said, dryly, as she got out of the car.

‘Sorry?’ said Max.

‘Doyle?’

‘Eh?’

‘Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, you know, Sherlock Holmes. That’s from The Adventure of the Copper Beeches. Have you read it?’

‘I only read books with exploding helicopters on the front cover,’ said Max, shaking his head.”

One of the best compliments I can pay Dead Man’s Grave by Neil Lancaster is that I’m fairly certain that lead detective Max Craigie would not enjoy it. No exploding helicopters, far too little of the Rambo on the run which people might expect from this genre.

Lancaster has made a name for himself as a writer of kick ass thrillers with fast paced plotting and bone crunching action. And his biography does suggest that, more than most writers, he has the experience to back this up.

Armed Forces background, surveillance and undercover work for the Met and now successful thriller writer based in the Highlands. His debut novel featuring, ‘Going Dark’ was part of a trilogy featuring Tom Novak, a man who seemed in capable of not being chased by various Eastern European mafia hoods and corrupt law enforcement officers.

This time out we have Max Craigie, a former soldier struggling with PTSD and recently moved from London to Scotland under a cloud with a fatal shooting on his record.

When a prominent gangster disappears near a creepily titled grave in the Badlands of Caithness, it isn’t long before Craigie and other outsider from the squad, Janie, is sent to get involved.

Lancaster manages to twirl this plot on a sixpence with no warning for the reader and this is a really attractive trait for the reader. Expectations are dashed at every turn and, for readers who have enjoyed the Tom Novak series, whilst there are similarities between Craigie and Novak – both military men, both are or have worked in the Met, both have ties to Scotland – here the character of Craigie is more cerebral, more open to human relationships and more easily likeable than the sociopathic here of the ‘Going…’ series.

The other aspect of this new series of novels which demonstrate the evolution of Lancaster as a master craftsman is the humour. Whilst plot is clearly where this author lives, funny interchanges between Craigie, Janie and their foul mouthed but essentially cheery boss, Ross, are handled with aplomb.

“‘What’s your instinct on this one?’ Ross asked.

‘Honest answer?’

‘No, I want you to bloody lie to me, you daft twat. Stop pissing about.’”

For my money, this is the funniest novel in terms of character relationships outside another crime writer with a Black Isle connection, Ian Rankin.

And, it would appear that I am not alone in my appreciation of the novel. While I was halfway through my advanced copy, it was announced that Dead Man’s Grave had been long listed for the coveted McIlvanney Prize from Bloody Scotland. This puts Lancaster alongside luminaries such as Val McDermid, Chris Brookmyre, Stuart MacBride and Denise Mina which is the right company for any crime writer, I’d have thought!

My only complaint on that score is that I’ve been a reader for that award since the inaugural year and I rarely get a novel as good as this.

In conclusion, Dead Man’s Grave is a fine introduction to a series and packed with plot twists, enjoyable characters and the verisimilitude of the author’s experience make this a fine addition to the Tartan Noir canon.

Neil Lancaster joined the RAF in 1983 and served as a Military Policeman for six years, in the UK, Germany, Cyprus and the Falkland Islands, mostly as a patrol dog handler.

In 1990 he joined the Metropolitan Police where he worked in a number of roles as a Detective investigating the most serious of crimes in the capital and beyond.  He was a covert policing specialist using all sorts of tactics to obtain evidence against murderers, human traffickers, drug dealers and fraudsters.

Since leaving the Met in 2015 he has lived in the Scottish Highlands where he now writes crime and thriller novels alongside work as a broadcaster and commentator on true crime documentaries.    (Biography courtesy of www.neillancastercrime.co.uk)

Joy by Name, Skye’s the Limit for the Series

Other people writing about Clueless in Crotia today include www.quirkybookreads.wordpress.com and www.eatwell2015.wordpress.com

‘Clueless in Croatia’ by Joy Skye

D.I. Fierce always gets his man, but can he get his woman?

