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Bloody, Bloody Scotland #blogtour @BloodyScotland @brownlee_donald @HistEnvScot @welovehistory

In Bloody Scotland a selection of Scotland’s best crime writers use the sinister side of the country’s built heritage in stories that are by turns gripping, chilling and redemptive.

Stellar contributors Val McDermid, Chris Brookmyre, Denise Mina, Ann Cleeves, Louise Welsh, Lin Anderson, Doug Johnstone, Gordon Brown, Craig Robertson, E S Thomson, Sara Sheridan and Stuart MacBride explore the thrilling potential of Scotland’s iconic sites and structures. From murder in an Iron Age broch and a macabre tale of revenge among the furious clamour of an eighteenth century mill, to a dark psychological thriller set within the tourist throng of Edinburgh Castle and a rivalry turning fatal in the concrete galleries of an abandoned modernist ruin, this collection uncovers the intimate – and deadly – connections between people and places.

Prepare for a dangerous journey into the dark shadows of our nation’s buildings – where passion, fury, desire and death collide.

As soon as August departed my stomach started to feel the butterflies moving. I don’t know about you, but when I get excited, butterflies are the first sign. And with Scotland’s biggest and best crime festival approaching, I was really getting hyped up about spending the weekend of the 8-10 September in Stirling at Bloody Scotland.

Lots of fabulous writers from Val McDermid, Denise Mina, Ian Rankin and Mark Billingham are appearing over the weekend as well as some very strong new blood panellists like Ian Skewis and Felicia Yap. But what should I read to prepare for this fabulous weekend?

Fortunately, Bloody Scotland has thought of everything! This year, in a grand opening ceremony in the Great Hall at Stirling Castle, Bloody Scotland will be launching a brand new book containing short crime stories from some of Scotland’s best kent writers, including three of this year’s nominees for the William McIlvanney Prize for Crime Novel of the Year, Denise Mina, Craig Robertson and Val McDermid . Of course, what else could the book be called but Bloody Scotland?

I am thrilled to have been granted early sight of this terrific book in order to kick off the blog tour. And where better to start than with the inspiration for the book?

Here’s what the Editor, James Crawford of Historic Environment  Scotland says :

A number of years ago, I went with a small group of friends to visit the ruins of Castle Campbell in Clackmannanshire.

It was so warm that the castle was blurred in a heat haze. There were no other visitors. We climbed in and out of the ruins, enjoying the dry coolness in the shade of the old stones. The only sounds were our own footsteps, the scratching of grasshoppers, and the lazy hum of bees drunk out of their minds on nectar.

The castle nestles a little in its hillside setting, surrounded by tall trees. When you are there, you can look out and see almost no sign of the modern world. We walked down to the stepped terraces in front of the castle to sit in the sun.

castle campbell

Castle Campbell (photo HES)

And that was when we heard it. A gunshot. In the stillness of the day, it echoed off the hillsides like a thunderclap. One of our group screamed at the shock of it. We all looked at each other for the tiniest instant with genuine alarm. And then we started laughing. ‘Must be a farmer’, one of us said. And we didn’t question it beyond that. A farmer doing the sorts of things farmers do; not that any of us really knew what those things might be. And, within seconds, we had relaxed again. We rested for a while, walked some more around the castle, and then descended the winding path back to our car, the gunshot forgotten.

Well, perhaps not totally forgotten. Because that moment of alarm always stayed with me. It teased with possibility. What if it hadn’t been a farmer, I wondered? What might we have stumbled upon unwittingly? Who was firing the gun? What – or indeed, who – was in its sights? Why was the trigger pulled? The setting that afternoon added immeasurably to the potential for drama: the dog day heat, the stillness, the seclusion. And looming over it all was the castle – called ‘Glume’ before it was Campbell, and set between the valleys of two portentously-named burns: ‘Care’ and ‘Sorrow’. It is a dark, implacable ruin; a survivor; a witness to so much over the half-millennium since it was first built.

