Recently Read – Can Anybody Help Me by Sinéad Crowley

Can Anybody Help Me by Sinéad Crowley

Genre; Crime fiction

21460555It was crazy really, she had never met the woman, had no idea of her real name but she thought of her as a friend. Or, at least, the closest thing she had to a friend in Dublin.

Struggling with a new baby, Yvonne turns to netmammy, an online forum for mothers, for support. Drawn into a world of new friends, she spends increasing amounts of time online and volunteers more and more information about herself.

When one of her new friends goes offline, Yvonne thinks something is wrong, but dismisses her fears. After all, does she really know this woman?

But when the body of a young woman with striking similarities to Yvonne’s missing friend is found, Yvonne realises that they’re all in terrifying danger. Can she persuade Sergeant Claire Boyle, herself about to go on maternity leave, to take her fears seriously?

My Thoughts:

This is the last of my holiday reads. Or the last of my holiday reads that I enjoyed and I’m sharing. (If I don’t enjoy it, I don’t share it.)

This is the debut novel by Sinéad Crowley and the first featuring Sergeant Claire Boyle. It was interesting to read a novel where the police protagonist was pregnant. And heavily pregnant at that. It made her feel real, as though she actually had a real life and wasn’t just created for a novel if you know what I mean.

The novel is narrated from the points of view of pregnant Sergeant Boyle and new mum Yvonne and what I really liked about it is how it is based on the internet and how much information we tend to put out there about ourselves and how over time we have given away far more than we maybe have realised. The internet is a fascinating and current subject and I enjoy when it is covered well, which this is.

Early motherhood and the difficulties it presents is also a topic covered well with the character of Yvonne as we watch as she feels drained and isolated with her new baby and with a husband with a busy job who helps as often as he can, but that isn’t as often as is needed. Yvonne is a very identifiable character which is what made this book so good for me I think.

Through her isolation Yvonne turns to the internet and to Netmammy and gets close to some of the women on there and in turn gets concerned when the body of a woman turns up and one of her ‘friends’ hasn’t been online for a while. Life and online get blurred and Yvonne gets embroiled in a dangerous situation that is unnerving to watch unfold.

I’m looking forward to reading the next book in the Sergeant Boyle series.

With thanks to the author, publisher and NetGalley for my copy.

What To Do When Attending A Crime Scene

Back in May I wrote a post on the working relationships of police officers and stated that it would be the first in a series of posts on policing. I haven’t yet followed up on that. This is now that second post. And from now on, I shall try to be a bit more regular with these kinds of posts because I know that one was popular. You can find it Here if you didn’t read it.

police-850054_1280Today I’m going to look at crime scenes. Now crime scenes are a large area to cover, in terms of what you’re looking at if you’re attending one (therefore wanting to know about if writing crime) so this post will get split up into a couple of posts so as not to drag on. I’d rather give you bite-sized posts that are easily taken on board than throw a lot of info at you that will just turn to mush inside your head.

Usually, the first person at the scene of an incident is the uniform officer. They’re your front line. Your first port of call. You don’t know you have a murder unless someone goes to look first. Unless of course someone phones in to say ‘I’ve just murdered so-and-so and his head is hanging off because I used my chainsaw on his neck.’ But then the fastest person there is still going to be your uniform officer.

Also, notice I said incident and not crime. It may well look like a suicide, for example, a hanging, but you still need to have a look at it properly – get CSI’s out to check the scene, to make sure it is what it looks like.

But, if you suspect it’s a suspicious death or outright murder, then the right people are called to the scene and that’s where you choose what you call your team who are going to investigate (if you’re writing) because it’s different in every force. In the UK, we do use the word homicide unit rather than murder though.

So, you do suspect it to be murder, what does the uniform officer do while waiting for their plain clothes colleagues?