Actor Leonard Lupine is sick of his life, both on and off-screen, so when his agent suggests a luxury villa holiday in Croatia he leaps at the opportunity to escape. What he doesn’t realise is that his greatest mystery of all is waiting to be solved on the tiny island of Brač.

Does he have what it takes to follow the clues to love? 

You know how it is: sometimes you pick up a novel because you think, “well, I need to read something and this will fill a space,” and your expectations aren’t high but it’s the holidays and what else you going to do?

So, full disclosure – this was the attitude with which I approached ‘Clueless in Croatia.’ Not dismissive or grumpy about needing to read it, but with a half-hearted distraction.

Well. Boy, do I love being surprised and delighted? Joy Skye has crafted a charming world, vividly conjured and one in which the prose is as enticing as the seas off Croatia which I now long to dive into.

Leonard Lupine is the sort of conflicted arse one might expect to find in a romantic comedy and Skye does a lovely job of lampooning and satirising the personas and absurdities of influencer culture.

Likewise, down to earth young widow Isabella is lovely counterpoint to Lupine. Her genuinely tragic backstory contrasting with his poor-little-rich-boy, but-Mummy-I-don’t-want-to-be-typecast-as-a-tv detective-with-only-all-my-money-to-count first world problems schtick.

So, we have an exotic location, a contrasting pair of confused but essentially loveable central characters and a smattering of supporting characters – the children primarily – who speak more sense than most of the adults put together. Which also adds a nice verisimilitude to the proceedings.

In short, ‘Clueless in Croatia’ was just what the post-lockdown Summer ordered – I’m off to dream of swimming in lagoons, eating an entirely cuisine from a country I’m yet to discover and also to research Joy Skye’s other novels.

I now feel less clueless about Croatia – and far more excited to visit. Joy is certainly an aptly named author. Bravo!

Purchase Links

Amazon.com – https://www.amazon.com/Clueless-Croatia-feel-good-romantic-Retreats-ebook/dp/B08X1QC7B7

Amazon.co.uk – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Clueless-Croatia-Joy-Skye/dp/B08X6DRPLC

Apple – https://books.apple.com/us/book/clueless-in-croatia/id1554657700

Nook – https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/clueless-in-croatia-joy-skye/1138863706

Kobo – https://www.kobo.com/gr/en/ebook/clueless-in-croatia

Universal Link – https://books2read.com/Clueless-in-Croatia

Author Joy Skye

Author Bio –

Joy lives on the seductive island of Corfu with her four dogs and an embarrassing number of cats.

Her many years working in the tourist industry on this sunny isle and her love of all things literary inspired her first novel Corfu Capers which recently hit the #1 spot in Parenting and Family humour much to her delight.

She loves to cook, dance and drink wine, usually at the same time, and is currently working on book number three, due to be released later this year.

She also loves to travel, absolutely anywhere, and is looking forward to jumping on a plane!

Social Media Links –

Website – https://joyskye.com/

Twitter – https://twitter.com/JoySkye4

FB – https://www.facebook.com/JoySkyeAuthor

Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/joys.kye/

Ever Wondered if a Caged Bird Can Sing?

‘The Gilded Cage on the Bosphorus’ by Ayşe Osmanoğlu

Brothers bound by blood but fated to be enemies. Can their Empire survive or will it crumble into myth?

Istanbul, 1903.


Since his younger brother usurped the Imperial throne, Sultan Murad V has been imprisoned with his family for nearly thirty years.

The new century heralds immense change. Anarchy and revolution threaten the established order. Powerful enemies plot the fall of the once mighty Ottoman Empire. Only death will bring freedom to the enlightened former sultan. But the waters of the Bosphorus run deep: assassins lurk in shadows, intrigue abounds, and scandal in the family threatens to bring destruction of all that he holds dear…

For over six hundred years the history of the Turks and their vast and powerful Empire has been inextricably linked to the Ottoman dynasty. Can this extraordinary family, and the Empire they built, survive into the new century?

Set against the magnificent backdrop of Imperial Istanbul, ‘The Gilded Cage on the Bosphorus’ is a spellbinding tale of love, duty and sacrifice.

