The hidden Blog Tour: Guest Post by Emma Kavanagh – The Psychology of Police Shootings

HIDDEN cover image

HIDDEN cover image

Today, I’m thrilled that the CTG blog is playing host to Emma Kavanagh’s hidden blog tour. With a PhD in Psychology, and a career working as a police and military psychologist, training firearms officers, command staff and military personnel how to handle extreme situations, Emma’s used her expert knowledge to create hidden – a gritty, tense, page-turner of a book that will be published in hardback on 23rd April.

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.”

Now, it’s over to Emma to find out more about The Psychology of Police Shootings – Attentional Spotlighting …

Imagine for a moment that you are walking through a crowded room. Your senses are assaulted with a cacophony of noise, voices, music, the scraping of a chair on tile. There is food cooking somewhere – you know because you can smell it. And that smell makes your stomach growl, the sound of it vanishing into the chaos that surrounds you.

Then you see something. A flash of metal.

You stare at it.

It can’t be.

A figure moves in front of you, but you don’t see who it is or what they’re doing, because all of your attention is focused on that flash of metal. You bob your head until you can find it again, your heart pounding. You tell yourself that it cannot possibly be.

Then you see it and your mouth goes dry.

He has a gun.

Once you have seen it, once your brain has run through identification options in order to positively identify that this thing in front of you is in fact a weapon, your adrenaline will kick in. The fight or flight reaction taking effect. Whatever else unfolds around you, your attention will be trapped, caught on the hook that is the weapon – the thing that could kill you.

Author Emma Kavanagh (c) Matthew Jones

Author Emma Kavanagh (c) Matthew Jones

It makes sense, doesn’t it? That evolution should design us to pay attention to things that can present a danger to us. We only have so many cognitive resources, and so when something threatening appears in our environment, we often experience what is known as attentional spotlighting – the focus on one particular object with the exclusion of everything else.

Now, imagine what this will mean for a firearms officer. We train them to look for weapons within their environment. Especially guns. A gun can kill them, not to mention the innocent civilians that surround them. BUT! Once they have spotted a gun, their next job is to keep their attention as open as possible. In other words, we’re trying to force them to fight back against the teachings of evolution. Because when your attention is focused on the gun alone, you may not see the child that is running towards you, directly into the line of fire. You may not see that there is another gun, this one closer, its owner with their hand on the grip.

We do this with training, by putting officers in high-stress situations and teaching them to countermand their own natural instincts. We train these officers over and over again, so that, when their lives are threatened, they are able to perform in a way that will save their own lives, and those of others.

A massive thank you to Emma Kavanagh for joining us today and for giving a glimpse into this specialist area of training.

You can follow Emma on Twitter @EmmaLK and for a sneaky peak at hidden hop over to Dead Good Books to read an extract …

And be sure to drop by next week to read our full review of hidden.

Also, make sure that you check out all the other fabulous tour stops taking place as part of the blog tour:

Hidden Blog Tour

CTG Reviews: Personal by Lee Child

Personal by Lee Child cover image

Personal by Lee Child cover image

What the blurb says: Someone has taken a long-range shot at the French president but failed to kill him. The suspected sniper has serious skills and is a hard man to find. Reacher tracked him down once and put him in jail. Now he’s asked to hunt him again, and put him away permanently.
Tracking the shooter will take Reacher from France to England after a killer with a treacherous vendetta. He’ll need to uncover who did the hiring and what’s behind the assassination attempt before executing his orders.”

As a massive fan of Lee Child’s writing, I must confess that it was a huge thrill and a privilege to get to read an advance copy of PERSONAL.

In PERSONAL – the latest novel and nineteenth in the Jack Reacher series – Reacher spots an advert in the Personals from a military colleague asking him to get in touch. He owes this guy from way back and so Reacher being Reacher, he makes the call and finds himself pulled into a high profile case that threatens international security.

There’s been an attempt to assassinate the French president. The sniper fired from a range of fourteen hundred yards, more than three-quarters of a mile. There are very few people in the world that could have made the shot, and one of them has a bad history with Reacher. Question is, was he the one who pulled the trigger? And, if he was, can Reacher track him down before he tries again at the London G8 summit?

