Tag Archives: Jo Nesbo

The Intel: Kate Medina


Kate Medina - credit Philippa GedgeKate Medina received widespread acclaim for her debut thriller, White Crocodile – written as KT Medina – set in the minefields of Cambodia. Now, with Fire Damage, Kate’s started an explosive new series featuring army psychologist Dr Jessie Flynn.

When asked to treat a severely traumatised four year old boy, Jessie has no idea that she will soon becoming embroiled in something much bigger – involving family secrets, army cover-ups and a killer on the loose.

They say write what you know, and Kate has combined her experiences in the Territorial Army as a Troop Commander in the Royal Engineers with the knowledge she gained studying for a degree in psychology to write the novel.

A generous and fascinating interviewee, Kate tells us about the genesis of her new portage Jessie, why she made the painful decision not to continue with the heroine of her first novel – and how a writing course may be just the ticket to help unlock the talent in all of us.

Plus, I love the way she name-checks a writer who I don’t think has been mentioned in The Intel before, but who has surely sowed the seed of inspiration at an early age in many a crime writer down the decades… Enid Blyton.

Can you tell us about Dr Jessie Flynn … ?

Dr Jessie Flynn is a twenty-nine year old clinical psychologist with the Defence Psychology Service.  Her need to understand the ‘whys’ of human behaviour drove her to become a clinical psychologist, and yet there are huge swathes of her own personality that she struggles to understand, let alone to control.

Women are often portrayed as victims in crime literature.  I wanted to create a character who reflects the huge number of strong, funny, clever, independent women that I know.  Jessie is complex and conflicted, and my new series will be written from her intense, brilliant, flawed, but moral perspective.  I hope that people remember Jessie and the issues raised through her long after they have finished reading.

Fire Damage, the first novel to feature Jessie, is set in both England and Afghanistan – tell us about it.

In Fire Damage, Dr Jessie Flynn is counselling Sami Scott, a deeply traumatised four year-old-boy, whose father, a Major in the Intelligence Corp, was badly burnt in a petrol bomb attack whilst serving in Afghanistan.  Sami is terrified of someone or something called ‘The Shadowman’ and tells Jessie Flynn that ‘the girl knows’.  However, there are no girls in Sami’s life.  Sami also carries a huge black metal Maglite torch with him wherever he goes, clutching onto it like a loved teddy bear.  Sami’s parent insist that his trauma stems from seeing his father in hospital burnt beyond recognition, and that Major Scott is ‘The Shadowman’, but Jessie feels that that something far darker explains Sami’s trauma.

Fire Damage is first and foremost a story about families: love and hate, kindness and cruelty and the destructive nature of some relationships.  The fear and helplessness experienced by a child trapped in a dysfunctional family was, for me, a very powerful emotion to explore, as was its flip side – intense love and an overwhelming desire to protect.

You did a psychology degree and served in the Territorial Army, but what other research did you have to do for the novel?

My degree in Psychology sets me in very good stead to write about a character who is herself a psychologist, so for Jessie’s professional life I needed to do very little research beyond the knowledge and experience that I already have.

Likewise, my experience as a Troop Commander in the Territorial Army and as head of land-based weapons at global defence intelligence publisher Jane’s Information Group set me up well to write about people who serve in the Army and also about the political situation in the middle-east.

The ‘star’ of Fire Damage is Sami Scott, the deeply traumatised four year-old-boy.  I have three children, the youngest of whom is a four-year-old boy and so I suppose you could say that my poor son was a living, breathing research subject for the character of Sami.  However, I can assure my readers that my son’s life is wonderful compared to Sami’s!

9780008132309What’s the biggest challenge in establishing a new series?

For me, White Crocodile, my debut thriller was hard act to follow, firstly because it was very personal to me, as it was based on time I spent working in the minefields of Cambodia, and secondly because it got universally fantastic reviews, being called variously, ‘a stunning debut’ in the Sunday Mirror, ‘an ambitious thriller’ in The Mail on Sunday, ‘a powerful, angry book’ in The Times, and being compared to Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness in The Independent.  The biggest challenge in establishing the Jessie Flynn series, was therefore to find characters and a subject matter that readers would enjoy even more than White Crocodile.

