Vicky Newham

Out of the Ashes – Vicky Newham

Title – Out of the Ashes

Author – Vicky Newham

Published – 30 May 2019

Genre – Crime fiction

This is the second outing for Detective Inspector Maya Rahman following on from Vicky Newham’s debut ‘Turn a Blind Eye‘ last year.

In the heart of Brick Lane a flash mob gets people dancing in the street, only for a sudden explosion to replace the excitement with terror. A frantic phone call brings Maya to the scene which turns out to have been a fire at an upmarket soup shop. Inside the gutted building are two bodies, arson becomes murder, but while the identity of one victim is clear who is the second?

As the investigation unfolds it draws Maya back to her own past, she grew up in the location and alongside some of the characters central to the case. In pursuing it she is prompted to deal with some of the issues that she and her family have avoided, including the disappearance of her own father.

I preferred the plot of this story to its predecessor, where the first book followed more of a serial killer route this story felt more true to life (I know – it’s all fiction really!).  The story starts with the single incident and the subsequent direction of the plot is driven by this. The ‘race against time’ aspect is in controlling the fallout from the initial incident – and there is plenty to keep them busy. The detectives have a lot of questions to answer – who is the mysterious second victim, were the victims deliberately killed, who is behind the mysterious anti-gentrification group,  does the diverse ethnicity of the location have a bearing?

The book is told from two main perspectives – Maya’s and her colleague Dan’s – both giving insights into the development of the police investigation and the characters of the detectives. In Maya’s case there’s perhaps less focus on her backstory than in the first book, but her character and her life beyond the investigation form an important core to the story.

While it might appear to some people that the author has perhaps tried too hard to include as many different ethnicities as possible, anyone who has walked down Brick Lane will easily recognise the landscape, which is vividly depicted. And while it may be the heart of the city’s Bangladeshi community it is a hugely diverse location with the new and the old sitting cheek by jowl – it’s surprising more authors don’t use the setting.

A topical novel which deals with issues it’s easy to spot on London’s streets, the social commentary is woven into an intriguing mystery with some strong and memorable characters. I’m definitely looking forward to finding out more about Maya’s story. Many thanks to the publisher for the review copy.

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Turn A Blind Eye – Vicky Newham

Title – Turn A Blind Eye

Author – Vicky Newham

Published – 5 April 2018

Genre – Crime fiction

This is one of the books that got a mention in my look forward to 2018 and I’m thrilled that I got a copy so early in the year.

The book is set in East London and embraces the diverse multi-cultural aspects of the communities there. When the body of a head teacher is discovered in her office by a colleague at Mile End High School Detective Inspector, and former pupil, Maya Rahman is keen to lead the investigation, even though this means cutting short her leave to do so. Found at the scene is a single piece of card, written upon which is an ancient Buddhist precept, suggesting, if nothing else, that the murder was premeditated.

Like any good police procedural the book follows the pattern of increasing body count, increasing pressure on the team and a number of possible suspects. The setting of the school provides quite an enclosed environment which narrows down those potentially involved to a rather limited pool. With her own history at the school Maya takes on a determination to solve the murder and to protect the reputation of the school – two things which don’t always require the same action!

The pace varies through the book to give some fast-paced and intense scenes, balanced by the necessarily slower parts of the investigation and more introspective scenes for the main characters. Of the characters it’s Maya that we come to know best with a number of scenes taking place in the past, filling in important aspects of her backstory. Maya’s scenes are told in the first person, making them seem more immediate and bringing the reader closer to the character. She is a Muslim (although seemingly not a particularly devout one) of Bangladeshi origin, at the beginning of the book she suffered a loss but she’s anything but the traditional dysfunctional detective.

There are two other points of view used in the book – Steve, the teacher who finds the body at the beginning of the book, and Dan, a new DS unexpectedly thrust on Maya as a new colleague, who is an Aussie and has left his young family behind to work in the UK. There’s quite a lot of police detail and although I’m a fan of police procedurals I am tempted to think that this might be a case where the reader doesn’t need to know too much about different systems and acronyms.

Drawing on her own experiences teaching in the area the author paints a vivid picture of live in an inner-city school and some of the issues that they face – whether that be from dealing with the multi-cultural aspects of the students and their families or the wider pressure on performance and reputation. The book touches on a number of social issues, both specific (such as forced marriage) and the more general issue of what happens when different cultures collide in the same environment and how it can feel to be an outsider.

Vicky has set herself a huge challenge in writing in such personal detail from the perspective of a character from another culture. Authors are obviously doing this all the time, after all their job is to make things up, but there are going to be some people who will be able to read this with a much more informed eye that I can. I think the shame is that there aren’t many authors bringing a range of cultural experience to the genre. It will be interesting to see how the series develops in the future and which characters make it into the second book.

Many thanks to the publisher for the review copy. You can follow Vicky on twitter and her detectives have their own twitter account too. You can see another review of Turn a Blind Eye on Liz’s blog.

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Crime fiction I’m looking forward to reading in 2018

This is a personal look at the books I’m looking forward to reading next year. There are a few debuts, a few series that I really should catch up on and the climax to one specific series that I just can’t wait for!

