Tuesday 31 October 2017

CWA Anthology of Short Stories - Mystery Tour @OrendaBooks . @the_cwa #CWAMysteryTour

Crime spreads across the globe in this new collection of short stories from the Crime Writer's Association, as a conspiracy of prominent crime authors take you on a world mystery tour.

Highlights of the trip include a treacherous cruise to French Polynesia, a horrifying trek in South Africa, a murderous train-ride across Ukraine and a vengeful killing in Mumbai. But back home in the UK, life isn't so easy either. Dead bodies turn up on the backstreets of Glasgow, crime writers turn words into deeds at literary events, and Lady Luck seems to guide the fate of a Twickenham hood. Showcasing the range, breadth and vitality of the contemporary crime-fiction genre, these twenty-eight chilling and unputdownable stories will take you on a trip you'll never forget.

The CWA Anthology of Short Stories - Mystery Tour is published by Orenda Books on 15 November 2017.  My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review.

This is fabulous collection of short stories from some of the best crime authors of the time and includes contributions from:

Ann Cleeves, C.L. Taylor, Susi Holliday, Martin Edwards,  Anna Mazzola, Carol Anne Davis,  Cath Staincliffe, Chris Simms,  Christine Poulson,  Ed James, Gordon Brown,  J.M. Hewitt,  Judith Cutler,   Julia Crouch,  Kate Ellis, Kate Rhodes, Martine Bailey,  Michael Stanley, Maxim Jakubowski, Paul Charles,  Paul Gitsham, Peter Lovesey, Ragnar Jónasson,  Sarah Rayne, Shawn Reilly Simmons,  Vaseem Khan,  William Ryan,  and William Burton McCormick

This collection is edited and introduced by Martin Edwards, who tells the reader a little bit about the CWA and the history of this anthology:

Introduction from Martin Edwards -   When the very first CWA collections of stories appeared back in 1956, the editorial committee did not hide their gloom about the future prospects of short crime fiction. By publishing an anthology almost every year over the past six decades, as well as by inaugurating the prestigious CWA Short Story Dagger more than thirty years ago, the CWA has made sure that those anxieties proved unfounded. Past winners of the CWA Short Story Dagger include Jeffrey Deaver, John Connolly, Ian Rankin, Denise Mina, Stella Duffy, Reginald Hill - and also Peter Lovesey, who has written a brand-new story for Mystery Tour.
..... because the CWA is a non-profit making organisation, income from publications like Mystery Tour, as well as from subscription fees, sponsorships and other activities, is invested in expanding the range of benefits for members, including promotional opportunities via social media and other platforms.
....... The appearance of Mystery Tour forms part of a much bigger picture. It's a collection that offers a showcase for some splendid writers and for an organisation whose achievements even the ambitious John Creasey couldn't have forseen when he founded the CWA back in 1953. 

Mystery Tour contains twenty-eight short stories, ranging in length from Ragnar Jonasson's 'A Postcard from Iceland' at just two pages, to Ed James' 'Travel Is Dangerous' covering nineteen pages. All of the stories take the reader on a journey, as the authors were invited to write stories reflecting the unifying theme of travel and intriguing destinations, and as one would expect, each of them has produced their own interpretation, in their own distinctive voice.

I took my copy of Mystery Tour on my own little road trip over the weekend. I wasn't travelling far, just up the A1 to North Yorkshire, but this was an ideal travelling companion. It's one of those books that the reader can easily dip in and out of, and without exception, I enjoyed every single story.

Some of the authors were familiar to me and I certainly recognised the voices of CL Taylor in 'You'll be Dead By Dawn' and Susi Holliday in 'A Slight Change of Plan.'  I've also discovered some new-to-me authors too, and now have a list of books to be bought by these very authors.

There's a wide variety of settings, and characters, with intricate plots and surprising twists on every page. I have so much respect for these authors who can produce such wonderfully entertaining stories in just a few pages. These stories are capable of most things; they shock, they make the reader laugh, and they amaze.

The CWA Anthology - Mystery Tour really is a fine collection of short stories, written by a selection of authors who excel at their craft. It's a book that can be read from cover to cover, or picked up and dipped into - the choice is yours.

Highly recommended for all lovers of great fiction.

About the Authors
Martin Edwards has published eighteen novels, including the Lake District MysteriesThe Golden Age of Murder won the Edgar, Agatha, H.R.F. Keating, and Macavity awards. He has edited thirty-five crime anthologies and has won the CWA Short Story Dagger, the CWA Margery Allingham Prize and the Poirot award. He is president of the Detection Club and current chair of the CWA. 

