A literary traveller – and all things French

Today we hand over the reins to Emma Cazabonne of the book blog Words and Peace. She is an English to French literary translator and loves French books and books set in France in particular!. Emma it’s over to you:

Emma-in-Shakespeare-and-Company
Emma in her favourite place – Shakespeare and Company Bookstore in Paris

Bonjour and thank you for having me today at The Book Trail.

I was born and raised in France, growing up in the Champagne and the Burgundy regions. I was an English teacher in France and when I came to live in the US fifteen years ago, I started teaching French online. I’m also an English to French literary translator  I am also an artist, painting almost exclusively on rocks.

1. Hi Emma you write the Words And Peace blog which features all things French and books set in France. Why did you start writing this blog?

Actually my book blog, Words And Peace, is very eclectic. I also review lots of historical novels for instance, not set in France, mysteries and nonfiction, among other genres!

Those who know me in real life notice that I can’t refrain from talking about what I read. When I discovered there was a species called ‘book bloggers’, who keep raving about the books they love, I knew I had to join! So I launched Words And Peace just 5 years ago, for a larger place to review the books I love and connect with other book lovers.

2. You’re planning to read So You Don’t Get Lost in the Neighborhood by Patrick Modiano set in Paris. Why did you choose this book and can you tell us more about it?

You may remember that French author Patrick Modiano won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2014. I have loved his novels since I was a teenager. This novel is his latest, published just a few weeks before he got the award.

I was planning to read it in the original language of course, but it was right there on display at my (awesome) publish library. So really, how could I hesitate? I actually plunged into it right away, as I had to wait for someone, and before I left the library, I had already read a third of the book! Did anyone say I am a passionate reader? Lol

I’m not going to review it here, but I can say that it’s a typical Modiano novel, with a “greyish” ambiance, with characters that show up in previous books by him, and where the main character is actually the city of Paris itself. This novel is in between literary fiction and mystery. A short, perfect introduction to Modiano for those who don’t know him yet.

3. Book bingo is a smart feature of your blog. From your 2015 bingo card, can you tell us of a romance book set in France and one with a French word in the title that you would recommend?

Thanks! I have organized a French Challenge for several years, and I thought a bingo twist would be fun for this year.

I personally do not read much romance, but I highly recommend this historical novel, based on a most famous medieval French couple, with a lot of romance and heartache involved: The Sharp Hook of Love, by Sherry Jones

An amazing one with a French word would be Mademoiselle Chanel, by  C. W. Gortner. Stunning!

4. France Book Tours is your virtual book tour company where you showcase books set in France and invite readers to review them on their own book blogs. Why is it important for you to write about books set in your native country and/or written by native writers?

When I got seriously into the world of book blogging, I started signing up to review books for virtual book tours. I noticed virtual book tour companies were usually specialized in a specific genre.

At the same time, I got aware of the impressive number of books published every month that were written in English but set in France, or about France. So I knew this was an undiscovered niche I had to tackle, and that’s how France Book Tours was born.

Americans are very fond of France, but not everyone can afford to travel there on a regular basis. So why not travel through books, right? And when you can get these books for free, what’s not to love? Our readers receive the book for free, they just commit to review it on their own book blog at a specific date, just like it works for any other virtual book tour company.

We also feature books originally written in French and then translated in English: there’s a real mine of amazing writers in France, but if you don’t read French, you may not even hear about them. So if their books get translated, I want as many English readers as possible to discover them.

5. You are a French translator and have translated several novels. Which has been the hardest or most enjoyable to translate and why?

The most challenging has certainly been my very first historical novel, Orgueil et honneur, written by Nathaniel Burns. It’s a rather long novel set at the time of Charlemagne. I had to do a lot of research, for instance on how you would address a bishop in French at that period. Plus, I did this translation through a specific company that has not yet paid me one cent for my hard work…

My most enjoyable translation is a contemporary mystery set in the South of the US: Au nord de Folly-sur-mer, by author Tanya Anne Crosby. It’s a fun book, with great descriptions of the surrounding landscapes, very lively dialogs, and wonderful job in character development.
When a book has so much substance, even though translating is always a difficult challenge, it requires all your creativity, and so is very enjoyable.

Actually I also translated the sequel, just as great, À l’ouest de la mort, and the prequel, Les derniers moments de Florence W. Aldridge.

I’m currently translating another novel by the same author, this time set in Scotland in the 13th century!