So perhaps, in some imagined story, it could have been more than just a witness; perhaps it could have had a purpose too. Buildings and places have ways of getting under our skins, of provoking thoughts, memories and feelings – good and bad. If we had to recall all of the major emotional moments of our lives, all of the highs and lows, and were then asked to plot them on a map, I suspect most of us would be able to do it remarkably easily. You always remember where you were when… Buildings don’t pull triggers. But perhaps they can trigger people to pull them. Perhaps… .

That day at Castle Campbell came back to me when I found myself talking to the co-founder of the Bloody Scotland Crime Writers’ Festival, Lin Anderson, and its director Bob McDevitt, in the Author’s Yurt at the Edinburgh International Book Festival in August 2016. ‘What if?’ I asked them. ‘What if we asked twelve of Scotland’s top crime writers to write short stories inspired by twelve of our most iconic buildings? What would they think? What would they come up with? What could possibly go wrong?’

This book is the answer.

Prepare yourself for a lot going wrong for a lot of people in a lot of ways in a lot of buildings. Prepare yourself for crimes of passion and psychotic compulsion. Prepare yourself for a 1,000-year-old Viking cold-case, a serial killer tormented by visions of ruins old and new, and an ‘urbex’ love triangle turning fatal. Prepare yourself for structures that both threaten and protect, buildings that commit acts of poetic vengeance or act as brooding accomplices to murder.

Yes, a lot goes wrong. But, of course, a lot goes right too. Because these stories offer a perfect demonstration of the incredible wealth of creative literary talent in Scotland today. Scottish crime writing has carved out a formidable reputation. Our authors can entertain and they can shock. And they are fearless when it comes to tackling many of the issues at the heart of contemporary society, shining lights into some of the darkest corners.

Bloody Scotland is published  by Historic Environment Scotland on 21st September 2017 priced £12.99

Historic Scotland                           Amazon                                           Waterstones

You can see the Bloody Scotland programme and buy tickets here – and its a short hop to most venues from the train and bus stations.

About Historic Environment Scotland

James Crawford Author PIc

James Crawford is Publisher at Historic Environment Scotland.Historic Environment Scotland is the lead public body established to investigate, care for and promote Scotland’s historic environment

 HES is responsible for more than 300 properties of national importance. Edinburgh Castle, Neolithic Orkney and Fort George are among the buildings and monuments in their care,along with numerous smaller sites.
Together they draw more than 3 million visitors each year.

 

Follow the #blogtour and read some of the fabulous reviews for this ‘must read’ book:

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Teams Revealed for Bloody Scotland Football Match #TheBloodyCup #Thistimeitsserious @bloodyscotland @brownlee_donald #bloodyscotland

Free to all on Saturday 9 September at Cowane’s Hospital Grounds by Stirling Castle with pop up bar courtesy of Stirling Gin serving Bloody Scotland cocktails.

“This is the fourth year of the Scotland-England match and with one win apiece and one draw, there is clearly much bragging rights to play for as well as The Bloody Cup. The English mob have not shut up about their win in 2016 and it’s time to send them homewards to think again.”
Craig Robertson, crime writer and Bloody Scotland board member

At 2pm on Saturday afternoon, while the queues form around the Albert Halls, Allan Park South Church and the Golden Lion with crime fans patiently waiting to see the authors they admire on stage, many are not aware that the Scotland and England squads of crime writers including some huge international stars will be limbering up for their annual grudge match on the bowling green of Cowane’s Hospital.

It is a fabulous FREE event which this year will be enhanced by Bloody Scotland cocktails courtesy of Stirling Gin who are setting up a pop up bar and, in the event of rain, made less soggy by a new addition of Bloody Scotland umbrellas.

The Scotland team will be captained by Ian Rankin and include crime writers Craig Robertson, Doug Johnstone, Martin Stewart, Peter Mackay, Lloyd Otis, Thomas Enger and publishing types Jamie Crawford, Danny Scott and Neil Macpherson, husband of Catriona Macpherson.

The England team will be captained by Mark Billingham and include crime writers Luca Veste, Howard Linskey, Vincent Holland-Keen, Rob Scragg, Matt Wesolowski and literary hangers-on editor, Emad Akhtar, agent Phil Patterson and podcast producer Paul Hirons.

