At the time of reading and review, this book is a free download on Amazon UK.
Three short stories set in Lynmouth, Devon. This is a place I know well, and I enjoyed the sense of familiarity, as I read these stories. All the stories have a distinctly noir flavour, in stark contrast to the beauty of the setting. For me, this increases their impact.
In Plain Sight
Features a mother and son, the terror of their circumstances resonates. The mother’s instinct to protect her offspring is evident. It is this, and the need to survive that gives the story its clever twist. Little, is known about why they are in this situation, it is left to the reader’s imagination. Despite, its brevity the story engages, and the vivid imagery makes the setting and situation easy to visualise.
Killing Me Softly
The seasonal contrast of Lynmouth is used to good effect in this story. Internal darkness is the main theme. Poignant, with a tangible sense of hopelessness, you share a young woman’s sense of despair, as she struggles to cope with reality. The isolation and the power of the mind are key to this story. The ending is inevitable but has a strange mystical quality. Even as you know what is happening, you are not entirely sure of the root cause.
Hell And High Water
The final story explores an out of season holiday with unforeseen consequences. Domestic Abuse is the predominant theme. The Lynmouth setting during a storm provides a timely if dark twist to the protagonist’s predicament.
The last two stories are longer, but all three can be read easily, in under an hour, So, if you’re looking for a chilling, noir read, try this on the beach, it even has a seaside setting.
Did You Know …?
Known as England’s ‘Little Switzerland’, the Devon village of Lynmouth is famous for its Victorian cliff railway, fish n’ chips and of course, RD Blackmore’s Lorna Doone.
Located on the doorstep of the dramatic Valley of The Rocks and the South West Cliff Path, the twin villages of Lynton and Lynmouth have inspired many writers, including 19th Century romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, who honeymooned there in 1812.
PRAISE FOR LV HAY:
‘Well-written, engrossing & brilliantly unique’– Heat World
‘Prepare to be surprised by this psychological mystery’– Closer
‘Sharp, confident writing, as dark and twisty as the Brighton Lanes’– Peter James
‘Prepare to be seriously disturbed’ – Paul Finch
‘Crackles with tension’ – Karen Dionne
‘An original, fresh new voice in crime fiction’ – Cal Moriarty
‘The writing shines from every page of this twisted tale’– Ruth Dugdall
‘I couldn’t put it down’ – Paula Daly
‘An unsettling whirlwind of a novel with a startlingly dark core’ – The Sun
‘An author with a fresh, intriguing voice and a rare mastery of the art of storytelling’ – Joel Hames
Lucy V Hay is a script editor for film and an author of fiction and non-fiction. Publishing as LV Hay, Lucy’s debut crime novel, The Other Twin, is out now and has been featured in The Sun and Sunday Express Newspaper, plus Heatworld and Closer Magazine. Her second crime novel, Do No Harm, is an ebook bestseller. Her next title is ‘Never Have I Ever‘, for Hodder Books.
Forty years ago, in the dark of the playground, two children’s lives were changed forever.
Stella Darnell is a cleaner. But when she isn’t tackling dust and dirt and restoring order to chaos, Stella solves murders. Her latest case concerns a man convicted of killing his mistress. His daughter thinks he’s innocent and needs Stella to prove it.
As Stella sifts through piles of evidence and interview suspects, she discovers a link between the recent murder and a famous case from forty years ago: the shocking death of six-year-old Sarah Ferris, killed in the shadows of an empty playground.
Stella knows that dredging up the past can be dangerous. But as she pieces together the tragedy of what happened to Sarah, she is drawn into a story of jealousy, betrayal and the end of innocence. A story that has not yet reached its end…
I received a copy of this book from Head of Zeus in return for an honest review.
I didn’t discover,’The Detective’s Daughter Series, until Book 6 The Death Chamber. That story, and this one, ‘The Playground Murders’, reads well as a standalone. There is sufficient background, especially about Stella’s enigmatic father to let you understand what motivates the main protagonists. However, for the full experience read the older books too.
Original characters and complex cold cases to solve are the hallmarks of this detective series. The characters are quirky and realistic, they all have believable flaws, neuroses and aspiration.
