Go on a Crime Spree and get short stories for free!

Taking a break before you dive in to your next book? Not sure what to read next? Maybe you haven’t read any (or many) short stories before, or maybe you think you don’t like them (?!) This is your cue to give them another chance, and perhaps to try out some authors you might not have read before . . . for free!

For a limited time only, you can download FREE short stories from 12 top UK crime & thriller writers, including: Mark Edwards, Harry Bingham, Katerina Diamond, C.L. Taylor, J.F. Penn, Angela Clarke, Lucy Dawson, Rebecca Bradley, Simon Toyne, Cal Moriarty, Marnie Riches (and ME!)

So why don’t you put the kettle on, make yourself comfortable, and get reading 🙂

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GET YOUR FREE eBOOKS HERE

Please note: If you’ve already signed up to my mailing list, you can get my short story collection featuring ‘As Black as Snow’, ‘The Outhouse’ and ‘Pretty Woman’ by clicking on the book cover below (otherwise you might be signed up twice . . .)

 

Girls On Top: Sex in Crime (Part 2)

‘Don’t you think there should be more people handcuffed to beds in thrillers?’

…says Mark Edwards (The Devil’s Work) over at CrimeThrillerGirl (aka Steph Broadribb)’s blog, where we are talking about SEX in crime fiction (you should read PART 1 first!) Part 2 continues below…

[STEPH] Many of the female crime thriller writers we spoke to agreed with Mark and enjoy putting sex into their books. Angela Clarke has a sex scene in a disabled toilet in her thriller Follow Me, and Elizabeth Haynes has her detective almost die in a queening box in Under a Silent Moon.

Alexandra Sokoloff said, ‘Most of my books have the common theme of an equal male and female protagonist (or in my Huntress series, an equal and combative male protagonist and female villain) joining forces to solve some horrific crime. And erotic tension is just part of the mix, and when those two people finally come together (yes, I meant that) it has to be explosive and character revealing.’

Marnie Riches writes a lot of sex scenes in her ‘The Girl Who…’ series, she said of women writing sex scenes, ‘Maybe we have the vocabulary for desire more naturally and are less embarrassed.’

[SUSI] I think Marnie makes a good point here. I don’t think there are many female writers out there who didn’t read some of their mum’s books with the naughty bits in, as teens – you know, stuff like Jilly Cooper and Jackie Collins – girls, I think, are more inclined to explore these images of desire, and thus as adults are possibly more inclined to write about them? Mark Edwards aside (who makes a good job of it, so to speak), I think females might have the upper-hand when it comes to making sex scenes sexy and not cringey! My biggest problem with sex scenes is when people use what I consider to be THE WRONG WORDS, especially too many of the wrong words… Doing research for this article I searched several novels for certain words and found that ‘penis’ came out as a very over-used word (especially by male authors) – please… come on. It’s cock, surely?

[STEPH] I totally get that, there’s nothing more likely to put you off your stroke than a badly used sex word. ‘Her sex’ is particularly cringe-worthy to me, as are ‘lady-parts’; she’s a woman, therefore all of her is a lady part – be specific! My only exception to this is that I think it’s important the choice of word fits the character – so if the character is very repressed maybe they would call it ‘her sex’ (shudders) but if they’re a tough talking, kick-ass woman that’d be the totally wrong fit.

While we were writing this the only area of disagreement Susi and me had was over ‘panties’. I have the word panties in DEEP DOWN DEAD at least once – during flashback to when my lead character was working as a stripper. It works for the scene and it works in the American voice, but I know the panties set Susi’s teeth on edge!

Even if you decide you’re going to include it, writing good sex is a tricky business. Too little information and its just confusing, too much and it reads like a sex manual – neither are much fun, and neither are sexy – so how to get the perfect balance? If the nominees in the annual Bad Sex Award are anything to go by, the more metaphors and similes used when describing sex increase your risk tenfold. Critically acclaimed writers can fall foul of this too. And, if you’ve not already had the chance, I recommend listening to the hilarious Bad Sex Award special podcast by the brilliant Two Crime Writers and a Microphone.  Listening to Steve Cavanagh and Luca Veste reading out each nominated scene makes the pitfalls of writing a sex scene abundantly clear!