6. Can you recommend us some of your favourite books set in France?

(the Da Vinci code really sparked a influx of readers to the Louvre and Saint Sulpice. can you tell us of a place which is important literary style to yourself in some way?)

OMG, there are so many! I have read 30 books set in France so far this year, so I’m going to pick a few titles from this year only.

One of the last great historical novels I read is The Sisters of Versailles, by Sally Christie. It’s great to see that publishers are finally slowly discovering that the French court was just as interesting as the Tudors.

There’s a French mystery writer I really enjoy: The City of Blood, by Frédérique Molay.

And I really enjoyed this short literary novel, about a short ride between Champagne and Paris: The 6:41 to Paris, by Jean-Philippe Blondel.

To discover more, just follow the I Love France Category on my blog.

I don’t have a specific literary place important to me. But I lived in the Champagne region and often too the train, so this last book resonated a lot with me.


Also, I love the Burgundy region where I spent many years, so it’s always fun bumping into it in books. For instance, there’s a whole series translated from the French, about a detective who is also a winemaker. Each cozy mystery in the series focuses on a different wine region. The one on Burgundy is Nightmare in Burgundy, by Jean-Pierre Alaux and Noël Balen.

One of my pictures taken in Burgundy:

Words-and-peace-burgundy
Burgundy (c) Words and Peace

Thanks for having me today and for your wonderful questions.

Your readers can follow my reading activity on my blog: Words And Peace.

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Also through Facebook, Twitter, Google +, Instagram, Pinterest and YouTube.

And there are always great books available for free to review on France Book Tours, as well as giveaways organized every month.

Scottish wit and wisdom via fiction

Flag-3St Andrew’s Day

Where all things Scottish are celebrated and quite rightly so. Scotland has some of the most stunning scenery in the world and is a top tourist destination. There’s the well known and loved Loch Ness Monster, the Edinburgh tattoo, Haggis, bagpipes and of course Tartan.

But what we love is its humour  and its people. And the many gifted writers who love Scotland so much it becomes a feature in many books. Books that highlight and pay homage to much of Scotland’s magic. And the magic time of the Edinburgh book festival! A book pilgrimage for many.

A short tour if we may….

random

*Discussing the need to rid Scotland of its darker side in Robertson’s Glasgow:

Every one deid is one less bampot on the streets

edinb*Giving an honest appraisal of  a haggis dish:

“I would rather kiss a public latrine that each something of such foul appearance.”

There is some very fine Scottish food (haggis being one example!) such as bridies, stovies and fine venison!

*Debating the history and legacy of Body snatching …FALLS

At the time, most bodies worked on by anatomists were cold indeed. They were brought to Edinburgh from all over Britain — some came by way of the Union Canal. The resurrectionists — body-snatchers — pickled them in whisky for transportation. It was a lucrative trade.”

“But did the whisky get drunk afterwards?”

Devlin chuckled. “Economics would dictate that it did.”

*Experiencing a wedding on the most northernly Shetland island of Unst during Simmer dim?

TAirA single chord played on fiddle and accordion,a breathless moment of silence …This was the hamefarin’

The Simmer dim was the summer dusk. “So far north it never really got dark in in June.”

*Meeting some of Scotland’s folklore..

Whether it’s the Shetland trowes, or the Loch Ness monster and a modern tale of the search for  it, Scotland never fails to capture the imagination.

And there’s the little dog, Grey Friar’s Bobby, who sat by his master’s grave – immortalised in books, film, tv and a statue..

bertie*And who could forget –

Bertie from 44 Scotland street, Edinburgh. Always full of wisdom when either debating the need for a certain plaque :

“No plaque reminds the passer-by of these glories, although there should be one; for those who invent biscuits bring great pleasure to many.”

or just expressing the dreams of a young Scottish lad:

“Life would undoubtedly improve when he turned eighteen and could leave home to go and live somewhere far away and exotic – Glasgow, perhaps”

Best not venture into Robertson’s Glasgow though eh Bertie?

There’s so much Scotland has to offer Bertie – both in literature and for real.

Happy St Andrews Day and happy reading!

