CTG Reviews: Blackbird by Tom Wright

Blackbird cover image

Blackbird cover image

What the blurb says: “The day after a terrible storm, electricity still crackling in the air, a woman is found dead on the outskirts of a Texan town. She has been brutally attacked and nailed to a cross.

The victim is Dr Deborah Gold, a psychologist who has taken a lot of people’s secrets to her grave.

Which means a lot of suspects for Detective Jim Beaudry Bonham to investigate. And lately he could use some psychological help himself …”

Set in a small Texan town, this gritty and uncompromising thriller follows Detective Jim Bonham, or Biscuit as he’s known to his friends and family, as he tries to unpick the truth behind the brutal killing of Dr Deborah Gold.

With a nod to the supernatural, Jim follows both the evidence trail and his own visions and hunches. But as he discovers more about the dark deeds Deborah Gold had been involved in, he finds his own buried emotions about recent and past losses return to haunt him.

The atmospheric setting of this novel is both hauntingly eerie and colourfully vivid. Wright has created a cast of unique, larger-than-life characters: from the determined and slightly clairvoyant Jim Bonham, to his no-nonsense colleague Mouncey, his wife Jana (with whom his relationship is decidedly sticky) and the girls. Even Jim’s good companion cat, Mutt, has one hell of a personality.

Rich with beautiful prose and lyrical dialogue that I found highly reminiscent of the late, great Elmore Leonard, this book was a treat to read. Heart-wrenchingly compelling, and hard to put down, the story events draw you into Jim Bonham’s world and have you rooting for him to find the killer of Deborah Gold, and the answers to the questions that have haunted him for so long.

Highly recommended.


[with thanks to Cannongate for my copy of Blackbird]


Lawless Blog Tour by Jessie Keane: My Fascination with Gangland London…

Lawless book cover

Lawless book cover

Today I’m delighted to welcome bestselling author Jessie Keane to the CTG blog for a guest post on her fascination with gangland London. Over to you, Jessie …

Oh, this started way back. Aged 17, I ran away to London to escape family problems and was instantly confronted by people you wouldn’t want to take home to meet mother. They were dangerous and sexy in their sharp suits – sharks moodily gliding through the waters of Soho to snap up minnows like me.

But somehow I escaped! However, that close brush-up against these gangland types and the discovery that London was in fact my spiritual home left me with a genuine fascination for their way of life; and it was inevitable I suppose that I would start to write about it, setting my characters like Annie Carter and Ruby Darke in amongst these people, just to see how they would get on.

I have to say, right from my very first book called Dirty Game, I had an absolute blast writing their stories, and that enjoyment has gone right on through Black Widow, Scarlet Women, Playing Dead, Ruthless, Jail Bird, The Make, Nameless and now in my latest book Lawless.

A huge thank you to Jessie Keane for taking time out to drop by the CTG blog and tell us about her fascination with gangland London.

Her latest book – Lawless – is out now.

What the blurb says: “It is 1975 and Ruby Darke is struggling to deal with the brutal murder of her lover, Michael Ward. As her children, Daisy and Kit, battle their own demons, her retail empire starts to crumble.

Meanwhile, after the revenge killing of Tito Danieri, Kit is the lowest he’s ever been. But soon doubt is thrown over whether Kit killed the right person, and now the Danieris are out for his blood and the blood of the entire Darke family.

As the bodies pile up, the chase is on – can the Darkes resolve their own family conflicts and find Michael Ward’s true killer before the vengeful Danieris kill them? Or will they take the law into their own hands …”

At the start of the book we find Ruby Darke still trying to recover from the death of her lover, Michael. With tensions high between her and her son, Kit, and uneasiness still present in her relationship with her daughter, Daisy, Ruby has reached a real low. But when Tito Danieri is murdered as a revenge killing, a chain of events are set in motion that will have perilous consequences for them all. Ruby – dubbed ‘The Ice Queen of Retail’ needs all her wit, determination and courage to survive.

Lawless is an engrossing read. It has strong female lead characters (and great male characters) and the highly atmospheric 1975 London gangland setting and interesting cast – from Lords and Ladies through to the shadiest of London gangsters – had me hooked from the start. As the story continued, the complex interwoven relationships, dark truths and secret desires that drive some to murder has me racing to turn the pages.

Highly recommended.

To find out more about Jessie Keane and her books pop on over to her website at www.jessiekeane.com and follow Jessie on Twitter @realjessiekeane

And don’t forget to check out the other blogs on the Lawless Blog Tour by Jessie Keane …

Jessie Keane Blog Tour Poster

Jessie Keane Blog Tour Poster

CTG Reviews: The Distance by Helen Giltrow

The Distance cover image

The Distance cover image

What the blurb says: Charlotte Alton has put her old life behind her. The life where she bought and sold information, unearthing secrets buried too deep for anyone else to find, or fabricating new identities for people who need their histories erased.

