CTG Reviews: Hidden by Emma Kavanagh


Hidden pb

To celebrate Emma Kavanagh’s Hidden being published in paperback today, I’m re-blogging my review from earlier this year. Enjoy …

Here’s what the blurb says: “He’s watching. A gunman is stalking the wards of a local hospital. He’s unidentified and dangerous, and has to be located. Urgently. Police Firearms Officer Aden McCarty is tasked with tracking him down. Still troubled by the shooting of a schoolboy, Aden is determined to make amends by finding the gunman – before it’s too late.

She’s waiting. To psychologist Imogen, hospital should be a place of healing and safety – both for her, and her young niece who’s been recently admitted. She’s heard about the gunman, but he has little to do with her. Or has he?

As time ticks down, no one knows who the gunman’s next target will be. But he’s there. Hiding in plain sight. Far closer than anyone thinks.”

I loved Emma Kavanagh’s debut – Falling – and so I was delighted to get an early copy of her second book – Hidden.

The book opens amongst the horrific aftermath of a shooting in a hospital. Told in first person, the terrifying situation and urgent, compelling voice of Charlie pulled me into the story from the first page. After the first chapter, the story takes you back in time, and through multiple characters’ perspectives, exposes the chain of events in the preceding days that have led to the tragedy.

I think this is the first book I’ve read where the main police character is a Police Firearms Officer rather than a detective. This fresh angle really makes the story stand out, as does the rest of the brilliantly drawn characters and the complex relationships (and hidden secrets) they have with each other. As the story progressed, I found the relationship between hospital-based Psychologist, Imogen, and her twin sister, Mara; and that of local journalist Charlie with Aden, the Firearms Officer, especially intriguing (but I won’t say why – you need to read the book to find out!).

It’s hard to go into detail about this book without giving away spoilers, but what I can say is that it’s a story that keeps you on your toes as a reader. I love books that keep me guessing and challenge me to work out who is responsible, and this story did just that. With several crimes taking place, multiple narrators giving glimpses into different elements of the story, and a super pacey non-linear timeline, the author cleverly ramps up the suspense and the mystery, and kept me guessing right to the end.

This is a gritty, tense, twisty page-turner of a book – and a must read for crime and thriller fans.

Highly recommended.


You can follow Emma on Twitter @EmmaLK and hop over to Amazon here to buy the book.

CTG Interviews: best-selling crime writer Kathy Reichs #SpeakingInBones


Today I’m delighted to welcome crime writer Kathy Reichs to the CTG blog. Kathy is the best selling and award winning author of the Dr Temperance Brennan series and the Tory Brennan series, and is a producer of the chilling hit TV series Bones. She is also a Professor of Forensic Anthropology and Vice President of the American Academy of Forensic Scientists.

So, to the interview …

Your latest novel – Speaking in Bones – is out this month. Can you tell us a bit about it?

Tempe doesn’t solve every case.   And it bothers her that a few nameless dead languish unidentified in her lab. Information on some of these UIP’s, unidentified persons, is available online, and “websleuths” work to match them with MP’s, reported missing persons. At the outset of the story, Tempe is visited by one such amateur detective who believes she’s successfully connected skeletal remains in Tempe’s storage facility to a young woman missing for three years.  What seems at first to be an isolated tragedy takes on a more sinister cast as Tempe uncovers two more sets of bones. Still reeling from her mother’s diagnosis and the shock of Andrew Ryan’s potentially life-changing proposal, Tempe tries to solve the murders before the body count climbs further.

In the story, your main character, Dr Tempe Brennan, is approached by an amateur detective who thinks they’ve identified some remains – what was it that sparked the idea for this story?  

As usual, the story emerged from the coalescence of different idea particles floating around in my brain.  Thousands engage in websleuthing worldwide.  I was intrigued by the concept and thought my readers might also find the pursuit interesting. Brown Mountain, located in my home state of North Carolina, is famous for an unexplained phenomenon of floating lights whose origin no one can explain.  The Blue Ridge Mountains are home to many unusual and little-known religious groups, some of whom handle poisonous snakes and speak in tongues as part of their worship.  I took these disparate bits of knowledge, threw in some old cases, and Speaking in Bones was the result.

Your books always have a great balance of technical fact and fast paced fiction – what’s the secret to achieving this?  

