CTG Interviews: Helen Giltrow author of The Distance

The Distance cover image

The Distance cover image

A few weeks ago I caught up with Helen Giltrow, author of the fabulous crime thriller The Distance. Over a long lunch, sitting in the sun-drenched garden of a beautiful Oxfordshire pub, we tried to out-booknerd each other and talked all things books and writing.

First, a quick reminder about the book. Here’s 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?”

And so, to the questions …

Karla/Charlotte is a fabulous, strong female lead. What was your inspiration for creating her?

Well, originally the main character was supposed to be the hit-man, Simon Johanssen, and Karla was the character he went to for information. In the earliest draft she didn’t appear until the third chapter. Around that time I went on an Arvon writing course with Val McDermid as one of the tutors. When Val read the opening, she said that the first couple of chapters were okay, but the story got really interesting when Karla appeared.

Shortly afterwards, I had to take an eighteen month break from writing and by the time I went back to the story I knew it needed to be Karla’s book. I found Karla easy to write, in fact I probably share a few of her characteristics – like her need for control, and her obsessiveness!

The Distance – which I loved – is set in the near future. What made you decide that as your setting rather than the present day?

The setting came out of the plot and the characters. Johanssen has to break into a prison to carry out a hit on another prisoner, but as that prisoner is a woman – and we don’t have mixed prisons here in the UK – I needed a near-future setting to make it work. So, really, it wasn’t something I chose, it came from the needs of the story.

But it’s not a futuristic novel – the setting’s only a couple of years ahead of where we are now.

You use the present tense throughout The Distance which works really well. What was it that prompted you to go for present tense?

I didn’t plan it consciously. It was just that when I started writing, Johanssen’s viewpoint came out in the present tense. I was surprised as I’d always written in the past tense before, but I found I liked it. Then, when I switched to Karla’s viewpoint, present tense seemed to work for her too.

Karla’s scenes are all told in first person – she’s the ‘I’ of the story. Again, it’s just how it came out when I started writing in her viewpoint, whereas Johanssen’s automatically came out in third person – ‘he’. I wondered if maybe I shouldn’t be mixing the two, so I experimented early on, trying Karla’s viewpoint in third, but I didn’t like it – it lost so much of her intensity – so I carried on going with first.

Curiously I’ve had readers tell me that Johanssen’s story is told in first person too – which is wrong, but great! I don’t want readers to think I’m telling them a story. I want them to see it through the characters’ eyes. Of course, present tense helps with that sense of immediacy too. And it really ups the pace.

Helen Giltrow (c) Paul Stuart

Helen Giltrow (c) Paul Stuart

For you, does the creative process start with the character/s, the plot or a combination of the two (or something else)?

For me it’s character. I think even if you have an idea for something, the only way to get to it is through character – you bring out the story from the actions of the characters and what happens to them.

Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Bit of both! From my childhood up to my early thirties, I wrote a lot without too much planning, but increasingly I felt it wasn’t working for me – the narratives were too loose. I’d have loads of ideas, then fail to tie them together. My job involved a lot of planning, so I thought I ought to be able to plot. I mean, how hard could it be? So when I started work on The Distance, I decided to do a plan. Of course, as soon as I began writing in earnest, I started coming up with ideas I liked better, and dumped the plan completely!

The lure of advance plotting is still strong, and occasionally I fall into the trap of trying to write a detailed plan. I do it because I think it’ll give me the perfect book – which would spare me so much revising and redrafting. But every time the same thing happens. I never find plotting a happy experience: it’s always an outside-in process, whereas writing’s inside-out.

Having said that, it’s hard writing into a void! I think making a plan’s really useful if it’s the thing that gets you writing, or if it helps you get unstuck. Now I tend to write a bit, and then see where I am and retrospectively plan.

What’s your favourite drink?

Oh, definitely my cup of coffee in the morning, before I sit down to work.

Where’s your best place to write?

I’m not one of those people who can write anywhere, on buses or on park benches. I’m best sitting at my desk at home. I write on my battered old laptop; I ought to buy a new one, but I’m slightly scared of changing it now, in case that jinxes me … Does that sound weird?

What advice would you give to writers aspiring to publication?

