The 2016 CWA Daggers

I have to say that I find the CWA Daggers process to be a little confusing. There are currently ten daggers awarded annually by the Crime Writer’s Association but the timings of the long and shortlists for the awards and the presentation seems to be unclear. Last year shortlists were announced in early June and the awards presented at their dinner at the end of June. This year the dinner will be at the end of September…

Nevertheless – the ten Daggers are:

The Diamond Dagger – selected from nominations provided by CWA members – 2016 winner is Peter James and the award was presented during Crimefest this May.

The longlists for the following daggers were announced during Crimefest.

In the early days of my blog I had some hopes of reading all the titles in one of the CWA Dagger lists but unless I already have read a few when the lists are announced I stand very little chance of getting through them in time. I have also found in previous years that some of the books are actually quite difficult to get hold of! Looking at the lists below I’m unlikely to get a whole one read. Maybe next year…

Goldsboro Gold longlist

Dodgers by Bill Beverly
Black Widow by Christopher Brookmyre
After You Die by Eva Dolan
Real Tigers by Mick Herron
Finders Keepers by Stephen King
Dead Pretty by David Mark
Blood Salt Water by Denise Mina
She Died Young by Elizabeth Wilson

Ian Fleming Steel longlist

The Cartel by Don Winslow
The English Spy by Daniel Silva
Bone by Bone Sanjida Kay
Rain Dogs by Adrian McKinty
Real Tigers by Mick Herron
The Hot Countries by Timothy Hallinan
Black Eyed Susans by Julia Hearberlin
Make Me by Lee Child
Spy Games by Adam Brookes
The American by Nadia Dalbuono

 John Creasey (New Blood) longlist

Fever City by Tim Baker
Dodgers by Bill Beverly
Mr Miller by Charles Den Tex
The Teacher by Katerina Diamond
Wicked Game by Matt Johnson
Freedom’s Child by Jax Miller
Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh
The Dark Inside by Rod Reynolds
The Good Liar by Nicholas Searle 

International longlist

The Truth and Other Lies by Sascha Arango translated by Imogen Taylor
The Great Swindle by Pierre Lemaître translated by Frank Wynne
Icarus by Deon Meyer translated by K L Seegers
The Sword of Justice by Leif G.W. Person translated by Neil Smith
The Murderer in Ruins by Cay Rademacher translated by Peter Millar
The Father by Anton Svensson translated by Elizabeth Clark Wessel
The Voices Beyond by Johan Theorin translated by Marlaine Delargy
Six Four by Hideo Yokoyama translated by Jonathan Lloyd-Davis

Non-Fiction longlist

The Golden Age of Murder by Martin Edwards
Sexy Beasts: The Hatton Garden Mob by Wensley Clarkson
You Could Do Something Amazing With Your Life (You Are Raoul Moat) by Andrew Hankinson
A Very Expensive Poison by Luke Harding
Jeremy Hutchinson’s Case Histories by Thomas Grant
John le Carré: The Biography by Adam Sisman

Short Story longlist

As Alice Did by Andrea Camilleri from Montalbano’s First Cases
On the Anatomization of an Unknown Man (1637) by Frans Mier by John Connolly from Nocturnes 2: Night Music
Holmes on the Range: A Tale of the Caxton Private Lending Library & Book Depository by John Connolly from Nocturnes 2: Night Music
Bryant & May and the Nameless Woman by Christopher Fowler from London’s Glory Bantam
Stray Bullets by Alberto Barrera from Tyszka Crimes
Rosenlaui by Conrad Williams  from The Adventures of Moriarty: The Secret Life of Sherlock Holmes’s Nemesis edited by Maxim Jakubowski 

Debut (unpublished writers) longlist

Dark Valley by John Kennedy
Death by Dangerous by Oliver Jarvis
The Devil’s Dice by Roz Watkins
Hard ways by Catherine Hendricks
Let’s Pretend by Sue Williams
Misconception Jack Burns
A Reconstructed Man by Graham Brack
A State of Grace by Rita Catching
The Tattoo Killer  by Joe West
Wimmera by Mark Brandi 

