Alaskan Delights – Stan Jones

We’ve just had the great fortune of getting mail all the way from Alaska saying how the booktrail has reached the farthest point of the earth! Well we were shocked  – very pleasantly I might add, and there may have been a happy dance or two around the room. That’s how we heard about Alaskan author Stan Jones who we just had to meet!

TUNDRAAnd so we did, and his books. And today, we’ve tempted him out of the cold to speak to us.

We warm him up with some hot chocolate and a little bit of flaming Christmas pudding and then we chat like crazy!….

Hi Stan!. What a pleasure to meet you and read your Alaskan set stories!

Can you tell us more about StanJones (1)and why he is your lead character?

 Almost from the moment I arrived in Kotzebue, I knew I wanted to write about that lovely part of the world and the fascinating people who live there. Crime novels seemed as good a way as any, because that form offers the author latitude to explore any aspect of culture, society, history, or circumstance that strikes his fancy.

The question was, who should be the cop in crime stories about the Arctic? It needed to be someone with ties to the place and people, but at the same time someone who was conflicted (the first law of fiction being, torment your characters!).

Thus did Nathan Active spring into being: An Inupiaq born in Chukchi, but to an unwed teenage mother who knew she was unfit to raise him. So she adopted him out to white schoolteachers, who soon moved to Anchorage and raised him there. 

Nathan resented his birth mother for giving him away, and grew up trying to pretend she and his birth place didn’t exist. He considered himself an Anchorage boy and set out on a law enforcement career by joining the Alaska State Troopers.

Luckily for fans of the series, life got complicated the moment Nathan completed training. The Troopers, with the customary blind perversity of every bureaucracy since the beginning of time, posted him to Chukchi for his first assignment and he’s been there ever since.

At first, he angled for a transfer back to Anchorage at every opportunity. But, over time, he has reconciled with his birth mother, and has come to appreciate Chukchi for the fascinating place it is. Now he’s there to stay, and has moved on from the Troopers to head the public safety department of the Chukchi Regional Borough. He’s The Law north of the Yukon River and south of the Brooks Range, as he puts it.

Despite all the change, Chukchi is still as unique as ever. As a character put it in the very first Nathan book-White Sky, Black Ice–“It makes sense if you don’t think about it.”

You are a native of Alaska. What is particularly special and dear to you about Chukchi where Nathan Active  is  born?

Caribou hunter's cabin
A Caribou hunter’s cabin (c) Stan Jones

Chukchi is fictional, but is modeled pretty closely on a real village named Kotzebue. My family has lived there at various times and one of my children was born there.

Chukchi (Kotzebue) is about 35 miles north of the Arctic Circle on the Chukchi   Sea. Because it is above the Arctic Circle, that means there are a few days in summer when the sun doesn’t set and few in winter when it doesn’t rise–talk about the edge of the world!

One of the side-effects of this phenomenon is what they call Village Time, meaning that people don’t pay a lot of attention to the clock. Since it’s either light all the time or dark all the time for much of the year, one time’s as good as another!

Chukchi/Kotzebue is home to about 3,000 people, around 80 percent of whom are all or partly Inupiaq Eskimo.

KotzebueBluff
Kotzebue bluff (c) Stan Jones

Kotzebue

The first time I landed there was a clear October day. When I stepped off the Boeing 737 jet, it was about five degrees above zero (Fahrenheit) with the wind rolling in off the sea ice at 15 or 20 mph. It was beautiful and, strange as it may seem to denizens of milder climes, it just felt right to me.

Since that day, the place has never been out of my heart or head. I haven’t lived there in a while, but my wife and I still go back to visit whenever we can.

The last such occasion was September of 2015, when President Obama paid a visit–POTUS on the Permafrost, as the occasion came to be known. While I was there, I managed to give one of his Secret Service agents a signed copy of one of the Nathan Active books, Village of the Ghost Bears. I signed it for the president, and expressed the hope that, having seen the real Kotzebue, he might enjoy reading about the fictional version. Wouldn’t it be cool if he read it and posted a review on Amazon!?

