Post Mortems in Crime Novels

So, we’ve looked at how police talk to each other, deal with crime scenes and places you can research policing for your novel. Today we are going to look at the post mortem.

Post MortemsIn the UK, a Home Office Pathologist is appointed by the Coroner to perform a post mortem. The purpose is to find cause of death, establish the extent of the injuries, see any presence of natural disease and make a record of these findings. You may be surprised to find out that they can also offer opinions on what may have happened at the crime scene.

The role of the Pathologist is not just confined to the mortuary. They can attend the crime scene if the SIO feels it necessary and this is likely for complex scenes. Multiple shots in a shooting, multiple stabbings, more than one scene, attempted destruction of the body, decomposition etc. I’m sure you can bring your Pathologist out if you want them there. It’s not likely to read as unreasonable. At the scene s/he would take samples and tapings in situ and attempt to estimate time of death.

When removing your body from the scene to the morg, if samples haven’t been taken by your pathologist for any reason, then your victims hands need to be bagged up and you even need to consider bagging up their head, particularly if there is a head wound. It doesn’t look pleasant or particularly dignified but we’re looking at preserving evidence to enable the police to catch the person who did this to them in the first place and that’s what has to be held onto. 

Your Pathologist can also be a great help to your SIO by providing them with expert assistance with bodies, bones, body parts, type and dimensions of possible weapons and crime scenes, and regular contact is maintained throughout the investigation. So, any TV dramas that have the Pathologist doing the running around investigating are only using a little (OK, maybe a bit more than a little – but they really are invaluable) creative licence!

The post mortem itself will help with any identification issues you may have with your victim as everything about the body will be recorded; height, weight, general physique, sex, ethnicity, clothing, jewellery, birth marks, tattoos, surgical scars, hair colour etc.etc. Fingerprints will also be taken and if identification is an issue a Odontologist will be on hand to take impressions of the teeth as well as recording all the teeth present and absent and which have fillings and crowns and bridges.

Samples are taken from the body for toxicological analysis as well as the contents of the stomach to see what the last meal was.

Police are present during the post mortem for a couple of reasons, so they know what’s happening as it’s happening and to collect evidence, for example, any clothing that has to be removed is seized, packaged and sealed.

All this is done to get a full picture of the victim and what was happening before the murder and at the time of the murder so that the police can work to arresting an offender.

One thing that is little known, is that the family is entitled to be present at the post mortem, or they can send a medical or legal person to stand for them. I’m not sure how many family members would want to stand and watch this, but for writers, it’s an interesting tidbit.

Also, the Coroner can’t release the body straight away as the defence have a right to a second post mortem by a pathologist of their choice and if the police haven’t yet arrested and charged anyone with the crime, then the body has to be held for 28 days when a second independent Pathologist will be sought out to conduct the second PM. This is obviously distressing for the family but the defence have to be able to dispute anything that may be in the original post mortem report that could go against the charged person.

There’s an excellent document HERE which is an ACPO document on policing and the Pathologist and post mortems and it will give you a more comprehensive view of what I’ve given you a brief overview of. (This document is 39 pages long!) but it is well worth a read.

If you have any questions on this latest post, please feel free to leave them in the comments and if you have any questions you want covering in a future post, let me know those in the comments as well.

Did anything surprise you about the role of the Pathologist or the post mortem?

What’s Your First Draft Like? – Elise Noble

Today I’m pleased to welcome the very strong thumbed (you’ll see why shortly) Elise Noble to the blog to talk about her first draft process.

DivingElise grew up just outside London in rural Berkshire, within sight of Windsor castle. She used to make up stories as a child, but didn’t write anything down until many years later. Since then she hasn’t stopped.

Suffering from a chronic case of being unable to make her mind up, Elise gained a first class honours degree in engineering before switching careers to become a chartered accountant. Her hobbies include horse riding, scuba diving, wakeboarding, driving ridiculous cars, and marshaling motor races.

Elise writes romantic suspense and published her first novel, Trouble in Paradise, in 2015, swiftly followed by the first three books in the Blackwood Security series – Pitch Black, Into the Black, and Forever Black.

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

Ideas pop into my head all the time, usually at awkward moments when I don’t have any way of writing them down. But I figure if it’s a good enough idea to base a book on, it’ll stick around, so if I’m still thinking about it a few days later I’ll jot down some notes and put it on my writing list. That’s always pretty full. Currently it has almost thirty books on it!

Do you have a set routine approaching it?

As I begin to flesh out ideas for a book, I’ll start putting notes down chapter-by-chapter. Those will form the basis for my first draft. And when I decide which book to write next, those characters pretty much take over my head until it’s done.