Nagasaki -Susan Southard

NAG-2
1945 – The story of five teenage survivors from the atomic  bombing of Nagasaki told through each injury, thought, fear and emotion you can imagine

Story

On August 9th, 1945

Barely three days after Hiroshima, an atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki. More than 74000 people died and a further 75000 were injured. The aftermath was just as painful for those who lived through it however since it changed their lives forever. For five teenagers, at the stage of their lives where their entire futures lie unstained and free in front of them, the changes must have been especially hard to bear least of all to try and understand.

How do you move on from something so devastating and evil? How do you learn to live in such a world when you have faced such horrific murder and barely escaped with your life?

When your life has barely begun…

Place and Setting

NAGA-MAP

What you have read in history books or in history lessons, this book takes you to the heart of one of the most devastating events in human history. Did these people survive in every sense of the word or are they just living with evil?

Nuclear war may have ended global wars but has devastated so many lives in the process and unlike the initial explosion, the effects linger on for many many years and down through many generations.

This books allows you to experience a part of history by talking to those who were there, who felt every shudder, every blast, every consequence of that horrific day.  Susan sits with you and each of these five survivors in turn and gives a full and heartbreaking account of the impact of war.  They even have a name for these people – those who survived are known as hibakusha (“bomb-affected people”) and seem to live through a sense of shame and the stigma of having survived when so many people did not.

What makes this especially interesting is that of course in the Japan of 1946, the freedom of press or even thought was very different to what it is today and what you might imagine. Such a horrific turn of events and no freedom with which to try and get through it and make sense of it as best a teenager can.

Review

There are some books that you read and remember and others that sear each and every word on your heart. This is definitely both but certainly the second.

Now although I love reading history and about real life war situations, I did come to this thinking that I knew about Nagasaki and wondering what I could really learn afresh. We studied this at University and I’ve read and studied many accounts and interviews. Not like this though. The research is impeccable and I just can’t imagine the effort on behalf of the author and the raw emotions which the survivors had to dig deep to recover.

There are pictures dotted throughout this book but to be honest the real horror is between each and every word. It is an honour to spend time with each of these people and to peer inside their minds and hearts.

An intimate and heartbreaking portrayal of one of the most horrific war times acts and a new insight into what the consequences of this single event had on the teenagers of the day.

Can bombs ever be the answer? They end one war but start quite another.

Author info:

http://www.susansouthard.com/

Ireland – The Hotel on Mulberry Bay – Melissa Hill

MUL

Why a booktrail?

1980s, 2000s – A story of a hotel, a place, whose fortunes are closely linked to the family and the community who live there.

Story

Mulberry Hotel sits perched on a cliff top above a sweeping bay south of Wexford in Ireland. It was once the heart and soul of the area and the community but time and lack of money has seen a once great hotel and home become a shadow of its former self.

Sisters Penny and Eleanor Harte grew up there and although Elle moved away, she has never forgotten the happy times there. So when family tragedy strikes and she is forced to return to Mulberry Bay, she is heartbroken to see the heart of the community struggling.

But the Harte family are not done with it yet and neither are the local community. But is it the hotel or the family that they are trying to save?

. Place and Setting

Screen shot 2015-11-27 at 12.01.13
Wexford Coast and Eyre Square in Galway as featured in the novel

Mulberry Bay is sadly not real but it is very much inspired by a real life hotel and the home town of the author Melissa Hill. Cahir in Country Tipperary is the real life Mulberry Bay having inspired Mellissa to write her story of survival and community spirit.

Mulberry Bay

Perched high on a hill above a sweeping bay, and overlooking the pretty little seaside town with a sugarloaf mountain as a backdrop, the Bay’s Coastal location and seafront bedrooms were a perfect haven for tourists.

This is a place that the sisters Eleanor and Penny have grown up and loved ever since. Despite Penny moving away to London, it’s Mulberry Bay which has stayed in her heart. The hotel, a tourist haven was their home growing up and so memories are embedded in its walls and floating in the air all around.

The sense of community in this small seaside town is admirable. For family tragedy unites them all and a secret kept by Ned, the girl’s father is endearing. His memories of the good old days, and how life seems to be recorded in every single Beatles song in his collection is a heartwarming way to reunite a place with your life time memories across the decades.

Review – Susan

Read with a soundtrack of the Beatles – you will not regret it for this book has so many things to make you smile and show you how both places and music can really enhance your memories of your past.

I did think before reading that this might be a twee story – community spirit etc saving a failing hotel, but I was so wrong. It is SO much more than this and rather about protecting what you love and trying to do the right thing. Community comes together yes but not in the way you think. this is realistic and very heartwarming. A tear came to my eye with Ned and what he did. Elle and Penny I warmed to immediately and Anna of course who was their mother.