[SUSI] Exactly. Just as in the art of seduction itself, writing a good sex scene involves giving it just the right amount, and no more. The words used are important, and you need to make sure it’s just the right length (ahem!) – any more and you’re venturing into erotica territory, and that’s not what we’re talking about here (btw, for brilliantly written erotica/crime – try something by Ava Marsh… for grubby but nonetheless entertaining erotica/crime… try L.S Hilton‘s Maestra) As author Mel SherrattWatching over You – says, go for the ‘hot and horny, but quick scenes.’ This is spot on. Don’t get too graphic, but don’t be too scared to give us a decent flavour. My top tip for writing a sex scene – if it turns you on when you are writing it and reading it back, it will most likely have the same effect on the reader.

[STEPH] That’s a great tip! Another thing I’d say is that although books (and films) like Bond have always included a lot of sex scenes, and they’re always told from the male point of view. Personally I always give a little cheer when I’m reading a book and the female character takes the POV for a sex scene. Maybe that’s one of the subconscious reasons I wanted to write a sex scene from Lori Anderson’s point of view. Maybe I just like to see girls on top!

[SUSI] I agree. I definitely think women writing it from the female POV works best. You know, all the way through this, all I’ve been able to think about is the reverse cowgirl squat, which would be quite apt for Lori, don’t you think?

[STEPH] Oh hell yeah!!

So, we’ve had our say, what do you think – do you like a sprinkling of sex with your crime? And, if you do, what’s the most memorable sex scene in a crime thriller for you? Tweet us at @crimethrillgirl and @sjiholliday using #GirlsOnTop to let us know.

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Steph Broadribb is an alumni of the MA Creative Writing at City University London and trained as a bounty hunter in California. Her debut novel DEEP DOWN DEAD is out now – here’s the blurb: Lori Anderson is as tough as they come keeping her career as a Florida bounty hunter separate from her role as single mother to nine-year-old Dakota, who suffers from leukaemia. But when the hospital bills rack up, she has no choice but to take a job that will make her a fast buck. And that’s when things go wrong. The fugitive she’s chasing is JT, Lori former mentor – the man who taught her all she knows … the man who also knows the secrets of her murky past. Find out more at www.crimethrillergirl.com.

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This article was first Published on Barry Forshaw’s blog: CRIMETIME

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You can buy my books here: SJI Holliday’s Amazon Page (and in all good book shops)

Join my mailing list HERE to be entered into competitions and receive my occasional newsletter.

Recent Reads

Screen Shot 2016-07-10 at 15.00.29Exposure – Ava Marsh

If you ever wondered what leads seemingly ‘normal’ people into the sex trade, this is the perfect book for you. A sharp, dark and edgy thriller with a cracker of a heroine and a neatly woven storyline. Ava Marsh is a talented writer with the wonderful knack of pulling the reader right in to the story, dragging them kicking and screaming right through to the explosive and completely unexpected ending. Highly recommended.

Screen Shot 2016-07-10 at 14.58.36The Stepmother – Claire Seeber 

A psychological thriller in the style of a fairytale, this is something daring, different and impossible to put down. I loved and hated the expertly drawn characters in equal measure. I had butterflies throughout, awaiting the next twist, never quite knowing who was doing the dastardly deeds. This was an extremely clever read, and a refreshing change from the usual toxic marriage situation that is currently the fashion in crime thrillers. A quirkily written mystery from an excellent author. Read it now!

Screen Shot 2016-07-10 at 14.57.00Never Alone – Elizabeth Haynes

I’m a big fan of Haynes’ standalones thrillers, mainly because she writes creepy villains so, so well. This is a neatly woven story of a lonely woman, an isolated farmhouse cut off by inclement weather, and an old friend who may not be quite what he seems. Throw in some complicated family dynamics and a good dose of sex, and you’ve got a suspenseful, emotionally charged tale that will get right under your skin.

