Posted in Book Review, Crime, Family Drama, Noir, Suspense

The Secret Admirer Carol Wyer 5*#Review #DetectiveNatalieWard @carolewyer @bookouture #CrimeFiction #Detective #TheSecretAdmirer #BookReview

‘I tried to talk to you today but you snubbed me and walked away. It wasn’t wise to give me the brush-off, Gemma. I can be a truly good friend but I also make the perfect enemy.’

Sasha’s eighteen-year-old daughter Gemma was all she had in the world. Sasha fell pregnant with Gemma when she was still at school, and the two are as close as sisters. So when Gemma’s burned and broken body is found, Sasha’s world ends. What kind of person would want her beautiful daughter dead?

Leading the case is Detective Natalie Ward, scarred by her own recent tragedy. When she finds a note in Gemma’s diary from a ‘secret admirer’, she moves quickly, determined to un-mask them. But interviews with Gemma’s devastated ex-boyfriend, and her charismatic teacher, who has been seen embracing his student far away from the classroom, don’t give Natalie the answers she’d hoped for…

And then the case takes a devastating, personal twist. CCTV footage reveals Natalie’s estranged husband David followed Gemma home every evening the week before she died.

Natalie is forced to put personal feelings aside and follow procedure, even though she can’t believe David could be guilty. But when Gemma’s housemate is found murdered, Natalie thinks the killer could still be at large. Is she right to trust her instincts about David and can she discover the truth before another precious life is taken?

Grippingly fast and nail-bitingly tense, The Secret Admirer will have you flying through the pages long into the night.

Amazon UK

I received a copy of this book from Bookouture via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

No spoilers but after what happened at the end of the previous book, The Blossom Twins it’s surprising Natalie can carry on.

Another horrific crime draws Natalie back to work. The investigation is complex and full of suspects a personal connection further threatens Natalie’s objectivity, but her professionalism shines through.

This book achieves the right balance of investigative and character detail. Natalie’s courage and tenacity make her easy to empathise. She’s flawed and human and relatable.

The plot keeps its secrets, engaging with clues but not revealing all until the end, making it realistic.

Posted in Book Review, Crime, Gangland Crime, ganglit, Noir

Whatever It Takes Tadhg Coakley 4*#Review @MercierBooks #TadhgCoakley @LoveBooksGroup #LoveBooksTours #BookTour #BlogTour #BookReview #CrimeFiction #IrishCrime #Cork #noir #DetectiveGardaCollins #Vendetta #WhateverItTakes #WeekendRead

Set in Cork city, Detective Garda Collins is at war with the leading local criminal, Dominic Molloy. Unwilling to accept the human degradation caused by Molloy’s drugs, violence and prostitution. He has made up his mind to bring Molloy down, but just how far is he willing to go to make that happen? What is he willing to do and what fall-out will ensue for himself and his garda colleagues? This tense crime novel (the first in a series featuring Collins) tells the story of two immovable forces colliding. Something has to give. Running out of time before the murder of two teenagers becomes inevitable, and with a traitor in the garda station feeding information back to Molloy, Collins takes his battle to new heights. He is determined to win, whatever the cost, whatever it takes.

Mercier Press Amazon UK

I received a copy of this book from the author and Mercier Press in return for an honest review

My Thoughts

Atmospheric and complex this gritty crime story set in Cork explores a noir crime world. Collins has a turbulent history with Cork’s crime lord Molloy and is determined to end his crime empire. The story told from a third-person multi-person perspective is often lawless and violent.

Past events and guilt make Collins pursue Molloy with a single-minded determination. The plot has many characters and complexities. It’s not an easy read, but the writing is full of visual imagery and has a good sense of place and time.

Authentic characters and police procedures make this story realistic and menacing. Collins is a driven, enigmatic detective haunted by past actions and present motivations. His empathy for the vulnerable and sense of justice make him likeable.

