Who is Elka Ray?

Elka Ray is the Canadian author of Divorce Is Murder. Born in the UK and raised in Canada, Elka divides her time between Central Vietnam and Canada’s Vancouver Island and sets her fiction in both locales, to include Saigon Dark, Hanoi Jane, a short-story collection, What You Don’t Know: Ten Tales of Obsession, Mystery & Murder in Southeast Asia and a series of children’s picture books published in Vietnam.

Elka is also a freelance editor for Heritage, Vietnam Airlines’ inflight magazine, based in Hanoi, Vietnam; a designer and editor for MaiGuppy, a producer of picture books, greeting cards, and souvenirs in Hanoi; and a freelance writer and copywriter, whose clients include Vietnam Tourism Administration and the Four Seasons Resort.

When she’s not writing, drawing or reading, Elka is in the ocean.

Elka 2018 author pic

DIVORCE IS MURDER – Elka Ray

I’m really excited about the new Elka Ray out August 20th. A couple of years back I was lucky enough to get an advanced copy of her Saigon Dark which was a gripping, classic noir with a really modern, domestic theme. So fingers crossed this one is just as good.

I got the blurb today to share with you and once I get a AC of Divorce is Murder, I’ll let you know what I think.

So here’s what we know so far…..

DIVORCE IS MURDER

A Toby Wong Novel

 

Toby Wong visits her quiet hometown in British Columbia, where nothing ever happens–until her old high school rival is found murdered.

Shortly after returning to her sleepy hometown on Vancouver Island, Chinese-Canadian divorce lawyer Toby Wong runs into Josh Barton, who broke her heart as a teen at summer camp. Now a wealthy entrepreneur, Josh wants to divorce Tonya, the mean girl who made Toby’s life hell all those years ago. Not long after Toby takes Josh’s case, Tonya is found murdered. Josh is the prime suspect.

Together with her fortune-teller mom and her pregnant best friend, Toby sets out to clear Josh, whom she still has a guilty crush on. While he seems equally smitten, can Toby trust him? The handsome cop charged with finding Tonya’s killer doesn’t think so.

Since Tonya stayed in touch with everyone from that lousy summer camp, Toby keeps running into ex-campers she’d rather forget. Could one of Tonya’s catty friends be her killer?

Are Toby’s old insecurities making her paranoid? Only too late does she realize that she really is in danger.

 

DIVORCE IS MURDER

Seventh Street Books — August 20, 2019

 

The Scandal – Nicola Marsh

My life is like one of those cheap snow globes my twins collected when they were younger. Shiny and pretty on the outside, blurred beyond recognition when shaken.

Ever since her twin girls left home, Marisa has felt there’s something missing from her life. Her sprawling mansion is no longer filled with laughter and chaos, and she’s desperate to feel needed… and to be distracted from the secret she’s been hiding from her husband for all these years.

Coffee with her best friends might be the only thing holding Marisa together. But Claire and Elly have their own secrets. Like why Claire hasn’t been to work in weeks, or why Elly won’t tell anyone who’s buying her flowers.

When Jodi, a pregnant young girl, turns up at Marisa’s doorstep, Marisa is quick to come to her aid. She sees herself in Jodi and she knows how devoting yourself to looking after others can take up all your time in the most marvellous way.

But Jodi’s arrival quickly pushes everyone’s lies to the surface. The father of her unborn child is someone the women know very well, and Marisa starts to wonder if her obsession with helping Jodi might come at a devastating price…

 

Review

 

One night during a gossipy – very Witches of Eastwick-esque girlie get together at a house in the Hamptons, the doorbell goes and a pregnant girl faints on the doorstep. She’s the catalyst in the story ensuring a wide range of secrets and lies will need to bubble to the surface before anyone finds out – who the father is!

But this isn’t just a gossip book – it’s a proper thriller too as the characters come out of their shells and start to reveal their true natures and as things take a more sinister turn.

To be honest, this isn’t my usual read but it did keep me turning pages to the very end. And I  didn’t see the end coming. A proper small-town noir thriller.