Set in Ireland I felt worked well for this novel as there’s something about the Emerald Isle and its people which really lends itself to this kind of story. When I realised it was based on the author’s hometown (although the hotel is not in dire straits) I immediately wanted to go in the hope that I could meet my very own Harte family and their friends.

Melissa if you ever need a travel buddy? …

North East England, Norway: The Silent Room – Mari Hannah

mari hannah

Why a booktrail?

2000s – A prisoner sprung from a van on a Newcastle road will lead to a trail of conspiracy reaching all the way to murder.

Story

A disgraced Special Branch officer sits in the back of a prison van on its way to Durham prison. No sooner has it set off then armed men storm the van and hijack the prisoner.

The prisoner, Jack Fenwick is the former boss of Detective Sergeant Matthew Ryan who is immediately suspected of somehow being involved. He is suspended and so locked out of the manhunt.

However when the official investigation goes awry, Ryan is determined to find out what really is going on and so he goes ‘underground’ enlisting others to help him get to the truth.

The truth turns out to be  lot darker than Ryan or anyone else could have imagined and will take them to Norway in the grip of an international conspiracy that is by no means over yet.

Place and setting

map-of-mari-hannah

map-of-newcastle
Central Station The old Victorian pub where Ryan goes to meet someone is near to the Centre for Life where a car is tracked. Pitcher and Piano Quayside Several mentions of the Quayside including a drink where Grace and Ryan take time to chat about events Nuns Moor Road, Fenham Grace lives here and it’s where the Silent Room is located Newcastle Crown Court The prison van leaves here and crossed the Swing Bridge before being hijacked close to Durham

 

North East of England

Crown Court Newcastle. From the start as the prison van carrying Jack Fenwick leaves the court at Newcastle’s Quayside and makes its way across the Swing Bridge, making its way into Gateshead and towards Durham, you just know where this is going to happen and the impact when it does it by no means diminished. The hijacking is brutal and vivid, emotions raw and the hunt is on.

The aftermath takes you on a journey in and around Newcastle,  the inner workings of Northumbria police and the Professional Standards branch. The demands of the jobs are brutal and unforgiving, the dedication of the team clear yet there are some characters who seem hell bent on getting their own foot on the ladder and to heck with anyone else.

The team are made up of Eloise O’Neill – a no nonsense taking woman and DI Macguire who represents everything Ryan hates in a copper. The animosity and suspicion of the police of one of their own bristles and rankles with Ryan’s belief in the truth. Grace Ellis a retired officer who worked with Jack in the Serious Incident Squad creates a ‘silent room’ – a secret bunker style of incident room where a team kept out of the official investigation start their own.

The North East is a nice backdrop to the search – local colour is interspersed at regular intervals to place the action. From the small village of Dunstan Steads where Ryan lives to the inner city setting of Fenham where Grace lives and where the local news team headed by the real life presenter Ian Payne (as himself) comes to the fore blends local colour nicely with an author proud of her surroundings.

Norway

The investigation takes a new turn when it is discovered that the death of a Norwegian national could be linked to the case. That’s where this mention of Norway ends however as the events which take place here are central to the novel and so it’s on the booktrail map but you have to read the book to find out why.

Review

Well Mari, you certainly know how to ramp up the tension and create a police team that pulls no punches! With her paintbrush speckled with North East colour, she washes it over the gritty, punchy story, interspersed with action, fast moving events and a trail which leads to a very interesting and unique conclusion!

This is no Kate Daniels. Heck I’m sure she could work in the team but then I was rather afraid of O’Neill and Maguire myself so kudos if the three of them should ever meet. These are the tough guys – the hard men of Northumbria police. These guys mean business – violence, double dealing and a dark dark core makes this a thrilling, bumpy and dangerous ride.

I liked Ryan. He had guts and determination to find out what really happened and the premise of the silent room was intriguing. I shall now wander down Nuns Moor Road where Grace lived and wonder where this place could be…hmm and in quiet Fenham who would have guessed?

The splashes of local colour such as Ian Payne, mention of Gazza, the Quayside and the heritage of the old pub in Central station makes this a novel which stands proudly on the NE literary map.