Martine Bailey writes about food and mystery and was credited by Fay Weldon as inventing a new genre, the 'culinary gothic'. Her debut in the genre was An Appetite for Violets, and while living in New Zealand she wrote The Penny Heart (retitled A Taste for Nightshade in the US). Martine is an award-winning amateur cook and now lives in Cheshire.

Gordon Brown lives in Scotland but splits his time between the UK and Spain. He's married with two children and has been writing since his teens. So far he has had five books published - his latest, Darkest Thoughts, being the first in the Craig McIntyre series. Gordon also helped found Bloody Scotland - Scotland's International Crime Writing Festival.

Paul Charles was born and raised in the Northern Irish countryside. He is the author of the Detective Inspector Christy Kennedy series, set in Camden Town, and the Inspector Starrett series, which is set in Donegal in Ireland. The short mystery in this collection features retired PSNI Detective McCusker fro Down on Cyprus Avenue. Paul is currently working on a second McCusker novel.

Ann Cleeves began her crime-writing career with a series featuring George and Molly Palmer-Jones, and followed it with books about a cop from the North-East, Inspector Ramsay. More recently she was won international acclaim for two further series, featuring Vera Stanhope and Jimmy Perez, respectively, which have been successfully adapted for television as Vera and Shetland. Raven Black won the CWA Gold Dagger, and in 2017 Ann was awarded the CWA Diamond Dagger.

Julia Crouch has been a theatre director, playwright, drama teacher, publicist, graphic/website designer and illustrator. It was while she was doing an MA in sequential illustration that she realised what she really loved was writing. Her debut novel, Cuckoo, was followed by Every Vow You Break, Tarnished, The Long Fall and Her Husband's Lover.

Judith Cutler has produced no fewer than five series of crime novels and more than thirty books in all. Her first regular detective was Sophie Rivers, and since then she has featured Fran Harman, Josie Welford, Tobias Campion and Lina Townend. She has also published stand-alone novels, and is a former secretary of the CWA.

Carol Anne Davis is the author of seven novels and eight true-crime books, the latest of which is Masking Evil: When Good Men and Women Turn Criminal. She is currently one of the judges for the CWA's Gold Dagger for Non-Fiction, and when she's not reading or writing she loves to dance. Unfortunately she's dyspraxic so can't tell her left foot from her right and has been in the beginner's flamenco class for the past five years.

Kate Ellis worked in teaching, marketing and accountancy before finding success as a writer. The latest title in her series featuring Wesley Peterson is The Mermaid's Scream, while she has published a series about another cop, Joe Plantagenet, and two historical crime novels, including A High Mortality of Doves.

Paul Gitsham started his career as a biologist, before deciding to retrain and impart his love of science and sloppy lab skills to the next generation of enquiring minds as a school teacher. Paul lives in a flat with more books than shelf space, where he writes the DCI Warren Jones series of police procedurals and spends more time than he should on social media.

JM (Jeanette) Hewitt is a crime-fiction writer living on the Suffolk coast. She is the author Exclusion Zone, The Hunger Within and The Eight Year Lie. Her short story 'Fingers' was published in Twisted50, a horror anthology, and she was the winner of the BritCrime Pitch Competition in 2015, a success that led to the publication of Exclusion Zone.

Susi Holliday grew up in Scotland and now lives in London. She was shortlisted for the CWA Margery Allingham Prize with her short story 'Home From Home'. She has published three crime novels set in the fictional Scottish town of Banktoun, and her latest novel is a Christmas themed serial killer thriller, The Deaths of December.

Maxim Jakubowski is a crime, erotic, science-fiction and rock-music writer and critic. He is also a leading anthologist. Born in England to Russian-British and Polish parents, he was raised in France and ran the Murder One bookshop for many years. He is the current chair of judges for the CWA Debut John Creasy Dagger, and also serves as joint vice chair of the CWA. He is a frequent commentator on radio and television.

Ed James writes crime-fiction novels, predominantly the Scott Cullen series of police procedurals set in Edinburgh and the surrounding Lothians. He is currently developing two new series set in London and Dundee, respectively. He also writes the Supernature series, featuring vampires and other folkloric creatures.

Ragnar Jonasson was born in Reykjavik, where he still lives, and is a lawyer. He teaches copyright law at Reykjavik University and has previously worked on radio and television, including as a TV news reporter for the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service. His novels include the Dark Iceland series.

Vaseem Khan is the author of the Baby Ganesh Detective Agency novels, a series of crime novels set in India. The books feature retired Mumbai police inspector Ashwin Chopra and his sidekick, a baby elephant named Ganesha. Vaseem says that elephants are third on his list of passions, first and second being great literature and cricket, not always in that order. He plays cricket all summer, attempting to bat as an opener, while fielding as little as possible.