Endeavour Historical longlist

The House at Baker Street by Michelle Birkby
A Death in the Dales by Frances Brody
A Man of Some Repute and A Question of Inheritance by Elizabeth Edmondson
Smoke and Mirrors by Elly Griffiths
The Last Confessions of Thomas Hawkins by Antonia Hodgson
The Other Side of Silence by Philip Kerr
A Book of Scars by William Shaw
The Jazz Files by Fiona Veitch Smith
Striking Murder by A. J. Wright
Stasi Child by David Young

Dagger in the Library longlist

RC Bridgestock
Tony Black
Alison Bruce
Angela Clarke
Charlie Flowers
Elly Griffiths
Keith Houghton
Quintin Jardine
Louise Phillips
Joe Stein

So how’s your reading going – will you have read enough to judge a category?


Filed under Events

The Birdwatcher – William Shaw

51c4B126sqLTitle – The Birdwatcher

Author – William Shaw

Published – 19 May 2016

Genre – Crime fiction

William Shaw is a Brighton-based writer who is no stranger to crime fiction, having written a trilogy of books set in the 1960s  featuring ‘Breen and Tozer’. I came across him, however, when he was at Deal Noir talking about his new standalone, The Birdwatcher, and I was intrigued by it. The connection with Deal is that the book is set nearby, on the bleak and desolate coastline at Dungeness. Missing out on a copy at the event I was lucky enough to get approved for a Netgalley (thank you Netgalley Gods!).

The main character is William South – he’s a local Police Sergeant drawn into a murder investigation when a new DS from London, Alexandra Cupidi, needs some local knowledge. We know two things from the start about South – he’s a birdwatcher and, by his own admission, a murderer. He is also a pretty grumpy character. He doesn’t want to be involved in a murder investigation and he takes a pretty critical view of Cupidi. In fact all he wants to do is be left alone to watch the birds and catch up on his paperwork. But the brutally murdered man turns out to be his neighbour and friend, and that means South won’t leave the investigation alone, even when perhaps he should.

South quite quickly becomes involved in the lives of Cupidi and her daughter Zoë, perhaps seeing some similarities between his younger self and Zoë. She was reluctant to move from London and is struggling to settle into her school and it is with her that South shows a more sympathetic side (although still a bit grumpy).

The story switches between the present and South’s childhood in Northern Ireland during the Troubles. He grew up in a time when violence was commonplace and he saw more than his fair share.  As the two storylines unfold South’s past informs on his present. While South isn’t a completely likeable character he is certainly one that I was able to empathise with; his backstory provides some of the explanation for his outlook on life and his choices.

So now to try to explain why I thought this was such a brilliant read. Before I started blogging about books I would never have thought about what specific sub genre of crime fiction I like but I’ve come to realise that it’s the police procedural that I’d put at the top of the list. So one box ticked! While The Birdwatcher isn’t heavy on the detail of the investigation it manages the right mix for me, balancing this with the personal stories of the characters, and these are some well-drawn and credible characters. This is all within the framework of a plausible plot which has some changes in pace and manages to weave around in some unexpected ways. The story is focused on a very narrow location and Shaw uses this to great effect, the whole of the story really reflects the bleak and desolate setting and I was really immersed in the atmosphere Shaw created. When I got off the train at the end of my commute I kept being surprised that I wasn’t arriving on a wind and rainswept coast!

Although the story and themes are quite dark, and there are only a few more lighthearted moments, this was a book and a character that really gripped me.


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Behind the Scenes – the Translator

This is the second in my ‘behind the scenes‘ look at some of the often unsung heroes who help to bring us readers great crime fiction. This time my Q and A is looking at the role of the translator and Frank Wynne was kind enough to give up his time to answer my questions.

