Writing Historical Romantic Fiction by guest author John Jackson

john'sMy friend John Jackson joins me today to answer the question: What are you doing Here? (A mere Male in a woman’s world)

This is a question I ask myself from time to time. Luckily, the answer comes back the same every time. “Having fun!”

I have never had a typical male “look-down-the-nose” type of attitude towards romantic fiction. I was brought up on Georgette Heyer from an early age, thanks to my father, who got every new book of hers as they came available.

Then, as time passed, I found myself on a ship in some far flung foreign sea with NOTHING to read on board except a few paperbacks – among which was a copy of Mary Stewart’s “Touch Not the Cat!” I enjoyed it – slightly to my surprise, and then she brought out the Merlin books (The Crystal Cave, etc.) and I loved those.john's heart of stone

More time passes, and purely by chance, I met a couple of Romantic Novelists Association members, now both firm friends. They were really, REALLY nice, and through them I got to meet several other members and authors. They, in turn, were, almost to a woman, unbelievably welcoming and friendly! I also found that I enjoyed reading their books. All of a sudden, I found that I was friends with some very talented people.

I was also facing an imminent collision with retirement, and was looking for things to help occupy my time. Writing – something I had tried before in a very minor way – loomed ever larger on the horizon. I was also getting some pressure from my new friends, “Go on, John – you know you want to give it a go.” This was a siren song I was quite willing to listen to.john's street team

Any possible doubts I had evaporated after meeting the much-missed Roger Sanderson at the Festival of Romance in Leighton Buzzard. Roger was famous after being featured in a documentary on Mills & Book on the BBC. He was (then) Mills & Boon’s only male contract author, and wrote almost 50 medical romances under his wife’s name of Gill Sanderson.

Shortly after moving to Yorkshire and joining the RNA I also met the wonderful Jessica Blair. In real life, Jessica Blair is Bill Spence, who, when I met him, had just signed another two-book deal with Piatkus – at the age of 92. Bill used to be a bomb-aimer in Lancaster bombers in WWII, and if HE could write in the romantic genre, then anyone could.

So I knew I wanted to write – but – the eternal writers’ question – What about the story?

As it happened, I had, for many years, been a fan of historical novels, from Robert Louis Stevenson right through to Georgette Heyer, and on to Bernard Cornwell.

I had also long had an interest in genealogy. While Jackson is too common to be traceable, my mother’s maiden name was Dumaresq. This is an old Jersey name, and is as rare as it looks. Back in the day, the Dumaresqs married well. Several married “Peer’s Younger Daughters / Sons” etc. and when this happens, it all gets easier, because of volumes like Debrett’s and Burke’s.

Looking back through the old family details I suddenly realised just how much material there was for any number of books. Most people throughout history have led boring, humdrum and frequently brutally short lives, but on my family tree, there were a good number of real characters. Some were total scumbags, and lots did “interesting things.”john's book

So I hope you enjoy Heart of Stone, and I hope to write at least four more about different “acorns on the tree” over the next few years. 

If there is a moral here, it can only be that if you WANT to write, go ahead and write – in any genre you choose. You will get far more support then you could dream of.

Heart of Stone by John Jackson is to be published by Crooked Cat Books on 24th October 2017. It is a story of love, passion, blood, famine, prison and jealousy. A perfect read as the nights grow longer and colder – as cold as a Heart of Stone! Have a look at http://viewbook.at/Heartofgoldlink

John Jackson

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An Evil Mind by Chris Carter

An Evil MindMy local library was selling some discontinued books in aid of Macmillan Cancer Nurses and the novels by author Chris Carter had been recommended to me. So, when I noticed that one of the books for sale was An Evil Mind by Chris Carter, I decided to buy it to take on holiday. Carter is a criminal psychologist and this novel was based on subjects he encountered in his professional capacity. It is a chilling thought and makes for a disconcerting read.