Tadhg Coakley

Tadhg Coakley is from Mallow and lives in Cork city. His debut novel The First Sunday in September was shortlisted for the Mercier Press fiction prize and was published in 2018 to much acclaim. His sports writing has appeared in The Irish Examiner and The Holly Bough. He has also been published in The Stinging Fly, The Honest Ulsterman, Silver Apples, Quarryman and the From the Well anthology. He is a graduate of the MA in Creative Writing course at University College Cork. www.tadhgcoakley.com

Posted in Audiobook Review, Blog Tour, Book Review, Crime, Noir, Thriller

20/20 Carl Goodman #TwentyTwenty 5* #Review @Carl201010 @AudibleUK #Narrator Louise Brealey #CrimeFiction #Techno #Thriller #NoirCrime #Audiobook #Review @MidasPR @amberachoudhary #AudibleOriginal

A vicious killer and a traitor on the team – can DC Harris see the truth before it’s too late?

On the first day of her new job, rookie cop DI Eva Harris is called to a chilling crime scene – a body drained of blood, with the eyes removed. It’s only the first of several similar murders, reminiscent of a series of bloody killings several years ago. Is the same killer back, or is a new threat menacing the area? As the bodies mount up, Harris must uncover the truth. But, the threat doesn’t only come from outside. Within her own team, there is a traitor at work… A heart in the mouth crime-thriller that is perfect for fans of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

Amazon UK

I received a copy of this audiobook from Audible UK via Midas PR in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

After an impactful opening, the threat level in this techno crime thriller intensifies with every chapter. DI Eva Harris, a fast-tracked officer is thrown in at the deep end, horrific murder, a new team and something in her personal life that haunts her.

Technology is an important theme and Eva is a gifted cybercrime officer. There is lots of detail in this complex thriller, which initially seems to slow the pace, but it’s necessary to understand Eva’s character and motivations. Subplots, including one from Eva’s past and one that illuminates the real reason Eva’s presence in Surrey, make this story authentic and multilayered. Eva’s humanity, sense of justice, and tenacity make her easy to empathise as the story progresses. The police team dynamic is realistic and gradually supportive of Eva.

The suspense, violent crime and Eva’s vulnerability make this thriller both addictive and immersive. As the different plot strands converge, there are some surprising outcomes and more than one antagonist.

An easy to listen to narrator so good you forget her presence, as you become immersed in the characters and plot.

Carl Goodman is a designer and media consultant who has worked with everything from hot-metal type to computer animation and virtual reality. His interactive projects have twice won BAFTA awards. He has worked with companies and universities across Europe and the US on government-funded R&D programmes, and with major international brands on new product development, but he absolutely draws the line at commuting. He loves writing, both crime and science fiction, and enjoys stories that have both a technological edge and a dark, visceral theme. He enjoys research, although sometimes the material he unearths worries the living daylights out of him. Carl lives in Surrey with his wife and has an adult son.

Posted in Blog Blitz, Crime, Family Drama, Noir, Psychological Thriller, Scandinavian Crime, Suspense

One Fatal Night Helene Fermont #BookBlitz @helenefermont @Lovebooksgroup #lovebookstours #OneFatalNight #eBook£2.99

One woman’s quest for revenge unearths a fatal secret from her past.

Astrid Jensen holds one man responsible for her mother’s suicide, and she’ll do whatever’s necessary to get close to Daniel Holst and destroy his life – even if it means sleeping with him to gain his trust. Astrid knows he’s not who he pretends to be. But before she can reveal his dark secret, people from her mother’s past start turning up dead, and it looks like she and Daniel are next. In order to survive, she might have to put her trust in the man she has hated for so long.

Daniel Holst has worked hard to climb into Norway’s most elite and glamorous circles, and he’s not about to let any woman bring him down. But when a psychopathic killer starts murdering people from his shadowy past, he discovers that the only person who might be able to save him is the woman who wants to destroy him.

As Astrid digs deeper into her past, she uncovers secrets long buried and realizes everything she once believed is based on lies. What began as a quest to avenge her mother’s death becomes a desperate struggle for survival and leads to the truth about what happened one fatal night ten years ago—and the surprising mastermind behind the most recent murders.

eBook only £2.99

Amazon UK Kindle Amazon UK Paperback 

Hélene is an Anglo-Swedish fiction author currently residing in her home town of Malmo, Sweden, after relocating back from London after 20 years.

Her thrilling character-driven psychological fiction novels are known for their explosive, pacy narrative and storylines.

Hélene is the proud author of four novels – One Fatal Night, Because of You, We Never Said Goodbye and His Guilty Secret.