There’s all the obvious advice like ‘Don’t give up,’ ‘Write every day,’ and ‘Don’t try to second guess the market.’ And that’s all valid. I also think it’s best to write what you want to write because ultimately if you don’t like it it’ll show in your writing. It takes a long time to write a book, so you’re better off writing one you want to read – that way you’re more likely to take the reader with you on the journey.

And lastly, what’s next for you?

I’m back at my laptop, writing the next book!

A huge thank you to Helen Giltrow for letting us grill her.

You can find out more about Helen and her fabulous debut novel – The Distance – over at https://www.orionbooks.co.uk/books/detail.page?isbn=9781409126621 and follow her on Twitter @HelenGiltrow

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]

 

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].

OR

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.

Rules
(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.

THIS GIVEAWAY HAS NOW CLOSED.

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 Interviews: Mason Cross author of The Killing Season

The Killing Season cover image

The Killing Season cover image

After his Saturday morning panel at CrimeFest, I met up with the charming and rather mysterious Mason Cross – author of The Killing Season.

Over coffee in the rather fancy drawing room of the Bristol College Green Marriott Hotel we chatted about his fabulous debut novel – one of my favourite reads of 2014 so far – his writing process, and geeked-out about our mutual admiration for all things Lee Child and Jack Reacher.

Here’s the interview …

So Mason, firstly, where do you write?

Lots of places. In the house – at my computer surrounded by CDs and a huge pile of washing. I find it’s really important to have a writing space, like Stephen King said, you need a place to go to and close the door. Also, I travel a lot for work. Commuting into Edinburgh on the train is the optimum place for me to write as there’s no distractions just so long as I don’t get WiFi. Having a full-time job I’ve learnt to grab writing time whenever and wherever I can, so I can write in all different places – pubs, cafes, a park bench.

I find it important to write every day, even if it’s only 500 words. Those 500 words will turn into, say, 3000 words in a week, and in a few months a whole lot more.

Are you a planner or a write-by-the-seat-of-your-pantser?

I always feel guilty admitting to plotting! But I do start out with a fairly detailed synopsis, with the key beats outlined. Right now, I’ve got a five page synopsis for the next book, but I know that as I write the plan will change. So I’m flexible, but I have a path to wander from. I use Powerpoint to plan – one slide per chapter – and build up from there. I find it’s a good way to keep track of the action as I write, and also keep track of the different timelines.

And when it comes to writing when are you most productive – are you a lark or an owl?

An owl – I’m better at night, definitely.

So what about research – do you do it, and if so how and how much?

I tend to research while I’m redrafting. It’s mostly internet based research, so for The Killing Season I looked up the FBI website, read books on serial killers and snipers including Public Enemies: America’s Greatest Crime Wave and the Birth of the FBI, which was really helpful on the history of the FBI. And, of course, I read a lot of other thrillers.

Carter Blake is a very mysterious guy. Are you like him and, if so, in what ways?

Like a lot of other thriller writers say about their characters, I think Carter Blake is a cooler, taller, better looking, better in a fight version of me. He tends not to talk about himself, which is something we share, and he’s methodical, which I tend to be too. But the green eyes? They’re completely different!

Actually Banner, the female FBI agent that Carter Blake partners-up with in The Killing Season, is similar to me is some ways too. She has a full-time job, she’s balancing family life, kids alongside – having to sort out a babysitter and get to school play while also doing her job.

Who would play Carter Blake in a movie?

I didn’t really have a person in mind as I wrote. Carter’s still quite a mysterious character even to me!

What authors do you read – who are your inspirations?

I take something from most books I read. My favourites? I guess they’d be Lee Child, Harlan Coben, Robert Crais, Ian Rankin, Denise Mina, John D MacDonald. Oh, and Raymond Chandler – even after all the years since his books were first published they still seem so fresh and the writing is so good.

What’s your favourite all time book?

Must I pick one?! [I said, okay, two then] Well then, The Big Sleep and The Shinning.

What’s your favourite drink?

A Mojito.

And finally, what have you got planned for the rest of 2014/15?

Well, the next book is due out in Spring 2015. It’s called The Samaritan and is set in LA. I’ve also sold a story to Ellery Queen, which I’m really excited about, and it should be out soon. For the rest of 2014 I’ll be promoting The Killing Season.

 

The coffee was finished. The interview was over. And Mason was off to cram in some more Lee Child facts in preparation for his event the following day – Criminal Mastermind.