The squad selections have been beset by injuries, writing deadlines and demands to see birth certificates. There’s also been much talk of the ‘granny rule’ and just what actually qualifies as a crime novel. Tensions have been growing and it’s safe to say it’s all threatening to kick off.
Some of the English crime writers have clearly lost the plot, if they ever had one in the first place. They’re about to find out there’s a twist they just didn’t see coming.”
Craig Robertson, 2017

Bloody Scotland has always tried to include the local community by offering discounts to local residents and free tickets to the unemployed. This year outreach has gone one step further encouraging locals who might not normally go to a literary festival to join the torchlight procession on the opening night led by Ian Rankin and Val McDermid and we would like to encourage anyone in the area to join us at Cowane’s Hospital for the chance to get up close and personal with some of the biggest crime writers around as they run around (a very small) football pitch.

Full information at www.bloodyscotland.com

House of Spines by Michael J Malone @AnneCater @OrendaBooks @michaeljmalone1 #blogtour #HouseofSpines

A terrifying psychological thriller come Gothic mystery, as a young man with mental health issues inherits an isolate mansion, where all is not as it seems…

Ran McGhie’s world has been turned upside down. A young, lonely and frustrated writer, and suffering from mental-health problems, he discovers that his long-dead mother was related to one of Glasgow’s oldest merchant families.

Not only that, but Ran has inherited Newton Hall, a vast mansion that belonged to his great-uncle, who it seems has been watching from afar as his estranged great-nephew has grown up. Entering his new-found home, it seems Great-Uncle Fitzpatrick has turned it into a temple to the written word – the perfect place for poet Ran.

But everything is not as it seems. As he explores the Hall’s endless corridors, Ran’s grasp on reality appears to be loosening. And then he comes across an ancient lift; and in that lift a mirror. And in the mirror… the reflection of a woman…

A terrifying psychological thriller with more than a hint of the Gothic, House of Spines is a love letter to the power of books, and an exploration of how lust and betrayal can be deadly…

Och, Michael, you’ve done it again.  I loved A Suitable Lie and here you are back a year later with a completely different and even more beguiling book. Who else would think of setting a contemporary Gothic horrorpsychological /thriller/mystery in a house in the genteel suburb of Glasgow that is Bearsden?

What I loved about this book, apart from the genre bending aspect,  is the many different levels it operates on and how they all combine together to tell a story that has many facets and unusually, plausibly different outcomes.

Our protagonist, Ranald McGhie had a difficult upbringing; his mother suffered from mental health problems and his own health has been conspicuously marred since finding his parents dead in their bed; victims of a suicide pact.

Ranald has always been haunted by the fact that his father chose death over being with his son and that has helped to cause in him a feeling of being unlovable.  Diagnosed as bi-polar, his own mental health has not fared well, especially after the break-up of his marriage to Martie.

Alone and living in a fairly grotty bed sit, he learns that a great uncle, Alexander Fitzpatrick, whom he never knew existed, has left him his rather grand Victorian house. The lawyer Quinn, who has tracked Ranald down, tells him that the house and its contents have been wholly left to him. Those contents include a fabulous library chock full of books, and an indoor swimming pool. He has, Quinn tells him, two other cousins who have been more than adequately provided for in the will and so have no claim on the house. Although there is no actual money, his great uncle has set up a trust which both provides for the upkeep of the house and for the employment of a married couple who look after the house and the grounds, staying in a cottage in the grounds for as long as they live. The only conditions are that he does not sell the house or lend out the books in it, otherwise he is free to do as he wants.

For Ranald, whose meagre earnings come from writing, the inheritance of Newton Hall is a fantasy made real. Finally, he feels his luck is turning and he has something to look forward to.

From an early age we’re taught the saying “never look a gift horse in the mouth”, but is this lavishly furnished house just what the doctor ordered, or something altogether more creepy and sinister?

Michael Malone beautifully preserves a delicate balance between a mental health breakdown and a series of quite surreal events as he shows us a protagonist vulnerable to suggestion whose life spirals out of control as he settles in to the mansion and lets the house overwhelm him.