I’ve tried complicated spreadsheets and plot outlines, but they just frustrate me. A simple list of the main plot points works best for me.

Pen and paper or straight to the keyboard?

Neither – I write all my first drafts on my iPad. I’ve written eighteen novels with my thumbs.

First draft

How important is research to you?

It depends on the book and the story – some parts of my stories are set in fictional places, others in real locations. I do this so I can spend more time concentrating on the plot, rather than having to look up street names and worry about whether you can see the train station from a particular coffee shop.

How do you go about researching?

With some stories I cheat a bit and write about things I know well already. For example, in Trouble in Paradise, Callie spends several weeks learning to scuba dive, and I’m already a qualified diver. So it’s easy to call on my own experiences to write those scenes. It’s the same with the horse scenes in Pitch Black and Trouble Rides Again – I’ve spent most of my life around stables. I’m also lucky to have friends who I can call upon to help – some of my books are set in Richmond, Virginia, and I know somebody from there, and if I want to know which gun a character might shoot, I call my dad.

My beta readers are also wonderful – in a recent book I had a character with a baby, and they were invaluable at pointing out where I needed to tweak parts.

When I can’t find a warm body to interrogate, it’s the good old internet to the rescue. I’m sure I’m on several lists as a person of interest based on my Google search history. Google maps and Pinterest are also handy.

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

A few notes, a board on Pinterest, and a whole load of saved links in a folder on my iPad. I also download images that inspire me and send some of them to my cover artist.

Tell us how that first draft takes shape?

I always write light and fast. My first draft is based around dialogue. In the second draft, I’ll go back and embellish the characters’ thoughts and put in more description. I’ll add ten to twenty percent that way.

Writing the first couple of chapters usually goes quite slowly, but then I get into the characters’ heads and hammer out the rest. If I’m not working at my day job, I can draft a novel within a week – six days is my record for a 60k word first draft.

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

No rituals. I can write anywhere. Trains, planes, cars, boats. In bed, on the beach, in restaurants. I once wrote a short story sitting by the side of a motor racing circuit.

But I do need coffee.

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

I’m gone.

What does your workspace look like?

For first drafts, I don’t have one. All I need is my iPad. Second drafts are done on my iPad too, but after that it’s onto my Macbook and Scrivener at my kitchen table.

Edit as you go or just keep getting words out?

Edit as I go. If I see a mistake, or need to change something in the plot, I have to fix it right then.

I see many writers counting words in a day. Word counter or other method of keeping track of progression?

I have a document in each project file where I note the number of words in each chapter, rounded down to the nearest hundred, so I can keep a rough track of my progress.

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

Writing a novel usually takes me from a week to a month. The first draft will have a few typos, usually thanks to the wonders of autocorrect, but apart from being light on description and details it’ll be quite readable.

I tend to write in bursts, then take a break. I drafted three novels in the last six weeks of 2015 (180k words total), but all I’ve written in January 2016 is a 6k word short story. I need to take some time to recharge, read, and plot.

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

I read on my iPad. I use an app called Daedalus Touch for my first drafts.

What happens now that first draft is done?

I leave the first draft for a few weeks or months, then go back to it with fresh eyes and edit it into a second draft. Then I either send it to beta readers or post it on Wattpad for feedback – it depends what my plans are for it in the future. After that, I’ll make changes and send it to my editor.

Thanks for digging into the depths of the first draft. It’s been a pleasure having you.

You can find Elise on her Website, Facebook and Twitter.

Pitch Black

Pitch Black Front only 72dpi v2Diamond’s on the trail of her husband’s killer when a phone call orders her to stop looking or people will die—her friends, her colleagues, anyone close to her. Unable to think straight, she decides to disappear, protecting her team as well as her sanity while she tries to heal.

With her expert training in security and special ops, Diamond soon loses herself in the English countryside, tending horses and biding her time. As Ashlyn Hale, she meets Luke, a handsome local who makes her realise just how lonely she is.

Yet, even in England, the dark side of life dogs Diamond’s trail when the unthinkable strikes. Forced out of hiding, she races against time to save those she cares about. But is it too little, too late?

**WARNING**

If you want sweetness and light and all things bright,

Diamond’s not the girl for you.

She’s got sass, she’s got snark, and she’s moody and dark,

As she does what a girl’s got to do.

 

You can read previous First Draft Q&As HERE. If you’re interested in taking part then please get in touch.

 

Recently Read – The Woman In Blue by Elly Griffiths

The Woman in Blue by Elly Griffiths

Genre; Crime

blueIn the next Ruth Galloway mystery, a vision of the Virgin Mary foreshadows a string of cold-blooded murders, revealing a dark current of religious fanaticism in an old medieval town.

