No More Lies Blog Tour – Day One

9th May 2019.

Sonya at A Lover of Books, said ‘Somehow I don’t think I could ever tire of this series.’

Click here to read her full review.

Donna’s Book Blog thought the characters were really great and worked so well together, bringing the story to life.

Click here to read the full review

Black Diamond Death by Cheryl Bradshaw

21st April 2019 – 4 stars.

Having already read and thoroughly enjoyed #6 in the series, I was keen to go back to the beginning to see where it all started. (You can check out my review of Hush Now Baby here.)

I enjoy books narrated by the main character as you can get inside their heads and watch the story unfold through their eyes. You’re so close to the action you feel the suspense, tension and excitement with heightened senses.

In this case, private eye Sloane Monroe takes you on a journey from accidental death to murder, managing to antagonise the local police in her efforts to solve the crime. She’s feisty, determined, high principled and stubborn, but with a few problems of her own to contend with.

The story moved along at a good pace as the investigation got going and I liked the blend of action, introspection and humour, which kept me entertained. Best of all, Sloane reminded me of Sue Grafton’s, Kinsey Millhone, and proved a worthy equal.

I’m looking forward to reading the second book in the series.

Description

Charlotte Halliwell has a secret.

Before she has the chance to reveal it to her sister, Audrey, she’s found dead. At first glance, it appears to be nothing more than an accident, until the medical examiner finds poison coursing through Charlotte’s body.

Audrey hires Sloane Monroe, a sassy, headstrong private investigator. As Sloane works to solve the case, a second body is found. With the killer aware that Sloane will stop at nothing to find him, he tracks her every move. Will Sloane uncover the truth before he strikes again?

Black Diamond Death

More Equal than Others by Robin Roughley

9th April 2019 – 5 stars.

You’re guaranteed an imaginative plot that will twist and turn and twist again when you join DS Lasser on another investigation. In this case, it’s a twisted vigilante, wreaking havoc on the Wigan’s sex offenders.

The pace and tension are relentless, the dark, dark humour that runs through the stories is delicious. The banter and double act with DCI Bannister are the highlight of yet another great story from Robin Roughley.

It’s intense, gritty and shocking, but filled with humanity, which shines through in Lasser’s determination to bring the killer to justice, no matter what. His romance and relationship with Medea adds another welcome dimension to his character and the story.

Highly recommended.

 

Description

Lasser is on cloud nine but murder soon brings him down to earth.

A sunny afternoon in the park. Children at play, families picnicking on the grass and a man pushing an old pram, a pram that contains horrors beyond reckoning.

DS Lasser is happy, engaged to the woman of his dreams, just back from a two-week vacation. Life is sweet.

But it only takes one phone call, telling him that a local sex offender has been mutilated and murdered and all thoughts of harmonious bliss are quickly annihilated.

Someone is stalking the streets of this down-at-heel northern town, someone with a burning hatred and a long list containing the names of the guilty.

As if things weren’t bad enough, a local reporter is leading a witch-hunt, determined to lay the blame for the killings at Lasser’s feet.

As the nights draw in and the body count rises, Lasser must hunt the maniac who is spiralling out of control. Though he soon comes to realises that the killer, even in his madness, is working to an agenda.

And he isn’t working alone.

More Equal than Others

Are your novels cosy mysteries?

When a reader first asked me this question, images of Miss Marple and tearooms in quaint country villages sprang into my head.

That’s okay, I thought, because I love Miss Marple and Agatha Christie. They’re one of the reasons I write traditional whodunit mysteries. When bestselling author, Tamara McKinley suggested that Agatha Christie fans would love my first novel, No Accident, I was delighted.

But I never envisaged the Kent Fisher mysteries as cosy. They deal with modern, serious issues that don’t feel cosy.

To settle any doubt, I turned to Google.

A quick check suggested cosies were crime fiction in which sex and violence are downplayed or treated humorously, and the crime and detection take place in small, socially intimate communities. The person solving the crime is an amateur, usually but not exclusively a woman, with contacts in the police or other law enforcement agencies.