Peter Lovesay's short stories have won a number of international awards, including the Veuve Clicquot Prize, the Ellery Queen Reader's Award and the CWA Short Story Dagger. When the Mystery Writers of America ran a competition to mark their fiftieth year, The Pushover was the winner. Peter is a recipient of the CWA Diamond Dagger (among many other honours) and also a former chair of the CWA.

Anna Mazzola writes historical crime fiction. She studied English at Pembroke College, Oxford, before becoming a criminal justice solicitor. Her debut novel was The Unseeing, and her second, about a collector of folklore on the Isle of Skye will be published in spring 2018. She lives in Camberwell, London, with two small children, two cats and one husband.

William Burton McCormick's fiction appears regularly in American mystery magazines. A Nevada native, William earned his MA in novel writing from Manchester University, was elected a Hawthornden Fellow in Scotland and has lived in Russia, Ukraine and Latvia. His novel Lenin's Harem was the first fictional work added to the Latvian War Museum's library in Riga.

Before Christine Poulson turned to crime, she was a responsible academic with a PhD in the history of art. Cambridge provided the setting for her first three novels, Dead Letters, Stage Fright and Footfall, which were followed by a stand-alone suspense novel, Invisible. The first in a new series, Deep Water, appeared in 2016. Her short stories have been short-listed for a Derringer and for the CWA Margery Allingham Prize

Sarah Rayne is the author of  a number of acclaimed psychological thrillers, and ghost-themed books. Much of the inspiration for her settings comes from the histories and atmospheres of old buildings, a fact that is strongly apparent in many of her books. She recently launched a new series, featuring the music historian and researcher Phineas Fox.

Kate Rhodes went to the University of Essex and completed a doctorate on the playwright Tennessee Williams. She has taught at universities in Britain and the United States, and now writes full time. Her first books were two collections of poetry, and her novels Crossbones Yard and A Killing of Angels are both set in London, her birthplace. She lives in Cambridge.

William Ryan is an Irish writer, living in London. He was called to the English Bar after university in Dublin, and then worked as a lawyer in the City. He now teaches crime writing at City University. His first novel, The Holy Thief, was shortlisted for four awards, including a CWA New Blood Dagger. His latest book is The Constant Soldier.

Shawn Reilly Simmons lives in Frederick, Maryland, and has worked as a bookstore manager, fiction editor, convention organiser and wine rep. Currently she serves on the Board of Malice Domestic, is a member of the Dames of Detection, and an editor and co-publisher at Level Best Books. Her Red Carpet Catering Mysteries feature Penelope Sutherland, an on-set movie caterer. She has also published several short crime stories, and co-edited crime anthologies.

Chris Simms graduated from Newcastle University then travelled round the world before moving to Manchester in 1994. Since then he has worked as a freelance copywriter for advertising agencies throughout the city. The idea for his first novel, Outside The White Lines, came to him one night when broken down on the hard shoulder of a motorway. More recently he has written a series featuring DC Iona King.

Cath Staincliffe is an award-winning novelist, radio playwright and creator of ITV's hit series Blue Murder. She was joint winner, with Margaret Murphy, of the CWA Short Story Dagger in 2012. She also writes the Scott & Bailey books, based on the popular ITV series. She lives with her family in Manchester.

Michael Stanley is the writing team of Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip. Both born in South Africa and have worked in academia and business. Their first mystery, A Carrion Death, introduced Detective Kubu Bengu of the Botswana Criminal Investigation Department, and was a finalist for five awards, including the CWA Debut Dagger. Their third book, Death of the Mantis, won the Barry Award and was a finalist for an Edgar Award.

CL Taylor was born in Worcester, studied psychology in Newcastle and has had a variety of jobs, including fruit picker, waitress, post woman, receptionist, shipping co-ordinator, graphic designer and web developer. Her debut novel was Heaven Can Wait and in 2011 she won the RNA Elizabeth Goudge Trophy. More recently she has enjoyed success with psychological thrillers such as The Missing and The Escape.

Fair Of Face by Christina James @CAJamesWriter @saltpublishing @EmmaDowson1 #BlogTour #fairofface

A double murder is discovered in Spalding some days after it takes place.
The victims are Tina Brackenbury, the foster mother of Grace Winter, a ten-year-old who escapes the killer because she is staying her friend Chloe Hebblewhite's house at the time, and Tina's infant daughter. Enquiries by the police and social services reveal that some four years previously Grace was the sole survivor of the horrific massacre of her mother, grandparents and sister at Brocklesby Farm in North Lincolnshire, a crime for which her uncle Tristram Arkwright is currently serving a whole-life tariff.
Why did Amy Winter, Grace's adoptive mother, send her to live with a foster parent? Is it a coincidence that both of Grace's families have now been brutally killed? And is it possible that Grace's uncle, a notorious con-man, has found a way to contact her from his maximum security cell?
DI Yates and his team face a series of apparently impenetrable conundrums.