But now she has been offered one more job. To get a hit-man into an experimental new prison and take out someone who according to the records isn’t there at all.

It’s impossible. A suicide mission. And quite possibly a set-up. So why can’t she say no?”

This is a stylish, espionage-type thriller with a bold and courageous female lead character. Karla (and her alter-ego Charlotte Alton) is super-smart, brave and principled (in her own very distinct way). She is the best of the best at helping people who want to disappear, and is herself a master of disguise.

But this job is different. To get a hit-man into ‘The Programme’ – an experimental prison that is meant to be impossible to break in or out of, and the hit-man is Johanssen – a guy she has a history with.

Karla takes the job, but as Johanssen assumes a new identity in order to enter The Programme, Karla gets increasingly suspicious of the client and their motives. The target of the hit is a woman, and the only information they have on her is a photo and an assurance that she did ‘something bad. Yet she seemingly has no identity, no history, and there is no record of her being inside the prison. Still, Karla has seen the CCTV footage – she knows that the target is inside and very much exists.

Concerned for Johanssen’s safety, Karla digs deeper to find the identity of the target and, in doing so, unravels the complex web of lies, bribes and murder. As she gets closer to uncovering the violent truth hidden behind the hit, Karla, and those close to her, become targets.

Set in the near future and played out over twenty-four days, the story is packed with tension. It’s told in the present tense, which adds to the momentum, and hammers along at a tremendous pace. The plot twists and turns, then twists some more and turns again, ramping up the suspense page by page. A great read, it had me hooked from the first page to the last.

Dark, edgy and, at times, brutal, this is a stylish and highly original debut.

Highly recommended.


[I bought my copy of The Distance]


CTG Interviews: Chris Culver, author of the Ash Rashid series

Today, I’m delighted to welcome author Chris Culver, New York Times Bestselling author of the Ash Rashid series of mysteries, to the CTG blog.

Welcome, Chris. Let’s jump straight into the questions …

Your latest book NINE YEARS GONE is out this month. Can you tell us a bit about it?

NINE YEARS GONE is a standalone, which is a little unusual for me. It’s the story of an average guy from the Midwest who, to save her life, helps his girlfriend disappear and then frames her evil and quite powerful stepfather for her murder. Then, nine years later on the evening after the wicked stepfather is executed and when my hero is married and has everything he’s ever wanted in life, his former lover returns to upend his entire world.

It’s a story about revenge and the fine line between love and obsession. I’m probably biased, but I think it’s fun.

NINE YEARS GONE cover image

NINE YEARS GONE cover image

NINE YEARS GONE is your second standalone book. What was it that prompted the idea for the story?

NINE YEARS GONE was a departure for me, both from my Ash Rashid series and my typical genre, thrillers. It’s psychological suspense, and I wrote it because I needed a break. I love my reoccurring series character, and I don’t plan to abandon him anytime soon, but it’s easy to get stuck in a rut writing in the same universe over and over again. I don’t know where this analogy originally came from, but I think it’s fitting: writing in a series is a bit like a painter buying a canvass only to discover half the painting is done. The painter still has a lot of room to work with, but his new work has to fit the old work. Sometimes, it’s just nice to try something new.

The actual idea for the book came from a footnote in a legal textbook. It involved a 17th or 18th century case in which a man was hanged for murdering his neighbor and then disposing of the body. Unfortunately, that neighbor was on a trip abroad and returned just in time to see a familiar man swinging from the gallows in the town square. When I read that, I couldn’t help but wonder if it could happen in the contemporary United States. From there, I just started asking myself “What if. . .?”


Could you tell us a little about your writing process, do you dive right in, or plan the story out first?

I do a little bit of both. My outline for NINE YEARS GONE ran 40 single-spaced pages and contained almost 20k words. It had snippets of dialogue, outlines of the various plot twists, the backstory—everything I needed to write the plot of the novel. In addition to that, I have character worksheets that I keep for every character in the book.

As soon as I sit down and start typing, I throw it all out the window. My characters take on a life of their own and do things that surprise even me. At that point, they sort of take over.


What advice would you give to new writers aspiring to publication?

Practice. Your first book is the hardest to write and, hopefully, the worst book you’ll ever write. My first book was an absolute affront to literature, but it taught me a lot. My second book was significantly better, and my third book was even better than that. Most writers go through that sort of progression. So don’t give up. If you want to be a writer, keep writing, keep practicing, and never stop trying to improve your craft.

Author Chris Culver

Author Chris Culver

And lastly, what does the rest of 2014 have in store for you?