Screen Shot 2016-07-10 at 14.55.25The Devil’s Work – Mark Edwards 

The office environment is a great setting for a creepy tale (nicely done earlier this year, too, by Tammy Cohen in ‘When She Was Bad’) and Edwards uses this dynamic to his advantage in his latest page-turning thriller. What’s the story with publisher Franklin Bird, who seems to know things about his employees that he shouldn’t really know? And what secrets from university are taunting Sophie Greenwood, as she returns to work and tries to take charge of a challenging project and an over-keen assistant who is seemingly doing all she can to bring her down? With his last book, ‘Follow You Home’ and now this latest offering, Edwards is tapping into his influences of King and Levin, to bring a good dose of horror into his everyday situations. Twisted and chilling, I dare you to try and put this one down.

Screen Shot 2016-07-10 at 14.53.23I’m Thinking of Ending Things – Iain Reid

This is a short, intense read (which I read late at night and early into the morning), a book that as soon as you finish, you really want to read again. Expertly written, stylish, oozing with suspense and in the end, very, VERY clever. If you want something a little different, that will stay with you and haunt you for a long time afterwards, read this.

Screen Shot 2016-07-10 at 14.50.11Vanishing Point – Daniel Pembrey

An excellent short story by a writer who is fast becoming one of my favourites. This is about a rather dodgy sounding yoga retreat, and one man’s search for answers surrounding the death of his wife. Told with Pembrey’s characteristic wit and dark humour, not to mention his wonderful use of language, this is yet another tale that oozes so much authenticity that you just KNOW the author has spent time in a place like this. Brilliant.

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My latest novel WILLOW WALK has been getting rave reviews. You can buy it in all good bookshops, and the ebook is currently on offer on Amazon and Kobo. If you liked it, please leave a review 🙂

quentin

October Update: Bouchercon and Book News

Me with Jennifer Hillier

Me with Jennifer Hillier

Earlier this month, I travelled to Raleigh, North Carolina for my second US based crime festival of the year – Bouchercon. This was a whirlwind of panels, parties and mingling in the bar (of course) and it was great to meet up with lots of readers and fellow authors, spending time with old friends and new.

This is the biggest crime festival I’ve been to so far in terms of reader attendance – I have never seen so many crime fiction fans in one place… and books – the books!!! I was very pleased to sell out of my stock of Black Wood at McIntyre’s Books (I just wish I’d had time to go and visit their gorgeous book store).

I was part of the ‘Stiff Upper Lip – British Investigations are Murder’ panel on Thursday afternoon, along with Aly Monroe, Deborah Griffiths, Anne Cleeland and Elly Griffiths.What am I saying?

We were in a large room and there was a huge (and very responsive) audience, so although daunting, it was great fun.

Stiff Upper Lip - British Investigations are Murder (Aly Monroe, Deborah Crombie, Anne Cleeland, Elly Griffiths and me)

Aly Monroe, Deborah Crombie, Anne Cleeland, Elly Griffiths and me

My second event was a very early start on Saturday morning – the 7am Debut Authors’ Breakfast (sponsored by Crooked Lane Books).

This is where approximately 60 debut authors (except for the ones who slept in…) were invited to give a one minute pitch to try and tempt a room full of avid book-reading breakfasters to buy their book. I kept mine short and sweet, and the main comments I received afterwards in the lobby were “We’re going to buy your book because we just LOVE your accent!” 🙂

After the festival was over, my mum and I took off on a road trip to celebrate our joint 100th birthdays… we drove down the Blue Ridge Parkway, taking in the gorgeous fall scenery, and the towns of Blowing Rock and Asheville. You can see lots of photos here:

AND, as if that wasn’t enough for one month, one my return (while battling a horrible cold), the news of my second and third books was released via The Bookseller. You can see the announcement here… and you can look at my pinterest board to get a flavour of Willow Walk here – more info to follow in due course (I am currently working on the edits) 🙂

What else? Well I’ve read a few brilliant books recently – Mark Edwards and Louise Voss’s ‘The Blissfully Dead’, Steve Mosby’s ‘I Know Who Did It’, Jennifer Hillier’s ‘Wonderland’ and Alex Marwood’s ‘The Darkest Secret’… and one that you should be reading right now: Chris Ewan’s ‘Dark Tides’… here’s the creepy poem that children sing for Hop-tu-Naa (Manx Halloween):

Hop-tu-Naa,
My mother’s gone away,
And she wont be back until the morning.
Jinnie the Witch flew over the house,
To fetch the stick to lather the mouse.
Hop-tu-Naa
My mother’s gone away
And she wont be back until the morning
Hop-tu-Naa, Traa-la-laa.