  • Make sure the person is definitely dead first! It’s ok to go into the crime scene to save life.
  • Then, don’t touch anything.
  • Close the crime scene and make it as wide as you think is necessary. It can always be brought in later. Think about entry and exit routes from the scene. Think about where an offender may have parked a car. Think about a bit of privacy for your victim if they are out in an open area because don’t forget you are not touching anything so your victim could be in an exposed place being gawped at and, equally, distressing other people. You can NOT cover them up. You’d be transferring fibres onto them and possibly taking away evidence when you remove whatever it is you cover them up with. Better to contain rather than miss anything.
  • Start a scene log (logging people in and out and what time) and don’t let anyone into the scene unless they need to be in. Think of the above re; exit and entry, if you need to cover these to prevent other people contaminating your scene by walking into it, then cover them.
  • If there are any potential witnesses lurking, grab and detain. (You will hopefully not be alone by now and these tasks are all shared out) If they’re adamant they won’t stay, obtain their details and try and confirm they are giving you the right details. (driving license etc).
  • All the while you are updating the control room (inspector) who is getting everyone necessary to you.

So, that’s a fair bit of information for just arriving at a crime scene. My next post will be on what the homicide team’s thoughts will be when they get there.

If you have anything you want to see covered in this series, then please let me know. I have a few questions already waiting that writing friends have asked in the past but I’m open to more.

Recently Read – Pretty Baby by Mary Kubica

Pretty Baby by Mary Kubica

Genre;  Psychological thriller

IMG_1033A chance encounter sparks an unrelenting web of lies in this stunning new psychological thriller from national bestselling author Mary Kubica

She sees the teenage girl on the train platform, standing in the pouring rain, clutching an infant in her arms. She boards a train and is whisked away. But she can’t get the girl out of her head…

Heidi Wood has always been a charitable woman: she works for a nonprofit, takes in stray cats. Still, her husband and daughter are horrified when Heidi returns home one day with a young woman named Willow and her four-month-old baby in tow. Disheveled and apparently homeless, this girl could be a criminal—or worse. But despite her family’s objections, Heidi invites Willow and the baby to take refuge in their home.

Heidi spends the next few days helping Willow get back on her feet, but as clues into Willow’s past begin to surface, Heidi is forced to decide how far she’s willing to go to help a stranger. What starts as an act of kindness quickly spirals into a story far more twisted than anyone could have anticipated.

My Thoughts:

Can you tell from the photograph that this was another of my holiday reads?! I do love holidays and the time they give you to relax and catch up with much-needed reading time.

This is another corker of a novel from Mary Kubica. It’s told from the viewpoints of Heidi, Chris her husband and Willow.

Heidi really wants to help and make everything OK but Chris is suspicious and not at all happy about the stranger in his home. He does however relent and allow his wife to continue with her planned houseguests. Willow’s chapters are glimpses into her life, into how she came to be on that platform where Heidi found her. As the novel progresses we learn more and more about the characters and watch in horror as things start to slowly and gradually crumble, as they invariably do and as you’d expect them to in a psychological thriller. And whatever you think the way this scenario could twist before you read this novel, it’s probably not the way it goes. This deteriorates with shocking and unhappy results and will leave you waiting for the next Kubica novel with anticipation. She weaves chapters smoothly and has you understanding the characters motives and each breakdown and crumble as it arrives. I found myself internally nodding or shaking my head at some of the actions and reactions because I could see what would happen if the character did what they were going to do and I understood why they would do it. This showed me how immersed I was and how believable the characters were.

Not happy reading because it’s not a happy situation, but a great psychological thriller if that’s what you are looking for. Another great read from Kubica.

You can find out what I thought of her debut novel, The Good Girl Here and see how Mary writes her first drafts Here.

With thanks to the author and publisher for my copy.

What’s Your First Draft Like? – Mary Kubica

Today I am excited to welcome Mary Kubica to the blog, as part of her Pretty Baby blog tour, to talk about her First Draft process. I absolutely adored The Good Girl – you can find my raving review Here and see how she made it onto my top 5 books of 2014 Here. – and Pretty Baby was one of my holiday reads which will be making it onto the blog next week.

MaryKubicaMary is the author of two novels, including PRETTY BABY (2015) and THE GOOD GIRL (2014), which is a New York Times and USA Today bestseller. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, in History and American Literature, and lives outside of Chicago with her husband and two children.  Mary enjoys photography, gardening, and caring for the animals at a local shelter.

