Two little girls were out playing. One dared the other to knock on a neighbour’s front door and run away. But this was a game that had deadly consequences – only one girl returned home that evening. The ten-year-old told police what she saw: a man, village loner Bill ‘Creepy’ Cawley, dragged her friend into an old red pick-up truck and disappeared. No body was found, but her testimony sent him to prison for murder. An open and shut case, the right man behind bars. A village that could sleep safe once again.
Anna thought she had left Mapledon and her nightmares behind, but a distraught phone call brings her back to face her past. Thirty years ago, someone lied. Thirty years ago, the man convicted wasn’t the only guilty party… And now he’s out, he is looking for revenge. The question is, who will he start with?
I received a copy of this book from Avon Books UK via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
A twisty plot, an emotive subject, and so many lies and secrets in this village, some of which are dark and dangerous. The disappearance of a village girl in 1989, motivates the village against the one reclusive person, who the children love to taunt. He is the character of urban myths and an easy scapegoat for the murder of the girl, even though the evidence is more circumstantial than factual. Thirty years ago forensic science was far less sophisticated, than now, and all this contributed to Billy’s conviction.
The suspense builds with every chapter, the clues are there, but there is never quite enough before you’re cleverly moved onto another point of view or timeline. The characters are complex but believable, and the plot is slow to give up its secrets but rewarding when it does.
A poignant, tense thriller that draws you into this noir tale, full of suspense and sinister secrets.
Two years ago, Ben Fenton went camping with his brother Leo. It was the last time they ever saw each other. By the end of that fateful trip, Leo had disappeared, and Ben had been arrested for his murder.
Ben’s wife Ana has always protested his innocence. Now, on the hottest day of 2018’s sweltering heatwave, she receives a phone call from the police. Leo’s body has been found, in a freshly dug grave in her own local churchyard. How did it get there? Who really killed him?
St Albans police, led by DCI Jansen, are soon unpicking a web of lies that shimmers beneath the surface of Ana’s well-kept village. But as tensions mount, and the tight-knit community begins to unravel, Ana realises that if she wants to absolve her husband, she must unearth the truth alone.
I received a copy of this book from Head of Zeus Books via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
The second book featuring Dutch detective DCI Jansen, who finds himself mystified by the close-knit English village community. It seems no one believes in plain-speaking, preferring closing ranks, and relying on innuendos.
The story is a sad one. Two brothers take a camping trip two years earlier. One is presumed dead, the other convicted of murder, but is it that simple. Ana, the accused brother’s partner. believes not. She has no chance of proving this until the missing brother’s body is found buried in the village. Now, his brother can’t be the murderer. DCI Jansen has to find the real killer, but although gossip is rife in the village, there is nothing of substance, and everyone is keeping secrets.
DCI Jansensuffers a personal tragedy, which he has to conquer, to stop his emotional state having a detrimental effect on the case. Ana wants to help her partner but doesn’t want to reveal what she knows. She feels threatened, and the suspense and menacing ethos surrounding her are well-written.
There is a strong psychological element to this story, particularly from Ana’s perspective, as events from her past invade her present situation. Events are revealed, from Leo’s point of view, in the past, and Ana, Ben and DCI Jansen’s points of view, in the present. The two timelines create dramatic irony, the reader knowing things the characters don’t at that time.
Scene setting and character dynamics form the first part of the book, this slows the pace, but the short chapters and active voice, keep the story moving satisfactorily, ensuring reader engagement.There are several viable suspects, and even though you may guess who did it, early on in the story, there are plenty of smoke and mirrors. to make you doubt it.
Clever twists and a final reveal, make this a good story, with its solid police procedural theme tempered with psychological suspense.
Rachael Blok grew up in Durham and studied Literature at Warwick University. She taught English at a London Comprehensive and is now a full-time writer living in Hertfordshire with her husband and children.
Guest Post- Rachael Blok – ‘The Scorched Earth’, and Ana: where she came from.
The Scorched Earth has a number of different voices, but my protagonist is Ana, a woman struggling with grief as her partner is in jail, and then ghosts from her past emerge: she begins to hear footsteps behind her in a car park late and night; she begins to look over her shoulder… Ana’s experiences are both ideas I’ve wanted to write about for a while. It was a pleasure to see her come to life on paper.
