Fair winds and following seas… Launching Tenacity by JS Law

Screen Shot 2015-07-26 at 12.29.50Bestselling author Patricia Cornwell calls it ‘addictively readable’… and on Thursday evening, despite the trains conspiring against me, I had the great pleasure of attending the launch of James Law’s Tenacity, at The Royal Navy Submarine Museum in Gosport.

I went on a ferry, caught up with writing friends and met some new ones (there were close to 200 hundred people there!) loads of books were signed, many jugs of Pimms were consumed, two (yes TWO) Lord Mayors attended, James was interviewed by Emlyn Rees, there were readings by John Taylor, and I got to go on a real submarine…

…which was great fun, but the thought of spending up to 2 months at the bottom of the sea cooped up like a sardine, did not really appeal – huge kudos to the submariners who do this for a living!

Well done to James Law and Headline for creating a very unique launch for a very unique book. I also got to stay in a very scary hotel, but luckily I had CrimeThrillerGirl for company 🙂

Pics gallery below…

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Here’s the blurb…

Suicide must be investigated. Especially when a Royal Navy sailor kills himself on a nuclear submarine, only days after his wife’s brutal murder. Now Lieutenant Danielle Lewis, the Navy’s finest Special Branch investigator, must interrogate the tight-knit, male crew of HMS Tenacity to determine if there’s a link. Isolated, and standing alone in the face of extreme hostility, Dan soon realises that she may have to choose between the truth and her own survival. Justice must be served, but with a possible killer on board the pressure is rising and her time is running out…

* * *

Over at Shots Magazine, James told me: 

“I used a lot of anecdotes and real experiences to help form elements of the story and the characters, but if twenty years in the Royal Navy taught me one thing, it’s ‘never let the truth get in the way of a good story’. So the accuracy is pretty good, though I obviously had to conform to security rules, but in places I changed what I needed to, to make the story entertaining and hopefully gripping. I should say that although there are lots of nasty, evil submariners in Tenacity, my true experience of submariners is worlds away from that. Submariners are a close-knit community of some of the best, most generous and committed men and women I’ve ever met, but that wouldn’t make for much of a crime-thriller.” You can read the rest of this interview, including James’ reaction to Patricia Cornwell’s quote, HERE.

* * *

What did I think of it? 

Dark, tense and claustrophobic – and that’s just the opening chapter. This is a story about Lt Danielle ‘Dan’ Lewis, a flawed, determined female naval officer tasked with the investigation of a suicide that may not be all that it seems. Possibly they best possible setting for a ‘locked room mystery’, this is one that will keep you on the edge of your seat throughout. There is a large cast of characters, with perfectly-drawn villains and good guys that you just can’t help but root for. The author has done an excellent job of taking a predominantly male environment, and opening it up to a wider audience. The descriptions are vivid, the prose is tight and fresh – and there are some excellent one-liners and some brilliant naval slang that gives it a entirely realistic feel – which isn’t surprising when you hear that the author was a submariner himself. If you want something a bit different from your usual crime thriller, then this is it. Highly recommended.

And you don’t just have to take my word for it… already some great reviews coming in from Adrian Magson (Shots), CrimeThrillerGirl and Grab This Book… and it’s already hit the nationals, with a write up in The Sun. Nice work, James.

* * *Screen Shot 2015-07-26 at 12.29.41

J. S. Law started in the navy as an apprentice engineer and worked his way up through the ranks. He has worked on helicopters, ships and towards the end of his naval career, submarines. He is a passionate advocate for education and now works providing nuclear training and education to the defence and civil sectors. James lives in Hampshire with his wife and his two children. Tenacity is his debut novel and the first in the Lieutenant Danielle Lewis series.

Find James on facebook and twitter.

Website: http://www.jslawbooks.com

* * *

Thanks to Headline for the proof copy, and to CrimeThrillerGirl and Daniel Pembrey for letting me steal some of their pics.

Review of Wicked the Musical *contains spoilers*

Once upon a time, Elphaba (Elfie) was born with the unfortunate affliction of being bright green, seemingly because her mother was a cheating harlot who got drunk on potent green liquid and slept with a mysterious, flamboyant man* who was far more exciting than her husband, the Governor of Oz. Her sister, Nessa, was born with an un-named disability caused by milk-flower consumption (did their mother not learn from her herbal dabbling the first time?) leaving her wheelchair bound. Clearly disabilities were a big part of the theme, as the whole show was signed for the deaf by an incredible woman who stood at the edge of the stage for the entire three hours of the show.

