Blog Tour: What She Left by T R Richmond

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What She Left is a cleverly constructed fractured timeline novel, that re-builds the life of deceased journalist Alice Salmon, using the digital footprint left by herself and those she knew.  As part of his blog tour, T R Richmond writes for LifeOfCri.me about using multiple character first person narration.

Writing in the first-person offers benefits and challenges to a writer.

It allows you to really get inside the head of a character, exploring their brain’s innermost workings. The downside is you can only ever include what’s in their head. If your character hasn’t thought it, seen it or done it, it’s cheating to include it. 

When I was planning What She Left, I wanted to have my cake and eat it. I wanted to see the world as all my characters did. So I wrote the book from multiple first-person perspectives. 

This has always struck me as the most honest form of narration, because in reality we’re all the first-person narrators of our own lives. 

Our own take on events, our own view of the world and our narrative seems sacrosanct to us, but it runs alongside everyone else’s – at times diverging from theirs, at times converging with theirs. Some facts are inalienable, but we all see things differently – hence disputes over so-called ‘facts’. Hence why life contains so many grey areas. 

Such issues of perspective and reliability are as relevant in journalism as they are in fiction. When it comes to choosing which news to read, listen to or watch, we have to ask ourselves: Whose version of events is the most accurate? We have to ask ourselves: Who can we trust? We have to ask ourselves: are we looking for our existing world view to be reinforced?

The internet has been a game-changer when it comes to the reliability of news. Anyone can share information now and, while this “democratisation” brings benefits such as quickening the dissemination of news and challenging the exclusive cabal of information providers, it also means we’re exposed to heavily subjective material. 

Many journalists are as passionate as ever about objectivity and balance, but as “consumers” of news it’s vital we ask who the narrator is of any particular piece of work. What’s their agenda? Because, however objective a piece purports to be, if you follow it back far enough, it’ll be the brainchild of someone with inherently subjective opinions. The solution, perhaps, is to develop broad tastes when it comes to journalism, as we’re always advised to with fiction. That at least gives us a counterbalance, exposing us to multiple sides of any particular argument. Remember, in journalism as in life, there’s no such thing as an entirely reliable narrator. Hence why fiction written in the first-person can feel so authentic.

T. R. Richmond

 

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Click here to buy

What She Left by T. R. Richmond is published by Michael Joseph on 23rd April, priced £12.99

Meet Professor J Cooke on Tumblr and Alice Salmon on Facebook

Woman of the Dead – Bernhard Aichner

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How far would you go to avenge the one you love?

Blum has a secret buried deep in her past. She thought she’d left the past behind. But then Mark, the man she loves, dies. His death looks like a hit-and-run. It isn’t a hit-and-run. Mark has been killed by the men he was investigating. And then, suddenly, Blum rediscovers what she’s capable of…

 

 ” A highly entertaining read…”

Some people really know how to do their job when it comes to attracting your attention to a book, and so when I saw some of the ‘blurb’ for Woman of the Dead I just had to pick it up….

Kill Bill meets Dexter via The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

It turned out to be an apt description for what I found to be a highly entertaining read.

Blum is an intriguing character, beginning as a warm, kind-hearted and loving wife and mother, despite the harshness of her childhood, and her actions of the past. She is an accomplished business woman running her own funeral home, happy and settled with her policeman husband Mark and their two daughters.

When Mark is killed in front of her eyes she is devastated. It is only when she discovers the ‘off the books’ investigation he was undertaking, amongst the papers in his study that she begins to believe that the accident was in fact murder. Then after beginning to investigate the crime Mark was looking into, she uses her skills, knowledge and the tools of her trade as an undertaker to exact brutal, bloody and violent revenge on those who were responsible.

I loved the pace of the story, and the way that not all things go to plan for Blum, forcing her to not only re-evaluate her actions and decisions, but also the repercussions to herself and her family. There are some vile and horrible characters to discover with some extreme language to accompany them, and many of whom you would rather see brought to justice, and yet at the same time you are always backing Blum.

