In a quiet corner of Edinburgh, Cat Thomas is going through hell.
She’s tried everything. He respects nothing.
If your neighbour was making your life hell …
Would you call upon the devil?
Cat Thomas, a brilliant fraud investigator, has just relocated from Florida to a dreamy flat in historic Edinburgh. Everything seems perfect. Everything seems serene. Except for the unbelievably noisy wannabe rockstar upstairs.
Soon Cat’s blissful new life is in ruins. Desperate, she’s willing to try anything. When all else fails, she makes an appeal … to Satan.
And suddenly everything is eerily quiet. But her nightmare has only just begun …
I received a copy of this book from Black and White Publishing in return for an honest review.
This story is not what it first seems to be, and that’s its charm. Told from Cat’s point of view the story follows her moving from Florida to Edinburgh after a dangerous case in the world of financial fraud. She is a likeable character and relatable, but she has secrets as everyone does.
The real story begins when Cat’s idyllic new start is ruined by and a noisy and obnoxious neighbour. This story remains credible because Cat’s feelings are recognisable and make her easy to empathise. Her meeting with Agnes and the strange encounter at the castle change Cat’s life.
The plot is a mix of noir crime, noir humour and suspense with paranormal elements. Cat isn’t sure whether she is losing her mind, a victim of organised crime or something less quantifiable. The final twist will be unexpected for most and gives the story a powerful conclusion.
ANTHONY O NEILL is the son of an Irish policeman and an Australian stenographer. He was born in Melbourne and now lives in Edinburgh. He is the author of seven novels including The Dark Side and Dr Jekyll & Mr Seek, recommended by Ian Rankin as ‘clever, gripping and reverent’.
Lies, secrets, and a sinister plot hide in broad daylight at the heart of the Club Pacifica.
A beautiful tropical resort, exciting new friends, and a handsome guest liaison – it’s the perfect getaway for Chloe, a free-spirited Baltimore girl just getting to know herself. But the vacation of a lifetime quickly takes a dark turn when a young, overly flirty bellhop starts following her everywhere. It gets even worse when he disappears, and Chloe is the sole witness.
As bellhop after bellhop goes missing, she struggles to figure out what’s happening. When suspicion falls upon her, Chloe must not only try to rescue the kidnapped bellhops, but also to clear her name.
Complicating things further is the relationship she forms with Mateo, Club Pacifica’s guest liaison. Charming and easygoing, he is everything that her fiancé at home is not, and she finds herself fighting a growing attraction to him. But can he be trusted?
She soon discovers that she’s landed herself in a world of secrets, and, worse, that these are not just those of others, but also the secrets she keeps from herself.
Can she find her way through all the lies to finally discover the truth before it’s too late?
I received a copy of this book from the author and publisher in return for an honest review.
This story has intrinsic dark humour with vivid characters and lots of action. The plot is imaginative with good use of sensory imagery. The pacing is frenetic at times, as the bellhops disappear without a trace. Chloe, investigates the mystery, but who can she trust?
Chloe is a likeable character on an emotional journey. Despite the abductions and accusations that define her holiday, it lets her step back from her life. Finally discovering she wants something different.
Fun, danger, mystery and romance are all found in this engaging and unusual story.
Cat Hickey has a Master’s degree in Biology, and teaches Anatomy and Physiology at a university in Baltimore, MD, USA. She writes light-hearted mysteries and thrillers that are based, partly, on her extensive travels around the world. She is also an avid yogi who teaches aerial yoga and practices aerial circus arts, and spends the rest of her time with her four rescue animals, which consist of three cats and a horse.
One sunny day in July, someone took three-month-old Alicia Owen from her pram outside a supermarket. Her mother, Marie, was inside. No one saw who took Alicia. And no one could find her.
They silenced her cry…
Fifteen years later, a teenager on a construction site sees a tiny hand in the ground. When the police investigate, they find a baby buried and preserved in concrete. Could it be Alicia?
But the truth will always out.
When Alicia disappeared, the papers accused Marie of detachment and neglect. The Owens never got over the grief of their child’s disappearance and divorced not long after. By reopening the case, DC Beth Chamberlain must reopen old wounds. But the killer may be closer than anyone ever suspected…
The latest crime thriller featuring Family Liaison Officer DC Beth Chamberlain, Hush Little Baby is tightly plotted, fraught with tension and impossible to put down.
