pan macmillan

Gifted Liar? Rachael’s Gift

I had a chat to Narelle Connell about this novel before she wrote her review, and I think it’s fair to say she was quite conflicted. She told me that this book had really challenged her, presenting some really interesting questions regarding truth, trust, childhood and parenthood. We always have to believe our kid, don’t we? Her review today sums up the conundrum that Rachael’s Gift presents to the reader, a conundrum that you’ll keep turning over in your head long after you’ve put this book down. Here’s Narelle’s thoughts…

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 What would you do if you suspected your child was a gifted liar?

Rachael's GiftThis is the premise of Rachael’s Gift, the debut novel by Alexandra Cameron (Pan MacMillan). Rachael is fourteen years old, beautiful and a talented artist creating work well beyond her years. Her mother, Camille, is focused on securing her daughter a place at a prestigious Parisian art school so as to nurture and develop her gift. But, her carefully planned future is thrown into a tailspin when Rachael accuses one of her teachers of sexual misconduct.

Camille is horrified and leaps to the defense of her daughter.  However, questions within the school community, especially those regarding the whereabouts of a rival student’s painting, call the reliability of Racheal’s testimony into question. Unlike her mother, Rachael’s father, Wolfe is far more wary. He has his own questions about what the truth might be and, in turn, what his daughter may be capable of.

 

“She inhaled sharply and then reached out, touching my arm.

“Wolfey”, she said, her voice softer. “Honey, please. Please. There’s something else….” 

I looked away. Another bloody excuse. I was not budging. Not this time. I shook her hand off me. “I’m scared there’s something wrong with her, Cam, and I’m sick of dicking around.’ 

She shook her head in disbelief. ‘You’re going to ruin her. Don’t you realise? I can’t let you do it.’ 

Her chest heaved and then some kind of realisation dawned in her face. ‘Oh my god, you don’t love her. You wouldn’t do this if you did.’ 

It felt as if my veins were bursting. ‘Of course I love her’, I shouted. ‘Its because I love her!’ 

‘This is not love.’ 

I stabbed my finger in her face. ‘You love her too much.’ 

Her expression transformed, a light went on in her eyes and her breath evened out. ‘You’re a fucking traitor’, she hissed. ‘I won’t let you do that to her’ 

We’ll see about that, I thought as I walked away from her. ” 

 

The novel alternates narration from Camille and Wolfe, as they navigate their way to finding the truth of Rachael’s story. From the surf beaches of Australia to French art galleries steeped in history, Rachael’s Gift unfolds into a compelling story of the webs we all weave ourselves into and how our past can impact on our present no matter how far we think we’ve left it behind.

I found the storytelling a little clunky in the beginning; it took me a little while to settle into moving between the two very different voices of Camille and Wolfe. Interestingly, while the story revolves around Rachael I found myself particularly drawn to Camille’s voice, I watched her story deepen as she confronted her past and Rachael’s future. Inhabiting a world where her aunts and grandparents have Degas adorning the walls of their Parisian homes, she watches with a mixture of pride and trepidation as Rachael embraces long-lost family wholeheartedly in a ruthless bid to achieve her goals.

Towards the end I was racing to the denouement, watching the threads come together and worlds collide. Now that I’ve finish the book, it’s a novel I’m itching for others to read so I can chat about it with them. An excellent book club pick and one to share with friends who love a story they can sink their teeth into and contemplate long after finishing.

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Find out more about Rachael’s Gift, by Alexandra Cameron here…

 

Buried? What the Ground Can’t Hold

Do you like neat resolutions? Tidy conclusions? Questions answered? If the answer is yes, maybe look away now…

But if, like me, you don’t mind a little open-endedness, a bit of mystery in your reading, then you’re going to love Shady Cosgrove’s What the Ground Can’t Hold (Picador).

what the ground can't holdWhen I first started this book I figured that the title could be taken both literally and metaphorically…

Two Americans are presumed dead and nine people are trapped in a cabin after an avalanche in the remote Andes… Among them is Emma, an Australian faced with an impossible decision that could see her parents jailed. Jack, a teenager obsessed with Jack Kerouac, guided by a skewed moral compass. Carmen, a tango dancer whose estranged father is dying of cancer. Pedro, the cabin manager who’s in hiding from those he loves most. And Wolfe, an American on a deadly family quest.