And with that thought (Stan we think he should for sure!) we leave Stan warming his hands by the fire and filling his flask full of hot chocolate ready for the ride home.

You can get the book here: Tundra-Kill

And meet Stan here: sjbooks.com

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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

Vaseem Khan talks elephants, food and Mumbai…

I’m off to meet a man about an elephant today. Yup, you read that right. I am currently sitting in an Indian restaurant, with the fragrances of the food and drink wafting all around me waiting for Vaseem Khan – the author of The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra. vaseem-with-book-copySuddenly there is a loud trumpeting sound – Vaseem’s taxi? As I approach the door, an elephant bedecked in jewels comes lumbering around the corner before stopping right infront of me. Truck uncoils and a man slides down and announces himself – Hello he says. Vaseem Khan at your service. 

Well with that novel approach (never have I had an author arrive by elephant) I just have to start firing away with the questions straight away.

You create a vivid picture of the sights and sounds of Mumbai. Can you tell us a little more about Chopra’s city?

Mumbai is an eternal city. It is constantly changing but its soul will always remain quintessentially Indian. The city was once a series of seven islands occupied for millennia by Koli fisherman until the Portuguese established a trading centre there in 1534 and called it Bom Bahia or ‘Good Bay’ from whence the name Bombay is derived. A century later the Portuguese gifted the territory to King Charles II of England as part of the dowry of Catherine of Braganza. Charles promptly leased the islands to the East India Company which transformed the disparate islands into a city. By the end of the 1700s Bombay, with its deepwater port and established trade routes, was the ‘Gateway to India’. In 1995 Bombay was rechristened, after Mumbadevi, the stone goddess of the original Koli fishermen.

Today 20 million live in the city. Is it any wonder that Mumbai is a non-stop assault on the senses? People’s lives are a blend of modern and traditional sensibilities – Mumbai, like most metros in India, is facing a cultural onslaught from westernisation – which brings both good and bad, as I describe in my novel. But most people are still very wedded to their ancient culture. What is a constant is how warm and friendly everyone is.

How did you think about having an elephant in your story?

The book comes to life! (C) the booktrail
The book comes to life! (C) the booktrail

You could say that the elephant was born on my first day in India. I remember vividly walking out from Bombay airport in 1997, aged 23, into a wall of sizzling hot air. The first thing I saw set the scene for me – a group of lepers and beggars milling about the taxi rank. At the first traffic junction we stopped at there was a thumping on the window. I turned to see a tall well-built gentleman in a sari. My first eunuch. I turned back to the road and there, lumbering through the traffic as cool as you please, was an enormous grey Indian elephant with a mahout on its back. This surreal sight stuck with me and eventually became a part of the novel I wrote when I returned to England ten years later.

When you think about it, elephants make great crime fighters – they are intelligent, have great memories and display a range of emotions, which is important to me as a writer as the dynamic between Ganesha and Inspector Chopra is a key aspect of the novel, adding much charm and humour.

To discover more read my blog piece: “What makes an elephant a great sidekick for a crime novel?’: https://blog.sainsburysebooks.co.uk/what-makes-an-elephant-a-great-sidekick-for-a-crime-novel/

Can you tell us more about Ganesha?

Ganesha is a one-year-old baby Indian elephant. He is sent to Chopra by his long lost uncle Bansi. But Bansi doesn’t reveal why he is sending him an elephant or anything about Ganesha’s background. This is a mystery that will be revealed slowly over the course of the book and series. Bansi does say – in a letter – that Ganesha ‘is no ordinary elephant’. These words gradually prove prophetic as Chopra discovers there is more to little Ganesha than meets the eye.

When Ganesha first turns up he is very despondent. But we soon see his real personality emerge. He is adorable, of course, but also tenacious, determined, mischievous and adventurous – he is a child, after all. As well as helping Chopra he will be getting into a few scrapes of his own!

elepahant

What next do you have planned for Chopra and Ganesha?