This is a gritty read and it was a real surprise to see how events took them to Norway and a whole other area of intrigue. Being a language fan, it was great to read the smattering of Norwegian which added to the overall sense of place. The conspiracy unravelled and there were some unexpected and neatly done twists.

Mari I am now going to rest a little, my heart thumping as it is. I need to lie down somewhere quiet although maybe not in the silent room that you write about.

Author Info:

Twitter: @mariwriter

Web: marihannah.com

Las Vegas – Shopaholic to the rescue – Sophie Kinsella

sophie kinsellaWhy a booktrail?

2000s – Travelling across the Las Vegas desert in an RV to find your missing father may not be the best idea Becky’s ever had…

Story

Becky Bloomwood is the shopaholic of the title who in previous outings has been the bane of her family and especially her bank manager’s life. Now in this latest offering, she is still in contact with him sending him emails and updates of what she’s up to. He’e even writing a book about his days as a bank manager and of course wants Becky to star in it.

But she’s got other things on her mind. Her father has gone missing . Last heard from travelling to Las Vegas where he and a friend have gone “in order to take care of something”

Like a credit card in the middle of a department store sale, Becky is dying to get out there. Las Vegas should be very afraid

Place and Setting

Las Vegas *Bellagio hotel Becky and her friends have breakfast here. The fountains here are a landmark too! *Caesars palace The hotel with a Roman theme where the shopping is fantastic *A Little White Wedding Chapel This just had to be in a visit to Las Vegas if Becky is involved!
Las Vegas
*Bellagio hotel
Becky and her friends have breakfast here. The fountains here are a landmark too!
*Caesars palace
The hotel with a Roman theme where the shopping is fantastic
*A Little White Wedding Chapel
This just had to be in a visit to Las Vegas if Becky is involved!

 

This is Las Vegas but not as you know it. This is Las Vegas seen through the eyes of Becky Brandon née Bloomwood and so when the novel opens with them getting stopped by the police in the middle of the Nevada desert just outside of Las Vegas, you know things are not going to go well.

The Becky bus is filled with characters you would not want on a long road trip across the US, but thankfully they’re only going as far as Las Vegas. Dad has a map from 1972 which traces a route from LA to Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon so Becky follows hot on his heels to find them.

Husband Luke drives the RV in and around Las Vegas as the trail goes hot and cold and the diversions ever more wacky. From breakfast at the Bellagio to staying in the Venetian Palace, seeing Las Vegas through the eyes of a (former?) shopaholic is a novel way of seeing the city of sin. As Sin seems to have been replaced with ‘Milkshake cows’ ‘Vogue for Guns’ and reenacting various scenes from the Ocean’s 11 movie.  George Clooney sadly does not make an appearance nor does Brad Pitt.

Oh and Becky being Becky manages to find herself at the Elvis Wedding Chapel to see the finer points of Las Vegas City. She gets involved with dancing, casino gambling, drinking, the local culture, the wild and wacky hotels and discovers that ‘ you can’t line dance in flip flops”

And all the while, she’s supposed to be finding her father! But there’s a plan for that…

Review

I’d only read the first three of the Shopaholic series and well, things have changed haven’t they? Easy to follow though as if you understand Becky’s mindset from the first books and her random thoughts as they continue to veer left and right  – much like the journey across the desert in a RV.

Going on a journey across the USA – well not technically as it’s from Los Angeles to Las Vegas, there are so many ways that a girl and her friends travelling in an RV can get into trouble. And she does. Becky is very accident prone and well gets into muddles you would never expect. You do have to suspend disbelief at points but then this is Becky isn’t it and she has somewhat of a reputation.

She’s not so much a shopaholic in this book as a travel guide with a difference on the lookout for an runaway dad. A crazy girl on a crazy adventure in perhaps one of the craziest cities in the US. I did enjoy the trail side to the story as they crossed the Nevada desert in the search of someone but I think I need to read more of the earlier books to get more out of this one.

I did keep imaging  Isla Fisher in the scenes though and as the star of the show, if this were a future movie, she would have great fun filming this!

London – London’s Glory Bryant and May – Christopher Fowler

londons gloryWhy a booktrail?

A selection of short stories showcasing London’s finest crime fighting duo at the Peculiar Crimes Unit

Story

There are some cases that as a police officer you never forget. Cases that aren’t even properly explained in the telling of your stories so when there is a chance to revisit these cases and investigate them in detail, the result is a unique caseload entitled ‘London’s glory’

Call them cold cases, old cases, call them what you will, but be sure that as Bryant and May cases there will be careful consideration to get things cleared up.