Women are told to shout ‘fire’ instead of ‘rape’ if they’re being attacked…
As a woman, I’ve felt on more than one occasion a burst of fear walking home in the dark, or walking into a car park late a night. My mum, my sister and I all took a self-defence course years ago, and we were told to shout ‘fire’ instead of ‘rape’ if we’re attacked – people respond more if their property is threatened! I have no answer for this, but I find it terrifying. This fear resonates in the novel and I think, it’s fear men and women should both be aware of. I always tell my husband that if he’s walking behind a woman on her own, late at night, he should drop back – make sure she doesn’t have to look over her shoulder or be concerned about a threat. And the very real issue of stalking is taken more seriously now than it has been in the past, but there is still some way to go. When relationships break down and men find it hard to let women go, it can be a very scary time, and women find it difficult to get concerns taken seriously, often until after an attack.
They locked him up, but they locked her up, too…
Whilst researching the novel, I spent some time in prison,
which is not at all like I imagined! My main experience had been from movies
and the TV. I found the reality much scarier. I saw homemade weapons; I heard
stories of attacks on officers and other prisoners; I spoke to many different
people from all aspects of prison life, and it was such an eye-opener. I think
as a society we lock people away in all respects – there’s a sense of being
forgotten, completely. Women whose partners are in jail spoke of the shame, and
also the halted grief – they miss their partners, but can’t grieve for them,
they can’t move on. This grief is something Ana wrestles with, and I hope I’ve
done it justice.
The prison scenes almost wrote themselves after I’d visited. Even the smell is distinct. My prison officer guides me into the contraband room, where they keep the confiscated drugs. Spice is the drug they have the most problems with at the moment, which is synthetic cannabis. It’s smuggled into the prisons in all sorts of ways. One of the ways is through books and magazines. The pages are soaked in the spice, and so prisons have to scan all books now. So many ideas for plots!
It’s been a pleasure to write the guest blog and thanks to Jane Hunt for giving me the opportunity to mull over the ideas for the novel. I hope you enjoy The Scorched Earth!
Britain: a few years from now. A new populist political
party has won the recent general election.
Duncan Jones, freelance political journalist and blogger,
loses his weekly column at a national newspaper and turns to investigative
reporting. The chance remark of a friend leads him to suspect that the Russians
are directing the new British government’s policies and decisions. As he visits
Moscow and Ukraine to discover more, scandal follows intrigue, dark forces attempt
to silence him by whatever means possible and he turns to an unlikely ally for
A Friend in Deed is a fast-paced psychological thriller
set in an all-too-believable near future. It is also the story of how one man
confronts the traumas in his past and works out how to resolve them.
I received a copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review.
‘A Friend In Deed’, moves forward to the near future, when Britain is in political turmoil, and a reactionary new political force is running the government. Duncan, who we first met in ‘Love’s Long Road’ is in his sixties, a political blogger and journalist, he is still suffering from the fallout of his first novel and its real-life implications, for himself, Bobbie and Michael, two characters featured in earlier books.
This is a topical political thriller, which could easily be fact rather than fiction. Like the other books, the characters are complex, with many flaws that give them authenticity. The writing style is easy to read, and the fast-pace keeps the reader engaged with a clever plot. which has the right balance of adrenaline moments and deeper more insightful reflection.
The author’s effortless connection with past, present and future, gives the story character development and depth of interest. It can happily be read as a standalone thriller, but I have enjoyed reading the other books.
I was placed third in the 2015
Lightship Prize for first-time authors, won a 2016 Wishing Shelf Award Red
Ribbon, been shortlisted at the UK Festival of Writing for Best First Chapter,
longlisted in the 2017 UK Novel Writing Competition.
In 2017, I was one of twelve authors
selected for Authors in the Spotlight at the Bloody Scotland book festival in
Stirling, showcasing who they considered to be the best emerging talent in
crime fiction, and was the only self-published author to be chosen. I have
spoken at numerous other book events, including Blackwells’ Writers at the
Fringe at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe; a stand-alone slot at the Byres Road
Book Festival in Glasgow, and the Aye Write! Book Festival, also in Glasgow.
worked in Russia and Ukraine for ten years, which gave me the ideas for the
plot and setting that I used in A Friend
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A loving husband, Patrick. Two adorable children. A comfortable home.
So when PC Becca Holt arrives to break the news that Patrick has been killed in an accident, she thinks Louise’s perfect world is about to collapse around her.