Known as England’s Nazareth, the medieval town of Little Walsingham is famous for religious apparitions. So when Ruth Galloway’s druid friend Cathbad sees a woman in a white dress and a dark blue cloak standing alone in the local cemetery one night, he takes her as a vision of the Virgin Mary. But then a woman wrapped in blue cloth is found dead the next day, and Ruth’s old friend Hilary, an Anglican priest, receives a series of hateful, threatening letters. Could these crimes be connected? When one of Hilary’s fellow female priests is murdered just before Little Walsingham’s annual Good Friday Passion Play, Ruth, Cathbad, and DCI Harry Nelson must team up to find the killer before he strikes again.

My thoughts:

I’ve finally caught up with the full series of Ruth Galloway novels after starting from the beginning only last year I think it was (or not long before that) with the most recent offering from Elly Griffiths, with Woman in Blue.

I love the Ruth Galloway novels. I love that Ruth is down-to-earth and not superhuman. My favourite character though has to be Cathbad. The usually cloaked, druid.

These novels are filled with wonderful, character driven stories rather than plot driven and that’s what keeps me turning the pages and picking up the books and The Woman in Blue is no different. The lives of the cast of characters are in turmoil as they investigate the deaths of similar looking women and hateful letters to a female priest.

As well as the characters lives, this novel features religious fanaticism which makes for some interesting reading as Griffiths really does her homework before writing, without it looking as though it’s been homework or sounding like an info dump. It flows through the narrative and draws you in and holds your interest. 

All in all, another great Ruth Galloway novel. If you enjoy the series, you won’t be disappointed with this one. It is very character-led though, so it is a series I’d recommend reading from the beginning.

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

 

Now to continue with another series…

 

What Can You Change About Your Biggest Regret?

What’s your biggest regret and what can you do about it?

I saw this video on a friend’s Facebook wall yesterday and it spoke to me immediately. I understood it. It broke my heart to see a board in New York, that asks people what their biggest regret is, fill up with messages.

It’s a very simple film with a very powerful message. We only have the one life so why have these regrets. Take that regret and turn it into a positive. If your regret is too large then take a small step towards it and keep taking those small steps and eventually small steps will turn into a walk and a walk can take you anywhere.

It’s the same with novel writing. Write one word after another and you have a sentence. Write some more words and you have a paragraph. Write some more words and you have a scene, then a chapter. Eventually after multiple small steps you have a novel. It doesn’t have to be a race, just small steps.

Don’t live life holding on to that regret, let it go, let it fly, let this year be the year you have your clean slate and take that step, however small or large, to whatever it is you think you would have written on the blackboard.

Life is far too short.

What are you going to change now you’ve seen this video? I’m lucky in that I’m doing one of the things I would have written up there – I’m writing. I can’t regret my health and the limitations it puts on me because there is nothing I can do about that, but I think one day when my neck is in a better place, I might go back into studying as well as writing. At the minute, I don’t have the energy, but I will hold onto that thought for the future.

How about you?

Evil Unseen by Dave Sivers – Blog Tour

Today I’m welcoming Dave Siver’s to the blog as part of his Evil Unseen blog tour.

Blog Tour Flyer

Larger IconDave grew up in West London and left school at 16 to embark on a civil service career that took him to exotic places like Rhode Island USA, Cyprus, Brussels, Northern Norway and Sutton Coldfield.

Along the way, he moonlighted variously as nightclub bouncer, bookie’s clerk and freelance writer, as well as picking up a first class honours degree from the Open University. Writing has always been his passion and, since giving up the day job, he has launched a second career as a novelist.

The first two books in his popular Archer and Baines crime series set in Buckinghamshire’s Aylesbury Vale – The Scars Beneath the Soul and Dead in Deep Water – reached the top three in the Amazon Kindle Serial Killers chart and the third – Evil Unseen – has just been released. His other work includes two hybrid ‘crime fantasy’ novels featuring personal inquisitor Lowmar Dashiel.

Dave lives in Buckinghamshire, England, with his wife, Chris.

Dave, thanks for coming onto the blog to answer a few questions about Evil Unseen, the third book in the Archer and Baines series, which is launched today.

For anyone who has not read any of the series, can you tell us who Archer and Baines are?

Detective Inspector Lizzie Archer and Detective Sergeant Dan Baines work together in the Aylesbury Vale division of Thames Valley Police in the part of Buckinghamshire where I live. Baines is a local lad, having lived there most of his life. The first book in the series, The Scars Beneath the Soul, sees Archer transferring into the Vale from the Met after a horrendous incident that left her facially disfigured and shattered her self-confidence.

Where did you get your inspiration for them?