…and now I’m off out to buy a pumpkin to carve to get prepped for this weekend.

Happy Halloween!

The Venus Trap by Louise Voss #review

Screen Shot 2015-02-12 at 17.27.38With Valentine’s Day on the horizon, what better than to share my thoughts on a fantastic psychological thriller of obsession and unrequited love?

Here’s the blurb: 

Jo Atkins’ sixteenth year was disastrous: she lost her dad, was assaulted by a stranger, and then had her heart broken. For the last twenty-five years, she’s believed that nothing could ever be as bad again.

She was wrong.

Now, still smarting from her recent divorce, pretty, self-effacing Jo finally gathers the courage to enter the dating scene. She meets Claudio, whom she vaguely remembers from her youth, but after a few dates decides he’s creepy and politely tells him ‘thanks but no thanks’.

But Claudio has no intention of letting her go.

Instead of never seeing him again, Jo wakes up sick and terrified, handcuffed to her own bed. She is given a week to prove her love for Claudio—or he will kill her.

Claudio, it turns out, is a man with nothing left to lose…

And what did I think? Well, firstly, thank you to the author – the lovely Louise Voss – and the publisher for the review copy via Netgalley.

This is the first of Louise’s solo novels I’ve read, and I did wonder how it would differ from those written with her co-writer, Mark Edwards. I’m not sure what comparisons can be made, other than to say that both authors produce very well written, engaging stories that pull you in and keep you there. The main difference, I’d say, is that this is much more of a woman’s book, in many ways (not to say that men couldn’t learn a thing or two from it about what NOT to do!) In The Venus Trap, there is a lot of talk of past dating disasters and the main character, Jo, narrates these in the midst of her current biggest disaster – a date that has led to her being kidnapped and imprisoned in her own home by a man she vaguely remembers from school.

Her tormentor tries to torture her into loving him.

As things unravel, we start to work out what has made him act like this, and through the schoolgirl diaries of Jo, we get a beautiful, if tragic, story of her past loves, her difficult teenage years and what has shaped her into the woman she is. Voss has a knack for capturing the teenage angst with brilliant, often dark humour. There are many excellent turns of phrase and proper laugh out loud moments, in both teenage Jo and adult Jo’s accounts, and the dark side of her current situation is neatly and believably handled. This is one of those books that you’ll want to recommend to your friends, so much of it is relatable – especially for anyone who has suffered the perils of the dating scene.

I can’t recommend it highly enough.

ALSO… as The Venus Trap is released on 24th February, which is the same date as the eBook release of Black Wood, Louise and I will be collaborating and chatting over at LizLovesBooks.

Don’t miss it!!

I Want to Believe… The Story Behind ‘What You Wish For’

I’m very pleased to welcome Mark Edwards back to the blog to tell us about his new thriller, What You Wish For.

As with Mark’s previous solo novel, The Magpies, I flew through this book. The main character of Richard is engaging, the storyline quirky, fast-paced and very enjoyable. Addictive reading from a master of the page-turner 🙂

See blurb below, followed by a post from Mark on the inspiration for the novel.

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From the author of No.1 bestseller The Magpies comes a gripping new tale of suspense.

Marie Walker has vanished from the face of the earth…

Her besotted boyfriend, newspaper photographer Richard Thompson, vows to find her, convinced that Marie’s unusual beliefs hold the key.

But a shocking discovery makes him question if he ever really knew his girlfriend. And when people around him start to die, Richard is plunged into terrible danger.

Drawn into the world of a sinister cult and the darkest corners of the Internet, Richard finds himself increasingly out of his depth – as he discovers just how far people will go to protect what they believe in…

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I Want to Believe… The Story Behind ‘What You Wish For’

My new novel, ‘What You Wish For’, is a book about a group of people who believe in aliens. But it’s not a book about aliens – or UFOs, or abductions, or little grey men – even though on the surface it’s a thriller featuring a search for a missing woman who is convinced that she can communicate with extra-terrestrials and is set in a world of UFO-fanatics.

