Cath Staincliffe

Scott & Bailey: Bleed Like Me – Cath Staincliffe

Title – Scott & Bailey: Bleed Like Me

Author – Cath Staincliffe

Published – 2013

Genre – Crime fiction

My reading is pretty consistent at the moment but I’m moving between new books (mainly birthday gifts), review copies via NetGalley and older physical review copies of books which have been sitting on my TBR for some time. This book is one of the latter – a signed hardcopy that I picked up at a publishing event in March 2013.

I think when I went to the event I had yet to watch any of the Scott and Bailey TV series, so perhaps the delay in reading this book worked out for the best.

As soon as I started reading I was transported straight back to the TV series and its characters. The book is set as a prequel to the second ITV Scott and Bailey series (I had to look that up) but I know that it was somewhere within the series timeline as there were references to incidents I remembered.

The story is more of a thriller than a police procedural – three bodies have been found, stabbed to death in their beds, at The Journey’s Inn, Lark’s Estate, Manchester. The husband and father of two of the victims has fled and his two young sons are missing. There seems little doubt over what may have taken place, the challenge for the team is to find the desperate man but, more importantly, his small sons.

The characters are just as I remembered them but the format of a book over a TV series gives you a bit more insight into the characters and their motivations. It must be a challenge for a writer to mould their work to fit something that already exists but nothing felt out of place and there was a visual quality to the writing that helped support the feeling that this was an extension of what I’d seen on the small screen.

The story itself was a good ‘race against time’ with some red herrings and action but within the confines of a police team in Manchester. The investigation is only part of the story, though, as this is also a story of the three very different, strong women who take the lead.

I really enjoyed this – it took me back to a very watchable TV series, not only reminded me of the characters but added to it by providing a more intimate connection with them.

Many thanks to the publisher for the review copy.

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The Starlings & Other Stories edited by Anne Cleeves

51B71-aqlgLTitle – The Starlings & Other Stories edited by Anne Cleeves

Author – Murder Squad and accomplices

Published – Sept 2015

Genre – Crime fiction

The Starlings & Other Stories is a compilation of crime and mystery short stories inspired by 12 photographs taken by David Wilson of rural Pembrokeshire. David takes atmospheric and evocative black and white pictures of the Welsh landscape and these have inspired a series of equally dark and tense short stories. The authors are a collective of six crime writers from the North of England (the Murder Squad) and six ‘accomplices’, and it is edited by one of the authors, Anne Cleeves, who has also written a short ‘Vera’ story as her own contribution. The authors all chose a different one of David’s photos to inspire their stories – and the use of the images provides a theme which links the stories, rooting them in the Welsh setting.

The stories themselves take a mix of approaches, from the contemporary to the historical, from conventional crime to stories with a more supernatural slant. For me the standout story was actually the first one  in the book, ‘Homecoming’ by Cath Staincliffe. As I’ve discovered with other fiction I’ve read of Cath’s she does a brilliant job of developing the emotional aspect of a mystery and that’s not an easy feat in the context of a short story.

The collection is accompanied by the glossy photos that were the inspiration and this makes for an unusually beautiful crime fiction book. As well as being excellent photographs, using the set of images as a theme for the anthology gives a similarity between the stories that makes this a cohesive collection making this a worthwhile buy for any crime fiction lover.

Many thanks to Graffeg for the review copy.

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Blink of an Eye – Cath Staincliffe

blinkofaneyeTitle – Blink of an Eye

Author – Cath Staincliffe

Published – April 2013

Genre – Fiction

After reading a stack of books which deal with the investigation of crimes it’s refreshing to look at things from another angle. In Blink of an Eye we follow the impact of an accident that changes the lives of those involved ‘in the blink of an eye’.

The story is told from the viewpoint of two main characters – Naomi and her mother Carmel. After leaving a summer barbecue at her sister’s house Naomi is involved in a horrific accident. In that moment her life and the lives of those closest to her are irrevocably changed. The story is about the emotional fallout from this event and the impact it has on the relationships of Naomi and her family.

There is also something of a crime fiction element to the book. Naomi seemingly can’t remember the details of the accident and a remark made by her sister prompts their mother to try to piece together what happened. Despite the fact that Carmel is a social worker she is unable to deal with the crisis in the way that she knows she should, so she begins to try to piece together what happened to Naomi – quizzing those who were at the barbecue.

The stresses and strains that the accident puts on the family and particularly Naomi are very credible and it brings to the fore some of the tensions within the family and Carmel’s reminiscences fill in the background.

I have to confess that I didn’t find Naomi a completely likeable character but I did feel for Carmel and her husband. And it’s all too easy to imagine yourself in the shoes of someone who makes a small error which has such devastating consequences. I was really drawn into the story and like the Nicci French books the characters’ lives are rich in detail, which really brings them to life.

Thanks to the publisher for the review copy. You can see another point of view at Reviewing the Evidence.

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