Saturday, 22 October 2016

**KillerWomen** Inside the Killer's Head

Jane Casey, Tammy Cohen, Kate Medina and Emma Kavanagh discuss the psychology of fictional killers in a conversation hosted by Kate Rhodes

After the Fire (Maeve Kerrigan #6)When She Was BadFire Damage (Jessie Flynn, #1)The Missing HoursBlood Symmetry (Alice Quentin)

What was the scariest thing these women said? That all their writing is based on reality!!! 

  • "Real things often get more twisted than anything I could imagine. Most editors would take out the 'real event' from your plot as too far fetched!" Emma Kavanagh 
  • "The news can be unbelievable. People often think that the things in books would never happen in real life but people can be very irrational." Tammy Cohen
  • "My experience in Cambodia taught me that people show extreme behaviour when they need to survive." Kate Medina
  • "You can start with something that is real and grow it into something that intrigues the reader - something that becomes more fictionalised or magical." Jane Casey 

Have you ever created a character who has disturbed you too much?

  • "What's happening inside a person's mind - psychological fear- is much more frightening than physical violence and crime. And characters that are 'real' or 'ordinary' people rather than random psychopaths are much more frightening to me." Kate Medina
  • "Real people scare me more than characters, people like Fred and Rosemary West - people you wouldn't notice in the street as they are so normal. When you create a character they are your own creation and you control them so they are not as frightening to you." Tammy Cohen
  • "When you are embroiled in a character's psychology and their mind, you are so absorbed in their mental workings that you understand their motivations, the evil becomes more banal." Emma Kavanagh 
  • "You spend so much time with your character; you know what they are doing and why, you understand them from the inside out so you end up actually feeling something for them. With short stories you are less involved with your characters and they can be more frightening because you're not going to spend five months living with them." Jane Casey*
  • "Writing about my psychopath in 'Dying for Christmas' was actually quite liberating as I just wanted to see if I could do it. I really enjoyed playing out all the things he could do, pushing him further and further to see what he might do - it was actually good fun!" Tammy Cohen

How much research do you need to do for your novels?

  • "I'm a former police and military psychologist and have provided training throughout the UK and NATO so I don't need much additional research for my books. But I couldn't have written them without understanding what makes a killer. Being involved in a disaster or a crime strips a character right back - it takes away their mental capacity to keep up any front. I like to put my characters in the worse position and see what happens. But my job used to be to get inside the heads of a killer so I guess I'm just interested in the mental place a person goes to when under extreme pressure." Emma Kavanagh

How do you maintain psychological tension throughout a whole novel?

  • "Sometimes it reflects your own psychological state - I was personally very tense writing 'Missing Hours' due to having young children, grabbing time to write under pressure and writing a story about a mother so some of the tension comes because I was very tense!" Emma Kavanagh
  • "The situation and characters create the tension. I like to look at the layers of complexity in people's brains and how much trauma they can sustain." Kate Medina
  • "I use the theme or motif of fire a lot in my novels. Fire destroys evidence, it complicates a crime scene. It can bring a person relief, entertainment, power, fear and cause immense damage. The psychology of how people behave in a fire is fascinating - that moment when the brain can override rational thought so they end up going up an escalator, leaving the building on auto pilot via their normal route rather than following safety procedure or looking for a safe escape. ....Fire can quickly force a situation to get out of control very quickly and then everything will unravel." Jane Casey

What tips have you got for making a character more dynamic or more nuanced?

  • "Give him an obsession! A nervous tick, funny teeth, a lisp -something that makes them scarier....think Hannibal's obsession with moths!" (all the authors chipped in with this one!)  

What's your top tip for devising a believable motivation for a psychopath?

  • "They act in a particular way because they think they have no other choice." Emma Kavanagh
  • "Make sure it is true to that character rather than the plausibility of the action." Tammy Cohen
  • "The motive has to stack up with their behaviour and character - keep it believable." Kate Medina

Added to my TBR pile:

Dying For ChristmasFire Damage (Jessie Flynn, #1)HiddenTrouble Is Our Business: New Stories by Irish Crime Writers

*"Trouble is our Business" includes a short story by Jane Casey which she claims has the scariest character that she's ever created in - I can concur, it is terrifying!!!