The main protagonist, Robert Hunter, is a detective with LAPD who becomes enlisted to work with the FBI when his friend, Lucien Folter, from his days at Stanford, attracts the attention of law enforcement after a random traffic accident finds two severed heads in the trunk of his hired car. From the very start, the reader is absolutely shaken and stirred by the events that follow. For my money, Carter has written one of the finest opening chapters that I have read in terms of shock value. The transition from languid breakfast time in an all American diner to the impact (literally) of a freak occurrence that heralds a shocking opening to the book, is beautifully played out.

Lucien, says that he will only speak with his former friend and detective, Robert Hunter, and so the game is afoot. What follows is a titanic mental battle between the evil, clever and highly manipulative Folter, and Hunter, a man incredibly pre-disposed to navigate and decipher the actions and motivations of some of the most disturbed individuals with his innate intuition in relation to the darkest human psyches. As quickly as Hunter appears to break down the twisted actions of Folter, in a series of claustrophobic encounters with fascinating and entertaining verbal sparring, Folter begins to resemble an evil onion, with layers of perversity and wickedness that are revealed piece by piece. Folter has prepared a whole series of unique and nasty surprises for both Hunter and the FBI team, that Carter unleashes with a superb sense of pace and timing, so much so that as each chapter ends only the strongest reader will resist the temptation to stay firmly rooted to the spot to continue reading.

As the book rattles towards an incredibly tense, violent and exciting ending, the torment that Folter projects on Hunter and the team is nerve shredding and simply brilliant. I liked this book very much, providing as it does, not only a tense and disturbing thriller, but in its perfect placing of brutal shocks reveals itself as a violent flight of fancy, that entertains throughout. I highly recommend An Evil Mind and, although this was the first novel by Chris Carter that I have read, but it certainly will not be my last.

The author was born in Brasilia, Brazil where he spent my childhood and teenage years.An Evil Mind author After graduating from high school, he moved to the USA and studied psychology with specialization in criminal behaviour. He worked as a criminal psychologist for several years before moving to Los Angeles, where he swapped the suits and briefcases for ripped jeans, bandanas and an electric guitar. After a spell playing for several well known glam rock bands, he decided to try my luck in London, where he played for a number of famous artists. He then toured the world several times as a professional musician but a few years ago he gave it all up to become a full time writer. I, for one, am glad he did.

Val Penny

Death in Dulwich by Alice Castle

death in dulwichI had not read any books by Alice Castle before, but as those who follow my blog will know, the crime and mystery genres are amongst my favourites, when her new novel, Death in Dulwich, was published by Crooked Cat Books and recommended to me, I decided to buy it to take on holiday with me. Holiday reads are always a struggle in our house as both my husband and I have to agree the titles, so we can swap books. Negotiations complete, Death in Dulwich packed, off we went.

The story revolves around Beth Haldane, a young widow with a son at junior school who secures a job as an archivist at a local, well thought of secondary school. Beth is an engaging character and I cared about her from the start, and was disturbed by her feelings towards her boss, the senior archivist, Dr. Jenkins. When she found him dead, on her first day in her new job, I was almost relieved because Beth had come to no harm.death dulwich

However, when Beth is amongst those suspected of committing Dr Jenkins’ murder, the real investigation and mystery begins. I do not want to spoil the read for anybody, or to give anything away. I will just say that there are lots of twists and turns as Beth struggles to prove her innocence and moves to find the murderer.

I also enjoyed the relationship that Beth developes with the Detective, York. His responses to her investigating efforts are often very funny.

death aliceAlice Castle lives in South London with her two children, two stepchildren, two cats and her husband. She was a feature writer on the Daily Express for many years and has written for most other national newspapers. She has a degree in Modern History from St Andrews University, is the British Royalty expert for Flemish TV, and lived in Brussels for eight years. Her first novel, Hot Chocolate, sold out in two weeks and her second, Death in Dulwich, was published in September 2017 as the first in the London Murder Mystery series.