Well, Chopra and Ganesha are just getting started! I have just completed their second adventure, ‘The Perplexing Theft of the Jewel in the Crown’ which is about the theft of the world’s most famous diamond – the Kohinoor, which was originally mined in India and then given to Queen Victoria during the Raj. The Kohinoor is currently part of the British Crown Jewels. In the novel the Crown Jewels have been brought to India for a special exhibition. A daring robbery sees the Kohinoor stolen and Chopra and Ganesha called in to try and recover the great diamond.

After that Chopra and Ganesha will be on the trail of a kidnapped Bollywood star, and then in the fourth episode they will be travelling outside of Mumbai to Chopra’s native village in Punjab, North India, to try to unravel the mystery of Ganesha’s origins and the disappearance of Chopra’s Uncle Bansi.

My aim is to showcase different parts of India as the series progresses. India is really a collection of countries – it is so different everywhere you go. I’d like to put Chopra and Ganesha into different cities and regions so that we can use those wonderful environments as backdrops to the stories.

What should we eat if we visit Mumbai?

Vaseem feeds Ganesha before we talk more food! (C) Vaseem Khan
Vaseem feeds Ganesha before we talk more food! (C) Vaseem Khan

Mumbai is a gastronome’s paradise. As a world city there are now restaurants from every cuisine on the planet – many of these restaurants are in the suburbs of Juhu and Bandra or in the richer zones of south Mumbai.

Punjabi dhabas – to taste truly authentic Punjabi Indian food – tandoori chicken, nan bread, butter chicken, Mughlai dishes – eat at a traditional dhaba. These are usually rustic restaurants such as Uttam’s Dhaba in Marol, but there are others with an upmarket ambience such as Urban Tadka in Seven Bungalows.

http://www.urbanrestro.com/restaurants/mumbai/andheri/urban-tadka-seven-bungalows

Leopold’s Café is a Mumbai landmark and features in my second novel in this series ‘The Perplexing Theft of the Jewel in the Crown.’ It was previously made famous in the novel Shantaram. It has a range of delicious Indian and continental cuisine and is a good place to stop when exploring south Mumbai. http://www.leopoldcafe.com/index.htm

Mumbai is a coastal city so there are many great seafood restaurants. Try amazing Maharasthran-style seafood at Gajalee – especially the crab. http://www.gajalee.com/

Mumbai street food – if you can stomach it. Mumbai’s street food is amazing ranging from steamed rice cakes called ‘idli’ to chicken lollipops. You can find some great pictures of Mumbai street food on my Pinterest board: https://www.pinterest.com/vaseemkhanUK/mumbai-street-food/

With many thanks to Vaseem for a very interesting and food infused interview. Right then, we’re off for an elephant ride now so be sure to catch up with Vaseem later on! and Ganesha of course

Web – http://vaseemkhan.com/

Twitter – @VaseemKhanUK

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/VaseemKhanOfficial/

Revisiting literary friends……Agatha Christie

AGATHA1

Books often take you places you never would have gone before. Agatha Christie for me is one such author who has taken me to places I really wish did exist – St Mary Mead for example -although the murder rate is quite high there so maybe not sure about that one.

Still, the places such as Gossington Hall, the inside of the Orient Express,  Betrams hotel are memories which will stay with me for ever. They’ve lasted like faded photographs in  my mind ever since I read them and now with the TV adaptation of her Tommy and Tuppence novels, I thought it was nice to reread them.

Oh and it was like visiting an old friend, seeing the places again that I knew as a child, the very first day an English teacher handed me my first Agatha Christie – A Murder Is Announced – and said “I think you’ll like this”

How do you feel when you wander back into a book you’ve known and loved for years? It felt like wandering back into a house I used to visit frequently, friends I used to know, wondering what has changed and what has stayed the same. Of course it was me who now was older and arguably wiser, now having read many crime and mystery books based on forensics and more brutal cases would my visit to the past be a good one?