A few years ago I was at Crimefest in Bristol. I knew I wanted to write a crime series set in Aylesbury Vale, and I knew I wanted two cops as my protagonists, but I wanted them to be a bit different. The idea of the two characters came to me during a break on the first day. I’m still not sure where the actual ‘inspiration’ came from, unless it was just the creative atmosphere. By the end of the break I’d scribbled notes on both of them. The defining moment in Archer’s back story is her disfigurement. For Baines, it’s the murder of his wife and abduction of his young son by a serial killer, over a decade before the series begins.

How much research have you had to do for the procedural side of the police story and how do you do that?

I trust a lot to my instincts when I’m writing the first draft. If I need to know whether something is feasible, or how a particular thing is done, I’ll either research it there and then if it’s a show-stopper for the plot, or make a note to check it out later if it isn’t. I use good old Google, or contact either the police at the very station Archer and Baines operate out of or a very helpful CSI at Thames Valley Police. I’ve also been lucky with the latest book to have two members of my editing team who are former police officers. I’ve always found that people in all walks of life are only too happy to share their knowledge and expertise.

How important is getting those kind of procedural details right, to you? For some writers, it’s just fiction, others it’s integral.

An Amazon review of one of the books said, ‘ It seems to me that this is probably the way real police work is done’, and I do aim for that sense of authenticity – but I don’t want to overdo it, either. It’s easy to want to bore the reader with some fascinating facts you’ve learned that just aren’t necessary. And, up to a point, I might not let the facts get in the way of a good story line.

And Evil Unseen, where does this take Archer and Baines?

Readers who are as interested in what happens next to the two protagonists as in the crimes they have to solve will have a sense of their stories continuing to move forward. It’s a tough case for them, and for Baines especially. On one level, the book is all about trust, and here we see Archer and Baines finding out how much they now trust one another. There are changes – some of them big – in their personal lives too.

Are there any surprises in store for our policing duo?

Ooh, they wouldn’t be surprises if I revealed them. But yes – there’s one scene in particular that will mark a real step change in their relationship, which I don’t think either of them see coming.

Can you tell us one thing about book 4 that no one knows yet?

It’s inspired by – but not based on – a story I saw in one of the free papers on a journey home from London. It was something that got me thinking ‘what if…’ I’ve been working on the first draft in between things I’ve have to do to get Evil Unseen to publication, but I’m immensely excited about it.

Thanks for talking to me today Dave. Evil Unseen is a great read as is the Archer and Baines series.

You can find Dave on his website, Twitter and Facebook

Evil Unseen

eBook CoverEVEN THE DEAD HAVE THEIR SECRETS

A reformed teenage gang leader is gunned down in cold blood and an angry DS Dan Baines, who knew the victim well, reckons he knows who is responsible. But his boss, DI Lizzie Archer, wants to know the identity of the mystery man who died with him – and whether he was intended victim or innocent bystander.

A reformed teenage gang leader is gunned down in cold blood and an angry DS Dan Baines, who knew the victim well, reckons he knows who is responsible. But his boss, DI Lizzie Archer, wants to know the identity of the mystery man who died with him – and whether he was intended victim or innocent bystander.

When an officer from the National Crime Agency turns up and declares the case off limits to Archer and her team, its clear that there is more going on than meets the eye. Several conflicting agendas are in play and the body count is rising.

 

And Archer and Baines realise that the only people they can truly trust are each other.

“Sivers has created a dark world indeed.”

Rebecca Bradley

 

What’s Your First Draft Like? – Liz Nugent

Today I’m really pleased to welcome Liz Nugent to the blog. Liz’s book Unravelling Oliver made it onto my top crime reads of 2015 and is definitely worth your time.

liz1Liz is an award-winning writer of radio and TV drama and has written short stories for children and adults. In March 2014 her first novel, Unravelling Oliver, was published by Penguin Random House. It is a story of shame, envy, breath-taking deception and masterful manipulation.
It received universal critical and popular acclaim, went straight to the top of the bestsellers list and has been translated into nine languages. In November 2014, Unravelling Oliver won the Crime Novel of the Year at the Irish Book Awards. The television rights to Unravelling Oliver have recently been acquired by ITV Drama. Liz was the winner of the inaugural Jack Harte Bursary. Unravelling Oliver is currently longlisted for the International Dublin Literary Award (formerly the IMPAC). Her second novel, Lying in Wait, will be published by Penguin in July 2016.

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

The first thing I need is to hear a voice. I need to fix the character in my head. I always write in the first person. It might be a radio interview or a newspaper story that grabs me, but once my interest is sparked, I think about what the character will sound like. What is their accent, their tone, their timbre? Then, I listen to them talk for a few weeks before I write anything.