But Louise doesn’t react in the way Becca would expect her to on hearing of her husband’s death. And there are only three plates set out for dinner as if Louise already knew Patrick wouldn’t be home that night…
The more Becca digs, the more secrets she uncovers in the Bridges’ marriage – and the more she wonders just how far Louise would go to get what she wants…
Is Louise a loving wife – or a cold-hearted killer?
I received a copy of this book from HQ Digital UK via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
A curious mix of psychological suspense and family drama, this story will appeal to those who like psychological orientated suspense. This plot doesn’t have the impact common to most thrillers but does use the unreliable protagonist technique well. There are two, in this story, Louise, the perfect widow and Becca the policewoman who sets out to investigate her, based on one brief observation.
Primarily a story of obsession, emotional damage, resulting from poor nurturing in childhood and control The plot handles the psychological theme competently. The introduction of a crusading police constable, who sees beneath the image Louise portrays isn’t convincing. Becca, in many ways, is a superfluous character, except perhaps in her obsessive similarities to Louise?
The plot lacks real-time action, everything is retold either in the past or present by Louise or Becca. this slows the pace and leaves you in the characters heads for too long, making some the twists not as suspenseful as they could be, if written less passively.
A story for the psychological fiction devotees, who like to see how the mind works, given a certain set of stimuli, rather than those who like a combination of jaw-dropping twists and a twisted unexpected ending,
When a body is found floating in London’s Royal Albert Dock, successful public relations expert Kay Christie is sent to quiet the media, but things get complicated when it emerges that she knew the victim.
As events spiral out of control, Kay discovers that those close to her may be harbouring another secret – the story of a missing girl. Can Kay discover the truth before her life unravels and she risks losing everything?
In the Wake questions whether we can ever truly leave our pasts behind and explores the lengths that we will go to protect the people that we love.
I received a copy of this book from Urbane Publications in return for an honest review.
A dark crime thriller, with a fusion of psychological suspense, police procedural and noir romance making this book a riveting read.
This story starts with an unnoticed disappearance, then a body and finally a connection. The reader is thrown into a maelstrom of crime, drama and suspense, which ramps up with each turn of the page.
Told in the third person from Kay’s point of view, with illuminating flashback chapters to two historical time periods, you wonder if she is hiding something, and she is. Past connections and present-day loyalties and dangerous sexual attraction, make Kay vulnerable. If she cannot work out what is happening and who she can trust, she will pay the ultimate price.
This is a fast-paced, gritty thriller, with sex and violence taking centre stage. Kay takes the role of an unreliable protagonist. A clever, intriguing noir crime thriller, that makes an enjoyable read for those who like a seamless fusion of literary genres.
Helen Trevorrow is a graduate of the 2016 Faber Academy creative writing programme. She studied at Leeds University and has worked in marketing and public relations in London. She is a specialist food and drink PR. Helen’s debut novel IN THE WAKE is a feminist crime thriller about family, unrealised trauma and alcoholism. Helen has ghost-written many articles for newspapers, magazines and websites. She lives in Brighton, Sussex with her wife and child.
‘Fear the north wind. Because no one will hear you scream…’
A family is gunned down in the snow but one of the children survives. Three years on, that child takes revenge and the Snow Killer is born. But then, nothing – no further crimes are committed, and the case goes cold.
Fifty years later, has the urge to kill been reawakened? As murder follows murder, the detective team tasked with solving the crimes struggle with the lack of leads. It’s a race against time and the weather – each time it snows another person dies.
As an exhausted and grizzled DI Barton and his team scrabble to put the pieces of the puzzle together, the killer is hiding in plain sight. Meanwhile, the murders continue…
The first in a new series, Ross Greenwood has written a cracking, crackling crime story with a twist in its tale which will surprise even the most hardened thriller readers.
I received a copy of this book from Boldwood Books via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
A medley of crime genres expertly woven by the author into a fast-paced, intriguing thriller which focuses on the Snow Killer who appears to be killing again fifty years after the first snow killing.
The story is told from two points of view. The killer’s which is compelling, immersive and poignant and in keeping with the unreliable protagonist of a psychological thriller. The second point of view is Detective Inspector Barton’s this is in the third person and follows the accepted line of a contemporary police procedural.
The setting for the story is Peterborough, characterised by its relative remoteness for a cathedral city, in the rural heart of east England. The difference between Peterborough fifty years ago and now is marked. Well described, the area provides a perfect backdrop for the events its stages.
