Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Crime, Extract, Suspense, Thriller

Jailbird Caro Savage 4*#Review @CaroSavageStory @BoldwoodBooks #Thriller #CrimeFiction #PrisonDrama #Undercover #BlogTour #PublicationDay #Author #Interview

Mature Adult Read

#Jailbird

UNDER PRESSURE.
UNDER THREAT.
UNDERCOVER.

When you’re working undercover the smallest mistake can cost you your life.

Detective Constable Bailey Morgan has been out of the undercover game since her last job went horribly wrong, leaving her with scars inside and out.
When her colleague Alice is found dead whilst working deep cover in a women’s prison, Bailey steps in to replace her.

Working alone, Bailey embarks on a dangerous journey through the murky underbelly of the prison and soon discovers that Alice’s death was part of a spate of brutal murders.

Surrounded by prison officers, criminals and lowlifes, the slightest mistake could cost Bailey her life.
Illicit drug trafficking, prison gangs and corruption are just some of the things she’s up against… and behind it, all lurks a sinister and terrifying secret that will truly test her survival instincts.

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Interview Questions – Caro Savage – Jailbird

Is ‘Jailbird’ inspired by a particular event?  Can you share your inspirations for this story?

‘Jailbird’ isn’t inspired by any particular event. It’s more like it emerged out of a collision between various interests and preoccupations of mine.

I’d been wanting to write a women’s prison thriller for a while because I’ve always enjoyed prison-themed books, films and TV shows. I tried several different variations on the story but none of them felt quite right until I got to the scenario of a cop going undercover in a prison. And that tapped straight into a preoccupation I’ve always had with how far people put up facades to fool others for good motives or bad, and how far you can see the cracks in those facades if you look closely enough. The idea of an undercover cop, having to conceal her identity in order to fight crime, takes this to the extreme, because if people see through her facade she’s a dead woman!

Why are prisons popular settings for crime fiction and thrillers?

I think prisons make for good crime thriller material because they’re a closed environment with an inbuilt element of criminality which provides the potential for lots of intrigue and conflict. The atmosphere of a prison lends itself well to this genre because you’ve got that claustrophobia from hundreds of people being locked in with each other against their will, and the constant simmering tension which arises as a result.

I love reading books set in prisons and I don’t think there are enough of them which is one reason why I wanted to write ‘Jailbird’, to make my own contribution to this crime sub-genre.

What makes your story unique, in such a popular genre?

Well, they say no story is truly unique, don’t they? So I guess it’s the way you tell it that makes it special…

I think good well-defined characters play a very important part in making a story stand out. The main character of ‘Jailbird’ is Bailey Morgan, the policewoman who goes undercover in the prison. I’ve tried to make her as three-dimensional as possible – yes she’s tough and resourceful, with an appetite for danger, but she also has a vulnerable side which is explained by a backstory that actually ends up feeding into the very risks she’s facing on a daily basis as an undercover cop in a prison.  

As for the plot itself, there have been stories before about cops going undercover in prison, but I think the female cop/female prison angle makes ‘Jailbird’ different from what I’ve encountered in the genre so far. Plus the fact that it’s set in the UK perhaps makes it a little more unusual.

There are also other elements to the story that makes ‘Jailbird’ unique, which you discover towards the denouement, but of course, I’m not going to give that away here. You’ll have to read it to the end to find out!

There is a varied cast of characters in your novel, how did you make them realistic and relatable?

One thing I did when I was writing ‘Jailbird’ was to create questionnaires for all of the main characters which ran the gamut from things like, ‘where does she live?’, ‘what’s her height?’, ‘what’s her favourite colour?’, ‘what’s her favourite song?’ etc, right through to deeper things like ‘what was her first experience of death?’ and so on. For the most part, the answers to these questions didn’t make it into the actual book. But when you force yourself to think through the answers to these questions for each character, they really start to become alive and much more three-dimensional. And once that happens their motivations for doing what they’re doing become a lot clearer.

What sort of books do you enjoy reading and why?

I love crime and thriller books obviously – recently I’ve been enjoying novels by Stephen King, Joe R. Lansdale, Heather Burnside, Gillian Flynn, Don Winslow and Martina Cole amongst others. Reading other people’s novels is a great way to understand some of the techniques these very talented writers use in order to generate suspense and create great characters.

I also do like horror fiction – authors like Adam Nevill, James Herbert and C.J. Tudor. From a personal writing perspective I find horror complements crime quite well and in fact, there can often be a cross-over.