Do you have a set routine approaching it?

I’ve only written two novels and the second isn’t published yet, so I wouldn’t say I have established a routine. I know that my next novel will be based loosely on song lyrics though.

Pen and paper or straight to the keyboard?

Straight to keyboard!

How important is research to you?

I write the story first and leave the research to the end. I almost came unstuck with Unravelling Oliver when a scenario I had written seemed like it might not be feasible so I went to great lengths to find a Professor of Anthropology who could confirm that the situation I described was possible, though, he said, highly improbable. All I needed was ‘possible’.

How do you go about researching?

In my immediate family, I have quite a bit of expertise, two of my brothers are lawyers, one sister is an educational psychologist, one is a farmer, one is a technical translator, one sister in law is a computer expert, another works in the office of the Financial Regulator and one runs a hospital, so between them all, I have never had to look too far. I find people are generally very generous and willing to help and very concerned that I tell my story accurately.

For my second novel, Lying in Wait, I had to contact the State Pathologist to ask about how a body decays. We exchanged emails and I was really gratified when she said she’d read and enjoyed Unravelling Oliver!

IMG_6700How do you store everything; ideas, research, images that catch your eye? 

Everything is stored on my laptop, or if I’m out and about, I make notes on my phone. I keep pen and paper beside my bed in case of nocturnal inspiration.

 

Tell us how that first draft takes shape?

With both novels, there was never a grand plan. The stories evolved as I wrote them. With Unravelling Oliver, so many incidents in my life and the life of my parents and history informed and shaped that story and I also took inspiration from other books I was reading at the time. I always want to surprise myself and try to write in a way that defies expectation, so that leads to twists and turns in the story. The second novel started with one character but later, his mother became the central character, perhaps because her psychological damage was more interesting.

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

No. I don’t really believe in talismans, voodoo or any lucky charms. It’s just me and the laptop against the world!

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

I don’t ever disappear into my fictional world completely. I am constantly checking emails and social media while I write and I sometimes write in my local library just so that I can feel the world moving around me. The truth is I am terrified of being alone. That may be why I invent characters to keep me company. The more appalling they are, the better!

IMG_6699What does your workspace look like?

It is an armchair in my kitchen right beside the kettle. My husband tolerates this most of the time, but the piano is also in the kitchen so when he wants to play, I am banished to the living room and I put my legs up on the sofa and write there. I do not write at a desk. The lap top is on my lap.

Edit as you go or just keep getting words out?

I’ve experimented with this. With both novels, I rewrote the first three chapters incessantly and almost got stuck. In each case, I just had to move on and stop editing as I went. Everything can be fixed later. It’s really important for me to get the story down first because if my publisher doesn’t like the basic story, well then, I’ve wasted a huge amount of time editing something that is never going to see the light of day. (For those writing a first novel, edit it to death before submitting to publisher or agent- you only get the luxury of submitting unedited work once you have a contract for a second book).

I see many writers counting words in a day. Word counter or other method of keeping track of progression?

I would aim for 1000 words per day. It is achievable and practical. I don’t allow myself to leave the library or to eat until I’ve reached my goal. However, unlike most writers, I don’t write every day. I have to be in the right frame of mind. There is nothing like a deadline for giving you the right frame of mind.

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

7In the case of Lying in Wait, it took about a year. It was very ropey, but the characters were there. They just weren’t fully realized and there was too many of them. Unravelling Oliver took seven years, but I had a fulltime job when I wrote that and only wrote in the week or two I had on annual leave from work. 

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

Ideally, I’d read it on paper but I only have a small domestic printer so it’s not practical to print a 250 page document so I end up reading from the screen.

What happens now that first draft is done?

Submit to my editor and then panic about all the things I should have included or excluded. Try to relax while I wait for her verdict. I haven’t been able to do that yet. Maybe on novel number 3.

Thanks for digging into the depths of the first draft. It’s been a pleasure having you.

You can find Liz being interviewed by the Irish Times Here and accepting the crime book of the year award, Here.

And below is the book trailer for Unravelling Oliver.

 

Unravelling Oliver

unravelOliver Ryan is a handsome and charismatic success story. He lives in the suburbs with his wife, Alice, who illustrates his award-winning children’s books and gives him her unstinting devotion. Their life together is one of enviable privilege and ease – enviable until, one evening after supper, Oliver attacks Alice and beats her into a coma.

In the aftermath, as everyone tries to make sense of his astonishing act of savagery, Oliver tells his story. So do those whose paths he has crossed over five decades. What unfolds is a story of shame, envy, breath-taking deception and masterful manipulation.