Stella, the detective’s daughter, has two main focuses, cleaning and solving previously unsolved crimes. She runs a cleaning company and a detective agency, with her partner Jack and a cast of unique individuals. They are a family, look out for each other, criticise each other, and share a bond that resists any outside interference.
This story connects a recent murder, with a past child killing, investigated by Terry, Stella’s father. Present day action is complemented by flashback chapters in 1980 when Terry was involved in the child-killing case. The ethos of the historical part of the story is chilling, the contrast of innocence and evil disturbing.
Aside from the detective case, there are snapshots of Stella and Jack’s lives outside work. Stella and her mother Suzie, have the usual mother-daughter issues and Jack a father of twins, has to come to terms with only seeing them periodically, and the spectre of a new father figure in their lives.
This story has a clever, twisty plot, and a menacing undertone. Slow-paced it lets you absorb the action, and atmosphere, as you try to solve the crime. Another exciting chapter in ‘The Detective’s Daughter’, series.
Guest Post – Lesley Thomson – The Playground Murders
With the exception of The Death Chamber (#6), there are children in my stories. As victims of crime or adults who go on to commit a crime. I hope that meeting them as a child gives readers insight into their later actions. Until The Playground Murders, I’d never created a child killer who is a child. No surprise, it’s a disturbing subject. Traditionally childhood is a time of happy innocence. If, for whatever reason, it’s not this is usually down to the transgressions of adults. That a child might deliberately end the life of another child is terrible to contemplate. That photo of James Bulger being led away from his mother by two ten-year-old boys shattered our life-view.
Can a child be evil? Can we forgive the adult a child becomes for a crime they committed long ago? As children did we do bad stuff? Do we write off those misdemeanours because, hey, we were kids? What if punching a kid in the dinner queue caused their death? Do children even understand what death is? The Playground Murders explores these questions.
The playground setting was a no-brainer. Archetypal, it’s
in the bones of many of us as kids and as parents. Typically a locus of excitement
and fun, joyful shouts, urgent cries and the gales of laughter of children deep
in their game carries over municipal lawns, rotundas where Sunday brass bands are
long gone. Playgrounds were developed from observing children playing on bombsites
after the war. Bounded by railings within a landscaped park or in a school, they
offer the change for kids’ imaginations to be free. Girls and boys are heroes
of their make-believe. Or villains.
These days playgrounds are populated with jolly
coloured climbing walls, slides, swings and roped walkways but when I was young,
and until the nineteen-eighties, the playground was a relatively dangerous
place. Heavy iron equipment, the witch’s hat and juggernaut roundabout trapped
limbs and crushed fingers and feet. Swings without restraining bars could fly
high until chains twisted or snapped propelling occupants onto unforgiving
There were fatalities. It’s not plot spoiling to tell you that in The Playground Murders one child falls from a tower slide (equivalent to plummeting from a first-floor window), the death ruled an accident because it wasn’t unusual. I feel lucky to have got away with only breaking my arm by crashing pell-mell into my friend Tina when we were eight. Actually, I recently read that kids colliding with each other is a thing. Not just us then.
The Playground Murders, a tale of mired ambitions, of deceit and betrayal and ruined childhoods is also about hope and regeneration. Here’s hoping you enjoy it.
Lesley Thomson grew up in west London. Her first novel, A Kind of Vanishing, won the People’s Book Prize in 2010. Her second novel, The Detective’s Daughter, was a number 1 bestseller and sold over 500,000 copies.
Extract From The Playground Murders – Lesley Thomson
The group considered the furry mass. The cat was large with a collapsed tummy.
think it’s old,’ Sarah decided. ‘Is it dead like Robbie’s dead?’
Nicola snapped at her.
didn’t get runned down,’ Sarah said.
one said he did, darlin’.’ Danielle imitated her older sister Maxine being nice
to Jason. ‘Best you go to bed. No nightmares.’ She yanked Sarah to her.
can’t chop it up,’ Jason said. ‘It’s not yours.’
detective,’ Danielle repeated.
we play Doctors and Nurses with it?’ Sarah enquired.
dead so it doesn’t need nursing or… doctoring.’ Danielle forgot to be nice.
pretend it’s alive. Like you did with Robbie,’ Sarah said.
Lee snatched her hand. ‘We’re going. And don’t tell your Dad about this, OK?’