Well yes it was and more. For it was like opening up an old treasure trove and marvelling at a time when there was no technology that we rely on today, that clever old Miss Marple who would sit and knit and observe……the head bobbing over the hedge as she listened to some secret chatter, the excitement of wandering into Gossington Hall when it was still owned by the colonel and then when it is taken over by an American actress…

Aah Agatha, your crime stories have stood the test of time for me – they are classics, photos in my memory box, recollections in my mind.

tOMMY

As for Tommy and Tuppence, I had met these two in the story N or M and now they are being republished with the TV images of David Walliams and Jessica Raine as the crime busting couple. A new chance to reconnect with two old friends!

Now then, I think a cup of tea is in order, a comfy rug and a good Christie in preparation for tonight’s visit with Tommy and Tuppence on BBC.

How did you feel reconnecting with characters from your past? Is it good to meet old literary friends?

Britcrime – Alex Sokoloff – Author of Huntress Moon

We’re very excited about the up and coming Brit Crime online festival this weekend and we’re going to be showcasing a few of the authors and books coming up in the festival over the next few days. Today we have the bookish musings of one Ms Alex Sokoloff, author of the Huntress series..ALEX-SOKOLOFF

Alexandra on serial killers……

I worked as a screenwriter for ten years before I snapped and wrote my first novel, and in that time I worked on several film projects featuring serial killers. So for several years I was doing research into the subject every way I could think of besides actually putting myself in a room with one of these monsters. I tracked down the FBI’s behavioral science textbook before it was ever available to the public. I stalked psychological profilers at writing conventions and grilled them about various real life examples. I went to forensics classes and law enforcement training workshops.

And while I was doing all that research, one fact really jumped out at me about serial killers. They’re men. Women don’t do it. Women kill, and sometimes they kill in numbers (especially killing lovers or husbands for money – the “Black Widow” killer; or killing patients in hospitals or nursing homes: the “Angel of Death”) — but the psychology of those killers is totally different from the men who commit serial sexual homicide. Sexual homicide is about abduction, rape, torture and murder for the killer’s own sexual gratification.

It really floored me when I realized to what extent writers and filmmakers are glossing over that very basic fact about these men. At the same time, I am sick to death of reading crime novels and seeing movies and TV shows about women being raped, tortured, mutilated and murdered. (I’m not too happy about it happening in real life, either.)

So I wanted to create a series in which I could both deal truthfully with the facts about serial killers, and to turn the trope of “women as victim” inside out. And I finally realized I could do that by creating a female serial killer – and exploring how unique that actually would be.

Alex on the Huntress…

She’s a very difficult character to write – she’s so non-linear. She lives very much in the moment and experiences life with a sort of magical realism. She believes in portents, in synchronicity, in animism, in monsters, in absolute good and absolute evil. Her chapters are written in present tense to capture that immediacy. But it doesn’t come easily. Cara’s scenes are usually the last things I write in each book – I sketch out what needs to happen, but it always takes the longest to get inside her enough to write the actual scenes.

I think the reader experiences Cara a lot through Roarke’s point of view, which keeps her mysterious and elusive. Readers always want more of her, but I think that would be a mistake, to reveal too much.

Alex on Cara’s developing relationship with Roarke

I look at them as two halves of the same person. Or really, of the same soul. It’s a very romantic notion, the Platonic idea that each human being is half of one complete soul that has been split apart, and we spend our lives searching for our other half. If you believe that, you can well imagine how almost violently those two halves might struggle to find and join with each other, despite all odds, obstacles, and sense. So I think of Roarke and Cara as two halves of the same soul that are magnetized to each other; they can’t help themselves, even though actually uniting could destroy them both.

And the other part of their nature is that they are fighters, and they’re fighting the same battle, by very different rules. So together they are a powerful crime fighting team. (Others may disagree…)

Alex on Cara…….

Cara is absolutely committed to doing as much as she can to eradicate the human suffering perpetrated by evil people. She’s really pretty selfless about that, too. Personally, I find that admirable. If you were ever in deep trouble, real life-threatening trouble, you would want her on your side. Other than that, she has certain skills, but I wouldn’t exactly call them positive.

What’s next?