I don’t know a great deal about bi-polar illness, but I do have a good grounding in mental health problems. And because Ran’s mental health issues are so well drawn and feel so true to life, the results of his actions are so beautifully judged, that the reader never really knows what is real and what imagined.

The result is a living, breathing, contemporary gothic novel where the horror completely takes root in the reader’s mind and the cold shiver that runs down the reader’s spine is exactly what is driving Ranald to despair.

This is simultaneously a booklover’s dream and a book lover’s nightmare. Surrounded by all the books you could wish for in a home that offers comfortable reading spaces, warmth and nurture and yet somehow it is all fraught with disaster and danger.

As Ranald determines to find out the secrets that this house holds and to learn his family’s secret history, his first meeting with his cousins does nothing to persuade him that he belongs to the Fitzpatrick clan. As he learns more about them, his nightmares seem to be coming true. Is there more to Newton Hall than meets the eye – and can Ranald’s mental health sustain the onslaught that is about to be wreaked upon him?

This is not a book to read alone on a dark and windy night – unless, of course, you are the kind who likes nightmares – in which case, go for it. But don’t blame me – blame that Michael Malone who has a way of telling a story that just leaves you more than a little disturbed yet breathless with admiration.

House of Spines is published by Orenda Books and is available now in e-book and in paperback on 15thSeptember 2017

 

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About Michael J. Malone

Michael Malone Photo

Michael Malone is a prize-winning poet and author who was born and brought up in the heart of Burns’ country, just a stone’s throw from the great man’s cottage in Ayr. Well, a stone thrown by a catapult.

He has published over 200 poems in literary magazines throughout the UK, including New Writing Scotland, Poetry Scotland and Markings. His career as a poet has also included a (very) brief stint as the Poet-In- Residence for an adult gift shop.

Blood Tears, his bestselling debut novel won the Pitlochry Prize (judge: Alex Gray) from the Scottish Association of Writers. Other published work includes: Carnegie’s Call (a non-fiction work about successful modern-day Scots); A Taste for Malice; The Guillotine Choice; Beyond the Rage and The Bad Samaritan. His psychological thriller, A Suitable Lie, was a number one bestseller. Michael is a regular reviewer for the hugely popular crime fiction website http://www.crimesquad.com. A former Regional Sales Manager (Faber & Faber) he has also worked as an IFA and a bookseller.

More about Michael here.

Read what other bloggers have to say about House of Spines; follow the blogtour

House of Spines blog poster 2017

The Wardrobe Mistress by Patrick McGrath #WardrobeMistress @PMcGrathNovels @WindmillBooks

 

JANUARY 1947.

London is in ruins, there’s nothing to eat, and it’s the coldest winter in living memory.

To make matters worse, Charlie Grice, one of the great stage actors of the day, has suddenly died. His widow Joan, the wardrobe mistress, is beside herself with grief.

Then one night she discovers Gricey’s secret. Plunged into a dark new world, Joan realises that though fascism might hide, it never dies. Her war isn’t over after all.

 

To begin at the beginning: this is a beautifully told story of life in the theatre set in London, just after the war, in a period when rationing was still in full force and people really were eating spam, lard and onion sandwiches for sustenance and the Board of Trade had disallowed pleats in trousers, double breasted jackets and turn ups in trousers, the better to save on cloth. There’s lots of nice detail like this which helps to underline the poverty and the dearth of ‘nice to haves’ in all categories.

Our narrators in this tale at once strike us as unusual, for these are the ladies of the chorus. But this is not quite a Greek chorus, rather it is like the witches of Macbeth writ large – a chorus that is witty, judgemental, sarcastic and all observant. They don’t simply narrate the action, they comment upon it, drawing the reader in as if they were whispering secrets directly into the reader’s ear. And occasionally they forget if they have mentioned something, only to tell you that it doesn’t matter, it’s so important, it bears repeating.