Sarah squirmed crossly. ‘I want to stay for the chopping.’
should tell the owner. They’ll be waiting to give it its tea,’ Nicola said.
‘When Spiderman didn’t come back, Robbie cried. I did too. He’d got stuck in
next door’s shed. He was starving. Robbie was allowed to give him Whiskas with
dead,’ Danielle said.
wasn’t then. Spiderman is alive,’ Nicola mumbled.
this cat got a collar?’ Danielle wished Nicky would shove off. She folded her
felt under the cat’s chin. Revolted, Jason sniggered. In his doctor’s voice,
Kevin reported, ‘She doesn’t have no collar.’
collar. Not no collar,’ Danielle barked. ‘You don’t know it’s a lady.’
had babies, that’s why it’s all flabby like that.’ Kevin did sound like a
know.’ Danielle tapped her front tooth. Her notion of a detective was derived
mainly from Scooby-Doo.
‘We’ll call on everyone in the street and detect the owner. Kevin, you’re my
scrambled to his feet and stood next to Danielle, hands behind his back like a
of houses in this street,’ Sarah said.
went quiet as they digested this.
crosses the road as soon as he comes out,’ Nicola said at last. ‘He goes in a
straight line. If this cat does that, it lives there.’ She waved a hand at the
house behind them. A decorated Christmas tree sparkled in the window.
It’s down there,’ Danielle stated firmly.
can you be sure?’ Nicola asked.
‘I keep saying because I’m a detective. I’ll sling it behind there and people can work it out for themselves.’ Tiring of the operation, Danielle pointed at the memorial for the three dead policemen. She hauled up the cat in both hands. More blood spewed from its mouth. The children scattered like birds.
Jason did a war dance.
should tell the owner since you know it’s them in that house,’ Lee stepped in.
do it.’ Nicola went along the pavement to the house where Danielle had said
that the cat had lived.
dragged on her brother’s Harrington jacket. ‘Lee, I got to tell you a secret.’
At Halloween, the residents of Black Gale gather for a dinner party. As the only nine people living there, they’ve become close friends as well as neighbours.
They eat, drink and laugh. They play games and take photographs. But those photographs will be the last record of any of them.
Because by the next morning, the whole village has vanished.
With no bodies, no evidence and no clues, the mystery of what happened at Black Gale remains unsolved two and a half years on. But then the families of the missing turn to investigator David Raker – and their obsession becomes his.
What secrets were the neighbours keeping from their families – and from each other?
Were they really everything they seemed to be?
And is Raker looking for nine missing people – or nine dead bodies?
I received a copy of this book from Penguin UK – Michael Joseph Publishing via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Investigator David Raker, who specialises in finding missing people is a driven, complex man, who seems to make both enemies and friends wherever he goes. Haunted by his past actions and losses, he is always looking over his shoulder. Empathetic, intelligent, and a risk taker, he is the person you want in your corner if you need to find the truth.
Nine people disappeared without a trace two and a half years ago, and now the son of one of the missing people wants Raker to investigate their disappearance. Over thirty years previously in Los Angeles, a female detective is hunting for a murderer, storylines seem unconnected, but as they both progress they converge and the historical illuminates the present.
Both stories are complex, full of details and vividly written characters. There are many similarities between Raker and Jo, both are dedicated, intelligent detectives, who work in hostile environments. The late 1980s setting portrays the lawless ethos and prejudices of the era perfectly, which makes the retro chapters both atmospheric and authentic.
The present-day, chapters are no less absorbing. The Black Gale hamlet is a contemporary ‘Mary Celeste’, nothing seems out of place, but everything is wrong. As the suspense level increases, even the ordinary events Raker witnesses are menacing.
The final chapters are so vivid, as Raker finally realises the truth, but this is not the end, just the beginning of the most intense, adrenaline-fueled action and despair. Even the ending leaves you wondering, it seems that everything is resolved, but then you go back and begin to wonder if the worst is yet to come.
Clever plot twists, complex characters and a pervading air of despair and menace make this thriller one of the best of 2019.
best way to catch a killer? Offer yourself as bait.
Becky Morgan’s family were
the victims of the ‘crimes of the decade’.
The lone survivor of a
ritualistic killing, Becky’s been forever haunted by the memories of that night.