Posted in Book Review, Literary Fiction, Mystery, Noir, Suspense

The Temple House Vanishing Rachel Donohue 4*#Review @AtlanticBooks @CorvusBooks #LiteraryFiction #Mystery #Suspense #BookReview #Noir #TheTempleHouseVanishing

Twenty-five years ago, a sixteen-year-old schoolgirl and her charismatic teacher disappeared without trace…

In an elite Catholic girls’ boarding-school the pupils live under the repressive, watchful gaze of the nuns. Seeking to break from the cloistered atmosphere two of the students – Louisa and Victoria – quickly become infatuated with their young, bohemian art teacher, and act out passionately as a result. That is, until he and Louisa suddenly disappear.

Years later, a journalist uncovers the troubled past of the school and determines to resolve the mystery of the missing pair. The search for the truth will uncover a tragic, mercurial tale of suppressed desire and long-buried secrets. It will shatter lives and lay a lost soul to rest.

The Temple House Vanishing is a stunning, intensely atmospheric novel of unrequited longing, dark obsession and uneasy consequences.

Amazon UK Waterstones

I received a copy of this book from Atlantic Books – Corvus via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

The remote setting gives this story a gothic quality. It’s a place that masks deceit, obsession and dark secrets. Louisa is vulnerable and desperate to fit in somewhere in her new school. This makes her an easy target for manipulative Victoria.

Flawed realistic characters are the story’s driving force. They often lack compassion and understanding. The pacing is slow to create the school’s claustrophobic atmosphere. The plot does seem to rely on coincidences in parts, but there are realistic twists and a dark ending.

An absorbing, intriguing tale that has a haunting quality.

Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Crime, Icelandic Noir, International Thriller, Noir, Nordic Noir, Scandinavian Crime

The Creak on the Stairs Eva Bjorg AEgisdottir 4*#Review @evaaegisdottir @OrendaBooks #Translator Victoria Cribb #ForbiddenIceland #TheCreakontheStairs #IcelandicNoir #RandomThingsTours @annecater @GoldsboroBooks #BlogTour #BookReview

The first in the electrifying new Forbidden Iceland series, The Creak on the Stairs is an exquisitely written, claustrophobic and chillingly atmospheric debut thriller by
one of Iceland’s most exciting new talents.

When the body of a woman is discovered at a lighthouse in the Icelandic town of Akranes, it soon becomes clear that she’s no stranger to the area.

Chief Investigating Officer Elma, who has returned to Akranes following a failed relationship, and her colleagues Sævar and Hörður, commence an uneasy investigation, which uncovers a shocking secret in the dead woman’s past that continues to reverberate in the present day…

But as Elma and her team make a series of discoveries, they bring to light a host of long-hidden crimes that shake the entire community. Sifting through the rubble of the
townspeople’s shattered memories, they have to dodge increasingly serious threats, and find justice … before it ’s too late

Amazon UK Orenda Books

I received a copy of this book from Orenda Books in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

Atmospheric and chilling from the beginning and tinged with unforgettable sadness. This Icelandic Noir story told from multi-points of view fuses domestic noir and police procedural with a Nordic twist. The well-constructed plot flows effortlessly. This is an addictive story cleverly interpreting familiar contemporary issues.

Authentic and relatable characters make the story believable. The stark and unique Icelandic setting has intrinsic interest for those unfamiliar with it. The emotions and crimes reflect the contradictions of the landscape. Volcanic and Icy. Long nights and midnight sun. The author uses the small town ethos well with resultant conflicts of interest for the police investigation.

A tapestry of betrayal, evil and sadness makes this story resonate.

Born in Akranes in 1988, Eva moved to Trondheim, Norway to study my MSc in Globalisation when she was 25. After moving back home having completed her MSc, she knew it was time to start working on her novel. Eva has wanted to write books since she was 15 years old, having won a short story contest in Iceland.

Eva worked as a stewardess to make ends meet while she wrote her first novel. The book went on to win the Blackbird Award and became an Icelandic bestseller. Eva now lives with her husband and three children in Reykjavík, staying at home with her youngest until she begins Kindergarten.

Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Family Drama, Friendship, Literary Fiction, Noir, Parenting and Famlies, Suspense

Ash Mountain Helen Fitzgerald 5*#Review @FitzHelen @OrendaBooks #AshMountain #RandomThingsTours #Australia #Wildfire #LiteraryFiction #catastrophic #disaster #bushfires #firestorm #SmallTown #Domestic #noir #FamilyDrama @AnneCater #BlogTour #BookReview #TuesdayBookBlog #TuesdayThoughts.