As Stephen King says in ‘On Writing’, most good books have themes, but the story should always come first…and as you are writing, the theme will emerge. This is exactly what happened when I wrote ‘What You Wish For’.

I started writing this book waaaay back in 1997 and it was originally going to be called ‘Staring Into Space’. Back then, aliens were trendy. The X Files was the biggest programme on TV, that Levi’s ad featuring ‘Spaceman’ by Babylon Zoo had recently been a massive hit, and the media was full of stories about alien autopsies and crop circles. Pre-millennial madness perhaps. One Sunday afternoon when I was walking on the East Hill in Hastings, where I lived, I bumped in to my best friend from primary school. I hadn’t seen him for years. We went for a drink and he told me, excitedly, that he had recently been to Roswell to see where the US Government kept the bodies of the aliens that had crash-landed in the New Mexico desert. His eyes burned with the conviction of a religious zealot. (I haven’t seen my old friend since. Maybe he’s been abducted.)

This sparked the idea for a novel, and after reading up on what UFO-watchers believe, I started writing it. I finished a first draft but then moved onto something else (my memory is blurry).

Fast-forward a decade and a half. I have lost most of my hair, fathered four children, and have achieved the dream I had back then: I am now a full-time writer, with a couple of publishing deals under my belt. I am also, I think, a much better writer due to all the years of practice.

Just before Christmas, I was moving a load of boxes into our loft. One of these boxes contained all my manuscripts from the nineties. I sat and looked through them, cringing slightly, but then came upon ‘Staring Into Space’. Leafing through it, I realised that there was the seed of something good here. It was rough and needed a lot of work. And it only existed on paper – this was the only copy in the world. I took it to Prontaprint who scanned and converted it into a PDF and, through the magic of modern technology, I soon had it in Word.

I spent the next few months completely rewriting it. The original idea and most of the plot, along with the main characters, remained. As did all of the stuff about aliens. Despite rumours of a third X Files movie, E.T.s are not so zeitgeisty now. This worried me a little. But as I worked on the novel, it struck me that it didn’t matter, because this book is not about aliens.

It’s about belief.

I had tapped into a theme without meaning to, my younger self subconsciously working through an issue that meant, and still means, a lot to me. Belief, and faith. What is it that makes some people believe so strongly in something that they let it take over their lives? Why do some people have such strong faith, or convictions, that they will kill strangers, even start wars? Or what is it that makes less extreme people go to church every Sunday?

And what about the rest of us – people like me? Like the narrator of ‘What You Wish For’, I don’t have any strong religious or political beliefs. Of course, I have convictions. For example, I am a vegetarian because I don’t like the idea that an animal was killed so I can eat it. But I don’t let it affect my life beyond not buying or eating meat.

This book explores what happens when a believer and non-believer meet and fall in love, and then what happens when the non-believer poses a threat to people who will do anything to protect their faith. The novel would still work, I think, if the believer was a religious fundamentalist or political activist. The difference is that most of us see people who believe in aliens as harmless nutcases. Except in my book, they’re not harmless.

There’s a part of me that thinks that when this book is published it will come to the attention of an Intergalactic Council, who will dispatch a squad of other-worldly assassins to deal with me and my blasphemous ways. But of course that won’t happen.

Will it?

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Thanks Mark! What You Wish For is available now on Amazon.

Review

Having really enjoyed the author’s other books (both solo and in partnership with Louise Voss) I was very excited to read this book. The storyline is offers something different, a mix of love bordering on obsession, the hunt for a missing girl and the shadowy world of cults. The main character, Richard, is a joy to read, and the people he comes across on the way to find his missing girlfriend, Marie are realistically portrayed – even if they’re not the type of characters you might be used to reading about – delusional misfits and hints of a very shady underworld where aliens – yes – the bulbous headed abduction type – hold the key to the future… for some people, at least. The story harks back to a time when alien sightings were almost commonplace in the media, and the people who believed… and those cynics who flatly refused to. Richard is grounded in reality, yet he is drawn into a world where he has to question the truth if he wants to find his girl. This is not a sci-fi novel – this is a novel about people from different backgrounds being thrown together into the mix. Ultimately it is a story about losing someone, and coming to the realisation that they may not want to be found. Fast-paced and very enjoyable, this is addictive reading from a master of the page-turner.