Twenty years later, with
the killer never found, Becky is ready to hunt them down and exact revenge. But
the path to find the murderer is a slippery slope and she finds herself opening
up some old wounds that should have been left sealed.
I received a copy of this book from Aria via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
This is a deep and dark novel, with noir themes, and graphically described violence. The written imagery is vivid, and the suspense, and level of menace, this story engenders is intense.
Becky is the sole survivor of a horrific, ritualistic murder that robbed her of her close family, and left her, unsurprisingly, traumatised and emotionally damaged. Twenty years on, she is still suffering, despite therapy, and the comfort, sought from the bottom of a bottle. She needs closure and revenge. Spurred on by a cold case investigation, she is determined to find the person who destroyed her family and her chance of a happy life.
So many contemporary themes are covered in this detailed thriller, the dark web, hacking, institutional conspiracy, abuse and murder. Becky is a well-constructed protagonist, flawed because of her emotional damage and reliance on alcohol. She is unreliable but if you accept her faults, you have to admire her determination and strength, to find the killer and expose those who have allowed the killer to remain at large.
The first chapter sets the scene and tone of the book exquisitely. What follows is a detailed investigation to find out the players in the murderous game, and then the pursuit, which is adrenaline-fueled, fast-paced and violent. There are parts of this story that seem unrealistic, but it is fiction, and as such the author is allowed to bend reality a little.
Merging the horror and thriller genres, with a suspenseful mystery, this story will make you think, keep you turning the pages, and lock your doors.
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. TwitterFacebook
Avenging Angels – Pat Black
In The Family,
we meet an avenger in the journalist Becky Morgan. She’s hell-bent on finding
the maniac who killed her mother, father, sister and brother and left her for
dead when she was just a girl.
Becky’s tenacious, she’s smarter than the average bear,
and she can kick you in the face from a standing position.
She follows on from a proud literary tradition of avenging – and revenging – angels. Let’s take a look at a few ruthless ladies you don’t want to mess with…
Stieg Larsson’s Salander is the ground zero for modern
tough women. The star of the Millennium Trilogy will almost certainly help to
define our times for future generations.
She’s slightly built and looks like an insecure teenager hiding behind piercings and outlandish haircuts. This assessment would be a mistake, and making it to her face might be a painful one for you.
Salander has been the victim of some terrible crimes, but she never lets this define her. She’s constantly moving forward, and whatever damage she’s suffered has not interfered with a strong sense of justice. In order to attain that, she will cut any corner necessary.
She’s no blunt instrument, though – Salander is a
genius, a computer hacker who can break into anything, the equivalent of an
ultra-creepy sleight of hand trickster who has your purse in his pocket before
you can finish shuffling the pack.
The end justifies the means for Salander, whether
that’s using her skills to expose the most intimate details of some sleazebag’s
life and stripping them of all their money, or employing eye-watering levels of
violence. You might not exactly warm to Salander or her methods, but you’re
always rooting for the girl with the dragon tattoo.
Salander has a whole double album’s worth of greatest hits, but the punishment she metes out to her repellent legal guardian, Bjurman, is perhaps the most memorable.
“Now, you won’t be doing that again, will you?”
The stranger, “Charles Augustus Milverton”
Adultery and its consequences are the drivers of
several plots in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s original Sherlock Holmes tales, and
this is particularly true of “Charles Augustus Milverton”.
The guy in the title is a blackmailer, and he loves
his job. He doesn’t make idle threats – if people can’t pay up, he will expose
their sins, both great and small. Perhaps even more than Moriarty, Holmes
despises this villain.
That’s why he doesn’t lift a finger to stop one woman
who – spoilers – enters stage left and turns Charles Augustus Milverton into
Swiss cheese with a revolver… then stamps
on his face for good measure. The old goat had hustled her husband into an
early grave after exposing her secrets.
“Take that!” this sister yells, unloading on the fool
again and again. “And that!”
I never forgot that savagery after first reading the
story as a kid. The woman goes nameless, with Watson being a gentleman to the
last following an injunction by Holmes, who places natural justice above
But what an impact she had. Several of them, in fact, at
point blank range.
“Now, you won’t be doing that again, will you?”
No, he definitely will not.
