Adult Fiction, Christmas 2018, Crime, Series

Poppy Denby Investigates by Fiona Veitch Smith

Another fabulous discovery for me this year is the Poppy Denby Investigates series. I do love a whodunnit and have been a big Agatha Christie fan for many, many years, so these tick all sorts of boxes for me. I read book four in the series, The Cairo Brief, just recently and have since received the previous three titles which I very much look forward to curling up with. This series is perfect for lovers of a good, classic crime novel. Poppy Denby is a feisty, intelligent protagonist and I very much look forward to following her adventures.

Find out more about the series by visiting author Fiona Veitch Smith’s website here.

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Adult Fiction, Crime, Fiction, Guest Post, Liz Robinson Reviews, Series

Sarah Hilary – A Liz Robinson Author of the Month

Sarah Hilary is my author of the month, her DI Marnie Rome crime series from Headline Publishing is one of my favourites, and I get way too excited when I know the next book is due. Her series starts with Someone Else’s Skin, which simply blew me away. It won the Old Peculiar Crime Novel of the Year in 2015, and is followed by No Other Darkness, Tastes Like Fear, Quieter Than Killing, and her latest Come and Find Me which for me is quite possibly, her best yet.

I recently saw Sarah talking at ‘Cream of Crime’ held at the Steyning Festival, she chatted alongside Erin Kelly, Mark Billingham, and William Shaw. It was a fabulous evening and gave me a real insight into the way Sarah writes and thinks about her books. Sarah said that she particularly enjoys writing about the psychology of a crime, she really doesn’t want to write about good and bad, and questions who the monster really is. To write about darkness you also need light, and she doesn’t ever want to feel numb about what she is writing about.  Sarah doesn’t like to plan, she just jumps off and starts to write, letting the plot surprise her. She has a friend who keeps a spreadsheet detailing every character in her books so she doesn’t get lost, as her fear is writing herself into a corner.

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Sarah Hilary talking at Steyning Festival’s ‘Cream of Crime’.

Liz – What is your first book memory, is it a happy one, does it have any reflection on, or link to what you write today? What were your childhood must reads.

Sarah – My first is a very happy memory: my grandmother reading a book called ‘Helen’s Babies’ to me and my siblings as we rolled around with laughter. We were a great family for books. All my earliest reads were recommended by my mother who introduced me to Georgette Heyer, Arthur Conan Doyle, Edgar Allan Poe and Mary Stewart. As a small child, I love the Faraway Tree and Malory Towers by Enid Blyton, but also the Greek myths and short stories by Eleanor Farjeon some of which have really disturbing themes. I loved being scared by stories, even then.

Liz – For how long were Marnie, Noah, and Stephen in your mind before they escaped onto the page? In which order did they appear and did they exist first or the story?

Sarah – Marnie had a walk-on part in an earlier story where I needed a detective. The first time she appeared she was undercover in biker boots and a punk wig, which I’ve always thought oddly appropriate. In fact, that might be why I gave her such a spiky vibe, and the backstory about her teenage years as a rebel. Noah came much later, and made a far calmer entrance. There’s a solidity and a happiness to Noah which readers love (and I love, too). Stephen was the last to appear. He likes to stay in the shadows, as you might expect for a double murderer who’s keeping terrible secrets.

Liz – I’m rather taken with Stephen as a character, what is it like to have Stephen prowling around in your mind, how often does he knock at the door of your consciousness and how does he speak to you?

Sarah – Stephen is one of my favourite characters to write, although it’s really all about the tension in the scenes between him and Marnie. Stephen doesn’t speak to me much, but he has a habit of standing at my shoulder as I write, or else watching me with his dark eyes from across the room. I find him quite frightening, but I do love writing (and reading) these very dark characters.

Liz – I love your integrity on social media, if something riles you, do you wait, strategise, or launch straight in?

Sarah – Oh blimey ..! Sometimes I don’t wait, although I always try to because it never helps to just add fuel to a fight. There’s an awful lot of bullying and bigotry online. I cannot bear bullies so I find it hard to ignore that sort of thing. It’s becoming harder and harder to be on social media, though. Trump and Brexit have both had the effect of giving nasty people a sense of validation – I’m constantly staggered by the malice and ignorance I see online.

Liz – Who would have the best social media presence and why… Marnie, Noah, or Stephen?

