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Saturday, 30 June 2012

‘The Sin Eater’ by Sarah Rayne

Published by Severn House,
June 2012. 
ISBN: 978-0-7278-8162-5
When Benedict Doyle reaches twenty-one he inherits his great-grandfather’s house Holly Lodge in north London.  A house he once overheard his father saying he should never enter.  Shortly afterwards both his parents and his grandfather were killed in a car crash.  Benedict had last entered the house as an eight-year-old boy, following the funeral of his parents, and had seen images of his great-grandfather’s in a mirror, which still haunts him.

The story begins on the west coast of Ireland in Kilglenn in the 1890’s when Declan Doyle and his friend Colm Rourke decided that they want to leave Kilglenn and take with them Colm’s cousin Romilly, the most beautiful girl either of the boys had ever seen. But first they would get inside the watchtower where Father Sheehan lived as a hermit. The talk in Fintan’s bar being that Nick Sheehan had met the devil one morning walking on the cliffs and traded his soul for a chess set. A chess set that is so evil it’d frizzle your soul.

Deciding on a house clearance prior to selling the house Benedict contacts Nell West, an antique dealer, a friend of  his cousin Nina with whom his has grown up,  to value the contents.  So Nell agrees to meet Benedict at the house on the 18th December to make an inventory of the contents.

Holly Lodge is an eerie property unlived in for decades.  Haunted by a malevolent presence it holds a troubled and violent past which is revealed through a series of flashbacks to Benedict, who eventually contacts Dr Michael Flint, as he explains, that he thinks that he might have a personality disorder as he is constantly having visions of people living in another time.

But maybe the evil in Holly House is not only concerned with Benedict Doyle – could it’s malevolence now be reaching out to the present, and to what and to whom will it spread its evil.

A chilling tale of murder, that has you too scared to move for fear that something will be there just outside your peripheral vision, waiting for you.  Don’t read it alone at night - be warned.

And if the story of Declan and Colm wasn’t eerie enough, there is a final twist that turns everything on its head. Highly recommended.
Reviewer: Lizzie Hayes.
Sarah Rayne began writing in her teens, and after a Convent education, which included writing plays for the Lower Third to perform, embarked on a variety of jobs. Her first novel was published in 1982, and since then she has written more than 20 books, including eight psychological thrillers, which have met with considerable acclaim, including the nomination to the long-list for the prestigious Theakston’s Crime Novel of the Year 2005 for Tower of Silence, (originally published in 2003). In 2011, she embarked on a series of books with a ghost-theme, featuring the antique dealer, Nell West, and the Oxford don, Michael Flint, who first make their appearance in Property of a Lady.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

‘Meltwater’ by Michael Ridpath

Published by Corvus,
14th June 2012.
ISBN: 978-0-85789-644-5

Erika, Dieter, Apex and Nico are a group of activists committed to the freedom of information. They call themselves FreeFlow.  When a piece of footage comes into their hands providing evidence of a military murder in the Middle East, they are determined to tell the world.  But first they must validate it absolutely, and prepare their release to the world’s media.  They settle on Iceland as a meeting place as Erika and Nico had visited previously, and they know that they have followers there who will help their cause. 

Having set up their action HQ, to cement their cover they act as tourists visiting the erupting volcano Eyjafjallajokull. Awed by the sight of the eruption melting the ice in the glacier they christen their operation Meltwater.  But whilst splitting up to seek closer views of the amazing sight of the volcano, one of them is murdered.

Investigating the murder is Detective Sergeant Magnus Jonson, seconded from the Boston Police Department, following a request from the National Police Commissioner of Iceland who had become concerned about big-city crime reaching Iceland and wanted a Police Detective who had practical experience to give teaching courses at the Icelandic National Police College on crime in the USA. Magnus Jonson was the natural choice, although having lived in the USA since he was twelve Magnus was born in Iceland and can speak Icelandic.

Magnus also has his own reasons for wanting to return to Iceland, to uncover the mystery of the feud that has existed within his family for three generations, and to find his father’s killer.

As FreeFlow have antagonized many people, the list of suspects is a long one, consisting of governments, politicians and bankers from many countries. But Magnus finds FreeFlow secretive and unhelpful, even when it is clear that someone will kill to keep them quiet.