Only Oliver knows the lengths to which he has had to go to get the life to which he felt entitled. But even he is in for a shock when the past catches up with him.

Recently Read – The Year Of Living Danishly by Helen Russell

The Year of Living Danishly by Helen Russell

Genre; non-fiction travel.

YearWhen she was suddenly given the opportunity of a new life in rural Jutland, journalist and archetypal Londoner Helen Russell discovered a startling statistic: the happiest place on earth isn’t Disneyland, but Denmark, a land often thought of by foreigners as consisting entirely of long dark winters, cured herring, Lego and pastries.

What is the secret to their success? Are happy Danes born, or made? Helen decides there is only one way to find out: she will give herself a year, trying to uncover the formula for Danish happiness.

From childcare, education, food and interior design to SAD, taxes, sexism and an unfortunate predilection for burning witches, The Year of Living Danishly is a funny, poignant record of a journey that shows us where the Danes get it right, where they get it wrong, and how we might just benefit from living a little more Danishly ourselves.

My thoughts:

This was one of the books that I listed as an anticipated read for 2016. Did it disappoint? It certainly did not. In fact, I’d go as far as saying it’s in the running for being on my end of year list for best reads of 2016.

The book starts with Helen explaining her life in London, how busy she is and how unfulfilled she feels on that particular treadmill and how her husband has been offered a job in Denmark and after some discussion they decide to give it a try for a year.

The move to Denmark isn’t about swapping one busy city for another busy city, Helen and her husband who she names for the remainder of the book as Lego man (because of his job) move to a rural part of Denmark and they move in the middle of winter. A bleak winter. And unsurprisingly, she wonders what they’ve done.

The chapters are a month by month breakdown of what Helen finds out about her living arrangements and how that would impact on the happiness of the Danes, so we get a personal insight from Helen and some interesting factual information on how the Danish live in comparison to the rest of the world. For instance, we start initially with their living arrangements and decorating them and then their taxes, their health care system etc. Plus, the Danish obviously do great pastries which Helen finds out you’re most definitely not supposed to eat one of, every single day!

This book had me absolutely howling out loud. Especially when Helen went to the language class and had a discussion with her teacher. I think my son thought I was losing it slightly.

If you fancy a feel good book that will have you laughing and also learning something at the same time then I’d highly recommend this book.

With thanks to @Vicki_Lagnehag on Twitter for bringing this great book to my attention last year.

 

Recently Read – The Killing Of Bobbi Lomax by Cal Moriarty

The Killing of Bobbi Lomax by Cal Moriarty

Genre; Crime

killingCANYON COUNTY, HALLOWEEN 1983

Bobbi Lomax was the first to die, the bomb killed the prom queen on her own front lawn.

Just moments later one of the nails from the city’s second bomb forced its way into the brain of property investor Peter Gudsen, killing him almost instantly.

The third bomb didn’t quite kill Clark Houseman. Hovering on the brink, the rare books dealer turns out to be Detectives Sinclair and Alvarez’s best hope of finding out what linked these unlikely victims, and who wanted them dead and why. But can they find the bomber before he kills again?

Set deep in the religious heartlands of America, The Killing of Bobbi Lomax follows this troubled investigation as a narrative of deceit, corruption and forgery emerges, with an unlikely hero at its heart – a rare coins, books and manuscript dealer – who could either be a genius or the devil.

My thoughts;

It took me a while to read this one because I was listening to it as an audiobook. My first audiobook ‘read’. And what a book to start with!

The Killing of Bobbi Lomax is unlike most other crime books I’ve read. It was set up around the dealing of rare coins, books and manuscripts in the religious heartlands of America so there was a lot of talk about the faith that the people were involved with, a lot of talk about the books and how they were made, the provenance of them, but it wasn’t backstory or dumping, it was beautifully and perfectly woven in. It was the storyline. It was also fascinating.

The novel is told from two different viewpoints, one being the investigating cop and one the manuscript dealer and I just couldn’t get enough of the chapters that were from the viewpoint of the manuscript dealer. They were so vivid and alive. So utterly spellbinding. They tell the story of how he came to be where he was at the point of the bombing. So it’s a story of him as much as it is about solving the bombings. Two stories cleverly interwoven, seamlessly.

Moriarty has written such a clever and superb novel with The Killing of Bobbi Lomax that I’d tell everyone to read it. The plotting is tight, the characters are living off the page and the setting, the time and religious mindset just suck you right in.

I can’t give this book enough praise. If you want a different kind of crime novel then you really need to try this, you won’t be disappointed.

 

Cover Questions – An Unfamiliar Murder by Jane Isaac

Today I welcome Jane Isaac to the blog.

janeJane is a crime writer and has always been fascinated by what happens when extraordinary events touch the lives of ordinary people. For the most part, lives are relatively untouched by law enforcement. But she asks what happens if we are forced into such a situation? How would we react?