Partnering up with young agent Casey Nice, Reacher follows the trail, taking him from the US to Paris, on to London and back to the US. But with half-truths and bureaucracy at every turn, the inter-agency team remains a step behind their person of interest. With the time ticking away, Reacher takes matters into his own hands – in a way that only he can.

This is a fast paced, action packed story, with all the twists and turns you’d expect from a Reacher novel. Reacher himself is as witty and smart as ever, and a strong mentor for Casey on her first operational mission on overseas soil. And it’s great to see Reacher making a trip across to Europe. I particularly loved the London scenes, and picturing this great anti-hero in locations that I know.

Cinematic and slick, this heart-thumping, page-turning read is a must for all thriller fans.

Highly recommended.


PERSONAL is out today in the UK, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand, and on September 2nd in the US and Canada.

[with big thanks to Random House – Bantam Dell for my copy of PERSONAL]

CTG Interviews: Koethi Zan author of THE NEVER LIST

Koethi Zan (c) Pieter M van Hattem

Koethi Zan (c) Pieter M van Hattem

Today I’m delighted to welcome Koethi Zan, author of the fabulous psychological thriller, THE NEVER LIST, to the CTG blog.

I found THE NEVER LIST both spellbinding and chilling. Through Sarah (Caroline) the reader experiences the horror, and impact, of her ordeal in a way that feels very authentic. How did you go about researching the book?

I researched the book by reading essentially everything available about the experiences of women who have been abducted: their memoirs, trial transcripts, psychology textbooks, third party accounts and newspaper articles. I was quite submerged in it, which was a very dark and scary place to be for so long a time.  Of course, I can never know what that experience is truly like, but I feel I have developed a particular empathy for those victims, and I hope what I’ve learned comes across in the book.

For the BDSM parts of the book, I read books on the topic, but also spent a lot of time going down the internet rabbit hole of that culture.  I found myself on many shocking chat boards, websites, and blogs. At a certain point, I’d read so many disturbing accounts that I started to believe I could never be surprised by anything.  But there was always that one more site, one more story, one more image.

The idea of Sarah and Jennifer, after experiencing loss and trauma while still at school, creating their never list is fascinating. How did you get the idea for the never list, and would you call yourself a list person?

The relationship between Sarah and Jennifer is loosely based on my own relationship with my best friend.  She and I never had a formal, written list of ‘don’ts,’ but we did have a set of rules we’d follow because we were both slightly paranoid.  Perhaps not as much as my characters, but there are many shared themes in their lives and ours.

I am definitely a list person, and always have been.  I keep multiple to do lists at all times, each with different time horizons.  Otherwise the world would be too overwhelming.

What books and authors have inspired you as a reader and writer? 

Two crime fiction writers who influenced my book are quite different from one another: Patricia Highsmith, whose pacing is slow and menacing, her technique literary and psychological, and Steig Larsson, who is all action, action, action, with complex and dramatic storylines.

I started reading Highsmith years ago, and though I would not dare compare myself to her, she sparked my interest in crime fiction.  I love how she follows the progression of the criminal mind, usually making the reader complicit with the perpetrator, living out the story from his or her point of view.  For my book, I wanted to flip her formula on its head and give the victim’s perspective, so the reader would be intimately involved with the crime and its impact on the psyche, not just trying to solve the who, where and what of it.

Only in retrospect did I realize that Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy had such a huge impact on my book.  On the one hand, I love his fast action and over-the-top plotting.  Anything can happen in his books as long as it propels the story along, and that’s liberating for a writer.  On the other hand, I think my approach to violence is in stark contrast to his.  I read (and love) a lot of Scandinavian fiction, and as with Larsson’s, the violence is often explicit and raw.  I believe in uncovering this dark side of humanity—I think that’s a healthy way to cope with it—but I prefer to use suggestion rather than elaborate, graphic detail.  I think that technique can be quite effective because the reader personalizes the terror, drawing on his or her own worst nightmares to fill in the blanks.