For more reviews, recommendations and articles about Killer Women Crime Festival please follow me on Twitter @katherinesunde3 (bibliomaniacuk)

Friday, 21 October 2016

**KillerWomen** How to Write a Psychological Thriller

This session was almost standing room only as people crammed into the room - some sitting in the aisle- to hear Amanda Jennings and Tammy Cohen talk about Killer Writing. Here's a brief run down of their top tips!

In Her WakeWhen She Was Bad

A psychological thriller is a story which is focused on the emotional and mental state of a character and this is what is driving the reader's interest in the novel. It's usually in a domestic setting - something immediately relatable to the audience. There is a clear motive, a level of insanity or introspection and a huge amount of twists, turns, tension and suspense. There doesn't have to be a murder, but it does need a mounting sense of threat or dread.


  • You need a one line pitch. 
  • You need one strong line to be the heartbeat of your whole plot. A nugget - a strap line for your front cover. 
"What if at your husband's funeral you came face to face with his wife?"

"A woman is driven mad by an affair and stalks her husband." 

  • This is the true essence of the story and will make sure you stay focussed on the heart of the story with every sentence that you write. Put it somewhere you can see it every time you sit down to write. 


  • Focus on their state of mind. The reader doesn't have to love them but has to become emotionally invested in them. If they care about your character then they will turn the pages. 
  • Give your character some external conflict and exploit it - think about abandonment, social exclusion, vulnerability.... this will inform everything that they do
  • Characters need flaws. They need to be real. Psychological thrillers focus on the WHY - Why did they do it? Why did they act like this? 


  • Characters need goals - then they need obstacles in front of these goals. There has to be a goal for the character to achieve which is hard to obtain and involves an emotional risk.
  • Put your character under pressure. Make them make choices - with consequences. Make them make decisions - with ramifications.
  • Set up obstacles - small and large. Let the goals cross and impact on each other to add complexity.
  • Make sure there is a character arc for the character to follow as they journey towards their goal. WHY have they done it? The WHY is crucial! 
  • Plausibility- Avoid "that just wouldn't happen" feedback at all costs! The characters can do implausible things but it has to be plausible for that character. The reader has to believe this specific character might do whatever it is they do.


  • This about using hooks and cliffhangers. Keep asking questions throughout every chapter. Build tension.
  • There should be a little bit of breathing space - an ebb and flow - a little bit of a sub plot or description - just enough so the reader can take a deep breath and ready themselves for the next drama.....but not too long that they put the book down!
  • Use short chapters, short sentences and short paragraphs. 
  • To Prologue or Not to Prologue? They can be very good at putting questions to the reader but don't kill the tension by revealing too much or deadening the tension with too much back story.
  • A backstory is good as long as it doesn't cut into the action or prevent the story from moving forward.
  • Edit Closely. If it isn't moving the plot and character forward, should it be there?


  • Keep to first person or close third person as it's all about the internal workings of the character's mind.
  • Unreliable narrators are effective for viewing the action as it evolves but without knowing the whole picture so you can constantly wrong footing the reader (think Gone Girl and The Girl On The Train). 
  • A multiple point of view gives you the chance to show the same story from different point of view - it can give you the chance to get inside the head of a killer.
  • Keeping the killer anonymous is effective as you don't know which character they are in the novel and they can manipulate the reader. It can add dread to the everyday and be used to make the reader wonder about what is going to happen next.

  • Can't be contrived or forced. They have got to gel with the rest of the book. 
  • A 'Midway Twist' can turn the readers' assumptions upside down. Reader's remember authors who do it well. 
  • Plan the 'Midway Twist' from the beginning - it has to work from the start and has to make sense. You are not tricking the reader, just surprising them. 
  • Use mini-twists throughout. Make the reader sit up, worry, feel surprised, watch the ripple effect as the ramifications play out.
  • 'Final Twists'  - the 'big reveal' - usually come before the final chapter so the ending can tie up all the loose ends, but don't be afraid not to stick a mini twist in the last few pages. Wake the reader up at the end just when they think it's all over! 
  • When you find you are in a plot hole, (or getting bored) get up and do something else. Walk, run, clean, unstack the dishwasher, cook.......pause! Your subconscious will solve it for you and may even come up with something that will surprise you and shift the whole narrative. 
  • If you are flagging, inject a twist. What if......... 