With food supplies dwindling, these unlikely companions are forced to extremes and discover they are bound by more than their surroundings – each has a secret that links them to Argentina’s Dirty War. ‘What the Ground Can’t Hold’ is a gripping exploration of the ways the past closes in on the present, and destroys the foundations upon which we build our lives.

The ground can’t hold you steady, the snow can bury – but does what is once buried, stay buried?

One thing’s for certain, what the ground can’t hold is secrets.

This story is full of skeletons in closets, guilt, loss and emotional baggage heavy enough to bury its carrier. Without exception, this cast of characters carry secrets with them that threaten to crush them. Through five narratives; Emma Woods, Hans ‘Jack’ Meyers, Carmen Conzalez, Pedro Cariman and Wolfe Goldberg, this novel deals with a series of heartaches as each character deals with the sins of the fathers’ and faces the truth of what these sins should mean to them now.

This deeply personal soul-searching is set against the claustrophobic backdrop of a very real, physical predicament. They sit together, trapped in the Andes and sheltered in Pedro’s refugio (cabin). The weather is unseasonal, the snow precarious. An avalanche has buried two of their party and more slides threaten to come down on them should they make one false move.

They are faced with a choice – stay and starve or walk out against soft snow and unstable ground. The comparison between their emotional and physical situation is pretty clear, and works well.

What the Ground Can’t Hold is a cleverly constructed story. It’s full of false leads, many of which are not revealed fully until the very final moments of this gripping novel. The characterisations are complex and as with all really interesting novels, it is difficult to decide whether to like each character or not. They are inherently fallible, haunted and sensitive humans. I’m sure that each reader will be endeared to different characters for different reasons.

I also think that this story will leave readers wondering about different aspects of history. I was fascinated as I knew little about Argentina before reading the book. I’m going to have to do some research – about the Dirty War, the fall of the Peso, the Andes – just to satisfy my new curiosity.

I’ll admit, I almost threw this book across the room as I reached its final page. I don’t mind the odd loose end, but even I was surprised by how much I still needed to know at the end of the book. Many ghosts haunted Emma, Carmel, Wolfe, Pedro and Jack and I’ve been left to imagine how they might be exorcised.

This of course, in and of itself, is very skilful storytelling. In my opinion Cosgrove’s novel is well worth reading, I’d recommend it highly.

If you’d like to find out more about Shady Cosgrove’s What the Ground Can’t Hold, visit here…

 

TBYL Book Club: March and April

It was remiss of me, I was distracted and this month’s book club fell a little flat. February was quite simply, too short, too spritely, too crowded.

It’s a shame, but I’m not dwelling on it (I’m guessing most of you were in the same crazy boat). Rather, I’m flying forward into March and April with some amazing titles for us to chat about over at the TBYL Book Club.

For March…
I thought it might be interesting to revisit one of our very first book club books. There’s a whole group of new members on board since we last discussed Carrie Tiffany’s Mateship with Birds (Pan Macmillan) and I would love to hear what you all think of this amazing book. Those of you who joined us in chatting about this book in 2012 are very welcome to join in again, I’ll be posing some different questions to keep things interesting.

Mateship-With-Birds-200A shortlisted nominee for last year’s Victorian Premier’s Literary Award and a longlist nominee for this year’s Stella Prize, Mateship with Birds is…

“A novel about young lust and mature love. It is a hymn to the rhythm of country life – to vicious birds, virginal cows, adored dogs and ill-used sheep. On one small farm in a vast, ancient landscape, a collection of misfits question the nature of what a family can be.”

It was one of my top five last year and you can read my review here…

Last year we talked about relationships, the use of nature, the representation of lust and love and the harsh but stunning Australian landscape that has been painted by Carrie Tiffany.

I’ve got copies of the book in the TBYL Store at the moment for just $16.00 (rrp $19.99) plus p&h and you can join the TBYL Book Club group here…

For April…
The book that I’ve chosen for April will have you asking; “What would I have done?” on more than one occasion. Published in the later half of last year, The Unfinished Journals of Elizabeth D, by Nichole Bernier (Allen and Unwin) has come to mind often since I read and reviewed it.

Unfinished JournalsThe book is intriguing from the outset, and very sad…

Before there were blogs, there were journals. And in them we’d write as we really were, not as we wanted to appear. But there comes a day when journals outlive us. And with them, our secrets.