I think what gives my books authenticity is that I actually do what it is I’m writing about.  I think the fact that I am in the autopsy room, I go to the crimes scene and I work in a full-spectrum forensic lab gives my books a flavor they otherwise wouldn’t have.  I think my readers want to learn something.  They want to read about the science behind DNA, ballistics, blood splatter pattern analysis.  I write for the reader who wants to learn something new and enjoy a good old -fashioned murder mystery at the same time. The key to the science? Keep it short, entertaining, and jargon free.


Could you tell us a bit about your writing process – do you plot the story out in advance or jump right in and see where it takes you?  

My writing days begin in the morning and end in the evening.  If I am not inspired, I write anyway.  I start with a chapter by chapter outline of the story, then write in a linear fashion moving from beginning to end.  I have the plot twists and ending in mind.  But if I stumble upon a great idea midstream, in it goes.

What advice would you give a writer aspiring to publication?  

Write every day.  Or every week.  Perhaps every dawn.  Whatever time block you have available.  Don’t accept writer’s block.  If what you are writing is disappointing, at the end of the day you can delete it.  Write every chance you get, no matter what.

And finally, what does the rest of 2015 have in store for you?  

I’m actually working on an off-series novel.  Brand new, not Temperance Brennan.  New characters, setting, and premise.  No more spoilers!

A huge thank you to Kathy Reichs for stopping by the CTG blog today and answering our questions.

Kathy’s latest book – SPEAKING IN BONES – is out this week. Here’s the blurb: When forensic anthropologist Dr Tempe Brennan is approached by amateur detective Hazel ‘Lucky’ Strike, at first she is inclined to dismiss the woman’s claims that she’s matched a previously unidentified set of remains with a name. 
But as the words of a terrified young woman echo round her office from an audio recorder found near where the bones were discovered, something about the story won’t let Tempe go. 

As Tempe investigates further she finds herself involved in a case more complicated and horrifying than she could ever have imagined.”

To find out more, hop on over to her website at www.kathyreichs.com and be sure to follow her on Twitter @KathyReichs

Guest Post: Talking about Locations – author Neely Tucker on the places featured in MURDER, D.C. and THE WAYS OF THE DEAD


WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 27: Author Nelly Tucker on March, 27, 2013 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post)

Author Neely Tucker (Photo by Bill O’Leary/The Washington Post)

Today crime writer Neely Tucker is taking the reins of the CTG blog to talk about the real life places, and events, that have inspired his two recent books THE WAYS OF THE DEAD and MURDER, D.C. 

So, over to Neely …

“The Ways of the Dead” and “Murder, D.C.” are based on very real Washington neighborhoods with very real histories, and both novels are based on very real events.

“Ways” takes as its inspiration a real-life serial killer named Darryl Turner, who police say killed as many as nine women, most of whom were in the low-end drug trade. He killed all of them on or near a two-block long street called Princeton Place. It’s about two miles north of the U.S. Capitol. In the late 1990s, when the novel is set, this was a predominantly black neighborhood, in which older residents were middle class and took very good care of their homes, but were surrounded by drug dealers and crack houses (abandoned buildings where addicts get high).

The recent film, “The Butler,” about the long-time butler to several U.S. presidents, is about a man who lived in this neighborhood.

In 2000, as the court reporter for The Washington Post, I covered the initial proceedings against Turner. The contrasts of the neighborhood struck me, and that was the beginning of “Ways.”

“Murder” moves about four miles south, to a little-visited part of D.C. known as “Southwest.” Here’s your handy travel tip: D.C. is divided into four quadrants, with the U.S. Capitol acting as the dividing point. “Northwest D.C.” is the land north and west of the Capitol, and so on.

Southwest DC is a tiny quadrant, just south of the Capitol and quickly cut off by the Washington Channel or the Potomac River. Before the Civil War, there were at least two “slave pens,” or jails where enslaved African Americans were kept and sold, in the area.

If you go along the National Mall today, by the Air and Space Museum, you are less than two hundred meters from an antebellum slave pen. There was also a very large slave auction house just across the river, in Virginia. Again, if you saw the film “12 Years a Slave,” that’s where the man was actually first held.