Thank you Netgalley and Bookouture for the Advanced Copy

Something Fishy – Lois Schmitt

The Blurb

When attorney Samuel (Sam) Wong goes missing, wildlife magazine reporter Kristy Farrell believes the disappearance is tied to her latest story concerning twenty acres of prime beachfront that the Clam Shell Cove Aquarium hopes to purchase. Sam works for multi-millionaire land developer Lucien Moray who wants to buy the property for an upscale condominium. The waterfront community is divided on this issue like the Hatfields and McCoys, with environmentalists siding with the aquarium and local business owners lining up behind Moray. Meanwhile, a body is found in a nearby inlet. Kristy, aided by her veterinarian daughter, investigates and discovers deep secrets among the aquarium staff—secrets that points to one of them as the killer. Soon the aquarium is plagued with accidents, Kristy has a near death encounter with a nine foot bull shark, and a second murder occurs. But ferreting out the murderer and discovering the story behind Sam’s disappearance aren’t Kristy’s only challenges. When her widowed, septuagenarian mother announces her engagement, Kristy suspects her mom’s soon to be husband is not all he appears to be. As Kristy tries to find the truth before her mother ties the knot, she also races the clock to find the aquarium killer before this killer strikes again.

The Review

This aquarium themed murder mystery thriller is definitely different. Cosy in a way only a US murder-mystery can be. The story is written very economically, without much frill but I felt this kept it moving along at a good pace. But despise its frivolity, at its heart it’s a proper whodunit with the net (pardon the pun) tightening around the suspicious character that we’ve all grown to love to hate. A very good read. And an awesome cover by the way.

Thank you Netgalley and Encircle Publications for the Advance Copy.

Something Fishy

by Lois Schmitt

Encircle Publications LLC

You Can’t Hide – Steve Parker

Cheeky Cockney Johnny Clocks turns up at JFK with a psychopath to find. He already sounds like a nasty piece of work, mean to kids – and it gets worse – so although Clocks originally intends to do things the right way, all above board, things get tangled and he ends up doing it his own way.

Review

Now bearing in mind, I haven’t read any of the other stories in the series, so perhaps that was a mistake on my part, but when I first started reading I wasn’t sure if it was a parody-thriller book. The scene setting is a little mundane, with Clocks’ trip through JFK Arrivals meticulously detailed including the ‘hell of luggage claim’ as if it were something much more interesting and as if this guy hadn’t seen things which were much more hellish, then almost a page of description on the female co-villain’s attractive-but-not-that-attractive appearance leaving me with the image of a young woman in mom-jeans in my mind, but you know what, after all this was out of the way, I really got into the story and decided it wasn’t meant to be a piss-take. It’s a bloke book – written by a bloke and that in itself has real charm. Looking back at the parts which wrangled me, I thought nah – that works, this guy can stand over bleeding bodies and still consider the business of ‘a nightmare’ he’s that sort of blokey guy who uses the same words to describe the M25.

So in the end, I really enjoyed the read – a fast paced thriller which you can finish in a trip from Gatwick to JFK.

Thank you to Netgalley and Joffe Books for the Advanced Copy.

YOU CAN’T HIDE

by STEVE PARKER

Joffe Books

Bound for Murder – Victoria Gilbert

Description

Blue Ridge library director Amy Webber learns it wasn’t all peace and love among the “flower children” when a corpse is unearthed on the grounds of a 1960s commune.

Taylorsford Public Library director Amy Webber’s friend “Sunny” Fields is running for mayor. But nothing puts a damper on a campaign like an actual skeleton in a candidate’s closet. Sunny’s grandparents ran a commune back in the 1960s on their organic farm. But these former hippies face criminal charges when human remains are found in their fields–and a forensic examination reveals that the death was neither natural nor accidental.

With Sunny’s mayoral hopes fading, Amy sets her wedding plans aside, says “not yet” to the dress, and uses her research skills to clear her best friend’s family. Any of the now-elderly commune members could have been the culprit. As former hippies perish one by one, Amy and her friends Richard, Aunt Lydia, and Hugh Chen pursue every lead. But if Amy can’t find whoever killed these “flower children,” someone may soon be placing flowers on her grave.

Review

I was really happily surprised by this find – it’s not the usual sort of crime I’d read, being not very gritty but also not the traditional cozy crime genre variety either. Instead it’s a lovely story, full of imagery and southern charm and a good dose of modern realism and social commentary too. The story runs along the lines of… what would you do if the metaphorical ‘skeleton in the closet’ was really a historic murder that could sink your friend’s political career? Amy Webber uses real investigatory skills – well, she is a librarian – to put together a case to prove her friend’s innocence and along the way learns and gets more than she bargained for. I really liked the fact that this was real detection and inquiry, not just physical forensic. A welcome relief when I was after some light reading.