The cast of characters is varied and the characters are believable. Notably, the lead detective is an ordinary man, with a family. This makes the contrast between the detective and the killer greater. The plot has clues and twists aplenty and a final twist, which is unexpected and cleverly done.
The first book in a new series, it is hoped that the mix of genres continues with the skill, success and succinctness demonstrated here.
The Snow Killer – Ross Greenwood – Extract
50 YEARS AGO
I must have been ten years
old when I first tidied up his drug paraphernalia. I didn’t want my sister
crawling over it. We called her Special – a take on Michelle – because she was
an enigma. Special was a term of endearment for us, funny how nowadays it could
be considered an insult. She never spoke a single word and seemed more of a
peaceful spirit than a physical entity. Give her a crayon or pencil and a piece
of paper, though, and her smile filled the room.
I monitored my father’s habit through his
mood swings or by how much time he spent in bed. The foil and needles increased
rapidly just before we escaped London a few years back. I cried because both my
parents left evidence of their addiction.
In many ways, my mother was as simple as
Special. Swayed by my dominant father, she did everything he said, even though
she had more common sense. Joining him in his heroin habit was inevitable.
Until the night we left, we took holidays and
ate out in restaurants. I didn’t know where the money came from because I had
no idea what my father did.
The evening we fled London, we packed our
suitcases at ten at night and caught the last train to Peterborough, arriving
at two in the morning. I recall beaming at my parents, especially when we
checked into a huge hotel on the first night. My mum’s brother, Ronnie, lived
nearby. When we eventually found him, he helped us move into a cottage in rural
Lincolnshire, which was cheap for obvious reasons. The single storey building
had five rooms and no internal doors. You could hear everything from any room –
even the toilet.
Six months after we settled in our new home,
I lay in the damp bed with my sister’s warm breath on my neck and heard my
father casually say he’d shot the wrong man. The fact my mother wasn’t
surprised shocked me more.
Life carried on. My parents continued to
avoid reality. We ate a lot of sandwiches. Lincolnshire is only two hours north
of London but it felt like the edge of the world after the hustle and bustle of
the capital city. I walked the three miles to school. Special stayed at home
where she painted and coloured. My mum sold Special’s pictures. She drew people
and animals in a childish way, but they captivated people as the eyes in the
pictures haunted the viewer.
One freezing night, my sister and I cuddled
in bed and listened to another argument raging in the lounge. We had our own
beds but only ever slept apart in the hot summer months. At six years old, she
didn’t take up much room.
‘You did what?’ my mother shouted.
‘I saw an opportunity,’ my father replied.
‘What were you thinking?’
‘We’re broke. We needed the money.’
‘What you’ve done is put our family in
danger. They’ll find us.’
‘They won’t think I took it.’
I might have been only fifteen years old, but
I had eyes and ears. My parents constantly talked about money and drugs. By
then, that was all they were interested in. That said, I don’t recall being
unhappy, despite their problems. Normal life just wasn’t for them.
My mother’s voice became a loud, worried
whisper. ‘What if they come for the money? The children are here.’
‘They won’t hurt them,’ my father said.
A hand slammed on the kitchen table. ‘We need
‘It’s three in the morning and snowing. No
one will look now. Besides, where would we go?’
‘We’re rich! We can stay where we like.’
Crazily, they laughed. I suppose that’s why
they loved each other. They were both the same kind of mad.
That was the sixties and a different time.
Not everyone spent their lives within earshot of a busy road. In fact, few people
owned their own car. If you’ve ever lived deep in the countryside, you’ll know
how quiet the long nights are. So it makes sense that I could hear the
approaching vehicle for miles before it arrived. The put-put-put we gradually
heard in unison that night sounded too regular for it to be my uncle’s ancient
van. And anyway, good news doesn’t arrive in the middle of the night.
Guest Post – Ross Greenwood‘s Interesting Facts
books that influenced me.
Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card. It contains the ultimate twist. I felt diddled in such an amazing way that I’ll never forget the smile on my face as I put the book down.
Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh. It felt like reading a book that someone had just spewed out. He didn’t care what people thought, or anything of style or standards. This was his book and that’s how it was. The criminal antics were so realistic but told with black humour. The first publisher he sent it to picked it up, which must have been lovely for Mr Welsh. 😊.
songs that influenced me
I only really listen to music in the car. I need silence to write; someone eating an apple in the lounge two rooms away unsettles me. Eye of the Tiger by Survivor was one of the first songs I bought. I used to go jogging with it playing on one of those old personal stereos. I’m not built for jogging, so it was hugely motivational. When I hear it now, I still think of the batteries and me dying near the end of each run.
The other, oddly, is Barbie Girl by Aqua. At the time it came out, the girl from the video reminded me of my then girlfriend. She was a pretty, ditzy, unsuitable girl, and we used to joke it was our song. We sadly broke up (I was sad) and then I had to listen to the song every time I turned on the radio for the next 6 months. Excellent. That was 25 years ago. When I hear it now, I remember a young man living life and having fun.
films that influenced me
Shawshank is hardly original but I love it. There’s a flow and rhythm to it that I try and emulate in my writing. It’s a hard film about prison. If it’s done beautifully, I can watch and read anything.
Empire Strikes Back is the first film I remember seeing at the movies. I was 7. I can still remember my eyes bulging at the massive screen as the first AT AT’s came into view.
people who inspired me.
Nelson Mandela is influential to many people but it wasn’t until I visited Robben Island where they imprisoned him that I realised he was something incredible. He was kept for so long in such terrible conditions, literally breaking rocks with a small hammer in a sunburned courtyard, that it would have been understandable if he’d been bitter and vengeful. Instead, he was the reverse. His story is so inspiring.
The second person is my dad. Slightly cheesy, but it’s not for anything outstanding. It’s his approach to life. He’s 80 now, and looks to enjoy his days and get on with things, and always has. I remember buying a house which needed completely repainting. The first day, I stood in the lounge with a brush in my hand and thought, ‘Oh my God’. He bent down next to me, picked up a tin and a roller, climbed the ladder, and began to paint the ceiling. Admittedly, we ruined the carpet. But that sense of getting-on-with-things was stirring. Many years later, when I felt I had a story to tell, I remembered that day.
So, I sat at my desk, picked up my pen, and began to write.
Ross Greenwood, an author from Peterborough, has written six crime thrillers. He uses his experience of travelling and working all over the world to create layered believable characters that will capture your imagination. In 2011, Ross decided to take on a new challenge and became a prison officer. He writes murderers, rapists and thieves brilliantly because he worked with them every day for four years.
And now she’s back. Two-and-a-half-year-old Holly is playing happily in a pink plastic playhouse, while her mother Rachel sips coffee and chats with a friend nearby. It should be an ordinary day for all of them. But, in the blink of an eye, it turns into every family’s worst nightmare.
Holly is taken by a stranger and never found.
Nine years later, Rachel is living a quiet life in Dorset. She’s tried to keep things together since the traumatic day when she lost her eldest daughter. She has a new family, a loving partner and her secrets are locked away in her painful past.
Until one afternoon when Rachel meets a new school parent Kate and her teenage daughter Bella. Rachel’s world is instantly turned upside down – she’s seen Bella before. She’d recognise that face anywhere – it’s her missing child.
I received a copy of this book from bookouture via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
This is my second psychological thriller by this author, and like her previous book ‘The Marriage Betrayal’ this story explores a family tragedy, with two main points of view, and lots of plot twists that make reading it, a mind-blowing experience.
The story begins with Catriona in the past. She is emotionally distraught, something terrible has happened, she finds herself at a shopping mall, and after a while, a young child catches her attention.
Rachel tells her story in the present, she meets a new mother at school, their children become instant friends, but when she meets the older sibling, she cannot believe her eyes. She resembles the child she lost eight years previously.
This is a story of secrets, obsession and tragedy. Neither viewpoint is reliable, and whilst most of the information relayed from the two points of view seems plausible, you are constantly waiting for the twist that says you are wrong.
The characters have many flaws, Rachel is hard to like, even though you empathise with her situation. She trusts no one, and you wonder why she has kept her secrets for so long.
This is an emotionally gripping story, with relentless suspense, that draws you in and keeps you reading. There are some less plausible parts to the story, but this is a psychological thriller, told by unreliable protagonists, you cannot expect events to be conventional.
The twists are well constructed and keep you guessing, and the trademark ending makes you gasp, even though you knew it was coming.
Not to be missed if you love the twisty turns of a good psychological thriller, with a seemingly normal domestic setting.