I knew that I wanted to write a series because, although many readers of White Crocodile wanted to see Tess Hardy again, her job as a mine clearer and the subject matter didn’t really allow for her return.  I also wanted to write a series that used my expertise – as a psychologist and my military experience – and one that was a little out of the ordinary in the crime genre.

In Jessie Flynn and the two other key characters, who appear in Fire Damage, Captain Ben Callan and Detective Inspector ‘Bobby’ Marilyn Simmons of Surrey and Sussex Major Crimes, I really believe I have developed characters who my readers will love and want to live with in many future novels.

Before writing your first novel White Crocodile you did an MA in Creative Writing – was that an experience you would recommend for wannabe writers?

Most novelists I meet are former journalists, but I had no previous writing experience beyond school essays, just a strong desire to write White Crocodile.  Writing a novel is a real challenge, not just in terms of crafting great sentences, but also in terms of developing believable, empathetic characters and sufficiently complex and surprising plots.  I found the MA enormously helpful and would definitely recommend some kind of formal writing teaching for wannabe writers, if they have as little experience as I had when starting out!  However, there are many ways to skin a cat and reading widely in the genre in which you write is a great way to learn how to write well in that genre.

What’s the hardest lesson you ever had to learn about writing?

The hardest lesson I’ve learnt is to be self-aware and to take feedback from people who are more knowledgeable than myself.  Writing a novel is a huge commitment in terms of time and emotional energy and with White Crocodile I had to throw away and rewrite about a third of it on the advice of my agent.  At the time, it was heartbreaking, but the experience taught me so much about how to write a great crime novel and neither White Crocodile nor Fire Damage would be nearly so good without the very painful lessons I learnt from my agent right at the beginning of my writing career.

Who are the authors you admire, and why?

I have always loved to read and much of my childhood was spent immersed in stories.  Enid Blyton’s Famous Five series was one of my favourites and in common with many other tomboys I wanted to be George.  Two other books that really captured my imagination as a child were Lord of the Flies and To Kill a Mockingbird.  They are both fantastic psychological thrillers for young people, with great story lines and incredibly vividly drawn, memorable characters.  I have read both of these novels a number of times over the years and never fail to appreciate them.

I am still an avid crime and thriller reader, which is why I choose to write in that genre.  I love writers such as Jo Nesbo, Stieg Larsson, Martina Cole, Mo Hayder and Lee Child.

Mo Hayder, generates fear in a novel like no other writer I know.  Jo Nesbo’s novels, particularly my favourite which is The Snowman, are also terrifying and he is fantastic at developing very complex plots that make it impossible to put the book down.  I must have read all 500-odd pages of The Snowman in two days.  Martina Cole is gritty and realistic and Lee Child just writes enjoyable and very easily readable stories.

I also love Khaled Hosseni, because he blends fact and fiction so well, taking readers into a very traumatic real word, through incredibly empathetic fictional characters.

What’s your best advice on writing…

My best advice is to read widely, particularly in the genre that you are interested in writing in, to take advice and be self-aware and most importantly, to enjoy yourself.  Enjoyment and passion will transfer itself to the page.  I love Jessie Flynn, Sami Scott and the other characters in Fire Damage, and really enjoyed writing about them, and I think that this love and passion really makes the novel work.

What’s next for you and Jessie?

I have already completed a first draft of the second Jessie Flynn novel and sent it to my publisher, Harper Collins, so I am waiting with baited breath to see if they like it.  Jessie Flynn is a hugely compelling and multi-dimensional character, and as such is a gift to an author, and I am looking forward to developing her, Captain Ben Callan and Detective Inspector ‘Bobby’ Marilyn Simmons of Surrey and Sussex Major Crimes, in many future novels.


Fire Damage, the first Jessie Flynn novel, is out this Thursday — March 24th – in hardback, published by Harper Collins.

The Intel: Anders de la Motte

Anders de la Motte, 2013Identity and memory have long held a fascination for authors and readers alike — we can’t get enough of characters who have to discover who they are. If we’re lucky, they’re in big trouble — and Swedish author Anders de la Motte’s latest protagonist David Sarac is up to his neck in it.

