#Blog Tour Deadly Alibi by Leigh Russell

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As part of her blog tour for the latest in the DI Geraldine Steel novels, Leigh talks to LifeOfCri.me about the ins and outs of writing a serial character.

Writing a series

​I have written elsewhere about my inadvertent and very sudden transformation from an avid reader to a compulsive writer. My career as a writer really arose out of a ‘light bulb’ moment, a flash of inspiration. Having no ambitions to write, when an idea occurred to me one day and I started to write it down, I surprised myself by finding I was unable to drag myself away from it until the story had written itself out. Having completed my story, I sent the manuscript to a publisher, just on the off chance that someone might take a look at it. I didn’t really expect that anyone would, but the first person to read it turned out to be the acquiring editor at my publisher’s.

​There I was, unexpectedly faced with signing a three-book deal, and only one story written. It amazes me now that I wasn’t terrified, but the whole experience was exhilarating and quite surreal. Of course, there was a lot of work to be done on that first rather amateurish manuscript before it was actually published as Cut Short, by which time I was well on my way with the second book in the series, Road Closed. The ninth in the series, Deadly Alibi, is about to come out in paperback, the eleventh is written and currently being edited, and I am about a quarter of the way through the twelfth – just at the stage where I realise what I should have written and am about to rewrite what I’ve done so far… Somehow my plans always seem to go out of the window once the writing begins…

​So what began as a random idea for a story has turned into a fairly substantial series. With three series now to my name, and well on the way to delivering the final title in my sixth, three-book publishing deal, I’ve written quite a few books since the idea for Cut Short occurred to me. My next publishing deal will take us up to fifteen Geraldine Steel books, and I’m hoping the series will run to twenty books.

​A question I’m often asked is, does it become easier as you write more books? Like a politician’s equivocation, my answer isn’t straightforward. It’s a yes and a no. The actual writing process becomes easier as you grow accustomed to the editing process and all the associated stages in finalising the manuscript. At the same time, in some ways the pressure increases. With over a million books sold, there are a lot of people waiting to read the next Geraldine Steel story and with each book I worry that this will be the one that bombs, the book where all my fans say I’ve completely lost the plot. Thankfully that hasn’t happened yet, and I like to think I’m getting better at this writing lark. But who knows how the next book will be received? With so many readers’ expectations to satisfy, it’s a more daunting prospect than when my first book came out and I wondered whether anyone would actually read it, apart from my acquiring editor. ​

​Fortunately I have a fairly foolproof way of dealing with the pressure. It’s how I cope with any problems that arise in my life in the real world. I can simply retreat into my fictional world and write about the challenges faced by my detective, Geraldine Steel. And she has some tricky situations to deal with in Deadly Alibi. Hopefully her loyal fans are going to enjoy reading this latest story, and readers new to the series will find this an exciting introduction.

A hand gripped her upper arm so suddenly it made her yelp. Biting her lower lip, she spun round, lashing out in terror. As she yanked her arm out of his grasp, her elbow hit the side of his chest. Struggling to cling on to her, he lost his footing. She staggered back and reached out, leaning one hand on the cold wall of the tunnel. Before she had recovered her balance he fell, arms flailing, eyes glaring wildly as he disappeared over the edge of the platform onto the rails below. . .

Two murder victims and a suspect whose alibi appears open to doubt… Geraldine Steel is plunged into a double murder investigation which threatens not only her career, but her life. And then her previously unknown twin Helena turns up, with problems which are about to make Geraldine’s life turn toxic in more ways than one.

Evil Games – Angela Marsons

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imageThe greater the Evil, the more deadly the game…

When a rapist is found mutilated in a brutal attack, Detective Kim Stone and her team are called in to bring a swift resolution. But, as more vengeful killings come to light, it soon becomes clear that there is someone far more sinister at work.

With the investigation quickly gathering momentum, Kim finds herself exposed to great danger and in the sights of a lethal individual undertaking their own twisted experiment.

Up against a sociopath who seems to know her every weakness, for Detective Stone, each move she makes could be deadly. As the body count starts to mount, Kim will have to dig deeper than ever before to stop the killing. And this time – it’s personal.

…a genuine one sitting read….

Back in the Black Country, back with DI Kim Stone, who in this cracking sequel finds herself locked in an evil mind game, with a deadly opponent.  If you enjoyed Silent Scream, you will love Evil Games. Faster, and more adrenaline fuelled, and with a truly evil antagonist who is destined to get under the skin of the troubled yet feisty DI, it’s a genuine one sitting read, as its villains heinous plan is slowly revealed.

It’s another gripping plot that will enthrall you, and make you question just how easily one person can manipulate another.  Beginning in court with the trial of a mother accused of trying to kill her child, a series of unrelated crimes are slowly revealed to be linked but only Stone knows who is behind it all. The difficult part is finding, someone, anyone who believes what she knows and can help her prove it.

I’m still amazed that this is just the second outing for Angela Marsons, serial character DI Kim Stone, as the writing is solid, the characters even more intriguing and the cracks in Kim Stone are cleverly picked at, giving us greater glimpses of both her weakness, and her inner strength.  A character with such a mixed and difficult background that I’m already looking forward to the next installment.