I’m going to be busy. I’m about 65% complete with my fourth Ash Rashid title. I think it’ll be a great book when it’s done. After that, I’m thinking of starting a new series. It’s a big undertaking but one I’ve wanted to do for quite a while.


Sounds exciting. I can’t wait to read them.

Thanks so much for dropping by the CTG blog to answer our questions.

Chris Culver’s latest book, NINE YEARS GONE, is out this week.

Here’s what the blurb says: “Nine years ago, Steve Hale saved the love of his life from her abusive and very powerful stepfather by helping her disappear and framing him for her murder. Today, that stepfather is dead, executed by the state of Missouri for a crime he didn’t commit, and Steve has a loving wife, a little girl who depends on him, a home, a career – everything he ever wanted and believed he could never have. He also has a new voice mail from a woman the rest of the world believes is dead.

A reunion with his former girlfriend quickly sours when Steve realizes that her stories don’t match up – the one she told nine years ago and the one she told today.

As he unravels her twisted knot of lies, he discovers that events are already in motion and plans are being carried out. Unwittingly, he’s hurtling toward a dark secret – one some very dangerous people are willing to protect at any cost.”

And, you can connect with Chris at: 

Twitter: https://twitter.com/@Culver_C
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ChrisCulverBooks
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4697453.Chris_Culver?from_search=true

Guest Post: Laura McHugh author of The Weight of Blood

The Weight of Blood by Laura McHugh, published in hardback by Hutchinson at £14.99

The Weight of Blood by Laura McHugh, published in hardback by Hutchinson at £14.99

Laura McHugh’s debut psychological crime novel came out earlier this month and is gathering rave reviews. Today I’m pleased to welcome Laura to the CTG blog to tell us a bit about the true crime small town justice that inspired her to write the book …

In The Weight of Blood, the people of Henbane are more likely to cover up crimes than report them to the law, and that’s a common occurrence in some of the small, tight-knit, rural Ozark communities where everyone knows—or is related to—everyone else.

One well-known example took place in the nearby town of Skidmore, Missouri. Ken McElroy was the town bully, and he’d gotten away with a number of serious crimes, including assault, arson, burglary, and shooting the elderly town grocer. The townspeople had had enough, and they decided to take action. They gathered on the main street with their guns, and McElroy was murdered in broad daylight in the middle of town, in front of dozens of witnesses.

No one called an ambulance. Not a single person ever spoke up to say who had killed him. Every witness claimed that they did not see anything, and no one has ever been charged in connection with McElroy’s death.

A huge thank you to Laura for dropping by the blog to talk about the shocking real-life event that influenced her to write The Weight of Blood and create the fictional small town of Henbane where the story is set.

The Weight of Blood is out now. It’s gripping, packed with suspense and set in an isolated community where family lies and dark secrets hide.

Here’s the blurb: “People still whisper about Lucy Dane’s mother who vanished years ago from the town of Henbane, deep in the Ozark mountains. When one of Lucy’s friends is found murdered, Lucy feel haunted by the two lost women: by the mother she never knew, and the friend she couldn’t protect. But her search for answers, in a place where secrets are easily concealed, leads her to a chilling discovery. And with this revelation, she must grapple with the meaning of family, the secrets we keep, and the lengths we will go to protect the ones we love.”

The Weight of Blood by Laura McHugh is published in hardback by Hutchinson, priced £14.99.

To find out more about Laura, pop on over to her website at http://www.weightofblood.com

Dan Smith Blog Tour: The Darkest Heart by Dan Smith #bookgiveaway

Blog Tour Poster

Blog Tour Poster

As part of the fabulous Dan Smith blog tour those lovely folks over at Orion have given us ten copies of Dan Smith’s novel The Darkest Heart to giveaway.

How it works:

For a chance to win all you need to do is tweet the link to this post (using the Twitter button below) OR retweet one of the CTG tweets about the giveaway. [You’ll also need to follow us on Twitter, so that we can send you a direct message should you win].


If you’re not on Twitter don’t worry. You can also enter by emailing crimethrillergirl[at]gmail[dot]com. Give your email the header THE DARKEST HEART and give your name and postal address.

(1) One entry per reader (2) UK residents only – due to postage costs – sorry! (3) We will draw the winners at random (4) No cash alternative (5) The competition closes for entries at 9pm GMT on Sunday 13th July 2014 (6) The judge’s decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into.


The Prize: Dan Smith’s novel The Darkest Heart

What the blurb says: ‘There were times I felt I would always be death’s passenger. It moved one step ahead of me wherever I went, letting its shadow fall across me. It carried me on; shaded me from the world other people lived in.’