A huge thank you to Mason for letting me interrogate him!

To find out more about Mason Cross, Carter Blake and The Killing Season, hop over to this website: http://carterblake.net/

And read our review of The Killing Season click here 

CTG Reviews: The Killing Season by Mason Cross

The Killing Season cover image

The Killing Season cover image

What the blurb says: “When Caleb Wardell, the infamous ‘Chicago Sniper’, escapes from death row two weeks before his execution, the FBI calls on the services of Carter Blake, a man with certain specialised talents whose skills lie in finding those who don’t want to be found. A man to whom Wardell is no stranger.

Along with Elaine Banner, an ambitious special agent juggling life as a single mother with her increasingly high-flying career, Blake must track Wardell down as he cuts a swathe across America, apparently killing at random.

But Blake and Banner soon find themselves sidelined from the case. And as they try desperately to second guess a man who kills purely for the thrill of it, they uncover a hornets’ nest of lies and corruption. Now Blake must break the rules and go head to head with the FBI if he is to stop Wardell and expose a deadly conspiracy that will rock the country.”

First off, I have to say that this is hands-down my favorite read of the year so far. It has everything I love about action thrillers – the intrigue, the danger, the chase and the multi-layered characters. And, it’s Mason Cross’ debut novel, which makes it all the more impressive.

The main character, Carter Blake, is something of an enigma – charismatic, highly skilled, and at the top of his game. But he doesn’t let power and politics get in the way of his investigation, and he makes sure justice is brought, whatever the personal cost. So pairing up with Elaine Banner makes for an interesting working relationship – she’s career-driven and has her eyes on the next promotion, working with a talented maverick like Blake gives her a set of problems she can well do without.

The antagonist – sniper Caleb Wardell – is a smart and cunning adversary, engaging Blake and Banner in a deadly game of cat and mouse. The tension is high from the get-go and just keeps on rising.

So as Banner and Blake pursue Wardell, following the evidence, trying to find a pattern and anticipate his next move, the body count continues to rise. Blake’s the only person who is able to get close, and Banner starts to realise that sometimes the only way to get the job done right is to step away from procedure and follow your instinct.

As Blake and Banner get closer to the truth, they become targets – in the sights of Wardell and someone in the Agency itself – question is, can they get to them both in time, and get out alive?

I cannot sing this novel’s praises highly enough – it’s a joy to read, utterly engaging and kept me hooked right from the first page to the last. There’s high stakes and high tension, and the chemistry between Blake and Banner sizzles off the page.

If you love action thrillers, if you love crime fiction, go and read this book. I’m sure you won’t regret it.

Highly Recommended.

 

[with thanks to Orion for my copy of The Killing Season]

CTG Reviews: The Beauty of Murder by A K Benedict

The Beauty of Murder paperback cover image

The Beauty of Murder paperback cover image

What the blurb says: “Stephen Killigan has been cold since the day he came to Cambridge as a senior lecturer. Something about the seven hundred years of history staining the stones of the university has given him a chill he can’t shake. When he stumbles across the body of a missing beauty queen, he thinks he’s found the reason. But when the police go to retrieve the body they find no trace of it. Killigan has found a problem – and a killer – that is the very opposite of reason.

Killingan’s unwitting entry into the sinister world of Jackamore Grass will lead him on a trail of tattooists, philosophers, cadavers and scholars of a deadly beauty. As Killigan traces a path between our age and seventeenth-century Cambridge, he must work out how it is that a person’s corpse can be found before they even go missing, and whether he’s being pushed towards the edge of madness or an astonishing discovery.”

Wow. Wow. Wow. They are the first three words (or one word repeated) that comes into my mind on finishing The Beauty of Murder.

This is a literary crime thriller which ticks all the boxes with a flourish: intriguing characters, fascinating storylines, gorgeous settings, beautiful prose and a sprinting pace. And it’s A K Benedict’s debut novel.

Stephen Killigan is a likable guy – he’s smart, likes a beer (or two, or more), and is looking for love. He also wants to do the right thing when he discovers the body of a missing woman. But being a good citizen soon turns out to be the start of a journey that threatens to destroy all he holds dear. When the police find no trace of the body, Stephen is determined to find out what happened to her. But as he finds clues to the mystery, each one makes less sense than that before it. Is he losing his mind as so many suggest? As the body count rises, and the links of the modern-day murders with those in 1635 become clearer to him, Stephen becomes the prime suspect. Yet he finds an unlikely friend in Inspector Jane Horne, who is trying to solve the series of seemingly unsolvable cases whilst keeping her own private health battles secret from those at work.