When you decide to write something new, what is the first thing you do?

I dive right into the manuscript. When I get excited about a new idea, I usually can’t wait to start and so, as long as I’m not currently in the middle of another project, I start toiling away immediately. Sometimes I get a new idea when I’m in the middle of another project, and then I have to postpone it until I can focus completely on the task at hand.

Do you have a set routine approaching it?

I don’t. I’m not someone who outlines or does much – if anything – in the way of note taking before I begin a new manuscript, and so I sit down and start writing whatever comes to mind. I generally begin a new manuscript with an indefinite starting point and though I have no idea where the story will take me, I slowly develop my characters and in time they decide where the story will go. In the case of PRETTY BABY, I began the novel with just an image of a homeless girl holding a baby, not knowing who she was or what her story would be, and in time, the story slowly began to unfold.

Pen and paper or straight to the keyboard?

Straight to the keyboard! I never write with pen and paper. My handwriting is terrible, for one, and I can also create much more quickly on the computer.

How important is research to you?

I research what I need to, but for both THE GOOD GIRL and PRETTY BABY, the research required was minimal. I like to use what I already know and incorporate that into my novels, but that isn’t to say that I haven’t had to do some research along the way.

How do you go about researching?

I generally use the Internet, though there’s nothing better than seeing something with your own eyes, so if I can seek out what I need to know that way, I certainly will. I’m also fortunate to have friends in professions that I call on from time to time to help out with arbitrary questions.

How do you store everything; ideas, research, images that catch your eye?

I do keep a file on my phone with random thoughts or phrases I fear I’ll forget, but generally I keep all those ideas and images stored in my head until the time comes to put them on paper.

Tell us how that first draft takes shape?

I simply write. As I’ve said, I don’t outline, but dive right in. Because my novels are not told linearly, I write them in smaller, linear sections and then merge when done. For example, in the case of PRETTY BABY, I wrote the story of Heidi and Chris, and then separately wrote Willow’s tale, and merged the two together when through. I edit as I go, so a chapter needs to be in tiptop shape before I feel comfortable moving onto the next. By the time I’m finished, the first draft is usually in pretty good shape and goes through just a little clean up before getting passed along to my agent and editor.

Are there any rituals you have to do or items you must have with you while writing that draft?

Nothing other than a mostly quiet house and a cat or two – or four – to keep me company.

Writing Room

Does the outside world exist or are you lost to us for a period of time as the magic works?

It depends on the day. There are those magical days I get consumed completely in the writing process and lose all track of time, and there are days when I’m only moderately consumed and can easily be distracted by the world around me. I prefer to be completely consumed.

Writing DeskWhat does your workspace look like?

Fairly sparse and clean. It’s the only space in the house that belongs to me and only me, and is a simple room where I can focus on writing. I have an antique desk that used to belong to my grandmother, which I’ve refinished, and framed images of THE GOOD GIRL and PRETTY BABY all around. There is also a pretty comfy armchair where most of my writing gets done.

Edit as you go or just keep getting words out?

Edit as I go. I like to keep my manuscripts clean, and have trouble moving onto a new chapter if the last one feels out of order to me.

I see many writers counting words in a day. Word counter or other method of keeping track of progression? I don’t keep myself to a certain number of words per day, but rather write when the words are flowing, and when they’re not, I stop. It feels counterintuitive to me to put words down on paper when they’re feeling forced. If I’m struck with a case of writer’s block, which certainly happens, I find it’s far easier to work my way through it when I’m running errands or cleaning the house rather than staring at a blank computer screen.

So, that first draft is down. Roughly how long did it take? And what shape is it in?

This depends completely on the novel. For THE GOOD GIRL, it took about 5 years, but for PRETTY BABY, less than a year.

In what format do you like to read it through, e-reader, paper or the computer screen?

Computer screen. It’s rare that I print out a manuscript.

What happens now that first draft is done?

I send it along to my agent and editor for their feedback, all the while agonizing over whether they’ll like it or not.