Frank is an award-winning translator, working from both French and Spanish, with three CWA International Dagger awards, twice winning the Premio Valle-Inclán, as well as winning the Scott Moncrieff Prize, the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize and the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. If you’re a reader of crime fiction you’ll probably be most familiar with his work through the books by Pierre Lemaitre.

You can find Frank on twitter under the name @Terribleman.

Was being a translator something you imagined you would do when you were at school?

Absolutely not! It never occurred to me that I would be ‘allowed’ to translate a novel – it seemed (and still seems) such a huge responsibility to take on the task of recreating the tone and styles of an author. I remember the author’s  note Barbara Trapido wrote in her novel “Brother of the More Famous Jack”, where she said that she wrote her first novel at 41 having previously believed that novels were written by people who were “dead or already famous”; I felt a little like that. I felt as though translators were from some alien world; that one could not simply become a literary translator.

I came to translation by accident. I moved to Paris at the age of 22 (having never been to France) and was surprised that i quickly became fluent in the language. I began to read compulsively. It was while I was reading La Vie devant soi by Émile Ajar (a pseudonym of Romain Gary) that I felt the urge – the need – to translate. But it did not occur to me even then that it was something I might do professionally. It was almost fifteen years later (while I was working for an Internet company, and spending weekends writing “reader’s reports” for publishers) that an editor asked whether I wanted to translate a novel – I was terrified but hugely excited. A couple of years later I gave up the day job so that I could translate full time.

Can you outline the process of translating a novel?

I will usually read a novel twice before beginning a translation. Once for the sheer excitement of the book, to enjoy its pleasures as a reader – whether plot, characterisation or language. The second time, I may slow down and consider the voice(s) in the text, the rhythms of the prose – occasionally I will find myself toying with English phrases as I read the second time.

Different translators approach a first draft in very different ways. I can spend a lot of time wrestling with a sentence / a paragraph to get the sound I feel I need, and I also litter the draft with footnotes to myself – highlighting passages I’m unhappy with, questions I want to ask the author, jokes or puns I think I need to work on. Once I’ve finished the first draft, I will usually write tot he author and explain my approach to the text, ask any questions that are niggling me as a reader and / or translator. In the second draft, I am already beginning to think of the book as English-language text – I find myself reworking phrases and images that seem too ‘lumpen’ in the English. I sometimes read passages – particularly dialogue – aloud to test whether I find them convincing.

Once delivered to an editor, it will usually be several weeks or months (once, more than a year) before I get editorial notes and comments. Coming back to a translation after a long period gives you a fresh eye – suddenly, solutions that were intractable seem obvious. Work on the third draft involves responding to the editor’s comments and suggestions. An insightful editor can flag a translator’s lexical tics and mannerisms, but also highlight phrases that feel literal or literal to his / her year. By this time, I am no longer referring back to the original text, but simply working with the English.

The last piece of tinkering comes when the publisher sends page proofs / galleys. Seeing a text typeset like a ‘proper book’ is another jolt and – while at this stage I am only supposed to correct errors and typos I often find myself reworking sentences and snatches of dialogue. It is almost compulsive, and it is important to know when to stop. I often say “a translation is near finished, only abandoned” (shamelessly paraphrasing W.H.Auden’s paraphrase of Paul Valéry).

Do you see the process as a collaboration with the author of the work?

By definition a translation is a war of collaboration even if the original author has been dead for centuries. But in practice, the process and one’s relationship with authors can vary enormously. Some are perfunctory and professional, some almost non-existent (I’ve had one author who – despite repeated emails – declined to respond to my queries), most involve discussions that are informative and revealing, a small few are truly personal. I have felt intimately close to authors I have never met, and I have also had good fortune to have one or two relationships with authors evolve into friendships. In the end, however, though translation is an act of collaboration (with author, editor, copy editor  and proof reader) it is the translator who must take responsibility for recreating a work. A musician can endlessly question a composer about the intent behind a piece of music, but when it comes to playing, it is the performer’s interpretation that is heard.