The Beauty of Murder is filled with unusual, memorable supporting characters like Stephen’s friend, Satnam, who likes a few beers and loves the girl in the library, and Robert Sachs, the “poncey philosopher who loves himself” who muses over the beauty of the dead. I think my favorite of these is Iris Burton, the eccentric academic who takes it upon herself to teach Stephen Killigan about time travel including what to carry in your kit bag and how to avoid paradoxes (in my mind she was played by Helena Bonham Carter!).

The relationship between Stephen Killigan and Jackamore Grass has real Sherlock/Moriarty feel to it: two highly intelligent men pitting their wits (and their lives) against each other to solve the mystery (in Stephen’s case) and win the game (in Jackamore’s case). Jackamore, who finds getting away with murder tiresomely easy, is pleased to at last have a worthy opponent, but as Stephen hones his skills and closes in on the truth, Jackamore starts to pick his victims from those close to Stephen.

Quirky, mind (and time) bending, and compulsively addictive, this is an outstanding literary crime thriller. I can’t wait to see more from this author.

The Beauty of Murder is out on 10th April in paperback and available for pre-order over on the Amazon website right now.

Highly recommended.

[I bought my copy of The Beauty of Murder]

CTG Giveaway: Win a #FIONAGRIFFITHS Crime Series Book Bundle

To celebrate publication of THE STRANGE DEATH OF FIONA GRIFFITHS – the third book in Harry Bingham’s fabulously quirky Fiona Griffiths crime series – those lovely folks over at Orion have given us five bundles of the first three books in the series to giveaway.

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].

OR

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 FIONA GRIFFITHS and give your name and postal address.

Rules
(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 23rd March 2014 (6) The judge’s decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into.

THIS COMPETITION HAS NOW CLOSED

Here’s what the prize includes …

Talking to the Dead cover image

Talking to the Dead cover image

Book 1: TALKING TO THE DEAD

What the blurb says: “For rookie detective constable Fiona Griffiths, her first major investigation promises to be a tough initiation into Cardiff’s dark underbelly. A young woman and her six-year-old daughter have been found brutally murdered in a squalid flat, the single clue a platinum credit card belonging to a millionaire businessman who died in a plane crash six months before.

For her fellow cops, it’s just another case of a low-rent prostitute meeting the wrong kind of client and coming to a nasty end, but Fiona is convinced that the tragic lives and cruel deaths of this mother and daughter are part of a deeper, darker mystery. Fiona, however, has secrets of her own. She is still recovering from a crushing psychological breakdown, and the feelings which haunt her are constantly threatening to undermine the mask of normality she has learned to wear.

As she begins to piece together a bizarre and terrifying conspiracy, Fiona finds that what makes her vulnerable also gives her a unique insight into the secrets of the dead, and in solving the murders of Janet and April Mancini she can begin to start solving the riddles of her own past.”

Love Story, With Murders cover image

Love Story, With Murders cover image

Book 2: LOVE STORY, WITH MURDERS

What the blurb says: “DC Fiona Griffiths is called to the scene and finds, amidst the remains of an old widow’s freezer goods, a human leg. Surprisingly well preserved. And wearing a pink high-heeled shoe. The search begins for the rest of the corpse, but this treasure hunt soon turns out to be darker and stranger than anything the police have encountered before, as the victim’s body-parts start popping up all over western Cardiff: in garden sheds, roof voids and car boots.

And then, even more bizarrely, parts of a second corpse start appearing. But this time the victim is male – and completely fresh.

The two murders must be connected – but how? Why so similar and yet so different? And if there’s a message, who is meant to read it?

Investigating the double crime draws Fiona into a web of obsession, money, deceit – and acute personal danger. Which is exactly where she likes to be: in the middle of a gruesome puzzle with a pitch-black secret at its heart.”

cover image

cover image

Book 3: THE STRANGE DEATH OF FIONA GRIFFITHS

What the blurb says: “When DC Fiona Griffiths says ‘yes’ to her policeman boyfriend, it’s an affirmation that she wants to finally put her psychological breakdown behind her, and become a resident of ‘Planet Normal’ like everybody else.

