Elka Ray is the Canadian author of Divorce is Murder.
Elka Ray is the Canadian author of Divorce is Murder.
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…..
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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”.
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.
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.
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)
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.
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
LP: So Euan, where did the idea for this story come from?
EBP: My inspiration to write Tricks of the Trade came from spotting a way a locked room mystery could be done which at least I hadn’t seen before. I’ve always read and enjoyed murder-mysteries, trying to untangle the various clues throughout the novel and see which ones are red herrings and which point towards what actually took place. And having found, I think, a straightforward yet puzzling method of committing a crime, I decided to write my very own murder-mystery novel.
LP: Where do you find inspiration?
EBP: As for inspiration to write in general, I’ve always been writing, since I was very young (my mum apparently has some stories I wrote when I was six. Full of dragons, wizards and spelling errors…). Even the career I chose reflected that. I studied to become a lawyer and practised for about 8 and a half years, in Scotland and abroad, and that involved a lot of writing. In December last year I finished work on a big case, and had a three month break (I hadn’t had a holiday in quite a while). I went to El Salvador to house-sit for a friend. Without anything concrete to do, and having just come from working long, long days, I decided to try my hand at writing a book. Tricks of the Trade was the result.
LP: Does the book have a theme?
EBP: While it’s a classic murder-mystery, I’ve also tried to deal with an issue close to my heart, concerning masculinity. My main character, and narrator, is in essence a young male, living through all the inward doubts and questions and outward expressions of confidence that come with that. I’m currently writing the second book in this series (they’ll all be murder-mysteries) and it’s a theme I’m looking to expand on.
In this Edinburgh legal/detective drama, readers get a refreshing, modern take on the cozy-crime mode of crime delivery. Well written and fast-paced, the story hits its stride in chapter two and holds on to the reader until the big reveal. For fans of Agatha Christie, Robert Barnard, Minna Lundgren, Ann Cleeves and M.C. Beaton, this new writer is a ‘must follow’.
I didn’t have any preconceptions going into this story and wasn’t sure what the angle or style would be until the story got going. It starts off with a trainee solicitor complaining about his lot, scratching his head and musing. But that’s not a bad thing. Think back to Dorothy L Sayers’ Gaudy Night, ten thousand words on her memories of her old college and a clock, before anything happens, and that’s a classic!
But somewhere a few pages in, out protagonist, Stewart, starts confiding his thoughts in his friends and then we get to see the wheels turning. There’s been a potentially suspicious death and the as the solicitors responsible for executing the will, Stewart’s firm has a strange interest in making sure they know what happened because this dead man has a proviso. If he commits suicide, he doesn’t want his family to inherit. And there’s the perfect cozy crime set up.
The author works the premise well. Once the story starts flowing the writing is excellent and fast-paced. It has the feel of a book written in one go, a polished first draft, which keeps the excitement the author felt while writing, still intact.
Readers who have been enjoying the resurgence in interest and re-publication of some out of print oldies will appreciate several elements here – the cozy crime angle, the whodunit, and also the classic locked-room approach. The story wraps up nicely with a closed room Cluedo style ending and although there is a little police procedural action, only the bare minimum to make it more believable. So have a look. It might be just your thing.
Published by Endeavour Press 19th January 2018
Jetting off to visit friends – hopefully, friends with a spare room, if not, at least a comfortable sofa bed – is one of the highlights of being freelance… and being a writer. I’m all about getting to the airport early, clearing security with more than an hour to spare, staking out a good bar table with a power source and settling in to do some serious, distraction-free work. But after a few delays, and one too many strong coffees, working on your laptop starts to take its strain.
If it were only typing, it might not be too bad, but these days, writing means finding images, resizing, editing and moving stuff around. It means formatting, more formatting, and even more formatting and I’m doing the two-finger-dance on a touchpad the size of a packet of Camel Wides… Not that I smoke Camel Wides anymore (does anyone? Do they even still make them?).
Do I have Carpel Tunnel Syndrome?
I recently did a 3-hour delay in Stuttgart (lovely airport, btw) and I’m not joking, by the time they called the gate I was relieved. My hands had started to take on a kind of clawed raven look and the thought crossed my mind, “have I just given myself repetitive strain injury from trying to re-size an image for Twitter?”
In case you’re wondering, the general symptoms are; tenderness or pain in the wrist, with a throbbing or pulsating sensation, tingling and a loss of sensation.
Yeah, I looked it up.
But even if you don’t have CTS, which I don’t and didn’t, there are exercises you can do to relieve soreness in your hands from spending too much time clicking. I checked them out too. They do help somewhat but they’re not the kind of exercises you’d want to do in public.
One involves pulling your index finger backward, which might make your seat neighbor think you’re about to flick a bogey at him.
The next one is a fist… I probably don’t need to explain why that’s bad. And finally, there’s the one where you hold your hand up in the air and rotate all the fingers in tiny circles individually.
Yeah, I accidentally ordered a beer that way, so not all bad.
But seriously, none of these really did anything to help my poor right hand, which by the time I landed had swelled up with cabin pressure and water retention until it looked like a novelty Incredible Hulk hand. I got into Heathrow and headed to the city, but despite the 20-minute train ride, was in no mood to open my laptop. That’s okay, I’m not so obsessive that I need to write on short train rides, but I was planning to do some writing over the weekend. There’s only so much coffee, sushi, and pedicures you can handle in 48 hours and fortunately, the person I was visiting is a late sleeper and knowing this, I planned on getting a couple of hours in before she even woke up.
But the next morning, before she rose, I spent most of my time searching out options to alleviate hand pain. Those in the know, architects, designers, and gamers, it would seem, are all about the ergonomic mouse (is the plural of mouse still mice in this context?). Anyway, after a few minutes research, I was ready to buy one, but after a few more minutes research, I realized, I had no idea where to start in this new field. Because it’s harvest time here, and the mice or mouses are all over the place. Seriously, they have categories and sub-categories; medical mouse, productivity mouse, productivity-gaming mouse. That second one sounds like a superhero. But seriously, you do need to do a little ergonomic mouse research before you decide on one.
Anyway, I’ve discovered, I’m an ergonomic productivity mouse kind of girl and without naming any names, it’s got Bluetooth and it’s wireless and it’s only just occurred to me, that it doesn’t look like a mouse at all. Right. Without the tail attaching it to my laptop, it doesn’t look anything like a mouse.
But thanks to overnight delivery, I had my new pet ready for the trip home and as it turned out, a relatively delay-free hour in the airport bar. So I got it out and a sat there with my right hand comfortably positioned at around 45 degrees to my side, with a firm but loose grip and relaxed shoulders and wrist muscles and I must say I really noticed the difference.
One thing I must mention. When they call your gate and you jump up. Do remember the thing isn’t attached.
Thank you, nice Grannie, from Texas or thereabouts for pointing out that I had forgotten my “compact”. Much appreciated.
Hulk signing out…
Originally posted on irevuo: No matter who or where we are, we consume art on a daily basis. We listen to songs, go to the cinema, or spend a lazy afternoon enjoying a good book. But why is it that art is so important? Why is it that our lives would feel empty, pointless, filled…
The Harvey Weinstein stories hit home on the back of this killer crime story