The ubiquitous end of year wrap up.

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Well that’s 2014 over, and what an amazing year that was!

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Picture by Fenris Oswin – Fenris.co.uk

Of course the highlight for me will always be my now fiancé proposing to me at the end of a panel during this years Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival, Harrogate. He couldn’t have chosen a more fitting venue and I will be eternally grateful to the 2014 festival chair Steve Mosby, and the rest of the festival planning committee for helping to make this happen.

Not only that but, I’ve also got the good fortune of being able to re-live the moment whenever I want, as the download of the panel itself (In Space, No One Can Hear You Scream) is available to buy from the festival website and the recording has his proposal (although not my squeaked out answer) on the end of it. That £3 purchase was definitely one of my best of the year!

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Picture by Fenris Oswin – Fenris.co.uk

That was closely followed by appearing with friend and crimesquad.com editor Chris Simmons on this year’s ITV3 Specsavers Crime Thriller Club TV show. Not only did we have two fabulous days out in ‘that London’, meeting new and interesting people, catching up with author friends and laughing with Bradley Walsh, we also WON.

Closer to home it’s been great for me to see this blog really start to increase its traffic (I’m still hoping to break that magic 1,000 followers before the end of the year – sitting at 976 as I write) and getting the opportunity to participate in the blog tours of some brilliant crime reads…

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Then of course there were also these fabulous books

 

20140527-165933-61173231.jpgLand Of Shadows – Rachel Howzell Hall

I have read several highly accomplished debut novels this year, but this is one that sticks in my mind.  Homicide Detective Elouise Norton is someone I’m keen to hear more about. Tough and driven, yet at times insecure.  With a fascinating setting on the ever changing border of a gentrifying Los Angeles, it’s a great debut.

wpid-screenshot_2014-09-11-00-59-25-1.pngThe Girl On The Train – Paula Hawkins  

“To everyone else in this carriage I must look normal; I’m doing exactly what they do: commuting to work, making appointments, ticking things off lists.

Just goes to show”

 Not published until Jan 15th 2015, I am jealous that so many of you have such a fabulous book yet to read and experience.  I urge you all to grab it as soon as it comes out, as I guarantee it’s going to cause quite a stir.

V CoverVendetta – Dreda Say Mitchell 

In a distinct change of direction to the race against time thriller, Mitchell has produced a gripping read, with cracking characters, storylines and a great deal of style this series could really see her giving Simon Kernick a run for his money.

wpid-2014_07_25_08.24.01.png Dead Men’s Bones – James Oswald

The fourth and latest of Oswald’s books featuring Detective Inspector Tony McLean. With its supernatural twists on the standard police procedural, this is one series that just gets better and better with Dead Men’s Bones proving to be the best yet.

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The Killer Next Door – Alex Marwood

Dark, chilling and impeccably plotted, it’s an interesting insight into the secrets that lurk behind closed doors, how little notice we all take of the world around us and asks the question just how well do we ever really know our friends and neighbours? 

These few aside there a are plenty more delightful, intriguing and thrilling books out there, and many of those that are currently featuring on an awful lot of top 10 lists this year are staring at me mournfully from my on the verge of collapse to be read pile.  I’m looking forward to being able to sit down and catch up with just a few of them over the coming months.

My end of year tally for books read came to a grand total of 123 missing out by more that I would have liked, on beating last years total of 130, so I’ll be going all out to exceed both of these numbers next year.

Here’s looking forward to and wishing you all a fabulous, book filled 2015.

Back To School: The Art of Thriller Writing by Dreda Say Mitchell

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As part of the blog tour for her new thriller Vendetta, Dreda Say Mitchell talks to LifeOfCri.me about the art of thriller writing.

Dreda I’ve worn a number of hats in my career and one of them has been teaching. In the classroom, one of the favourite catchphrases (after folding your arms) is “Now children – what have we learned today?” Another hat I wear is as a journalist and we’re all familiar with the top 5 tips or lessons feature. Meanwhile, in my work as an author, I’ve shifted direction with my new thriller ‘Vendetta’. What better way to prove that I can multi-task than by compiling a top 5 lessons I’ve learned from writing thrillers?

1. Characters

Characterisation is an important building block of any kind of fiction but in thrillers it’s an essential feature. Thriller readers tend to read a lot of books and they’ve got an eagle eye for cardboard cut outs and stereotypes. Heroes and villains may (or may not) be exaggerated versions of people you meet in everyday life but they still need to be grounded in reality. The question to pose is not, would a character behave in a certain way – but could they? In ‘Vendetta’, our hero Mac might go well beyond the bounds set by his job and personality – but is he a believable person?

2. Plot

A well-crafted thriller plot is rather like a Swiss watch and fits together like a jigsaw puzzle. It needs to be compelling enough to keep the reader hooked and provide them with evidence to work with, while at the same not cheating by dodging the rules of the genre. This is a very difficult trick to pull off. In ‘Vendetta’, Mac’s lover has been murdered and he has to find out by whom and why. The reader has to be there to help and work it out along with him but to share his shocks and surprises.