The book is rich on many levels - an international thriller, the incredible descriptions of Iceland and it’s culture, the secrets of the past, the veils of which are tantalising lifted a little at a time in each book as the series progresses, and all told by a gifted story-teller. Highly recommended.
Lizzie Hayes

Michael Ridpath is the author of eleven books.  Born in Devon, he grew up in Yorkshire and was educated in Somerset and Merton College Oxford. His early career was as a credit analysist and later a bond trader. Subsequently he joined a venture capital firm.  During this latter period he wrote his first novel Free to Trade. After publication of this first book he went on to write seven further thrillers set in the world of business and finance, but his last three books have been set in Iceland. Where Shadows Lies, 66° North, and the latest in the series Meltwater. For more information about Michael visit his web site

Monday, 25 June 2012

‘Nothing but Trouble’ by Roberta Kray

Published by Sphere,
17 May 2012.
ISBN: 978-1-84744-442-4

Harry Lind and his partner Mac, both ex-cops have relocated their PI business from the West End to Kellston in the East End of London, where rents are cheaper.  Before the offices are officially open for business Harry gets a visit from investigative journalist Jess Vaughan – someone he hasn’t seen for a number of years.  Jess tells him that her friend Sam was one of the five girls involved in an incident fourteen years ago, when Minnie Bright was killed.  Donald Peck was convicted of the crime and went to prison where he later hanged himself.  Jess was interested in doing a piece on the effects of crime on those, as it were, left behind.   Although one of the girls is now dead, the others had initially been keen to be part of the story, but now they have pulled out, and Sam has had her tyres slashed and received anonymous death threats.  Harry is sceptical, he had worked on the original case and can envisage no reason why anyone would be concerned about a story on the case, but agrees reluctantly to speak with Sam. Meanwhile he has another ‘paying’ client – a man wants his wife watched.

The story is multi-layered, as Harry gets drawn into both the death of 10-year-old Minnie Bright following a related murder, and the beautiful Aimee Locke, a possible cheating wife. 

Rich in characters - Harry Lind and his ex-wife DI Valerie Lind, who while divorced don’t seem to have actually severed the ties that binds, Jessica Vaughan, who is in a relationship with Neil, but how deep does it go?  The fall-out from that fateful day fourteen years ago, which has left its mark on all the girls for different reasons.  I could not put this book down and although it is 470 pages, I read it in one sitting.  There was no way I could go and do something else until I knew the outcome.

Utterly gripping the story moves at a cracking pace.  The story is told from multiple points of view, and as the layers of deceit are stripped away the truth eventually surfaces with many surprises, and heart in the mouth, edge of your seat situations. This book is highly recommended.
Lizzie Hayes
Other books are The Debt, The Pact, The Lost, Strong Women, Villain’s Daughter, Broken Home.

Roberta Kray was born in Southport. She worked in publishing and media research in London for fifteen years.  In early 1996 she met Reggie Kray and they married the following year; they were together until his death in 2000. Through her marriage to Reggie, Roberta has a unique insight into the world of the London gangland. She lives in Norfolk.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

‘Dead and Buried’ by Stephen Booth

Published by Sphere,
21 June 2012.
ISBN: 978-1-84744-481-3

The twelfth entry in the series featuring Ben Cooper now a Sergeant,  and DS Diane Fry brings starkly to our attention the effects of fire in the Peak District in Derbyshire.

Situated in an isolated area is an abandoned pub -The Light House, which has been empty for the past two years.  Following the report by one of the fire fighters of a break-in at the abandoned pub Cooper decides to investigate.  But a call reporting the discovery of a buried rucksack with a leather wallet drives the abandoned pub from Cooper’s mind.  Could this buried find be a lead to the mystery of the disappearance of two tourists who two years ago, just vanished.  And despite exhaustive searches of the area not a sign of them has ever been found.

The subsequent discovery of a body in the abandoned pub has Cooper kicking himself for not carrying out a search of the pub himself. That DS Fry, who is now assigned to the East Midlands Special Operations Unit, was the one to make the discovery rankles with Cooper. Diane Fry is always hopeful that she has shaken off the mud and lambs of the Peak District, but something always seems to drag her back.

So the dormant case is now a priority.  Could the body found in the abandoned pub be linked to the disappearances of David and Trisha Pearson?  DS Ben Cooper and DC Carol Villiers whom Ben has known from school investigate.  Also on the team is DC Gavin Murfin. As his retirement approaches we learn  more of Gavin Murfin and I found the insight strangely moving.

Cooper is due to marry Liz Petty, a crime scene operative.  It seems that the only topic of conversation Liz has is wedding plans, and it is clear that it is at times getting on Cooper’s nerves. Although, as Cooper muses it’s her special day and he loves her so much that he wants her to have that day. 

