Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Crime, Guest post, Noir, Psychological Thriller, Thriller

The Beach House P.R.Black 5*#Review @Aria_Fiction @PatBlack9 #Thriller #PsychologicalThriller #Holiday #Secrets #Lies #CrimeFiction #noir #BlogTour #GuestPost #BookReview #MondayBlogs #MondayBlues

This vacation is about to turn deadly…

 Cora’s on the island vacation of her dreams: a private beach in paradise, a romantic proposal, and an eight-figure cheque following the sale of her new fiancé’s business.

When their island turns out to be not so private after all, Cora tries to make the best of a bad situation by inviting their strangely friendly neighbours to celebrate with them.

But it doesn’t take long for her once-in-a-lifetime holiday to take a very sinister turn…

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

My Thoughts…

From the blurb, the reader knows that this is not the idyllic holiday you’d expect, but nothing prepares you for the twists and turns that appear with increasing alacrity as the story progresses.

Cora and Jonathan are on a dream holiday, Cora seems unsure whether she wants to be there. Jonathan is full of surprises, and it seems that life is on track. Until, their exclusive holiday retreat becomes crowded, with another couple, and they can’t fail to see the resemblance to themselves.

The story has a strong technological theme, which adds depth and complexity to the plot.

Progressing, through Cora’s point of view, things start to spiral in an increasingly uncomfortable way. The characters are believable and complex. They are not what they appear to be on the surface.

Cora is an unreliable narrator, and as the story progresses, she presents a hidden side to her character. Flashbacks to incidents in her past illuminate and reinforce her present actions. The last part of the story is an adrenaline rush, and at times full of confusion.

Even at the end, I still wasn’t sure I’d understood everything, but that’s what you want from a psychological thriller.

An absorbing, addictive read.

Guest Post : Smiling assassins By Pat Black

The psychopathic, murderous villains in my new novel The Beach House drew inspiration from a lovely couple we met on holiday.

When I’m on holiday I tend to stick to my own pen. I wouldn’t say I was unfriendly, but I am guarded. I realise this doesn’t reflect well on me, but bitter experience has taught me to be wary.

I remember one couple I got to know on holiday years ago who passed out business cards and tried to flog their home renovation business at every opportunity. This was odd enough – before the boorish male in that pairing then made some utterly jaw-dropping comments about the looks of a woman as part of a third couple who joined the group. I was astounded at the cheek, and the fact the woman just smiled and laughed at these comments, instead of absolutely battering him. “People like that actually exist! In the real world!”

Another couple on an overnight boat trip didn’t realise I was joking when I was… making jokes. It’s not like any of the daft comments and dad-on-holiday patter were certificate X, either. It was a bit like explaining that, you know, it doesn’t really matter why the chicken wanted to cross the road, or what might have awaited it on the other side. Now imagine that sort of scrutiny after every utterance. “It’s your accent,” the woman explained later, as if that explained anything.

So, I’ve learned. I’m happy enough drinking cocktails in our own group of two, reading a stack of books on my tod, worrying about sharks while we go for a swim in a pair, and forming our own pub quiz team.

Then one night (a while ago now, mind you; pre-kids anyway), we were approached by this cracking couple from the South West. The shutters went up immediately, but then something strange happened: I lightened up, and we… Well. We made friends. They were loads of fun. They didn’t want anything from us. They got my jokes, and I got theirs. Importantly, they also knew not to crowd us – I looked forward to having a drink with them at night back at the hotel, and was genuinely sorry to see them go home, a couple of days before we did.

Hey – maybe for them, we were the weirdos?

It was a nice, human experience. So of course my imagination twisted this into something unpleasant for The Beach House.

I wondered what would happen if you had genuinely evil people try to befriend you on holiday – evil people with an evil purpose. And you couldn’t easily extricate yourself from the situation. When your own sense of manners and social skills over-ride your instincts, which might have to scream at you in order for you to protect yourself and your partner.

One of my favourite parts of any modern thriller is in The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, when Mikael Blomkvist confronts the novel’s villain. He has a chance to get away, but he refuses, because of good manners. The villain reflects on this with some astonishment. “All I had to do was offer you a cup of coffee.”

All my baddies had to do was order my heroine a pina colada. And it could happen to you. Of course it could. They’re out there. They walk among us. They go on holiday. They sit beside you on a train. They seem nice. They know exactly what to say to people. They see a person or a situation, and their minds instantly move onto how they can strip it to the bone.