So I created a fictional knob of land,  Frenchman’s Bend, imbued it with the combined histories of these nearby slave pens, and set it along the waterfront. It’s a cursed, gothic sort of place that no one wanted to touch after the Civil War, due to horrors that had gone on there. Think of it as an open-air haunted house.  By the late 20th Century, it’s a very unpleasant drug park, the most violent place in the most violent city in America — which D.C. really was at the time.

Murder, D.C. cover image

Murder, D.C. cover image

Welcome to the real estate upon which turns “Murder, D.C.,” and the fate of Sully Carter.

Huge thanks to Neely Tucker for stopping by to talk Locations.

MURDER, D.C. will be published in hardback on Thursday 30th July. Here’s the blurb: “When Billy Ellison, the son of Washington, D.C.’s most influential African-American family, is found dead in the Potomac near a violent drug haven, veteran metro reporter Sully Carter knows it’s time to start asking some serious questions – no matter what the consequences.

With the police unable to find a lead and pressure mounting for Sully to abandon the investigation, he has a hunch that there is more to the case than a drug deal gone bad or a tale of family misfortune. Digging deeper, Sully finds that the real story stretches far beyond Billy and into D.C.’s most prominent social circles.

An alcoholic still haunted from his years as a war correspondent in Bosnia, Sully now must strike a dangerous balance between D.C.’s two extremes – the city’s violent, desperate back streets and its highest corridors of power – while threatened by those who will stop at nothing to keep him from discovering the shocking truth.”

The Ways of the Dead cover image

The Ways of the Dead cover image

THE WAYS OF THE DEAD will be published in paperback on Thursday 30th July. Here’s the blurb: “The body of the teenage daughter of a powerful Federal judge is discovered in a dumpster in a bad neighbourhood of Washington, D.C. It is murder, and the local police immediately arrest the three nearest black kids, bad boys from a notorious gang.

Sully Carter, a veteran war correspondent with emotional scars far worse than the ones on his body, suspects that there’s more to the case than the police would have the public know. With the nation clamouring for a conviction, and the bereaved judge due for a court nomination, Sully pursues his own line of enquiry, in spite of some very dangerous people telling him to shut it down.”

To find out more about Neely Tucker and his books hop on over to his website at www.neelytucker.com and follow him on Twitter @NeelyTucker

CTG Interviews: best-selling thriller writer Simon Kernick

The Final Minute cover image

Today I’m delighted to be joined on the CTG blog by thriller writer Simon Kernick. Known for his fast-paced, action-packed thrillers, Simon spills a few of his writing secrets as he tells us how he goes about creating his best-selling books …

Your latest novel THE FINAL MINUTE is out this month, can you tell us a bit about it?

The Final Minute, centres round Matt Barron, a man with severe amnesia who keeps have a recurring, and very vivid, dream in which he is in a house looking down at two dead women. This leads him to think that he may have killed them. As the book starts, he’s living with his sister in Wales but when a pair of menacing strangers turn up out of the blue with questions for Matt, he realizes that somewhere in his unconscious he possesses a piece of information that is extremely valuable for some very dangerous people. He’s soon on the run, being chased by people at every turn, including the police, and enlists the help of a hardnosed private detective Tina Boyd, to help him find out his true identity and what the information he possesses is before he’s either caught or killed.

You’re well known for writing super pacey thrillers like THE FINAL MINUTE. What’s your writing process – do you plan the stories first, or do you jump right in?

I’m very much a planner. I get my idea, then produce a chapter by chapter synopsis, and only when I’m absolutely sure I know where the book is going and how it’s going to end, do I finally start the writing process.


You’ve also recently published a three-part novella ONE BY ONE about a group of school-friends coming together on a remote island twenty-one years after one of their friends was found dead. What attracted you about releasing a story in episodes and did the different format change your writing process?

I had a story idea two years ago that I really liked but wasn’t big enough to fit it in a book and so I used it as a novella. Since I’ve been a fan of serials since childhood I thought it would be an interesting idea to make the novella 3 parts, with parts 1 and 2 ending on real cliffhangers.

What was it that drew you to writing thrillers?

I’ve written stories of one sort or another right back from the age of 5, and I’ve always been a fan of reading thrillers so it seemed like a natural progression to try my hand at writing one.