Anders hit the big time with his hi-tech Game trilogy and his latest thriller MemoRandom is out just in time for Christmas. It’s a gripping thriller in which police officer Sarac wakes up from a car crash and remembers nothing, except the he’s done something unforgivable and that he needs to protect his informant Janus. Natalie Aden is the only person he trust to help him piece the clues together. But others will go to desperate lengths to get to Janus before them…

Anders de la Motte was formerly a police officer and then director of security at one of the world’s largest IT companies. The telly rights to MemoRandom have already been snapped up — by the guy who brought Homeland and 24 to the screen.

So Crime Thriller Fella is thrilled that Anders is gives us the intel on his amnesiac copper, how his own career in law-enforcement has fuelled his books, and how as an author sometimes you’ve just got to kill your darlings…

Tell us about David Sarac…

David Sarac works for the intelligence unit at the Stockholm police. His job is to recruit and handle secret informants within the criminal world, assess the information his sources provide and funnel it into other departments in the police. If you ask him what he does he would say that he is a collector of secrets. Sarac lives for his job and he is very good at it. Bribes, threats or blackmail, anything goes as long as he gets results. His only work-tool is a notebook with encrypted information that he keeps very close to his heart.

Since Sarac’s results are excellent his commanding officers conveniently look the other way and does not question his methods and his star within the police community is on the rise. His prize source is a top-secret informant code named Janus, located somewhere in the top level of the organized crime structure in Stockholm. Janus provides Sarac with extremely useful information and people on both sides of the law are very eager to find out Janus’s identity, either to use him for their own purposes or simply to eliminate him. But Sarac is very careful. He is the only person who knows Janus’s true identity, how to contact and control the reluctant informant who for obvious reasons has everything to lose.

But when Sarac suffers from a stroke in the middle of a high-speed pursuit and violently crashes his car he also loses part of his memory. And suddenly he finds himself being just one of the participators in a chase for his own secrets. A chase with a deadly outcome.

What was the inspiration for MemoRandom?

I wanted to write a dark story revolving around police-officers and criminals but lacked an interesting angle. In 2013 my father suffered from a light amnesia and initially lost a year of his life. The gap closed within a few days, first to months, and then weeks but to this day there is still one day he does not remember. As I watched his frustration in dealing with this fact, as well as the various tools he used to backtrack his steps and decrypt his own brain I got increasingly interested in how the brain processes and stores memories and why we sometimes remember things incorrectly.

From there I started thinking of a policeman losing his memory and what would be the most important and dangerous thing to forget. So I came up with David Sarac and his elusive, top-secret and quite dangerous informant code-named Janus. Sarac’s journey is actually the opposite of the tormented-cop-heading-downhill character as he starts out in a pretty bad shape but gradually recovers.

memorandomWhy are we so fascinated by characters who suffer from amnesia, or find themselves without an identity?

Everyone lives in their own little universe, our own bubble with environments we recognize, people we know and where we feel reasonably safe and in control. I think the whole idea and horror of one day waking up inside an unfamiliar bubble is something most people can relate to and be fascinated by. To your point, the amnesia theme is quite popular and therefore I’ve tried not to overexploit it. Like my father, Sarac suffers from a partial memory loss. He remembers who he is and where he lives, he has “just” lost about two years of his life. Two very important years filled with crucial information he is no longer privy to.

How has your own experience as a police officer and a director of security at a global IT company fuelled your writing?

When working in law-enforcement and private security you constantly deal with problems, mainly those created by others and that you are supposed to try to solve. Your work is dealing with things that are really not supposed to be happening. I’ve been in that business for almost 20 years and by now I have quite a bank of experience that I draw from. It could be scenarios like the “micro kidnappings” that Natalie Aden is orchestrating, events like the dead man in the snowed-over car found in the middle of Stockholm (true, I was first officer on site) or small details like how police officers (and criminals) talk, methods or equipment they use and so on. Like Sarac I have a vast net of contacts, the difference is my secret sources volunteer their help if I need it.

MemoRandom could be coming to TV as an American series – which actors do you see in you mind’s eye as Sarac and Natalie?

Wow, difficult question. Sarac is a tormented, complicated character, rather than a tough guy. Natalie is both smart and has lots of attitude. I’m open to suggestions. Tom Hardy perhaps, and why not Swedish actor Rebecca Ferguson who starred in the latest Mission Impossible?