I read quite a bit of non-fiction as well. True crime, current affairs, popular psychology. Some of it is research on what I’m writing, some of it I read just because it interests me!

What are you currently writing?

I am currently working on the follow-up novel to ‘Jailbird’. After all, Bailey Morgan is still around and she’s not going to be able to put up with normal life for very long before she’ll be wanting to go undercover again…

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

My Thoughts…

If you enjoy prison drama, suspense and menace, Jailbird is an exciting new story to explore.

It contains everything you would expect in a novel of this type, a courageous, challenged protagonist, who is only there to finish a job, her friend was unable to, after her violent death. A corrupt prison ethos, where it is debatable who is in charge, and a culture of abuse, drugs and violence.

This story contains well-written, but graphic descriptions of the violence, and so this is for a mature adult audience. There is a varied cast of characters, most are complex and realistically flawed. A setting like a prison demands that the characters are exceptional, and for the most part they are. The plot has twists, that keep you guessing, and the build-up of suspense is well done.

Gritty, graphic and powerful, this is a story that makes you think.

Extract from Chapter 1 – Jailbird – Caro Savage

The clank sounded out of place. Alice Jenkins stopped pushing the laundry trolley and lifted her head. She tossed her long reddish-blonde hair out of her face. ‘Hey, who’s there?’ She was answered only by the repetitive groaning of the huge industrial washing machines and dryers which lined both sides of the prison laundry. She peered uncertainly into the shadows beyond the giant wire racks, which held folded piles of freshly laundered bedding and towels. Down here in the basement there were no windows and the overhead strip lighting flickered with a sickly insipid yellow which failed to illuminate the room properly.

Alice had only started her job in the laundry two days before. Normally there were other inmates working in here, but this afternoon she was all alone. That was because she’d volunteered to do some overtime, explaining to the laundry supervisor that she wanted to earn a little extra cash for her canteen account.

She hadn’t been in prison for very long. Just a few weeks. She’d been sent down for benefit fraud. Not a major crime but enough to land her inside for a year and three months. But she seemed to be getting the hang of things. Like managing to get this job in the laundry.

There was still plenty of stuff that she was unfamiliar with though, so she wasn’t totally relaxed by any means. In fact, she’d found that this place could suddenly put you on edge when you were least expecting it. Like now for example.

She glanced around nervously.

‘Hey stop messing about!’ she said.

Maybe some of the other inmates – her laundry colleagues – were playing a practical joke on her. She hoped so. Because if it wasn’t them then maybe it was one of the dangerous looking cliques she’d seen around the prison. Maybe they’d taken a dislike to her for some reason. Maybe they had it in for her.

‘Haha. Try and creep up on Ally. Yeah, that’s hilarious. You can come out now.’ She tried to sound breezy but her nerves betrayed her, her voice instead coming out reedy and uneven.

There was no answer. Just the incessant rumbling of the machinery.

Her knuckles turned white as she tightened her grip on the handle of the trolley and squinted into the dim recesses of the cavernous laundry. A burst of excess steam hissed from a nearby pipe. She jumped and gasped, her heart thumping in her chest.

Her mind raced to think what had made the clanking sound. It might be a rat.

The prison did have a rodent problem. Or maybe she was just spooking herself out unnecessarily.

‘You silly girl,’ she muttered, shaking her head and pulling herself upright.

She recommenced pushing the trolley, awkwardly manoeuvring its bulky weight towards one of the empty washing machines at the end of the room.

Then, out of the corner of her eye, she noticed a shadow pass behind one of the sheets that were hanging up, waiting to be folded and placed on the wire racks.

She let go of the trolley and spun around to look. Was there someone there? She could have sworn she was the only one in here.

No. It was surely just a ripple in the material caused by convection in the warm air currents generated by the dryers. She turned back to the trolley, taking hold of the handle once again.

But then in the darkness beyond the racking, just behind the dryers, something caught her eye.

A brief sparkle.

A shiny surface which captured the few photons bouncing around behind the stacks of machinery and reflected them back to her…

She stopped again, momentarily entranced by it as it twinkled in the shadows like a lone star aglow in the distant black depths of deep space. For a brief moment, she forgot her apprehension as she tried to make sense of it floating there in the shadows like the needle of a compass… turning… pointing in her direction…

Then a depth charge of cold fear detonated in her gut as she realised what it was.

Long…

Thin…

Sharp…

A blade.