Book Four is Wolf Moon. I had to do something very different with this one, so it takes place in two different time periods, with two, possibly three, different tracks of criminal investigation. Hopefully it will let readers learn more about Cara. And you’ll love the Arizona canyon settings! I just got back from a research trip in Canyon de Chelly – just stunning.

Alex and her books are featured in the upcoming Britcrime festival

BritCrime is a free online crime writing festival which takes place 11 to 13 July 2015.

For more information visit http://britcrime.com

Amsterdam – Lonely Graves – Britta Bolt

lonely graves

Why a booktrail?

A character by the name of  Pieter Posthumus works to provide identities and backgrounds to unknown corpses found in Amsterdam

Story in a nutshell

The Lonely Funerals team is responsible to make sure all those that die lonely do not die alone

and without an identity of their own do not go on their final journey anonymously. Pieter Posthumus takes his job very seriously and so when a young Moroccan is found dead, case closed, he is keen to find out who this person really was. Was it really suicide as the police are insisting? Or was it something else. Turns out that the Secret Police were also investigating Moroccan nationals about terrorism offenses. Just what is Pieter getting himself into?

Place and setting

Westelijk marktcanal  - where the body flows from kostverloren vaart - the current is slow fro the niewe meer towards he centre o town The white wooden bridge at the Staalkade Kolenkitbuurt - The kolenkit neighbourhood featured as being the immigrant quarter public library and the cafe at the top - giving one of the best views in the city according to Sulung when he tells Posthumous with its zigzags of escalators Westerkerk - near the Prisengracht canal where the body is eventually found
Westelijk marktcanal – where the body flows from and is found

The white wooden bridge at the Staalkade
Kolenkitbuurt – The kolenkit neighbourhood featured as being the immigrant quarter
the Public library and the cafe at the top – giving one of the best views in the city
according to Sulung when he tells Posthumous about its zigzags of escalators
Westerkerk – near the Prisengracht canal where the body is eventually found

Amsterdam may be the city of canals and charming bicycle rides but this is a side of the city that really delves into the underbelly  – we visit the red light district, the immigrant areas, the possibility of a terror plot bubbling under the surface and some dark dealings down on the dank canal sides.

Strong currents push down a wide waterway, thrust up a narrower one, circle back along another,sending the young man jerking and threshing through the canals, limbs flailing in a manic underwater dance.

The canals take on a much darker tone when the immigrants body washes up in the Prinsengracht canal for example. As do the coffee shops and residential and industrial parts of the city that on a normal visit to the city you would probably never visit.

The most fascinating discovery is of course the Lonely Funerals team  – which the author mentions in a note that it is in fact true. What a poignant and yet very sad fact that someone would die so anonymously in this interconnected world we live in. Fascinating to learn about the people who do this job though.

..the centuries old obligation on the Burgermeester to take responsibility for unclaimed corpses within the city limits. these days, that mostly meant tramps and junkies, lonely old men and women, people rejected by their families, the odd tourist who dropped dead in the street or one of the window-girls with false papers.

Bookish musings

How sad that people should die alone and have no one to claim them. No matter who they are and how they came to die.

I found this fascinating that this is a real group of people who work in this way –

http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/documentaries/2010/05/100513_gb_lonely_funeral.shtml

The story is dark and some of the issues regarding immigration and the way people die in the city, the sex trade and all that is associated with it are difficult subjects yes, but this was a completely new view and insight into the issues. Terrorism is also a difficult subject to tackle but this provided some of the most visceral and informative parts of the novel. A dark dark world that’s for sure.

But this is the first in a trilogy and it will be interesting to see it develop further…..

The Burning Man/Bryant and May – London – Christopher Fowler

burning man

Why a booktrail?

The series of Bryant and May returns with a bang and London is under siege from every angle imaginable.

Story in a nutshell

London is under siege. Violent protests surrounding a banking crisis fill the streets, the anger is explosive and the conflict between the police and the rioters is about to come to a head.

But then a young homeless man is found burned to death. At first it might seem like a tragic accident but could it be more sinister? Could an opportunistic killer be using the chaos to exact revenge in some way?