The girls get sent to a Hogwarts-esque witch and wizard university, where we meet Elfie’s roommate, Glinda – the spoilt, popular one (blonde, ditzy, completely vacuous but OH SO NICE, except when she humiltates Elfie at the ball by making her wear a witch’s hat…) In contrast, Elfie is a bright-green dorky outcast, shunned, even, by her sister who is taken under the headmistress’s care. Elfie soon becomes suitably outraged when she discovers that animals are being marginalised and no longer allowed to speak or have proper jobs (‘I’m the token Goat’ says professor whatshisname, the history teacher, in one of the many humorous moments of this show). Glinda soon realises her error, and joins in with Elfie’s awful dance-moves, encouraging everyone else to do the same. She then gives her a Sandra Dee style makeover, by removing her glasses and un-plaiting her hair. Wow – who knew that green girls could be so good looking?

Cue ‘handsome but stupid’ Preening Prince who appears on the scene, capturing the heart of both Glinda and Elfie, not to mention every other girl who crosses his path. Cue devastation of munchkin, Bok, who wanted Glinda for himself. No chance mate, and to be honest you could do better… like Nessa, Elfie’s disabled sister… except he only asks her out as a favour to Glinda, so that’s never really going to work out. Besides, the Preening Prince is not actually a thick as he looks, he’s just weak… and thus never confesses that his true love is weirdo Elfie.

It soon becomes apparent that the green geek, Elfie, has special powers… hence she is whisked off to meet the Wonderful Wizard of Oz, and of course is mildly disappointed when he’s just a fat bloke with a sketchy American accent, hiding behind a terrifying giant gold robotic mask with glowing eyes and a growling voice. But lo and behold – Oz doesn’t want to use Elfie’s powers for good… he wants to continue his reign of terror and oppression and get all animals back in cages and have the accidentally created flying monkeys to act as his spies… ‘No, no…’ cries Elfie, realising what a total mess she’s made of it all with the spellbook written in an unreadable language. So she runs away into the wilderness of the Land of Oz, vowing to fight for animal rights and minority creatures.

Much, much later… Elfie returns home and grants her sister’s wish of making her able to walk, but his leads to the miserable munchkin attempting to do a runner… followed by a bodged spell by Nessa, stopping his heart, and a remedy by Elfie, rendering him with a wooden one and a tin body… Elfie, having screwed up AGAIN while trying to be good, does another runner and decides she might as well be Wicked… The leaders of Oz do a great PR job, with the help of the Tin Man, twisting events to make it look like Elfie purposely hurt everyone, including the caged lion cub she liberated while still at school… leading him to become withdrawn and too cowardly to even appear on stage.

The Wizard’s PR chick (also head of the uni and in support of all evil plans) whips up a tornado, causing a house to land on top of Nessa, killing her… Elfie turns up – devastated – especially when she realises that ‘some farm girl’ called Dorothy has stolen her sister’s fancy jewelled shoes… so she finds her and kidnaps her and remains Wicked… even when the Preening Prince turns up, who loses his life trying to save her *sob*

Glinda appears, and realises that her prince was never her prince – he always loved Elfie, and she vows to do good work and never to tell anyone Elfie’s real story… leaving her to be melted by Dorothy’s bucket of water. Glinda returns to Oz to sort the place out, getting rid of the evil headmistress/PR woman and helping to re-instate animal rights.

It’s a bittersweet ending, with Glinda the Good in charge of the kingdom of Oz, but she’s got no friends and her fiancé is dead. But she’s cool with that. Because she just wants to do good.

So it’s all yay to the strong women – sisters doing it for themselves. Except for the shocking twist ending where it turns out that Elfie faked her death and ran off with her best mate’s fiancé, the Preening Prince, now humbled, since she turned him into a scarecrow.

🙂

Note: *The mysterious, flamboyant man that gave Elfie’s mother the green liquid was in fact – the young Wizard of Oz – aka, Elfie’s real father! Shock!

* * *

Yesterday I went with my husband and my parents to see Wicked at The Apollo Theatre in London. I had really no idea what to expect, other than that I knew it was some sort of Wizard of Oz spin-off, a backstory to the witches. What it was actually about was bullying, acceptance, trust and empowerment of women… it was also brilliantly made and very funny. Recommended.

Created, The Destroyer: The bestselling series you’ve never heard of…

Before Jack Reacher. Before Jason Bourne. Before Alex Cross… There was The Destroyer. One legendary hero. One epic series.

Remo Williams is a former police officer who was sentenced to death for a crime he didn’t commit and is now hours away from sitting in the electric chair. During his last rites Remo’s confessor gives him a black pill to bite down on exactly before he is electrocuted. Remo does as ordered but, instead of dying, he wakes up in an ambulance. He is still alive. Remo has been recruited by CURE, a secret government organization set up to defend the country outside the law. He is their new assassin: The Destroyer.