Do you work on more than one project at a time?

Very rarely – and it is something I can only do if the projects are very different, or are in different languages, otherwise I find that the voice of one book begins to bleed over into the other.

Translating is like an intimate conversation, with the translator listening intently and responding to the writer; it is difficult to do so with multiple authors without sacrificing that intensity.

How much influence can a translator have on the tone or feeling of a book?

In theory, a translator has absolute control over the tone or feeling of the translated work – unless the author is bilingual. In practice, we strive (and should always strive) to recreate a tone and feel which we hear orintit in the original. The process is, of course, profoundly subjective; the voice I hear may differ slightly form what another translator will hear – something that has become clear in the many “Translation Duels” in which I have participated over the years.

Every decision made by a translator – about tone and register, about the cadence or rhythm of a sentence – influences the tone of the work in English. To me, this is most apparent when translating dialogue, wordplay and idiomatic language which can have no direct equivalent in the target language. But if, at such point, a translator is called upon to invent, this is circumscribed by his or her understanding of the intent and impact of the original.

Most importantly, a translator needs an ear for music and for voice, it is this that has allowed me the privilege to ‘(re)write’ novels I could never imagine, to briefly ‘become’ authors from the wide world of Francophone and Hispanophone literature and, through language, to try to recreate narratives I love and admire.

You’ve translated a range of different genres and languages, which do you most enjoy and which provide the biggest challenges?

I enjoy working in most genres and do not have a particular favourite, but I think it is true that I enjoy working on novels with a playful or complex relationship to language.

It is often assumed that very “literary” novels, with highly poetic voices are most difficult to translate, but I find that, while it takes time to conjure the right voice for such books, once that voice is found it provides a solution to other spaces of the text.

There are two authors whose books I found both deeply challenging and profoundly rewarding. The first is Ahmadou Kourouma, one of the great 20th century African novelists, whose novels Waiting for the Wild Beasts to Vote and Allah is not Obliged I had the honour of translating. Kourouma’s novels are linguistically dense and his narrators employ the cadences of the West-African griot tradition. The text is peppered with words and expressions in Malinké, and evokes traditions and cultures that are very different form any I have experienced, yet the time I spent trying to recreate Kourouma’s prolix, poetic vernacular was a wonderful and cathartic experience. The second is Andrés Caicedo, whose novel, ¡Que viva la music! took me two years to translate. Cicero’s novel (published in English as Liveforever) is suffused with music, particularly the salsa dura of late 1970s Colombia, and the lyrical, hypnotic voice of the protagonist, Maria Carmen del Huerta, becomes a song on itself. Translating it, involved teasing out the hundreds of allusions to lyrics, song titles and film and literature threaded through the narrative, and weaving them into a new melody.

Often books are translate some time after publication in the original language, does that pose any problems for you?

Not particularly. While I like to be able to address questions to an author, at the end of the day much of what I do is about immersing myself in a text.

Is there a translation or a translator that you particularly admire?

There are many translations and translators I admire. Translations that have thrilled and excited me would include William Weaver’s translation of Calvino’s If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller and Lydia Davis’ version of Proust’s The Way by Swann’s (sadly, not all of the Penguin volumes of Proust are as near-perfect). In a very different register, Christopher Logue’s War Music – an “account” (he did not call it a translation) of several books of Homer’s Iliad is a luminous revelation. More recently, I admire the stunning work done by Anne McClean and Rosalind Harvey in translating Enrique Villa-Matas’ novel Dublinesque.

I admire all translators, they constantly remind me of the joys of what we do. But if I had to choose a living translator, it would be Margaret Jull Costa, whose seemingly effortless poise and mastery of source and target language leave me breathless.

And what book would you love to be asked to translate?

Too many – and most have already been translated. For a long time, my response would have been La Place de l’étoile by Patrick Modiano, but the Nobel Prize and a very supportive editor meant that I got to translate that in 2014.