The Peculiar Crimes Unit is called in since the crimes and the possible reasons behind it are simply to horrible and weird to think about. But will they be able to halt the chaos?

Place and setting

Square Mile Crutched Friars avenue, near Fenchurch street and the railway bridge where the man is found dead. The Finsbury private bank is also here.  Threadneedle street the home of the bankers St Paul’s Cathedral scene of the riots St Pancras Bryant investigates in Camley Street which is close to St  Pancras church - one of the most ancient sites of Christian worship in England and the ‘bizarre Victorian gingerbread house that set beside it” Trafalgar Square The scene of the Death of capitalism marches with protestors wearing Guy Fawkes masks.
Square Mile
Crutched Friars avenue, near Fenchurch street and the railway bridge where the man is found dead. The Finsbury private bank is also here.
Threadneedle street
the home of the bankers
St Paul’s Cathedral
scene of the riots
St Pancras
Bryant investigates in Camley Street which is close to St Pancras church – one of the most ancient sites of Christian worship in England and the ‘bizarre Victorian gingerbread house that set beside it”
Trafalgar Square
The scene of the Death of capitalism marches with protestors wearing Guy Fawkes masks.

The Peculiar Crimes Unit, housed in a ‘awkwardly trapezoidal four floor Victorian corner building’s in Caledonian Road, is one of the most interesting places in London and elderly detectives Arthur Bryant and John May work from here in a city increasingly difficult to police.

The Burning Man soon becomes a murder investigation in which, as the name suggests, incendiary methods of execution are used. But when the investigation takes an apocalyptic turn, that’s when London and the history, the essence of the city really comes into its own.  Mix together mob rule, corruption, rebellion, punishment and the legend of Guy Fawkes and you have one explosive mix indeed.

The great fire of London

Indeed Bryant himself stands and gives a brief history lesson of the city at the start of proceedings –

In Tudor times, London was still a box. It was tightly contained by walls of three sides, the fourth being the River Thames”

“And this is how it would have stayed without the conflagration that transformed it, the Great Fire of London”

The theme of the fire and of the riots really comes to be a major part of the investigation which Bryant and May use to full effect – how history can help to explain and clarify the present. Whether religion or orchestrated chaos, it’s about the breaking up of the system in London and in cities elsewhere. And in their midst,  a man on a quest for a protest of his own – the essence of Guy Fawkes seems to have returned.

London is a money factory

The Square Mile – the centre of this money factory is a bane of contention for Byrant as it represents the inequality of the people in the city rich and poor and the confidence that the PCU offers to all regardless of who they are or what they have. They provide stability and peace of mind in increasingly unpredictable times.”  running a covert operation will mean no social media or drawing attention to themselves. The bankers who live in Threadneedle street have returned from their holidays in Tuscany to riots all around them

Riots at St Paul’s

The riots which surround landmarks such as St Paul’s, the bank of England and Cheapside. London burning due to the ‘thugs of Threadneedle street’ as the bankers are called.

Bookish musings

An interesting premise really got me into this book and kept me turning the pages. This is a tale of how a city, the essence and history of a city is blended and interwoven into a story of murder.

Bryant and May have been a formidable duo for several books now but this one really stood out for the way London is used as both a character and a setting. The history lessons never felt as such and helped show the city in a changing light – the financial side, the riots and the history of Guy Fawkes is a great mix and fascinating in many ways.

The murders although of course gruesome were intriguing and I swear I could smell the acrid smell in the air of the smoke swirling the streets as Bryant and May woke to a new day of investigation.

Dark mysterious and dingy streets – and a duo that keep on getting better.

Broadchurch – Dorset and Somerset – Erin Kelly

Broadchurch

Why a booktrail?

How will a successful TV series transform into a book? Erin Kelly shows us how it’s done. 