This is an interesting book. The premise, where Remo is saved from electrocution and then sent off to a secret organisation to become ‘The Destroyer’ intrigued me, but I found that a lot of the time I wasn’t entirely sure what was going on. It’s a short, noirish, satirical take on the thriller genre and having been written in the 60s there are some cliched characters and some old-fashioned views – which in some ways, you can attribute to the satire, but sometimes it felt a bit dated. Being short (print length is <200 pages), I’m not sure how much I really got to know Remo, but I was quite entertained by him, and the fact that this is the first in a series of 145 (yes – 145!) titles, I think that he is set to become a great character who will surely develop more… The karate scenes with his trainer, Chiun, reminded me of The Karate Kid, and you can hardly fault that 😉 Overall opinion is that I enjoyed the book, it was different to the things that I usually read, and an interesting experiment to see if the stories have stood the test of time… well, only a new audience will be able to assess that. And maybe the upcoming Hollywood movie might help as it is definitely written in a way that would lend itself to the big screen… Sony have recently signed up Shane Black of Iron Man 3 fame to direct it. I wonder who’ll play the lead?

*

Warren Murphy is a former newspaper writer and editor. After the Korean War he moved into politics and co-wrote Created, the Destroyer, the first title in The Destroyer series, with Richard Sapir in 1963. The series is composed of 145 titles and has now sold more than 60 million copies. Warren has served on the board of the Mystery Writers of America and has also been a member of the Private Eye Writers of America, the International Association of Crime Writers, the American Crime Writers League and the Screenwriters Guild. He is the screenwriter who gave Clint Eastwood the script of the Eiger Sanction.

Thanks to Clara Diaz at Little, Brown for the advance review copy and the invitation to be part of this blog tour.

You can check out the rest of the tour via the blogs below (click on the poster to enlarge):

Just What Kind of Mother Are You? by Paula Daly #review

I bought Paula Daly’s debut novel after being subjected to much twitter hype (check out the hashtag #JWKOMAY). Normally I try to resist the hype and wait. But this time I thought I’d read the sample on my tablet and see if I fancied it. I ended up clicking through at the end because I couldn’t stop reading… (and if you know me, you’ll know that I am not really a fan of reading eBooks, but I genuinely couldn’t wait!)

The premise is simple. Over worked, stressed mother of 3, Lisa Kallisto drops the ball. No big deal maybe, except ‘the ball’ is her friend Kate’s daughter, Lucinda, who is supposed to be at her house having a sleepover with Lisa’s daughter, Sally. Except she’s not there – and it takes 24h for Lisa and Kate to realise this.

Cue massive guilt on Lisa’s part and massive devastation on Kate’s as it starts to look like Lucinda may have fallen victim to a paedophile child snatcher.

Meanwhile, DC Joanne Aspinall is conducting interviews in the small lake district town, trying to work out why it is that she feels that something is just not right about it all, and the more she digs, the more secrets are revealed.

The story is told though the alternating viewpoints of  Lisa and Joanne and both women are drawn with an effective realism that draws you right into their lives. The setting works perfectly for the story and I loved how Lisa’s job became so unexpectedly pivotal to the plot. This is a real character led story, with each one playing a significant part and each one being so incredibly realistic I felt like I was living in there with them.

The clues that build up to the story’s twists are scattered in just the right amount throughout: if you choose to follow them, you might be able to work it all out… I tried and failed.

Always a good sign.

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.

* * *

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.

* * *

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 🙂

Human Remains by Elizabeth Haynes #review

First off, although this is Elizabeth Haynes’ third published novel, it’s the is the first of her books that I have read (despite having all three in my teetering to-be-read pile…) Something about the title and the premise sold it to me… I’ve often ‘joked’ that one of my neighbours could be dead because I don’t see them for weeks, even months on end; and despite that fact that we don’t really get on, I wouldn’t particularly like to be faced with her putrefying corpse. Her noisy husband though, well, that’s another story… Anyway – here’s the blurb:

How well do you know your neighbours? Would you notice if they lived or died?

Police analyst Annabel wouldn’t describe herself as lonely. Her work keeps her busy and the needs of her ageing mother and her cat are more than enough to fill her time when she’s on her own. But Annabel is shocked when she discovers her neighbour’s decomposing body in the house next door, and appalled to think that no one, including herself, noticed her absence.

Back at work she sets out to investigate, despite her police officer colleagues lack of interest, and finds data showing that such cases are frighteningly common in her own home town.

A chilling thriller and a hymn to all the lonely people, whose individual voices haunt the pages, Elizabeth Haynes new novel is a deeply disturbing and powerful thriller that preys on our darkest fears, showing how vulnerable we are when we live alone, and how easily ordinary lives can fall apart when no one is watching.

