Blood Business (Ikmen Mystery 22) Barbara Nadel

I’m a completely new reader when it comes to Barbara Nadel or the Ikmen Mystery series so I opened this book with no preconceptions or expectationswhich is sometimes the best way to go.

The story, which opens in an Istanbul graveyard during an exhumation, is immediately atmospheric, dripping with family tension, the threat of a grisly discovery and the suggestion of a mystery to be solved. The style, writing and pace of the first chapter also told me straight away I was reading something well crafted from a writer who knows her craft. Nadel writes fluidly and confidently and it was only afterwards I realised this is book 22! So no wonder really.

The point of view changes quite quickly and then again – as a new reader I was wrong footed here and started to panic a bit about the list of Turkish names at the front of the book, worried I’d have to memorize them all – an their nicknames but after a few switches I realised Nadel writes every character distinctly so even without their names in my head, I recognise who’s on stage.

That said, I did need to exercise patience, once the mystery has been introduced, the missing body of a rich woman replaced with that of a organ theft victim, retired inspector Çetin Ikmen doesn’t rush to uncover the mystery. Like Morse, he’s a thinker and a tinkerer, who takes time to drink tea and meet friends as he winds his way through the city. And this is where the book’s charm lies. One question leads to another in a surprisingly realistic way. I sometimes find story lines incredulous – jammed together to meet the plot points – but this ‘twist’ and the the eventual dark resolution make sense.

In short, this is a well written, interesting and satisfying read but isn’t a novel for a reader with a short attention span. It’s not the kind of book you could easily read while being jostled about on the Tube, but would be better enjoyed on a Turkish beach holiday (next year perhaps) failing that on the couch or as a bedside table book.

Thanks to Babara Nadel and Headline for a complimentary copy of Blood Business.

UNDER VIOLENT SKIES Judi Daykin

SET UNDER THE BROODING SKIES OF NORTH NORFOLK. MEET SARA HIRST AS SHE SEARCHES FOR HER LOST FATHER AND FINDS THAT GREAT BEAUTY CAN CONCEAL GREAT VIOLENCE.

So where to begin? First of all, this is a good, well-crafted debut novel with a lot going on – and I mean a lot!
As you can see from the blurb above, the main protagonist is a detective with a family mystery to solve, but this storyline is well wrapped in at least three other protagonists’ (maybe sub-protagonists) experiences.
We start with a man up to something dangerous in a ditch, then jump to an older woman defending her property (and perhaps her life), before we get to Sara Hirst and her first day on a new job. But then a new character comes to life, a young woman in a dangerous and liminal position who finds herself forced to maltreat someone else.
By the time Sara shows up in chapter 3, I’m impatient to check in on the other characters again and make sure they’re okay and the next character is such a strong one I wondered for a second if Sara was the main character at all. All these strands will be woven together but I have to admit, if I didn’t know the writer, I would have wondered if this was going to happen.
This novel is very thematic and there’s a lot to unpick regarding equality, human rights, racism etc. At times the themes feel more important than the plot but you could say that makes it more realistic. I certainly think it shows how promising this writer is, that she’s not a one-trick pony and she has plenty more ideas and more material. A lot of debut books are very low on substance, but this is not one of them.
I’d definitely recommend getting a copy and settling into a comfy chair with this one.

Yorkshire born, Judi has lived, worked and made theatre in Norfolk for the last forty years. She completed her MA in Creative Writing (Crime Fiction) at the University of East Anglia (UEA), and her debut novel was shortlisted for the Little, Brown UEA writer’s prize in 2019.

Under Violent Skies is published by JOFFE Publishers and available in paperback and on Kindle.

4 Books That Made Lockdown Bearable

Apparently we were all reading more during lockdown…. Which is odd because everywhere I looked friends were telling me they couldn’t get into their books. And I have to admit, I had the same problem. My TBR pile got smaller but a lot of those books got tossed (sorry Netgalley). My patience and concentration was just rock bottom. However, I did discover 4 new books in this time. These books had me hooked and made me eager for bedtime! So no reviews (don’t want to spoil anything. This post is just a big thank you to them for making those weird months bearable. xxx

The Family Upstairs Lisa Jewel

AKA inherit a house and find out stuff you really didn’t know you didn’t want to know.