Goodness me, everyone
gets it in this novel. People who only half-deserve it get it. Even one or
two who maybe only smirked a little bit get it. This isn’t payback. It’s a
biblical disaster, visited upon an entire town through one odd girl’s unique psychic
Like the surgical scenes in The Exorcist movie, the most harrowing parts of Stephen King’s
debut novel for me aren’t so much the supernatural elements or the gore, but the
heartless abuse poor Carrie receives from her teenage peers. It strikes home
for most readers, even before Carrie lashes out.
Telekinesis aside, the dark plot which ensnares Carrie
is believably put together and executed. King, who taught in a high school,
imbues his tragic heroine with believable qualities – so too for the bullies,
both male and female. Hauntingly, King revealed in On Writing that there were true-life individuals who inspired Carrie
White, with their own tragic fates.
Worst of all, Carrie is almost redeemed. It’s so agonisingly close to a fairytale ending.
There’s a sign of the woman she might have become, free of the small town
shackles, paroled from her evil mother’s closet. The ugly duckling, become a
gorgeous swan. There’s even a heartbreaking hint that against all odds, she
might just have found her prince. But one jealous, bitter, angry person simply
cannot allow that.
And then… Blood and fire.
“Now, you won’t be doing that again, will you?” No.
But, you notice something here? These were all written
by men. So…
Fay Weldon wrote one of the most horrifying short
stories I’ve ever read. “Weekend” looks at a hard-working wife and mother,
keeping all the plates spinning for her unappreciative family. Her husband has
invited a friend to stay for the weekend. This guy has dumped his own loyal,
loving wife for a younger woman. The writing appears on the wall.
There’s no catharsis in this story. That might be the worst thing about it. No verbal explosions, not one slapped cheek, no soup tureens upended. The wife and mother in “Weekend” simply accept her deal, the tiredness, the sarcasm, the appalling imbalances and injustices of her marriage. She is a doormat. No-one respects her. It’s a hard read, but a necessary one.
There is plenty of catharsis in Weldon’s The Life And Loves Of A She-Devil. Ruth is cut from the same cloth as the main character in “Weekend”, but she strikes back, taking a full English breakfast of revenge on her cheating husband Bobbo and his mistress, Mary Fisher.
In Ruth’s journey from dumped and dumpy wife to
glamourous usurper and emasculator, she must surrender her identity and take on
new ones, physically as well as mentally, in order to destroy her rival and get
even with Bobbo.
There is no bill left unpaid by the end of this book.
Weldon has stated that She-Devil is not about revenge, but envy. You could have fooled me.
“Now, you won’t be doing that again, will you?”
Is Susie Salmon an avenger? Not in the sense that
she’s out for blood. She certainly hopes to expose the man who killed her – her
creepy serial killer neighbour, Harvey. There’s just that slight inconvenience
of being dead.
The main character in Alice Sebold’s troubling The Lovely Bones is a ghostly presence
after Harvey kills her, more of an observer than an actor, but she does her
best to guide her family towards where her remains are being kept.
Harvey does get his comeuppance – a strange, unspectacular, unmarked fate. But Susie’s heavenly mission is one of healing rather than destruction, as she tries to bring her family back together after the trauma of her disappearance. Maybe this act of repair, much more than one of violence, is the best revenge.
How do you stop a demon invasion… when you don’t believe in magic? Inspector Nick Paris is a man of logic and whisky. So staring down at the crucified form of a murder victim who is fifteen centimetres tall leaves the seasoned detective at a loss… and the dead fairy is only the beginning.
Suddenly the inspector is offering political asylum to dwarves, consulting with witches, getting tactical advice from elves and taking orders from a chain-smoking talking crow who, technically, outranks him.
With the fate of both the human and magic worlds in his hands, Nick will have to leave logic behind and embrace his inner mystic to solve the crime and stop an army of demons from invading Manchester!
I received a copy of this book from Canelo via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Creating a fantasy world that appeals to readers is difficult, everyone has their own preconceptions of what should be in this world, what the creatures look like, and how they behave. The key is perhaps to hold back on the descriptions of your fantasy creatures and let your reader imagine them. This is what I like to do, but in this mystery the creatures are so well defined, it leaves little to the imagination.