  • The holy grail of a psychological thriller writer! Use the tips above to ensure your book will warrant this feedback!
  • Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
  • The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
  • The Shining by Stephen King
  • I Let You Go by Claire MacIntosh 
  • Fingersmith by Sarah Waters
  • Anything by Tammy Cohen
  • In Her Wake by Amanda Jennings 
  • And I would add The Good Mother by A L Bird which I thought had a brilliant Oh.My.Word. twist....!
*Sigh* they made it sound so straight forward and achievable!! If only! They forgot that you also need a lot of talent, skill and dedication! These women are Killer Women - imaginative, clever, focussed and immensely talented!

Good luck writing your own psychological thriller and hope these very helpful top tips are useful as you plot, plan, draft and write your novel!

CL Taylor also has a great clip with 5 Top Tips for writing a psychological thriller, click here: …

My review of Amanda Jennings "In Her Wake" can be found here:

For more reviews, recommendations and book chat follow me on Twitter @katherinesunde3 (bibliomaniacuk)

Thursday, 20 October 2016

**KillerWomenFestival** History and Mystery: Writing Murder in the Past

Did She Kill Him?: A Victorian Tale of Deception, Adultery, and ArsenicThe Wicked Boy: The Mystery of a Victorian Child MurdererThe Ashes of LondonA History of Women in 100 ObjectsMurder Will Out

This session at the Killer Women Crime Writing Festival on 15th October 2016 was all about the process, challenge and experience of writing historical crime fiction or non fiction. The panel included Kate Colquhoun, D E Meredith, Kate Summerscale, Andrew Taylor and Fern Riddell. It was chaired by Alison Joseph. Here are some highlights from the discussion.

What appeals to you about the genre of Historical Fiction / Non Fiction? 

  • "Historical Fiction is like punching a hole in time and looking allows us to be nosy and look at how people really lived." Kate Colquhoun
  • "I like opening up a house or a family in a particularly extreme moment and seeing in, exploring the banal social detail as well as the drama of the intense events and feelings," Kate Summerscale
  • "Ripper Street (the TV series on which Riddell consults) is not just about the impact of a crime on that criminal or victim, but also about how it impacts on the people and community around them and that is what makes it so fascinating, historically, socially and emotionally. In history we remember the best of times and the worst of times but not always the bits in between and this is often where the really interesting stories and characters can be found." Fern Riddell

Why do you think Historical Crime Fiction endures and appeals to modern day audiences?

  • "It's like time travel. It's a chance to immerse yourself in a different world. To step back into another world." Kate Summerscale 
  • "The Victorian era was full of people fighting for causes in a rapidly changing world. The impact of science, politics, votes for women and the effects of the Industrial Revolution on society are fascinating and actually still very pertinent to today as we are still living in a tumultuous world on the brink of change. There is a huge resonance between today and the Victorian era and this immediately introduces a connection between readers and these people in the past." Denise Meredith
  • "There are echoes of the past everywhere. After the fire of London in 1666, there were the equivalent of 2 million refugees from London. History is all around us still." Andrew Taylor

Why murder? What is the interest in reading about horrific crimes from the past?

  • "It's our worst fear. The thing of nightmares. But also murder cases impose a shape to a narrative." Andrew Taylor
  • "People like truth and justice. Catching a killer. Putting someone away. It's a puzzle that can be solved with a neat conclusion and a sense of completion. Modern life is not like this - neither are some modern criminal investigations!" Denise Meredith
  • "Often crime is popular when actual crime figures are low or it's a period of rapid social change." Kate Colquhoun
  • "People like to see how people deal with adversity. It's better to read about things happening to someone else!" Kate Colquhoun

To Research or Not Research? How long should you spend gathering material?