It’s a bitterly cold January and Joan Grice, the wardrobe mistress of the Beaumont Theatre has just said goodbye to her husband, the actor Charlie Grice.  Charlie was a much admired actor – a larger than life character and his funeral is well attended by members of the theatrical profession. Joan’s daughter, Vera, is there with her husband, the theatre producer Julian Glass. Julian’s theatre was bombed during the war, but he still invests in productions and Vera is a rising star in her own right.

Patrick McGrath has beautifully captured what it is to be part of the theatre world; the fragile egos, superstitions and eccentricities of actors; the all-consuming desire to let the actor become the character they are playing, the ambition and above all, the very real need to be loved and wanted by the audience.

Charlie had been playing Malvolio in Twelfth Night. No mere chance here; for Malvolio’s character is a sombre reminder of a past world – of the war gone by and the fact that we are still in a serious place in time. So when he abandons his propriety, it is all the more shocking and he looks all the more foolish to his audience.

Joan grieves deeply for her husband and looks for him in the smell of his clothes and sometimes, when she cannot bear the loss any more, in a bottle of gin. So when she sees young actor Frank Stone who has stepped in to play the part of Malvolio, she wonders at how remarkably similar his performance is to Charlie’s, down to every nuance, and begins to think that Charlie may have re-emerged in Frank’s persona.

So Joan cultivates a friendship with Frank, offering him some of Charlie’s, always well- tailored clothes, which she alters for him in her home. And still thinking that there is something of Charlie in him, their relationship deepens. As the chorus tells us; “It will happen in friendships like this, it is our observation, that a few days after the second or third meeting, when it’s become clear to both parties that something’s afoot – in the time spent apart, changes will have occurred within the imagination of each, and a new level of familiarity, or even intimacy, will have been achieved.

There is no internal dialogue here; all comment is from our chorus so we watch, as an audience watches a play, as the drama unfolds.  When Joan discovers that for all the years of her marriage Charlie was hiding a horrible secret; a secret that devastates her for Charlie was in with the fascists and Joan is a Jew; something Charlie knew. What now is she to make of her dead husband; the man who used to call her his Venus de Mile End?

As Joan delves deeper into Charlie’s secret life the tension grows as we explore the world of those who endeavoured to keep rise of fascism alive, resulting in a chilling piece of writing which has resonance for today.

I found this to be compelling, truthful in its exploration of the theatre world (a world I worked in for 20 years) beautifully told and genuinely haunting.

The Wardrobe Mistress is a tour de force.

The Wardrobe Mistress is published by Windmill Books on 7th September 2017

 

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About Patrick McGrath

Patrick mcgrathjpg

Patrick McGrath was born in London in 1950. He has lived in various parts of North America and spent several years on a remote island in the north Pacific, before moving to New York City in 1981. He is the author of a story collection, Blood and Water and Other Tales, and six novels: The Grotesque; Spider, which was adapted for the big screen in 2002, with a screenplay by Patrick McGrath; Dr Haggard’s Disease; Asylum, which was shortlisted for the 1996 Guardian Fiction Prize and is currently being made into a feature film; Martha Peake; and, published by Bloomsbury in May 2004, Port Mungo. Patrick McGrath lives in London and New York with his wife Maria Aitken.

The King of Fools by Frédéric Dard translated by Louise Rogers Lalaurie

An ingenious thriller, set in Edinburgh, from the master of French noir

From the moment he first gazes at Marjorie across the roulette table in the Cote d’Azur Jean-Marie is entranced, and when their feverish holiday romance comes to an end he decides to take the biggest gamble of his life – to follow the beautiful Englishwoman back to rainy Edinburgh.

But Jean-Marie’s luck runs out as soon as he arrives. His infatuation with Marjorie draws him into an impenetrable mystery and soon he finds himself with blood on his hands, trapped in the grey-granite labyrinth of the city streets, and running out of time to save his sanity and his life. The King of Fools is a fiendish tale of passion, betrayal and murder.

What a delightful day it was when Pushkin Press and Virago teamed up to publish newly translated works of some of the greatest, most iconic crime fiction from around the world together with Pushkin Vertigo Originals which are exciting contemporary crime writing by some of today ’s most accomplished authors.  Frédéric Dard is the master of French Noir and The King of Fools is a lovely read.