Her novels are psychological thriller/police procedural crossovers born out of this fascination. She tries to make her characters real; they could just as easily be one of us, so that we feel their journey.

NEW FOR JANE

I love the cover, Jane. Were you able to have any input in the design and if not, are you happy with the results?

Hi, Rebecca. Thanks! I love it too. This book is a re-release, it was my debut and originally published by Rainstorm Press in 2012. I regained the rights last summer and decided to self-publish which gave me carte blanche to decide on the cover art – a first for me. It was exciting to trawl the internet, looking at different designs until I found one that would fit, but also quite challenging. I’m not an artistic person when it comes to colours and layout and it made me realise how difficult it is for designers to come up with a cover that reflects the storyline and also sits alongside the author’s other books.

The colours work really well. It’s moody and atmospheric. What are you allowed to say about the book right now?

Thanks. I can’t claim any credit, I’m afraid, I have Debbie at The Cover Collection to thank for the beautiful colours. She sent me about seven different colouration ideas to choose from and I went with her recommendation.

This story is about people really, on many different levels, of family secrets and betrayal. I’m fascinated by people and have always been a bit nosey(!), so I really enjoyed writing it.

An Unfamiliar Murder? That’s interesting and makes you wonder about the murder inside the pages. I’m rubbish with titles. At what point did the title come to you?

I’m rubbish with titles too. This was actually the working title and my publisher liked it because it was unique. I’ve struggled with titles for every book I’ve written since though – my last book was untitled for months before I could come up with something that would work.

When is the publication date?

I’m hoping to have both the paperback and the ebook ready for 1st March 2016.

And without giving anything away, if you could be one of the characters, who would you be and why?

I think it would be Ross, Anna’s boyfriend. I know it sounds odd, picking a guy, but he is such a fun-loving, laid back character with a real zest for life.

Thanks for talking to me Jane, it’s been great having you.

Thanks so much for inviting me – I really enjoyed answering your questions!

You can find Jane on her website, Twitter and Amazon.

An Unfamiliar Murder 

NEW FOR JANEArriving home from a routine day at work, Anna Cottrell has no idea that her life is about to change forever. But discovering the stabbed body of a stranger in her flat, then becoming prime suspect in a murder enquiry is only the beginning. Her persistent claims of innocence start to crumble when new evidence links her irrevocably with the victim… Leading her first murder enquiry, DCI Helen Lavery unravels a trail of deception, family secrets and betrayal. When people close to the Cottrell family start to disappear, Lavery is forced into a race against time. Can she catch the killer before he executes his ultimate victim?

What’s Your First Draft Like? – Ruth Ware

Today I’m excited to welcome crime writer Ruth Ware onto the blog to talk about her first draft process.

Ruth Ware c Nick Tucker
(c) Nick Tucker

Ruth Ware grew up in Lewes, in Sussex. After graduating from Manchester University she moved to Paris, before settling in North London. She has worked as a waitress, a bookseller, a teacher of English as a foreign language and a press officer. She is married with two small children, and In a Dark, Dark Wood is her début thriller.

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

I tend to sit back and let the ideas marinate a bit. Sometimes what feels like an incredibly exciting idea just doesn’t fill out into a novel-shaped project for whatever reason. It’s usually only by waiting and letting the characters and plot form inside my head that I know whether there’s a book-sized story to tell.

Do you have a set routine approaching it?

Well yes, I guess, but it’s a very boring one in that I wait for a clear stretch of time and then open up a word document and start typing! I always start at the beginning and write until I get to the end. I’m not one of these people who can jump around within the text (although inevitably a fair amount of reshuffling goes on once I’ve finished the book). If my editor needs it, I try to do a synopsis at this stage, but it’s often quite a rough outline.

Pen and paper or straight to the keyboard?

Straight to keyboard – I haven’t written longhand since I was in my teens, and I think the muscles have wasted away to such an extent I’d struggle to do anything longer than a postcard.

How important is research to you?

Hmm… this is a tough one. I’d say it’s both very important, and not very important! Very important because I care a lot about getting things right – it really annoys me when I see factual errors in books, so I try to minimise that as much as I can (although there’s always the unknown unknowns, as Donald Rumsfeld would say). Research is also a significant source of inspiration for me – there’s nothing more satisfying than stumbling on a little factual nugget that opens up a new plot line. But it’s also not as important as it might be, as I’ve tended (so far, anyway) to write about landscapes that I know about, at least on an emotional level. I don’t write police procedurals or spy thrillers with a lot of highly technical detail outside my expertise, so in that sense, the bulk of the action comes from a place you can’t research – the human heart.