  • "When writing an historical crime novel, don't get lost in the research. Write the story first, then research what you need to make it authentic- be wary of letting research hinder or distract the reader from your story." Denise Meredith
  • "You can keep delving and delving eternally. Find something that intrigues you and make it into something which has a narrative pattern." Andrew Taylor
  • "No one wants to read a social history when they pick up a fiction book. Don't educate. Use your research for details and authenticity." Kate Colquhoun 
  • "Don't make up anything - except a character -but keep that character based on real people, keep it authentic and believable." Denise Meredith

Can you ever take liberties with the truth?

  • "There are things which are perceived inaccuracies, real inaccuracies and the truth. Often the perceived inaccuracies, and what people believe not to be true, are the best starting places for a story. Look for the surprises. Shock your audience with a that would never have happened moment, when actually, yes it did!" Denise Meredith
  • "You cannot make things up. Always base your characters on real people and your writing has to be authentic for your novel to succeed." All the authors! 

How do you plan a Historical Crime Novel?

  • "Start with one very specific moment in history and find out everything you can. Use a pen and paper and keep notebooks full of lists under hashtags, key names and key dates." Fern Riddell
  • "I'm a messy researcher and follow the internet and wherever my interest takes me. I'm out to have fun not teach history." Andrew Taylor
  • "Excel Spreadsheets are very useful in imposing a structure and organising information." Andrew Taylor
  • "Write your story first then do the research. You have to know what your chasing when you begin your research otherwise you'll get lost in your studying and lose the essence of the story." Denise Meredith
  • "Assemble an enormous timeline that can be tens of thousand words long. Then mess about with the chronology and order in which your going to insert characters, events and information. The research starts once you start writing the story." Kate Summerscale

One of the particular challenges of writing historical fiction must be ensuring the dialogue is authentic. Any tips?

  • "There are very few records available to show us how people really spoke so recreating dialogue is difficult and can sound forced or jarring. The best thing is follow Hilary Mantel's rule and aim for plain, unadorned modern English language, with the odd historical word added to give flavour." Andrew Taylor
  • "Real voices can be found in testimonials from court cases when they have been recorded and these really help to bring the people to life." Kate Summerscale
  • "Stumbling across a real voice in your research can be very emotional." Kate Colquhoun

The Devil's RibbonThe Wicked Boy: The Mystery of a Victorian Child MurdererA History of Women in 100 ObjectsImage result for images tv series ripper street

For more recommendations, reviews and write ups about the Killer Women Festival, follow me on Twitter @katherinesunde3 (bibliomaniacuk)

**KillerWomenCrimeFest** Fresh Blood: Introducing Debut Authors

This session at the "Killer Women's Crime Festival" on the 15th October 2016, introduced 4 debut crime writers to the audience, giving them each an opportunity to discuss their debut novel as well as their latest writing project.

Paul Burston, Michelle Davies, Agnes Ravatn and Chris Whittaker were interviewed by Sarah Hilary

The Black Path

This was only published in Sept 2016 and is the first in a brand new crime series, although Burston is the critically acclaimed author of four blackly comic novels. Now he turns to the genre of "domestic noir".

How well do you really know those closest to you? Helen has been holding out for a hero all her life. Her father was a hero - but he was murdered when she was ten. Her husband is a hero - but he's thousands of miles away, fighting a war people say will never be won. Sometimes Helen wonders if Owen isn't the only one living in a war zone. She feels the violence all around her. She reads about it in the papers. It feeds her dreams and fills her days with a sense of dread. Try as she might, she can't escape the feeling that something terrible is about to happen. Then one night on the troubled streets of her home town, Helen is rescued from a fight by a woman who will change her life forever. Sian is everything Helen isn't - confident, glamorous, fearless. But there's something else about her - a connection that cements their friendship and makes Helen question everything she's ever known. And when her husband returns home, altered in a way she can't understand, she is forced to draw on an inner strength she never knew she had. As bitter truths are uncovered, Helen must finally face her fears and the one place which has haunted her since childhood - the Black Path. (Blurb from Amazon) 

Paul Burston's journey to writing a crime novel is actually one of something that sounds like it is itself from a psychological thriller. Burston had a very difficult time with an internet troll, which eventually resulted in a court case but left him, understandably, struggling with issues of anxiety and in a very dark place. Writing helped. He'd also been dropped by his publishers so found he was suddenly free of expectation, contract and time pressure which allowed him to read more - and he did read more - more crime!