As the doors of the Peculiar Crimes Unit reopen, the files of investigations with settings as diverse as a circus freak show, on board a London Tour bus and even a yacht off the coast of Turkey come under the spotlight

Place and Setting

Oxford Circus The story of the Secret Santa in Selfridges department store Caledonian Road The location of the Peculiar crime unit Primrose hill has an interesting history Bow street A location of the peculiar crime unit Marble Arch where the tour bus starts from on the tour New Victoria Line History of the underground station starts here
Oxford Circus
The story of the Secret Santa in Selfridges department store
Caledonian Road
The location of the Peculiar crime unit
Primrose Hill
has an interesting history
Bow street
A location of the peculiar crime unit
Marble Arch
where the tour bus starts from on the tour
New Victoria Line
History of the underground station starts here

Bryant and May – named after a brand of matches and with much more spark. The book opens with a history of the duo themselves from their creator Christopher Fowler with his inspiration for creation of their quirks, London banter, inspiration from other London detective such as Sherlock and the creation of the most peculiar crime agency in the capital if not the world.

London as a setting and historical setting in particular offers more than one scenario for a crime story. It’s not just the smog or the streets of the city that set the scene, it’s the history and the  strange facts, strange scenarios and events captured in the pages of history that form the ideal London for Bryant and May.

London in a matchbox:

The Department Store – Secret Santa in Selfridges

Primrose Hill  – and its execution history!

Hampstead Common – a scene of murder

The Barbican – poison on the cards?

And the reasons for the Peculiar Crime Unit’s various locations in Bow Street, Mornington Crescent and Caledonian Road.

To discover London through the eyes of Bryant and May is to discover the lives of these two characters as they have moved around investigating different parts of the city, discovering various characters, various back alleys and many quirks that you may not get to see otherwise.

Bryant and May are a very thrilling duo and you’ll never see London, its history and its essence in any other way.

REVIEW – Susan

If you love Bryant and May you’ll find this very interesting which I did as this was a potted history of their London and the cases you remember reading about and those that you don’t  – each one examined through unique eyes.

The history of london through its detective such as Sherlock and others who have been in the city is an interesting one and I really felt as if I was sat next to Christopher Fowler himself as he told me his deepest secrets and inspiration for his novels. How his love and fascination for the city and its quirks and how he managed to get this into his novels.

It’s a friendly, humourous read and the cases range from the weird to the bizarre. I tried to ration my reading but it was impossible as I wanted to find out a bit more and see where I would go next with Bryant and May.

These two are just the kind of people you’d want to meet for a drink. Oh the stories they would tell  and how they would tell them!- you just know there are gems to come in future books.

The London of Bryant and May by Christopher Fowler

One of the most perfect literary guides we know for London has to be Christopher Fowler.

londons gloryLondon – its quirks, idiosyncrancies, history and essence all feature in his books with the dashing duo of Bryant and May. His latest? A series of short stories filling in some of the gaps of previous cases and exploring angles you may not have considered before.

These are the books, the Bryant and May ‘guides to London’ where history and setting is as much a character as the police characters themselves. Think you know the city? Well you’ve not met Christopher and discovered how he portrays the city in his tales of crime and intrigue…

Welcome to the London of Christopher Fowler…..

I was born in the centre of London and let loose in Piccadilly Circus at about age four, so it always fascinated me. As kids we used to sneak into the scenery docks of theatres and watch rehearsals, and generally treated London as our playground; it never felt weird or unsafe. Although I’ve since lived in other countries, it was obvious that I should settle on London as my main location for books. One of my favourite locations for a story was the Clerkenwell House of Detention, one of the most disturbing underground buildings I’ve ever entered, and it’s impossible to live nearby and not be aware of what lies below the streets. You can see the Fleet tributaries through drain covers, and follow the chain of wells from King’s Cross down through Farringdon to the river. It’s a perfect setting for a murder mystery.

Christopher Fowler
Christopher Fowler

But for me there were other connections. My parents met in The Griffin pub on Clerkenwell Road, having worked at the nearby engineering firm of Griffin & Tatlock together. My father bought his wedding ring from a friend in Hatton Garden, and my mother always took me to the circus in the basement of Gamages department store in Holborn at Christmas. My first fountain pen came from one of the local suppliers, as did my first typewriter. Today I still live just a short walk away in King’s Cross.