Fair Of Face by Christina James was published by Salt Publishing on 15 October 2017 in paperback, and is also available in e book. Fair of Face is book 6 in the DI Yates series.

My thanks to Salt Publishing who sent my review copy. I am going to post my review of Fair of Face separately from the Blog Tour and today I have a fabulous guest post from the author, talking about Lincolnshire. I'm alway really excited when I discover books set in Lincolnshire, there aren't enough, in my opinion. Lincolnshire is a vast, beautiful county and it's a pleasure to live here.

Why Lincolnshire: ‘my’ Spalding
One of my primary school friends was considered ‘borderline’ when we took the eleven-plus examination. She was summoned to the Lincs education authority’s headquarters for a viva (a fearsome ordeal which she dreaded) and asked what she would most miss if she were to leave the Fens. Her answer: the magnificent sunsets. She got her grammar school place!  
I grew up in South Lincolnshire and have many childhood memories of the atmospheric weather there. 
A few examples:
I remember my father driving us home to Spalding in our Ford Prefect, after a visit to a farmer in Fosdyke, on a late summer evening when it was almost dark. There was a red sun low in the sky. Giant moths and flying beetles continually bombarded the car windscreen and headlights, as if we were travelling in a horror film. 
I was a paper girl from the age of thirteen until I left school, working for Toynton’s newsagents in Spalding, and sometimes I was out in fogs so dense I couldn’t see the doors of the houses in West Elloe Avenue when I was standing at their garden gates. 
I recall walking home from school during bitterly cold winters, the snow in drifts several feet deep, and I have one particular memory of packed thick ice arrested, frozen, as it emerged from an overflow pipe. 
I went for bike rides in bitterly cold springs, the daffodils covered in hoar frost, the wind sweeping in off the North Sea. 
I think topography is a very important element of crime fiction. When I began planning the DI Yates novels in 2011, I had first to make the important decision of where to set them. 
As well as considering Lincolnshire, I toyed with the idea of South Yorkshire and the Peak District, where I live now, and also London, parts of which I know quite well, but always I came back to Lincolnshire, especially the Fen country. 
There were several reasons for this: Yorkshire, the Peak District and London are already the settings for much contemporary crime fiction; 
I am more familiar with South Lincolnshire than anywhere else, having cycled most of its roads during a time when children were free to roam as they pleased (as long as they showed up for meals!); and above all, the Fens are steeped in that brooding, potentially frightening, beauty that I’ve just described. 
Of course, I’m not the first author to have discovered this. Dorothy L. Sayers set her Lord Peter Wimsey novels in Lincolnshire. D.H. Lawrence said that he loved the flat Lincolnshire farmlands because there was ‘nothing to get between your soul and God’. Most famously of all, Lady Dedlock, that woman of privilege with a dreadful secret in Charles Dickens’s Bleak House, lives in a Lincolnshire that, like her past, is always smothered in fog. And Waterland, by Graham Swift, one of my favourite novels, perfectly captures the undertone of menace exerted by the foggy Fenland sluice-gates and waterways not so very far from where I lived. 
What I think these authors have discovered is the magical paradox of the Fens. On the one hand, they’re ordered, cultivated, prosperous: rolling miles of rich farmland reclaimed centuries ago from marsh and sea. On the other hand, maybe because of this heritage, they have about them more than a hint of the savage, wild, untamed and primeval. Enveloped in one of those frequent Fenland fogs, it isn’t difficult to imagine Hereward the Wake coming striding through the swirling mists. Or a murderer, perhaps. 
As an author, my fascination with the Fens is not confined to the countryside. All of the DI Yates novels take place, at least in part, in the ancient market town of Spalding. Boston, Lincoln, Holbeach, Sleaford, Sutterton and Sutterton Dowdyke also feature (as well as London and, once, New Delhi in India!). 