Burston's novel has a female as the central protagonist but he claims that this was not difficult for him. Having several sisters and lots of close female friends, Burston felt he was able to create a convincing voice for his character. He also explained that the character is trapped, isolated and lonely which, sadly, were all emotions that Burston was able to empathise with and relate to which also ensured a strong narrative voice.

His new book which he is working on is using some of his experiences from when he was stalked on the Internet. There is an unreliable narrator and explores Burston's interest in the lack of support for victims of crime, or what happens when the system can't cope or let's you down.

Can you find him on social media? Yes! Despite everything, social media is essential in the life of an author and the positives far outweigh the negatives. You can follow him @PaulBurston.

Gone Astray

Michelle Davies' book was published in April 2016 and the paperback is available from 20th October 2016.

Lesley and her husband Mack are the sudden winners of a £15 million EuroMillions jackpot. They move with their 15-year-old daughter Rosie to an exclusive gated estate in Buckinghamshire, leaving behind their ordinary lives - and friends - as they are catapulted into wealth beyond their wildest dreams. 

But it soon turns into their darkest nightmare when, one beautiful spring afternoon, Lesley returns to their house to find it empty: their daughter Rosie is gone. 

DC Maggie Neville is assigned to be Family Liaison Officer to Lesley and Mack, supporting them while quietly trying to investigate the family. And she has a crisis threatening her own life - a secret from the past that could shatter everything she's worked so hard to build.

Money can't buy you happiness. The truth could hurt more than a lie. One moment really can change your life forever. (Goodreads blurb) 

Davies' inspiration for her novel came from the idea of putting an ordinary family in an extraordinary situation. She was intrigued by the idea of "false security". The family in "Gone Astray"live in a gated community but actually they are more isolated and less safe than a normal housing estate as on private roads, with houses that have long driveways and high gates, people are less likely to know their neighbours, see people coming and going or maybe even less willing to get to know their neighbours - they tend to hide behind the security they have.

Further inspiration came from her day job as a journalist. Davies had been researching a story relating to Madeline McCann when she came across the story of Kerry Needham, whose son Ben went missing in Cos in 1991. This also got her to thinking about how it would feel to be a mother whose son is still missing over twenty years later. Following an interview with Mrs Needham, Davies learnt how important the role of a Family Liaison Officer can be for a family in this situation. They are the person that although very involved in the investigation of the crime, they are also with the family throughout the entire time the case is open to hold them together, give them a voice and support them.

Davies' experience as a journalist has helped her to research the role of an FLO thoroughly so that her novels are convincing and authentic.

Her new book, due out in February, is called "Wrong Place" and sees FLO DC Maggie Neville investigating the suicide of a husband and wife alongside a historical missing person's case.

You can follow Michelle on Twitter @M_Davieswrites and as she also tweets with her journalist hat on, you'll be treated to updates about X Factor and other entertainment news as well as books!

For my full review of "Gone Astray", click here:

The Bird Tribunal
The paperback of this novel will be out in January 2017. It is available in Hardback and on Kindle.

Two people in exile. Two secrets. As the past tightens its grip, there may be no escape… TV presenter Allis Hagtorn leaves her partner and her job to take voluntary exile in a remote house on an isolated fjord. But her new job as housekeeper and gardener is not all that it seems, and her silent, surly employer, 44-year-old Sigurd Bagge, is not the old man she expected. As they await the return of his wife from her travels, their silent, uneasy encounters develop into a chilling, obsessive relationship, and it becomes clear that atonement for past sins may not be enough… Haunting, consuming and powerful, The Bird Tribunal is a taut, exquisitely written psychological thriller that builds to a shocking, dramatic crescendo that will leave you breathless.

Ravatn is from Norway and this is her first book translated into English. Sarah Hilary described it as "Rebecca meets Fjords" which I think makes it sound so intriguing! With the current excitement and love for Scandi Noir, the publication of "The Bird Tribunal" is very timely.