Thanks for taking the time to do this Mary. 

You can find Mary on her website, Twitter and Facebook.

Pretty Baby

23638955A chance encounter sparks an unrelenting web of lies in this stunning new psychological thriller from national bestselling author Mary Kubica

She sees the teenage girl on the train platform, standing in the pouring rain, clutching an infant in her arms. She boards a train and is whisked away. But she can’t get the girl out of her head…

Heidi Wood has always been a charitable woman: she works for a nonprofit, takes in stray cats. Still, her husband and daughter are horrified when Heidi returns home one day with a young woman named Willow and her four-month-old baby in tow. Disheveled and apparently homeless, this girl could be a criminal—or worse. But despite her family’s objections, Heidi invites Willow and the baby to take refuge in their home.

Heidi spends the next few days helping Willow get back on her feet, but as clues into Willow’s past begin to surface, Heidi is forced to decide how far she’s willing to go to help a stranger. What starts as an act of kindness quickly spirals into a story far more twisted than anyone could have anticipated.

 

Follow Mary as she continues her blog tour on the following dates;

PrettyBaby_BlogTourBanner-2

New Addition To The Bradley Family

Yes, you read that correctly, there has indeed been a new addition to the Bradley family home. In the shape of a second cockapoo, young chocolate bitch Lola.

Alfie is 21 months old and has a lot of energy. Even with two walks a day he is still buzzing with excess energy that makes him that little bit naughty around the house. That’s not to say he’s still not my adorable cuddly teddy bear of a dog who lays under my desk when I’m writing or beside me at my bed when I’m resting, it’s just there are times when he’s a little frustrated and I see a need for something else in him.

I’m a member of a cockapoo group on Facebook and many of the members have more than one poo, and these poos  were always portrayed as happy contented poos because they have each of the to play with.  So, as we have a newly paved back garden space for them and I’m at home and have the time for two dogs we decided to go ahead and get another.

Welcome home Lola.

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Now, it’s not been a walk in the park with her. And I don’t just mean having to get up in the night to take her to the toilet  because she very wonderfully won’t mess in her soft mesh crate or having to clear up the occasional wet patch where she forgets she has to go outside to wee, no, I mean the fighting between Alfie and Lola.

It would appear Alfie is a bit surprised by the new arrival in the house and expects her to submit to him if she is here, but Lola has other ideas. Coming from a house full of other dogs she seems used to the hustle and bustle and is willing to fight back when Alfie wants to push her around. This results in quite some battles which, to be honest, can be quite upsetting to watch. I’ve been told by the cockapoo group on Facebook that this can happen quite often and after a few weeks will settle down when they find their feet.

I’m hoping it’s sooner rather than later because when they are being nice to each other they make a beautiful looking pair of dogs and this makes me blissfully happy.FullSizeRender 8

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Recently Read – The Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkins

The Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkins

Genre; Crime

23364977Rachel catches the same commuter train every morning. She knows it will wait at the same signal each time, overlooking a row of back gardens. She’s even started to feel like she knows the people who live in one of the houses. ‘Jess and Jason’, she calls them. Their life – as she sees it – is perfect. If only Rachel could be that happy.

And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough.

Now everything’s changed. Now Rachel has a chance to become a part of the lives she’s only watched from afar.

Now they’ll see; she’s much more than just the girl on the train…

My thoughts:

There has been a lot of hype about this book and I usually tend to stay away from books where there is this much hype. I know that I can be influenced one way or another. Generally in the negative towards a book. Don’t ask me why, it’s just something that happens. Or I believe it happens…

As well as the hype, (mostly on Twitter) I’ve read a couple of reviews of the book and it seems to be a bit of a Marmite book because the protagonist isn’t all sweetness and light. She has her flaws and this doesn’t seem to be something readers are used to.

Anyway, this was the third book I read on holiday. Rachel our protagonist is recovering from a divorce and has a problem with alcohol. She likes to look out of the train window on her daily commute and particularly at a certain house. She sees a couple living there; they are often on the veranda area of their home. Rachel has made up names for the couple and by the affection they show each other she has also written their lives out – in her head. This seems to be a form of vicarious living on Rachel’s part.