Books I’ve Enjoyed in 2013

There are a lot of ‘best books of 2013’ posts circulating at the moment, so I thought I’d share with you the books I have enjoyed this year, not those necessarily published this year… although I am not selecting those that come out early next year (even though I have read them…) Confused? Ok, in no particular order – I really liked these:

Merry Christmas!

Do YOU have scary neighbours? Tell us about it and win a copy of #themagpies

Mark Edwards

‘Few of us actually live next to door to Dennis Nilsen, the Muswell Hill murder who chopped up fifteen visitors to his flat and flushed them down the toilet…’ says Mark Edwards, this week’s guest. Well, I dunno. I suspect my neighbour of similar offences, but as I have no proof… *sigh* Read on for the story behind The Magpies  – and a competition to win a copy of the book (which is brilliant, by the way – review is here)

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In The Magpies, a young couple move into their first home together and start planning the future – imagining all of those things that form plot points in the story of most people’s lives: nesting, marriage, kids. But, unfortunately for Jamie and Kirsty, they have moved into a building where the neighbours are not as friendly as they first seem. And soon, the young couple’s nest is under threat of being torn apart…

In my twenties, I lived in a flat in a converted Victorian building in St Leonards-on-Sea, a small town stuck onto the side of Hastings, where I grew up. My then-girlfriend moved into the flat first and lived alone for a few months while I was finishing university. During this time on her own, she met our new neighbours – a couple in their early thirties who spent the next two years doing everything possible to make our lives miserable: constant complaints, insulting letters and notes, hoax parcels, cigarette butts pushed under the door… It was all quite low-key stuff, although some of the letters, in which they complained about such things as the sound of ‘the toilet brush thrashing about the pan’ and my ‘boring guffaw’ (guffaw? I don’t guffaw!) were flabbergasting.

It made me think about how much worse it could get. What if our neighbours had not just been a bit nuts, and pesky, but actually….evil? What if they had set out to ruin our lives? Could they have done it? How would we have reacted? Thus the seed of The Magpies was born. I wanted to write a horror story that had no supernatural elements – more an everyday horror that could happen to anyone.

In Britain, we are obsessed with our homes. Apart from other people’s sex lives, cats, fuel prices and the rubbishness of the country’s public transport system, it’s one of the golden topics that everyone is interested in. Property prices, what the people next door have done to their living room… It’s a middle-class conversational topic that we never get bored of.

And while we are obsessed with our – and other people’s homes – we are thrown together, crammed onto this little island, forced to live in close proximity to other people and all the annoying things they do. Most of the stuff that irritates us about our neighbours is pretty mundane: excessive noise, where they park their car, the cat that craps in our flower beds, the mental Christmas lights that make their house look like Las Vegas every December.

Few of us actually live next to door to Dennis Nilsen, the Muswell Hill murder who chopped up fifteen visitors to his flat and flushed them down the toilet in his flat. Not many of us have neighbours like Fred and Rose West, or even the 83-year-old gran Ethel Watkins who was recently convicted of waging psychological warfare against her neighbours after a football landed in her garden. Ethel banged on the walls all night, made up rude songs about the family and taunted them over the death of their baby.

But what if we did live next door to a psycho who is intent on ruining your nest? What would you do? In The Magpies, Jamie is forced to make a decision – should he stay and fight, or run? What do you do when all of your dreams, and the things you took for granted, are dismantled or smashed to pieces? Especially when you have no real idea what you’re up against.

The Magpies was released last week and the reaction from readers has, so far, been incredible, which is a relief as I was nervous about putting out a solo book. But people seem to connect with the story and find it exciting and scary. Now that it’s in the Amazon top 40 I’m bracing myself for all the reviews complaining about how there aren’t any real magpies in it, when they thought it was an ornithological guide, but hopefully the book will connect with people and make a few readers have sleepless nights – and not because there’s an 83-year-old woman banging on their wall and making up rude songs about them.