What’s the hardest lesson you ever had to learn about writing?

Sometimes you have to take out whole scenes or even characters because they slow the story down and do not add any value. Many hours of research and writing gone in just a couple of clicks… In writing this is called “kill your darlings” and sometimes that is how it feels.

Who are the authors you admire, and why?

I admire many authors for many different reasons. Norwegian author Jo Nesbo is always on the top of my list. He is really great at building intricate plots as well as using the tormented-cop-heading-downhill cliché without making it sound in any way like a cliché.

I also admire the fact that he writes stand-alones in different styles than his regular. This is something I would like to try, as a way to develop as a writer.

Give us some advice about writing…

Get started. 99% of all aspiring writers for various reasons never start, mainly because they think you have to have the perfect story ready in every detail first. This is not the case, your story will develop once you start typing, as will your storytelling skills. Every word you write is a small step towards reaching your goal so get started!

What’s next for you and Sarac?

UltiMatum, the sequel to MemoRandom, was released in Sweden in September and is currently being translated to English by brilliant translator Neil Smith. It was awarded the very prestigious Best Swedish Crime Fiction of the Year Award by the Swedish Crime writers association and I’m off course very happy and proud over this.

Currently I’m in New York promoting MemoRandom which is being released here at the same time as in the UK. MemoRandom has gotten some pretty spectacular pre-reviews here and I’m very eager to hear what both the American and British readers think of it.

I hope you like the book and the characters as much as I do.


MemoRandom is available right now in paperback and as an ebook, published by Harper Collins.

The Intel: Jo Spain

Jo SpainWith Our Blessing, Jo Spain’s debut crime novel featuring Irish Inspector tom Reynolds, is a book ripped straight from shocking headlines. It’s set against a background of the infamous Irish Magdalene Laundries and Mother and Baby homes where young mothers were subject to physical and mental abuse.

Jo has worked as a journalist and a party advisor on the economy in the Irish parliament, and as vice-chair of the business body InterTrade Ireland. With Our Blessing is her first novel and was one of seven books shortlisted in the Richard and Judy Search for a Bestseller competition 2015. She lives in Dublin with her husband and their four young children.

A generous interviewee, Jo gives us the intel on her debut novel – and how her research into the topic also revealed an astonishing family secret.  And she’s got some really interesting things to say about her own writing process – so dig in and enjoy!

How would you describe Inspector Tom Reynolds?

Tom is a gentleman – relaxed, smart, witty. He likes to indulge in the odd cigar and a nice glass of red, or pale ale. Tom married his college sweetheart and they have one daughter, who they both adore. Unlike many fictional detectives, Tom’s family life works well, but he is struggling to get his head around his only child growing up in With Our Blessing.

Tom’s approach to an investigation is to have a strong team around him and play to their strengths. He’s not threatened by the abilities of his subordinates and he’s happy with where he has reached in his career. He doesn’t want to go further up the ladder, he takes pleasure in solving the puzzles his cases throw up. His strength as a detective is his insight into human behaviour. He interacts well with people, engaging them with an intelligence and kindness they don’t always expect from the police.

Most importantly, Tom has a sense of humour which hasn’t diminished despite his job being oft times harrowing. He still sees the good in the world.

The idea from With Our Blessing came from your own family roots – what was the inspiration?

It’s actually the other way round – when I was researching With Our Blessing, it inspired me to look into my family history and I discovered some astonishing facts. I’d always known my late Dad was adopted, but when looking into the history of mother & baby homes for With Our Blessing, it occured to me that, having been born in 1951, he must have been adopted from such a place. It took painstaking work, but I eventually discovered that his mother had given birth to him in 1951 in Dublin but refused to allow the nuns to take him for adoption. That was incredibly strong of her and virtually unheard of for the time.

She took him out of the home in 1953, but in 1955, alone and most likely destitute, she brought him back and reluctantly gave him up. He was adopted in 1955, age 4. My dad knew none of this and lived a tragic life, always feeling that he’d been abandoned. He died in a fire in 1995, aged 44.

The novel is set against the background of the notorious Irish Magdalene Laundries – what happened there?