Once you’ve achieved this, the next obstacle is how to create a story that fits in with the world you’ve created, and entertains your reader. I have no problem believing in fairies at the bottom of the garden, or another world running parallel to ours, but largely unseen by humans. However, some of the descriptions of the creatures living in this fantasy world didn’t resonate. Believable characters or ones you can empathise, are important for the reader to connect to the story. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find that connection with any of the characters in this story.
Inspector Paris is amusing, but his addiction to cigarettes and whiskey, apparently supported by his employers didn’t ring true. A functioning alcoholic for a detective is not a new concept, but this didn’t fit with his almost naive belief in the supernatural. unless of course, they are part of his drunken haze?
The story fits into the cozy mystery genre, but the supernatural elements, if any, are usually implied rather than implict.as in this case. I admire the courage to merge genres but maybe the fantasy needs taming a little and the mystery deepening for it to work effectively.
The pacing and plot are good. The dynamics between the main players believable, and often amusing, If you are looking for a lighthearted read, and enjoy this type of urban fantasy, this is worth a read.
Do you love mysteries with intricate plots and new locations? Meet Detective Rebecca Bradley as she faces an escaped serial killer whose next target is the policewoman herself.
Rebecca Bradley put serial killer Jackie Caldwell in prison. She had the assistance of Hound, a giant young man who’s in love with Rebecca. But then Jackie murders a prison guard and escapes. She heads north to her home town of Conroy, where she hides out in the forest to evade a massive police search. She’s burning with hatred for Rebecca and wants revenge for the financial ruin of her family twenty years ago in a gold mining scam by Rebecca’s villainous grandfather.
Jackie also hates Rebecca’s wealthy father, who betrayed and then helped the police apprehend Jackie’s sleazebag lover, Kingsley McBride. Hound pursues Jackie in a bone-chilling chase through the eastern Georgian Bay forest. He faces a race against time to save the woman he loves.
I received acopy of this book from Joffe Books via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
I like quirky characters and plots, but even though I like Hound and Rebecca, the main protagonists in this crime based mystery thriller, and the plot is complex, I couldn’t get into the story.
Set in Canada, the story is full of local dialect and expressions, but it is the writing style rather than the content that fails to resonate. There seems to be a narrator present, telling the story rather than letting the reader learn what’s happening through the main protagonist’s thoughts and experiences.
Despite the action-packed storyline, and the unreliability of the main protagonist, there is something missing for me and the story doesn’t realise its initial potential.
Separated by time and distance, two sisters seek answers for all they’ve lost
When Alice Verinder’s beloved sister Lydia goes missing, Alice boards the Orient Express bound for Topkapi Palace in Constantinople, determined to find her.
Lydia was governess to the Sultan’s young children and though her letters spoke of exotic delights and welcoming hosts, the reception Alice receives is decidedly cold and answers unforthcoming.
Now, as Alice digs deeper into the secrets of a land foreign to her she has only Englishman Harry Frome to help her. But as their search uncovers unforeseen dangers and exposes an unexpected ardour, is Alice ready for the truths they’ll uncover?
was a journey I made a few years ago. I was lucky enough to travel to Venice on
the Orient Express (a special occasion trip) and fell in love with the train.
The compartments, dining carriages, even the mosaic bathrooms, are almost
unchanged since the train’s heyday. And whereas nowadays the journey to
Istanbul is a special once a year event, in 1907 there was a regular service
from London to Constantinople. I wondered what it must have felt like for a
young woman travelling alone for the first time in her life and on such a
Do you draw your characters from real life, your imagination, or are they a mix of both? How do you make your characters realistic?
They aren’t drawn from real life in the sense of my actually knowing people just like them. But as a writer, you imbue your characters with what you’ve gained from life and what you’ve seen of relationships and the way they work. I don’t have a sister myself, but it wasn’t too difficult to tune into the feelings of Alice and Lydia, given the period in which they live and their very different personalities.
Lydia Verinder has been working as a governess at
Topkapi Palace in Constantinople, while her elder sister, Alice, has been forced to take responsibility for their ailing parents.
Alice hasn’t heard from her sister for months and suspects
thoughtlessness – Lydia has always been indulged. She loves her and admires
Lydia’s courage and passion, but feels resentful that she has been left caring
for the household. Though her
feelings are decidedly mixed, Alice becomes increasingly worried by her
sister’s silence. Bravely, she decides to go to
Constantinople herself and
search for Lydia, and once there she meets a whole lot of other characters –
but not all of them are benevolent!