For those aspiring to write a thriller, what’s your top tip for writing a great story?

Keep the story moving. Always. Let no word be wasted. People aren’t interested in padding when they’re reading a thriller.


And finally, what does the rest of the year have in store for you?

I’m writing a new thriller which needs to be finished by the end of September, then I’m going to have a nice holiday. Then it’ll be onto planning the next one. There’s no rest for the wicked.

A massive thank you to best-selling thriller writer Simon Kernick for dropping by the CTG blog today.

To find out more about Simon and his books you can hop on over to his website at www.simonkernick.com/books/

His latest book is THE FINAL MINUTE – here’s the blurb: “It’s night and I’m in a strange house. The lights are on, and I’m standing outside a half-open door. Feeling a terrible sense of foreboding, I walk slowly inside. And then I see her. A woman lying sprawled across a huge double bed. She’s dead. There’s blood everywhere. And the most terrifying thing is that I think her killer might be me …

After a traumatic car accident wipes out his memory, Matt Barron retreats to his sister’s house in Wales to begin his slow recovery. But something’s wrong. He keeps having a recurring dream of being in a house with a group of dead bodies and a bloody knife in his hand, and he’s beginning to have real doubts that he is who his sister says he is. Then one night, the past comes calling in the most terrifying way imaginable and Matt is forced to flee for his life. He needs to find out who he is, whatever the cost, and there’s only one person who can help: ex Met cop, turn private detective, Tina Boyd. But Matt’s a hunted man and, as Tina digs into his background, she suddenly finds herself in the firing line. She needs to find out the truth. And fast.”


Also, be sure to check out his three-part novella ONE BY ONE – here’s the blurb: “Seven ex-school friends have been brought together on a remote island. They haven’t all been in contact since a fateful night twenty-one years ago, when their friend Rachel Skinner was found dead. The man arrested for her murder has now been acquitted, and the seven friends fear for their lives. But are they hiding from the right person? Or have they fallen into a deadly trap?”

CTG Interviews: Ed Chatterton author of DOWN AMONG THE DEAD MEN

Author Ed Chatterton

Author Ed Chatterton

Today I’m excited to welcome Ed Chatterton to the CTG blog. As well as having writing over twenty children’s novels (published under the name Martin Chatterton), Ed is the author of the recently published crime novel, Down Among the Dead Men, the second book in the DCI Frank Keane series, published by Arrow.

And so, to the questions …

Before you starting writing crime fiction you’d already written over twenty highly successful children’s books. What fresh challenge did writing fiction for an adult crime reader audience bring?

‘Highly successful’ might be overstating it: I’d been doing pretty well with some books and less so with others, just like most writers. The books I write for children are largely comedies – surreal farces, often with big themes like ‘death’ or ‘the physical universe’ or ‘nose-picking’. There were, particularly in some of the more recent children’s books, crime elements in there too. Two books – ‘The Brain Finds A Leg’ and ‘The Brain Full of Holes’ – were full blown detective fiction, albeit with a comic twist. So the transition into adult crime fiction was less challenging than it might have been for a debut author. The main change I found was that my characters can swear (and some of them do, a lot), can have sex, and can be more violent. From a technical point of view, adult crime writing requires more precision in terms of plot and, given that my books are complex, requires me to use my rapidly shrinking brain more often. In my children’s books if I got to a difficult plot point I would usually insert a T-rex or a time machine. That’s less easy with gritty adult fiction, as most crime readers tend to notice things like that.

Your recent crime novel, Down Among the Dead Men, is set in Liverpool, Los Angeles and Australia. What was it about these particular settings that inspired to you to pick them?

Liverpool featured because the story is a continuation (in terms of some of the characters) of the first book, A Dark Place To Die. In that first book Frank Keane is one of a number of characters. In Down Among the Dead Men I wanted to focus on Frank and see how far I could push him. Frank’s a Liverpool cop who gets pulled into a case that starts relatively small (an apparent  domestic murder-suicide) but quickly gets darker and widens out into something much larger in scale. I picked Los Angeles for two reasons: the first is that I’ve been there a number of times and there were locations I wanted to use. The high desert near Palm Springs and Twentynine Palms is a very evocative landscape (the working title for Down Among the Dead Men was Twentynine Palms). The second is so that I could continue to open out the stories from a single location. I’m not a huge fan of every case in a series being located in exactly the same place. I’d make an exception for George Pelecanos with his Washington-based novels, but single location books too often end up becoming sterile or repetitive. I used to live in the US so I am fond of the place and enjoy writing American characters. The Aussie connection dates back to A Dark Place To Die. Two of the characters from that book, Menno Koopman and Warren Eckhardt, make a re-appearance. Koopman, I think, will become a character who I might develop more as a stand alone. If he lives through Down Among the Dead Men that is . . .