I should point out that while the Laundries were fairly prolific in Ireland, they’re not a particularly Irish phenomenon and also not unique to Catholicism. Across the world, there are examples of homes for unwanted or ‘wanton’ women. The Magdalene Laundries seemed to begin as charitable refuges. At some point, that changed and the women and girls held in them were made to work for their bed and meals, even though the State afforded stipends to the institutions for the women there. I don’t have enough word space to go into the history of the Laundries.

Suffice to say, the testimonies of the women who went through them speak of imprisonment, back-breaking manual labour to make profit for the religious orders, physical and mental abuse, torture and hunger. Not in every case, but in most. I recommend the Channel Four documentary Sex in a Cold Climate as a starting point for further information.

With Our BlessingHow has Ireland come to terms with the recent shocking revelations about mother and baby homes?

There’s a part in With Our Blessing where Tom is engaged in a very telling conversation with an elderly nun. She points out that while society holds its hands up and expresses shock at revelations about religious institutions, the same society was responsible for sending their daughters/sisters to those places. As she says, nobody wanted to see a single mother pushing a pram around, evidence of her sin. One of Tom’s detectives points out that society was conditioned by the Church to believe certain things. There’s some truth in that, but there have always been superstitions and stigmas about women, especially single, pregnant women.

Irish people did spend a long time under the cosh of the Church and much of that has faded. What hasn’t faded to the same extent is a particularly Irish trait of not washing your dirty linen in public – keeping family secrets, secret. It has been very empowering for the women who’ve come forward and told the truth about the homes and the sheer emotion of their experiences has forced larger society and the State to recognise the issue and address the legacy.

But that doesn’t mean all people have come to terms with it. There are many elderly people who would dispute the women’s stories and the religious orders deny them. The State has set up an investigation and is moving to give adopted people rights, but the process is shockingly slow and far behind Britain.

There is a general acceptance, though, that thousands of women were forced to give up their children in mother and baby homes, often in illegal adoption situations, and that babies were even sold from such institutions.

With Our Blessing was shortlisted for the Richard and Judy Search for a Bestseller competition – what kind of platform did that provide for you as a writer?

It got me a book deal! I’d just finished my first draft of the book when I saw the competition advertised, with a few days to go before the closing date. I entered because it was free and then forgot about it, because it seemed like such a prestigious thing and I hadn’t even edited my submission. When I found out I’d been shortlisted, I knew life was going to change because even that was going to look pretty good in my ‘please publish me’ letter.

My youngest was 12 days old when I got the email saying that while I hadn’t won, Quercus were interested in talking to me about the book and taking it further. A couple of weeks later, they came back with the offer of a two-book deal. I couldn’t scream down the phone because I was holding the baby, but I was yelling inside with happiness. I figured I’d a good five years or more of rejection slips ahead of me, so it was overwhelming.

What’s the hardest lesson you ever had to learn about writing?

I guess that a publishing deal doesn’t equate to you becoming a full-time writer, which is what I imagine most writers aspire to. Maybe one day, but right now, I have two full-time jobs and I write on top of them, along with minding four small children. The six-figure deals that make the headlines are the exception, not the rule. Writing is my dream but it takes a while before it can also become your living and that makes it tough.

Who are the authors you admire and why?

I’m currently obsessed with Tom Rob Smith. I can’t believe I missed Child 44 when it came out – I read it recently and it blew my socks off. It wasn’t just that it’s a great thriller and page turner. It’s beautifully written and the time period is fascinating.

I do tend to veer towards crime books mostly, but I like them best when they’re well written – when it’s not just a plot-focused book or fast-paced action. I love Fred Vargas for her wit and unique style. I love Louise Penny’s Gamache series because I want to spend time with her characters. I love Jo Nesbo because the first time I read The Snowman it sent shivers down my spine. For British authors, it has to be Agatha Christie (who made me want to be a crime writer), Ann Cleeves (for the beauty of her settings and observations about life) and Colin Dexter (because Morse is just so clever).

I could go on and on here… I speed read and have been known to do a book in a day, so there are a lot of authors I love!

Give me some advice about writing.