Have you seen my business card, incidentally? Maybe we could swap? Hey, networking is networking, after all. No sense in ignoring the business angle, hey? We’ve all got to eat. Fancy a cocktail? Maybe we could go to the pub quiz…

Author and journalist PR Black lives in Yorkshire, although he was born and brought up in Glasgow. When he’s not driving his wife and two children to distraction with all the typing, he enjoys hillwalking, fresh air and the natural world, and can often be found asking the way to the nearest pub in the Lake District. His short stories have been published in several books including the Daily Telegraph’s Ghost Stories and the Northern Crime One anthology. His Glasgow detective, Inspector Lomond, is appearing in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine. He took the runner-up spot in the 2014 Bloody Scotland crime-writing competition with “Ghostie Men”. His work has also been performed on stage in London by Liars’ League. He has also been shortlisted for the Red Cross International Prize, the William Hazlitt essay prize and the Bridport Prize.

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Posted in Book Review, Crime, Family Drama

The Blossom Twins Carol Wyer 5* #Review @carolewyer @bookouture #crimefiction #PoliceProcedural #DetectiveNatalieWard #FamilyDrama #BookReview

#TheBlossomTwins

Their parents thought they were hiding…

One beautiful summer’s evening, thirteen-year-old twins Ivy and Erin Westmore snuggle down in a tent in their back garden, giggling and sharing secrets.

When their mother goes to wake the girls the next morning, their tent is empty.

The alarm is raised and Detective Natalie Ward is put onto the case. When the twins’ bodies are discovered on nearby marshland, covered with deep pink petals, an icy shiver travels down Natalie’s spine. Everything about the girls’ deaths reminds her of a horrifying case she worked on earlier in her career, which saw a killer of the worst kind placed behind bars.

The next day, that feeling is heightened when she receives a chilling note saying ‘I’m back’. Is this killer a copycat or did Natalie put the wrong person in prison all those years ago? In a small town, where no stranger goes unnoticed, what is Natalie missing?

Consumed by the case, determined to prevent more deaths, Natalie misses the fact that it is her attention the killer wants. And to get it, he has his sights set firmly on her precious daughter Leigh…

Gripping, fast-paced and nail-bitingly tense, this book will keep you flying through the pages long into the night.

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

My Thoughts…

An addictive mix of crime fiction and family drama makes the Detective Natalie Ward, series a must-read. for me. This one is particularly harrowing. Child abduction and murder are every persons’ nightmare, but you are immediately invested in the investigation and want the perpetrator to be found before anyone else goes missing or dies.

The story is immersive, from the first abduction to the journey into the past, and the return to the hell of the present. The emotions are close to the surface and so realistic. Natalie has lost part of herself, with every murder she’s investigated and solved, but these bring back guilty feelings from the past. Coupled with her dramatic home life, she is on the edge and struggles with the objectivity she needs to be effective.

The team of detectives are authentically written and familiar from past books. All the characters are complex and relatable. The plot undulates between high adrenaline, and slow-paced frustration, as the workload increases and the dead ends mount up.

The dramatic but plausible ending brings an emotionally draining story to a realistic, but shocking, unexpected conclusion.

Posted in Book Spotlight, Crime, New Books, Suspense, Thriller

Hiding In Plain Sight Eoghan Egan @eoghanegan #promo #booklaunch #January11 #Thriller #CrimeFiction #IrishCrimeFiction #IrishCrime #smalltown #secrets @Lovebookstours @LoveBooksGroup

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A vicious serial killer roams the Irish Midlands… with his sights set on the next victim. A successful businessman has found the perfect recipe for getting away with murder. No bodies, no evidence.No evidence, no suspect. High art and low morals collide when graduate Sharona Waters discovers a multi-million euro art scam in play. She delves in, unwittingly putting herself on a direct trajectory with danger as the killer accelerates his murder spree. When Sharona gets drawn into the killer’s orbit, she peels away his public persona and exposes the psychopath underneath. Suddenly, the small town has no hiding place…

A native of Co. Roscommon, Eoghan studied Computer Programming in college, works in Sales Management & Marketing, but his passion for reading and writing remains.

Eoghan’s work got shortlisted for the 2018 Bridport Short Story Prize, and Listowel’s 2019 Bryan McMahon Short Story Award Competition. His novel was a contender in literary agent David Headley’s opening chapter Pitch Competition, and during March 2019, Eoghan’s entry won Litopia’s Pop-Up Submission.