Fran hates her hometown, and she thought she’d escaped. But
her father is ill, and needs care. Her relationship is over, and
she hates her dead-end job in the city, anyway.
She returns home to nurse her dying father, her distant
teenage daughter in tow for the weekends. There, in the
sleepy town of Ash Mountain, childhood memories prick at
her fragile self-esteem, she falls in love for the first time, and
her demanding dad tests her patience, all in the unbearable
heat of an Australian summer.
As past friendships and rivalries are renewed, and new
ones forged, Fran’s tumultuous home life is the least of her
worries, when old crimes rear their heads and a devastating
bushfire ravages the town and all of its inhabitants…
Simultaneously a warm, darkly funny portrait of small-town
life – and a woman and a land in crisis – and a shocking
and truly distressing account of a catastrophic event that
changes things forever, Ash Mountain is a heart-breaking
slice of domestic noir, and a disturbing disaster thriller that
you will never forget…

Amazon UK

I received a copy of this book from Orenda Books in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

An adrenaline-inducing beginning guarantees the reader’s attention from the start The main protagonist, is desperately searching for her family amidst a raging firestorm. The story rewinds to the days preceding the firestorm, and you begin to see what life’s like in Ash Mountain.

Character-driven, this is an addictive intricate story. Each of the characters is believable and ordinary. This authenticity makes them fascinating. The town’s dynamic relationships; family, friends and frenemies are interweaved to form its ethos.

The story slips back in time thirty years to illuminate currents events and motivations. Dark satirical humour enlivens the plot which explores terrible abuse and betrayal from Fran’s past. The final chapters are immersive and intense.

This story is an enthralling balance of humour and poignancy exploring contemporary issues of abuse, prejudice and catastrophic disaster.

Helen Fitzgerald

Helen FitzGerald is the bestselling author of ten adult and young adult
thrillers, including The Donor (2011) and The Cry (2013), which was
longlisted for the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year, and is now a major drama for BBC1.

Her 2019 dark comedy thriller Worst CaseScenario was a Book of the Year in both The Guardian and Daily Telegraph.

Helen worked as a criminal justice social worker for over fifteen years. She grew up in Victoria, Australia, and now lives in Glasgow with her husband.

Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Crime, International Thriller, Mystery, Noir, Suspense, Thriller, Travel

Fall Out Mark Grenside 5*#Review @MNGrenside @urbanebooks @LoveBooksGroup #Lovebookstours #FallOut #BlogTour #BookReview #Thriller #conspiracy # mystery #betrayal

The Player meets Get Shorty in this thrilling debut from Mark Grenside.

An LA screenwriter is killed shortly after completing his latest script, FALL OUT – a thriller destined to be a blockbuster but written with a secret double purpose. Echoing events from the past the screenplay is sent to a very specific group of people and will change their lives forever. All are connected to a movie that had abruptly stopped shooting in the jungles of the Philippines years before. FALL OUT exposes the truth about a conspiracy and murder that led to a half-a-billion-dollar fortune for a select few.

Follow the story of Producer Marcus Riley, who sets out on an increasingly dangerous quest to get FALL OUT made. From a powerful Agent’ s office in Hollywood, hidden treasures in Belgravia and a remote chalet in the Swiss Alps to murder at the Cannes Film Festival, Marcus teams up with designer Melinda (Mako) de Turris as they and the other recipients of the screenplay are pursued by an assassin from the past.

With clues cleverly concealed in the screenplay, Marcus and Mako unravel a lethal puzzle that for some will bring death, others the truth and ends in a cave with a shocking secret…..

Amazon UK Urban Publications

I received a copy of this book from Urbane Publications in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

A chilling complex international thriller. An uncompleted film, a missing man and a historical war criminal mystery are all threads of this cleverly constructed plot.

Told from multi-points. of view the story of betrayal and greed unfolds. Glamorous settings and historical events, both actual and fictional, make this an absorbing read. The authentic and relatable characters each have a part to play in solving the mystery.

The detailed story varies in pace as it seamlessly moves between characterisation, flashbacks and adrenaline-pumping action. Full of visual imagery, the story reveals its secrets as if the reader is an eye witness. The use of screenplay interspersed with the prose, adds interest to the story. It provides important clues to the mystery.