Summer vacation with her family was supposed to be a restorative time for Kate, who’d lost her close friend Elizabeth in a plane crash. But when she inherits a trunk of Elizabeth’s journals, they reveal a woman far different than the cheerful wife and mother thought she knew.

The complicated portrait of Elizabeth – her upbringing, her marriage, and journey to motherhood – makes Kate question not just their friendship, but her own deepest beliefs about loyalty and honesty at a moment of uncertainty in her own marriage. When an unfamiliar man’s name appears in Elizabeth’s pages, Kate realises the extent of what she didn’t know about her best friend, including where she was really going when she died.

It raised many questions for me and you can read my review here…

I would imagine that a book such as this would raise questions for most readers, and I’m looking forward to hearing what you think about this stirring novel.

I’ve got copies of the book in the TBYL Store at the moment for just $27.99 plus p&h and you can join the TBYL Book Club group here…

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I hope you’ll agree that we’ve got some amazing conversations coming up in the next two months.

You can find out more about the TBYL Book Club here.

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I like it: Web of Deceit

I’ve discovered a little something about myself – much to my surprise, I quite like crime fiction.

Up until now, I thought that the few crime novels that I’d read and enjoyed had been a bit of a fluke. I read Kathryn Fox’s Cold Grave last year and loved it, and earlier, thoroughly enjoyed The Siren’s Sting, by Miranda Darling. I thought they must just have been particularly good examples of the genre.  I’ve since read others, and enjoyed them equally.

Web of DeceitAnd now, I’ve just finished reading Web of Deceit, by Katherine Howell (Pan Macmillan) and found myself unable to put it down, I was enthralled by the mystery and entertained by the action. I couldn’t wait for the truth to be revealed…

So on reflection, I think it’s fair to say that a pattern has emerged. I really like crime fiction, and in particular those that have a ‘speciality’ to which the author can write authentically from personal, professional experience. In this case, Katherine Howell is a former paramedic and brings to the story all the drama, trauma and heroism that the work of a paramedic involves.

Web of Deceit is the latest in the Ella Marconi series…

When paramedics Jane and Alex encounter a man refusing to get out of his crashed car with bystanders saying he deliberately drove into a pole, it looks like a cry for help. His claim that someone is out to get him adds to their thinking that he is delusional.

Later that day he is found dead under a train in what might be a suicide, but Jane is no longer so sure: she remembers the terror in his eyes.

Detective Ella Marconi shares Jane’s doubts, which are only compounded when the case becomes increasingly tangled. The victim’s boss tries to commit suicide when being questioned, a witness flees their attempt to interview her and a woman is beaten unconscious in front of Jane’s house.

Ella is at a loss to know how all these clues add up and then a shocking turn of events puts even more people in danger…

Howell’s novel twists and turns relentlessly, leaving the reader guessing right up until the very end. It’s not only unclear who is guilty for these crimes, but it’s also uncertain until the close, just who is going to be the hero of the hour.

There’s romantic relationships and personal conflicts, all of which allow the reader a chance to get inside the head of the fantastic characters in this story. These relationships; lover to lover, father to daughter, ex-wife to new wife, are all handled brilliantly – creating interest, diversion and introducing additional complexity to the already complicated scenario unfolding around the characters of Alex, Jane, Ella and Murray.

There’s plethora of clues to gather and assess and in keeping with the formula of many a quality crime story, Detective Marconi is not only pushing against time to solve this puzzle, but also against her penny-pinching, clock-watching boss. The reader is kept wondering – will his lack of commitment to solving this mystery cost Ella the chance to prove that Marco was a victim of foal play? Will Ella have the back-up required to make sure that she too doesn’t become a victim of this web of deceit? It’ll have you on tenterhooks.

You can enjoy an excerpt of Katherine’s novel on Pan Macmillan blog’s here.

I really enjoyed this book, I’ll be adding the previous Katherine Howell titles to my collection. If you’d like to find out more about Katherine and her books, you can visit her website.

Have you ever been surprised to find that you quite liked a particular genre, perhaps one you’d dismissed in the past?