Sarah – Noah, for sure. He would post pics of him and Dan dancing, plus Jamaican recipes and sunny words of wisdom. I don’t think Marnie would go near social media. As for Stephen, can you imagine his Twitter account? “Mood: murderous”. Maybe an Instagram account with photoshopped pictures of him and Marnie as siblings …

Liz – Is there a question you’ve never been asked and wish you had?

Sarah – I love to be asked who I think the real monsters are in my books. Stephen is many things, but I don’t think of him as a monster. There’s a woman in ‘Someone Else’s Skin’ who works in a refuge. She’s one of the worst monsters I’ve ever written.

LizThank you Sarah, fabulous answers – and just to let you know, I now really want to see Stephen’s instagram account!

You can find Sarah at http://sarah-crawl-space.blogspot.com

Sarah can be found on twitter as @sarah_hilary she has a strong social media presence, and is wonderfully approachable.

Come and Find Me was published in hardback and eBook on the 22nd of March and will be published in paperback on the 4th of October 2018.

Book six in the series, Never Be Broken, is due to be published in May 2019 and so now is the perfect time to discover this fantastic author if you haven’t done so already.

 

Adult Fiction, Crime, Liz Robinson Reviews, Series, Spy, Thriller

Matt Johnson – A Liz Robinson Author of the Month

Liz Robinson knows a good book when she reads one and this month she has picked Matt Johnson, as the author who has stood out and grabbed her attention with his final instalment of the critically acclaimed ‘Robert Finlay’ trilogy.  Read on for her review of this fast-paced, gripping finale and also a fascinating Q&A with the author himself.

End Game by Matt Johnson

End GameA fiery, fast-paced, bullet of a read, and the last in the Robert Finlay trilogy. Continuing on from ‘Deadly Game’, Robert Finlay and Kevin Jones find themselves in the middle of a whole heap of trouble. A Superintendent from the Complaints Investigation Branch is on the warpath, and then quite separately, a document from the past puts the two men directly in the firing line, and things turn very, very personal. Matt Johnson has the most credible and authentic voice, he blends his knowledge as a soldier and police officer into an absolutely cracking storyline. Finlay’s post traumatic stress disorder can clearly be felt in the small but biting descriptions of PTSD, it is a part of him, but not the whole of him, and he is an incredibly engaging character. A suitably dramatic end ensured I was kept on the edge of my seat. ‘The Robert Finlay’ trilogy has been a thunderingly good read, and ‘End Game’ is a wonderfully thrilling, gripping, and fitting conclusion. – Liz Robinson

Synopsis

Robert Finlay seems to have finally left his SAS past behind him and is settled into his new career as a detective. But when the girlfriend of his former SAS colleague and close friend Kevin Jones is murdered, it’s clear that Finlay’s troubles are far from over. Jones is arrested for the killing, but soon escapes from jail, and Finlay is held responsible for the breakout. Suspended from duty and sure he’s being framed too, our hero teams up with MI5 agent Toni Fellowes to find out who’s behind the conspiracy. Their quest soon reveals a plot that goes to the very heart of the UK’s security services. End Game, the final part in the critically acclaimed Robert Finlay trilogy, sees our hero in an intricately plotted and terrifyingly fast-paced race to uncover the truth and escape those who’d sooner have him dead than be exposed.

Matt Johnson

Matt JohnsonMatt Johnson served as a soldier and Metropolitan Police officer for twenty-five years. Blown off his feet at the London Baltic Exchange bombing in 1993, and one of the first police officers on the scene of the 1982 Regent’s Park bombing, Matt was also at the Libyan People’s Bureau shooting in 1984 where he escorted his mortally wounded friend and colleague, Yvonne Fletcher, to hospital. Hidden wounds took their toll. In 1999, Matt was discharged from the police with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

While undergoing treatment, he was encouraged by his counsellor to write about his career and his experience of murders, shootings and terrorism. One evening, Matt sat at his computer and started to weave these notes into a work of fiction that he described as having a tremendously cathartic effect on his own condition. His bestselling thriller, Wicked Game, which was shortlisted for the CWA John Creasey Dagger, was the result. Deadly Game once again draws on Matt’s experiences and drips with the same raw authenticity of its predecessor. – Orenda Books

Liz in conversation with Matt

Liz – ‘In End Game (book three), Robert Finlay is called in to act as a negotiator, the whole scenario, including Robert’s thoughts and how he speaks to hostage-taker Doug has such a ring of truth about it. How did you draw on your own experiences as a negotiator to write about Robert’s handling of the situation?’