The ending is exciting and gives the reader the completion they seek.

M.N.Grenside

Mark Grenside began his working career straight out of school at Lloyds of London, specializing in Kidnap, Ransom and Extortion Insurance. At 25 it was time for a career change and to dump the suit and tie so he started his media career working for Jim Henson and The Muppets. From that moment on he has been involved in Entertainment and nearly every aspect of it. Mark then went on to create and produce a number of television series and mini-series. At the same time he started a music management company launching million seller artist Neneh Cherry. In 2004 he arranged a $250 million buy-out of the Hallmark Channel International which was then successfully sold to NBC. He returned to producing a number of movies and mini-series.

He has recently somehow morphed into a serial entrepreneur and is now a co-founder of seed to shelf CBD producer Dragonfly Biosciences (www.dragonflybiosciences.com) and a founder in two separate digital companies…. but has also seen a very good return from his love of cooking in an expanding waistline.

A probably unhealthy amount of time and money is lavished on a collection of classic cars that he has raced all over the world. He enjoys risk and has parachuted in New Zealand, scuba dived in the Pacific, hang-glided in the Himalayas and even tobogganed down the Cresta Run. In nearly every case chasing after his wife who is utterly fearless!

He is now writing the follow up to Fall Out, entitled The Bastion. In addition he writes also puts out a humorous blog with subscribers in more than 40 countries.

Mark has two grown sons, two daughters in law, three grandchildren and lives with his wife, a pug and a French bulldog in Malta.

His first thriller Fall Out publishes in May 2020.

Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Crime, Noir, Psychological Thriller, Suspense

The Soul Killer Ross Greenwood 5* #Review #DIBarton @greenwoodross @BoldwoodBooks #PoliceProcedural #Suspense #noircrime #PsychologicalThriller #BlogTour @rararesources #RachelsRandomResources #boldwoodbloggers #BookReview

‘Repent in this life, rejoice in the next…’

A murder made to look like suicide. Another that appears an accident. DI Barton investigates the tragedies that have shattered a family’s lives, but without obvious leads the case goes nowhere. Then, when the remains of a body are found, everything points to one suspect.

Barton and his team move quickly, and once the killer is behind bars, they can all breathe a sigh of relief. But death still lurks in the shadows, and no one’s soul is safe. Not even those of the detectives…

How do you stop a killer that believes life is a rehearsal for eternity, and their future is worth more than your own…?

Ross Greenwood writes gritty, heart-pounding thrillers, with twists aplenty, and unforgettable endings.

Amazon UK

I received a copy of this book from Boldwood Books via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

The Soul Killer is a noir crime thriller. The antagonist’s, first-person point of view, gives unique insights into an abusive childhood and motivation for subsequent crimes. Alongside this is a third-person perspective detail the police investigation.

There’s an authentic mix of psychological suspense and police procedural. A complex plot keeps its clues well hidden. DI Barton’s character continues to develop in a realistic and relatable way. This is the second in the series but reads as a standalone too.

The Soul Killer is riveting crime fiction with a twist of psychological suspense.

Ross Greenwood

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.

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Posted in Author Interview, Blog Tour, Book Review, Crime, Noir, Psychological Thriller, Suspense

No Smoke Without Fire Claire S. Lewis 4*#Review @CSLewisWrites @Aria_Fiction #Psychological #suspense #Noir #Crime #CrimeFiction #BlogTour #BookReview Q&A

You can’t run forever…

Celeste has been running from her past for seven years. But now her past has found her.

For seven years, Celeste has battled her guilt and shame over the tragic events that led to her little brother’s death. But when her high-school boyfriend comes back into her life just as she gains a stalker, she wonders if there’s more to the story than she realized.

Celeste is determined to discover the truth – but she’s about to find out that when you play with fire, you get burned…

Amazon Kobo Google Play

I received a copy of this book from Head of Zeus – Aria via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

This dark and twisty psychological thriller explores the effect of domestic crimes on the victim. Celeste’s past emotional trauma defines her. Cleverly written with a noir ethos and menacing undercurrents it is compelling reading.

The complex plot has many characters and differing timelines. The psychological detail is well- researched and adds to the story’s unpredictability. Its focus is on crimes that are difficult to read about it, but this element is vital to the plot and the action and motivations of the main character.