The only thing I didn’t love was the cover. The image is too fussy and the font doesn’t suit it.

Thank you Netgalley and Crooked Lane Books for the Advance Copy

Bound for Murder

A Blue Ridge Library Mystery

by Victoria Gilbert

 

 

The Art of Deception by Louise Mangos

Okay, I often find it funny how the crime fiction publishers choose to market a book – basically to reach as many readers as possible (hey, no complaints there), but this often leads to a description which just doesn’t do the book justice. This is certainly the case with The Art of Deception by Louise Mangos.

So here’s the blurb:

Art college dropout Lucie arrives in a Swiss ski resort looking for work – but instead finds Mathieu.

Handsome, charismatic and from a good family, Matt seems like the perfect man. But as Lucie soon discovers, he has a dark side – one that will drive their relationship to a dramatic conclusion, and tear the life she has built for herself and their son apart.

Left fighting for her freedom in a foreign prison, and starting to lose her grip on reality, Lucie must summon all of her strength to uncover the truth and be reunited with her son before it’s too late.

The clock is ticking . . . but who can she trust?

Honestly – that sounds like a typical run of the mill crime fiction title which so many writers are churning out faster than you can say, “Should we make the title yellow or orange?” But this book is much better than that.

First of all, it’s two stories in one – the experiences of a young mum in a foreign prison, her day to day incidents and the drama between the inmates she’s doing time with. This is the story in which we find out ‘the truth’, however, when we first start reading, it’s the back story which is the most riveting – that of a teenager meeting a dangerously handsome ski instructor (yes that’s a bit Mills and Boony) and the minutiae and drama of their everyday domesticity.

Yes, this kind of split time is nothing new, but the way Louise Mangos handles it is well thought out and brilliantly paced. Through the most innocent of prison activities the protagonist Lucie finds out a significant secret (no spoilers) which could change her destiny.

As Lucie is in prison and is reflecting on what got her put away, it may seem obvious that she will (must!) find a way out – but this could have been easily (and disappointingly) accomplished by bringing in a new inmate to provide the details (as they tend to do in Orange is the New Black). But let’s just say – that doesn’t happen.

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The end result is a very satisfying crime fiction read, which ties up all the strings and doesn’t offer a fashionably explosive ending. Now, if it said that in the blurb, not many people would pick up the book. Everyone’s looking for a page-turner. But if you speed-read this book, skipping descriptions to get to the dialogue, you’ll be missing out. The pleasure of this crime novel is that it’s a real story (not true obvs) but it reads like a considered work, well researched, written by an author with respect for her characters. I really enjoyed it.

The Art of Deception is out 6th June 2019 with HQ Digital

Can a fiction writer still be a private person?

Patricia Highsmith is quoted as saying – and I paraphrase heavily, that every writer is a very private person, that to talk about one’s self is to a writer like standing naked in front of an audience.

This is a statement I can identify with. While it is obvious not all people who write feel this way, (hello conference talks, Facebook, twitter) many do and plenty of non-writers do too. Maybe it’s just that old high-school psychology definition of introversion but I find that too simplistic, it misses the point.GOPR0613

To have to talk about yourself can be for some very cruel and even once you have mastered not talking about yourself, you will find the problem is still there when people ask you questions.

And when you write, people ask you questions about your work and yourself – all the time.

Just don’t ask!

There is sometimes a strange and instant repulsion that comes from a question. I don’t mean the type that comes from the stranger who stops you in the street to ask where the market is or even those direct questions from your boss about your views on obesity or global warming, the ones that seem to silence the entire room and send the wall spinning off into space. Chilling questions can be inconspicuous to most, simple small talk that can just as easily come from a stranger standing next to you at a wedding who asks you if you don’t find the church beautiful.unknown

Of course we all know about ‘loaded questions’, the ones that back you into a fight, the “You don’t love me” statements. I have one particular friend who I am often very fond of who occasionally asks me a question it seems just to try and interrogate me about my answer. She simply cannot accept that we have different opinions on the fundamentals of life and half an hour in her company leaves me racked and comatose on the sofa

So when you write something that might be interesting to yourself or others, you do so by uncovering an idea that is not explored in everyday life. It can be about an everyday subject; child rearing, food preferences, crossing the street but to make it interesting it has to explore an element of this activity that is novel or not immediately obvious.