A graduate of Maynooth University’s Creative Writing Curriculum, and Curtis Brown’s Edit & Pitch Your Novel Course, Eoghan’s novel Hiding in Plain Sight – the first in a crime fiction trilogy based around the Irish Midlands – will be available in paperback and audio on January 11th 2020.

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Posted in Book Review, Contemporary Fiction, Crime, Family Drama, Literary Fiction, Political Thriller, Suspense

Three Hours – Rosamund Lupton 5* #Review @Rosamundlupton @VikingBooksUK @PenguinUKBooks #ThreeHoursNovel #politicalthriller #suspense #familydrama #thriller #literaryfiction #crimefiction #BookReview #January2020 #MondayBlogs

Three hours is 180 minutes or 10,800 seconds.

It is a morning’s lessons, a dress rehearsal of Macbeth, a snowy trek through the woods.

It is an eternity waiting for news. Or a countdown to something terrible.

It is 180 minutes to discover who you will die for and what men will kill for.

In the middle of a blizzard, the unthinkable happens: a school is under siege. Told from the point of view of the people at the heart of it, from the wounded headmaster in the library, unable to help his trapped pupils and staff, to teenage Hannah in love for the first time, to the parents gathering desperate for news, to the 16-year-old Syrian refugee trying to rescue his little brother, to the police psychologist who must identify the gunmen, to the students taking refuge in the school theatre, all experience the most intense hours of their lives, where evil and terror are met by courage, love and redemption.

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I received a copy of this book from Viking Books UK – Penguin Books UK via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

At the heart of this story is a battle of good against evil, but this is not a fantasy epic, but a believable, contemporary, real-time story, of horrific events and humanity at its best and worst.

The coastal, countryside setting intensifies the events, no one would expect this to happen in a rural idyll, but it does. Written, in an adrenaline-fueled intense style, it keeps you on the edge of your seat and turning the pages. The characters are complex and relatable, you find out a great deal about them in a short space of time and most cases, they are easy to empathise. The story manages to fuse action with deep characterisation perfectly, and the underlying research makes the story authentic.

The plot twists several times to increase the suspense and awfulness of what unfolds. The poignancy of what occurs makes this immersive, the waste of life and opportunity resonates. This is a quality story, thought-provoking and topical.

Absorbing, original and memorable.

Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Crime, Guest post, Thriller

Death at Eden's End Jo Allen 4*#Review #DCI Jude Satterthwaite @JoAllenAuthor @Aria_Fiction @HoZ_Books #CrimeFiction #PoliceProcedural #Thriller #BlogTour #BookReview #GuestPost #Cumbria #EdenValley #LakeDistrict

A brand new DCI Jude Satterthwaite crime mystery from the bestselling Jo Allen.

When one-hundred-year-old Violet Ross is found dead at Eden’s End, a luxury care home hidden in a secluded nook of the Lake District’s Eden Valley it’s tragic, of course, but not unexpected. Except for the instantly recognisable look in her lifeless eyes… that of pure terror.

DCI Jude Satterthwaite heads up the investigation, but as the deaths start to mount up it’s clear that he and DS Ashleigh O’Halloran need to uncover a long-buried secret before the killer strikes again…

The second in the unmissable, Lake District-set, DCI Jude Satterthwaite series.

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

My Thoughts…

Set in Cumbria, which always provides an atmospheric background for crime fiction, the second in the DCI Jude Satterthwaite series, provides an engaging police procedural, with a cast of characters worthy of any classic murder mystery.

The story begins with a violent death, and then whilst the reader is wondering what will happen next, the pace is slowed as the story switches to the police investigation team, two-members of which, are still emotionally damaged from past relationships. Their close proximity and the nature of their profession throws them together, but although attracted, they are reluctant to take things further.

In the midst of this inconvenient physical attraction, and elderly lady’s death is flagged up as suspicious, and the investigation that ensues draws the reader into the historic world of WW2, where the answers may lie.

The detailing and pacing of the story equate with the medley of murder mystery and police procedural. Similarly, to the first book in the series, the personal lives of the police team featured significantly, and much of this is introspective. This is an original aspect of this story, which identifies it.

The plot is good, and satisfactorily resolved, and each of the cast of characters has traits which make them believable and relatable. An absorbing balance of murder mystery and police procedural, with an interesting detective team.