I see that Rachel has a problem with alcohol, but it doesn’t make me want to stop reading. I’m not irritated by her. I like Hawkins style of writing. It’s clean, uncluttered and factual (for the fictional needs).

The story really starts when Rachel sees something she’s not expecting to see on that veranda, something that shocks her. It’s not enough that we as readers know the whole story, but it’s enough for Rachel to want to do the right thing, but because of her troubled life this isn’t easy. The story follows her trying to do what she thinks will help but often ends up not doing much to help at all and causing more harm to her fragile self-esteem which exacerbates the drinking cycle.

We also have chapters from the viewpoint of other important characters in the story, mixed in with Rachel’s. We have chapters from Megan, the missing woman, from before and leading up to her going missing, and we have chapters from the viewpoint of Rachel’s ex-husband’s new wife, who is not amused by the drunken ex-wife still in their lives.

So, I’m sitting in the middle ground area, I’m not raving about it or hating it, but I will say it’s a really enjoyable crime read and I did want to keep picking it back up to see what happened next. I enjoyed it. I think flawed protagonists are great. Hard work for an author to work with because you need to keep the reader interested but  I personally love them. (Note my recent penchant for serial killer novels!) The pace of this book was wonderful. I love alternating chapters, they really work for me and I liked that Rachel wasn’t a do-gooder on a train who wanted to solve the crime like a member of the Scooby Doo gang!

With thanks to the author, publisher and NetGalley for my copy.

 

Bloody Scotland Blog Tour – An Interview With Val McDermid

Bloody Scotland crime festival is held every year in the historical and beautiful town of Stirling in Scotland. This year it runs from 11th – 13th September and has a wonderful line-up of crime writers. Full events listing can be found HERE.

Writer Val McDermid at home in Alnmouth, Northumberland.

I am incredibly lucky to have been able to  interview one of the most well-known – and whose books are always much  anticipated – of crime writers, Val  McDermid.

Val’s novels have been translated into 30  languages and sold over 10 million copies worldwide. That’s some going. You can find her event pages for Bloody Scotland (she’s doing two!) Here and Here. The events as you will see are on Friday and Saturday so plenty of opportunity to see her around the festival and pop in to one of her panels!

Thanks for coming onto the blog today Val. I see that you are doing two panels at Bloody Scotland. One of them very factually related as you discuss forensic science with Lin Anderson, the other you “discuss murder and mayhem” with the equally brilliant, Peter May, as well discussing your new novel, Splinter the Silence, which brings back Tony Hill and Carol Jordan.

The blurb for the forensic panel states that forensic science is a major theme in Lin’s books as well as your own. Do you think that readers have a thirst for knowledge that is mixed in with their fiction reading nowadays? And if so, why do you think this is?

I think crime fiction readers are curious about the world they live in. That’s why they choose a genre that explores the things we do to each other and the reasons why we do them. The scientific developments that have grown around criminal investigation in recent years are fascinating in themselves, and by incorporating them into our books, we are giving our readers something more to get their teeth into, which they love.

Because we are mostly discussing fiction, what do you make about the argument that it is in fact fiction and too much detail takes a reader out of a story or slows down a story narrative?

I think that’s true. We need to give the reader enough to intrigue them without showing off how thoroughly we have researched the topic. We have to keep the reader engaged with the story and the characters or they stop reading, which defeats the purpose of the exercise. My job is to create an authentic world with the key informative details that are necessary for the book to keep working. If they want to know more, there are plenty of online resources and books that can fill in the details.

As well as writing fiction and nonfiction books, you have also helped create a free online forensics course for the Open University’s Future Learn platform. I read that it hit over 10,000 subscribers shortly after it became available. That is an amazing figure and goes to show how interested people are in the subject. You must be thrilled with how well it has taken off. How did your involvement with the learning platform come about?