But she still can’t resist the challenge of an undercover policing course and, finding it remarkably easy to assume a new identity, she comes top of the class. So when an ingenious payroll fraud starts to look like the tip of a huge criminal iceberg, Fiona is selected to infiltrate the fraudsters’ operation.

Posing as a cleaner, Fiona Griffiths becomes Fiona Grey, hoping the criminals will try and recruit her – knowing that if they discover her real identity, she’s dead meat. But as Fiona penetrates deeper into their operation, coming closer to identifying the mastermind behind it, she faces another, even more frightening danger – that her always fragile grip on her sense of self has now been lost and she may never find her way back.”

To read our review of the latest book THE STRANGE DEATH OF FIONA GRIFFITHS click here

And to find out more about Harry Bingham and his books, pop on over to his website here www.harrybingham.com

You can also check out the Orion Books website here https://www.orionbooks.co.uk/books/detail.page?isbn=9781409153108

CTG Reviews: The Strange Death of Fiona Griffiths by Harry Bingham

cover image

cover image

What the blurb says: “When DC Fiona Griffiths says ‘yes’ to her policeman boyfriend, it’s an affirmation that she wants to finally put her psychological breakdown behind her, and become a resident of ‘Planet Normal’ like everybody else. But she still can’t resist the challenge of an undercover policing course and, finding it remarkably easy to assume a new identity, she comes top of the class. So when an ingenious payroll fraud starts to look like the tip of a huge criminal iceberg, Fiona is selected to infiltrate the fraudsters’ operation. Posing as a cleaner, Fiona Griffiths becomes Fiona Grey, hoping the criminals will try and recruit her – knowing that if they discover her real identity, she’s dead meat. But as Fiona penetrates deeper into their operation, coming closer to identifying the mastermind behind it, she faces another, even more frightening danger – that her always fragile grip on her sense of self has now been lost and she may never find her way back.”

The Strange Death of Fiona Griffiths is published this week. It’s the third novel in the series featuring Harry Bingham’s quirky, unpredictable protagonist Fiona Griffiths.

This novel picks up where the second book – Love Story with Murders – ended, and sees Cardiff based DC Fiona Griffiths train as an undercover detective. She passes with flying colours, and is soon offered an assignment that requires her to assume the identity of Fiona Grey. She assimilates into the role easily, becoming first a cleaner and then a payroll clerk in order to infiltrate the criminal gang. She’s the perfect undercover officer – where her unpredictable nature and lack of regard for orders is usually a problem, while undercover her quick thinking and improvisation are the things that keep her alive.

But as she gets deeper undercover, the boundaries between her true self and her undercover ‘legend’ begin to blur. She finds herself taking bigger and bigger risks, both with the operation and with her personal relationships as she gets closer to her criminal colleagues. As the criminal ring get closer to pulling off the largest payroll fraud in history, only Fiona has the access and the knowledge to bring them down. Question is, will she?

This is a police procedural with a twist. Quirky, gripping and, rather like its lead character, utterly unconventional. That’s what makes it such a delight to read.

Highly recommended.

[many thanks to Orion Books for my copy of The Strange Death of Fiona Griffiths]

Competition Alert: WIN a copy of The Tournament by Matthew Reilly

The Tournament cover image

The Tournament cover image

It’s Monday morning. What better time to launch a new giveaway!

Those lovely folks at Orion Books have given me ten copies of the fabulous historical thriller The Tournament by Matthew Reilly to give away as prizes for today’s competition.

THIS COMPETITION HAS NOW CLOSED.

How to enter

For a chance to win one of the copies of The Tournament by Matthew Reilly all you need to do is send a tweet to @crimethrillgirl Your tweet must include the answer to this question: Where is the chess tournament in The Tournament held? [hint, check out the prize description below!] Your tweet should also include the hashtag #CTGORION. [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.com. Give your email the header CTGORION and be sure to include the answer to the question: Where is the chess tournament in The Tournament held? [hint, check out the prize description below!]

Rules
(1) One entry per reader (2) UK residents only – due to postage costs – sorry! (3) We will draw the ten winners at random from the entries containing the correct answer (4) No cash alternative (5) The competition closes for entries at 10pm GMT on Friday 7th February 2014 (6) The judge’s decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into.