This is a mystery that keeps the reader guessing all through the book - just what did happen to the Pearsons?   But the climax is stunningly unexpected, and leaves the reader reeling. Do not miss this entry in this highly acclaimed series.  Highly recommended.
Reviewer: Lizzie Hayes

Stephen Booth is an award winning UK crime writer, the creator of two young Derbyshire police detectives, DC Ben Cooper and DS Diane Fry, who have appeared in eleven novels set in England's beautiful and atmospheric Peak District.  Born in Burnley, Lance, Stephen breeds Toggenburg goats and lives with his wife Lesley in a Georgian House in Nottinghamshire.

Monday, 18 June 2012

‘Gone Girl’ by Gillian Flynn

Published by Weidenfeld,
24 May 2012.
ISBN: 978-0-297-85938-3

This tale of obsession and vengeance was startling, even shocking, in a number of ways, especially as the twisted revelations of Gillian Flynn's dark story began to emerge.  The eventual disclosure of the villain's identity was a genuinely stunning jolt.

Perhaps Nick, the supposed hero, is a bit of a whinger, but nonetheless he's a charming and  successful magazine writer.  Amy is rich and charismatic, the only child of parents who together have created a hugely lucrative series of Amazing Amy books.  Naturally, Nick and Amy fall in love and get married.  Then things start to go wrong. 

Downsized from his position, and joined in redundancy by Amy, he decides fairly arbitrarily to move from Manhattan to Carthage, Missouri, where he grew up.  Ah ha, I thought.  Deep South Gothic, here we come.  But how wrong I was.  Much more than a gothic horror, this book casts a cold eye on marriage and how a golden partnership can too easily turn toxic.

Okay, so Nick (kind of) forgot it was their wedding anniversary.  But she'll forgive her lovable bumbler, won't she?  And then she disappears completely, leaving behind blood on the kitchen floor, and diaries which show him in a very much less than flattering light.  Suspicion naturally falls on him.  The police, her parents and her friends all consider him guilty, however much he denies it (well, he would, wouldn't he?).

The narrative switches between Nick's and Amy's accounts of what has happened between them over the five years they have been together.  Neither of the characters is what they seem to be, and frankly, neither is very likable, but that is part of this ingenious plot.  The book is slow to take off, but halfway through begins to grip like a vice, impossible to put down as it crashes and whacks it way toward its sinister and chilling conclusion. 

It's difficult to go into Gone Girl in any detail, without giving away the high-end denouement.  The final page contains one of the most toxic pieces of conversation I've ever read
Reviewer: Susan Moody

Gillian Flynn  was born in Kansas City, Missouri to two community-college professors—her mother taught reading; her father, film. For college, she headed to the University of Kansas where she received her undergraduate degrees in English and journalism. After a two-year stint writing about human resources for a trade magazine in California, Flynn moved to Chicago. There she earned her master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and discovered that she was way too wimpy to make it as a crime reporter.  She moved to New York City and joined Entertainment Weekly magazine, where she wrote happily for 10 years. Her  2006 debut novel, the literary mystery Sharp Objects was an Edgar Award finalist and the winner of two of Britain’s Dagger Awards—the first book ever to win multiple Daggers in one year. Movie rights have been sold. Gillian’s second novel, Dark Places was a 2009 New York Times bestseller and again movie rights have been sold. Gillian’s  work has been published in twenty-eight countries. She lives in Chicago with her husband, Brett Nolan, their son, and a giant black cat named Roy. In theory she is working on her next novel. In reality she is possibly playing Ms. Pac-Man in her basement lair.


Susan Moody was born in Oxford is the principal nom de plume  of Susan Elizabeth Donaldson, née Horwood, a British novelist best known for her suspense novels. She is a former Chairman of the Crime Writer's Association, served as World President of the International Association of Crime Writers, and was elected to the prestigious Detection Club. Susan Moody has given numerous courses on writing crime fiction and continues to teach creative writing in England, France, Australia, the USA and Denmark.  In addition to her many stand alone books, Susan has written two series, on featuring PI Penny Wanawake (seven books) and a series of six books featuring bridge player Cassie Swan.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

‘Dangerous Waters’ by Anne Allen

Published by Matador
1st August 2012.
ISBN 978-1-78088-230-7

As indicated on the cover this is a story of mystery, loss and love set on the island of Guernsey. Jeanne Le Page returns to Guernsey after fifteen years in England to receive her inheritance after her grandmothers death. Jeanne has had some major tragedy in her life but this return both opens out the chance of a new life and suggests solutions to some mysteries.