How do you go about researching?

Oh, books, the internet, shameless abuse of friends and relations and their contact lists… same as most authors I imagine! I tend to do a certain amount of research before I start – just to make sure I’ve got the bones of the plot correct – and then after that I do it on an as-and-when basis, whenever a question comes up.

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

99% of the time, I keep it all in my head. I am always impressed by authors who have super organised filing systems, or whiteboards full of notes and post-its and ideas. I don’t. I squirrel stuff away in my mind, and trust that it will rise to the surface when I need it. If it doesn’t, I conclude it probably wasn’t that interesting in the first place. I have a paragraph of running plot notes at any one time which sits at the bottom of my word document as I type, and says things like “don’t forget diary. J = brown eyes. K born 1982. Next go and see A’s old friend – big argument?” They get deleted as they stop being useful or I tick them off, so it’s a bit like a sort of running memo / literary to do list.

Tell us how that first draft takes shape?

Well, as above, I tend to start at the beginning and write until I get to the end. I edit as I go (I usually read my way into the text by editing the previous day’s writing) so the end result is usually fairly clean. That doesn’t mean there’s not significant editing still to do – often I’ll only spot some element that’s not working when I go back and re-read it – but the document that I finally type “the end” onto is not usually radically different from the published book, just a little rougher around the edges and maybe missing some seasoning. There’s always work to be done in terms of streamlining or bringing out parts that need highlighting, but equally there are long chunks of my novels that are pretty much verbatim what I handed into my editor.

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

Nope. I am a very pragmatic writer – the only thing I need is peace and quiet and a computer (although I am getting fussier about my keyboard and desk, after a spate of trouble with a bad back).

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

When it’s going well, the outside world absolutely does melt away, in fact I sometimes have to set my alarm to remind myself to pick up the kids from school, otherwise I can get down to it at 9.30 and look up to find that I’ve written right through lunch and I’m late for the school run. However there are days of course when it’s not like that (many, many days, sometimes!) and then I have to work much harder to block out the temptation to check Facebook… make a sandwich… sort out the man who’s coming to clean the gutters… etc etc. It just depends.

What does your workspace look like?

I work in our spare bedroom, which is a converted attic at the top of our house. It’s three very tall flights of stairs from the front door to my desk, so it keeps me fit running up and down stairs to make coffee and answer the door! I have a big desk, large enough for my computer and two or three stacks of manuscript paper. I can’t bear feeling cramped in by teetering piles of paper. There’s a window to my right which looks out over the north London rooftops, but my husband is always baffled that, more often than not, I pull the blinds. In front of me is a tiled composition of roofs and windows that my dad made, and a framed sketch by my old jobsharer, Kate, as well as a box of desk clutter. It’s fairly orderly and the walls are painted a cool lichen-coloured green, which helps to keep me calm when the writing isn’t going well!

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Edit as you go or just keep getting words out?

Edit as I go… within limits. I tend to leave structural stuff to the end.

I see many writers counting words in a day. Word counter or other method of keeping track of progression?

I don’t count words. I think it’s a false measure of progress – there are days when I delete more than I write, and end up 500 words down, but if they were 500 rubbish words, that can still be a better day’s work than a day when you end up with a positive word count. I just have a rough sense of when my deadline is, and how much work I’ve got to do before I get there.

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

It takes anything from 3-6 months usually, depending on how much else is going on in my life (personal and writerly). It’s probably pretty readable in terms of the individual paragraphs, but there’s likely macro work to be done in terms of plot, character and structure.

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

I usually do an initial read on an e-reader, which helps me to see it through different eyes, and stops me from fiddling as I go through (because my e-reader doesn’t have a note function). And then I do another read on paper, making editorial notes as I go.

What happens now that first draft is done?

If possible, I like to put it in a drawer for a few weeks and then go back to it with fresh eyes for a really stiff edit. In practice though, it depends how close I am to deadline and how angsty my editor is getting! But no matter what, I try to give myself a day off when I’ve completed a manuscript. It still feels like a big deal to have got 100,000 words out on paper.

Thanks for digging into the depths of the first draft. It’s been a pleasure having you.

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

In A Dark, Dark Wood

woodNora hasn’t seen Clare for ten years. Not since Nora walked out of school one day and never went back.

In a dark, dark wood there was a dark, dark house

Until, out of the blue, an invitation to Clare’s bachelorette party arrives. Is this a chance for Nora to finally put her past behind her?

And in the dark, dark house there was a dark, dark room

But something goes wrong. Very wrong.

And in the dark, dark room…

Some things can’t stay secret for ever.