Evocative and utterly beguiling, ‘The Gilded Cage on the Bosphorus’ is perfect for fans of Colin Falconer, Kate Morton and Philippa Gregory.

I’ve never been to Turkey properly. I once went via Istanbul’s airport to transfer flights – it was the middle of the night and my main memory is of neon lights, 24-hour shopping and some beautiful marble floors.

But I have spent some time in the Islamic world and can tell you this: the history and culture of that religion, the misunderstandings of majority of the West and the complexity, beauty and the history which flows from the Ottoman Empire is well worthy of anyone’s time.

Ayşe Osmanoğlu has produced an absolutely fascinating account of a period which I didn’t know anything about. I love reading and learning and I particularly love it when it builds upon some scant knowledge I have of a complicated subject.

Osmanoğlu has picked a period just as the world pivots on its axis. Sultan Murad V is imprisoned by his brother in the eponymous gilded cage on the Bosphorus but what adds spice to this version of the true life event is that Osmanoğlu is writing about her own family.

This makes ‘The Gild Cage on the Bosporus’ unique, to the best of my knowledge. There are many historical novels, obviously, but there are few which blend fact with fiction and with emotive family issues woven through the narrative.

Osmanoğlu writes as though she is projecting herself back the 120 or so years to the crucible of a moment which will have profound effects on the geo-political map and her own familial destiny.

It is a journey I am grateful to have joined her on.

Purchase Links

getbook.at/gildedcagebosphorus

https://payhip.com/b/56IX

https://www.kobo.com/ebook/the-gilded-cage-on-the-bosphorus

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-gilded-cage-on-the-bosphorus-ayse-osmanoglu/1137405897?ean=2940163045105

https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Ayşe_Osmanoğlu_The_Gilded_Cage_on_the_Bosphorus?id=EeMsEAAAQBAJ

Author Bio –  Ayşe Osmanoğlu is a member of the Imperial Ottoman family, being descended from Sultan Murad V through her grandfather and from Sultan Mehmed V (Mehmed Reşad) through her grandmother. After reading History and Politics at the University of Exeter, she then obtained an M.A. in Turkish Studies at SOAS, University of London, specialising in Ottoman History. She lives in the UK with her husband and five children.

Social Media Links –

https://www.facebook.com/ayseosmanogluauthor

https://www.instagram.com/aysegulnevsultan/

Blooming Murder? Blooming Marvellous

‘Blooming Murder’ by Simon Whaley

MURDER IS BLOSSOMING IN THE WELSH BORDERS.

Lord Aldermaston’s having a bad day. A falling hanging-basket has killed the town’s mayor, and a second narrowly missed him. His wife wants him to build her new greenhouse in three days, and some nutter is sending him death threats.

This isn’t the quiet life he expected as the new Marquess of Mortiforde.

It’s the annual Borders in Blossom competition, and Mortiforde is battling with Portley Ridge in the final. But this is no parochial flower competition. The mayor’s mishap looks like murder, and there’s another body in the river. Someone desperately wants Portley Ridge to win for the fifteenth successive year.

So when a mysterious group of guerrilla gardeners suddenly carpet bomb Mortiforde with a series of stunning floral delights one night, a chain reaction of floral retaliation ensues.

Can Aldermaston survive long enough to uncover who is trying to kill him, and why? And can he get his wife’s greenhouse built in time?

My god, did I enjoy this novel. I like a cheeky cozy crime at times and I read the synopsis and thought, I have to get myself some of that. But it far exceeded my expectations.

Blooming Murder is, essentially, what would happen if Gardener’s World had an illicit love child by Midsomer Murders via the work of Tom Sharpe. And it’s all the better for it.

Whaley is clearly an accomplished writer and has a strong track record of non-fiction. His first foray into the fantastical has clearly given him licence to run wild. In the afterwards, he notes that there is a version of this nearly 40,000 words longer – he was right to cut and, in future, could potentially prune the buds of his ambition even further.