* * *

What did I think of it? Three words… terrifying, intriguing, realistic.

The story is told through the eyes of Annabel, a police analyst who feels shunned by her colleagues and with no one but a demanding elderly mother to look out for her. The thing about Annabel is that a lot of what she experiences is really down to herself, and it becomes clearer later on that she is an attractive, engaging person who others want to interact with – but by not believing in herself, she’s fulfilled that horrible cliche of ‘if you don’t love yourself, then you can’t expect anyone to love you’. One thing she is confident about though, is her job – and the realism of her investigative skills without turning her into a Jessica Fletcher parody is what really impressed me about this character.

The story is also told through the eyes of an altogether unsavoury chap called Colin… who can’t be called anything other than a complete wanker (sorry, you’ll need to read the book to get the full enormity of this reference). I was fascinated by Colin. His motivations, his emotional stuntedness, and more than anything his ‘technique’. It’s certainly made me far more interested than I was in Neuro-Linguistic Programming!

There are other characters’ POVs too, but I don’t want to say any more as I think it will spoil it. All I’ll say is this: if you look up ‘Psychological Thriller Author’ in the dictionary, you’ll find a photo of Elizabeth Haynes right at the top.

Brilliant.

Review: An Unfamiliar Murder – Jane Isaac

Another new author I’ve discovered this year is the lovely Jane Isaac, whose debut novel An Unfamiliar Murder was published last month by Rainstorm Press. Make sure you have a look at Jane’s website and blog to find out more about her journey from ‘Newbie‘ to fully-fledged author.

From the back cover: Arriving home from a routine day at work, Anna Cottrell has no idea that her life is about to change forever. But discovering the stabbed body of a stranger in her flat, then becoming prime suspect in a murder enquiry is only the beginning…

Having got to know Jane quite well via twitter, I was excited to be part of the build up to the book’s release but I have to admit that I was also slightly nervous about reading her book… what if I didn’t like it? What would I say to her, one of the nicest people I’ve met since joining twitter and coiner of the fantastic phrase ‘superlicious’?!

Luckily, I had nothing to worry about 🙂

I flew through this book like a like a trapped fly out of a newly opened window… (sorry!)

It’s one of those books that just can’t be put down.

The main character, Anna, has a very intriguing back story that is drip-fed to us at just the right pace in parallel with her current situation which sees her going through the process of trying to convince the police that she is not a murderer. The detective in charge of the case, DCI Helen Lavery, is trying to make her name in the force while also dealing with a complicated home life and a hostile colleague who is determined to undermine her. There are many (but not too many!) characters in the book and they are all well drawn, if not always likeable. Anna’s mother, for one, doesn’t make it easy for anyone to like her! I don’t really want to talk about any of the others as to do so would provide too many spoilers, and this is a book full of so many twists and turns that you really just need to read it for yourself.

HUGE kudos to Jane for successfully leaving me guessing ‘whodunnit’. I really didn’t have a clue!

In summary, another great debut and another author to watch. I have a feeling that DCI Helen Lavery will be back again soon.

Verdict: Twisty, turny & fast-paced. What more could you ask for?

Review: The Fall – Claire McGowan

One of the best things that has happened to me since I joined twitter is that I’ve uncovered a whole lot of new crime authors with books on the brink of release – the perfect time to sneak in there and be a part of the journey from the beginning. Not only that, by chatting to these authors on twitter, I’ve realised what a lovely bunch they are too, and despite my annoyance at how brilliant their new books are, it has has encouraged me to carry on writing my own 🙂

The first of these emerging talents for 2012 is Claire McGowan whose debut novel The Fall has just been released on Amazon and is launched in ‘real’ shops later this week.

The book is written from three different viewpoints – Charlotte, the soon-to-be-married posh PR girl who’s life changes dramatically after one seemingly random night out, Keisha – the mixed-up mixed-race girl with her own set of problems, and DC Hegarty – the detective hoping for his first big break and a promotion.  The author’s strength lies in the way she brings each of the main characters to life yet still leaves room for a very convincing set of extras – I particularly liked the descriptions of Charlotte’s mother and stepfather whose unintentionally hilarious actions reminded me a lot of my grandparents 🙂

As far as plot goes – the story is fast-paced, intriguing and highly convincing; it feels so real you can imagine yourself in the thick of it. I could easily have read this in one sitting if I’d had the time, as it was, it kept me turning the pages well into the night. The style of writing is no-nonsense, observational and witty and I can honestly say I haven’t enjoyed a book as much in ages. I can’t wait for her next one.

I absolutely 100% recommend this book – so if you don’t like it, I’d be really interested to know why!