Well, that got me thinking. There’s no graphic sex in the Kent Fisher mysteries because I believe a reader’s imagination can do a much better job. Any violence is usually confrontational and targeted at Kent to stop him solving a case. The communities are not socially intimate, though most of the action takes place in the small towns and villages of the South Downs. Kent’s an amateur detective, sure, but as an environmental health officer, he’s a law enforcer and often works with the police, giving him certain detection skills.

His best friend is a retired Scenes of Crime Officer.

On balance, it looks like my novels fall into the cosy category.

As Kinsey Millhone, Morse and Miss Marple inspired and influenced me, why did I ever doubt this? After all, my goal has always been to entertain readers with absorbing, complex mysteries, engaging characters with their own stories and troubles, all laced with a healthy dash of irreverent humour.

I prefer to think of the Kent Fisher mysteries as the cosy end of the crime fiction spectrum, like LJ Ross or Dick Francis.

30th January 2019 – No More Lies

Completed the first draft of Kent Fisher #4, No More Lies.

What a journey from vague ideas and plans to fully fleshed novel. During the first few months last year, it felt like I would never get to grips with this story of faith, trust and lies. After three false starts and as many titles, I had a lightbulb moment. At last I understood the real theme of the story and found my feet. From there, it became a more decisive process.

On a couple of occasions I wondered if this would be the last Kent Fisher mystery novel. But since writing The End I’ve had a few ideas for Kent Fisher #5, provisionally titled No Mercy, so it shouldn’t be long before I’m sending him on his next adventure. It promises to be another twisting ride into danger with much more focus on his environmental health work.

In the meantime, No More Lies remains on a shelf in the cupboard. In a couple of weeks, I’ll read it from cover to cover, plastering the pages with notes and memos to help with the editing and revisions. From here it’s a journey to my editor, Liz, for her thoughts and comments, before final revisions and preparations for publication in May. The cover will prove a challenge, trying to capture the essence of a complex story, so I’m open to ideas …

 

How deception made me a writer

In my childhood I improvised to survive. At times my life was as fictitious as the stories I read. Pretence was sometimes the only reality.

That’s what made me a writer.

I was eight when my father died. Though sad at his loss, I had no idea of the struggles that lay ahead. We were poor. Unlike the children around me, I had no pocket money. Clothes and shoes had to last as long as possible. Holidays were an escape from school, not a towel on a beach.

Education offered me a way out, but grammar school brought me face to face with children from wealthier backgrounds. Envious of what they had, I had to find more and more elaborate ways to disguise the fact I wasn’t one of them.

I resented being poor, especially when I took an interest in girls. I made excuses to avoid taking them home. I could have explained the rising damp was an experiment to determine the porosity of bricks. Had global warming been in the news, I could have used it to explain why we didn’t have central heating and wore coats around the house in winter.

Instead, I said my mother was ill and kept girlfriends as far away from my home as possible. In hindsight, I should have dated the girls from my estate, but grammar school made me judge people by their worth.

It led to an interesting double life.

maskAt school, I was a loner, a studious kid, participating in a competition to see whose uniform would last the longest. Okay, I was the only entrant, but competing against myself made me work harder. I told everyone I preferred to spend my evenings reading books as TV was boring and full of repeats. This first part was true because we couldn’t afford a TV.

At home, I played football with the lads, hung around on street corners, and did my homework late at night. Many of the local kids didn’t bother with homework. There was no point when they were going to work in the paper mill opposite when they left school.

Reading lots of books carried me through tough times.

Books inspired me, gave me dreams and aspirations, brought me heroes like Atticus Finch. They fired my imagination, took me to new worlds like Narnia, and showed me every facet of human nature, conflict and courage.

Reading made me want to change the world, to fight poverty and inequality, to clean up the environment, to end ignorance and prejudice.

I wrote stories to express these aspirations and experiences. I’m not sure I did them justice, but my marks were high. But English was my favourite subject by miles.

I loved everything about words – their sounds, meanings and origins. Words had the power to mesmerise and transform. This made me unique in a school determined to drill science into every pupil’s psyche. But thanks to books, I refused to succumb, choosing artistic subjects instead.