Ravatn explained that although her book is set in the isolated countryside she was actually living in Oslo when she wrote it. However, she thinks this helped her to capture it the landscape and atmosphere more effectively as her description is more fresh and more convincing due to this physical distance. The isolated setting also heightens the tension between the man and woman in the novel as it is all about being vulnerable, trapped and far away from anyone.

A large chunk of the first draft of "The Bird Tribunal" was written in three weeks when Ravatn took herself off to a log cabin in the countryside to enforce some uninterrupted concentration. She has also written a self help book - Operation Self Discipline - where she reflects on the impact of social media.  Ravatn was shocked at the impact social media was having on her life and how damaging it was becoming in her actually completing her writing. She is not active on Twitter! Although she still uses the internet in her daily life, Ravatn has learnt to draw very strict lines between her writing life and her personal life. She never takes her phone into her office and her publisher tweets on her behalf!

Her new book is set in a city but is still in the genre of domestic noir and is a marital drama. The first draft is currently with her editor.

Tall Oaks
Chris Whittaker's debut mixes crime and humour to create a darkly hilarious tale which looks at a small town over the course of 3 months.

When three-year-old Harry goes missing, the whole of America turns its attention to one small town.
Everyone is eager to help. Everyone is a suspect. Desperate mother Jess, whose grief is driving her to extreme measures. Newcomer Jared, with an easy charm and a string of broken hearts in his wake.
Photographer Jerry, who's determined to break away from his controlling mother once and for all.
And, investigating them all, a police chief with a hidden obsession of his own . . .

In Chris Whitaker's brilliant and original debut novel, missing persons, secret identities and dangerous lies abound in a town as idiosyncratic as its inhabitants. (Goodreads blurb) 

Chris Whittaker had a rather more unusual route into writing than the other authors on this panel. At the age of 19 he was mugged and attacked with a knife. Although physically fully recovered, he was left feeling very low and turned to writing as a kind of therapy to help him work through the dark place in which he found himself. He then trained as a Stockbroker and worked his way up the ladder successfully, until he lost £100,000 in one day. ..... Deciding to write a novel, he began 4 weeks before his second child was born and wrote over 5000 words a day until it was complete! Now that's a story!

He is interested in the idea of "behind closed doors" and his novel explores a town where everything seems idyllic but actually it is riddled with deep secrets.

His new book is once again set in America and is about a missing school girl. A dark cloud arrives over the town on the day that she goes missing and induces a kind of "satanic panic" as people believe the two events are connected. The cloud gets darker every day that the girl is missing.......

You can follow Whittaker on Twitter @WhittyAuthor

To read my Q&A with Chris and my review of "Tall Oaks", please click here:

Sarah Hilary is also a published crime writer with a detective series featuring DI Marnie Rome.

Tastes Like Fear (DI Marnie Rome #3)

This is the third book in the series and was published in April 2016.

The young girl who causes the fatal car crash disappears from the scene.
A runaway who doesn't want to be found, she only wants to go home.
To the one man who understands her.
Gives her shelter.
Just as he gives shelter to the other lost girls who live in his house.
He's the head of her new family.
He's Harm.
And when Harm's family is threatened, Marnie Rome is about to find out that everything tastes like fear...

Sarah Hilary is also on Twitter @sarah_hilary

For more reviews, recommendations and features on Killer Women's Festival please follow me on Twitter @katherinesunde3 (bibliomaniacuk)

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

"Fresh Air & Empty Streets" Oliver Cable

Fresh Air and Empty Streets

Fifteen years after Alexander left his wife and young child to pursue the life of an artist in Paris, his son Felix is on his doorstep, looking for answers. On a journey through smoky jazz bars, artists’ studios and along the banks of the Seine, Felix meets the father he never knew, and in doing so, comes to question some lifelong assumptions.

This is a novella and at 140 pages long, a very easy quick read. The brevity offered by the form of  a novella is fitting for the style of Cable's writing as the story focuses on a particular event in a short space of time. The prose ebbs and flows in a way that matches the meandering of the Seine as Felix ponders, muses, explores and questions his relationship with his father amongst other things. 