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Watch out, he’s back! Hunter…

At the beginning of 2012 I was lucky enough to be introduced to Defender, the first in the Intrepid series by author, Chris Allen. I was immediately drawn into the world of Intrepid agent, Alex Morgan, hard-hitting and action packed, I enjoyed every page. You can read my original review here, but let me just say, I’ve been hanging out ever since for the release of the second instalment, Hunter: Intrepid 2.

A lot has happened for Chris and his crew since his first release, not the least of which was the building of an exciting relationship between Chris and Pan Macmillan’s digital-only publishing arm, Momentum. A match made in heaven, this pairing has meant that Hunter has been brought to us with great gusto and in a fantastic digital format.

HunterI’ve been reading Hunter over the last couple of days, and I’ve found it hard to put it down. Right from the get-go it’s firing on all cylinders…

His orders are simple: ‘The safety catch is off. Return that girl to her family and drag those bastards back to justice. Dead or alive. It makes no difference to me.’

Alex Morgan – policeman, soldier and spy for Intrepid, the black ops division of Interpol – is on the hunt for Serbian war criminals. But these guys were never going to let it be that simple. An assassination attempt is made on the presiding judge of the international tribunal. Days later, the judge’s daughter, the famous and beautiful classical pianist Charlotte Rose, vanishes in mysterious circumstances.

The girl is not just a pretty face and the daughter of a judge, however. She’s also the goddaughter of Intrepid’s veteran commander, General Davenport. It’s up to Morgan and the Intrepid team to track the kidnappers and the missing woman before the very fabric of international justice is picked apart at its fraying edges.

Part James Bond and part Jason Bourne, Alex Morgan must walk the line between doing the right thing and getting the job done. And this time he’s got permission to make it personal.

It’s fantastically international, intricate in its detail and cast with a range of beautifully developed characters, all with their own missions and methods of achieving them.

One of the things that strikes me the most about Chris’ work is that it is incredibly authentic, clearly very well researched, but at the same time avoids the trap of tedium that some highly detailed ‘action’ titles can fall into. At all times, the balance between fact and adventure is maintained superbly meaning that the story is punchy, compelling and always entertaining.

I’ve only one problem now…

I have to wait until next year for Intrepid 3!

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Chris Allen, author of the Intrepid series has been having a browse at the TBYL Store and put together a shopping list!

5 things I like from the TBYL Store, who I’d give them to and why!

Curses and Blessings for All Occasions, by Bradley Trevor Greive… I admit to being very biased here because I know the author well and he is a great fella. However, despite my bias, this is an incredibly funny book. It is a must for anybody you know who deserves the escape and immense enjoyment of this page-by-page indulgence. This one is particularly suited to my wife Sarah who I’ve often found, on many occasions, giggling mischievously to herself as she discovers yet another favourite among BTG’s plethora of hilarious anecdotes.  In addition, there’s an incredible history behind each and every illustration. Not to be missed.

Haunted Pendant Small2pm Haunted Small Pendant (1″)… There’s something very dark about this.  I don’t know what it is that drew me to this piece but whatever it was it has succeeded in piquing my interest.  There are a couple of people I have in mind for this. Suffice to say I think this gift would be more suited to a fan of, say, ‘A turn of the screw’ than the Twilight series.

Happythoughts are Everywhere by Nicky Johnston… The thing that attracted me immediately to this book for kids was title followed immediately by the cover. We have a couple of great friends who are parents to three incredible little boys. I can say this now because Sarah and I have two little boys and boys are an absolute handful. When I saw this cover I immediately pictured the dad sneaking away for a quiet moment of solace under one of his boys’ beds having commandeered some toys. Although, in reality it is in fact the mum who would be in much greater need – and much more deserving – of the escape!

Diary of a Penguin-Napper by Sally Harris… I absolutely love the premise of this book especially the fact that the young hero would do anything to impress the girl of his dreams. I want this book for my two boys! Enough said!

Casino-Royale-200Casino Royale by Ian Fleming… It is absolutely no secret that I am a huge fan of Ian Fleming. With the recent release of Skyfall there’s been more than enough discussion of James Bond of late. However, I am duty bound to explain my reason for jumping on the bandwagon. It’s a sad fact that only truly die-hard Fleming fans or those who have read at least one if not some of his books can genuinely attest to his incredible mastery of story telling within the modern thriller context. I would offer this book as a gift to any reader of action thrillers whose only experience of 007 is via the movies. Casino Royale is a timeless classic of the genre, evidenced by the superb cinematic realisation in 2006 of the story first published in 1953. My love of reading was ignited by Fleming’s writing and he left such an impression on me that I can also unequivocally trace my determination to become a successful published author back to his books. 

