In the Spotlight: CHALK VALLEY by D.L. Johnstone

kindle cover CHALK VALLEY

kindle cover CHALK VALLEY

What the blurb says: “In a remote mountain valley in British Columbia, a human monster preys on innocent lives.  After teenagers discover the body of a missing girl in Chalk Valley, searchers find the remains of two more victims secreted deep in the woods.  A serial killer is at work.

Chalk Valley police detective John McCarty is picked to lead a task force to find the murderer, but inexperience, politics and McCarty’s own inner demons quickly overwhelm him and the investigation falters.

Meanwhile, on a dark, lonely highway many miles from Chalk Valley, RCMP Sergeant Dave Kreaver comes across a van crashed at the side of the road. The driver is anxious to leave the scene, but Kreaver discovers an unconscious teenaged girl in the van. Kreaver feels in his gut that the driver could be the serial killer everyone’s looking for, but his inquiries are ignored. The task force is in well over its head, buried by thousands of leads and potential suspects. His supervisors tell him to back off and let the task force do its job.


Kreaver finds himself in a deadly cat and mouse game with a murderous psychopath, a race against time with innocent victims in play. Operating alone and without official sanction, can he stop the Chalk Valley Killer before he claims more lives?”

This complex, multi-agency and multi-location police procedural has the big picture feel of a television show like The Wire. Told through the point of views of a range of characters involved in the case – including police officers, journalists, victims and the killer – it shows how incidents that at first seem unconnected all fit together into a web of violence and terror.

The twists and turns of the story sprint along but there’s still plenty of procedural detail to satisfy fans of the sub-genre. With the killers point of view included, readers discover their identity before the police have collaborated all of the evidence – this ups the tension for the reader as you will on the various police departments, hoping that they’ll find the connections before it’s too late.

With a dramatic finale and a poignant ending this is a story well worth checking out.

D.L. Johnstone lives in the Toronto area. He’s co-authored several medical research publications and is a semi-dedicated fitness freak with a second degree black belt in Taekwondo. CHALK VALLEY is his debut novel.

You can find out more about him and his writing at

Writing Prompts: “A Great Place for Murder”


English: The Old Land Port

English: The Old Land Port (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The other week, along with several of my writing friends from The Nomad Novelist Writers Group, I joined a walking tour of Dickens’ Portsmouth.  It was a fabulous tour, fill of great little insights into the life and world of Dickens.  But the thing I got most from the tour was the opportunity to have a good look around Portsmouth’s nooks and crannies.

A fellow writer had set his recently completed dark thriller in the city.  I was a beta reader of his first draft, and as we walked he gleefully pointed out all the locations that had featured in the novel.

As we neared the end of the tour we came across the Landport Gate. At this point I turned and said, ‘Wow, wouldn’t this make a great place for a murder.’  He agreed.  And as we were discussing how it might happen, we noticed the other people on the tour (non writers) quickly moving away from us.

Perhaps we should have explained we were plotting for a book!

What places have inspired your writing?


Review: Talking to the Dead by Harry Bingham

A quirky, dynamic and utterly unique detective novel

“For Detective Constable Fiona Griffiths, her first murder is a case of jumping in at the deep end – a woman and her six-year-old daughter killed with chilling brutality in a dingy flat.  The only clue: the platinum bank card of a long-dead tycoon, found amidst the squalor – and the rookie DC’s task is to figure out why.

Her boss, DCI Jackson, is confident Fiona is worth her place on the team.  She’s already proved herself whip-smart, resourceful and dedicated to the job.  But there’s another side to her that Fiona is less keen to reveal.  Something to do with a mysterious two-year gap in her CV.  With her strange inability to cry. And a disconcerting familiarity with corpses.

Fiona is desperate to put the past behind her.  But as more gruesome killings follow, the case starts leading her inexorably back into those dark places in her own mind where another dead girl is waiting to be found.  Herself.”

This book is different to any other detective novel I’ve read.  In a good way.  In a very good way.

Fiona Griffiths is a dynamic, smart and highly resourceful DC.  With the story told from her viewpoint, we get a highly personal view of the hunt for the truth about what happened to Janet and April Mancini.  As an early-career DC, Fiona has to fight for her place on the team investigating the murders, and fight (and win) she does.

Whilst Fiona, due to her past, is a rather troubled character, she’s also refreshingly up-beat and energetic to be around.  A bit of a maverick, she often ‘goes the extra mile’ (read: not necessarily following procedure), usually to the irritation of her DCI.  But even while I was cringing, hoping she didn’t get caught doing something ‘off the book’, I couldn’t help admire her for her determination and resolve.  Because for Fiona finding out the truth, and unravelling a mass of seemingly unrelated clues, is critical.

And it’s that drive to find the truth that, as she gets closer, begins to threaten both her safety and her sanity.  As the body-count increases, Fiona stays focused despite the rising danger, and equips herself with the tools she needs to feel in control – even if they’re not exactly standard police issue!

This is a story, and a character, that’ll stay with you long after the book is finished.  Intriguing, terrifying and quirkily fun, this novel will make you miss the train, be late for work, and want to stay in to read a few more chapters rather than party.  And it’ll be worth it.

Highly recommended.