The reality behind the fiction – guest post by CJ Carver

I’ve had CJ Carver as a guest on the blog before and I’m delighted to welcome her back for a second appearance. CJ has a new book, the follow-up to her fantastic Spare Me The Truth. It’s called Tell Me a Lie – more of that later.

First, CJ is here to talk about the reality behind the fiction and how the culture of a country influences the story.

Ready? Sitting comfortably, with a large mug of your beverage of choice? Of course you are. Over to CJ…

For a thriller writer, Russia has everything you could possibly want.  Spies, oligarchs, corrupt officials, gulags, the FSB and vodka.  Lots of vodka.  Which is why, when my character Jay McCaulay in Back with Vengeance awakes in a Moscow hotel with no idea how she got there, she initially blames her memory loss on the vodka.

I’m fascinated by Russia.  I visited Moscow during its dissolution in the early nineties.  I met with factory workers in Samara and farmers in Bishkek.  I learned that the people chain smoke, that they’re flashy and love their bling.  They’re deep thinkers and blunt to the point of rudeness, but more interestingly, they’re passionate and fiercely loyal to their country.  And so, the beautiful Ekaterina Datsik was born in Tell Me a Lie.  She’s a combination of all the Russians I met, good and bad, generous and mean, which makes her the perfect enigmatic foil against Dan Forrester’s quest for the truth.

The plot for Tell Me a Lie is driven by Russia’s culture.  The peoples need for a great leader even if he (never a she) imprisons, exiles or executes millions of people without due process.  Look at President Putin.  He’s a ruthless, cold-blooded, corrupt ex-KBG officer but the majority of Russian’s revere him for being a “strong man” thanks to being brainwashed by the media.

I always play the “what if?” game when plotting a new book.  And with Tell Mea Lie I wondered: what if the people found out about Putin’s media manipulation?  His siphoning off billions into his and his cronies’ accounts in the Cayman Islands?  Would they rise up against the government officials like they did against the Tsars and tear down their dachas, kill them?

As I said, Russia is fertile ground for a thriller writer.

And so is Australia.

The land down under doesn’t just have sharks, deadly snakes and spiders, it has a dark and bloody history of their treatment of Aborigines, where over 100,000 children were taken from their families in the 1950s in an effort to try and “breed them white”.

I didn’t set out to write about what is now called the stolen generation, but when my protagonist India Kane in Blood Junction starts looking for her roots, this ugly history begins to make itself known through an Aboriginal policeman who befriends her.  I used it as a sub-plot, which enriches the story and hopefully informs as well as entertains.

Australian culture is perceived to be barbecues on the beach, but there’s a nasty underbelly under all that golden sand.  There’s political corruption, xenophobia and misogyny, all good fodder for novelists, but this is counterbalanced by the Aussies immense generosity, forged from surviving the outback perhaps, or even their convict history.

The culture of a nation isn’t just defined by the social behavior of its people, but by its arts and psychology, and its history, and when I delve into each, a plethora of plots and sub-plots appear until I’m clutching my head wondering which to choose.

Thanks CJ.

Tell Me A Lie by CJ Carver is published by Zaffre on 12th January 2017 in paperback and eBook. I loved Spare Me The Truth, so can’t wait to read this one! You can follow CJ Carver on twitter @C_J_Carver

tell-me-a-lie

A family in England is massacred, the father left holding the shotgun.
PC Lucy Davies is convinced he’s innocent
A sleeper agent in Moscow requests an urgent meeting with Dan Forrester, referencing their shared past.
His amnesia means he has no idea who he can trust.

An aging oligarch in Siberia gathers his henchmen to discuss an English accountant.
It’s Dan’s wife
From acclaimed and award-winning author CJ Carver, this is the next gripping international thriller in her brilliant Dan Forrester series.

The Dry – Jane Harper

The Dry - Jane Harper

I just can’t understand how someone like him could do something like that.

Amid the worst drought to ravage Australia in a century, it hasn’t rained in small country town Kiewarra for two years. Tensions in the community become unbearable when three members of the Hadler family are brutally murdered. Everyone things Luke Hadler, who committed suicide after slaughtering his wife and six-year-old son, is guilty.

Policeman Aaron Falk returns to the town of his youth for the funeral of his childhood best friend, and is unwillingly drawn into the investigation. As questions mount and suspicion spreads through the town, Falk is forced to confront the community that rejected him twenty years earlier. Because Falk and Luke Hadler shared a secret, one which Luke’s death threatens to unearth. And as Falk probes deeper into the killings, secrets from his past and why he left home bubble to the surface as he questions the truth of his friend’s crime.

First book read of 2017 and it’s a corker. The Dry is set in the town of Kiewarra, a small farming community which hasn’t seen rain for two years. Aaron Falk is back in town for 18 hours to attend the funeral of his friend Luke, but soon gets embroiled in the investigation. After all, he and Luke grew up together and some secrets shouldn’t ever come to light…

The Dry is a gritty, superbly atmospheric crime noir where the heat and tension in the small tight-knit community practically ooze off the page and the pages demand to be turned. Jane Harper weaves a net of intrigue packed with twists and turns, secrets and lies more than the odd red herring along the way. There’s a deft sleight of hand going on as the plot unfolds leaving you thinking that you’ve finally figured it out, only for the cards to be turned over one by one and, of course, the lady has vanished.