But this is a minor quibble – local mayors are being dunted on the head by descending hanging baskets, a newly appointed Lord of the Manor is struggling to come to terms with his new position in village life and his wife is chopping up his camouflage netting and disappearing at all times of the day and night.

With bodies dropping like flies, a competitive flower competition and sexually voracious horticultural judges parading around, Blooming Murder skips along reaching a crescendo of exceptionally entertaining mayhem.

I, for one, can’t wait to read any subsequent outings in the Marquess of Mortforde Mystery series as and when they come. If you like your aristocrats eccentric and your cottage cheese in a very unsual serving suggestion, this novel is for you.

Purchase Links.

UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Blooming-Murder-Marquess-Mortiforde-Mysteries-ebook/dp/B094DCYK9Q/

US – https://www.amazon.com/Blooming-Murder-Marquess-Mortiforde-Mysteries-ebook/dp/B094DCYK9Q/

Author Bio – Simon Whaley is an author, writer and photographer who lives in the hilly bit of Shropshire. Blooming Murder is the first in his Marquess of Mortiforde Mysteries, set in the idyllic Welsh Borders – a place many people struggle to locate on a map (including by some of those who live here). He’s written several non-fiction books, many if which contain his humorous take on the world, including the bestselling One Hundred Ways For A Dog To Train Its Human and two editions in the hugely popular Bluffer’s Guide series (The Bluffer’s Guide to Dogs and The Bluffer’s Guide to Hiking). His short stories have appeared in Take A Break, Woman’s Weekly Fiction Special, The Weekly News and The People’s Friend. Meanwhile his magazine articles have delighted readers in a variety of publications including BBC Countryfile, The People’s Friend, Coast, The Simple Things and Country Walking.

Simon lives in Shropshire (which just happens to be a Welsh Border county) and, when he gets stuck with his writing, he tramps the Shropshire hills looking for inspiration and something to photograph. Some of his photographs appear on the national and regional BBC weather broadcasts under his BBC WeatherWatcher nickname of Snapper Simon. (For those of you who don’t know, they get a lot of weather in Shropshire.)

Social Media Links –

Twitter: https://twitter.com/simonwhaley

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SimonWhaleyAuthor

What a tangled web we weave…

‘The Web They Wove’ by Catherine Yaffe

Also featuring ‘The Web They Wove’ today is The Magic of Wor(l)ds and A Crime Reader’s Blog

Not all killers are who they first seem…

The mutilated body of a young female is found in a popular recreation ground in Leeds city centre. DI Ziggy Thornes and his team are at once assigned to close the case.

With little to no forensic evidence left at the scene at first Ziggy struggles to put the pieces together. When a second body turns up in the same place, Ziggy starts to feel the pressure from his bosses and the media as fear spreads through the city.

Realising that victims have been held captive prior to their deaths, Ziggy delves deeper and relentlessly chases down every lead, taking him close to breaking point.

When the investigation leads him dangerously close to home, will time run out before the tangled web of evil he’s uncovered destroys everything he holds dear?

Catherine Yaffe’s debut, ‘The Lie She Told’ was reviewed on the blog in October last year. Indeed, I was honoured to host an exclusive extract at that time too.

I called the novel one in which “few people…are quite what they seem and motivations are as grey and murky as an autumn day in Gairloch… A psychological thriller which manages the powerful balance of nipping along at pace but also lingering in the reader’s minds…a psychologically complicated novel which doesn’t shy away from the pain that violence and its consequences causes.”

Which sounds about as verbose as I normally am.

The follow up, ‘The Web They Wove’ is both a standalone work perfectly capable of standing on its own merits, as well as expanding on the character of DI Ziggy Thornes, a comparatively peripheral character from the first book.

Here Thornes is on home turf in Leeds, leading an investigation which gets first professionally, and then, potentially, personally dangerous.

Yaffe is a talented writer who really does manage to produce prose which flows and moves the story along at the same time. She is clearly making moves to support other up and coming writers too and this branching out in police procedural novels promises more is going to be heard from the emerging psychological thriller writer.