Feel free to have a browse around the TBYL Store yourself… you can shop here!
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You can pick up a copy of Hunter: Intrepid 2 at the Intrepid website, and if you’d like to check out some other exciting Momentum titles, take a look at their website here.  

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Rebuilding: In the Company of Strangers

We’re living in a very fortunate age for friendships. Never has there been so many ways to stay connected with friends – Facebook, Twitter, Skype and FaceTime – all wonderful ways to help us maintain relationships, old and new, near and far.

But, despite all these avenues for conversation, sometimes people still slip away. Best of friends can grow distant, old friends can grow apart and with that, space is left for strangers to become friends.

Company of strangersLiz Byrski’s latest novel In the Company of Strangers (Pan Macmillan) introduces the reader to a cast of strangers, all slightly lost, and unbeknownst to them, ready for friendship…

Ruby and Cat’s friendship was forged on an English dockside sixty years ago when, as terrified children, they were shipped off to Australia. It was a friendship that was supposed to last a lifetime but when news of Cat’s death reaches Ruby in London, it comes after years of estrangement.

Declan too has drifted away from Cat but is forced back to her lavender farm, Benson’s Reach, by the terms of her will. He turns to his troubled friend Alice, who is desperate for a refuge.

Can the magic of Benson’s Reach triumph over the hurt of the past? Or is Cat’s duty-laden legacy simply too much for Ruby and Declan to keep alive?

Central to Byrski’s story are Ruby and Declan, but surrounding them are Alice, Lesley, Todd and Paula. Every character is facing change, struggling with their own demons and in their own ways are ready to make amends with the world and those around them. Ruby is coming to terms with her abusive past, Declan and Alice with their addictions and the harm that they’ve done to others and Lesley, Todd and Paula all feel heartbreakingly disconnected…

“She walks along the little path of irregular shaped, broken slabs back to the kitchen. It’s deadly quiet in the house and the 100 watt bulb in the kitchen makes her feel she’s about to be interrogated by the thought police. She wishes there was someone to call, to talk to. All day, ever day she is surrounded by people who are ringing other people on their posh little phones. Paula has a phone, nice, Samsun, in a shiny pink plastic cover, but nobody ever rings it – well, not for a conversation; work stuff or someone telling her she’s forgotten to make a payment on her credit card, or trying to sell her something, that’s all.”

You’d be forgiven for thinking, given this troubled cast that In the Company of Strangers would be a little bleak. Not so, as Byrski’s novel is about hope, resolution and new-found strength in the company of strangers.

The novel is fairly complex in it’s numerous characters and stories. The author very cleverly gives just enough air-time to each character, exploring their past and present and gradually revealing their hopes for the future. Their stories are moving, and very believable, recognisable.

Interestingly, each character comes from a very different starting point. Their issues are quite unique from each other, but somehow they fit each other perfectly. The author has done well to intertwine these many and various characters into a cohesive unit – each supporting each other to reveal and resolve their troubles.

In the Company of Strangers is beautifully easy to read. Similar to Byrski’s The Last Chance Cafe, the story includes treatment of many serious and important issues – ageing, friendship, addiction and mental illness – but it does so in an accessible way, at times even humorously. It’s a fabulously personable novel.

If you enjoy intelligent storytelling, then I’d recommend In the Company of Strangers for your reading pile this summer.

You’ll find copies of the novel in the TBYL Store now!

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No rest for Anya: Cold Grave

Last month, I went on an adventure on the high seas.

Not literally of course, a cruise wasn’t really on the agenda for this year, but almost as fun, I travelled by book. I was completely immersed in Kathryn Fox’s most recent Anya Crichton crime novel Cold Grave (Pan Macmillan).

Forensic physician, Anya Crichton, needs a break. Cocooned from the world abroad a luxury cruise ship, nothing can interrupt time with her precious six-year-old son.

Peace is shattered when the body of a teenage girl is discovered shoved in the cupboard, dripping wet. With no obvious cause of death and the nearest port days away. Anya volunteers her forensic expertise.