Cable's prose is distinctive and echoes the patterns and conventions of much more established writers who focus on moments in time, delving deeper into a character rather than rushing along with a plot. He clearly has a gift for description and observation. I liked the use of personification with "the clock shuffled along to its arranged meeting time," and then his detail about Felix: "His hair stood up in unruly clumps, shooting off in every which way in a desperate attempt to leave the wasteland that was his body......his skin resembled Arctic snow in the sun."

When Felix meets his father, Cable cleverly captures the similarities between the two men who have had so little contact. 

"In that split second before any of them opened their mouths, Felix saw his shaggy brown hair, his dark eyebrows and his height back in the man in front of him." 

The references to Paris are used not just to place the reader securely in the setting of the action, but also to create atmosphere. The church of Sacre-Coeur is used several times to conjure strong images of the city. In this story the location is as much of a character as Felix and Alexander. 

This is Cable's debut and although it is polished, there were a few sentences that still felt a little clunky and occasionally Cable fell back on a cliche which stood out against the rest of his carefully considered language. However, this is his first book and I'm sure Cable will develop with everything he continues to publish. 

It is easy to read the book in one sitting. There are no chapters and only "pauses" between paragraphs and within the narrative flow. It didn't feel necessary to break away from reading as I think the atmosphere of the novel carries you along in a slightly dreamlike state. 

I don't want to say too much else as it is a short novel and really needs little explanation. If you enjoy a poetic style of writing, overflowing with description and imagery, a coming of age style voice and some interesting observations about the bigger issues and ideas in life, then you will enjoy this book. I would categorise it as literary fiction. 

For more recommendations and reviews please foliow me on Twitter @katherinesunde3 (bibliomaniacuk)

Monday, 17 October 2016

"The Girls Next Door" Mel Sherratt

The Girls Next Door (Detective Eden Berrisford, #1)

This is the first Mel Sherratt I have read - I know, I know, where have I been!! Well, it may have been my first but it won't be my last! I really enjoyed this quick, gritty and relevant crime thriller.

The story is about Deanna Barker who is brutally stabbed one evening. Six months later and a series of vicious assaults on local teenagers are carried out, disturbing the community of Stockleigh. It is up to Detective Eden Berrisford to decide if this is revenge for Deanna's death and try to catch the person behind the attacks, a job which becomes even more pressurised when her niece is one of the victims......

The book launches straight in with the upsetting scene of Deanna's death. Sherratt's writing immediately establishing setting, location and characters with a very self assured and confident voice. The scene, although disturbing, is definitely very believable and realistic. She has captured the mood, dialogue and relationships between teenagers with conviction and I was drawn into the novel quickly.

The chapters are short and alternate between various different characters. Although this did require a little more concentration at times to keep up with the various different narratives, it also ensured a good pace and I whizzed through the chapters like a high speed police car blue racing towards a crime scene.

I liked the large cast of characters. It gave Sherratt an opportunity to explore the themes and ideas in the story more fully and from various different angles which helped reflect the complexity of the situations. The only chapters that I felt occasionally broke my flow were those with Katie's letters. However, ironically, they were some of my most favourite sections as they were just so painfully sad. Sherratt captures the thoughts of a young, vulnerable girl in such a brutally honest voice it added great tension and poignancy to the plot.

The thing that interested me most was that although this book is clearly plot driven and essentially a great crime thriller about murder and kidnapping, it is also very character driven. There are lots of observations and insights about human nature. Although some of the characters are not always likeable, or behaving in a way that society can accept, Sherratt is exploring the effects of actions and the consequences or repercussions of things. The wide cast of characters helps her to explore the knock on effect of the events and how whole families cope with what has happened to them or around them. I was surprised when the various threads were all tied up before the ending of the book but then, Sherratt isn't just interested in solving the crime. The final pages aren't full of complex twists and revelations but more muddied with emotional reflection as the characters respond to the story's conclusions.

There are many characters with which to sympathise - and they're not always the ones you typically imagine them to be. Sherratt has written a disturbing and thought provoking thriller which tackles real life issues with conviction and authenticity.

This will surely be a hit amongst readers who enjoy a satisfying police procedural crime story.