This is not a long novel, but it has everything: mystery, crime, humour and vitality. It would be an excellent book group read too. I highly recommend it, and hope you will enjoy Death in Dulwich too.

Val Penny

‘Orrible ‘Ooligans by Harry Hunter

Harry HuntMy friend, Harry Hunter, kindly gave me a copy of his new book, ‘Orrible ‘Ooligans, and it seemed only right to prepare a review, but as ever, it is an honest review. Harry’s first book, Taking the High Road, a book of short stories, is also reviewed on this site at https://bookreviewstoday.info/2014/10/22/taking-the-high-road-by-harry-hunter/.'orrible 'ooligans

The new book, ‘Orrible ‘Ooligans, cleverly takes the idea of acrostics and uses that to unite a series of spiritual and meaningful reflections. It is an interesting book to keep close. It is also useful for those who require to provide prayers or spritual thoughts for meetings. Those might include scout leaders, Women’s Institute leaders and religious leaders. Many of the themes are Christian.

I enjoy delving into this modest little book. It is a most worthwhile addition to my library.

Valerie Penny

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey reveiwed by guest author Brenie Gourley

Kenneth Elton “Ken” Kesey was an American novelist, essayist, and countercultural figure. He considered himself a link between the Beat Generation of the 1950s and the hippies of the 1960s. He was born on 17 September 1935 at La Junta, Colorado, USA and died on 10 November 2001 in Eugene, Oregon, USA. His most famous work is the allegorical novel, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.

This article first appeared on Bernie Gourley’s website Stories and Movement on 20 September 2017 the same month that One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest was book of the month at my book group. The original article is at https://berniegourley.com/2017/09/20/book-review-one-flew-over-the-cuckoos-nest-by-ken-kesey/ .

ken keseyWhen a sane man, Randle McMurphy, enters an insane asylum to get out of prison, he turns life in the ward upside-down. The book’s fictional narrator is the patient who sleeps next to McMurphy. He’s an American Indian of giant stature, named Chief Bromden, who’s become convinced that he’s shrunk. Besides childhood problems stemming from his father’s emasculation—i.e. having to take his white mother’s name (hence, Bromden) instead of the more usual family name of the father—Chief is haunted by war. Our narrator has the hospital staff convinced that he’s a deaf-mute (and probably mentally deficient, as well) and thus has a unique view of the ward, the staff speaking freely before him.

McMurphy is everything the other patients are not. He’s gregarious, confident, and risk-loving. He’s also a con-man extraordinaire—hence, his ability to trick the authorities into shifting him out of hard labor and into the mental hospital. But he’s not completely lacking in morality, and displays a kind of hard-nosed compassion. While the patients are occasionally distressed by McMurphy’s behavior, they find his willingness to stand up for them (at least when it’s in his best interest, though later a sense of justice or camaraderie guides him) worth the price of his wheeling and dealing.

McMurphy’s real opposition is Nurse Ratched, a former Army nurse who runs a tight ward. Nurse Ratched is used to controlling the patients through a combination of soft power (maternally convincing them that she acts in their best interest), bullying, and fear of the treatments she can get the doctors to rubber stamp (namely electro-shock and—in extreme cases—lobotomy.) However, she’s met her match with McMurphy. He can play patients and doctors as well as she. He, too, is capable of being cool and cunning at the same time. He’s able to provide a counterbalance to the authoritarian democracy in which she asks the patients for votes after telling them what to think. The reader doesn’t know how, but knows this conflict between McMurphy and Ratched must come to a head to be resolved once and for all, and it is (but I’ll leave the how to the reader.) At times McMurphy seems to be ahead, and at other times Ratched has the lead.