Plan your novel in advance. Sit down and write it from start to finish, don’t dither going back over sections. Edit it diligently yourself. Then allow yourself to be edited. My husband (a former editor) edits my books before I send them into Quercus and after going through the process twice, I can hand on heart say our marriage could now survive anything. Respect people’s trades. You’re a writer; he or she is the editor.

Hand it over to a couple of good friends (choose these people very carefully) and ask them for honest, constructive criticism. Some people are deliberate ego-crushers, others are just idiots – watch out for them and don’t trust them with your baby. And prepare yourself for subjectivity. Remember that you don’t like every book you read, sometimes even books that sell off the shelves.

What’s next for you?

Aside from world domination? Ha!

I’m at the final edit stage of book two, preparing to send it into Quercus. I’m on my hols as I write and I’ve just done the plot outline for book three, which has me very excited.

I’m hoping my debut will be well received. It’s utterly nerve-wracking sending your hopes and dreams out to the world to be judged. I’d like people who love it to shower me with praise and those who don’t, well, if they could just keep that to themselves…


With Our Blessing by Jo Spain is out now in original paperback, priced at £12.99.

The Intel: Tom Callaghan

Tom Callaghan

Earlier in the week we walked the charming streets of Bishkek in Tom Callaghan’s excellent debut, A Killing Winter, which features the debut of Inspector Akyl Borubaev. Callaghan’s brutal post-Soviet noir is brutal and muscular and funny. In a corrupt state full of bad eggs, Borubaev is as hardboiled as they come.

We promised you Tom Callaghan would give you the intel on Borubaev, Kyrgyzstan and his writing, and here at Crime Thriller Fella, we deliver. Born in the North of England, Callaghan is quite the gadabout. An inveterate traveller, he divides his time between London, Prague, Dubai and Bishkek. Me, I get a nose-bleed crossing postcodes.

Tell us about Akyl Borubaev.

Inspector Akyl Borubaev of the Bishkek Murder Squad in Kyrgyzstan is tough, honest and dedicated. Having recently lost his wife to breast cancer, he is in mourning, unsure that he does any good, caught in a deep depression. But the murders continue, and he has to solve them.

Where did you get the inspiration for A Winter Killing?

I’ve always loved crime fiction, hard-boiled noir for preference, and so that was always going to be the kind of book I’d write. But who needs another crime book set in NYC, or LA, or Miami? Kyrgyzstan is an unknown place, with a lot of problems – what more could a crime writer ask for? As for the plot; (whispers) I made it up.

In the novel, Kyrgyzstan is a state engulfed by gangsters, corruption and sleaze – what do you think the good citizens of Bishkek would make of it?

After two revolutions in ten years, it’s clear that the Kyrgyz will put up with a lot as long as there is food on the table, but when corruption becomes too overt, they act.

A Killing WinterWhat’s your own relationship with the country?

I was married to a Kyrgyz woman, I have a Kyrgyz son, and a home in Bishkek. It’s a country I love, for its beauty, for its culture, for its people. It’s a unique place, in an increasingly homogenised world.

It’s a very timely novel, what with many of the post-Soviet satellite countries afraid that Russia is flexing its muscles again. What do you think the future holds for Kyrgyzstan?

Now that the US air base at Manas has closed, following troop withdrawals from Afghanistan, and with Kyrgyzstan signing trade agreements with Russia over import and export tariffs, people are worried about a decline in living standards. Only time will tell. But I don’t see Putin moving eastwards.

How did the spellchecker on your computer cope with some of the more challenging, consonant-heavy names?

I ignore it: I know how to spell, to parse a sentence and the rules of grammar. Orwell’s rules are ones I live by.

What’s the hardest lesson you ever had to learn about writing?

Laundry and doing dishes always seems more important when you stare at a blank screen.

How do you deal with feedback?

As a professional writer, I have no problems with other people reading what I’ve written. I like to think I’m reasonable and open-minded to fair comment. At the same time, I’ll defend my work if I think I’m right. If I can improve my work through someone else’s suggestions, I will.

Who are the authors you admire, and why?

The Classics: Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, Jim Thompson. Murder taken out of the drawing room and put down a dark alleyway, where it belongs.