The story reveals itself through the current day investigation by Falk and local cop Raco into the murders, but also via a series of flashbacks to Falk’s younger days growing up in the town with his best friend Luke. It’s neatly done and each time we jump back in time, something new is revealed which alters our perception on events both past and present.

All the more spectacular for being a debut, The Dry should be quite firmly on your list of books to read in 2017. I will be very surprised if it doesn’t grace my books of the year list come December.

You can find Jane Harper on twitter @janeharperautho, or at her website. The Dry is published by Little, Brown on 12th January 2017.

Many thanks to Grace at Little, Brown for the review copy of this book.

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Cut to the Bone – Alex Caan

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One Missing Girl. Two Million Suspects.

Ruby is a vlogger, a rising star of YouTube and a heroine to millions of teenage girls.

And she’s missing…

But she’s an adult – the police aren’t too worried.

Until the video’s uploaded…

Ruby, in the dirt, pleading for her life.

Enter Detective Inspector Kate Riley; the Met’s rising star and the head of a new team of investigators with the best resources money can buy. Among them, Detective Sergeant Zain Harris, the poster boy for multiracial policing. But can Kate wholly trust him – and more importantly, can she trust herself around him?

As hysteria builds amongst the press and Ruby’s millions of fans, Kate and her team are under pressure to get results, and fast, but as they soon discover, the world of YouTube vloggers and social media is much darker than anyone could have imagined.

And the videos keep coming…

Enter the strange and murky world of the vloggers. I’ve got more than a passing familiarity with it, given my daughter’s fascination with YouTube and the parade of celebrity vloggers with millions of followers whose lives we follow. Oh, I admit it, I’m just as much of a fan of YouTube, and as you’ve probably guessed, am rather fond of the world of social media. Happily my experience of it is rather less sinister than Ruby’s…

It’s Ruby’s disappearance takes centre stage in the drama which unfolds and the cast of characters who inhabit her world, but the key (and more interesting) dynamic is that between DI Kate Riley and DS Zain Harris. Both are fascinating in their own ways, and both have their secrets. Riley has moved across the world to start again in the UK, and Harris has his own troubled past.

Cut to the Bone is a dark and atmospheric police procedural with a modern twist. It’s a fast-paced read and a classic page-turner. Just one more page, just one more chapter, where will the fickle finger of suspicion alight next?

You can find Alex on twitter at @alexcaanwriter or at www.alexcaanauthor.com

Many thanks to Emily at Bonnier Zaffre for the advance copy.

1,342 QI Facts to leave you flabbergasted – a guest post by Literary QI ELF Anne Miller

Today I’m delighted to take part in the blog tour for 1,342 QI Facts To Leave You Flabbergasted by John Lloyd, John Mitchinson, James Harkin and Anne Miller.

Today we’ve got Anne Miller here to tell us about how she became the chief Literary QI Elf.

Without further ado, over to Anne!

I did a Sociology and Politics degree and spent a lot of time on extra curricular activities – one year I ran the campus magazine, another year the university tango dancing society. When I graduated I was lucky enough to win a place on the Edinburgh TV Festival’s talent scheme The Network. (It’s fantastic – if you’re interested in working in TV you should definitely look them up!) We had a wonderfully busy weekend of going to workshops and talks from people like Jay Hunt, who runs Channel 4, and Charlie Brooker about how the TV industry works.

I worked in various TV jobs and then met the team at QI when I had a day shadowing on the QI set all the way back in Series I. They said to stay in touch and I emailed in a fact that I saw on the wall of the Dundee Science Centre that said ‘an eagle can swallow enough botulism toxin to kill 300,000 guinea pigs.’ They liked the fact and said that if I sent them more they might employ me. I like a challenge so sent more facts and a few months later I joined an internship scheme at QI and began helping out on the Twitter feed (@qikipedia) and organising their databases.

That was five years ago and now I write scripts for the TV series, am the Head Researcher for our sister BBC Radio 4 show The Museum of Curiosity and have just co-authored our new book 1,342 QI Facts To Leave You Flabbergasted. My favourite facts from the new book include:

  • In the time it takes to listen to The Proclaimers’ ‘I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)’, the ISS travels 500 miles, then 500 more.
  • Until the 1950s,
the rural poor in Norway warmed their feet
 in cowpats.
  • Hans Christian Andersen wrecked his friendship with Charles Dickens by staying with him three weeks longer than planned.
  • The Pieza genus of fly has species called Pieza kake, Pieza pie, Pieza rhea
and Pieza deresistans.
  • During the launch of BBC2 in 1964, a kangaroo got stuck in a lift
at Television Centre.
  • In 2016,
the Swiss city of Lausanne banned silent discos for being too noisy.

Thanks Anne! I do love a quite interesting fact…

1,342 QI Facts To Leave You Flabbergasted is out now at Amazon and Waterstones.