What are you reading at the moment?

La gazelle s’agenouille pour pleurer – a book of short stories by the Togolese writer Kanji Alem, whose novel La Legend de l’assassin blew me away.

I’d like to thank Frank for taking the time to give such considered answers to my questions.


Filed under Interview

The Sean Denton series by Helen Cadbury

Title – To Catch a Rabbit and Bones in the Nest

Author – Helen Cadbury

Published – January & July 2015 respectively (by Allison &  Busby)

Genre – Crime fiction

I have a pile of books that lurks on the coffee table the ‘read but not yet reviewed pile’ as it’s known. Much to my shame Helen Cadbury’s excellent debut (To Catch a Rabbit) has been sitting in this very pile since March 2015.  I recently got into conversation with Helen on Twitter and as a consequence her publisher sent me the second in the Sean Denton series – Bones in the Nest. So what you’re getting here is a bit of a ‘twofer’  – two reviews for the price of one. Really not sure how this is going to work, but here goes…

51za8fa5+nLThe books are police procedurals and when we’re first introduced to Sean Denton in To Catch a Rabbit he is a lowly PCSO, in fact the youngest PCSO in Doncaster. And I have to say that I don’t think I’ve read many crime fiction books where the main character has had this position – within the police force but probably on the very edge of any investigation. This role works well to introduce Denton and he’s an appealing character – eager yet naive, he has an eye for detail and an enthusiasm which is in contrast to some of his more jaded colleagues.

There are two main points of view in this book – Denton’s as he tries to solve the mystery of a woman found dead leaning against an old mobile snack bar, and Karen Freidman’s, a wife and mother who works at the Refugee and Migrants Advice Centre in York and whose brother has disappeared. It’s inevitable that the two characters’ paths will cross but things don’t pan out in quite the way that the reader might expect.

This is a character-led police procedural and I thought it was an excellent debut. The use of Denton’s PCSO position gives him a different perspective  on the investigation and he is a character that it’s easy to want to root for – with his dyslexia and his council estate upbringing he is one of the more down to earth investigators in fiction.

51euDYPsA1LIn Bones in the Nest Sean is now (potential spoiler alert) a uniformed PC and patrolling the mean streets of Doncaster. The area is seeing some racial tension and only Sean could be called to the scene of an attack on a young Muslim man and then unwittingly attend a meeting of estate residents vowing to keep the place ‘English’.

Sean has to wrestle with some demons from his own past when he ‘reconnects’ with his father and this aspect of the story provides some of the backstory to his relationships. He has some ups and downs and more than his fair share of disciplinary issues at work but nevertheless his eye for detail and enthusiasm for getting the job done are recognised by his superiors. As with its predecessor there is a fair amount of political posturing depicted within the police – a game that Sean isn’t very good at playing.

In this book the alternative point of view is provided by a young woman who has recently been released from prison. Known in the press as the ‘Chasebridge Killer’, she is living under a new name and trying to find her feet at the hostel in York where she has been sent before finding somewhere permanent to live. She is obviously struggling with both her current situation as well as something from her past. She seems to be a mix of both vulnerable and tough – not surprising as she was a teenager when she went to prison. Her voice is quite different to Sean’s and her lack of control over the situations she is put in makes her seem quite fragile.

For me these books strike a really good balance between the personal stories of the characters and the puzzle of the crime fiction elements. I do really like Sean’s character – he is a breath of fresh air compared to the more familiar grouchy old alcoholic detectives and feisty career-minded female counterparts who are more common in crime fiction. Both books also deal with some social issues but these are in a very credible rather than lecturing way.

If you’re looking for some well-written crime fiction with an appealing leading character and a slightly different perspective on the investigation then I highly recommend this series.

Many thanks to the publisher for the review copy of the book. You can follow Helen on twitter and she is in the middle of a series of events to promote Bones in the Nest.


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Filed under 4 star

Crime fiction debuts to look out for in May 2016

This is a look forward to the crime fiction/thriller debuts being published in May 2016.