Leaving behind his life of violence in Brazil’s darkest shadows, Zico is determined to become a better man. But it seems his old life isn’t quite done with him yet when he’s tasked with making one last kill. It’s one that could get him everything he has ever wanted; a house, some land, cash in his pocket, a future for him and his girlfriend, Daniella. But this one isn’t like all the others. This one comes at a much higher price.

THE DARKEST HEART is a journey through the shadowy heart of Brazil and the even darker mind of a killer, where fear is a death sentence and the only chance of survival might mean abandoning the only good thing you’ve ever known.”

If you haven’t checked them out already, hop along to these wonderful blogs (all part of the Dan Smith blog tour) to find out more about Dan Smith and The Darkest Heart …

Crime Fiction Lover – The Dark Heart of Brazil article http://www.crimefictionlover.com/2014/06/the-dark-heart-of-brazil/

Crime Book Club – The Darkest Heart extract http://www.crimebookclub.co.uk/an-extract-of-darkest-heart-by-dan-smith/

Trip Fiction – Dan Smith talks about setting http://www.tripfiction.com/dan-smith-thriller-set-in-brazil/

Raven Crime Reads – Dan Smith talks about his inspiration for Red Winter http://ravencrimereads.wordpress.com/2014/07/03/dan-smith-blog-tour-the-inspiration-behind-red-winter/

The Murder Room – an extract from Red Winter http://www.themurderroom.com/blog/red-winter-extract/

Shots Blog – Dan Smith talks about beliefs and superstitions http://wwwshotsmagcouk.blogspot.co.uk/


To find out more about Dan Smith and his novels, pop on over to his website at http://www.dansmithsbooks.com

And also on the Orion website at https://www.orionbooks.co.uk/books/detail.page?isbn=9781409142652


CTG Reviews: SKINJOB by Bruce McCabe

SKINJOB cover image

SKINJOB cover image

What the blurb says: “A bomb goes off in downtown San Francisco. Twelve people are dead. But this is no ordinary target. This target exists on the fault line where sex and money meet. Daniel Madsen is one of a new breed of federal agents armed with a badge, a gun and the Bureau’s latest technological weapon. He’s a fast operator and his instructions are simple: find the bomber – before he strikes again. In order to understand what is at stake, Madsen must plunge into a sleazy, unsettling world where reality and fantasy are indistinguishable, exploitation is business as usual, and the dead hand of corruption reaches all the way to the top. There’s too much money involved for this investigation to stay private …”

Bruce McCabe has created a darkly fascinating future world. It’s similar to the world as we know it, but with many elements taken to technology-enabled extremes. Like the hand-held lie detectors that allow FBI ‘plotters’ to determine the truth of a crime at faster rates than ever before, and the new, utterly lifelike sex dolls – ‘skinjobs’ – that look, feel and act like real people (although, spookily, can’t speak), and the dramatic rise in politically active religions lobbying against their use. It’s a world where secrets are outlawed, and good law officers can lose their jobs at the beep of a device. And, as a result of this new technology, careers and fortunes can be made and lost at an increasingly rapid rate.

‘Plotter’ Daniel Madsen is part of the new world. He’s hard-working to the point of extreme, super-smart, and determined to find the truth and get justice in all the cases he works. When he’s called in to work with the local cops after a bomb goes off in one of the ‘dollhouses’ – a place men can go to have sex with dolls – he approaches the case as he would any other. But this one is different. The forensic evidence doesn’t tie up with the CCTV footage. Under increasing pressure to generate leads and suspects, Daniel works around the clock trying to unravel the truth. But there is more to this case that first appears, and some very powerful people whose reputations (and fortunes) will rise or fall on the outcome.

But the story isn’t just about technology. As well as Daniel’s quest for the truth, what makes the story even more human is the internal conflict of Shari Sanayei, local PD Viddy Ops specialist (video surveillance), who is in charge of analysing the CCTV footage, and has to watch the police officer she was having a secret affair with enter the building where the bomb detonated just moments before it happened. If she declares the relationship, she’ll be removed from the case, and she doesn’t want that. Not only is she the best at viddy ops, she’s also determined to bring her lover’s killer to justice. Even if withholding their affair costs her the job she loves.

This is one of the best techno-thrillers I’ve read. Filled with intrigue and high on action it pulls you into an artfully crafted future world and has you follow Daniel Madsen as he searches for the person responsible for the bombing. With a cast of interesting characters, and the puzzle of evidence that doesn’t make sense, it had me trying to guess the killer’s identity all the way through and still managed to pack a great twist at the end.

Reminiscent of the great Michael Crichton, this is a techno-thriller with heart. A great read, a cracking high-adrenalin story, and a future world to make you think a little more about just where technology might lead us.

Highly recommended.

[Many thanks to Bantam Press for my copy of SKINJOB]