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

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.



‘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






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 –



Blooming Murder? Blooming Marvellous

‘Blooming Murder’ by Simon Whaley


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