For more reviews and recommendations please follow me on Twitter @katherinesunde3 (bibliomaniacuk)

"Tell Me No Lies" Lisa Hall

Tell Me No Lies

Don't. Trust. Anyone. And that includes yourself!

This is one of the most anticipated and most talked about thrillers on social media and I was unable to resist requesting it once I began to see the reviews from other bloggers! The story is about Steph who has just moved into a new house with husband Mark and young son Henry. She is newly pregnant and along with this promise of a new life growing inside her, she is also hoping for a new life for her whole family as they are trying to escape their previous one.

The prologue is suitably intriguing with the chilling lines:

Sometimes people aren't what they seem. Sometimes people set out to destroy everything they hold dear. And sometimes, that person is you. 

Then we meet Steph, our protagonist who narrates the story, as she moves into her new home. There are lots of clues and hints about a problems in the past, secrets and a tension between the couple as Steph says she "tries to see the man I married, not the man who broke my heart," and the "stench of decay that still surrounds our relationship." There are a few references to her "overwhelming sense of unease" as she takes in the new home and her new neighbours which builds a lot of suspense and clearly sets the readers' expectations high for a dark and sinister tale.

Steph's husband Mark is a bit of a slippery fish. In essence, he seems loving, dutiful and very committed, but then neighbour Lila introduces herself saying she met him last week which he has not mentioned to Steph. Although this perhaps in itself isn't too incriminating, it is an example of a kind of drip-drip-drip of little clues making us wonder whether actually, maybe we can't trust Mark. Steph doesn't seem to be wholly convinced she can trust him either, so naturally we are led question him too, especially as Steph proceeds to refer to "bad stuff" in the past when they have had problems.

By the end of the first few chapters it is clear Steph is vulnerable, troubled and trying to suppress a tendency to be overly anxious. Her sentence "maybe if I pretend for long enough that everything is going to be ok, it will be ok," reiterates this sense that she may be unstable or untrustworthy. Hall's use of cliffhangers at the end of each short chapter maintains the urgent pace of the novel and also the feeling that Steph's world is rather fragile and close to disintegrating.

I struggled a little with Steph as a character. She tells us almost too often that she'll try to make more effort, try harder, do whatever it is Mark wants of her, give Lila more time, be a better friend - keep a lid on her real feelings, close her emotions down a bit more......In a way the repetition is effective in suggesting that she is being patronised, manipulated or bullied by those claiming to be doing their best for her and someone with such a traumatic and unhappy past is clearly going to suffer from low self esteem and seek to please those around her. It also heightens the suggestion that she might be an unreliable narrator which I liked. But I just felt very occasionally that this weakness and vulnerability was a little over played and for me, there was a fine line between feeling sympathy for her and feeling frustration.

Lila is a great character. So controlled and carefully presented with a sixth sense for being in the right place at the right time, for her unfailing pleasantness and smooth explanations. Perhaps a little obvious and cliched, but satisfyingly suspicious in her fawning behaviour and the way she quickly makes Steph so dependable on her.

I must admit I spent the first 50% of the novel anticipating a twist and wanting to find out if my hunches were right. I changed my mind a few times about who I thought was telling the truth and who I thought I could believe which made it quite a compulsive read - even when I wasn't wholly in love with the characters I still wanted to know if I was right and how it would all play out!

But I to admit that the final 20% completely took my breath away. Suddenly Hall's story soars to a stunning climax which is full of twists and page-shaking moments when you start to fidget in your seat - trying to delve between the cover itself and grab the character's out of their precarious positions. It absolutely charges along on a wave of intense electricity and I really was impressed with the final denouement. The last few sentences are absolutely ingenious. And haunting.

So despite my reservations and cautiousness in the early pages, Hall completely caught me unaware with her clever and well executed ending which will rival all other current psychological thriller titles.

Really, this is a good book. But you don't need to trust me when I recommend you this book. After all, you shouldn't trust anyone. You should just trust yourself. After all, you can always trust yourself.........

Thanks so much to NetGalley and the publishers for approving me for an ARC of this book.

For more recommendations and reviews follow me on Twitter @katherinesunde3 (bibliomaniacuk)