Story in a nutshell

One hot July morning in Broadchurch, Dorset, Beth Latimer realises that her eleven-year-old son, Danny, is missing. She frantically searches for him only for his body to be found on the beach later that day. Who could have murdered a child? And in such a nice sleepy place as Broadchurch? The national press decamp on the unsuspecting town and nobody’s life will be the same again. For the killer could be one of their own, someone who they know, and before long it seems that everyone has something to hide…

Place and setting

Charmouth, West Dorset Beach - One scene. West Bay, West Dorset Beaches, Harbour, Pier, Promenade, Cliff Tops and Coastal Scenes. Freshwater, West Dorset Susan Wright's Caravan - Freshwater Caravan Park.
Charmouth, West Dorset
Beach – One scene.
West Bay, West Dorset
Beaches, Harbour, Pier, Promenade, Cliff Tops and Coastal Scenes.
Freshwater, West Dorset
Susan Wright’s Caravan – Freshwater Caravan Park.

Since Broadchurch is fictional, the locations to visit in order to experience the beauty of the television setting and to visualise the book are those in both West Bay Dorset and Clevedon, North Somerset. The beach scenes and the caravan park are located here with different names for obvious reasons whilst the town scenes are recreated in Clevedon such as the homes of The latimers and the Miller family and Broadchurch High Street.

With the murder of a young boy on the beach in your mind as you see the location in real life, standing beside the imposing cliffs can be both poignant and impressive at the same time. Was the boy thrown from the cliff? Who placed him on the beach? Who was on the boat seen that night? And when dawn broke and that poor boy was found there, the town and its people came to a standstill and their lives were never to be the same again. Such brutality in such a beautiful place.

Miller Family Home - St Andrew's Drive. Latimer Family Home - Lavington Close. Hill Road - the high street of Broadchurch
Miller Family Home – St Andrew’s Drive.
Latimer Family Home – Lavington Close.
Hill Road – the high street of Broadchurch

Clevedon is situated in North Somerset and Hill Road was the setting for the High Street, the newsagents shop and the newspaper offices. the friendliness of the palce belies the story’s web of secrets and lies but it makes for a fascinating trip as Clevedon is now quite firmly on the literary and TV map of locations that you should visit to experience the lives of DI Hardy, the Millers and the Latimers.

Perhaps the most iconic and somewhat eerie setting of all is the caravan park and the thought that you might bump into Susan Wright. Even if you haven’t see the TV show, you’ll be nervous about that name after reading Erin’s book.

Bookish musings

Loved the TV show and loved the book. Erin Kelly  has really mastered what I thought twas going to be tricky art of writing a novel based on a TV show. This both complements the TV show as well as acting as a standalone. When reading this I could visualise all the locations and characters and really get my teeth into the story. i felt I had spent more time with the characters and had a different and unique view.

The amount of work this must have taken – with such high expectations from readers – but the plots, the characters, the links and lies, the hidden secrets and even the sarcastic comments from Hardy are all here and then some.

I found this a new reading experience – reading and seeing the book at the same time instead of imagining it. And it really worked. Made me buy the ebooks Erin wrote on the individual characters after each episode of the second series – but that is another set of reviews…

The Strings of Murder – Edinburgh 1888 – Oscar de Muriel

photo (13)

Why a booktrail?

A story of murder, mystery and an apparently cursed violin….

Story in a nutshell

Edinburgh, 1888. A violinist is murdered in his home. In his locked practice room whilst the sound of several musicians played in the night. Who could have got in the room whilst it was locked? And who would want to kill a violinist?

Meanwhile in London, the city is awash with panic over the Ripper murders and so Scotland Yard sends Inspector Ian Frey to investigate under the cover of a fake department specializing in the occult. However, Frey’s new boss, Detective ‘Nine-Nails’ McGray, actually believes in such supernatural nonsense.

Just who or what is crawling the dark dank streets of Edinburgh?