English was also about communication, the ability to express ideas and ideals, to persuade others, to capture the beauty and horrors in the world. Unable to afford a camera, and with no TV, my imagination created adventures and worlds.

Being different and a bit of a loner made me a target. Useless with my fists, I learned how to talk my way out of trouble – often after I’d talked myself into it. Without books, the learning and the words, I would have been pummelled by bullies.

I learned to deceive, to imitate and to pretend to be just like them. The moment I discovered I would be judged by my poverty, I became an actor.

Spending so much time alone, my imagination became choked with ideas I needed to share. I had a desperate urge to express my ideas, to influence what people thought, to make them accept me as an equal.

The future becomes the past

Now, as I write, I feel the influence of the past in my words, my attitudes and values. That’s why my central character, Kent Fisher, comes from a background of poverty and loss. He fights for the underdog, for those who have no voice, such as animals, and for those who would otherwise be walked over.

Kent does what I was never brave enough to do in my youth – accept the unfairness, move on, take chances, take control.

He’s even taught me to take control.

I challenged myself to complete the first draft of my latest novel by the end of January.

WritingIt’s been a struggle, an exercise in doubt, a story I couldn’t bring to life. Doubt does that to you. Nothing is good enough. You feel a failure. But as one of my friends likes to say when she’s struggling, ‘I need to give myself a good kick up the arse.’

So I set myself a target of writing 10,000 words each working week in January. I’ve gone public, which means there’s nowhere to hide. I’ve told my readers the book will be published in May 2019.

So how did I do this first week?

I wrote 11,775 words, which surprised me, I can tell you. Better than that I

  • ignored my smartphone, leaving it downstairs while I wrote.
  • stopped wasting time on things that either distracted me or didn’t achieve anything, like checking emails, Facebook and Twitter, opening the post
  • kept a low profile on social media
  • planned the week ahead

I feel more motivated, more excited, more productive. As well as writing more words in each hour, I’ve increased my writing hours on at least three days of the week.

Best of all, the ideas are flowing once more, improving the story and I’m starting to believe I can do it.

And if you’d like to know more about the Kent Fisher murder mysteries, click here to visit my Amazon page. Or sign up to my reader group for more insights, updates and a sample first chapter from the novel I’m currently writing.

Something for the weekend

Is ‘horizon scanning’ the perfect subject for distance learning?

 

 

Dead Man’s Grip by Peter James

21st October 2018. 5/5 stars for another inventive plot and stylish addition to the Roy Grace series.

The story starts with a road accident that spirals out of control when the police discover the victim belongs to a New York Mafia family. His mother decrees that everyone involved in the accident should suffer. Tooth, a pragmatic, no nonsense hitman sets off for Brighton to deliver the contract.

This was the first Peter James novel I ever read several years ago. I enjoyed it on that occasion, but the book made a much greater impact this time around. Having read the previous six Roy Grace novels, I had a better appreciation of the characters, the setting and the backstories, which made for a more fulfilling read..

I love the detail Peter James incorporates into his stories, whether it’s police procedure, the description of the various settings or the little things that bring the characters to life. Of course, the main characters have personal issues and problems that test them as they struggle to keep pace with Tooth, who must be one the best hitmen I’ve come across in crime fiction. While he’s a ruthless assassin, this is offset by a dry, dark humour that underpins every appearance he makes.

The pace and action accelerated towards a nail biting climax in Shoreham Harbour that left me breathless. And like most of the Roy Grace novels, there was still time for a final sting in the tail at the end.

Simply brilliant.

Description

I want them to suffer, and I want them dead. . .

Carly Chase is still traumatised after being in a fatal traffic accident which kills a teenage student from Brighton University. Then she receives news that turns her entire world into a living nightmare.

The drivers of the other two vehicles involved have been found tortured and murdered. Now Detective Superintendent Roy Grace of the Sussex Police force issues a stark and urgent warning to Carly: She could be next.