The book was influenced by Kesey’s discussions with patients at Menlo Park Veterans’ Hospital, where he worked as a night aide. Interestingly, Kesey volunteered for a study of hallucinogens during the same period (funded by the CIA as part of MKUltra), and, thus, for some of the conversations he was baked on LSD. At any rate, the experience had profound impact on him, and he became convinced that not all the patients were insane. Many, he believed, just didn’t fit well in society or families, and were pushed into institutions. The themes of the book are that differentiating sanity from insanity isn’t always easy and that mental healthcare professionals had too much power–and often wielded it unwisely.ken kesey book

The story is well crafted with an intense ending. The characters are developed, and this isn’t easy for the mentally insane—though Kesey’s experience with LSD may have helped on that end. Though we only really experience the insanity of Chief, because the perspective is his and he’s one of the few patients that legitimately seems to have trouble differentiating reality from illusion (at least through much of the book.) But we don’t really know how much of Chief’s problem is from his medication, and how much is the illness. There’s a beautiful descriptive scene in which Chief comes off his meds and is looking out the window watching a dog and the world go by. It’s vivid.

I’d highly recommend One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. It’s an evocative story with insights into mental health, some of which—sadly—are as valid today as they were then.

 

The Time Travellers Guide to Medieval England by Ian Mortimer reviewed by guest author Angela Wren

angelaI am delighted to have a fascinating review by Angela Wren today. Angela, herself, is a noted author whose most recent novel, Messandrierre: Murder in rural France was published by Crooked Cat Books in August 2017. You can find her at her website : www.angelawren.co.uk  or at her blog : www.jamesetmoi.blogspot.com

angela book

The Time Travellers Guide to Medieval England by Ian Mortimer is a history book and why would anyone who is not a student of history want to read it? Because it does exactly what it says on the cover. It takes you on a virtual tour of the 14th century without the aid of a computer. And it does this in exactly the same way as a tourist guidebook shepherds you around the various points of interest in a town that you have never visited before.

The book begins by asking you to ‘imagine yourself in a dusty London street on a summer morning.’ As you pass ‘a servant opens an upstairs shutter and starts beating a blanket.’ Nearby in the market ‘traders call out.’ And so the author takes you on your journey through the towns, cities and countryside of the 14th century, carefully building up a massive picture for you, the reader, to peruse in your imagination as you turn the pages.

Whilst in London you visit various places including the ‘Southwark Stews or bath-houses…..Here men may eat and drink, have a hot scented bath and spend time in female company’ because prostitutes are not tolerated in the city itself. These establishments are all run by Flemish women and the stews are an accepted part of life – fidelity to marriage vows being only required from the female partner. Of course some of the clergy consider them to be immoral and say so – but all these places are on land rented from the Bishop of Winchester!!

ian-mortimer-238x313Later we are introduced to Dick Whittington, not the guy in the pantomime but the real Mayor of London, son of a Gloucestershire landowner, who died an extremely wealthy man.

In the market we find that we can buy a brand new invention, buttons, to use as a fastening for our clothes and in the cordwainer’s we can now buy shoes of soft Cordovan leather that are cut to fit our feet – so we walk away with both a left and a right shoe – previously there was no distinction.

As we leave the great city of London and move out into the countryside onto a rich Lord’s estate we come across his sons, aged from 6/7 upwards, practising at the lists. Their armour is heavy and when you consider that an adult knight would be wearing 80lbs of armour – that’s the equivalent of 36 bags of sugar – and that your average 14th century man is around 5ft 7 tall, you begin to appreciate just how strong and agile these fighting men are.

As for the women in the great manor house, the Lord’s wife and daughters, they are feminine and courteous. Your average woman is about 5 ft 2 – so for once in my life, as a visitor to the 14th century, I can say that I am tall!!

As visitors to the Lord you are treated very well with a banquet held in your honour and as a special diversion, you are presented with four-and-twenty blackbirds baked in a pie. The pastry is real and baked first and then the pie is assembled with live birds inside just before it is brought to the table. As you cut into it the birds fly out and begin to swoop around the hall and sing.

angela picture

In the wilder parts of Yorkshire we bump into an outlaw called John Little and we discover that he has taken part in a robbery with the infamous members of the Coterel Gang. In the Wakefield Manor we come across a man by the name of Robin Hood. He is one of several men in that area with that name – but he isn’t wearing green, nor is he an especially accomplished archer and his social conscience is no better than the next mans!