Originally published in 1952, The King of Fools begins in Juan-les-Pins, but most of the action takes place in Edinburgh which was a delightful surprise for me as I had not been expecting that at all.

Jean-Marie Valaise is an adding machine salesman (you can tell that Dard has not troubled to make him interesting or mysterious from this fact alone.)

He is in Nice on holiday following one of his sporadic break ups from his on- off long-term girlfriend, Denise. He muses to himself that his life is going nowhere “Like the water, my life bore the traces of rust in the pipework”.

Then, by chance he meets a young Englishwoman, herself on holiday and the two exchange a few words over a mistaken car.

Later, idling away his time in the local casino, he sees a rather beautiful woman and discovers, much to his surprise, that this is the same woman who earlier had mistaken his car for her own.

The two are drawn together and though nothing seriously untoward occurs, this is the start of a mutual infatuation that engulfs them both. But Marjorie is married and about to set off for a holiday in Scotland with her husband.  It is clear to Jean-Marie that hers is not a happy marriage and when he asks if he might write to her, he is thrilled by her enthusiastic response.

Correspondence ensues and on impulse, driven by his passion and romantic feelings, he sets off for Edinburgh in the midst of a major travel strike to find Marjorie and try and persuade her to come away with him.

What follows is a nicely drawn portrait of a man who considers himself to be worldly, but who is in fact both naïve and hopelessly romantic. The tale has tension, duplicity, murder and a degree of mayhem as Jean-Marie and Marjory conspire to enable her to escape the clutches of her husband, Nevil.

The portrayal of 1950’s Edinburgh is fascinating in itself – Dard sees it as a bit of a granite grim place, full of badly dressed people, usually raining and with tourist coaches being met by tartan kilt wearing pipers. (I think he had visited). His description of the Learmonth Hotel is pitch perfect. I enjoyed too, the dour Scottish policeman, Brett who is charged with unravelling the heinous crime committed in Princes Street Gardens.

Not a lengthy read, The King of Fools is a beautifully told tale with a dark underside and a witty ending. I really enjoyed it.

The King of Fools was published by Pushkin Virago on 4th May 2017.

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 About Frédéric Dard

frederic dard

Frédéric Dard (1921-2000) was one of the best known and loved French crime writers of the twentieth century. Enormously prolific, he wrote hundreds of thrillers, suspense stories, plays and screenplays throughout his long and illustrious career.

As one of France’s most popular post-war thriller writers, it may come as no surprise that Dard’s own life was itself full of interesting facts and events.

As one of the most prolific French writers of the post-war era, Dard authored 284 thrillers over the course of his career and sold over 200 million copies of his work in France alone. The actual number of titles that can be attributed to him is somewhat under dispute as he adopted at least seventeen noms de plume, including the mysterious l’Ange Noir and the seemingly breakfast cereal inspired Cornel Milk.

One of Dard’s greatest influences was the renowned crime writer Georges Simenon. Over the course of Dard’s career, a mutual respect grew between the two writers and Simenon agreed to let Dard adapt one of his books for the stage.

Dard peppered his work with the numerous words and phrases that he loved to invent. Over the course of his career, he dreamt up so many new words and phrases that a San-Antonio Dictionary – named after his most famous protagonist – was created to catalogue them all.

Dard drew heavily on his own life’s experiences for inspiration to fuel his enormous output of three to five novels a year. In 1983, his daughter was kidnapped and held prisoner for 55 hours before being ransomed back to him for two million francs; he admitted that the experience traumatised him forever, but he used it as material for a later novel nonetheless. Toward the end of his life, he is reported to have remarked that his only regret was that he would not be able to write about his own death.

Hide and Seek by Richard Parker @bookouture

The sun is out. Your little boy is smiling. The next time you look… he’s gone.

Lana Cross would do anything to protect her perfect family but on a trip to an adventure park, they slip out of her sight. When she finds her husband, he’s out cold on the forest floor. Then the truth sinks in: Cooper, her four-year-old son, is missing.