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

Raymond Chandler said that a good story isn’t devised, it is distilled and I think that’s a pretty good description of my approach. I start with a basic idea, or set of ideas and then I let them go wherever they take me. I often have a rough ‘destination’ in mind with a skeleton narrative and a very strong sense of the kind of story I want to tell, but the fine details are worked out in writing. This usually means that I am constantly redrafting and editing – which is fortunately something I love doing – and I find this approach prevents the books being formulaic. My thinking is that if I don’t know exactly where the story is going then that makes it doubly interesting for the reader. I think you can overplan, just the same way that you can over-write. In my stories, I honestly don’t think the reader can guess what way the story is going.

Down Among the Dead Men cover image

Down Among the Dead Men cover image

Your books have been likened to those of Peter James and Ian Rankin. Which crime writers’ novels do you most like to read?

I try to avoid British crime books as I get very jealous and envious and bitter and twisted if they are any good. I’m flattered to be compared to either Peter James and Ian Rankin and, weirdly enough, I met both of them recently although, since I was several continents off being described as sober, they may not look back on the meeting quite as fondly as I do. From what I can remember, they are both lovely blokes but far too successful for my liking. In truth, American crime writers are more my taste and, since they are further away, don’t seem as threatening. I already mentioned Pelecanos who I think is just a little bit special, but I also love Elmore Leonard, Richard Price, Joe Lansdale, Carl Hiassen. One of my favourite books is the one-off, Blackburn by Bradley Denton. I do have a real soft spot for Patricia Highsmith’s stuff too. Some of the Scandi crime is good but I’m a bit sick of the adulation doled out to anyone vaguely Nordic who so much as writes a shopping list at the moment. Of the Scandinavians I like Asa Larsson best. At one point, when I knew my crime series was coming out, I seriously considered adopting a Nordic-sounding pseudonym. In my bleaker 3am moments, I regret not doing so. I reckon I’d have scooped at least three awards by now.

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

All the usual gubbins: make sure you have something to say, make sure you keep reading, make sure you keep writing. Don’t think that publication is the ‘win’: publication is just the ticket into the gladiator ring. Maybe this too: don’t listen to too much prescriptive crap about the mechanics of story-telling, plot points, ‘arcs’, use of semi-colons, use of italics, whatever it is. If Stephen King tells stories a certain way that doesn’t mean that you need to do that. Elmore Leonard’s famous ‘ten rules’ of writing, including that ‘don’t start with the weather’ nonsense applies only if you are Elmore Leonard. Despite my healthy man-crush on Leonard, I always thought that was too restrictive. I actually began a kids book with ‘It was a dark and stormy night’ once just to prove a point. And never, ever, do anything Neil Gaiman tells you to unless it relates to hair.

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

I’m just about to complete the third in this series which takes place in Liverpool, Berlin and Western Scotland and has the rise of neo-Nazism as a backdrop. I’m continuing to write The Last Slave Ship which is a dual narrative novel about the final slave trading voyage from Liverpool and a contemporary race-hate crime which erupts into riots. This book is part of my PhD which just goes to show one of two things. Either (a) crime writers aren’t as dumb as we look or (b) they’ll let just about anyone do a PhD these days. I’m continuing to illustrate children’s books and will be drawing pictures for a book by Jonathan Emmett. I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed that my‘Mort’ kids series, which has just been bought for development as an animated series by Southern Star, makes it past the pilot stage and into production. Lastly, I’ll be working with a UK TV/film company on bringing Frank Keane to the screen in one way or another. Should keep me busy.

Sounds like it’ll be a hectic year!

A massive thanks to Ed Chatterton for dropping by the blog and allowing us to question him. Watch out for our review of Down Among the Dead Men next week …