If you want a break away from the usual gritty crime reads, or just fancy trying something different, Woman Of The Dead is ideal for that. It’s also the first in a trilogy, and I’m sure, like me, many of you will be keen to see what happens to Blum next.

Second Life – S. J. Watson

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imageShe loves her husband. She’s obsessed by a stranger.

She’s a devoted mother. She’s prepared to lose everything.

She knows what she’s doing. She’s out of control.

She’s innocent. She’s guilty as sin.

She’s living two lives. She might lose both . . .

 

“A perfect pick for your book club”

There’s a lot that can be said about Second Life, although not without giving away too much of the plot, and like any story, it has both its positive and negative sides. On the negative side it’s a difficult book to get into, protagonist Julia comes across as the typical bored housewife, stuck in a rut of duty and care brought about by a combination of love and guilt, who, despite the unusual circumstances of connection, embarks on an affair.  After a while you begin just begin to think, yeah, so what?

On the positive side, once you push past that inital bout of indifference to Julia, get to the repercussions, and the see the way Watson cleverly spins events on their head, you can really begin to understand just how smartly layered Second Life really is. To me it was like lighting a firework, just as you are beginning to wonder if the fuse has gone out, it suddenly sparks into life, delivering a dazzling display with bang, after boom, after bang until the darkness around you is nothing but a smokey haze.

With a clear understanding of the difficulties associated with an addictive personality, trading one addiction for another, and with an ending so distinctive you will either love it or hate it, this is one book that is a perfect pick for your book club. Prepare for a book hangover, this one will sit with you a while as you reconcile your thoughts, and will certainly create plenty of discussion amongst hardened book fans, particularly those who loved Before I Go To Sleep.

The Lie – C.L. Taylor

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imageI know your name’s not really Jane Hughes….

Jane Hughes has a loving partner, a job in an animal sanctuary, and a tiny cottage in rural Wales. She’s happier than she’s ever been, but her life is a lie. Jane Hughes does not really exist.

Five years earlier, Jane and her then best friends went on holiday, but what should have been the trip of a lifetime rapidly descended into a nightmare that claimed the lives of two of the women.

Jane has tried to put the past behind her but someone knows the truth about what happened. Someone who won’t stop until they’ve destroyed Jane and everything she loves.

Frightening, tragic, uncomfortable & addictive…

Opening with Jane in her quiet new life, settled and trying to put the past behind her, the narrative splits in two once we discover, along with Jane, that somebody knows her secret. The first remains with Jane, as she tries to uncover who sent her the message that has threatened her fragile new existence. The second set five years before detailing the frightening and tragic tale of their trip together, the adventure of a lifetime that became the holiday from hell.

One of the things I like to see with authors I have read before is progression, and after already enjoying Taylor’s previous novel The Accident (Published as Before I Wake in the US) it was a delight to me to uncover a distinct step up in storytelling and style with The Lie. It has a far more addictive story line, and although I found it quite uncomfortable reading at times, I raced through it in just a single sitting.

I say uncomfortable, because of the excellence with which the friendships of the girlfriends are portrayed. I found that the fractures, faults, and issues in their relationships were so well written that I couldn’t help but reflect on my own friendships as I read. Particularly those that, whether missed or not, I have lost over the years, and to me that reaction alone marks The Lie as an outstanding read and one that will linger with me for some time.

The Ties That Bind – Erin Kelly

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imageCould a soul once sold, truly be redeemed?

Luke is a true crime writer in search of a story, when he flees to Brighton after an explosive break-up, the perfect subject lands in his lap: reformed gangster Joss Grand. Now in his eighties, Grand once ruled the underworld with his sadistic sidekick Jacky Nye – Until Jacky washed up by the West Pier in 1968, strangled and thrown into the sea.

Though Grand’s alibi seems cast-iron, Luke is sure there’s more to the story than meets the eye, and he convinces the criminal turned philanthropist to be interviewed for a book about his life.