No one stopped the man carrying the sleeping boy. The park cameras don’t show where he went. Then Lana receives an anonymous message, telling her to visit a local school with a horrifying history…

This is no random attack. Whoever took Cooper is playing a twisted game, and if Lana wants to find him, she must participate.

How could there be a link between the school and her missing son? And can Lana find her little boy before it’s too late?

This is the definition of an action packed fast paced thriller. From the very first paragraph the reader is flung head first into the action with a chilling abduction attempt, a heinous villain and an ominous parting shot.

Lana Cross is Cooper’s mum and when a man tries to kidnap Cooper from the family’s back garden it is only the quick reaction of Lana that foils the man’s attempt. That man is Mr Whisper and his parting shot is the very chilling “tomorrow”.

Understandably, after this incident Lana finds it hard to settle and never stops worrying about Cooper. Todd, her husband, has his own preoccupations, which he is keeping secret from his wife.

The Crosses move away from their home and into an anonymous city apartment in a bid to hide away from Mr Whisper and his threat of returning. Though months pass without incident, Lana is obsessed with the idea that Mr Whisper may be out there watching Cooper and she downloads an app to her phone that pinpoints the geographic locations and details of crime and especially murder scenes.  This, she thinks, will help her to find out where Mr Whisper might be, because she has convinced herself that Cooper will only be safe if she can track the kidnapper down.

Then Lana and Todd have a stroke of good fortune; their first in a long time. They win a holiday to the Bluecrest Adventure Park and Todd, in particular, sees this as a way to loosen the grip of Lana’s fear and allow them to start to enjoy life as a family again.

You can see what’s coming next, can’t you?  Yes, you got it. Todd and Cooper go off together on one of the rides but Todd is attacked and knocked unconscious, Cooper is kidnapped, and Lana is left distraught with all her worst fears realised.

The police are of course involved, but for different reasons neither Lana nor Todd think that they will be able to do enough to find Cooper and what then ensues is a divergent storyline where each parent follows their own trajectory in an attempt to locate and rescue Cooper.

When Lana finds her own murder on the app she knows she is dealing with a twisted and sadistic mind and she follows the trail that is laid for her without recourse to Todd or the Police.

Todd, meanwhile, is not as badly concussed as the doctors feared and believing that he knows what is behind Cooper’s abduction, he sets out to track down the guilty party.

For me, this is where it started to go a bit awry. All the right elements are there – this is a fast paced thriller, loaded with suspense. There is lots of action and there is no doubt that Richard Parker has created a villain quite worthy of a thriller.  But I didn’t like the way that Lana and Todd pursued separate courses of action; I thought the holiday was a bit too convenient and though the backstory and the killers motive is well tied together at the end of the book, altogether the whole thing just did not quite gel for me in the way I hoped it would.

I think with a better edit, this could have been a killer book. However,  it is a solid and perfectly decent read and I know that others have really raved about the book, so perhaps this one is a case of “it’s not the writer, it’s me”.

 

Hide and Seek is published by Bookouture on August 31st 2017

Amazon

About Richard Parker

richard parker

Richard Parker worked as a professional TV writer for twenty-two years and started by submitting material to the BBC.  After contributing to a wide variety of TV shows he became a head writer, script editor then producer.

He then decided to subject himself to the easy streets of writing and getting a novel published.
  
A ten year cornucopia of disappointment followed.  But STOP ME was picked up for publication in 2009.

It was shortlisted for the CWA John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger Award 2010 and entered the Amazon Top 10 bestseller chart.

SCARE ME, his second stand alone thriller, was acquired by Hollywood production house Relativity Media.  Wentworth Miller has now completed his screenplay.

His third stand alone, STALK ME, followed and was a huge hit in the UK and US Amazon charts. 

Richard has signed a  three book deal with Bookouture .  FOLLOW YOU, and HIDE AND SEEK have been published in this year and a third is to follow in December. 

He now lives in Salisbury but can always be lured back to London with the promise of an obscenely long lunch.  