She quickly uncovers a sordid pattern of sexual assaults, unchecked drug use and mysterious disappearances. With crew too afraid to talk, she is drawn into the underbelly of the cruise line, its dangerous secrets and the murky waters of legal accountability.

Cold Grave is rich in detail, paced perfectly and full of all the twists and turns you’ve come to expect from good forensic fiction. Anya’s personal story is moving and her relationship with her ex-husband and son feels quite real, a compelling story in itself.

Fox’s novel is full of menacing characters, their presence creating a palpable tension, a sense of claustrophobia. I found this mystery a real riddle, and I enjoyed having to pay close attention to the facts and observations threaded throughout. If you’re a fan of crime novels that have a real puzzle to solve, this is most definitely one for you.

After reading the book, I was fortunate enough to have a chat with Kathryn about what makes her, and her characters tick…

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Kathryn, what compels you to write your forensic mysteries?
I think my medical background definitely influenced me in my subject choice, as I’d seen a fair bit of crime in my work in medicine. I saw a lot of sexual assualt medicine and domestic violence patients in my work as a GP, victims and their families. I think we underestimate how much sexual assualt and domestic abuse is out there in the community as it’s hidden a lot of the time. As a GP looking after a whole community of patients, it became apparent over time what a big problem this was. And so now, I tend to write about issues such as these, and that’s what keeps me going – the fact that I may be able to make even a tiny difference, even if it’s through writing fiction.

So do you work to raise awareness?
Yes, but of course my primary job is to entertain and to write a fantastic reading experience for the reader. That’s the goal of every writer, but the other thing is that I’m fascinated by the world, and I’m always asking ‘why’ and ‘how’ things happen. Writing this series, gives me a great chance to explore an issue in depth as well. So, I win just as much by becoming far more informed in the process…

And why did you choose cruise ships in particular as the setting for this novel?
Cruise ships, I think, make a fantastic setting for a thriller because so much about them has changed over the years. Like a lot of people, I used to think of cruise ships as cozy and small, Agatha Christy-type environments when in truth they’re actually floating cities, they’re massive and they’ve had to get bigger and better and more exciting to compete with resorts and hotels for the tourist dollar. They fascinate me because they can leave any problem behind them – if there’s a bad season, a cold winter, they can just sail on to a new location where there’s better weather. It occurred to me that there was the potential for these cruise ships to leave legal trouble behind them as well. You can have up to eight-thousand people on board but there’s no police – you’re in international waters and the companies are registered in foreign countries. It’s a bit scary.

As soon as I started researching, I came across some well known cases that had popped up in the media. As I delved deeper, I was surprised to discover that there’s an International Victims of Cruise Crime organisation. So it would seem, crimes do happen and the ones we’ve heard about aren’t isolated, it’s just that a lot of them you don’t get reported because there’s no resolution to the police investigation. On average, a person goes missing every two weeks off a cruise ship. It’s frightening, but when you think that there’s twenty-million people travelling on cruise ships in a year that’s not a lot, but of course for those people and their families, it’s far too many.

There were a lot of unsettling aspects to the novel, but one of the main things that I noticed was a real sense of claustrophobia… was this intentional?
Yes! That was a really important theme, I really wanted to get that across. Cruise ships aren’t normally claustrophobic in themselves, but I wanted to show that if you were involved in any of these types of crimes, or a victim, that you’re socially, physically and legally isolated and you’re literally floating. You have to carry on knowing that whoever committed the crime is most probably still on board.

I thought your use of weather helped to create the claustrophobia and to build the suspense.
I wanted that to happen, most definitely. Everyone thinks of cruises with great sunny weather and going outside but when you’re actually trapped inside by rain and bad weather, with five-thousand other people, it becomes more worrisome and sometimes dangerous.

Is that type of device something that you’ve used in your previous books?
No, the setting for me isn’t normally important and the setting certainly hasn’t been a character before. I think it’s fair to say though that in Cold Grave, the setting has really become a main character in the story.

In a lot of crime fiction, the lead character is a man – a male detective, a police officer or a doctor. Do you think that using a female lead character, Anya Crichton, has allowed you to do anything differently in your series?
I think in some ways, women and men tend to think differently and I think this comes through in how Anya operates. Mainly though I think that maybe it’s because women victims of crime do tend to prefer a woman doctor and that’s why Anya is able to get in and talk to people. It’s not necessarily a good thing for her though because she’s affected emotionally by the fall-out of the crimes that she’s seeing and the victims, so it makes it harder for her. It just seems to me that a many men, male doctors especially have that innate ability to switch off from the emotional side of their jobs, and I think that the emotional complications that Anya faces makes it difficult for her.