5 May 2016

51kK3pJFJkLDeath at Whitewater Church: An Inishowen Mystery by Andrea Carter (from Constable) out in paperback

When a skeleton is discovered, wrapped in a blanket, in the hidden crypt of a deconsecrated church, everyone is convinced the bones must be those of Conor Devitt, a local man who went missing on his wedding day six years previously. But the post mortem reveals otherwise.

Solicitor Benedicta ‘Ben’ O’Keeffe is acting for the owners of the church, and although an unwelcome face from her past makes her reluctant to get involved initially, when Conor’s brother dies in strange circumstances shortly after coming to see her, she finds herself drawn in to the mystery. Whose is the skeleton in the crypt and how did it get there? Is Conor Devitt still alive, and if so is there a link? What happened on the morning of his wedding to make him disappear?

Negotiating between the official investigation, headed up by the handsome but surly Sergeant Tom Molloy, and obstructive locals with secrets of their own, Ben unravels layers of personal and political history to get to the truth of what happened six years before.

Andrea was a barrister for seven years, prior to that she worked as a solicitor on the Inishowen Peninsula, Co Donegal. She comes from Ballyfin, Co Laois, and studied law in Trinity College Dublin.

51KtA4krsJLThe Last Days of Summer by Vanessa Ronan (from Penguin)

After ten years in the Huntsville State Penitentiary, Jasper Curtis returns home to live with his sister and her two daughters. Lizzie does not know who she’s letting into her home: the brother she grew up loving or the monster he became.

Teenage Katie distrusts this strange man in their home but eleven-year-old Joanne is just intrigued by her new uncle.

Jasper says he’s all done with trouble, but in a forgotten prairie town that knows no forgiveness, it does not take long for trouble to arrive at their door …

Vanessa Ronan was born in Houston and in her 28 years has lived in Texas, Mexico, New York, Edinburgh, and Dublin, where she now lives with her Irish husband. Among other things, she has been a dancer, a PA, a barmaid, a literature student, a dance teacher, and now, a writer. Home-schooled by her literature teacher parents, Vanessa began writing as soon as she learned the alphabet. The Last Days of Summer is her first novel.

A Rising Man by Abir Mukherjee (from Harvill Secker)
Captain Sam Wyndham, former Scotland Yard detective, is a new arrival to Calcutta. Desperately seeking a fresh start after his experiences during the Great War, Wyndham has been recruited to head up a new post in the police force. But with barely a moment to acclimatise to his new life or to deal with the ghosts which still haunt him, Wyndham is caught up in a murder investigation that will take him into the dark underbelly of the British Raj.

A senior official has been murdered, and a note left in his mouth warns the British to quit India: or else. With rising political dissent and the stability of the Raj under threat, Wyndham and his two new colleagues – arrogant Inspector Digby and British-educated, but Indian-born Sergeant Banerjee, one of the few Indians to be recruited into the new CID – embark on an investigation that will take them from the luxurious parlours of wealthy British traders to the seedy opium dens of the city.

This was the winner of the Harvill Secker/Daily Telegraph crime writing competition – you had more about his journey to publication on Dead Good. Abir was born in London, but grew up in the West of Scotland. Married, with two small children, he now lives in London and has spent the last twenty years working in finance. A Rising Man is his first novel and the first in a new series starring Captain Sam Wyndham and ‘Surrender-Not’ Banerjee.

16 May 2016

91+coDa61SL-2Epiphany Jones by Michael Grothaus (from Orenda Books)

Already released in e-book during March 2016 this is the paperback release of this debut.

Jerry has a traumatic past that leaves him subject to psychotic hallucinations and depressive episodes. When he stands accused of stealing a priceless Van Gogh painting, he goes underground, where he develops an unwilling relationship with a woman who believes that the voices she hears are from God. Involuntarily entangled in the illicit world of sex-trafficking amongst the Hollywood elite, and on a mission to find redemption for a haunting series of events from the past, Jerry is thrust into a genuinely shocking and outrageously funny quest to uncover the truth and atone for historical sins.