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About Mark

Mark was born in Tunbridge Wells and grew up in Hastings on the south coast of England.  He started writing after he left university, where he studied Sociology, and wrote half-a-dozen novels during the 1990s while doing two of the worst jobs in the world: working for the Child Support Agency and Connex Rail, where he spent his days being shouted at by angry absent parents and even angrier commuters. He secured an agent but was unable to get a publisher.

In 1999 he featured on a BBC documentary about aspiring writers, which led to his partnership with Louise Voss.  As well as writing, he is a freelance marketer, copywriter and operates IndieIQ, a website for self-published writers.

You can find out more about Mark and Louise at their website Louise Voss and Mark Edwards and on their facebook page where they interact with readers and hold loads of competitions 🙂

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!!COMPETITION TIME!!

Mark has kindly donated a signed paperback copy of The Magpies for the winner of the best scary/crazy/weird neighbour story. Tell us about your experiences in the comments below, and Mark will pick a winner.

Comp will close on 7th April.

Note – some people have issues with my commenty thing – sorry about that! You don’t need to sign in or enter your email to comment and you don’t need to connect to twitter etc, but please put a way of contacting you in the comment thread so we can send you your book if you win!

UPDATE: The winner of the book is Anna (@ruanna3) – well done for surviving that one, Anna! Thanks to all who entered – some very scary tales 🙂

The Magpies by Mark Edwards #review

Fear lives next door…

THE MAGPIES is a terrifying psychological thriller in which the monsters are not vampires or demons but the people we live next door to. It is a nightmare that could happen to anyone.

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The Magpies is the first standalone novel from Mark Edwards, better known as ‘the male-half’ of crime writing duo Voss & Edwards (Killing Cupid, Catch Your Death, All Fall Down, Forward Slash).

It opens with the seemingly idyllic lives of Jamie, a software engineer and Kirsty, a paediatric nurse; a young couple who are very much in love and starting out in their first home together – the ‘perfect’ flat in North London, where they plan to start a family, get married and generally be blissfully happy… But this is a psychological thriller, so there’s not much chance of any of that!

We’re introduced to the neighbours – Lucy and Chris in the basement flat, a couple who seem keen to befriend Jamie and Kirsty, inviting them to dinner not long after they move in (might just be my cynical ‘living in London’ attitude, but this immediately screamed ‘BEWARE!’); then there’s Mary – resident pot-smoking herbalist/witch/cat-lady on the floor above, and finally Brian and Linda who seem normal enough until Jamie goes up to fix Brian’s computer and finds a room full of black walls and generally scary stuff – but then it turns out that Brian is a children’s horror author, so that’s all ok…

It doesn’t take long before the terror starts. It’s innocuous at first. Hoax pizza deliveries, targeted junk mail, unwanted parcels. Then it ramps up a gear: disgruntled firemen responding to a fake 999 call, a letter complaining about noise, a recording of them making love (which the do quite a lot!) , then it’s The War of The Worlds, weird dreams and a plague of spiders. Meanwhile, Jamie’s best friend Paul is seriously injured in a karting accident, and Kirsty finds out she is pregnant… but the tensions of the house are starting to get to the young couple, and it’s not long before it all gets too much.

I read this novel in two sittings. Would’ve been one, but unfortunately I had to go to work (so annoying, real life…) The pacing is excellent. It was clear from the outset that the happy couple’s lives were going to be thrown into turmoil, and the way it was done was subtle and creepy enough to keep the feeling of dread trickling throughout. I felt quite sick with fear through the last third (and that was after I’d blocked out the image of the spiders). Jamie and Kirsty, and in fact the entire cast of characters, were extremely well drawn. I really related to the couple’s frustrations and rising paranoia. I’ve had some weird neighbours before. They might not have gone to the extremes that these psychopaths did, but they drove us out of our flat. Luckily we remained ‘mentally intact’…

What The Magpies illustrates so effectively is just how easy it is for any of our lives to unravel.

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I’d like to thanks Mark for providing the e-ARC and also for his upcoming guest post, which I know you’re going to love 🙂