Another difficulty she faces is the fact that she’s lost her child, not because she’s a bad mother but because she was the bread-winner in the family when the separation happened. There are a lot of women in a similar position, and I think that that’s just devastating, that they’ve been compelled to go back to work for financial reasons and then they end up loosing their children as well.

What’s next… more Anya or something else?
Both actually! I’m working on my sixth Anya book, it’s about genetically modified food, another issue that I’m interested in. I’m also working on another couple of projects in my spare time and I really want to write comedy and different sorts of human interest stories. The world’s just really exciting and for me, writing’s become like breathing. In the same way that someone who likes to travel, likes to travel to different places not just the same places each time, I think writing and opening up your mind to new ideas is a lot like that.

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I’m really looking forward to reading Kathryn’s next instalment in the Anya Crichton series, and maybe something completely different!

Have you read any of the Anya Crichton novels? What’s you’re favourite crime fiction

Buy your own copy of Cold Grave at the TBYL Store

 

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Out Now! TBYL News: All Things Bookish August 2012

I can’t believe that a new month has come around so quickly, but at least it means that I get to put together another issue of TBYL News: All Things Bookish…

TBYL News is a great way to catch up on recent reviews, upcoming news and words from my lovely special guests. This month, I was really lucky – I had a chance to have a chat with Kathryn Fox about her new novel Cold Grave. Also, I’ve got a copy of Cold Grave to give-away, with thanks to Pan  Macmillan.

And of course, you’ll find exclusive newsletter specials at The Store!

Click here to read TBYL News: All Things Bookish, August 2012

If you’d like to subscribe to the newsletter, you can click here. This’ll mean that you get our monthly news by email, on the first Monday of the month. Perfect!

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All hail, King Otto

I’d been looking for this book for a while, I just didn’t know it.

When Andrew Nicoll’s novel landed on my desk, I thought it just another story. In retrospect maybe I should have guessed from my attraction to the book’s cover, but in my defence, I try not to judge. Imagine my shock when If You’re Reading This I’m Already Dead snuck up behind me and gave me a fair smack with the wacky stick. What a delightful surprise…

Andrew Nicoll’s If You’re Reading This I’m Already Dead (Pan Macmillan) is Otto Witte’s hastily written memiors:

“Sitting in his caravan, drinking what is left of his coffee (dust), Otto has narrowly escaped death at the hands of allied bombs. Convinced his luck has run out and he will not see morning, he decides to record the story of his life for the poor soul who finds his body.

And what a story it is. Years earlier, when he was in either Buda or Pest, working at the circus, a newspaper article was brought to his attention. Why? Because in it was a picture of a particular Turkish prince, called to Albania to be their new king. And this prince just so happened to bear a striking resemblance to Otto…”

Presented with such an obvious opportunity, Otto does the only sensible thing – he runs away from the circus. He takes with him a camel, a cashbox and a band of strong, beautiful and mysterious friends, all of whom are loyal to the last, a worthy ‘royal’ entourage.

Otto, on his travels must undergo a transformation, from the Acrobat of Hamburg to the Kind of Albania. He uses his charm, and when that fails, his brute strength to coerce, cajole and convince his way from Budapest to Albania, and onto the Albanian throne.

Now, don’t be fooled, this is no boys-own-adventure. Claiming the Albanian crown is a serious undertaking, and it’s exactly when things get their most serious that they can also become their most bizarre:

“Arbuthnot went out and stood in the middle of the courtyard, feet together, arms spread, and he raised his long wolf jaw to the sky and he began to blow. His lips were formed in a tight O and he blew, like a silent whistle at the bring moon sky. All around the courtyard the men lining the walls did the same thing, they turned their faces up to the sky and they blew. There were dozens of men there, more than a hundred of them blowing thin blue trails of tobacco smoke at the sky, cigarettes and hookah pipes all puffing upwards and – this is the part I don’t believe – the sky darkened. The smoke rose and, as it rose, it thickened and grey clouds crept in over the rooftops and hid the sun.”