I feel a special affection for Spalding, however; it’s a town that amazes me every time I return, with its mediaeval church and almshouses, the sixteenth-century White Horse pub, and shops housed in characterful buildings hundreds of years old. (If you should visit Spalding, look up at the first and second storeys of the shops and you’ll see what I mean.) It has twin nuclei: two market squares, the old cattle market and the old sheep market, and it’s one of the very few English market towns whose basic layout hasn’t changed since the eighteenth century. 
There are, in fact, two Spaldings in my life, and in the lives of those of my readers who know the town. There’s the real Spalding that exists today, the bustling centre of a large rural area that has (more or less) kept up with the times; and there is the Spalding of the DI Yates novels, which is essentially the Spalding that I knew in the early 1970s. 
You may wonder why I decided to use such a device, when the town is in any case so steeped in history and the novels are set in the present day, but it makes perfect sense to me. 
‘My’ Spalding is perfect, in that it is sharply etched in my mind and doesn’t change. That means I can’t be caught out by the shape-shifting pitfalls of everyday life: new roundabouts, recently-created one-way streets, new buildings, altered roads, changed pedestrian precincts. 
Even better, Spalding is home to one of the world’s most extraordinary former police stations and magistrates’ courts (though, even stranger, Boston has an exact duplicate) and I can allow DI Yates still to work from it. He hasn’t deigned to move to the new police HQ on the site of the old council school! 
The latest in the DI Yates series, Fair of Face, is about a sensitive subject; I won’t say what it is, as I don’t want to spoil it for readers. 
I’ve been planning to write this novel for a long time. Like the others, it makes extensive use of topography and place. It’s set in Spalding, Lincoln, and a farm just outside Lincoln. It’s about two present day-murders that were triggered by an event that happened at the farm near Lincoln some years before. 
And it’s about a child, Grace, who is ‘fair of face’.
Christina James - October 2017

The Lincolnshire Flag

Christina James is the author of a crime thriller series set in the Fenlands of South Lincolnshire. Her first crime novel, In the Family, finds Detective Inspector Yates investigating a cold case that leads deep into the secrets of a dysfunctional family. 
Almost Love, the second of the series, published in June 2013, concerns the mysterious disappearance of a veteran archaeologist. 
Sausage Hall, published in November 2014, deals with the exploitation of women in both Victorian England and the present day. 
Christina James is the pseudonym of an established non-fiction writer.
For more information visit www.christinajamesblog.com
Follow her on Twitter @CWJamesWriter

Why Stuff Matters by Jen Waldo @ArcadiaBooks #BlogTour

 When Jessica, a grieving widow, inherits an antique mall from her mother she also inherits the stallholders, an elderly, amoral, acquisitive, and paranoid collection.

When one of the vendors, a wily ex-con named Roxy, shoots her ex-husband, she calls on Jessica to help bury the body and soon Jessica is embroiled in cover-ups, lies, and misdirection.  
Into this mix comes Lizzie, Jessica's late husband's twelve-year-old daughter by his first marriage, who's been dumped on Jessica's doorstep by the child's self-absorbed mother and it soon becomes apparent that Lizzie is as obsessed with material possessions as Jessica's elderly tenants.

Why Stuff Matters is a compelling ode to possession, why people like things and the curious lengths they will go to keep them. Returning to her fictional Caprock, Waldo turns her wry wit on the lives of those afraid to let go.

Why Stuff Matters by Jen Waldo was published in hardback by Arcadia Books on 19 October 2017 and is the author's second novel.  Her debut novel, Old Buildings in North Texas is also published by Arcadia.  My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review and invited me to take part in this Blog Tour.

I haven't read Jen Waldo's first novel, so had no idea what to expect from this book. I was intrigued by both the title and the cover of this quirky and original little book. It's a short book at just under 200 pages, but it's a wonderful read. I laughed and I gasped, in equal measures!

Set in the small sleepy town of Caprock in Texas; Why Stuff Matters is a wonderfully written story that is both engaging and funny. Packed to the rafters with some amazing characters, it's a novel that touches on many themes.

Jessica has returned to Caprock after many years away. Her mother has recently died and Jessica is now in charge of a sprawling antiques mall. The tenants are all elderly, and all hold on to their possessions with a passion that is bordering on the obsessive. There are few sales made in this mall, and each one of the tenants has their own story to tell.

Jessica is something of an enigma. She appears to be a cold, ruthless women, with few things to endear her to the reader, yet as her story is slowly revealed, the reader comes to understand her, and why she acts like she does. There's a overwhelming air of sadness about her and the events from her tragic background consume her, and impact on her actions and her thoughts.

There's a storyline running through Why Stuff Matters that centres on eighty-something Roxy. Roxy takes no prisoners and soon Jessica is caught up in the sometimes preposterous things that she does.  Whilst Roxy's exploits with a dead man's handgun, two ex husbands and an insurance investigator could be seen as a little outlandish, the author's handling of this really does fit in well with the rest of the story.

Alongside the elderly tenants of the mall, with their quirks and their wily ways of holding on to their possessions, there's a much younger character; Lizzie.  
Lizzie is Jessica's step-daughter who is dumped on her doorstep by her wanna-be artist mother. Neither Jessica or Lizzie are pleased with this, but gradually, over the course of a few weeks, both of them settle into something of a routine. It becomes clear that Lizzie, like the elderly antique stall holders, also cares deeply about possessions, and at times is happy to take them, even if they don't belong to her.

