CTG Reviews: VIRAL by Helen Fitzgerald


What the blurb says: “Leah and her adopted sister Su are almost the same age – but have always been opposites. Leah is wild and often angry, whereas Su is successful and swotty. When they go on holiday together to Magaluf to celebrate their exam results, it is Leah that their mother worries about – but it’s Su who doesn’t come home.

Su is on the run, humiliated and afraid: there is an online video of her, drunkenly performing multiple sex acts in a nightclub. And everyone has seen it.

Their mother Ruth, a successful court judge, is furious. How could this have happened? What role has Leah played in all this? How can she bring justice to these men who took advantage of her daughter? And can Ruth bring Su back home when Su doesn’t want to be found?”

This book has one hell of an opening line. It demands the reader’s attention, and once it has it, it keeps it, as the revelations just keep on coming throughout this fabulously twisty-turny thriller.

What I especially enjoyed about this book was the complex relationships between the characters. Leah and Su used to be close when they were little, but as they’ve grown into teenagers they’ve grown apart, with Leah becoming increasingly more hostile towards her adopted sister. At the same time, Ruth’s relationship with Leah has disintegrated and she feels a stronger bond with Su. When Su disappears, all these emotions reach boiling point, threatening to rip the family apart. Ruth is determined to get Su back at any cost – whether it’s to her job, her family or both.

Ruth devises a plan to find Su. She pulls strings, uses her police and court contacts to find out what she can, and tasks family members with tracking Su both online and in Magaluf. But as things go from bad to worse, and Ruth’s plan doesn’t play out the way she’d intended, and it appears that Su may have ideas of her own about what she wants to happen next.

This is a story where good people take bad decisions and where all actions have consequences, some of which reach much wider and are far more devastating than they could ever have imagined.

It’s a story about love, loss, simmering resentment and grief. It’s about needing to find who you are, what’s important to you, and carving out your own place in the world.

It’s also one hell of a rollercoaster ride thriller!



[With thanks to Faber for my copy of VIRAL]

Confessions from CrimeFest: Part Two

L-R: Kevin Wignall, AK Benedict, James Oswald, Anne Zouroudi, Ben Aaronovitch

L-R: Kevin Wignall, AK Benedict, James Oswald, Anne Zouroudi, Ben Aaronovitch

I did indeed get up in time to make it to the first panel of the day, but I didn’t manage breakfast. Still, it was worth it. The Debut Authors: An Infusion of Fresh Blood panel was great fun and all the panel members were surprisingly perky for a nine o’clock start. Moderator Jake Kerridge talked to panellists MJ Arlidge, Mason Cross, Jake Woodhouse, Kate Griffin and Colette McBeth about their debut novels and the route they’d taken to publication.

Next up, was the Death in High Heels: Women as Victims panel. MR Hall, Jessica Mann, Jessie Keane, and Martyn Waites (who also writes as Tanya Carver) debated the issue of how women are portrayed in crime fiction, especially when the victim of the crime is female. It was an interesting and thought provoking discussion covering everything from at what point violence becomes ‘torture porn’ through to the use of female images on book covers.

I then had time for a swift coffee (black, no sugar) before heading into The Modern Thriller panel. As thrillers are my absolute favourite of the genre, this was one of the panels I’d been most eager to see. Moderated by Doug Johnstone, the panel of Belinda Bauer, Helen Fitzgerald, Chris Ewan and Simon Kernick talked about what constitutes the modern thriller, and how it differs from a crime novel. Defining characteristics seemed to be agreed on as pace, and a sense of urgency. They spoke of their own favourite modern thrillers, with Harlan Coben’s Tell No One coming out as a popular choice.

I didn’t stop for lunch, instead going straight on to watch the Things That Go Bump In the Night: Magic, Paranormal & All Things Supernatural panel. Moderated by Kevin Wignall, with Ben Aaronovitch, AK Benedict, James Oswald, and Anne Zouroudi, this was a lively panel with some great discussion about mixing crime with the paranormal. I particularly enjoyed some of the more random questions poised by Kevin Wignall to the panel (which were questions he had been asked by children when doing author events) – these included: ‘Can you tell me a story about a hamster?’ And ‘What would be your X-Man name and superpower?’ Fabulous.

By that point in the day I was rather panelled-out, but managed to find the energy to head along to the drinks reception that evening to watch 2014 CWA Diamond Dagger Recipient Simon Brett in performance. Then it was off for a fabulous curry with the Icelandic crime writers before heading to the bar for a few last orders drinks (and beyond!).