Luke is drawn deeper into the mystery of Jacky Nyes murder. Was Grand there that night? Is he really as reformed a character as he claims? And who was the girl in the red coat seen fleeing the murder scene?

Soon Luke realises that in stirring up secrets from the past, he may have placed himself in terrible danger.

Absolutely brilliant.

For me a new Erin Kelly book is a much-anticipated event where as soon as I get hold of my copy I find quiet and comfortable space and lock myself away from the world so I can read in pure, uninterrupted pleasure, knowing when I’m finished, I will be able to close the book with a satisfying thud.

Delightfully, The Ties That Bind, has done nothing to change that feeling either. As a reader, I love to see growth in a writer, and in her fourth book, for me, Kelly has clearly bloomed. It’s also a pleasure to say that the book hangover I suffered when I finished was purely because I enjoyed the story so much, rather than because the author had left strands of story thread dangling in the wind.

There are some great characters in there too, I loved both gangster gone good, Joss Grand, and ex-journalist now cuttings library keeper Sandy. My particular favourite however, Was Jem, Luke’s controlling ex-boyfriend, who was so well written he really gave me the creeps at times.

The plot was as tightly done as ever with plenty twists and turns I didn’t see coming and a couple I did. Enough to make me enjoy getting those parts right, while also managing to ensure I was completely wrong about where things were going at the same time.

It’s a cracker of a read that I’d happily recommend to anyone looking for something refreshing in their crime fiction thrillers.

The Ice Twins – S.K. Tremayne

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imageOne of Sarah’s daughters died. But can she be sure which one? A terrifying psychological thriller that will chill you to the bone.

A year after one of their identical twin daughters, Lydia, dies in an accident, Angus and Sarah Moorcraft move to the tiny Scottish island Angus inherited from his grandmother, hoping to put together the pieces of their shattered lives.

But when their surviving daughter, Kirstie, claims they have mistaken her identity – that she, in fact, is Lydia – their world comes crashing down once again.

As winter encroaches, Angus is forced to travel away from the island for work, Sarah is feeling isolated, and Kirstie (or is it Lydia?) is growing more disturbed. When a violent storm leaves Sarah and her daughter stranded, Sarah finds herself tortured by the past – what really happened on that fateful day one of her daughters died?

Not a book for an early night…

I picked The Ice Twins up to read one night, just as I was getting into bed, which wasn’t one of my best ideas because 3 hours after picking it up, my eyes, despite being somewhat more droopy, were still firmly glued to the screen of my Kindle. A quick glance at my reading statistics showed that I was already beyond halfway through the book, I was amazed, but not at all surprised. It is simply brilliant.

Following the death of one of their daughters, Angus and Sarah are a typically broken couple, creating more problems than they are solving by their lack of communication as they each grieve for a different child.  Their remaining daughter is grieving too, and every day in the mirror must look at the face of the sister she lost.  As the three of them stumble separately through the aftermath of the tragedy that haunts this family we discover that all was not as it seems.

Although they were identical twins, Kirstie and Lydia were remarkably different children, and both Angus and Sarah had their own favourite.  Is this why their remaining daughter claims to be the other? In turn, lies, omissions and the solitude of her new home have thrust Sarah into a world of confusion, could this affecting her daughter and be why Kirstie believes she is Lydia or is there a more sinister reason yet to be uncovered?

Haunting, spooky, melancholy and with tragedy at its heart, this is not a book you want to read if you’re planning an early night, because even if you manage to put it down, The Ice Twins is one book that just won’t let you go.

The Nightmare Place – Steve Mosby

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Sometimes, there’s a thin line between love and hate. Or at least that’s one theory for DI Zoe Dolan, tracking the Creeper – a stalker who’s been breaking into women’s homes and attacking them. But the Creeper’s violence is escalating and there’s no pattern, no clue as to how he’s getting in, and no clue as to who’s next.