Purchase Links

UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Web-They-Wove-Tangled-Book-ebook/dp/B0937K58PF/

US – https://www.amazon.com/Web-They-Wove-Tangled-Book-ebook/dp/B0937K58PF/

Author Bio – Catherine Yaffe is a full-time writer of crime novels, based in the North of England. ‘The Web They Wove’ is Catherine’s second novel and continues the theme of questioning how well we know those around us. Her debut novel ‘The Lie She Told’ in October ‘20 was received with widespread acclaim, and so far, has gained over 50 five star reviews across Goodreads and Amazon. 

Social Media Links –
@catherineyaffe

https://www.facebook.com/CatherineYaffeAuthor

A blade and dudgeon gouts of blood… It is the bloody business

‘Bad Blood’ by Heather Atkinson

Also featuring on ‘Bad Blood’ on their blogs today are Donna’s Book Blog and Baker’s Not So Secret Blog

If you can’t trust your family, who can you trust…?

Glasgow gangster Jamie Gray and his fellow Blood Brothers rule the Gallowburn Estate with an iron fist. No one messes around on their turf without consequences. 

But when Jamie’s erstwhile dad, Jason Gray, reappears after many years away – some of them spent behind bars – the Blood Brothers are drawn into the murky and dangerous world of the toughest gangster of them all – The Queen of Glasgow, Toni McVay.  

Toni is the head of the most powerful organised crime family in Scotland and, as the psychotic leader enjoys scooping out the eyeballs of those who displease her, Jamie has no option but to do her bidding.
 
With the love of his life Allegra still missing, his enemies closing in, and his family’s safety at risk, Jamie Gray faces the battle of his life.  But with his father’s bad blood running through his veins, and the bravery and brains he has inherited from his mother Jackie, Jamie has all the tools he needs to survive.

When I wrote about Heather Atkinson’s first instalment in the Gallowburn series, ‘Blood Brothers’, last year, I pointed out that Scotland is “a country of contrasts.”

I felt that Atkinson displayed “an unpatronising affection for her street level protagonists. The characters are rendered as fully rounded humans with clear motivations and driving ambitions.”

It is my contention that these strengths continue in the sequel, ‘Bad Blood’. Here, from the opening assault of the first page – literally for some unruly locals, metaphorically for the reader – this is a visceral Scotland, with knee cappings, chains to the face and screwdriver-wielding toughs.

In fact, so tough is the environment, I kept expecting them to break out in Macbeth quotes, “But I am faint, my gashes cry for help,” said the ned as Jamie told the interlopers to fuck off.

“Will all great Neptune’s ocean wash this blood/Clean from my hand?” said Logan as he paused to scoop up the baseball bat studded with nails.

“Out, damned spot! Out, I say! . . . who would have thought the old man to have had so much blood in him,” said Digger as he wrestled with his conscience before returning to mock Jamie for being in love with a vicar.

Now, there’s a mash up I’d love to see!

Until then I shall continue to the enjoy the safe pair of hands which is Heather Atkinson with her fast paced plotting, exciting action sequences and realistically rendered locations.

Purchase Link – https://amzn.to/3bT43dH

Author Bio:

Heather Atkinson is the author of over fifty books – predominantly in the crime fiction genre.  Although Lancashire born and bred she now lives with her family, including twin teenage daughters, on the beautiful west coast of Scotland.   Her new gangland series for Boldwood, set on the fictional Gallowburn estate in Glasgow began with Blood Brothers in December 2020.

Social Media Links

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/booksofheatheratkinson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/HeatherAtkinso1

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/heathercrimeauthor/

Newsletter Sign Up Link: http://bit.ly/HeatherAtkinsonNewsletter

Bookbub profile: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/heather-atkinson

Boulangeries, Bodies and Widowhood

‘Body on the Rocks’ Rachel Green

Mourning the death of her police inspector husband, Margot Renard moves to a small seaside town in the south of France. But when the body of a small boy washes up on a beach, Margot is drawn into a dangerous world of drug smugglers and people trafficking, and forced to cross paths with two feuding gangsters.