 3. Pace

Literary writers are allowed to spend ten pages describing a situation in which nothing in particular happens or theorising about the human condition but that doesn’t work in thrillers. The reader expects the author to get a move on. One classic method of doing this is to give your hero a set time limit to solve his case before it’s too late. In ‘Vendetta’, Mac’s got less than a day. The clock is ticking.

4. Series

A thriller doesn’t need to be part of a series to be effective, but as the saying goes, it helps. Once a reader decides a character is working for them, they like to learn more about them and see how they operate in different circumstances. I decided a series was how I wanted to write but I wasn’t interested in the lone hero model. In addition to Mac, there are two other main characters, Rio and Calum along with lesser characters. In the next book, ‘Death Trap’ I turn my attention to Rio as the main protagonist and in the novel to follow that, it’s Calum. When I decide some of minor characters have legs, there’ll be reappearing too.

5. The X Factor

We’re probably all familiar with people we know who seem to have it all. The ideal spouse and family, the great job, the interesting life – and yet it doesn’t seem to work for them and they’re booked with counsellors on a regular basis. Thrillers can be rather like that. Compelling characters, plot, lean, taut and effective writing, all of which leads up to that classic showdown in the final chapter. Yet it doesn’t fly, your attention wanders and it becomes one of those books you leave lying around, always meaning to finish. The frustrating thing for writers and readers alike is that no really knows why this is. I’m hoping that ‘Vendetta’ has the X Factor

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VENDETTA by Dreda Say Mitchell is out now in paperback and eBook, published by Hodder, £6.99. For more information visit www.dredasaymitchell.com and follow Dreda on twitter @DredaMitchell

Find out what I thought of Vendetta, with the LifeOfCri.me review here

Vendetta – Dreda Say Mitchell

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V CoverTwo murders. Two different crime scenes. One killer?

Mac wakes in an smashed-up hotel room with no recollection of what has happened. With his lover’s corpse in the bathroom and the evidence suggesting that he killed her, Mac is on a mission to uncover the truth and find the real killer.

But he’s in a race against time with less than a day to unravel the mystery. Still reeling from a personal tragedy Mac isn’t afraid of pain. Hot on his heels is tenacious Detective Inspector Rio Wray. Double-crossed and in the line of fire, Mac has to swim through a sea of lies to get to the truth.

But only Mac knows he’s been living a double life. Can he be sure he doesn’t have the blood of a dead woman on his hands?

In a big change in direction from her usual London gangland novels Vendetta is a race against time thriller and it’s a gripping one at that.  The hook is there immediately as Vendetta has one of the best openings I have read in some time, and you really get a feel for the pain, grogginess and sense of confusion that Mac is going through as he struggles to come to and work out where he is.

From there on in the action and the questions come thick and fast, as Mac has less than a day to discover the truth behind who killed his girlfriend and why.  As both sides of his double life are revealed, more and more conspirators are added to the mix, the plot thickens, the tension increases and your ability to put the book down will disappear.

It’s a cracking read with genuinely believable characters from troubled Mac, to feisty DI Rio Wray and to those he works for on both sides of his life. There’s plenty of legs in these guys too so I’m looking forward to hearing more…

Vendetta is out today.  Click on the image above to get your copy.

A Book A Day, Sunday Wrap Up #4

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Trouble In Mind by Jeffery Deaver.  When it comes to short stories, Deaver is the master of the evil twist.  Trouble In Mind  is his latest collection with the promise of more collections on the way in the none to distant future.

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Ultimatum by Simon Kernick.  If you want a guaranteed one sitting, race against time thriller you can’t go wrong with anything from Kernick, and whilst there are serial characters involved, the majority of books can be enjoyed as standalone novels.

V is For

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Vendetta by Dreda Say Mitchell.  Released on November 6th 2014, Vendetta sees a new direction for this award winning author.  Watch out for LifeOfCri.me’s participation in next months Vendetta blog tour.

W is For

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Watch Me by James Carol After recently finishing the first Jefferson Winter novel Broken Dolls, I can’t wait to get stuck into Watch Me.  It’s also one of the books shortlisted for the Specsavers Crime Thriller Book Club Award 2014.

X is For

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XO by Jeffery Deaver (bet you didn’t think I’d find an X did you?)  The second Deaver of the week, XO is the third novel featuring Kathryn Dance as a lead following her introduction as a character in Deaver’s Lincoln Rhyme series, and it’s her best singular outing yet.

Y is For

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You By Caroline Kepnes. A chilling account of unrelenting passion, and a perversely romantic thriller that’s more dangerously clever than any you’ve read before.

Z is For

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Zoo by James Patterson & Michael Ledwidge.  What A-Z of books wouldn’t be complete without a Patterson.  As for me, I’m known for not being a fan of his production line style publishing, but I can’t deny that his books are addictive reads.  That said, he needs to keep up that rate as my record for sitting and reading one of his books from beginning to end is 2hrs 27 minutes…..