#DCIJudeSatterthwaite #1

Read my review of Death by Dark Waters

Death at Eden’s End is the second in the DCI Satterthwaite series — and writing a series has been something of a challenge.

Before I began I’d mostly written either standalone novels or linked novels, which are essentially standalone but involve the same setting and the same characters. Writing a series in which the various characters’ lives unfold over a period of years is a whole different kettle of fish.

The main thing, as a writer, is to think of what the reader is looking for. With crime, you need a complete story with a satisfactory ending in which the villain gets caught — but in the lives of the detectives and their families and friends, it’s not so simple. These stories can take several books to reveal and with several characters, not all stories will be developing at the same time.

Jude is the main character in the DCI Satterthwaite series and his tribulations are years old. On the romantic side, there’s Becca, the ex-girlfriend who (despite what he pretends) he still loves and who poses an ever-present reminder of how he lets his job dominate his life, and there’s his colleague Ashleigh, who’s attractive and available but comes with complicated emotional baggage of her own in the shape of a possessive ex-husband who won’t let go. Then there’s Mikey, the much younger brother who’s going off the rails and for whom Jude is effectively a father-figure in lieu of their real father, from whom Mikey is entirely estranged. And there’s Adam, the former best friend who ended up in prison as a result of Jude’s unshakeable conscience and who will never forgive.

As a reader, I plan Jude’s story, and those of the other characters such as Ashleigh and Jude’s friend and colleague, the gay and quietly celibate Doddsy, well ahead. They take years of their lives and years of mine. But as a reader, I find it frustrating when a part of the story is left hanging.

In my experience, most readers are pretty tolerant. “I only wish there had been a bit more Jude/Ashleigh romance but I understand why it was so tame. Got to build into these things, right?” sighed one reviewer (who, by the way, gave it five stars). And it does seem by the reviews that many readers are only too happy to join these characters for a longer journey.

As a writer I want my readers to buy into the characters as much as I do. I hope that when you’ve finished reading Death at Eden’s End you’ll be satisfied by the way the criminal element of the plot is resolved and agog to find out how the Jude-Ashleigh-Becca relationship is resolved, whether Jude can manage to keep Mikey out of trouble — and how long Adam is prepared to wait for his revenge.

#JoAllen

Jo Allen was born in Wolverhampton and is a graduate of Edinburgh, Strathclyde and the Open University. After a career in economic consultancy, she took up writing and was first published under the name Jennifer Young in genres of short stories, romance and romantic suspense. In 2017 she took the plunge and began writing the genre she most likes to read – crime. Now living in Edinburgh, she spends as much time as possible in the English Lakes. In common with all her favourite characters, she loves football (she’s a season ticket holder with her beloved Wolverhampton Wanderers) and cats. Twitter Facebook

Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Crime, Gangland Crime, ganglit, Guest post, Noir, Thriller

Ruby Heather Burnside #TheWorkingGirls 4* #Review @Aria_Fiction @heatherbwriter #ganglit #Manchester #UrbanFiction #CrimeFiction #Thriller #BlogTour #BookReview #GuestPost @HoZ_Books

The stronger sex.

Ruby has always been strong. Growing up with a feeble mother and an absent father, she is forced to fight the battles of her younger siblings. And when a childhood experience leaves her traumatised, her distrust of men turns to hatred.

On the streets.

With no safe place to call home, Ruby is desperate to fit in with the tough crowd. She spends her teenage years sleeping around and drinking in the park, and by the time she is sixteen, prostitution has become a way of life. But Ruby has ambitions, and she soon moves up the ladder to become the madam of her own brothel.

The brothel.

But being in charge of a brothel has its downsides, Ruby faces her worst nightmare when an enemy from the past comes back into her life, and gang intimidation threatens to ruin everything. Can she find a way to beat her tormentors? And will she be strong enough to see it through?

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#Ruby

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

My Thoughts…

Another chapter in the gritty urban thriller set in Manchester and focused on working girls.

Ruby’s story is told in two timelines, the past, reflecting how her childhood and a teenage, drew her into the life of prostitution. The present, where she has everything thing she’s worked for but is in danger of losing.

She is not a victim. She had a plan and was prepared to use prostitution, as the means to give her the lifestyle she wants. Formerly, working for the pimp Gilly, a heinous character we met in book 1 The Mark, now she runs her own business. She hates men, because of her past experiences in her childhood and teenage, and revels in her role as a brothel owner. When her livelihood is threatened by men from her past. She demonstrates how courageous she is in defending those she cares about and her hard-fought-for business.