When you write, what comes first, the characters, the plot or the setting? Why do you think this is?
Looking back at the novels I’ve written, it’s setting that seems pre-eminent. Maybe it’s because I write historical fiction, but when I respond especially to a setting – it could be a house, a city, a garden, or in this case a train – I begin to imagine what it must once have looked like, who might have lived there, who travelled there etc. Once I start to people the setting, the questions come and I uncover the problems the characters are facing – then my plot is on its way!
What made you decide to become a writer, and why does this genre appeal to you?
I’m not sure you actually decide to be a writer. For as long as I can remember, I’ve needed to put pen to paper. As a small child, I wrote poems, at grammar school, there were short stories that I never dared mention – creative writing was definitely not encouraged. And I kept on writing through the years, but between family, pets and my job as a lecturer, there was little time to do more than dabble. However, when the pressures eased, I grabbed the chance to do something I’d always promised myself – to write a novel. The nineteenth-century novel was a favourite to teach so it’s no wonder I ended up writing historical fiction.
What sort of books do you enjoy reading and why?
I read fairly widely. Naturally enough, I love historical fiction, particularly when there’s suspense, a mystery, maybe a death or two. And I like crime a lot, but not when it’s unduly violent and gory – psychological crime is a favourite. I love the unwrapping of a personality. The occasional literary fiction – some of Colm Toibin’s books, for example – hit the mark, and I’m a huge fan of Kate Atkinson and the way she combines the popular and the literary so well.
What are you currently writing?
This year I’ve embarked on a crime series, and changing genre has proved quite a challenge. But though I’m planning on one or more deaths in each book, there’s a focus, too, on relationships, including some romantic temptation. The series is set in the 1950s, a period when women were pushed back into the kitchen after the Second World War and generally lacked independent careers or their own money, and where marriage and children were seen as a woman’s only goal. My heroine, needless to say, kicks against that. She’s married but not entirely happily. However, her husband’s profession allows her to travel to different countries, where she’s certain to face a crime that needs solving. The first in the series, The Venice Atonement, will be published in July and I’m currently deep in the Caribbean, writing volume two!
I received a copy of this book from Canelo via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
A beautifully told story of sisterly love, impetus youth, and evil. The Tale of Two Sisters is set in the vibrant historical background of early twentieth century Turkey. Full of vivid imagery and intricate historical details, you can imagine the opulence and the culture the two sisters experience.
The plot is believable and well thought out, the twists and turns, which keep the reader guessing are plentiful and the mystery keeps its terrible secrets to the end.
Lydia is a woman before her time, driven by political equality, yet naive and ill-equipped for what she becomes embroiled in. She is selfish and flawed, but her exuberance and zest for life’s experiences make this forgivable, Ultimately she becomes a heroine.
Alice is the antithesis of her sister, dependable, selfless and resigned to subjugating her needs for the good of her parents and sibling. She is easy to empathise. Her courage is notable and as the story progresses her adventurous and impulse qualities come to the fore, making her share more with her sister than you would first imagine.
Gentle pacing reflects the many obstacles Alice faces as she tries to discover her sister’s whereabouts. Told from both sisters’ points of view, the story is full of emotion, historical interest and suspense, as the mystery surrounding Lydia’s disapperance is solved. There is also a tender, unexpected romance, which adds extra depth to the story and allows its ending to be hopeful.
If like me, you love historical fiction with a mystery to solve, and just a touch of gentle romance, this lovely tale will draw you in.
Merryn Allingham was born into an army family and spent her childhood moving around the UK and abroad. Unsurprisingly it gave her itchy feet and in her twenties, she escaped from an unloved secretarial career to work as cabin crew and see the world.
Merryn still loves to travel and visit new places, especially those with an interesting history, but the arrival of marriage, children and cats meant a more settled life in the south of England, where she has lived ever since. It also gave her the opportunity to go back to ‘school’ and eventually teach at university.
She has written seven historical novels, all mysteries with a
helping of suspense and a dash of romance – sometimes set in exotic locations
and often against a background of stirring world events.