Do you have anything interesting to say?

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A lot of people, who try to do this, simply can’t. It’s not that they are not creative (I know a lot of very creative scientists and designers who can’t find an interesting thing to say about their day if their lives depended on it) but they lack that certain awareness of the other person’s perspective, the outside view that tells them, this is me- and where I finish something else begins that is not me and what ever words come out of my mouth or fingers will be perceived by the other side completely outside of my control and computed and stored. For me, it is seeing that gap, be it a millimeter or the breadth of a continent that gives you a creative perspective and also the adamant desire for privacy.

For example, I sat in on a creative writing class with a group of students who were asked to write a short story about something that would happen everyday in London, – to write without editing if possible.

One girl wrote about someone finding out she was adopted through a long and winding tale that lead to someone simply telling her. One had a double suicide ending on the big wheel while cameras rolled. One was about a bomb at the Olympic development site.bustour-1000x659

There was no angle, no feelings or positions on any subject offered. When I thought later about this, I wondered if these people were actually too afraid to just tell a story from their point of view. What if instead of telling the double suicide story, you had someone see it and think it was an act of fame-hunger? Well the rest of the class would judge you. They would look at you and think – right, I know something about that person’s insides, about their personality and attitude to suicide- and as they say “Knowledge is Power” and power if a finite attribute that by definition, we can’t all have.

In the end if you can imagine enough to write something interesting containing the thoughts of someone who isn’t you, you can also imagine what other people think of you after they read it.

With the earlier example of the fellow guest at the wedding in the church, if you take the easy route to this question “Isn’t it a beautiful church” and say “Yes. Very beautiful.” You may be (white) lying and if the conversation continues, if the person digs further this may be reveled and you will then become “dishonest”.

Church

If you tell the truth, that churches, with their over use of gold and violent imagery remind you of all the oppression and thievery of religion, and make you question how anyone could ever consider celebrating a marriage in one, you will be considered rude and possibly insane. Even though the guest may not reply to that answer, you will not be able to block out the thoughts going through her head as they are portrayed in your own.

Let’s talk about Patricia Highsmith

Highsmith wrote about private people with secrets and she played with the attribute of power freely, moving it sharply between her subjects. The people with the most privacy were gifted the most power, and concurrently if the privacy was removed, the power slipped.

In the Talented Mr Ripley, Tom moves quickly through conditions of privacy, first he is living in an apartment with a man who he hopes won’t come home – as the offer comes to travel on the Greenfield account, he hopes this flat mate doesn’t come home before he leaves so he doesn’t have to tell him about his trip. This privacy gives his the advantage. He loses power sharply when he is caught playing in Dickie’s room and after he assumes Dickie’s identity, allowing him complete privacy for Tom, Tom becomes the most powerful character in the book.Pathigh

Similarly in Sweet Sickness, David has a beautiful house where he lives part-time as the character Neumeister, stalking and obsessing over Annabelle who is married to someone else. He is powerful enough to be able to rely on others not voicing their suspicions after her husband dies but once he tries to ‘come clean’, buys a house in his own name and have a relationship with Annabelle, he is open and vulnerable. Everything unravels.

So how can someone who writes mediate this gap between the Self and the outside world when the essence of creating something interesting requires that the self be exposed and privacy be abandoned and if this is so, how can one possibly write without absolute privacy?

If anyone knows the answer to this…

Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self – Cyril Connolly (1903 – 1974)

Sherlock Holmes and the Glad Game by Matt Ferraz

While we’ve become quite use to ‘reimaginings’ in literature – especially in the classics, we very rarely get an honest to goodness reimagining mash-up, and even when we do, the mashing stays safely within one genre… It makes you wonder… can it be done any differently? Well, I guess Matt Ferraz had the same idea, because that’s exactly what he has accomplished with his work – Sherlock Holmes and the Glad Game. Below, I’m really happy to be able to share with you the book blurb and a guest post from Matt about his experiences writing Sherlock Holmes and the Glad Game.