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

I knew from early on how the book would begin, how it would end, and generally how the characters would develop.  Those elements formed the outline of the book for me, and the rest fell into place as I wrote it. I never wrote an outline.

My actual writing process was driven by necessity. When I was writing The Never List, I had one hour a day to write, from 5 am to 6 am.  After that, I had to get the kids to school and go to work.  I set myself a minimum word count of 500 a day, five days a week.  And I had an incentive plan:  if I hit 10,000 words in any calendar month, I could take the rest of the month off.  I kept finishing earlier an earlier each month.

Now that I’m writing full-time, I still stick to my early morning writing routine and the word count requirements.  I’m conditioned to write in the early mornings now, and I love starting my day with my word count done.

THE NEVER LIST cover image

THE NEVER LIST cover image

THE NEVER LIST was an outstanding debut, and one of my favourite reads of 2013. What was your route to publication?

I was quite lucky. My husband is a writer and so when I’d finished a draft of the book, he mentioned it to his agent. I wasn’t quite ready to show it to anyone—no one had read a word of it yet, but his agent wanted to see it and I didn’t want to lose the opportunity.  It turned out that they liked it at the agency, so I was pretty over the moon about that.  They gave me some notes and we worked on it a bit, and then we took it to publishers. The day we sold it was certainly one of the happiest of my life. There were plenty of tears and celebrations in my house for at least a week.  I’m still pinching myself.

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

I am writing a second book now–not a sequel, but a different stand-alone book.  I continue to be interested in the same themes:  power, psychological disturbances, dealing with a dark past.  My goal is to write a book that builds suspense but also deals with complex issues.  I hope to finish it up this spring.


That’s definitely a book I’m  looking forward to reading.

A huge thank you to Koethi Zan for popping by the CTG blog.

THE NEVER LIST is out on 30th January in paperback. You can read our review of it here:

CTG Reviews: The Woman in Black: Angel of Death by Martyn Waites

cover image

cover image

What the blurb says: “Autumn 1940, World War Two, the Blitz. Bombs are raining down, destroying the cities of Britain. In London, children are being removed from their families and taken to the country for safety. Teach Eve Parkins is in charge of one such group, and her destination is an empty and desolate house that appears to be sinking into the treacherous tidal marshes that surround it.


Far from home and with no alternative, Eve and the children move in. But soon it becomes apparent that there is someone else in the house; someone who is far deadlier than any number of German bombs …

The Woman in Black.”


I’ve long been a fan of Susan Hill’s The Woman in Black, having read the book and watched the play at the theatre, so I was intrigued to see how Martyn Waites approached the writing of a sequel.

I wasn’t disappointed.

Angel of Death is every bit as chilling, heart-thumping and edge-of-your-seat thrilling as the original.

The central character, Eve Parkins, is a courageous woman. Kind and fiercely protective of the children in her charge, she’s a more approachable teacher than her boss, Mrs Hogg. As they leave London she feels especially protective of one particular child, Edward, who has recently been orphaned.

It’s difficult to go into plot details without spoiling the story for you, but what I can say is that Eel Marsh House is every bit as scary as in the first story. Now it’s rotting, the mould eating away at its structure, decay destroying its contents. This story will have you looking at mould in a whole other way, and watching the shadows in case they start to follow you.

When Eve, Mrs Hogg, and the children arrive at the house bad things start to happen. Edward becomes increasingly distant from Eve, his only solace found in an ancient and mouldy Mr Punch puppet. It isn’t long before Eve realises that they are not the house’s only occupants.

And as for The Woman in Black, well she’s a menacing presence. Watching. Manipulating. Killing.

Given that this is a sequel the presence and identity of the Woman is not a secret from the reader. She has more ‘on the page’ time than in the original book – you see her before the characters do, and because of her history you can guess what she’s thinking and you know what she’s capable of. But Waites still manages to keep the tension high, building the suspense towards a nail-biting, hiding-behind-a-cushion-as-you-read conclusion as The Woman in Black turns what should be a safe haven for the evacuees into a place more horrific than their worst nightmare.

Highly Recommended.


[With thanks to Arrow Books and Hammer for my copy of The Woman in Black: Angel of Death]