First on the list must be Turn a Blind Eye by Vicky Newham which is due to be published on 5 April 2018. I first met Vicky not long after I started blogging and we have been friends since. When I first met people as a blogger I seemed unusual in being someone who was only interested in reading books with no desire to become a writer myself. Over the intervening years I’ve seen many of these bloggers become published authors (people like Sarah Ward, James Law, Steph Broadribb) and it’s been a long wait for Vicky! The good news is that she will be published by HQ books (part of Harper Collins) so she should get lots of publicity and support. They’ve already done a great job on the cover! 

The book does sound intriguing too “When the head teacher of Mile End High School is found brutally murdered, DI Maya Rahman is called in to the East End community – an area buzzing with energy, yet divided by its own multiculturalism. Maya must battle ghosts from her past and navigate East London’s cultural tensions to find the perpetrator before they kill again.”. As a fan of police procedurals this is right up my street and Vicky is bringing in an extra dimension with a Bangladeshi female detective and a Tower Hamlets setting.

Not only did HQ by the rights to two books but TV rights sold to Playground Entertainment so fingers crossed that this develops into something we get to see on screen too.

Next on the list is another debut – this is Strangers on a Bridge by Louise Mangos and is due to be published in August 2018 by HQ Digital, again part of Harper Collins. Louise is another debut author that I’ve met at a number of crime fiction events. Despite having an agent she made her ‘pitch’ to HQ via a tweet when they were asking for authors to do just that and following the tweet they made contact with Louise and she subsequently signed to them. Who says social media is all bad?

A psychological thriller the blurb is ‘While running near her home in Switzerland, English-born Alice stops a man jumping from a notorious suicide bridge. He mistakes Alice’s euphoric relief as budding affection, and he begins to stalk her.’ While the premise sounds intriguing I definitely don’t read enough books set in Switzerland so I’m looking forward to a bit of armchair-tourism too.

I didn’t post a roundup of my reading highlights  for 2017 – there were a couple of reasons for this. First my blog was pretty neglected in the first half of the year with a house move coinciding with a period at work that was both busy and stressful. I’ve done about the same amount of reading as I normally would but it’s been too time-consuming to get all the reviews posted on my blog. But I also felt that there weren’t any absolutely ‘five-star’ standout books in what I’d read. I did ask around on Facebook for some suggestions of what I might have missed and I’ve also had a look at many of the other ‘best of 2017’ lists. Taking all of this into account and scouring the lists on Crime Time I made sure to ask for Bluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke for Christmas and I’m pleased to say that Santa did his stuff. The only hold up may be the fact that as a hardback I shan’t want to take it to work on the train as I like to keep my books in pristine condition!

I’ve always tried to read books in the correct series order and if I have started a series from the beginning I don’t want to skip a book and miss something important. There are a couple of series that I’ve got behind on and I really need to catch up. I feel a particular affinity to these as I read and reviewed the debuts on my blog. Firstly there’s Sarah Hilary’s Marnie Rome series. I’ve read the first three books in the series but missed out on the fourth and can see some reviewers have already received copies of the fifth book, so I need to get myself the two missing titles and squeeze them in to my reading next year.

1. Someone Else’s Skin (2014)
2. No Other Darkness (2015)
3. Tastes Like Fear (2016)
4. Quieter Than Killing (2017)
5. Come and Find Me (2018)

Another series that I have followed from the beginning is David Mark and his Aector McAvoy series. I miss reading about Aector and I must catch up. More for the shopping list…

1. The Dark Winter (2012)
2. Original Skin (2013)
3. Sorrow Bound (2014)
4. Taking Pity (2015)
4.5. A Bad Death (2015)
5. Dead Pretty (2016)
5.5. Fire of Lies (2016)
6. Cruel Mercy (2017)
7. Scorched Earth (2018)

There is a third set of books to add to this and I did make an exception and read some of this series out of order. It’s the Nic Costa series by David Hewson. When David stopped writing this series set in Italy I didn’t feel any pressure to fill in any gaps but with a new book due out in 2018 I shall have to get my skates on to catch up. I have posted reviews on my blog for The Fallen Angel which was the last Nic Costa novel and Carnival for the Dead which was a spin off from the series. You can read more about David’s announcement on his blog.

There is also a series coming to an end which although I shall be sad to see it finish I am REALLY looking forward to reading the final instalment. This is the Frieda Klein series from Nicci French. I wasn’t sure how a move from standalones to a series of eight books would work but I shouldn’t have worried. The series has been excellent – one you really should read from the start to get the most out of the books. But July will see the final book published and I shall be rushing to read it because I would hate to see a spoiler!

 1. Blue Monday (2011)
2. Tuesday’sGone (2012)
3. Waiting for Wednesday (2013)
4. Thursday’s Children (2014)
5. Friday on My Mind (2015)
6. Saturday Requiem (2016)
aka Dark Saturday
7. Sunday Morning Coming Down (2017)
aka Sunday Silence
8. Day of the Dead (2018)

So what have ai missed? What books are your must haves or must reads for the next year?