The story is rich in visual imagery that enhances the characters and events. It resonates and keeps you guessing right to the end.

Q&A with Claire S. Lewis- No Smoke Without Fire.

Thank you so much Jane, for inviting me to Q&A on your wonderful website and for giving me this opportunity to share my thoughts in response to your fascinating and perceptive questions. 

No Smoke Without Fire explores humanity’s darker side, how do achieve balance in your plot between noir and lighter moments?

You are so right that No Smoke Without Fire explores the darker side of humanity. At the core of the plot there’s a family tragedy and a rape that together propel the damaged protagonist, Celeste, on a journey that will not have a happy ending nor bring redemption to any of the characters. The novel touches on bleak themes of patriarchy and female oppression and explores ideas of victim shaming and the ways in which false, repressed and recovered memories can alter perceptions of morality and the truth. So, there are undoubtedly dark elements to the novel. But as you suggest in your question, I have tried to create a balance between noir and lighter moments. For example, death is ever-present, not least in the sense that Celeste’s online business venture (CelestialHeadstones.com) involves delivering memorial flowers to headstones in graveyards. On the other hand, she is a florist and the scenes in the florist shop, Seventh Heaven, provide opportunities for vivid colour and brightness which contrast with the mournful descriptions of cemeteries. Even on Celeste’s visits to graveyards, I have tried to give a contrast of shade and sunlight. Some of these take place at night, when ghostly shadows of the statues of black angels seem to trip her up. Others take place in glorious spring sunshine when her heart is lifted by the sights and sounds of nature bursting into bloom and teeming with new life. The relationships between the characters also provide a balance in the plot between noir and lighter moments – the opening scenes at a Cuban nightclub and scenes at Celeste’s flat where she enjoys flirtation and fun and light banter with her friends, contrasting with the darkness of oppressive and abusive encounters between Celeste and her father and teenage boyfriend in the flashback sections, for example, or the sinister scenes involving Celeste’s stalker. I have quite a visual imagination, and I find the use of colour very effective in creating this balance. In the opening nightclub scene and the florist scenes, I focus on the colour red – Celeste’s red dress, the red mood lighting on the dance floor, the vivid red of the Valentine roses – whereas black and grey tones help to create an atmosphere of melancholia or menace in other scenes. Settings can also be used to create light in the narrative, and I hope that the descriptions of the beautiful city of Cambridge and picturesque towns in the Surrey hills, have this effect in No Smoke Without Fire.

This story, falls into the noir crime genre, what are the positives of writing this type of literature? Are there any negatives?

Characteristics such as the presence of violence; complex characters, plotlines and timelines; mystery; moral ambiguity and ambivalence – these all come into play in the noir crime genre and can be found in No Smoke Without Fire.  The positives of writing this kind of literature include the fact that characters are generally drawn in a way that is more nuanced, not two-dimensional, reflecting the real complexity of human relations in situations of conflict. The writer sets out the interplay between the characters without dictating moral judgements on their behaviour.  Readers are left to ponder and come to their own conclusions – or not. Like crime in real life situations, in this genre there is no simple black and white clear-cut line between right and wrong or between the goodies and the baddies. Again, in the real world, many crimes are never fully solved or only become solved after many years of investigation. There may always be a lingering doubt about the justice of a conviction or an acquittal. Even where the jury reaches a conclusion on innocence or guilt, the ‘standard of proof’ for such a ruling is not 100 percent certainty – the prosecution must prove its case ‘beyond reasonable doubt’. So fiction in the genre of crime noir which has the characteristic of moral ambiguity and allows the reader to ruminate on the rights and wrongs of the situations and the ‘truth’ or ‘integrity’ of the characters, is perhaps more interesting and a more authentic reflection of real life than stories which leave no room for doubt as to which character is the hero and which is the villain. I like the ‘smoke and mirrors’ aspect of the noir crime thriller in part because it feels truer to real life than the type of ‘whodunnit’ thriller in which all the loose ends are tied up neatly at the end. As for the negatives of writing in this style of fiction, one down-side may be that because the protagonists of noir fiction are a mix of good and bad, and a mix of selfish and altruistic motives etc, none of them are particularly likeable? Perhaps there are no heroes or champions or characters to engage or fall in love with? On the other hand, because the characters are nuanced and flawed this makes them in one sense more true-to-life and relatable.