Other people on the tour today include Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers and Westveil Publishing

It is pretty exciting in the week that the ‘Friends’ reunion has dominated social media and TV, to get a novel from the pseudonymous pen of a Rachel Green – although, presumably this one still has her original face.

What we have in this novel is Book One in a series – Book Two is already available, as is a short story when you visit Green’s website – featuring Madam Renard.

Relocating from Paris to the Mediterranean town of Argents-sur-Mer, the recently widowed Renard is soon investigating the dark undercurrents of the pretty surface of rural France.

This is a novel bathed in melancholy – there certainly seems to be overtones of the awful Alan Kurdi case in the set up – and Green is willing to delve into the unpalatable attitudes of some of the locals. This sadness is reinforced by the way that the character of Renard is still processing the life she was going to live with her husband in their rural escape, a future now snatched away from her.

Green is clearly an accomplished writer. She is alert to colour and the subtleties and nuance of people’s movements and, always a big bonus for me, her dialogue has the snap and sparkle of real people.

Overall, this is moving, novel as bathed in the ambience of France as an oven fresh croissant with a piping hot coffee accompaniment. I look forward to reading Book Two. Bravo!

Purchase Links

UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Body-Rocks-France-Madame-Investigates-ebook/dp/B08X1GJ9GX

US –  https://www.amazon.com/Body-Rocks-France-Madame-Investigates-ebook/dp/B08X1GJ9GX

Author Bio – Rachel Green is the pen name of a writer from the UK. Rachel has twice been longlisted for both the Bath Novel Award and the BPA First Novel Award, as well as being on the shortlist for the Capital Crime New Voices Award. Rachel lives in a tiny village in England, but travels frequently to the south of France where the stories from the Madame Renard Investigates series are set.

Social Media Links – Twitter: @AuthorRachelG  Facebook: AuthorRachelG

A Warm Heart for a Cold Case

The Coldest Case’ by Martin Walker

An anonymous skull, an unsolved murder, sinister rumors from the Cold War era of espionage–Bruno’s investigation into a long-standing cold case finds him caught between an enigmatic winegrower and a menacing Communist organization from the past.

After attending an exhibit on the facial reconstruction of ancient skulls, Bruno wonders if this technology might provide an invaluable clue to a thirty-year-old cold case. But learning the identity of the murder victim is only the beginning.

The investigation quickly turns thorny and leads Bruno to a reclusive vintner, Henri Bazaine, whose education at a vocational school in a formerly Communist region has raised some eyebrows. An inquiry into the defunct school turns up shadowy reports of possible connections and funding from the Stasi, the repressive police agency of the former East Germany. The scrutiny on Henri intensifies once Bruno discovers that he was declared dead thirty years ago and has been living under an assumed name ever since.

The strange case is further complicated as Parisian bureaucrats get involved, hinting that essential diplomatic relations might be at stake. And to make matters even worse, the Dordogne is suffering from an intense summer drought that is sparking fires across the region. But as always, Bruno will keep a cool head through it all–and, bien sûr, takes time to enjoy a sumptuous Périgordian meal!

Blurb courtesy of Penguin Randomhouse

In 2008, I paid an amount of money I am now horrified to recall, to go to the Harrogate Crime Writing Festival.

Before I left the small, Highland village I was then living in, I paid a visit to its delightful little bookshop and picked up a paperback copy of Martin Walker’s debut novel, Bruno Chief of Police (now known as Death in the Dordogne I believe) on the strength of a friendly little cover illustration and the blurb on the back.

I gulped that opening instalment down and – by the time I got to Harrogate – I had already pre-ordered the then upcoming sequel, The Dark Vineyard, in hardback and was sufficiently impressed to rather shyly and haltingly stop Walker in the street to tell him that I was terribly sorry but could I just tell him how much I enjoyed his book.

He was graciousness itself and told me never to worry about saying that to an author, which seems like good advice. I’ve also remained a loyal fan of the series which now extends to The Coldest Case, the fourteenth episode in the life and adventures of Chef de Police, Bruno Courreges.