Unbenounced to Otto and his merry troupe, they were most certainly ‘sailing to murder and greed and ice-cold lust’ and so goes the rise and fall of King Otto.

Nicoll’s has created a fabulous tale, unique and colourful. It’s a fantastically funny story, whilst dark and earnest in perfect measure. The novel itself is magical, nicely reminiscent of works like Alice Through the Looking Glass, or the recent feature film Hugo. For me though, the real highlight was the fact that it reminded me of reading a novel by my favourite author, Tom Robbins. Robbins’ novels are surreal, crazy and lusty and Nicoll’s book has many of the same characteristics.

Of course, If You’re Reading This I’m Already Dead is it’s own strange self, it’s wonderfully original, but at the same time it has allowed me to recapture just a little of the delight I took from reading Robbins all those years ago. That is what makes it the book I’ve been looking for, and I’m rapt.

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Tomorrow, I’ll be reviewing a Diane Chamberlain’s edge of your seat read, The Good Father (Harlequin)

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Reading through the night

Recently, I’ve had a few people ask for some reading ideas, so I thought it might be good time to do another …on the reading pile post. I’ve got a couple of books on the go at the moment, and number of tempting titles waiting for their turn next.

I’m almost through Jennifer Paynter’s Mary Bennet (Penguin Books) which I mentioned in March, and I’ve also recently finished this month’s TBYL Book Club book, The Help, ready to discuss at the end of May.

I’ve also made a start on a paranormal young adult novel by Julie Kagawa called The Immortal Rules (Harlequin Teen). It’s such a wonderfully easy read, and I’m looking forward to reviewing it in full next week. The first in a coming series, it’s a tale of vampires, fringe dwellers and the struggle between survival and extinction. Allison Sekemoto, the main protagonist is tough and likeable, and I can’t wait to see what happens to her in her fight against a myriad of threats, human, vampire and otherwise.

Once I’ve finished Julie’s book, I’ll be moving on to a love story, a novel by Ayshe Talay-Ongan, Turquoise (Find out more). It’s described as being…

“…set against transcendent love, unrelenting hatred and loyalties to friends and family, Turquoise is the story of an enduring and passionate love affair between Yasmin and Renan, which spans two decades, two marriages and three continents.”

I don’t read many romances, so this will be something a bit different for me. I’m looking forward to it.

Throughout June, I’ll be sure to read our next TBYL Book Club book as well, S.J. Watson’s Before I Go To Sleep (Penguin Books). I’ve not read this previously, and I’ve heard impressive things about it. It’s described as a psychological thriller of the highest order;

“Each day, Christine wakes knowing nothing of her life. Each night, her mind erases the day. But before she goes to sleep, she will recover fragments from her past, flashbacks to the accident that damaged her, and then—mercifully—she will forget.”

I’m excited, and little bit scared about reading this one and I hope you’ll join us to discuss this book in June.

Next up will be Diane Chamberlain’s The Good Father (Mira) which has been recommended as being ‘essential reading for Jodi Picoult fans.’ It’s the touching story of Travis, a young single father who makes the somewhat unexpected decision to choose fatherhood over the usual fun and partying of young adulthood. The novel follow’s Travis as he’s backed into a corner, making potentially disastrous choices.

“With nowhere else to turn, Travis must make another choice for his daughter’s sake. Even if it means he might lose her.”

 Sounds very interesting, and a quite unique storyline and characters.

Lastly is a book that’s been on the pile for a little while, and that I’ve been very tempted by on and off, simply because it’s got such an appealing cover. It’s Andrew Nicoll’s If You’re Reading This I’m Already Dead (Pan Macmillan).

“Sitting in his caravan, drinking what is left of his coffee (dust), Otto has narrowly escaped death at the hands of allied bombs. Convinced his luck has run out and he will not see morning, he decides to record the story of his life for the poor soul who finds his body.”

This novel looks like it’ll be an absolutely crazy ride! It’s war-time setting takes a back seat to a bizarre reminiscence of circus acts, royalty, striking and convenient resemblances and of course, Otto. Again, I can’t wait to get into this one.

I’ve a couple of other books that are sneaking up behind these ones, but I’ll chat about them soon. For now, I think that’s more than enough for me to get my head around. I think there’ll be a few late nights reading in June…

What are you reading at the moment? Have you read any of these titles? What did you think of them?

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