The blog tour continues…
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Deep Down Dead – Steph Broadribb

Deep down dead - steph broadribb

Lori Anderson is as tough as they come, managing to keep her career as a fearless Florida bounty hunter separate from her role as single mother to nine-year-old Dakota, who suffers from leukaemia. But when the hospital bills start to rack up, she has no choice but to take her daughter along on a job that will make her a fast buck. And that’s when things start to go wrong. The fugitive she’s assigned to haul back to court is none other than JT, Lori’s former mentor – the man who taught her everything she knows … the man who also knows the secrets of her murky past.

Not only is JT fighting a child exploitation racket operating out of one of Florida’s biggest theme parks, Winter Wonderland, a place where ‘bad things never happen’, but he’s also mixed up with the powerful Miami Mob. With two fearsome foes on their tails, just three days to get JT back to Florida, and her daughter to protect, Lori has her work cut out for her. When they’re ambushed at a gas station, the stakes go from high to stratospheric, and things become personal.

If I have one thing to say about Steph Broadribb’s Deep Down Dead, it’d be this: Go read it.

Featuring a kick-ass heroine, Deep Down Dead is a helter-skelter thrill ride pretty much from the off. Lori is unusual in many ways, but mostly because she’s that rarity in thriller books: she’s *interesting*. So often in thrillers you get these cookie-cutter characters, seen one, seem them all. I’ve never seen anyone quite like Lori though.

It’s a cat and mouse game all the way, when what appears to be a simple job goes south in a spectacular fashion. I love nothing more than a good thriller, and Steph has delivered a *great* thriller, steeped in Americana with settings and characters which feel completely authentic and with a plot which insists that you don’t put it down. I read this on holiday recently and found myself staying up entirely too late to read just one more chapter. I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next.

Deep Down Dead by Steph Broadribb (@crimethrillgirl) is out now from Orenda Books. You can find out more on Steph’s website, crimethrillergirl.com

The Exiled – Kati Hiekkapelto

The Exiled - Kati Hiekkapelto

Murder. Corruption. Dark secrets. A titanic wave of refugees. Can Anna solve a terrifying case that’s become personal?

Anna Fekete returns to the Balkan village of her birth for a relaxing summer holiday. But when her purse is stolen and the thief is found dead on the banks of the river, Anna is pulled into a murder case. Her investigation leads straight to her own family, to closely guarded secrets concealing a horrendous travesty of justice that threatens them all. As layer after layer of corruption, deceit and guilt are revealed, Anna is caught up in the refugee crisis spreading like wildfire across Europe. How long will it take before everything explodes?

The Exiled is the third of Kati Hiekkapelto’s books featuring detective Anna Fekete. This time she’s headed home to a little Balkan village to visit her family when her bag is snatched whilst on an evening out with her friends. She finds herself ensnared in a mystery which goes much further than a simple robbery.

It feels strange to be part of a blog tour for a Finnish author, but to be reading about the stifling heat of summertime in Kanizsa, a town in northern Serbia.

Anna herself is a fascinating character, adrift in her home town in the summer heat, a long way from Finland. The exiled is a very topical tale as the influx of refugees on their way to Europe makes its mark on the little town, bringing murder and corruption and even on holiday, Anna can’t escape her instincts to find out what’s really going on.

Kati Hiekkapelto has a great knack with characterisation, and the story  flows at a gentle pace, much like the river which plays such a central part of the story. Anna’s investigations take their toll on friendships and family, but you’re always on her side, willing her to uncover the truth, no matter how hard it might be to hear.

You can find Kati Hiekkapelto on twitter @HiekkapeltoKati or at her website, katihiekkapelto.com

Many thanks, as always, to Karen from Orenda Books for the review copy. Opinions are, of course, my own.

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The Mine – Antti Tuomainen

the-mine

In the dead of winter, investigative reporter Janne Vuori sets out to uncover the truth about a mining company, whose illegal activities have created an environmental disaster in a small town in Northern Finland. When the company’s executives begin to die in a string of mysterious accidents, and Janne’s personal life starts to unravel, past meets present in a catastrophic series of events that could cost him his life. A traumatic story of family, a study in corruption, and a shocking reminder that secrets from the past can return to haunt us, with deadly results.

Well, another corker from Karen Sullivan at Orenda Books – regular readers of this blog will be under no illusions that I am huge and unashamed fan of this publisher. She has a phenomenal eye for a story.

The Mine is no exception. Part crime story, part conspiracy, with a dash of mystery thrown in for good measure. It’s a splendid concoction of beautifully evocative locations and compelling characters. Can Janne get to the bottom of the mysterious goings-on at the Mine before it’s too late?

I really liked the way the story played out with Janne’s investigation contrasting with the killer at work (and some deliciously horrible scenes there!). Definitely a page-turner that’ll keep you up into the wee small hours, though it’s a pretty quick read so not *too* many late nights!

You can check out a Q&A with Antti Tuomainen over at Lucy Hay’s blog. Antti can also be found on Facebook (you can like  his page here) and he’s also on Twitter @antti_tuomainen and Instagram@anttituomainen, or his website at www.anttituomainen.com.

Many thanks, as always, to Karen from Orenda Books for the review copy. Opinions are, of course, my own.

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