“It all happened so slowly, yet so extraordinarily quickly, the change to our parents, to our home, to our lives after they arrived. But that first night, when Birdie appeared on our front step with two large suitcases and a cat in a wicker box, we could never have guessed the impact she would have, the other people she would bring into our lives, that it would all end the way it did. We thought she had just come to stay for the weekend.”

Rules for Perfect Murders Peter Swanson

AKA Write a blog about crime books and then find out someone’s using it as a playlist.

“Books are time travel. True readers all know this. But books don’t just take you back to the time in which they were written; they can take you back to different versions of yourself.”

A Talent for Murder Andrew Wilson

AKA Agatha Christie but not Agatha Christie

“You, Mrs. Christie, are going to commit a murder. But, before then, you are going to disappear.”

My Sister the Serial Killer Oyinkan Braithwaite

AKA It’s your sister and she kills men but blood is thicker than water

She killed him on the first strike, a jab straight to the heart. But then she stabbed him twice more to be sure. He sank to the floor. She could hear her own breathing and nothing else.

That’s it. Thank you all for being really good reads.

Should I do an MA in creative writing?

So this is the first post from me in a long while. The reason is I’ve been doing a 2-year, ‘low-res’ Masters in Crime Fiction at the University of East Anglia and alongside other writing jobs have had zero time to post. Now that I’m about to submit my manuscript (Yay!), I finally have enough time to reflect on the experience and answer the big question, was it worth it?

It was a question I was asking myself three years ago because although the thought was appealing, it is a large chunk of cash and I know a lot of people who’ve been on a Creative Writing MA and are still stuck with rejection letters from agents and publishers. I googled the answer myself and got a mixed bag of reactions which can be boiled down into two camps: the idea that you’re only doing the MA because you don’t know what to do with your life and presumably you’re getting parental funding for it as ‘career development’, and the other side which runs on the mantra ‘you can’t teach creative writing’ so why bother? Basically, there weren’t any particularly positive responses that I could see, but despite this, I really wanted to do it. And I did.

So after completing the course, I have my answer prepared. Was it worth it? Yes.

Should you do a creative writing MA? Well now. That depends.

There are lots of things to consider, price, course, your expectations etc. (I’ll go into detail on these in the next post), but there’s also your current writing ability and your willingness to take direction and criticism from a tutor and your peers. But why would you do a creative writing MA if you weren’t looking for those things? You’d be surprised.

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I’m a busy woman. I’ve pumpkins to look at.

The reason you’re here…
In her book, Bird by Bird, Anne Lammot talks about running a creative writing class. The student comes, he hands in his manuscript and he expects the tutor to gasp in amazement. “It’s perfect, I’ll take it straight to my publisher!” (I’m paraphrasing). That obviously doesn’t happen, he gets critiqued and doesn’t like it. He never comes back. With that in mind, if you’re considering a creative writing MA you should ask yourself, ‘have I come as far as I can with developing my craft, style and voice on my own?’ If the answer is yes, do the MA but make sure you’re being truthful with yourself and here’s why.

The MA in Creative Writing I was on is the Crime Fiction one at UEA. It does cover some standard elements of creative writing such as plot, story, character, setting, pace etc. but it’s mainly a writing course for people who already know how to write and I assume the same is true of other Masters. From class one, you’re writing and critiquing each other’s work and to get the best out of this opportunity, you need to be as good as you can get otherwise it’s a waste of your time, money, effort…
As a comparison, imagine an editor offered to give feedback on your manuscript once, but only once. Would you send in the first draft? I wouldn’t because they’d just work over the mistakes I could have caught on my second draft. The same is true of a creative writing MA. You’re only going to do it once, make sure you’ve already brought yourself as far along as you possibly can.

Thanks for reading.
Next time, I’ll go in-depth into the MA in Crime Fiction at UEA.

Who is Elka Ray?

Elka Ray is the Canadian author of Divorce is Murder.

Born in the UK and raised in Canada, Elka has two previous novels, Saigon Dark and Hanoi Jane; a short-story collection, What You Don’t Know; and a series of children’s picture books about Vietnam, where she currently lives with her family.
Elka grew up in Victoria, B.C. Canada, the setting for her latest mystery. The 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