You use flashbacks to give clues about the protagonist’s past, why do think this style of plotting works so well for psychological suspense?

I think the use of flashbacks is well suited to psychological suspense because it allows for the character to be gradually pieced together in a way which mirrors the way in which criminal trials gradually build up a picture of a defendant or of a crime scene by delving back into the past to gather evidence about a suspect and interviewing a number of witnesses. In the case of Celeste, I have portrayed her as a person who is very private about the tragedy in her past life when she was teenager and the sexual abuse that she suffered in the boathouse on the night that her little brother died. Seven years on, she has buried these traumas deep within her soul and she is trying to live a normal life as a single working young woman of twenty-four. If I had only the present timeline to tell the story it would be difficult to understand the reasons for which Celeste seeks revenge and for which CelestialHeadstones.com is so dear to her heart. The glimpses of Celeste’s backstory moving through her past allow me to gradually build up a picture of her troubled home life as a child (alcoholic mother, dysfunctional and aggressive father) and her sexually submissive relationship with Ben as a teenager, which helps the reader to understand the complexity of her character and perhaps to empathise with her behaviour and motivations in the main plot. The flashbacks also help to create the moral ambivalence that is characteristic of noir crime.

The plot has different timelines and an unreliable protagonist, do you plan your story in detail before writing? Can you give us an insight into your writing process?

I am not very good at planning which I find rather boring. I tend to launch straight in rather than plotting and mapping out scenes in detail before embarking on the writing. My starting point is a story idea – some situation or news item that sparks my interest and which I feel could be the basis of a good plot or the opening scene of a story but without really knowing how it will all play out. For No Smoke Without Fire (or ‘In Loving Memory’ as it was – in part ironically – called when I first thought up the idea and throughout the writing process) I did write a synopsis with an outline of the plot and an ending. As I write, I imagine the story spooling out like a film in my head and I think about what scene should be revealed next. My lack of planning does usually result in me having to do quite a bit of rearranging of chapters once I have more or less completed a first draft. In the case of No Smoke Without Fire for example, I did not write my backstory flashbacks in time order the first-time round. Instead I started with a date rape scene which was very central to the character development of Celeste. However, my editor advised that it was better to drop these backstory chunks into the main narrative in a chronological order as I already had a number of viewpoints and the lack of chronology in the flashbacks could be rather confusing for the reader.

Do you know how your story will end when you start to write? How easy is it to create an unexpected outcome for your characters? Have you any insights into the best way of creating a shock ending?

The ending I had in mind when I started to write the story is not the ending that made it to the final cut. The ending in my synopsis was inspired by my favourite Audrey Tatou French film ‘He Loves Me, He loves Me Not’, but I realised that in the novel form my planned ending would not work structurally and, moreover, I realised that the character of Celeste that I had written in the first half of the book was too sympathetic to allow for her transformation into an all-out psychopath as I had originally intended! When rethinking my ending, I wanted something that brought together all the characters in the novel as well as to some extent coming full circle to the opening page, whilst also being an unexpected outcome. I hope that the ending I have created is both a shock ending and one that will give pause for some reflection and pathos – but that’s for the readers and not for me to judge! As for insights into the best way of creating a shock ending – that is an interesting and difficult question. Obviously, the ending needs to follow naturally from what has gone before rather than being tacked on. Clues should be planted earlier in the story which once the shock ending has been delivered make the reader feel that there was a certain inevitability about it, so that on reflection the ending becomes believable as well as unexpected.

What surprises do you have instore for your next story?

My next story is also in the genre of psychological suspense and is set in post-pandemic north London and Tuscany. I am playing around with the idea of a ‘book-within-a-book’ along the lines of ‘Nocturnal Animals’. So, in addition to the uncertainty as to who did what, there will be an added uncertainty as to whether the secondary line of narration is intended to be true or imagined or a mixture of both.

Thank you again, Jane, for this lovely opportunity to take part in your Q&A!

Claire S. Lewis

Claire Simone Lewis studied philosophy, French literature and international relations at the universities of Oxford and Cambridge before starting her career in aviation law with a City law firm and later as an in-house lawyer at Virgin Atlantic Airways.  More recently, she turned to writing psychological suspense, taking courses at the Faber Academy. She’s Mine is her first novel. Born in Paris, she’s bilingual and lives in Surrey with her family. 

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