Oh, by the way, gentleman readers, boxer shorts – not new at all, apparently they’ve been around for 600 years!

At just under 300 pages, The Time Travellers Guide to Medieval England, is quite a big read, but it is the most enjoyable history book I have ever come across. The narrative flow is easy and keeps you turning the pages. The use of statistics at various points to support the text is not intrusive and the additional material and explanations in the notes and appendices just complete the picture without clogging up the overall story. There are other books in the series for other centuries and I will be reading them. I just wish history had been this interesting when I was required to study it at school.

The Real CSI: A Forensics Handbook for Crime Writers by Kate Bendelow

CSII first have to declare an interest: Kate Bendelow is a good friend and it is to her I turn when I have forensic and scene of crime questions relating to my crime novels. I was, therefore, delighted when I learned that she was writing a book on that very subject. As always, I will only give an honest review. I bought my book at Swanwick Writers’ Summer School where Kate presented a two part course on the work of a CSI.

Of course, Kate is eminently qualified to write The Real CSI: a Forensics Handbook for CrimeWriters as she is, by profession, a Crime Scene Investigator (CSI) and works with Greater Manchester Police. In addition to this, Kate is a noted poet and fiction writer so The Real CSI is easy to read and understand. As a crime writer, that makes it invaluable.

The author explains the day to day work load of a CSI and tells her readers the difference between volume and major crimes. It informs you who is allowed access to a crime scene: what happens when a body is discovered and how the distribution of gunshot residue can inform the characters in a plot.

The Real CSI is not only interesting as a writers’ resource because it uses real-life examples and case studies and the author intrigues her reader by shining a light behind the yellow tape and debunks the myths popularized by the television ‘CSI Effect’. swanwick outside

Each chapter is full of invaluable, interesting information. The Real CSI explores the latest procedures in contemporary practice including: Crime Scene access and preservation; fingerprints and DNA profiling; footwear; trace evidence. It also covers fire scenes; drugs and toxicology and, finally, firearms.

The Real CSI: a Forensics Handbook for CrimeWriters is packed with insider knowledge, CSI katehandy tips and compelling storylines, this is the definitive guide for all crime writers who wish to write with authenticity and authority. It is also a fascinating read for everybody interested in the investigation of crime.

I highly recommend this book. Since I acquired my copy of this book, I have had it by my side regularly when writing crime fiction. All errors, of course, are my own!

Valerie Penny

 

 

Friends of Hunter’s Chase

photos fettesI have established a new Facebook group, Friends of Hunter’s Chase. Please join me there for news about DI Hunter Wilson, his police colleagues and his life in Edinburgh, Scotland. You will find it at https://www.facebook.com/groups/296295777444303/ .

In Hunter’s Chase Hunter has been promoted to Detective Inspector since the former Chief photos edinburghConstable, Sir Peter Myerscough resigned. Now Hunter is face with Sir Peter’s son, Tim moving into his team. He is not looking forward to having another member of this family in his life.

Crooked Cat will publish Hunter’s Chase on 02.02.2018.

Val Penny

 

 

 

Sunday Sojourn – Dulwich by guest author Jennifer C.Wilson

This article was first published by Jennifer C. Wilson on 3rd September 2018 at https://jennifercwilsonwriter.wordpress.com/2017/09/03/sunday-sojourn-dulwich/.

Happy Sunday morning all! Today, we’re taking a trip to Dulwich, with Alice Castle, to look at the setting for her upcoming novel, Death in Dulwich, released this very month, and available for pre-order now…

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It’s lovely to be here, Jennifer, thanks so much for hosting me. I hope you’re ready for a stroll in the London suburbs this Sunday because we’re off to Dulwich, the setting for my novel, Death in Dulwich, and my home until quite recently.