This really is a story about relationships, both between people and also how we value the things that surround us. Jen Waldo writes with incredible insight into the human psyche, and is also very witty with it. I loved these characters, they felt real. I could see them, and the mall. I could feel Jessica's exhaustion, yet admired her loyalty to these people who gave little back to her.

A thought provoking, funny and heartwarming story that will make the reader smile.

Jen Waldo lives in Texas, where her novels are set.
She took up writing years ago when, living in Cairo, she had difficulty finding reading material.
Since then she has joined writers' groups in Holland, Scotland, England, the US, and Singapore.
She's earned an MFA, has been published in The European, and has been shortlisted in a competition by Traveler.
Why Stuff Matters is her second novel.
Her debut novel, Old Buildings in Texas, is also published by Arcadia Books.

Visit Jen at www.jenwaldo.com

From www.jenwaldo,com

Saturday 28 October 2017

See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt @ikillnovel @TinderPress #SeeWhatIHaveDone @PublicityBooks

Just after 11am on 4th August 1892, the bodies of Andrew and Abby Borden are discovered. He's found on the sitting room sofa, she upstairs on the bedroom floor, both murdered with an axe.
It is younger daughter Lizzie who is first on the scene, so it is Lizzie who the police first question, but there are others in the household with stories to tell: older sister Emma, Irish maid Bridget, the girls' Uncle John, and a boy who knows more than anyone realises.
In a dazzlingly original and chilling reimagining of this most notorious of unsolved mysteries, Sarah Schmidt opens the door to the Borden home and leads us into its murkiest corners, where jealousies, slow-brewed rivalries and the darkest of thoughts reside.

See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt was published in hardback by Tinder Press on on 2 May 2017, the paperback is released on 2 November 2017. My thanks to the publisher who sent a copy for review.

"Lizzie Borden took an axe, And gave her mother forty whacks; When she saw what she had done, She gave her father forty-one."

On 4 August 1892, the bodies of Lizzie Borden's parents were found at their home in Fall River, Massachusetts.
Andrew and Abby Borden's bodies were mutilated by a hatchet. Lizzie became the prime suspect because she had purchased an axe before the murders and burned a dress afterward. 

Sarah Schmidt became obsessed with the Lizzie Borden story, and spent ten years writing this fictionalised version of Lizzie's story.  See What I Have Done is a story that pulls the reader right in from the shocking first page, through the twists and turns of the aftermath of the murders, right up to the conclusion.

Whilst I knew the Lizzie Borden rhyme, from skipping in the playground as a young girl, I must admit that I didn't know much about the case. Sarah Schmidt's extensive research, along with her own additional characters really do bring this incredible story to life. 

The Borden household was never a happy house, that's for sure. Lizzie and her sister Emma are the adult children of Andrew and Abby Borden, and the story is told via their points of view, along with their Irish maid Lizzie and Benjamin; a fictitious character, added by the author.

The detail within the story is excellent. This authors descriptive writing is often stomach-churning in it's reality, evoking a myriad of different feelings and emotion; from disgust, to dismay, to empathy. She has dealt with the intricate family relationships so very well, each strand weaving neatly together to form a well balanced, fascinating and quite compelling story.

For me, the relationship between Lizzie and Emma was especially interesting, highlighting the sisterly bond that went much further, but also had such an influence on events in later years.  

Sarah Schmidt offers the reader a rare wealth of emotion within See What I Have Done, this is so much more than the re-telling of a murder case, it is a gripping and thought-provoking look at family relationships. Deliciously dark and clever.

After completing a Bachelor of Arts (Professional writing and editing), a Master of Arts (Creative Writing), and a Graduate Diploma of Information Management, Sarah currently works as a Reading & Literacy Coordinator (read: a fancy librarian) at a regional public library. She was inspired to write her first novel See What I Have Done after stumbling across the case of Lizzie Borden by chance in a second hand bookshop. Her research for the novel has included spending several nights in the infamous Borden house.

For more information visit www.sarahschmidt.org
Follow her on Twitter @ikillnovel

Friday 27 October 2017

The Man Who Died by Antti Tuomainen @antti_tuomainen #BlogTour @OrendaBooks #MyLifeInBooks

A successful entrepreneur in the mushroom industry, Jaakko Kaunismaa is a man in his prime.
At just 37 years of age, he is shocked when his doctor tells him that he's dying.

What is more, the cause is discovered to be prolonged exposure to toxins; in other words, someone has slowly but surely been poisoning him.

Determined to find out who wants him dead, Jaakko embarks on a suspenseful rollercoaster journey full of unusual characters, bizarre situations and unexpected twists. 
With a nod to Fargo and the best elements of the Scandinavian noir tradition, The Man Who Died is a page-turning thriller brimming with the blackest comedy surrounding life and death, and love and betrayal, marking a stunning new departure for the King of Helsinki Noir.