I received a copy of this book from Aria via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
This story is emotional and poignant because it involves the death of a baby. The author captures the familial guilt and heartbreak in this story as Beth Chamberlain investigates the cold case. The third in the series, there are mentions of previous crimes and so reading the first two books is advised.
Beth Chamberlain is a believable character. Caring and dedicated, she gives the story authenticity. The dynamic in the police team is well-written and the depth, and pacing of the investigation realistically portrayed.
The compelling plot and engaging, though not always likeable characters immerse the reader into this dark world.
Extract from Hush Little Baby Jane Isaac
The detective chief inspector tapped the screen. ‘In the description given at the time, Alicia’s mother said the child was wearing a towelling vest and a nappy. The contents of her changing bag, also taken with her, included a cream shawl, similar to the one this child was wrapped in. The burial site, if we can call it that, is less than two miles from the Owens’ home at the time, and not far from where Alicia went missing.’
‘Could it have been as long as fifteen years?’ Nick asked.
‘They can’t be completely sure before they run tests, but potentially, yes.’
‘So, we think it is her?’
‘From what we’ve uncovered so far, it seems likely. Pete’s been out to see the farmer who owns the land.’
DC Pete Winston approached the front of the room. He was a tall man, with short dark hair and soft brown eyes. The buttons on his shirt gaped slightly over an overhanging paunch. ‘The land was owned by the Moreton family before it was sold for development,’ he said. ‘Old man Moreton must be in his seventies now. He ran the farm with his only son, it had been in their family over a hundred years. He claims he had no idea how the body came to be on his land.’ Pete lifted a hand and circled an area on the map, indicating the location of the farm and the land attached to it. A purple-headed pin close to the edge marked the area where the remains were found.
‘Moreton was quite clear that this particular field—’ Pete tapped the crime scene twice ‘—has been used solely for crops for the last thirty years. It’s several acres away from the farmhouse and not overlooked. There are no bridle ways or walkways that run through, or close by, and it was edged with high hawthorn hedging along the roadside, until recently when the developers cut it back.’
‘How did they access the field?’ Nick asked.
‘Through a locked gate at the bottom of the road.’
‘So, he’s saying nobody else had access apart from farm workers?’
‘Not legitimately. He did admit there were a few breaks in the hedging back in the day, caused by badgers and other animals, where someone may have climbed through.’
Nick’s face crumpled. ‘Surely the farmer or a labourer working the land would have noticed something freshly buried, or that the soil was disturbed.’
‘Yeah, I mentioned that. Moreton wasn’t convinced.’ Pete glanced down and sifted through his notebook until he found what he was looking for. ‘This was one field in a farm of over 700 acres. They combine crop and cattle. The work is constant. They harvest, cultivate and sow the crops. Often fields aren’t touched for months in between. If the block was buried at the right time, the soil could have had plenty of weeks or months to settle afterwards.’
Beth narrowed her eyes. Once again, it indicated a level of knowledge and planning. To know when the seeds would be sown. Although it would have been cumbersome to transport a concrete lump that size into the field. The killer would have had to dig quite a hole to conceal it. ‘How far does their machinery penetrate the soil?’ she asked.
Pete shot Beth a knowing smile. ‘Down to a maximum of thirty centimetres.’
Which meant if the block was buried deeper than thirty centimetres it could have sat there for years, undisturbed. Beth gave an appreciative nod. ‘What about the builder working the digger this morning?’ she asked. ‘How come they didn’t notice they’d hit the concrete block? Especially if they were working through soil.’
‘They’d been breaking up the foundations of a dilapidated barn nearby. Some of the remains were mixed in with the soil in that part of the field. They probably didn’t give it a second thought.’ Pete snapped his notebook shut. ‘The farmer’s putting together a list of labourers he’s used. They’d know the area, be aware it was remote.’
Freeman thanked Pete and sunk his hands deep in his pockets. ‘As I said, if this is Alicia, the quickest way to confirm identity would be through a DNA check against her parents. Depending on how busy the labs are, we’d hopefully know within two to three days.’
‘I’ve already taken a sample from the mother,’ Beth said. ‘It was couriered to the lab this afternoon.’