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For those who don’t know it, Dulwich Village is a little gem nestling in south east London, with a beautiful park, as well as the world class Dulwich Picture Gallery, and three top-ranking private secondary schools, which have churned out a fair few writers over the years.

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All-boys Dulwich College educated PG Wodehouse and Raymond Chandler, while the novelist Anita Brookner went to James Alleyn’s Girls’ School and C S Forrester and Sir V S Prichett went to Alleyn’s just across the road. As well as schooling all these writers, Dulwich was the birthplace of Enid Blyton and Charles Dickens used to pop over for a drink at the Crown and Greyhound pub, still going strong and known to locals as ‘the Dog’.

Crown and Greyhound pub

What is it that attracts writers to Dulwich? Well, considering it’s only ten minutes from London Bridge by train, it’s both quiet and green. Even though the South Circular snarls across one corner of the place, the centre of Dulwich hasn’t been engulfed, like neighbouring suburbs, by tower blocks and chain stores. When I decided to write a murder mystery, I was inspired by this village feel. I wanted to write a contemporary novel, dealing with gritty themes in a big city, yet place it here in a spot where everyone knows each other’s business. To me, it was a neat way to update the traditional cosy crime story, giving that sense of community we all yearn for, which can shade so quickly into claustrophobia. I’ve been thrilled to get an early review describing Death in Dulwich as a ‘modern twist on Miss Marple’ – exactly what I’d been aiming to achieve, though I think Agatha Christie might have frowned at some of my darker undercurrents!

According to Wikipedia, the name ‘Dulwich’ may mean ‘damp meadow where dill grows,’ though the only evidence I’ve seen of the herb has been a light sprinkling over pricey fish dishes in the rather nice restaurants of Lordship Lane. The first few houses here were documented in 967AD, but it wasn’t until Edward Alleyn bought the manor for £4,900 in 1605 that Dulwich really started to grow. Alleyn was the foremost actor of the Elizabethan age, the equivalent of an Olivier, performing in the plays of Shakespeare and Marlowe. His wealth came from the stage, from his second marriage to the poet John Donne’s daughter, Constance – and from his ownership of a string of wildly successful bear pits and brothels. These were not in Dulwich, needless to say, but nearer to the site of the Globe Theatre, close to the river in Southwark.

Nowadays there is a theatre at Alleyn’s School, and a local amateur dramatic society in Norwood, but Dulwich is more famous for its art. The Dulwich Picture Gallery, the first public gallery in the UK, is 200 years old this year.

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The beautifully austere building, designed by Sir John Soane, is home to a Rembrandt, a few Gainsboroughs, a Tiepolo and a Canaletto, and holds temporary exhibitions as well. It is also the lightly fictionalised setting for my second murder mystery, The Girl in the Gallery, to be published next year. Starring my single mother heroine, Beth Haldane, the novel will take a closer look at some of the dilemmas facing today’s parents and the pressures the digital age puts on their children. Once again, I’ll be putting this charming, but chilling, corner of south London under the spotlight. I hope you’ll join me in Dulwich.

About Alice

Alice Castle was a national newspaper journalist for The Daily Express, The Times and The Daily Telegraph before becoming a novelist. Her first book, Hot Chocolate, was a European best-seller which sold out in two weeks.

Alice is currently working on the sequel to Death in DulwichThe Girl in the Gallery. The second instalment in the London Murder Mystery series, it will be published by Crooked Cat next year.

Alice is also a top mummy blogger, writing DD’s Diary at www.dulwichdivorcee.com.

She lives in south London and is married with two children, two step-children and two cats.

I See You by Clare Mackintosh

Recently, when I was on my travels, I found a book my husband had been looking for, so I bought it and, as I had the opportunity to buy another book for half price, I chose I See You by Clare Mackintosh. clare mackintosh

Clare Mackintosh is a British author from Bristol. She, like novelist Karen Campbell, is a former policewoman. She left the police in 2011 to work as a freelance journalist and social media consultant now writes full time and now lives in North Wales with her husband and their three children.