A shank.

Her heart began to hammer inside her chest. Her hands fell away from the handle of the trolley.

‘Oh fuck,’ she whispered.
They’d come to kill her.

They’d decided to come for her when she was all alone. She cursed her stupidity for making the mistake of being down here by herself.

Somewhere along the line, she’d messed up and now she was going to pay for it with her life.

She felt a heavy nausea rise up inside her, the fear of impending death.

Slowly, she edged backwards around the trolley to put it between herself and whoever was behind the dryers. She again squinted to try and see more.

In the shadows, silence. A flicker of movement in the darkness. A shadow within a shadow. It was big. It was no rat. That was for sure. It was a person.

She gulped. Her mouth was dry. She glanced towards the doorway. It was at the far end of the laundry. That distant metal door had never looked more appealing. Nor had it ever seemed further away. She glanced back at the row of dryers.

Tensing, she took a deep breath… and bolted.

Caro Savage knows all about bestselling thrillers having worked as a Waterstones bookseller for 12 years in a previous life.  Now taking up the challenge personally and turning to hard-hitting crime thriller writing.

Twitter: @CaroSavageStory

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Instagram: @carosavage

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

Stalker Gemma Rogers 5*#Review @BoldwoodBooks @GemmaRogers79 #boldwoodblogtours #PsychologicalThriller #Suspense #Violence #Women #Justice #RevengeFiction #CrimeFiction #Crime #BookReview #bookbloggers #Author #Interview #Extract #PublicationDay

#Stalker

‘My body reacted before I was even sure, the memory of him on my skin still fresh. I knew where he lived, where he hunted, and it wouldn’t be long before I knew his name.’

Eve Harding’s world implodes one Sunday morning when she is violently assaulted and raped walking to a South London train station.

As her attacker evades the Police and is left to roam the streets to stalk his next victim, Eve is forced to seek out her assailant before he strikes again.

With vengeance in mind, Eve is determined to find him in time and deliver justice on her own terms. In a game of cat and mouse, who is stalking who?

A gritty crime thriller, asking how far would you go to seek justice.

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

My Thoughts…

The rape scene in this story is brutal, the violation and loss of control implicit in every word. This description is harrowing. Given the inspiration for this story, the attack is realistic and sets the scene for what follows. This an adult story. One that will upset most people, but it doesn’t detract from it, or the message it is sending.

Eve’s attack and subsequent action is the main storyline, but running alongside her need for retribution is the need for closure to heal, and the need to stop this happening to anyone else. Eve is complex, but she is easy to empathise. You want her to have justice.

Including the friend and lodger characters, may seem incidental to the story, but they are important. Eve’s reaction to them shows how emotionally scarred and traumatised she is, and why she does what she does. They are an important focus for her mental state.

The plot is chilling and suspenseful, and whether or not you agree with the outcome, or what happens before, the ending is well thought out and believable. A fusion of the psychological thriller and crime genres, with authentic emotion and a menacing antagonist, and an ending that leaves you with a moral dilemma. Perfect.

Author Interview – Gemma Rogers – Stalker

What are the inspirations behind your book – Stalker? Is it a standalone or part of a series?

The inspiration for Stalker came from an indecent assault that happened to me back in 2001. I found writing about it extremely cathartic. In terms of the story, I wanted to explore the feelings that can be left behind as a result of such a traumatic event. How far someone would go for justice? It’s a standalone novel that follows Eve from the incident to her resolution.

How did you create your main protagonist Eve? Is she based on someone you know, an imaginative creation, or a little of both?

Eve isn’t based on anyone I know, she’s a creation, although very much a part of me. How she feels after her attack, mirrors how I felt almost twenty years ago. She’s a complex character, struggling to understand the emotions she’s forced to deal with; the anger, self-loathing and guilt.

How do you make your characters believable?

I people watch and try to absorb as much as I can when I’m out and about. It’s great to watch and see how people react in certain situations. I also draw from my own experiences too, use those to try and flesh my characters out, make them three dimensional. I hope I’ve managed that with Stalker.

When you write, what comes first, the characters, the plot or the setting? Why do you think this is?

For me, generally, it’s the plot. I’ll come up with an idea first and it will grow from there. I’m not sure why the idea will plant itself and get bigger until I can’t think of anything else. That’s when I know it’s a good one. However, with Stalker, the setting was equally as important. Where the assault takes place in the novel, is where I grew up. Close to where it actually happened.