The Man Who Died by Antti Tuomainen was published in paperback by Orenda Books in October 2017.

I'm really happy to welcome author Antti Tuomainen here to Random Things today, as part of the Blog Tour for The Man Who Died. He's written an intriguing and funny piece about books and his life:

My Life In Books - Antti Tuomainen
At certain point in my life, books literally saved me. But before that was going to happen, I had to learn to put them to good use.

Excluding the usual children's fare (Richard Scarry etc.) my first book – that really felt like my book – was probably something by Finnish YA author Aaro Honka, either The Adventures of the Smart Hippos (translation is both mine and bad) or its sequel. It was about a group of boys who called themselves the Hippos (for no apparent reason that I can remember) and enjoyed wild adventures. I seem to remember one story in which they were sort of detectives and helped crack the case of a stolen rowboat or some such. I found that very exciting. I was perhaps seven years old.

I was a reading child for a while then. A huge inspiration was The Detective's Handbook when I was nine years old. Such was the impact of that book that a friend and I started our own detective agency, promptly calling it Tuomainen & Taskinen, much in the fashion of, say, Spade & Archer, as I was to later find out. We didn't get any clients. Come to think of it, the agency never announced its closure. It might well be that we're still waiting for our first client to walk in. At this point, I'm sure we'll accept divorce work too.

In my early teens I did not read. I suppose I did read a few books but can't remember what they would have been. Instead, I played basketball and was very serious about it. It was not the first grave mistake I've made in my life.

Then something happened when I was seventeen, eighteen and nineteen. First, I quit playing basketball (one of the smart moves I've managed to make). Then, I got interested in books again.

Who knows where that came from. It was an urge, a need. I remember that. All of a sudden I was reading everything. Poetry, too. Poetry, especially.
Among the writers and poets I found at that time was Charles Bukowski who seemed to like the same things I was mostly interested in at the time: drinking, women, bars and, of course, poetry.
At the same time, I was completely adrift in my life.

Books became my lifeline. They held it together. I decided (and somehow knew) I was going to be a writer. There was no plan B. There still isn't, of course.
The more I read the longer my reading list became.

One night in Berlin – it's a long story: I was young and writing my first book in a freezing cold room in Prenzlauer Berg – I found Louis-Ferdinand Céline's Journey to the End of the Night. If I had to name one book that made me a writer, it was this one. It's an outrageous, ingenious, mad, vulgar, chaotic, inventive, insulting and fantastically brilliant work of literature. I never, not even then, thought that I could nor would write anything like it, but it did give me a pretty good idea what you could do with a novel or any piece of writing. Which is anything and everything.

All the while I was reading Finnish fiction and poetry, authors like Veijo Meri, Hannu Salama, Juha Seppälä, Sirkka Turkka, Paavo Haavikko, Teemu Hirvilammi, Arto Melleri, Arto Salminen.
All brilliant, all insufficiently translated into English. Nevertheless, they were of great importance to me.

Then, very soon after finding Céline, I found American noir writers. Elmore Leonard, Lawrence Block, Charles Willeford, Jim Thompson, James Lee Burke, Andrew Vachss. A bit later: Thomas H. Cook, James Sallis, Joe R. Lansdale, Don Winslow, Reed Farrel Coleman, Ken Bruen (who is Irish, actually) and so, so many more.
Holy shit. Excuse me.

This was it: the books that seemed to combine all my earlier reading and what I wanted to do with my own writing. And they really were a combination of all that I had been practicing as well.
James Lee Burke's prose is, at its most lyrical, like poetry. Elmore Leonard's writing and especially his dialogue is music, groovy and cool. Lawrence Block's New York becomes a character with heart and soul and sometimes hard fists or even long knives. These writers, among so many others, are still my favorites.

Nowadays I'm a working writer and I'm writing a book a year. This means that I'm always writing when I'm not doing promotion (meaning traveling, writing work-related things such as blog posts or columns or even articles, meeting people, speaking aloud about the book I've written which sometimes feels like is all I'm doing and taking care of the actual business side of things because this is a business and so forth).
And when I'm deep into my own writing I find it hard to read other people's books. There seems to be a few reasons for this: I start taking mental notes (Oh, she's doing it that way) or I see something that fits my own story and stop and make a note for myself or something in the text sends my thoughts to my own text and I realize four pages later that I have no clue what is going on in the book I'm actually reading. And so on.