The Hard-Boiled Americans: Lawrence Block, James Lee Burke, Robert Campbell, Michael Connolly, Robert Crais, James Ellroy, Carl Hiassen, Joe R. Lansdale, Elmore Leonard, Ed McBain, George Pelecanos, Peter Spiegelman, Andrew Vachss. Crisp dialogue, more twists and turns than an electric eel, great locations.

The Bold Brits: Mark Billingham, John Connolly (alright, Irish, but I had to list him somewhere), John Harvey, Mo Hayder, Simon Kernick, Val Mcdermid, Ian Rankin, Peter Robinson. Murder doesn’t just happen in the USA, you know.

Foreign Settings: John Burdett (Thailand), Sebastian Fitzek (Germany), Stieg Larrson and Henning Mankell (Sweden), Jo Nesbo (Norway), Mike Nichol (S Africa). Because murder happens to non-English speakers as well.

What’s next for you?

The sequel, A Spring Betrayal, is with my agent and publisher, both of whom are very encouraging, and I’m plotting the third book now. Both of them feature Akyl Borubaev. A Killing Winter is already out in German, UK paperback and US publication is in the autumn, and Spanish and Portuguese editions follow next year.

Give me some advice about writing…

Don’t talk about it  –  nothing diminishes the desire to write as quickly as having told everybody the story. Read a lot. I mean a LOT. Read every day. Write every day. Ask for criticism, not praise; that’s what mirrors are for.

Follow Kingsley Amis’ advice: apply the seat of your trousers to the seat of your chair. Learn to spell and use grammar correctly; if you can’t make yourself clearly understood, how is your reader going to cope? Love one genre, but explore others; everything is an ingredient, to use or not, as you see fit.

Try not to be afraid of the blank page/screen, but don’t be over-confident either.

Crime Book Log: Nesbø, Connolly, Coben, Lackberg

With Easter approaching, some of writing big guns are cranking out product. Big product. Here are some shiny new hardbacks that are coming out on Thursday.

Polite Notice: If you’ve stumbled across this page in 2018 you may find these books have been out a long time, and are available in paperback. You may even have read some of them already.

The SonJo Nesbø. He’s good, isn’t he, with his hugely-successful Harry Hole thrillers and his terse titles like The Snowman, The Leopard and The Bat. His new one is called The Son.

The blurb just can’t make up its mind about capitalization:


Sonny is a model prisoner. He listens to the confessions of other inmates, and absolves them of their sins.


But then one prisoner’s confession changes everything. He knows something about Sonny’s disgraced father.


He needs to break out of prison and make those responsible pay for their crimes.


The Wolf In WinterIrish writer John Connolly’s first genre bending Charlie Parker novel was published in 1999. He’s now on the twelfth, called The Wolf In Winter. Parker is a private investigator who frequently butts heads with supernatural forces.

The blurb avoids local shops for local people:

Prosperous, and the secret that it hides beneath its ruins . . .

The community of Prosperous, Maine has always thrived when others have suffered. Its inhabitants are wealthy, its children’s future secure. It shuns outsiders. It guards its own. And at the heart of Prosperous lie the ruins of an ancient church, transported stone by stone from England centuries earlier by the founders of the town…

But the death of a homeless man and the disappearance of his daughter draw the haunted, lethal private investigator Charlie Parker to Prosperous. Parker is a dangerous man, driven by compassion, by rage, and by the desire for vengeance. In him the town and its protectors sense a threat graver than any they have faced in their long history, and in the comfortable, sheltered inhabitants of a small Maine town, Parker will encounter his most vicious opponents yet.

Charlie Parker has been marked to die so that Prosperous may survive.

Missing YouOoh, look, there’s a new  Harlan Coben out. Missing You is available in hardback and on Kindle. Coben is the writer of the Myron Bolitar novels, but it’s his stand alones that really generate heat. Coben’s books are usually about Ordinary Joes who discover their loved ones have been hiding important stuff from them.

The blurb is just popping out for a bit:

It’s a profile, like all the others on the online dating site. But as NYPD Detective Kat Donovan focuses on the accompanying picture, she feels her whole world explode, as emotions she’s ignored for decades come crashing down on her. Staring back at her is her ex-fiancé Jeff, the man who shattered her heart eighteen years ago.