Matt – ‘Police negotiators are all volunteers. I can’t speak for how things are today as policy may well have changed, but when I first applied to be considered I went through a selection process that included a realistic portrayal where each candidate assumed the role as negotiator. That set the basis for quite a bit of the subsequent training where theory and good practice, initiative and operational procedure were repeatedly rehearsed and tested in realistic make-believe scenarios.

Writing about such a situation is, in some ways, much easier than doing it live. In the hot-seat, you have to think on your feet, you don’t have time to fully think through the implications of every question, every response and every statement. If you get it wrong you can go back and start again, not a privilege granted in the real world, unfortunately.

Aware that I wanted to get around the luxury of that privilege, I decided to enact the scenario with a serving negotiator with me playing the role of the hostage taker. I recorded the resulting conversation and then edited it to an acceptable length for the book, added in the thoughts of the character and the descriptions of the scene. I was pleased with the result which, I believe, is as realistic as I could have made it.

Liz – ‘All three books have characters who have formed incredibly close bonds during their working careers. How important has camaraderie been to you, particularly when in high pressured and dangerous situations, and how difficult or easy was it to portray in your books?’

Matt – ‘One thing that has always struck me when reading books that enter my former working world is how many of them focus on a maverick, a character who bucks the system, who works on his (or her) own and achieves results despite the resources available rather than as a result of them. The truth is that the military and police services are very much about achieving success through team-work and good leadership. In creating the character of Finlay I wanted to show him make use of this aspect of policing and, whilst I accept that individuals do have a place, it is often through the pooling of ideas, skills and expertise that solutions are found and cases solved.

In both the police and military worlds, loyalty is immensely important. It is being part of that team – being a member – that can bring out the best in people, the heroism, the bravery, the willingness to go out on a limb for a comrade. Sometimes, of course, that sense of camaraderie can be mis-guided and loyalty can overcome good sense. But, generally speaking, soldiers and coppers need it to get their job done.

It’s difficult to answer the question as to whether that camaraderie was easy to portray or not. What I would say is that it is probably that part of the job I miss the most. There are times when I meet up with both old and new friends from that world and I’m aware that we soon become quickly comfortable in each others company. Writing about that side of my old world – describing it in a way that appeals to a reader – is something that I do my best to achieve.’

Liz – ‘Were you an avid reader before you started writing?’

Matt – ‘As a child, yes. I can still recall the excitement I felt as I rushed home from the local library with a clutch of books selected from the shelves. I used to particularly enjoy science-fiction in those days, possibly inspired by the TV coverage of the moon landings.

As an adult, work and other demands got in the way and I got out of the habit of reading. I became a holiday reader of novels and tended to focus on reading more non-fiction in the small amount of free time I had available.

I had some favourites, of course. Joseph Wambaugh’s ‘The Choirboys’ was one, as was ‘The Alchemist’ by Paulo Coelho. Even now that I’m writing myself, I wouldn’t describe myself as an avid reader. I always have one or two books on the go but they can take me upwards of a month to finish. At the moment I’m reading the ‘Eleanor Oliphant’ story. It’s a breath of fresh air, really good. To have found Gail Honeyman’s debut – a birthday present, I’d add – was a real delight.

Liz – How different is the book world to your expectations?

Matt – Now that’s a tough one to answer as I’m not sure what I really expected. I can say with some certainty that it is very, very different from my previous professional worlds. Policing, for example, can be a very fast moving and reactive world, publishing is more nuanced and considered. But, with time, I’m learning to understand not only the fact that publishing is different but why that is so. There are good reasons why this industry operates in the way it does and, let’s face it, it’s an industry that has been around for a very long time – longer than policing, I might add!

Liz – What are you planning next?

Matt – To take a break, to refresh and rejuvenate my thoughts before starting on my next writing project. I have a few ideas – too many, to be honest – that I need to research and then make a decision on where to focus my efforts.

And I want to spend time meeting readers. I’ve very much enjoyed the interaction of social media and the opportunities I’ve had to talk on national radio but what I really appreciate most is sitting down with people who love reading, who know their books, and who have read my work. I’m humbled by complimentary remarks and I hope that never changes. I also welcome constructive criticism as I want to know if people like what I write and why they like it, so I can learn from that feedback and improve.

One day, who knows, I might get it right.

You can find out more about Matt here.

End Game is published by Orenda Books in paperback on the 31st March 2018.