Jane Isaac is married to a serving detective and they live in rural Northamptonshire UK with their daughter, and dog, Bollo. Jane loves to hear from readers and writers.
Sign up to her book club at http://eepurl.com/1a2uT for book recommendations and details of new releases, events and giveaways.
I received a copy of this book from Avon Books UK via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
A contemporary, gritty police procedural with a relatable female detective, and a complex investigation. DS Josie Masters is now a single mum returning to work for the first time since the birth of her son. She’s conflicted, but her driven personality and diligence to her role keeps her on active duty.
Her first murder is personal and violent, and old friend and everything is not as it first appears. The pacing is commensurate with the investigation, which is hampered by further seemingly unrelated deaths. I read this as a standalone enjoyably, but if you can read all of the books in the series to understand the character development and relationships at play.
This has a noir-crime ethos emphasised by the occasional chapters from a disturbed individual.
When the frail body of a teenage girl is discovered strangled in a parking lot, shards of ice form in Detective Natalie Ward’s veins. As Natalie looks at the freckles scattered on her cheeks and the pale pink lips tinged with blue, she remembers that this innocent girl is somebody’s daughter…
The girl is identified as missing teenager Amelia Saunders, who has run away from home and her controlling father. Natalie’s heart sinks further when it becomes clear that Amelia has been working on the streets, manipulated by her violent new boyfriend Tommy.
A day later, another vulnerable girl is found strangled on a park bench. Like Amelia, Katie Bray was a runaway with connections to Tommy, and Natalie is determined to find him and track down the monster attacking these scared and lonely girls.
But when a wealthy young woman is found murdered the next morning, the word ‘guilty’ scrawled on her forehead, Natalie realises that the case is more complex than she first thought. Determined to establish a connection between her three victims, Natalie wastes no time in chasing down the evidence, tracing everyone who crossed their paths. Then, a key suspect’s body turns up in the canal, a mole in Natalie’s department leaks vital information and everything seems to be against her. Can Natalie stop this clever and manipulative killer before they strike again?
An unputdownable crime thriller from an Amazon bestselling author that will have you sleeping with the light on.
I received a copy of this book from Bookouture via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Natalie’s life is more settled, living with Mike, and in a new role. Still not sure if she can take a step away from the investigative arena, she finds herself at the sharp end again, overseeing her colleagues investigation. The murder of young, vulnerable women resonates with Natalie. She’s committed and determined to find the killer, but things are not as they first seem and someone is out to make trouble for the new team.
The balance of character development, team dynamic and police procedural is, as always perfect. The personal focus is more on DI Lucy Carmichael as she gets to grips with her new job. The investigation is meticulous, and the noir crime element ensures the edge of the seat suspense.
The Detective Natalie Ward series is addictive crime detection with a human touch.
‘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.
I received a copy of this book from Bookouture via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
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.
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.
I received a copy of this audiobook from Audible UK via Midas PR in return for an honest review.
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.
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…
I received a copy of this book from Head of Zeus – Aria via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
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 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.
Freddy left her childhood home in Newhaven twenty-two years ago and swore never to return. But now her parents are dead, and she’s back in her hometown to help her brothers manage the family fishmonger. Nothing here has changed: the stink of fish coming up from the marshes; the shopping trolleys half-buried by muddy tides; the neighbours sniffing for a new piece of gossip.
It’s not what Freddy would have chosen, but at least while she’s here she’ll get to see her childhood best friends, Toni and Pauline. At school, the three of them were inseparable. The teachers called them the Mermaids for their obsession with the sea, and with each other.
Then Pauline goes missing, and Freddy must decide. Go back to her new life, or stay and find her friend?
I received a copy of this book from Head of Zeus via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
This atmospheric story is a fusion of murder mystery, coming of age friendships and noir crime. Set in coastal Newhaven the setting adds to the story’s sense of mystery. Freddy and her two friends were inseparable as youngsters, experimenting with life and love.
Told from three points of view there are many suspects in the murder mystery. The plot is cleverly constructed and until the end conceals as much as it reveals. The story explores relatable contemporary issues such as abuse and bullying.
The suspense builds slowly in the detailed plot and nothing is certain until the end.
An absorbing believable story.