I’m delighted that so many people are joining in with what promises to be a fascinating project. I’ve had a long-standing relationship with Prof Sue Black at Dundee University and some of her colleagues. They’ve always been incredibly generous with their time and their expertise so when I’ve been in a position to return the favour, I’ve always been happy to help out. I was involved in a major project to raise funds for the revolutionary new mortuary at Dundee, and the MOOC that I’m working on with Dundee University and Future Learn is the next step in the journey of collaboration. I’ve just finished the short story that will accompany the course – once students have reached the end of their quest, they’ll be rewarded with access to the story that explains the background to the body they’ll be investigating.

What is it about the science of forensics that fascinates you so much?

I always enjoyed science and maths at school. And since I’ve chosen a life of crime at a time when the science has taken so many great leaps forward, it seemed only natural to me to follow those original interests. And besides, the stories are so terrific!

This year sees a new Tony Hill and Carol Jordan novel released. The first of which, The Mermaids Singing (which is brilliant!) was released in 1995, do you still get as much enjoyment from writing them as your readers obviously do from reading them?

Well, the readers probably have more pure enjoyment than I do because it’s still pretty hard work to get the book down on the screen! But yes, I do enjoy sitting down with Tony and Carol as much as I did in the early days. Their characters and their professional lives are so full of potential, it’s always intriguing to figure out where I’m going to take them next. If I ever stop feeling like that, then the series will end. I promise not to churn them out just for the sake of the franchise!

In 2012 you released your first children’s book. Could you see yourself writing in another (adult) fiction genre novel, other than crime, one day, and if so, what would it be and why?

I did rework Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey last year, which was both demanding and challenging. But it was also a lot of fun. So I don’t rule anything out although I have no specific plans for shifting genres. But writing should be about being willing to push yourself in new directions, so I never say never! (except probably to erotica…)

When you’re not reading books on a work-needed basis (awards, blurbs etc), what do you enjoy reading, purely for Val Mcdermid?

Good fiction. Sometimes crime fiction, sometimes not. Increasingly I find myself drawn also to narrative non-fiction as long as it’s well-written and carried along with a good sense of story.

Can you tell my blog readers something about the next book you’re working on that isn’t yet out there – just a titbit?

Next year’s book will feature Karen Pirie again, my Scottish cold case detective. She’ll be investigating two cases, one officially and one off the books. I know the bare bones of the story, but frighteningly little detail at this point…

Thank you very much for your time, it’s been an absolute pleasure having you on the blog.

Thanks for inviting me.

 

You can find all the previous Bloody Scotland blog tour interviews listed on the below banner. They are definitely worth checking out as is the festival itself!

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The Beautiful Island of Kos

A week ago I returned from a much-needed holiday on the beautiful Greek island of Kos.

Greece itself has been in the news a lot recently due to the economic crisis, but I can tell you if you are going over there, if you take enough cash – and the vendors are insuring higher amounts now because of this – you will have no problems.

IMG_1031Because I’m not the fittest person at the moment, my intention with the holiday was to lay beside the pool and read all day. Unfortunately the flight there took it out of me and I lost the first three days reading time as I recovered and slept on my sunbed most of the day with family waking me to move my bed back into shaded areas.

 

After that, I was well away and reading as well as enjoying the sunshine and location.

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As well as lying around and soaking up the sun we took a couple of trips into the town of Kos. Kos town is small but as already mentioned, it is beautiful and the people there are lovely. They can’t do enough to help you. It is unfortunate for them that right at this time they are having an influx of immigrants crossing over from Turkey by sea, which you can actually see from the beach of the resort I stayed at. It’s high season for the people in the town and this is when they make their money for the year. But because of all the press around the immigrants people are staying away.

I spoke to a restaurant owner who said the immigrants are fighting each other in front of the police station and there are not enough police to manage. More police are needed from Athens. He said that a female shopkeeper who owns a store in front of where they gather, verbally/physically shoos them off her shop step with a broomstick. The restaurant owner said the immigrants have threatened to burn her shop down. 