 A complex, page-turning psychological thriller, riddled with twists and turns, Epiphany Jones is also a superb dark comedy with a powerful emotional core. You’ll laugh when you know you shouldn’t, be moved when you least expect it and, most importantly, never look at Hollywood, celebrity or sex in the same way again.

Michael Grothaus is a novelist and journalist who spent years researching sex trafficking, using his experiences as a springboard for his debut novel Epiphany Jones. Born in Saint Louis, Missouri in 1977, he spent his twenties in Chicago where he earned his degree in filmmaking and worked for institutions including The Art Institute of Chicago, Twentieth Century Fox, and Apple. As a journalist he regularly writes about creativity, tech, subcultures, sex and pornography, the effects of mass media on our psyches, and just plain mysterious stuff for publications including Fast Company, VICE, Guardian, Engadget, and more. He s also done immersion journalism at geopolitical events including the Hong Kong protests against Beijing in 2014. His writing is read by millions of people each month. Michael lives in London.

17 May 2016

51iEbpIJ4MLLittle Bones by Sam Blake (from twenty7)

Attending what seems to be a routine break-in, troubled Detective Garda Cathy Connolly makes a grisly discovery: an old wedding dress – and, concealed in its hem, a baby’s bones. And then the dress’s original owner, Lavinia Grant, is found dead in a Dublin suburb. Searching for answers, Cathy is drawn deep into a complex web of secrets and lies spun by three generations of women.

Meanwhile, a fugitive killer has already left two dead in execution style killings across the Atlantic – and now he’s in Dublin with old scores to settle. Will the team track him down before he kills again? Struggling with her own secrets, Cathy doesn’t know dangerous – and personal – this case is about to become…

Originally to be called ‘The Dressmaker’ you may be interested to read an article in about the change of title (for info Sam Blake is the pseudonym of Vanessa O’laughlin, founder of

19 May 2016

Sockpuppet by Matthew Blasted (from Hodder and Stoughton)

Twitter. Facebook. Whatsapp. Google Maps. Every day you share everything about yourself – where you go, what you eat, what you buy, what you think – online. Sometimes you do it on purpose. Usually you do it without even realizing it. At the end of the day, everything from your shoe-size to your credit limit is out there. Your greatest joys, your darkest moments. Your deepest secrets.

If someone wants to know everything about you, all they have to do is look.

But what happens when someone starts spilling state secrets? For politician Bethany Leherer and programmer Danielle Farr, that’s not just an interesting thought-experiment. An online celebrity called sic_girl has started telling the world too much about Bethany and Dani, from their jobs and lives to their most intimate secrets. There’s just one problem: sic_girl doesn’t exist. She’s an construct, a program used to test code. Now Dani and Bethany must race against the clock to find out who’s controlling sic_girl and why… before she destroys the privacy of everyone in the UK.

Matthew’s first career was as a professional child actor. From the age of ten, he had roles in TV dramas, in film and on stage at theatres including the Royal Court. After graduating from Oxford with a degree in Mathematics and Philosophy, he began a career in online communications, consulting for a wide range of clients from the BBC to major banks. Since 2008, he has been in public service, using his communication skills to help the British population understand and manage their money. In 2012 Matthew took the Writing a Novel course at Faber Academy. Sockpuppet is his first novel.

The Trap by Melanie Raabe translated by Imogen Taylor (from Mantle)

In this twisted debut thriller, a reclusive author sets the perfect trap for her sister’s murderer–but is he really the killer? For 11 years, the bestselling author Linda Conrads has mystified fans by never setting foot outside her home. Haunted by the unsolved murder of her younger sister–who she discovered in a pool of blood–and the face of the man she saw fleeing the scene, Linda’s hermit existence helps her cope with debilitating anxiety. But the sanctity of her oasis is shattered when she sees her sister’s murderer on television. Hobbled by years of isolation, Linda resolves to use the plot of her next novel to lay an irresistible trap for the man. As the plan is set in motion and the past comes rushing back, Linda’s memories–and her very sanity–are called into question. Is this man a heartless killer or merely a helpless victim?