Until Jane Webster gets a call to the help line where she volunteers. It’s meant to be a confidential service and Jane is torn – it could be a hoaxer, but the soft voice at the end of the line has the ring of truth about it. He says he loves these women – but it’s a love that ends in blood.

When Jane tells the police, it should be the lead that Zoe needs – but it only pulls her further into a case that is already taking her dangerously close to the past she’s never fully escaped. For Jane, Zoe and all the other young women of the city, suddenly nowhere is safe. Particularly their own bedroom at the dead of night…

 Whatever you do, don’t read it alone at night.

Your own home,  the one place you’re guaranteed to be safe, aren’t you? In the case of The Nightmare Place this is one thing that is just not so. ‘The Creeper’ is finding a way into women’s houses, through locked doors and closed windows.  No one knows how he is getting in, they just know the pain, devastation, and increasing level of violence that is going on once he is inside.

DI Zoe Dolan is trying to find out who he is and how he is getting in and Jane just might hold the key, but for her talking to the police means breaking the fundamental rule of the help line where she works, trust is paramount and confidentiality is guaranteed.  Can she reconcile passing on what she knows with breaking the rules of the organisation?

Despite its difficult and violent content, it’s got some well portrayed, down to earth characters and a with its fabulously woven plot it is an easy book to read and become enthralled by.  The Nightmare Place is a brilliant, and brutal book.  It will scare you, play to your paranoia and have you checking your locks. Whatever you do, don’t read it alone at night.

The Liars Chair – Rebecca Whitney

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imageRachel Teller and her husband David appear happy, prosperous and fulfilled. The big house, the successful business . . . They have everything.

However, control, not love, fuels their relationship and David has no idea his wife indulges in drunken indiscretions. When Rachel kills a man in a hit and run, the meticulously maintained veneer over their life begins to crack.

Destroying all evidence of the accident, David insists they continue as normal. Rachel though is racked with guilt and as her behaviour becomes increasingly self-destructive she not only inflames David’s darker side, but also uncovers her own long-suppressed memories of shame. Can Rachel confront her past and atone for her terrible crime? Not if her husband has anything to do with it . . .

A startling, dark and audacious novel set in and around the Brighton streets, The Liar’s Chair will keep readers on the edge of their seats until the final page has been turned. A stunning psychological portrait of a woman in a toxic marriage, Rebecca Whitney’s debut will show that sometimes the darkest shadow holds the truth you have been hiding from … 

A definite winner…

I thought 2014 was a fantastic year for debut novels, but already it seems that whilst we are barely into 2015, this is shaping up to be an even better year.

Rebecca Whitney’s debut has, for me, firmly established her as a writer of fabulous dark psychological thrillers, this is an amazing depiction of what can happen when one person relinquishes control, and how explosive and destructive the results can be when the balance of power in a relationship changes by even the smallest amount.

The Liars Chair is a totally addictive book, and I found reading it was like watching the most uncomfortable and disturbing piece of TV you can imagine and being unable to tear your eyes away from it.   You know you don’t want to bear witness to, or to be part of Rachel’s complete unravelling, but you cannot do anything except carry on reading and watch her complete breakdown, all the while praying for her salvation.

Rachel’s husband David is a completely vile character who immediately sets your teeth on edge with his controlling behaviour and all the way through the novel, as he becomes more and more loathsome all you want is for him to get his ‘just desserts’. That said Rachel is in no way a particularly likeable character either, the uncomfortable sense of her own complicity in the poisoning of her marriage and her totally selfish actions at the time of the accident, never quite leave you even though you feel sympathy for her situation, and find yourself willing her to find a way out of it.

The Liars Chair is a fantastic first novel that had me wanting to scream and shout at its characters, then forced me to throw it down in frustration, before immediately picking it back up to find out what happened next, and to me any book that can provoke such a strong emotional response is a definite winner.

The Killer Next Door – Alex Marwood

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No. 23 has a secret. In this bedsit-riddled south London wreck, lorded over by a lecherous landlord, something waits to be discovered.