Those who, like me, read the stories by E. M. Brent-Dyer set in Guernsey from the 1930s to the 1940s will enjoy a return to the familiar names and places but showing the changes made by the 21st century. This is an enjoyable story with an appealing heroine who fights her way through problems relating to her past and to that of her grandmother. As Jeanne must decide whether to sell the cottage bequeathed to her by her grandmother she finds herself remembering her youth in Guernsey and the indomitable character of her grandmother. The Second World War history of the island becomes a fascinating part of the tale. Eventually after some shocking revelations all is explained most satisfactorily.
Reviewer: Jennifer S. Palmer
This is Anne Allens first novel.

Anne Allen lives by the sea in Devon and has three children - two boys and a girl - and two small grandchildren.  After moving around a lot fell in love with the island of Guernsey. The inspiration to write Dangerous Waters came after reading a book by Joanne Harris - Coastliners - about another small island off the coast of France. My experience as a psychotherapist helped me enormously. Currently Anne is writing Finding Mother, set primarily in Guernsey but with excursions to England, Jersey and Spain.


Jennifer S. Palmer.  Throughout my reading life crime fiction has been a constant interest; I really enjoyed my 15 years as an expatriate in the Far East, the Netherlands & the USA but occasionally the solace of closing my door to the outside world and sitting reading was highly therapeutic. I now lecture to adults on historical topics including Famous Historical Mysteries.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

‘The Daughters of Gentlemen’ by Linda Stratmann

Published by The History Press,
April 2012.
ISBN: 978-0-7524-6475-6

Frances Doughty is the protagonist as a lady detective in London in 1880. She has featured in a previous tale but knowledge of that, while adding to one’s enjoyment, is not essential for understanding The Daughters of Gentlemen. Doughty is well chosen as the surname of a woman who faces the innumerable barriers to females in the Victorian era with fortitude.

The situation is that there has been found at the Bayswater Academy for the Education of Young Ladies dangerous feminist pamphlets. These were discovered inside the desks of unwitting girls and their origin must be traced. Frances as a female is, at least, more acceptable than a male sleuth and can masquerade effectively as a science teacher. This simple beginning leads to more and more complexities concerning the denizens of the area - in particular, adults closely associated with the school. Frances has a varied selection of willing assistants and a suitably inquiring mind. Murder becomes part of the picture but she and her aides continue the investigation doggedly.

A particular feature of the period is the Election of 1880 with the efforts of Suffrage societies to gain attention for the need to give women the vote. Frances attends some meetings and her verbatim reports provide considerable amusement for a modern reader.
The historical background is impeccable and the modern reader can feel the frenetic atmosphere of the election. The mysteries are successfully elucidated by the sleuth and the ends all neatly tied off.
Reviewer: Jennifer S. Palmer
The first mystery featuring Frances Doughty is The Poisonous Seed. Linda Stratmann has also published a number of historical non fiction works such as Chloroform: the Quest for Oblivion and a number of studies of historical murders in areas such as London, Middlesex and Essex.

Linda Stratmann was born in Leicester April 1948.  As a rebellious teenager  after taking my O levels, Linda left school, and trained to be a chemist's dispenser with Boots. Subsequently Linda took A levels and went to Newcastle University in 1971 graduating with first class honours in psychology three years later. Linda then joined the civil service, and trained to be an Inspector of Taxes. In 2001 Linda left the civil service, and started a new career as a freelance writer and sub-editor, and in 2002 was commissioned to write her first published book on the history of Chloroform.

Jennifer S. Palmer.  Throughout my reading life crime fiction has been a constant interest; I really enjoyed my 15 years as an expatriate in the Far East, the Netherlands & the USA but occasionally the solace of closing my door to the outside world and sitting reading was highly therapeutic. I now lecture to adults on historical topics including Famous Historical Mysteries.

Saturday, 9 June 2012

‘A Willing Victim’ by Laura Wilson

Published by Quercus,
May 2012.
ISBN: 978-1-84916-311-8

It is 1956. Inspector Stratton has come through the war, as have, his son and daughter, but his wife Jenny was unlawfully killed many years ago, and despite the passing of years Stratton has yet to come to terms with it. 

The discovery of the body of Jeremy Lloyd in his Soho lodgings takes Stratton to a cult in Suffolk masquerading as the Foundation for Spiritual Understanding set up in a house reputed to be haunted. Interviewing the members of the cult he is met with smiles but a wall of silence. He does meet Michael, a twelve year-old boy said to have been immaculately conceived, and to be the next incarnation stretching back to Christ and Buddha.  But Michael’s mother has disappeared.