What made you decide to become a writer, and why does this genre appeal to you?


I’ve always written, from a very young age. I’d create stories with my brother, and turn them into little illustrated books, the pages tied together with string. I wrote some fan fiction in my teens but it’s only the past five years I’ve pushed myself to write a book, and actually finish it! I like this genre very much, I’m a lover of horror films and books, dark thrillers seemed right for me. I think the genre chose me rather than the other way around.

What sort of books do you enjoy reading and why?

I mostly read thrillers; psychological, gritty thrillers, the darker the better. I fell in love with The Birdman by Mo Hayder and was hooked from there. My favourite authors are Alex Marwood, John Marrs, Mark Edwards, and CJ Tudor. However, when I fancy something a bit lighter I always head to Jane Fallon. I’m a massive fan of her writing.

 What are you currently writing?

I’m currently in the process of writing Book 3 which I believe will be out at some point in 2020, so that is keeping me busy. Book 2 is due for release in January, so not long to wait.

#GemmaRogers

Gemma Rogers was inspired to write gritty thrillers by a traumatic event in her own life nearly twenty years ago. Stalker is her debut novel which Boldwood will publish in September 2019 and marks the beginning of a new writing career.  Gemma lives in West Sussex with her husband, two daughters and bulldog Buster.

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Extract From Stalker – Gemma Rogers

Chapter One
Saturday 27 January 2018

I’ve never been in trouble before. Not the sort of trouble that brought me here. Freshly painted, stark white walls surround me; their toxic scent lingers in the air. A fluorescent glow from strip lights so dazzling they must be there to desensitise the occupants. Everything is white or chrome-like I’m on the set of a futuristic movie. I swing my legs, which dangle over the edge of the bed, not quite reaching the floor. I do this for a minute to keep warm. Despite the blanket around my shoulders, I can’t help but shiver. It’s late and they didn’t bring my jacket. I guess it’s been taken away as evidence.
The woman in front of me is standing too close, hot breath on my arm. It makes me squirm and I fight the urge to yank my hand away from her grip. She’s holding it like I’m a china doll, fragile and easily broken. I dislike the invasion of my personal space. It’s something I’ve learnt to tolerate over the years. I was never a big fan of being touched, shrinking away if someone brushed past me or stood too close on public transport. I’m not a hugger either – no one was in the house where I grew up. After tonight, I can’t imagine I’ll let anyone touch me again.
Her name is Doctor Joyce Hargreaves, she told me as we entered the victim examination room. Her job, she said, was to collect evidence from me, which is why she was wearing a paper suit, so there wouldn’t be any cross-contamination. She hasn’t picked up on my anxiety, the tremor in my fingers; she’s too busy. Brows furrowed, eyes focused as she peels the plastic bag away from my bloodied hand to collect scrapings from my skin and beneath my fingernails. The tool she uses makes me nervous.
‘Is that a scalpel?’ my voice barely a whisper.
‘No, it’s a scraper. Don’t worry, it won’t hurt. This is just so I can make sure we collect any skin cells that may be buried underneath the tips of your nails. I’m afraid I’ll have to give them a trim in a minute too.’ She wields the scraper with care and it’s true, it doesn’t hurt.
Physically I’m okay, except my throat is on fire and the ringing in my ears is deafening, timed perfectly with the throbbing of my face. I have a feeling I might feel worse once the adrenaline leaves my system.
When she finishes with my hands, she pulls the fallen blanket back over my shoulders and offers a kind smile as she pushes her glasses up her nose. I can see strands of greying hair trying to escape by her ear, exposed beneath the coverall hat. She wears no jewellery and her face is free of make-up. Was she on duty or has she been called out of her bed to attend to me? Would we recognise each other in different circumstances? Probably not, I must be one of many people that pass through this room every day.
Joyce delicately inserts each of the specimens into small tubes before labelling them to be sent for analysis. I don’t know why? I’ve told them what happened. Soon she’ll want to examine me thoroughly. Internally. Until there are no more swabs left to be taken.
She glances at me, knowing what is coming, what she must ask me to do. Her eyes are full of pity. I must look a mess. Dried blood on my face and chest is beginning to flake away, like charred skin falling into my lap. My cheek is puffy and the vision poor on my left side. I wish I could stop shivering. They said it’s shock and provided me with a mug of hot, sweet tea after the ambulance checked me over. They wanted to make sure the blood I am doused in isn’t mine. It isn’t.