The Hidden Keys by Andre Alexis @serpentstail

In the depths of the ill-reputed Green Dolphin bar in Toronto, Tancred Palmieri, a talented thief with extravagant tastes, encounters Willow Azarian, an aging heroin addict. She reveals to Tancred that her very wealthy father has recently passed away, leaving each of his five children a mysterious object that provides a clue to the whereabouts of a large inheritance. Willow enlists Tancred to steal these objects from her siblings and solve the puzzle.

A Japanese screen, a painting that plays music, an aquavit bottle, a framed poem, and a model of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater … Are these really clues, or has Tancred fallen victim to the delusions of a junkie?

Inspired by a reading of Treasure Island, The Hidden Keys questions what it means to be honourable and faithful in the face of desire.

 

Serendipity is a wonderful thing. When you have had the marvellous good fortune to read great books such as Maria in the Moon and All The Wicked Girls, it’s hard to know what to read next. In these circumstances, it’s always going to be the next to read on my TBR pile.

The Hidden Keys was that book and it is just what was needed. Refreshingly different, quite quirky, it is a peculiar and charming mixture of contemporary fiction with almost Dickensian characters. At heart, it is a treasure hunt, with an abundance of clues, each one contained in an object bequeathed to his children by the immensely wealthy Robert Azarian.

Tancred Palmieri is a thief and our protagonist. A thief who these days largely steals to order. He never steals in his own 14th district of Toronto, because that is where his great friend Daniel Mandelshtam is a detective with the police force.  An imposing figure, he is a 28 year old black man who has his own set of moral principles and would like to think that he is largely an honourable man.

When, by chance, he meets Willow Azarian, a heroin addict, in a bar in a less than salubrious part of town, she talks about her great wealth.  Tancred likes her and is a little intrigued. Thinking no more about her though, he continues on his own path until one night he rescues Willow from being attacked by some thugs. She is moved by his kindness and tells him she will never forget him.

Some time passes, during which Tancred’s mother dies of cancer. Her dying wish was that he change his life and she had tried to elicit both Daniel’s help and that of their other great mutual friend, Olivier to ensure he did so.

Though his grief affects him greatly, Tancred has not changed his ways, but even so the thefts feel emptier now than once they did.

Three years after their first meeting, Willow seeks him out once more to ask him to carry out a task for her. She tells him of the unique items left to her and her siblings. Respectively, a painting, a poem, a Japanese screen, an architectural model of a Frank Lloyd Wright house and a bottle of Aquavit.

Willow believes these are clues to a missing fortune and because her brothers and sisters refuse to indulge her fanciful theories – believing them to be, at least in part, drug fuelled, Willow asks Tancred to ‘obtain’ these items for her so that together they can follow the clues.

However life is never quite as straightforward and into this mix two not so loveable rogues are interjected. A black albino named Colby is Willow’s dealer and he has a sidekick with a brutal streak called Sigismund Luxemburg, known universally as Freud. When Willow dies, these two have also heard her stories of hidden treasures and they are quite clear that they have rights in acquiring such riches.

How Tancred navigates these pitfalls, and how, with the help of an amusing and rather splendidly bizarre character, Alexander von Wurfel, who is a taxidermist to the rich, they find their way towards solving the treasure hunt is a beautifully told tale.

With moments of cold brutality, this is nevertheless a gentle and thoughtful book. Peppered with humour, intricately written, it is quietly full of philosophical moments questioning the nature of good and evil and what it means to be honourable.

Quite different, full of beautifully observed characters and ultimately quite moving, this original story will stay with me for some time to come.

I thought the end was a bit rushed and slightly flat, but overall a delightful read.

 

The Hidden Keys was published by Serpent’s Tail on 17 Aug. 2017

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About Andre Alexis

Andr_Alexis

André Alexis was born in Trinidad and grew up in Canada. His debut novel, Childhood, won the Books in Canada First Novel Award, the Trillium Book Award, and was shortlisted for the Giller Prize and the Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize. His previous books include Asylum, Beauty and Sadness, Ingrid & the Wolf, and, Pastoral, which was also nominated for the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize.

His last novel, Fifteen Dogs, won the prestigious Scotiabank Giller Prize, awarded annually to the best Canadian fiction book.

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