Guest Post – Death of a Mermaid – Lesley Thomson – Researching fact for fiction
Death of a Mermaid, is a murder mystery set in Newhaven, a port town in East Sussex. This took me into the world of trawlers, fish, Catholicism and a small animal hotel. When I had the idea, I knew little if nothing about any of these subjects.
I do a lot of research for my novels. Some of this is on the internet and I read books and articles. I talk with people who do the jobs I plan for my characters. For the sake of Jack Harmon, train driver in The Detective’s Daughter series, I rode in the cab of a London Underground train. Stella Darnell’s detective dad showed his little girl the horses at Hammersmith Police Stables. When I went, I mistook a row of loudhailers on a wall for hairdryers. All grist to the mill. In Kew Garden’s Herbarium are plant specimens – thrillingly called ‘dead materials’ – discovered by Charles Darwin. Had I stayed longer in the vast Victorian chamber with spiral staircases the naphthalene that nineteenth century botanists used to preserve specimens and in which they were still steeped, would have killed me. Great stuff.
For all this only a tenth of what I learn reaches the story.
On a hot spring day I visited a pets’ hotel called Creature Comforts. Many guests were out of their hutches basking in wire runs on the hotel’s lawn. There was Mr Bun the white rabbit, a lion-headed rabbit appropriately named Simba and regular residents the guinea pigs, Minty and Angelica. George, an ancient parrot preened himself on his perch. Intermittently he embarked on spelling out his name, always stopping ‘r’ before discriminately squawking, ‘I love you.’
Jane the proprietor explained the hotel’s daily doings. On her guests’ behalf, she pens the owners postcards filled with news of how their creatures pass the time. The pets too are on their holidays. Jane hosts a variety of small animals and birds including hamsters – Dougal rolled past in a Perspex ball – cockatiels and budgies. Degus, Jane warned (Tinkerbell and Nibbles being examples) are tricky. At mealtimes, sniffing pastures new, they can shoot from their cages and whizzing out at top speed are nearly impossible to retrieve. As I scribbled in my notebook, I concocted the scene. An escaped degu – in Death of a Mermaid I call him Roddy – is the stuff of drama. As Jane explained the ins and outs of the hotel, I knew I had struck gold.
I was invited to Waitrose at dawn one morning. In my novel 40-year-old Freddie Power manages the fish counter in the supermarket’s Liverpool branch. In overalls and hairnet, I watched Steve the manager shovel ice onto a display shelf. With an artist’s flair, species by species, he arranged the sea’s produce, bass, salmon, prawns, scallops, cod. All garnished with lemons, parsley and samphire. Yesterday’s unsold fish goes at the front. Good detail. Freddy will do that.
In Death of a Mermaid Freddy, Toni and Mags had met at convent school in Newhaven during the eighties. The actual convent was evacuated to Hampshire in the second-world war after it was bombed by the Germans. In reality, it never returned to the town. In my novel, it’s still there. The girls call themselves the Mermaids after Disney’s The Little Mermaid. In service to my novel, I watched the film several times. Sebastian the Crab singing Under the Sea to Ariel remains an exasperating earworm!
My research is not only to gather facts. The inspiration and energy I get from conversations, reading, ‘field trips’ to locations like Newhaven and it’s beaches fuel my writing as I draft and redraft the novel.
As I said, not all I discover goes into the novel. To reach the page, a fact must contribute to the plot. I’m afraid that George the parrot ended up on the cutting room floor.
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.
Badly scarred after the accident that killed her husband, Camilla Brown locks herself away from the world. Her only friendships are online, where everyone lives picture-perfect lives. In private Camilla can follow anyone she likes. And Camilla likes a lot.
Especially her old school friend Valerie Hutchens. Camilla is obsessed with Valerie’s posts, her sickening joy for life, her horribly beautiful face. But then Camilla spots something strange in one of Valerie’s posts – a man’s face looking through her window, watching, waiting… And then Valerie goes missing…
I received a copy of this book from One More Chapter via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Spine chilling suspense creeps up on you as you read this story. Camilla struggles with life after a horrific car crash. An unreliable protagonist Camilla is dependant on an array of prescription drugs and also has an alcohol dependence problem.
Alternating between poignancy and suspense, you begin to wonder if everything is at it seems. The psychological suspense is intense and credible. Plot twists and a cleverly tiered ending deepen the menace.
Like, Follow, Kill is a disturbing story with a contemporary theme.