And yet, after writing, reading is the best thing I know. I love books. I love words on page. I love to spend hours in bookshops, going from book to book. I love to do the same thing at home. Read a bit from this, then a bit from that, and a bit from.... Sometimes I collect a batch of books – things that suit the mood or perhaps would serve as inspiration for the work on the table just then – and spend the Sunday with these books: reading, dipping in and out, checking out familiar styles, delving into new stuff to see what's new, enjoying language and voices. And always, after a good day of reading, my brain is buzzing with ideas. This method has never failed me yet. Besides enjoyment, there is so much power in reading.

To a great extent, books have given me a direction, a passion, a job. You might say that books have given me life and that is, literally, my life in books. 

Finnish author Antti Tuomainen was an award-winning copywriter when he made his literary debut in 2007 as a suspense author. The critically acclaimed My Brother's Keeper was published two years later. In 2011 Tuomainen's third novel, The Healer, was awarded the Clue Award for 'Best Finnish Crime Novel of 2011' and was shortlisted for the Glass Key Award. The Finnish press labelled The Healer - the story of a writer desperately searching for his missing wife in a post-apocalyptic Helsinki - 'unputdownable.' Two years later in 2013 they crowned Tuomainen 'The King of Helsinki Noir' when Dark as My Heart was published. With a piercing and evocative style, Tuomainen is one of the first to challenge the Scandinavian crime genre formula.

Follow him on Twitter @antti_tuomainen

Follow Orenda Books on Twitter @OrendaBooks

Thursday 26 October 2017

Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin @gabriellezevin @LittleBrownUK #YoungJaneYoung

Aviva Grossman, an ambitious Congressional intern in Florida, makes the life-changing mistake of having an affair with her boss - who is beloved, admired, successful, and very married - and blogging about it. When the affair comes to light, the Congressman doesn't take the fall, but Aviva does, and her life is over before it hardly begins. She becomes a late-night talk show punchline; she is slut-shamed, labelled as fat and ugly, and considered a blight on politics in general.
How does one go on after this? In Aviva's case, she sees no way out but to change her name and move to a remote town in Maine. She starts over as a wedding planner, tries to be smarter about her life, and to raise her daughter to be strong and confident.
But when, at the urging of others, she decides to run for public office herself, that long-ago mistake trails her via the Internet like a scarlet A. These days, Google guarantees that the past is never, ever, truly past, that everything you've done will live on for everyone to know about for all eternity. And it's only a matter of time until Aviva/Jane's daughter, Ruby, finds out who her mother was, and is, and must decide whether she can still respect her.

Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin was published on 22 August 2017 by Algonquin Books / Little Brown UK.

I really love Gabrielle Zevin's writing, and have read her young adult stories as well as her adult fiction. Her last novel, The Storied Life of AJ Fikry is one of my all-time favourites, I reviewed it here on Random Things some time ago.

Young Jane Young is a very topical read, it just so happens that as I was reading it, the Harvey Weinstein scandal broke, never has my reading so well reflected the current news. The women who have bravely spoken out about Weinstein have been trolled and ridiculed; people don't believe them, and the greatest tragedy is that people blame them. Young Jane Young deals with those themes.

Jane Young was once Aviva Grossman. She's now Jane Young because years ago, as a young intern, she fell in love. She fell in love with the married Congressman that she was working for.  The press found out when they were involved in a car accident, and Aviva was shamed and banished, whilst the Congressman carried on with his career, and his marriage after repenting publicly. Sound familiar?

The story is narrated by four women. These characters are amazing. Gabrielle Zevin's skill in creating characters is outstanding, they are perfectly formed; flawed at times, but their voices are strong and so incredibly compelling.

Rachel, Aviva's mother is hilarious; she's the stereotypical Jewish mother, relating her own story, and Aviva's story whilst dealing with her own relationships at the same time. I doubt that there is a reader who will not fall instantly in love with Rachel as she relates her tale, with dry humour and a hint of sadness.

The reader also hears the story told by Aviva/Jane herself, her young daughter Ruby and the Congressman's wife Embeth. All of these narratives are cleverly put together, but I had a soft spot for young Ruby who has to deal with learning about her mother's background and realising that her life has been a lie for many years.

Young Jane Young is a sweeping, unforgettable novel that raises questions about our culture, and how women are treated and scandalised and shamed. It is full of love, longing and loss, with huge emotion and tenderness throughout the story. The subtle wit is energising, adding depth to both the plot and the characters.

Once more, Gabrielle Zevin has delivered a novel that I adored. It is skilled, perceptive and really quite wonderful.

(Photo credit: Aaron Eckhart)

Gabrielle lives in New York City. She is the author of two books for young adults, Elsewhere and Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac, as well as an adult book, Margarettown.

Gabrielle is also the author of the screenplay for the film Conversations With Other Women, starring Helena Bonham Carter.

Find out more at www.gabriellezevin.com
Find her Author page on Facebook
Follow her on Twitter @gabriellezevin