For Stratton a down-to-earth policeman, the creator of the foundation, Mr Roth is an enigma.  But Stratton is like a dog with a bone and he is determined to uncover the secrets of this mysterious cult, which he is sure is related to the death of Jeremy Lloyd. The discovery of a woman’s body in the woods close to the Foundation confirms his suspicions that something is amiss at the Foundation.

In his personal life Stratton is at odds with himself, both with his relationships with his two children, and himself.  The most touching part in the book was with his extended family. In everyone’s family there are the bores, the ones at every family gathering we try to avoid, and in this book we face the passage of time which can throw a different light on someone we would have thought that we knew well.  Insightful, and moving.

Much of the strength of this book lies in the amazing recreation of the period. I was a teenager in the 1950's and this book took me back.  In a way it was scary, I know that with the Internet research is easy, but this book was so brilliantly written that I kept having to look up from reading to reassure myself I wasn’t back there.  Although a book that stands alone as an interesting and complex mystery, much insight will be gleaned by the reader who invests in the earlier books. All the books in this series are highly recommended.
Lizzie Hayes
Earlier books featuring Inspector Statton are Stratton’s War, An Empty Death, A Capitol Crime.

Laura Wilson was brought up in London and has degrees in English literature from Somerville College, Oxford, and UCL, London. She lives in Islington, London, where she is currently working on her tenth novel. She is the crime fiction reviewer for the Guardian newspaper and writes a 'Crime Fiction Masterclass' column for Mslexia magazine.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Interview with Michael Ridpath by Lizzie Hayes

Michael Ridpath is the author of eleven books.  Born in Devon, he grew up in Yorkshire and was educated in Somerset and Merton College Oxford. His early career was as a credit analysist and later a bond trader , subsequently he joined a venture capital firm.  During this latter period he wrote his first novel Free to Trade. After publication of this first book he went on to write seven further thrillers set in the world of business and finance, but his last three books have been set in Iceland, and I wanted to ask Michael what prompted this change in direction.

Q         Michael, you have just published Meltwater, the third book in your Icelandic series featuring Magnus Jonson. What prompted you to set your books in Iceland?
A         When I decided to write a crime series, I realised that my detective would have to be distinctive.  I could have given him a peg leg, an eye patch and a parrot, but I decided rather than that I would have him live in a foreign country.  A strange country.  A distinctive country.

            I had visited Iceland in 1995 on a book tour and found it an extraordinary and exhilarating place.  I decided then that one day I would like to set a book there.  So Iceland was the first country that popped into my head, unanalysed.  I tend to overanalyse things, so I spent the next month trying to think of somewhere else, but Iceland was always my favourite, even though I knew very little about the country.  So I spent another month researching the country, its society, its history, its people and its literature, and I was fascinated.  Four years on, I still am, fortunately.

Q         I have read references to Magnus Jonson being ‘an honest cop in a corrupt society.’ Where did Magnus Jonson come from?  Is he purely from your imagination?
A         Magnus did come from my imagination, but he didn’t spring from there whole.  Having decided I wanted to write about a cop in Iceland, I then had a problem.  I am not Icelandic, and I don’t speak the language.  Also I wanted to write about what I as an outsider find extraordinary about Iceland, much of which would seem unremarkable to a native.  Yet my cop had to speak the local language or he wouldn’t have much of a clue about what is going on.

            So I came up with Magnus.  He was born in Iceland, and hence speaks Icelandic, but followed his father to America when he was twelve.  After his father was murdered, Magnus decided to become a policeman.  Twelve years later, he is a homicide detective in Boston when he is asked to transfer to Reykjavík on secondment.  This all sounds a bit complicated, but it made Magnus real, at least to me.  And that’s a good place to start.

Q         The sagas play quite a part in the stories. Have you read many of the sagas? And as I realise many of them are 1000 years old have you seen any of them in their original form? 
A        I love the sagas.  I have read eight of them so far.  They have a very modern feel: the characters are deftly developed and the plots are great.  I would say that they are as good as modern thrillers, except that you get the odd baggy bits of repetition, and it's a bit difficult to keep track of exactly who is who.  I usually enjoy them more on the second reading.  Njals Saga is my favourite, followed by the Saga of the People of EyriThe Greenland Saga and the Saga of Erik the Red are fascinating since they describe the discovery of America 1,000 years ago.  Definitely a book in that.