The police advise Carly her only option is to go into hiding and change her identity. The terrified woman disagrees – she knows these people have ways of hunting you down anywhere. If the police are unable to stop them, she has to find a way to do it herself. But already the killer is one step ahead of her, watching, waiting, and ready …

Dead Man's Grip

Twisted by Robin Roughley

4.5/5 stars. A compelling series with strong, sharply drawn characters, an evocative setting with a seedy underbelly, dark humour, and plots that drag you all over the place and back again.

Description

Would you stop a Good Samaritan from killing a killer?

When Sarah Palmer is attacked on her way home, she knows she is seconds from death. That is until a passing stranger miraculously appears out of the darkness to save her, before vanishing into the downpour.

All his life he has heard voices, his mother used to call them his imaginary friends. Now, he can hear only one, and it’s telling him to do bad things.

Amidst so much horror and death DS Lasser finds himself hunting a killer who has no moral compass, but when the true nature of the murderer is revealed, Lasser is forced to acknowledge that someone else sowed the seeds that bloomed into insanity.

As the killer runs amok, Lasser and the team must try to second-guess his intentions before more innocents are slaughtered. Though he soon comes to realise it’s not only the police hunting the killer, someone else has a stake in putting an end to his reign of terror. Someone who literally has nothing left to live for.

My thoughts

Twisted is the fourth DS Lasser novel and like its predecessors it’s fast paced, tense and thrilling in equal measures, though it seemed more violent and graphic.

While you could read this as a standalone, you’d miss the development of the characters and the relationships that add colour and humour to the gritty storylines. The fractious relationship between Lasser and Bannister, his boss, is a joy at times, picking up from where they left off in the previous novel. Lasser’s relationship with Medea is also a delight, especially when it exposes his self-doubt and hang ups.

With plenty of twists and turns, the story alternates between Lasser and the killer. The author always manages to get inside the minds of his characters, so you know and understand them quickly. His portrayal of the killer is chilling, but tempered with empathy as the tragic reasons that created him are revealed.

Lasser is bolshie, driven and relentless in his pursuit of killers, and almost perpetually soaked to the skin in this novel as the rain over Wigan never lets up. But that’s what makes this series compelling – the strong, sharply drawn characters, the evocative setting with its seedy underbelly, the dark humour, and plots that drag you all over the place and back again. The story started to drag a little towards the end, perhaps because of one too many twists, but it remains another enjoyable and compulsive read.

Looking forward to the next in the series.

4.5/5 stars

Twisted Robin Roughley

From looking back to moving forward

‘You were a bright lad, but you were in the wrong job.’

Two years ago, after 39 years of service, I quit my job in environmental health to write full time. I rang Ged, who was my first manager when I started as a student Environmental Health Officer (EHO) in 1977. He chuckled and said, ‘You were a bright lad, but you were in the wrong job.’

Looking back, he was probably right. But I never had the courage, conviction or support to become a writer, as you’ll see if you read my post, Alas Poor Robert.

It may have been the wrong job, but I loved environmental health. It’s one of the most varied and rewarding jobs you can imagine. You’re out and about, meeting people and finding solutions to all manner of problems and issues to protect and improve public health.

Like nursing and teaching, it’s a vocation. And like many public sector jobs, it’s suffered in the last ten years as funding cuts and the media’s deriding, but false image of local government have taken their toll.

managerI was managing a team of officers by then. I spent much of my time justifying my actions and decisions to senior management, councillors, colleagues, my team, the press, the public and numerous other government bodies. It seemed crazy to me as I was following policy, working efficiently, within budget, and providing a good service.

In the end I couldn’t take any more and quit.

It wasn’t an easy decision. I had doubts right up to the moment I pressed send to email my resignation, but I’ve no regrets.

Okay, it took me 39 years to find the right job, but during that time I was hardly idle. I wrote and struggled like many other aspiring authors, working into the early hours most nights. A couple of novels drew interest from agents, but not enough for them to take me on and nurture what talent I had.

WritingDuring the 1990s, I sold articles to national magazines and had a column in Writers’ Monthly magazine. It was a hard slog, fighting for recognition among the stalwarts and regulars that magazine editors favoured.

And I wanted to write novels – crime novels.