Like most people she has different facets, the gentle, loyal side which she shows to her lover Tiffany and her friends, The other side is driven and ruthless. Determined to keep what she owns and prepared to endanger herself to protect it. Ruby is a believable character, who commands your respect. She does want is needed, and that is admirable.

I have read the first book in the series, but this is a complete story, with enough backstory on the cast of characters and their situation for it to read well as a standalone. However, it is an addictive, action-filled series that is worth reading in its entirety.

The story reflects the lifestyle it portrays, so it features, bad language, sex and violence. It explores the darker aspects of society, but only to move Ruby’s story forward. Written engagingly, with realistic characters and situations. The adrenaline-fueled drama is addictive, as is the characterisation.

A must-read for those who enjoy relentless, ganglit in a contemporary urban setting.

#TheWorkingGirls #1

Read my review of book 1 The Mark

Guest – Post – Heather Burnside -How One Book Became a Series

I am so excited to be releasing Ruby, book two in The Working Girls series. It’s funny to think that initially, the idea for this book didn’t exist at all. It was actually through writing book one, The Mark, that I developed the concept for a series of books. 

My vision for The Mark came from a popular TV detective series that I watched back in the nineties. In a particular scene, the female detective is sitting in a seedy pub with a group of prostitutes trying to obtain information from them. Because she looks so out of place in that environment it made me think about how susceptible she was to all kinds of criminal acts from some of the dodgy characters that frequent the pub, and the book took root from there.

Because I have scant knowledge of the world of prostitution I carried out my research by reading a number of books by former prostitutes and watching online videos. A series on prostitution by the BBC was particularly poignant and a real eye-opener.

In this series, working girls were interviewed and they gave a candid and raw depiction of their lives. The girls had many things in common such as abusive childhoods, time spent in care, and drug addiction, which had led to their lives of prostitution.

A lot of the girls had entered into prostitution for similar reasons; a need to earn lots of money quickly either to make a living or to feed a drink and drugs habit. Drink and drugs were viewed by them as both a driving force into prostitution and a result of it, and some of the girls described how it helped to dull the senses to what they were experiencing.

There was one particularly sad character. She was an ageing prostitute who looked much older than her actual age because her appearance had been ravaged by drug abuse. She had developed a really bad chest infection, bordering on pneumonia, because her body was so depleted. Yet, despite her poor state of health, she still felt the need to service clients so that she could earn money to feed her drug habit. I have based the character of Angie on her. She appears in book one and also features later in the series.

While watching the programmes it occurred to me that each of these girls has their own story to tell. Then ideas for each of the characters started to form in my mind. Once I had thought of the characters their stories seemed to follow, probably because their personalities had been shaped by their life experiences. I also decided to give most of them a jewel name because their pimp wanted them to sound more exotic.

Book two is about Ruby who goes into prostitution purely to escape a life of poverty. Although she isn’t hooked on drugs, she does dabble a bit in the early days as a working girl. She isn’t as vulnerable as many of the other girls and has tremendous strength of character. I decided to feature Ruby in the second book as she is so formidable and interesting, and many readers commented that they would like to see more of her.

Currently, the series stands at three novels; The Mark, Ruby and Crystal (to be released in June 2020) but I have outline ideas for two more novels so it could possibly turn into a series of five in the future with each of books two to five based on a different girl. For the moment though, the focus is on Ruby who is one of my favourite characters out of all those I have created. I hope readers will take to her as much as I have.

#HeatherBurnside

Heather Burnside spent her teenage years on one of the toughest estates in Manchester and she draws heavily on this background as the setting for many of her novels. After taking a career break to raise two children Heather enrolled on a creative writing course. Heather now works full-time on her novels from her home in Manchester, which she shares with her two grown-up children.

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Posted in Author Guest Post, Blog Tour, Book Review, Crime, Family Drama, Guest post, Murder Mystery, Mystery, Psychological Thriller, Suspense, Thriller

The Scorched Earth Rachael Blok 4* #Review #GuestPost @MsRachaelBlok @HoZ_Books @Aria_Fiction #CrimeFiction #Suspense #PsychologicalThriller #PoliceProcedural #DCIJansen #BlogTour

#TheScorchedEarth

Who really killed Leo Fenton?

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.

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#BlogTour

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

My Thoughts…

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 Jansen suffers 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.

#RachelBlok

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.

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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!