I have seen the sagas in their original form.  They are on display in the Cutural Institute on Hverfisgata in Central Reykjavik.  I would highly recommend a visit: the exhibition doesn't take long to see, but is very memorable.

Q.        Did Meltwater change during the writing process, or did it pan out exactly as originally planned?
A.        Meltwater panned out more or less as I had planned it.  I spend 3-4 months planning and researching before I start writing, so I had a pretty good idea of how things were going.  I often pause about a quarter of the way through to see how the characters and the plot are developing, and I made some changes then.  But those changes, if anything, brought the book closer to how I originally envisioned it.

Q         This new series is a far cry from your books with a money trading background. It is frequently said: ‘write what you know’.  What prompted you to make this move from a money trader hero to a policeman?
A.        I think ‘write what you know’ is excellent advice for your first novel, and of course many authors continue to write what they know throughout their career.  But as I changed and the financial world changed, I found I knew less about it.  More importantly, I liked the idea of writing about what I didn’t know about.  And indeed it has been enormously stimulating to try to find out as much as I can about a brand new country, brand new at least to me.

Q         Although your early books were standalone thrillers set in the world of business, the last two before the Icelandic series featured Alex Calder, a money trader who just wants to fly planes.  Alex is a marvellous, well-fleshed out character.  Was it difficult to drop him and try something completely new? And are we likely to see Alex again?  Personally, I hope so!
A.        I liked Alex Calder too.  The problem is, I really don’t like his world, the world of banking, any more.  I might get over that and write about him again one day.  If I do it will because I suddenly see a way of doing it that interests me.

Q         From what I understand money trading is a very lucrative business – though maybe not as much as it used to beJ. What prompted this move from money trading to writing?  Have you always just wanted to write?
A.        I always admired writers, but assumed I wasn’t good enough to be one.  I was surprised and gratified to discover that I could write thrillers.  I actually enjoyed working in the City in my twenties.  Trading bonds, trying to outwit the market, was fun.  But managing departments of prima donnas didn’t look fun.  I suppose I am saying I’m glad I did it, but I’m also glad I’m not doing it now.

Q         Do you have a regular working day?         
A.        I do.  Discipline is obviously important for anyone who is planning to type a hundred thousand words twice.  I always keep the morning free and write a minimum of 1,000 words and a maximum of 2,500.  That way a book will eventually get written.  A routine is good; otherwise you constantly have to decide, ‘shall I write today?’, and give other people a vote.

Q         What's your favourite part of the writing process?
A         I like every part.  Indeed the cycle of research, planning, writing, rewriting, copyediting and publicising, means that just as I am getting fed up of one aspect of the process, there is something else to move on to.  It is wonderful after correcting hyphenation in one book, to move on to a blank sheet of paper for the next.

Q         When embarking on a new book, what area of the book 
            challenges you the most? 
A         Pace.  I need to try to feel myself in the skin of the reader, and make her want to turn the page.

Q         Are you in anyway influenced by other writers?  Who are your favourite authors?
A         I used to be heavily influenced by Dick Francis, but that’s less true now.  When I read thrillers or crime novels, I try to work out what the writer is doing really well.  For example, I have just read a book by Aline Templeton where she developed half a dozen fascinating and complex characters, and deftly revealed them bit by bit as the book progressed.  That has influenced the way I am writing the book I am working on now.

Q         As you know I am keen to promote new writers, so have you any golden tips for them?
A         Rewrite.  It is by rewriting that you learn.  And in order to be published, a first time novel must not just have promise, it must fulfil that promise, so it needs to be polished.         Also make the first scene the best scene.

Q         How long did it take you to get published?
A         I was very lucky.  I sent the manuscript of my first novel, Free To Trade, to pairs of agents.  The second name on my list, Carole Blake, invited me round for a cup of tea, and asked me if she could represent me.  I thought it over for two or three seconds and said ‘yes’.  She was brilliant.

Q         I have to admit that reading the book I struggle to get my tongue around some of the names and places.  Do you speak Icelandic?
A         I keep trying.  In the research phase of every book I write, I do half an hour’s Icelandic every day.  It’s a really hard language: the grammar is similar to Latin, but more difficult.  But there are some lovely phrases.  For example “Hvalreki” means “Beached Whale!” which is what you cry if you have just had a stroke of luck.  What could be luckier than to wake up and find a whale beached on the shore outside your house?

Thanks, Michael, for taking the time to share with us the background to your new series.