Kat feels a spark, wondering if this might be the moment when past tragedies recede and a new world opens up to her. But when she reaches out to the man in the profile, her reawakened hope quickly darkens into suspicion and then terror as an unspeakable conspiracy comes to light, in which monsters prey upon the most vulnerable.

As Kat’s hope for a second chance with Jeff grows more and more elusive, she is consumed by an investigation that challenges her feelings about everyone she ever loved – her former fiancé, her mother, and even her father, whose cruel murder so long ago has never been fully explained. With lives on the line, including her own, Kat must venture deeper into the darkness than she ever has before, and discover if she has the strength to survive what she finds there.

There was that rather good French movie of One False Move – if you haven’t seen it, you really should – and it looks like a US movie version is finally going to happen. Coben likes his plot-twists – don’t we all? – and talks about those and about his writing in this interesting interview.

Buried AngelsCamilla Lackberg is described as a Swedish Sensation. I’m sorry, I’m sure Camilla’s terrific, but the role of Swedish Sensation will always be reserved for Agnetha Fältskog. I’m guessing Agnetha’s not much of a crime writer though.

Camilla’s new book – hardback, kindle – sees the return of Hedstrom and Falck and is called Buried Angels.

And it has an Eastery vibe, as the blurb immediately clarifies!

Easter 1974. A family vanishes from their home on an idyllic island off the Swedish coast. They have left everything behind – including their one-year-old daughter, Ebba.

Now, years later, Ebba has returned to the island. She and her husband have suffered the loss of their only child and are looking to make a fresh start. But within days, their house is the target of an arson attack.


Detective Patrik Hedstrom takes on the investigation, aided by his wife, crime writer Erica Falck, who has always been fascinated by the mystery of Ebba’s abandonment and the family’s tragic history.

When dried blood is found under the floorboards of the old house, it seems that the cold case involving the missing family is about to be brought back to life. And soon, Patrik and Erica are consumed by the hunt for a killer who will stop at nothing to keep the past buried…

A former economist, Camilla wrote her first story at the age of four, in which Santa’s wife is beaten to death. Now that’s a crime writer.





The Intel: Lee Weeks

weeks_lee_11833_1_300I do believe we reviewed the page-turner Cold As Ice by Lee Weeks earlier in the week. As you know, we like writers here, and we’re keen to learn from them, and Lee has kindly agreed to allow us to take the temperature on her writing process.

Lee spent seven years working her way around Europe and South East Asia. She returned to settle in London, marry and raise two children. She’s  worked as an English teacher and personal fitness trainer and her Sunday Times bestselling books include the DI Johnny Mann series and her new DC Ebony Willis series. She now lives in Devon.

What’s your writing process? What comes first – plot or character?

Definitely plot for me. I think of the ending first. I tend to visualize things in a filmic way: scenes rather than chapters.

Take us through a typical writing day for you.

5125wslP0aL._SY445_I’m up and showered between 7-8am. I check my emails first then I start writing. I write basically till I go to bed about eleven, but I will stop during the day to walk my dogs and to go to the gym.  When I stop to watch telly in the evening I will continue working on my Ipad.

Who are the authors you love and why?  

I find this such a tricky question because I don’t have particular favourites. I like John Burdett, Elmore Leonard, Jo Nesbo, Lee Child. So many people are good at certain things but not good at others. I think being an author has spoilt my enjoyment of reading.

What’s the hardest lesson you ever had to learn about writing?

When I tried to let a story grow organically – big mistake. I have too many ideas in my head! I need to stick to a strong outline and refer to it constantly. It’s another case of knowing your strengths and recognising your weaknesses.

How do you deal with feedback?’

If it’s constructive  I learn from it and welcome it. After all, I am striving to be the best I can be.

How have your own experiences shaped your writing?

I don’t think that I am even aware of the extent that they shape it. I have a massive resource library of emotions and physical experiences that I can call on. It is invaluable.

Give me some advice about writing.

Think of your book as a product rather than a baby.

13547041What’s your best advice for an author looking to get into the marketplace?

Don’t wait to write whole books – send agents a well thought out synopsis and  few first chapters.

What’s next for you?

I have a contract with Simon and Schuster for at least two more Willis/Carter books. During which time I will resurrect Johnny Mann 😉