I also spoke to that very shop owner, as she had the most wonderful shop, and I saw her shoo an immigrant off her step with said broom but she said the incidents were minimal and today was first in a while. The previous one was a month ago. I also witnessed quite a large fight. I tried to record it on my phone but a family member stopped me as I was pointed out as being seen recording it so it’s only 8 seconds long, but you get the gist. The fight had been happening in the background of the video and it’s just about fizzled out when I’m recording but you can see the amount of people who are there. 

We were told that the square we sat and drank in is, at 8am, covered in sleeping immigrants. Through the day they get up and move about. Though you can still see them lying and sleeping. 

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I passed an immigrant woman sat on the ground and she had a baby in a pushchair. I gave her my full bottle of water. She then seemed to be asking for more. It’s a very difficult situation for everyone concerned.

IMG_0605The restaurant owner said tourists have decreased due to the reports of the overrunning of Kos by immigrants and he has thousands of pounds monthly rent to pay and his income is decreasing. Nothing is being done to help the problem. 

It is high season and yet the majority of the shops, and seats in roadside, and those on the squares, cafes are vacant. Are people no longer coming to the island of Kos or if they are, are they just staying in their resorts and not venturing into the town due to the coverage of the immigrant situation?

Kos is still a beautiful place and I wasn’t put off being there by what was occurring. It is easy enough to avoid areas you don’t want to be in but the greek people are wonderful. I had a great time.

I didn’t feel I could talk about Kos in this post and act as though I hadn’t seen what I’d seen. I’m very lucky to be in the position I’m in and I know that. 

My holiday was blissful. Kos is wonderful and I would tell anyone to go there no matter what is happening because you will be greeted with the warmest of welcomes and they really need us.

 

Recently Read – Instructions For A Heatwave by Maggie O’Farrell

Instructions For A Heatwave by Maggie O’Farrell

Genre; Contemporary fiction

16077150A portrait of an Irish family in crisis in the legendary heatwave of 1976. It’s July 1976. In London, it hasn’t rained for months, gardens are filled with aphids, water comes from a standpipe, and Robert Riordan tells his wife Gretta that he’s going round the corner to buy a newspaper. He doesn’t come back. The search for Robert brings Gretta’s children — two estranged sisters and a brother on the brink of divorce — back home, each with different ideas as to where their father might have gone. None of them suspects that their mother might have an explanation that even now she cannot share. Maggie O’Farrell’s sixth book is the work of an outstanding novelist at the height of her powers.

My thoughts:

This one is another of my holiday reads. (Tenacity was the first and there are plenty more to come!) As I was away for two glorious weeks I wanted to make sure I mixed up my reading styles so as to not become over saturated with one genre.

When Instructions For A Heatwave was released in 2013 I’d heard lots of great things about it through the Twitter reading community but I hadn’t got around to reading it. As I was preparing for my holiday I considered what reading material I’d need – as you have to! And because I obviously don’t have enough on my kindle alone… – this book immediately came to mind due to the title. I went into the bookstore, read the blurb, thought it was my cup of tea for my non-crime reading days and quickly purchased it.

I won’t even say whether I was around for the heatwave or if I remember it or not!

Heatwave (yes, I’m now shortening the title. I’m very sorry Maggie O’Farrell!) is a wonderful book. I found the first few pages a bit slow, as I’m used to someone being murdered pretty quickly, but once I continued reading I soon found myself engrossed in the worlds of these people. Of this family. They became real to me. I was invested and attached. I was rooting for them and sad for them. Cheering for them and holding my breath for them.

Yes, someone goes missing and it could be classed as a mystery if you wanted to stretch it, but it’s a family story, a story about wife Gretta and her children; Michael Francis, Monica and Aiofe. How their lives are now and how – as they look through the house that used to be their home for clues about their father – their lives were back then, and we find out that families are complicated. Each person individual. But ultimately they’re all there together for the same reason.

I did want the book to continue after it had actually ended as I didn’t feel I had all the answers I wanted, but O’Farrell is masterful with her keyboard and I would definitely read more by her. A great poolside read!

The Inspiration Behind – Dark Place to Hide

Today I have A J Waines on the blog as part of her blog tour and she’s talking about the inspiration behind her latest novel, Dark Place to Hide. Inspiration behind novels are always interesting topics and this one is no exception.