At the London Metropolitan Archive, I read the story of the party-loving Lady Hatton whose dance with the Devil became a London myth. This became the basis of ‘Bryant & May and the Bleeding Heart’. The more I dig into any part of London, the more I end up including it in the finished book.

bleeding heart Dickens pointed out that in London even the snowflakes were covered in soot, ‘gone into mourning for the death of the sun’, and there’s something about the low level of light that mutes the shades of brick and concrete,  and depresses those of us who suffer through the purgatorial month of February. The geography of London near the river matches its weather, being perverse, willful, confusing and unsettling. The roads are always atmospheric, so they make fertile ground for the creation of dark tales. Add to that mix the stories of murders and hangings associated with Smithfield, the animal bones washed down from the butcheries on the riverbanks, and half the job is done for me.

All this makes writing (and reading) my crime novels sound depressing, but I have a lot of fun mixing fact and fiction, sending my elderly detectives around the backstreets in search of murderers. Fans write from around the world asking about the different London areas I use. I can’t see myself ever running out of ideas, because London provides them. One day I’ll have to start my own guided tour!

Well, what a lovely idea to end on, a Bryant and May guided tour seen through the eyes of Mr Christopher Fowler. Now that would be a tour to remember!

London – The Girl with No Past – Kathryn Croft

girl with no past

Why a booktrail?

2000s and the past: What were you like as a teenager. Remember what really went on?

Story

Leah can run but she can’t hide. She hides out in her London flat and lives a rather solitary life with only her books for company. What might sound ideal for any bookworm soon reveals itself to be anything but and Leah is actually hiding from her past and is very lonely.

When she meets Julian, it would see that life is getting better, but things change when on the anniversary of that day she is trying so hard to forget, she receives an anonymous card telling her that someone knows the truth and that they’re after Leah.

What did happen all those years ago, What and who is Leah and where will it all end?

Place and Setting

Could this be Leah's solitary area of London? There is a Garrett Road but there's no Allfarthing Road where she lives but there is Allfarthing Avenue
Could this be Leah’s solitary area of London? There is a Garrett Road but there’s no Allfarthing Road where she lives but there is Allfarthing Avenue

London present day

Life in a London flat with books for company might seem ideal but it is far from it. Leah lives an anonymous life with no social life and outside contact. She is on the run and hiding from herself with no friends and a job she can do with her eyes closed although it in a library!. Living in the big smoke if you want to ‘disappear’ seems relatively easy for despite the numbers of people living there, you can feel the most alone you have ever felt. Still that suits Leah well. She blends into the London landscape she says. Perfect

The setting in Leah’s world is more like a social desert with the winds blowing in the odd man in the library who she talks to, and a dating website when she tries to contact with the world outside. But contact opens up a whole new danger.

The Past – At School

Leah at school is a carefree girl with a boyfriend Adam who she idolises to the point of putting him on a pedestal. But the picture slowly forms of a school life that was not so perfect after all and a day in particular…

Teenagers do what teenagers do, but these guys like to not only push boundaries, cross them and more.

What did she do, or what happened that was so awful? The story of her high school days are dizzying and complex as one piece falls into place one after the other and to appreciate how it all fits, you have to stand back and take in the bigger picture. Everyone remembers their school days but some memories won’t stay buried for long. This story of teenage misdemeanors comes back and bites you right where it hurts.

Review

That cover got me first. That tunnel and the way the no is smudged to suggest something very blurred and wrong.  A place to have secrets and a dark tunnel with a chilling silhouette that grabbed me from the word go.

I thought I would like Leah – works with books, lives with books but just like the characters, you think you know someone… I don’t want to say too much for fear of suggesting things away. Suffice to say there were a lot of reasons to have an interest in Leah and to want to know more about her. The novel is mainly set in present day London but the story told in flashbacks to the past was a real head spinner. A person’s past can affect them in many different ways and those teenager years…what they can do to a person! There are more than a red herring or two to quash any assumptions you think you might have when reading this.

It’s clever the way the author has written this -making me feel so uncertain about the main character. It’s fast and pacey too  – a real mix of emotions wrapped up  in one girl’s life. The ending did not disappoint either and maybe it’s just my natural noisiness but I really did want to know what, why, how and when and those questions never stopped throughout. I love a book which takes you by surprise and this one certainly did.