As the millennium stepped up to the horizon, I’d already created my protagonist, Kent Fisher. Like me, he was an EHO, but that’s where the similarity ended. Unlike me, he was ex-army, married to the wrong woman, and in desperate need of a vice to fit in with all the other detectives on TV.

Kent appeared in three novels, shifting and changing like a chameleon as ideas came and went.

I was running low on rejection slips to paper the walls at Crouch Corner, so I sent the second novel to publishers and agents here and in the USA. One agent read it from cover to cover, but didn’t take me on.

Around the same time, I was promoted to manager and once more writing took a back seat for a few years. I loved the new role to start with. There I was, in control, setting policy, leading my team. Then I discovered the joys of meetings, human resources and memos. I also spent a lot of time checking the holiday planner to make sure we had enough cover on Fridays.

I immersed myself in service plans, performance management reports, and reading my manager’s mind so I knew what his priorities were. Like many senior managers, he never felt the need to explain what he wanted done.

Fisher's Fables coverKeen to record and poke fun at these moments. I named it Fisher’s Fables after my gung-ho detective EHO and let him be my mouthpiece. I created a fictitious environmental health team, populated by imaginary officers, who worked for a mythical local authority in a town that didn’t exist.

Over the years the length of the blogs increased as the number of post each year decreased.

By then, Fisher’s Fables was almost a sitcom, with a healthy following, which included the Chief Executive. I don’t know if he was disappointed to discover he didn’t feature in the stories, or relieved.

And that’s when it hit me between the eyes.

Not the blog, or the Chief Executive, but the realisation I had a cast of characters for my Kent Fisher murder mystery novels. More importantly, I’d found my author voice.

I don’t know whether it took 39 years to develop this voice, but looking back the clues were there from the age of 16. If only I’d stopped to look, to take notice of what my gut was telling me.

But that’s a story for another day.

Looking back

Over to you

Did you ever realise you were in the wrong job? What did you do about it?

If you’d like to find out more about Kent Fisher and the mystery series, click here to visit my website.

The Curse of the Baskervilles by Colin Garrow

August 2017

5/5 stars. Imagine Dr Watson feeling a tad frustrated and peeved as his smart-Alec, know-all friend, Sherlock Holmes, swoops in to solve another baffling case with consummate ease. All this after Watson’s done all the mind-numbing donkey work.

Description

Intrepid investigators Holmes and Watson continue their fight against crime in a not quite Post-Victorian, steampunk parallel universe. In three more adventures, the intrepid duo tackle a ghostly locomotive, journey to Dartmoor in search of a gigantic hound, and team up with bloodthirsty psychiatrist Hannibal Lecter in the hunt for a murderer.

Adult humour throughout.

Curse of the Baskervilles is book #3 in this Victorian comedy adventure series.

If you love historical mysteries, buy something else instead, but if you’re into fart-gags and innuendo this’ll be right up your Victorian street.

My thoughts

I love something different, especially if it makes me chuckle and this had me laughing from start to finish. Imagine Dr Watson feeling a tad frustrated and peeved as his smart-Alec, know-all friend, Sherlock Holmes, swoops in to solve another baffling case with consummate ease. All this after Watson’s done all the mind-numbing donkey work.

This is the basis for an irreverent comedic romp at the expense of crime literature’s most famous double act. Watson, determined to show his friend he can solve baffling cases, gives a slightly offbeat version of events that’s a delight to read. Better still, I loved Watson’s feisty and amorous wife, Mary, who showed a flair for kicking ass and putting the men in their places.

Inventive, irreverent and hugely entertaining, the Watson Letters will leave you laughing, and occasionally gasping in disbelief as the detective duo trample over convention and good taste to solve some of the most baffling (and curious) cases imaginable. Even an appearance by Hannibal Lecter seems perfectly in keeping as modern characters and events are thrown into the Victorian melting pot of Holmes and Watson.

Once I tuned into the humour and went with the flow, I thoroughly enjoyed the stories, which got better as I progressed, reaching an epic climax in the Silence of the Lambtons.

Colin Garrow is fast becoming one of my favourite authors and I would thoroughly recommend his books to anyone who enjoys a good and irreverent laugh.

5/5 stars