 

Silent Scream – Angela Marsons

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imageFive figures gather round a shallow grave. They had all taken turns to dig. An adult sized hole would have taken longer. An innocent life had been taken but the pact had been made. Their secrets would be buried, bound in blood …

Years later, a headmistress is found brutally strangled, the first in a spate of gruesome murders which shock the Black Country.

But when human remains are discovered at a former children’s home, disturbing secrets are also unearthed. D.I. Kim Stone fast realises she’s on the hunt for a twisted individual whose killing spree spans decades.

As the body count rises, Kim needs to stop the murderer before they strike again. But to catch the killer, can Kim confront the demons of her own past before it’s too late?

I picked up Silent Scream not just as a fan of crime fiction, but also because finally there is a book that has been set where I grew up.  My Great Great Grandfather’s portrait hangs in the pub in The Black Country Museum, and if you mention the names of either of my Grandmothers to many of the staff working there, they’ll know exactly who I am. I’m a proud direct descendent Black Country girl, who’s moved away from home, and the memories that have been brought to mind of the places I lived, played and went to school have been a delightful aside.  I also believe it’s one of the things that helps with the mystery and intrigue of Silent Scream. With so many modern-day novels set in big cities or rural backwaters, it’s fantastic to see something in a setting more accessible to many, with its own quirks and issues of just who polices whom.

I absolutely loved the character of Kim Stone, and not only because of a shared loved of Kawasaki motorbikes.  I enjoyed the way that rather than being given a motorbike as transport in an effort to ‘butch up’ her personality, our feisty DI is but a true petrol head with a passion for bikes old and new.   She’s a sarcastic, rule breaker who, despite her childhood, cares more for her team than she’d like to let on.  Gritty, and determined, this DI is one fantastic character you’ll immediately want to get behind with a great line in sarcasm that will genuinely make you smile.

With a great cast of supporting characters around her, all of whom are well-developed and will have you keen to learn more about them, what’s most surprising about Silent Scream is that it is a debut novel. It’s cleverly put together with an intriguing plot that pull you in and have you whizzing through pages.  I’m definitely adding Angela Marsons to my ‘authors to watch’ list.

The Dead Ground – Claire McGowan

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A month before Christmas, and Ballyterrin on the Irish border lies under a thick pall of snow. When a newborn baby goes missing from hospital, it’s all too close to home for forensic psychologist Paula Maguire, who’s wrestling with the hardest decision of her life.

Then a woman is found in a stone circle with her stomach cut open and it’s clear a brutal killer is on the loose.

As another child is taken and a pregnant woman goes missing, Paula is caught up in the hunt for a killer no one can trace, who will stop at nothing to get what they want.

The Dead Ground is the second outing for McGowans forensic psychologist Paula Maguire, and opens just a few weeks after the events of previous novel The Lost. Maguire is having to come to terms with the consequences of her recent actions, an unplanned pregnancy with two potential fathers, both of which come with their own sets of problems.

Maguire is a woman used to being able to make decisions about her own future, and McGowan deals well with issues she faces as a woman seeking a solution to a life changing situation in a country where abortion is still illegal.  She also handles well the strained relationships and fine political lines being walked both between the Serious Crime division and MPRU, as well as between the Northern and Southern Ireland police forces.

With an intelligent plot, and a killer most won’t see coming, The Dead Ground is a great read, and for those of you who haven’t read the first book, don’t be put off picking this up and reading it first.  It works well on its own, with enough information from The Lost to help you understand Maguires situation, and not enough to spoil your enjoyment of the book should you choose to go back and read it later.

Aunt Dimity and the Wishing Well – Nancy Atherton

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The sleepy Cotswold village of Finch is filled with curiosity when young Australian Jack MacBride arrives to wrap up his late uncle’s affairs, but when Lori Shepherd volunteers to help Jack clear out his uncle’s overgrown garden, they discover something even more surprising.

After making a wish in the newly uncovered well, Lori is later baffled to find it seems to have come true, and as word of this granted wish spreads though the village, locals begin to turn out in droves in order to make their own wishes.

The village soon descends into chaos however, as one man’s wish can be another’s worst nightmare, and it’s up to Lori, together with some otherworldly help from Aunt Dimity, to find out what is really going on.

One of the great things about bookbridgr from Headline is that it is a brilliant way of discovering new authors. You could have knocked me down with a feather when I discovered Aunt Dimity and the Wishing Well was actually the 19th book in its series, as it was one I had never heard of before and I love cosy crime mysteries and suspense novels.

I personally felt that Aunt Dimity and the Wishing Well falls somewhere between two of my favourite writers MC Beaton and Paul Magrs, so if you enjoy either of them you will love these. It was a thrilling read with an intriguing supernatural side that will keep you turning pages until you suddenly realise that several hours have passed, and you’ve been unable to put the book down.

It has charming, well thought through characters, and an enchanting setting. As someone who lives on the outskirts of the Cotswolds and likes to visit villages much like the fictional Finch it’s well drawn. I also found that I had no need to have read any of the previous 18 novels in order to enjoy this one. To me, Aunt Dimity and the Wishing Well was a delightful tale that left me feeling light-hearted and with a pleasant smile on my face as I closed the book. By the time I have sourced the rest of these novels, as I now surely must, my book shelves will be groaning!