Yet all six residents have something to hide.

Collette and Cher are on the run; Thomas is a reluctant loner; while a gorgeous Iranian asylum seeker and a ‘quiet man’ nobody sees try to stay hidden. And watching over them all is Vesta – or so she thinks.

In the dead of night, a terrible accident pushes the neighbours into an uneasy alliance. But one of them is a killer, expertly hiding their pastime, all the while closing in on their next victim…

As a cloying heatwave suffocates the city, events build to an electrifying climax in this dark, original and irresistibly compelling thriller.

“Not to be read while you’re eating lunch…”

I’ve had this book on my To Be Read pile ever since it first came out back in June last year and am now kicking myself that I didn’t read it sooner, because it is absolutely brilliant. If it’s sitting in your to be read pile I recommend you go and move it now to your next read, and if it’s not there, why not?

Dark, chilling and impeccably plotted, The Killer Next Door is an intriguing look into the secrets that lurk behind closed doors, how little notice we often take of the world around us and asks the question just how well do we ever really know our friends and neighbours?

We begin with Collette, discover the reason she is on the run and about her arrival at Beulah Grove, where she takes over the room of the mysteriously vanished Nikki.  From there we meet each of her ‘neighbours’ in the house that they all share, learning about their lives, their secrets and the circumstances that have brought them all to renting a single room with shared bathroom, cash in hand and no questions asked from #23’s slum landlord.

Their intertwining stories are at times scary, tragic, and filled with melancholy showing how easy it can be to find yourself in such dire situations as much through the actions of others, as well as your own.  My favourite part was how the characters all appeared drawn towards Vesta, finding it easy to tell their stories and offer up their secrets to her for safe, or perhaps not so safe, keeping. 

It’s a brilliant read that you won’t want to put down, although in my case it was easier for me to read and read, as I actually downloaded my copy of The Killer Next Door as an unabridged audiobook, via audible.co.uk.

The narrator is perfectly selected, and the editing slick, which meant listening to the story added an extra creepy dimension to the haunting passages of the killer and his thoughts.  It also highlighted just how vividly descriptive Marwood’s writing is, making sure you experience all of the sights, sounds and smells of the situation, which is a fabulous thing to read but certainly in my case means there is at least one bathroom section you may not want to be reading (or listening too) while you’re eating lunch…

The Final Minute – Simon Kernick

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image‘It’s night, and I’m in a strange house.

The lights are on and I’m standing outside a half-open door.

Feeling a terrible sense of forboding, I walk slowly inside.

And then I see her.

A woman lying sprawled across a huge double bed.

She’s dead. There’s blood everywhere.

And the most terrifying thing of all is that I think her killer might be me …’

A traumatic car-crash. A man with no memory, haunted by nightmares.

When the past comes calling in the most terrifying way imaginable, Matt Barron is forced to turn to the one person who can help.

Ex Met cop, turned private detective, Tina Boyd.

Soon they are both on the run .….

Master of the race against time thriller, Kernick will have you racing against time to reach the end of The Final Minute. 

Once again he has delivered a thrilling read, one that despite featuring several recurring characters, can be easily read on its own by anyone who is new to his fiction, and is satisfying for his legions of loyal fans who will be eagerly downloading the kindle version, or snapping up bargain publication day copies when it is published today.

The Final Minute will get its claws into you from the very beginning as you try, along with Matt Barron, to uncover his lost memories, and discover just who is out to get him and why.  He’s also so well written that you will alternatively love and hate him, because fundamentally he’s really not a nice guy, but you can’t help feeling for his situation, no matter how he ended up where he is.

It’s packed with action that never feels like it’s been put there for the sake of it, it all feels natural and genuine, and ensures there are none of those annoying ‘flukey getaways’ to spoil your enjoyment.  With twists and turns a plenty to keep you on your toes as you search for clues to who is behind the plot, The Final Minute is another sure-fire winner.