Melanie Raabe grew up in Thuringia, Germany and attended the Ruhr University Bochum, where she specialized in media studies and literature. After graduating, she moved to Cologne to work as a journalist by day and secretly write books by night.

For previous ‘debuts’ posts see JanuaryFebruaryMarch and April.


Filed under Forthcoming

Rescue – Anita Shreve

51COB0351LLTitle – Rescue

Author – Anita Shreve

Published – 2010

Genre – Fiction

I have to confess to being a huge fan of Anita Shreve. I enjoy her prose and her (usually) female-centric novels which have relationships – often under stress – at their core. In Rescue the main character is a chap – paramedic Peter Webster. Now in his forties bringing up his teenage daughter alone, the story tells how as a rookie he begins an affair with Sheila, a young woman that he treats at the scene of an accident. Webster is a small town guy and Sheila is more worldly-wise – things are never going to run smoothly.

I’ll stop describing the plot there – the blurb on the book gives a lot more away but not having read it (I never read the blurb before the book) I enjoyed the story as it unfolded.

The two characters start a relationship without really knowing each other and they have their own issues and obsessions. In part the story deals with obsession and addiction but it’s also about the importance of family and what sacrifices parents are prepared to make.

I’m impartial enough to say that this probably isn’t Shreve’s best book, the characters aren’t all as fully drawn as those in some of her other novels and I didn’t find the main ones particularly engaging. I just wanted to tell Webster to get a grip! I did enjoy the main themes of the story and I wanted to know what happened, but I did’t quite care enough.

If I haven’t put you off completely I would suggest reading Fortune’s Rocks or The Weight of Water.


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Filed under 3 star

The Unseeing – Anna Mazzola


isbn9781472234766Title – The Unseeing

Author – Anna Mazzola

Published – 14 July 2016

Genre – Historical fiction

This is one of those books that just magically popped though my letterbox and the intriguing cover on the proof (plain but for the image of the eye that’s on the hardback cover) attracted my attention while it was sitting at the top of my TBR pile.

This is historical crime fiction and based on a true story. I do find these can be a bit hit and miss for me – it needs a light touch on the facts or my interest wanes (The Devil’s Acre by Matthew Plampin springs to mind) but The Unseeing was a hit for me. The book opens in 1837 as Sarah Gale is taken to Newgate Prison for her role in the murder of Hannah Brown, the woman who was going to marry Sarah’s common-law husband.

The story is told from two points of view – Sarah’s during her incarceration and that of Edmund Fleetwood, who is appointed by the Home Secretary to review the case. As Edmund tries to draw out of Sarah the truth of the events that led to her imprisonment we learn more about the background to both their lives. Edmund undertakes his task diligently with a mix of interview and investigation. Both are intriguing characters although it’s obvious to both the reader and Edmund that Sarah is hiding something which would be pertinent to her defence. And every time I thought I knew what it was I was wrong! The case also has more of an impact on Edmund than he could have anticipated too.

I really enjoyed the atmospheric setting and the historical details – I have no idea how you research the lives of ordinary people to bring the feeling of accuracy that this had, but it brought the period to life for me.

Anna Mazzola is a criminal justice solicitor, based in London. Whilst this is her debut, it has won awards including the Brixton Bookjam Debut Novel competition and she came runner up in the 2014 Grazia First Chapter competition judged by Sarah Waters.

This is an accomplished debut and a compelling story – think a mix of Burial Rights and The Silversmith’s Wife. Many thanks to the publisher for the review copy of the book. You will have an opportunity to meet Anna and hear more about her book at Crimefest in May.


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Filed under 4 star