The prize: The Tournament by Matthew Reilly

What the blurb says: “England, 1546: a young Princess Elizabeth is surrounded by uncertainty. She is not currently in line for the throne but remains a threat to her older sister and brother. Roger Ascham, Elizabeth’s teacher and mentor in the art of power and politics, is determined to keep her out of harm’s way. When an unprecedented invitation arrives from the Sultan of Constantinople, to an assembly of the finest players of chess from the whole civilised world, Ascham resolves to take Elizabeth with him.

But once in Constantinople for the chess tournament, the two find more danger than they left behind. There’s a killer on the loose and a Catholic cardinal has already been found mutilated. Ascham is asked by the Sultan to investigate the crime. But as he and Elizabeth delve deeper, they find dark secrets, horrible crimes and unheard-of depravity. Things that mark the young princess for life and define the queen she will become …”

You can find out more about Matthew Reilly and The Tournament pop over to the Orion website here: https://www.orionbooks.co.uk/books/detail.page?isbn=9781409134220

And click here to check out my review of The Tournament.

CTG Reviews: The Tournament by Matthew Reilly

The Tournament cover image

The Tournament cover image

What the blurb says: “England, 1546: a young Princess Elizabeth is surrounded by uncertainty. She is not currently in line for the throne but remains a threat to her older sister and brother. Roger Ascham, Elizabeth’s teacher and mentor in the art of power and politics, is determined to keep her out of harm’s way. When an unprecedented invitation arrives from the Sultan of Constantinople, to an assembly of the finest players of chess from the whole civilised world, Ascham resolves to take Elizabeth with him.

But once there, the two find more danger than they left behind. There’s a killer on the loose and a Catholic cardinal has already been found mutilated. Ascham is asked by the Sultan to investigate the crime. But as he and Elizabeth delve deeper, they find dark secrets, horrible crimes and unheard-of depravity. Things that mark the young princess for life and define the queen she will become …”

It’s not often that a historical thriller, or any thriller for that matter, comes with an adult content warning on the front page. But this one does, and for good reason.

Although the story focuses on the thirteen year old Princess Elizabeth, it is introduced by her lifelong friend, Gwinny, as she tells the reader about a tale told to her by Elizabeth when she was on her deathbed. From thereon until the last chapter the story is told in Elizabeth’s words, telling of the wonders and horrors she witnessed on the trip she took with her tutor Roger Ascham.

The first hint of foul play comes as the group from England – Roger Ascham, the king’s chess player – Mr Giles, Elizabeth and her friend, Elsie, and Elizabeth’s chaperones – Mr & Mrs Ponsonby – near the city of Constantinople. Mrs Ponsonby falls ill from poison, confining her to bed and her husband to her side. Ascham, Giles, Elizabeth and Elsie continue into the city, but at the palace they find more danger. A serial killer has been terrorising the city, and at the opening ceremony for the tournament a cardinal is found mutilated. The Sultan asks Ascham to investigate the crime. He agrees, allowing Elizabeth to work with him. But as they start to uncover the secrets behind the murders they find evidence of shocking depravity and more people start to die.

As you might expect from a novel centring round a chess tournament, strategy, logic and power are strong themes throughout the story. There is also a lot of sex, and this is where the adult content warning comes in, as some of these scenes involve underage children and highlight how they are used and discarded by some characters at the palace.

Ascham is a smart and likable character, with more than a touch of Sherlock Holmes about him. Elizabeth is a curious and intelligent narrator with echoes of Dr Watson. She’s bold and courageous, but not driven to reckless fancy like her friend and companion on the trip, Elsie. Elsie is a fun-loving, but ultimately tragic character, who freely engages in the orgies held by the Crown Prince, not understanding the politics and power at play until it is too late.

This is the fastest paced historical novel I’ve ever read. There are numerous twists and turns throughout the story, and although the settings are clearly drawn and atmospheric there are no lengthy descriptions holding up the action.

I especially loved the tie-in between the quoted passages from ‘ Chess in the Middle Ages’ about the different chess pieces, and the chapters (and central characters) that followed, for example the references to the origins of the chess piece ‘The Bishop’ tying in with the action involving the cardinals.

A must-read for historical crime fiction fans and for all those who love a good mystery.

Highly Recommended.

[Many thanks to Orion for my copy of The Tournament]