AJWainesleftAJ Waines was a Psychotherapist for fifteen years, during which time she worked with ex-offenders from high-security institutions, giving her a rare insight into abnormal psychology. She is now a full-time novelist with an Agent and has publishing deals in France and Germany (Random House). Both her debut novels, The Evil Beneath and Girl on a Train have been Number One in ‘Murder’ and ‘Psychological Thrillers’ in the UK Kindle Charts. Girl on a Train has also been a Number One Bestseller in the entire Kindle Chart in Australia. In 2015, she was ranked in the Top 100 UK authors on Amazon KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing).

Her new psychological thriller, Dark Place to Hide, was released on July 30, 2015.

Alison lives in Southampton, UK, with her husband. Visit her website and blog, or follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

I’ll leave you in Alison’s capable hands;

The Inspiration Behind the Book – Dark Place to Hide 

The inspiration behind all my books comes essentially from two main areas – an interest in psychology and a fascination with problem-solving. As it happens, these two themes came together in my earlier career, when for fifteen years I was a Psychotherapist in London. The experience I gained from this, especially when working with ex-offenders from high-security institutions, came in very handy when I started writing psychological suspense novels!

As a therapist, I am fascinated by the hidden persona and unseen worlds people create and inhabit. What you see when you meet most people is nowhere near what you get! Take, for example, those words most of us say every day: ‘How are you?’ ‘Oh – I’m fine,’ is the usual response. But with my clients, what I always wanted to know was – ‘How are you, really?’ I loved the unique privilege of being able to climb inside another person’s mind and help them see what they were unable to see for themselves – and then help them find a way out of their muddle by discovering who they really were and what they wanted.

As a reader and now a fiction writer, I’m hooked on mysteries. I love clues and the uncertainty that comes with not knowing what is going on at the opening of a book. I love secrets, lies, deception and mistrust – not in real life – you understand! Just within the safety of a novel that gradually reveals the truth.

The starting point for Dark Place to Hide was the idea of a misunderstanding that clashes with a secret. I’d just read a wonderful book by Claire King, The Night Rainbow, about a young child struggling to grow up when no one takes much notice of her and I wanted to write about a child in different circumstances. For my sub-plot, I chose a plucky seven-year-old girl who retreats into the world of fairy-tales – and no one is sure why. Is it because she was trapped in the dungeons of a castle after a day trip? Is it because her mother is dying from cancer? Or is it something else entirely?

Each of my novels (The Evil Beneath and Girl on a Train) features a lead character with skills that give them a special edge for solving crimes. In Dark Place to Hide, the lead is a criminologist who always notices more detail than anyone else. His wife goes missing under confused circumstances after a secret he’s been hiding comes to light. Then the little girl I mentioned earlier, disappears in the same village. So, like my other books, there’s a deep mystery running through two seemingly unrelated stories and the troubled protagonist has to try to piece everything together – desperate to find those who are missing – while the clock is ticking.

A novel often needs tiny seeds like these to spark off my intrigue and excitement. I write quite quickly (Dark Place to Hide took around three and a half months for the first draft). Once I’ve got the plot worked out (sweat and tears), I usually can’t wait to get the story down!

Dark Place to Hide

DARKLargeEBookShe’s trying to tell you – if only you’d listen…

About to break the news to his wife, Diane, that he’s infertile, criminology expert, Harper Penn, gets a call to say she’s been rushed to hospital with a miscarriage. Five days later, when Diane fails to return from the village shop, police think she must have taken off with a secret lover, but Harper is convinced the online messages are not from her.

In the same Hampshire village, plucky seven-year-old Clara has retreated into a make-believe world after an accident. Then she, too, goes missing.

As Harper sets out on a desperate quest to find them both, he has no idea what he’s up against. Could the threat be closer than he thinks? And is there a hidden message in Clara’s fairy tales?

DARK PLACE TO HIDE is a chilling psychological mystery with a cold-blooded deviant lurking at the core.

Follow the blog tour at the following places!

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