The Blurb

Sherlock Holmes and the Glad Game 1600x2400 (Ebook)

British sleuth Sherlock Holmes can solve any mystery from a small clue. American traveler Pollyanna Whittier can only see the good side of every situation. The only thing they have in common is their friendship with Dr. John Watson. When Pollyanna shows up in London with a mystery for Holmes to solve, she decides to teach the detective the Glad Game: a way of remaining optimistic no matter what. A dangerous – and hilarious – clash of minds, where these two characters of classic literature need to learn how to work together in order to catch a dangerous criminal.

 

Guest Post by Matt Ferraz

 Writing Sherlock Holmes and the Glad Game

The genesis of Sherlock Holmes and the Glad Game was a challenge I made to myself: pick two public domain characters that apparently have nothing to do with each other, and somehow make them work together. I’ve been a Sherlockian all my life, and wanted to write a book with the detective for some time. But who could I match him with? Other writers already crossed Holmes Jack the Ripper, Mr Hyde, Captain Nemo and so many others. What could I bring to the table that was new and fresh?

 I was at a bookshop in my home town when I saw brand new editions of Pollyanna and Pollyanna Grows Up, by Eleanor H. Porter. Those were books I had never read, but knew the basic premise: a girl who always sees the bright side of everything no matter what. I had seen the 1920 movie with Mary Pickford, one of my favourite actresses, but remembered little of it. So I bought copies of those two books, and while reading them, a novel started to form in my mind.

No one had ever had the idea of putting Holmes and Pollyanna Whittier in the same story. After all, they’re so different! But my mind was made up: I was going to write a book where Pollyanna comes to London and assists Holmes and Watson in an investigation.

The one month first draft

People didn’t believe I could pull it off. In fact, my fiancée thought it was a crazy idea to begin with, but decided to give me the benefit of doubt. I wrote the first draft of this book in a month – faster than I had ever worked before! For that whole month, I was completely immersed in the story, having re-watched several Holmes movies for inspiration and re-reading big sections of Porter’s books.

 My idea wasn’t simply to have Pollyanna ringing at 221b Baker Street offering a case for the detective to solve. I wanted to fit her in the Holmes canon as organically as possible. My book starts with Pollyanna becoming a good friend of Dr. and Mrs. Watson while Holmes was considered to be dead after facing Professor Moriarty.

Bringing the two together

 Pollyanna is in London to see a special doctor due to an injury she suffered in her childhood – which is shown in the first Porter book. She eventually returns to America, but shows up in London two years later, when Holmes is already back from the dead, with a brand new husband and a lot of trouble on her back.

The best part of writing this story were the comedic possibilities in the interaction between these characters. I tried to avoid making Pollyanna too annoying and naive – she’s actually pretty smart and kicks a few butts. It was also nice to create a more humane Holmes, different from the stubborn and arrogant versions we’ve seen in movie and TV in the past few years. It’s a little, quirky and funny book I’m very proud of.

Signing off, Matt.

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If you want to learn more, you can contact Matt on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter: @Matt_Ferraz

Click the links to go to his Amazon and Goodreads pages.

Strangers on a Bridge – Louise Mangos

Strangers on a Bridge, is Louise Mangos’ debut novel and quite a stinger. I was attracted to the title right away, yep – it has that Patricia Highsmith tone to it, so I had to check it out!

The premise is great – Alice Reed while taking her early morning run in a beautiful Swiss location, talks a man down from the edge… but should she have saved him?

It feeds into all our fears of helping people – that we’ll somehow become entwined in their lives if we do. The premise of Choke by Chuck Palahniuk is exactly that – the protagonist pretends to choke, someone saves his life, he milks them for cash for the rest of their lives!

So I won’t give away any spoilers – enough to say. The book delivers.

The tension builds, turning to frustration and fear until we find out how she will resolve the situation.

If you enjoy the books by Patricia Highsmith, Ruth Rendell and Peter Swanson you’ll like this one.

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The Blurb…..

When Alice Reed goes on her regular morning jog in the peaceful Swiss Alps, she doesn’t expect to save a man from suicide. But she does. And it is her first mistake.

Adamant they have an instant connection, Manfred’s charming exterior grows darker and his obsession with Alice grows stronger.

In a country far from home, where the police don’t believe her, the locals don’t trust her and even her husband questions the truth about Manfred, Alice has nowhere to turn.

To what lengths will Alice go to protect herself and her family?

Publisher: HQ Digital

Publication date: 6th July 2018

Print length: 384 pages