Place and setting

Moray Place where Frey stays with McGray on his arrival in Edinburgh Calton Cemetery where McGray wanders and researches on will-o - the wisps City chambers, The Royal Mile The police station and morgue are located here Dublin Street - New Town  The Ardglass house is located here. The Ardglass family are well known in the city and own many properties Princes Street where he goes in the search for ‘decent food he can actually eat’ Edinburgh conservatoire of music Fictional yet we imagine the grand and majestic Usher Hall on Lothian Road could be it. this is what we imagined when reading the book. Its a very gothic looking and imposing building Connections to the violinist and music
Moray Place
where Frey stays with McGray on his arrival in Edinburgh
Calton Cemetery
where McGray wanders and researches on will-o – the wisps. Calton Hill overlooks it
The City Chambers, The Royal Mile
The police station and morgue are located here
Dublin Street – New Town
The Ardglass house is located here. The Ardglass family are well known in the city and own many properties
Princes Street
where he goes in the search for ‘decent food he can actually eat’
Edinburgh Conservatoire of Music
Fictional yet we imagine the grand and majestic Usher Hall on Lothian Road could be it. This is what we imagined when reading the book. Its a very gothic looking and imposing building and has connections to the violinist and his music

Whoah – this side of Edinburgh is not one you’ll have seen before. It’s not the bustling bright city it is now but one of darkness, the occult, violins played by the devil, a devils sonata and if Inspector Frey is to be believed, bad bad food and even worse weather…

Imagine a person from the south having gone up to Edinburgh for the first time and not liking anything he sees, tastes, feels or imagines in the Scottish capital. On a murder hunt, perhaps it’s to be expected but a rather reluctant visitor to Scotland, as suspicious about things like haggis as much as he is the people he questions makes for some funny South v North moment –

From all directions came cries in that Scottish accent that rolls the R in an even more disgusting way than the Irish.

When he sees McGray tucking into haggis – and his reaction to is must be the funniest reaction we’ve ever read about. McGray thinks of Frey as a soft Southerner however and proceeds to call him ‘ lassie’ throughout the novel.

First impressions are hardly conducive to the rest of his trip when he takes a boat to Leith –

Walking from the dock I found that Leith Dock was a din of seagulls seamen, steamers and coaches.

The city was being lashed by torrential rain than turned everything into blurry splodges.

His home in Edinburgh is to be with McCray himself at his house at 27 Moray Place. Calton Hill Cemetery is his place of interest for it’s here that he roams and indulges his interest in the occult –

On my left hand side I saw an entrance to Old Calton Cemetery, and wondered whether McGray would make me go there at night to hunt will-o’the wisps

The occult and the mystery of the murdered violinist then ramps up with a vengeance – every street, cobbled alleyway, and evening a visit to an asylum in Morningside presents the two policemen with more warped impression s of the world of music and Edinburgh than they could ever have imagined.

And what is this world of the Devil’s sonata and the violin which appears to have been cursed? This locked room mystery seems as bizarre as it first appears and the crime has both fantastical and eerie explanations. Has the occult really got explanations for the murder of a violinist? is his the only murder that can be linked to a the work of the devil in musical form?

The infamous cursed violin. I must admit that the little violin has enough history to make one’s mind wonder

Oscar really captures Edinburgh. You feel you are there, especially in the sewers!. Anybody who likes to read books set in Edinburgh, would love this. There are plenty of nods to the city, e.g. bodysnatching.

Bookish musings

This has to be one of the most fascinating and brilliantly written historical novels and I for one really hope that this is the start of a brilliant series. can we have this on TV please? I want to hear that North/South banter and the jibes between the two police officers for real. See Princes street shrouded in mist, go to Calton Hill and imagine the mysteries there, visit Usher HAll /the Music consevatoire and hear that violin…ok maybe not the last one for reasons clear if you’v read the book but a booktrail here really takes you to the heart of the story. Edinburgh is such a spooky place at night and the writer captures the smallest details amazingly all adding to the overall atmosphere and chills.

Maybe I’m soft but the idea of a spooky violin gave me the chills. Used to play the violin myself and always thought it sounded like someone scratching their nails on a window – but then again maybe that was just me.

Whatever it was – those childhood memories really made this novel stand out. A locked room killing, a violin with occult tendencies and a story and city shrouded in mystery. For any music fans, the way in which the author lovingly describes the intricacies of the violin is fascinating.

Utterly spellbinding