To be honest, most reviewers focus on the setting and the cooking. I have been close to the Perigourd but never had the pleasure. It sounds idyllic. I’m also very pleased to learn that next year will see a release of Bruno’s cookbook in an English translation – till now only available in German.

Personally, however, whilst I love a nice description of a prehistoric cave or of Bruno whistled rendition of the Marseillaise being the perfect length of time to boil an egg, my love of the series is because of the characters and the fact that these are tightly plotted, espionage-tinged stories with enough in them to satisfy any true genre fan.

Walker is clearly interested in the Cold War, it’s ripple-like effects on the present day and the intricacies of the complex working of the French security services and the way they intersect with someone on the lowest of shop floors – even if they are a Croix de Guerre holder constantly being seconded to the Interior Ministry like Bruno.

All in all, these are possibly the most underrated series of novels in the crime/espionage genre currently available today and – considering there is a top notch set of audiobook narrated by Peter Noble available – there is really no excuse for not entering the world of Bruno and St Denis.

Martin Walker, after a long career of working in international journalism and for think tanks, now gardens, cooks, explores vineyards, writes, travels, and has never been more busy. He divides his time between Washington, D.C., and the Dordogne. You can find more about Walker at his website, http://www.brunochiefofpolice.com/about-the-author.html

Wider Horizons

‘The Legacy’ by Alison Knight

An unexpected inheritance. A web of deceit. A desperate escape. 

London, 1969.

James has his dreams of an easy life shattered when his aunt disinherits him, leaving her fortune to her god-daughter, Charlotte. He turns to his friend, Percy, to help him reclaim his inheritance – and to pay off his creditors. But when their plans backfire, James becomes the pawn of Percy and his criminal associates.

Charlotte is stunned when she is told of her windfall. After an attempt at cheating her out of her inheritance fails, James tries to intimidate her. But she is stronger than he thinks, having secrets of her own to guard, and sends him away with a bloody nose and no choice but to retreat for now.

Resigned, James and his spoilt, pampered girlfriend, Fliss, Percy’s sister, travel across France on a mission that promises to free James from the criminals for good. But James isn’t convinced he can trust Fliss, so he makes his own plans to start a new life.

Will James be able to get away, or will his past catch up with him? Will Charlotte’s secrets turn the legacy into a curse?

Purchase Link –  mybook.to/legacy

When I reviewed Alison Knight’s debut novel, ‘Mine’, in November of 2020 (https://pajnewman.com/2020/11/30/fate-and-the-effects-of-mine/) I did not expect to be reviewing her next instalment in the sixties universe she created so soon.

However, here I think I may have underestimated the industry of Knight who has produced this entertaining novella in short order.

Also existing in the Eastender-meets-the-Krays milieu of the full length novel, this takes a relatively minor event from that story and spins out the event offering a fresh perspective and Knight’s usual classy writing.

An enjoyable amuse bouche of a novella which can be gulped in a nourishing afternoon.

Author Bio

Alison has been a legal executive, a registered childminder, a professional fund-raiser and a teacher. She has travelled the world – from spending a year as an exchange student in the US in the 1970s and trekking the Great Wall of China to celebrate her fortieth year and lots of other interesting places in between.

In her mid-forties Alison went to university part-time and gained a first-class degree in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University and an MA in the same subject from Oxford Brookes University, both while still working full-time. Her first book was published a year after she completed her master’s degree.

The Legacy is a drama set in 1960s London. Like her previous book, Mine, it explores themes of class, ambition and sexual politics, showing how ordinary people can make choices that lead them into extraordinary situations.

Alison teaches creative and life-writing, runs workshops and retreats with Imagine Creative Writing Workshops (www.imaginecreativewriting.co.uk) as well as working as a freelance editor. She is a member of the Society of Authors and the Romantic Novelists’ Association.

She lives in Somerset, within sight of Glastonbury Tor.

Social Media Links –

www.facebook.com/alison.knight.942
https://twitter.com/Alison_Knight59  
www.imaginecreativewriting.co.uk
www.darkstroke.com/dark-stroke/alison-knight/