I let you goI have not read her debut novel, I Let You Go but it was very well received. It was a Richard & Judy book club pick. It won Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Award in 2016, beating J K Rowling writing as Robert Galbraith. She is a respected author.

The heroine of I See You, Zoe Walker, is a forty-something mother of two teenagers. She is on her way home from a job she hates. When she eventually secures a seat she looks through the evening paper to find a picture of herself looking up from the less savoury columns of the personal ads. It throws her, as it would anyone. Her family rally to her support, all persuading her it is nothing but a strange coincidence. The picture is not of her at all. But she knows, and we know, and some sinister third party who speaks in italics knows, that it is. Soon afterwards Zoe sees a similar ad, only this time with the picture of another woman. When that woman is found strangled in Muswell Hill, Zoe phones the police.I see you

Zoe finds a champion in Kelly Swift, a disgraced detective who has been sent to the gulag of transport policing for misconduct and badly needs her shot at redemption. With Zoe’s lead about the classified ads, Kelly gets it and elbows her way back on to the murder investigation. As computer experts burrow their way into findtheone.com, they discover that the site is refreshed each week with details of a new entry: a woman who is simultaneously pictured in the paper. For a hefty premium visitors to the site receive a listing containing minute details of her daily commute, including what she wears, which ticket machine she uses at the station, where she sits on the train, and ends up with a suggested rating: easy, moderate, difficult. It is really creepy.

Mackintosh builds a convincing and complex emotional backstory for both women throwing enough teasing red herrings to leave us vaguely suspicious of everyone in their lives. This clever and plausible thriller is one with which it is all too easy to relate. Your fellow commuters might be just that, or then again, they might not. The daily trek into work will never be quite the same again. I found this novel interesting and exciting. If you enjoy psychological thrillers, I See You by Clare Mackintosh is well worth reading.

Valerie Penny

 

Recently, when I was on my travels, I found a book my husband had been looking for, so I bought it and, as I had the opportunity to buy another book for half price, I chose I See You by Clare Mackintosh.

Clare Mackintosh is a British author from Bristol. She, like novelist Karen Campbell, is a former policewoman. She left the police in 2011 to work as a freelance journalist and social media consultant now writes full time and now lives in North Wales with her husband and their three children.

I have not read her debut novel, I Let You Go but it was very well received. It was a Richard & Judy book club pick. It won Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Award in 2016, beating J K Rowling writing as Robert Galbraith. She is a respected author.

The heroine of I See You, Zoe Walker, is a forty-something mother of two teenagers. She is on her way home from a job she hates. When she eventually secures a seat she looks through the evening paper to find a picture of herself looking up from the less savoury columns of the personal ads. It throws her, as it would anyone. Her family rally to her support, all persuading her it is nothing but a strange coincidence. The picture is not of her at all. But she knows, and we know, and some sinister third party who speaks in italics knows, that it is. Soon afterwards Zoe sees a similar advertisement, only this time with the picture of another woman. When that woman is found strangled in Muswell Hill, Zoe phones the police.

Zoe finds a champion in Kelly Swift, a disgraced detective who has been sent to the gulag of transport policing for misconduct and badly needs her shot at redemption. With Zoe’s lead about the classified ads, Kelly gets it and elbows her way back on to the murder investigation. As computer experts burrow their way into findtheone.com, they discover that the site is refreshed each week with details of a new entry: a woman who is simultaneously pictured in the paper. For a hefty premium visitors to the site receive a listing containing minute details of her daily commute, including what she wears, which ticket machine she uses at the station, where she sits on the train, and ends up with a suggested rating: easy, moderate, difficult. It is really creepy.

Mackintosh builds a convincing and complex emotional backstory for both women throwing enough teasing red herrings to leave us vaguely suspicious of everyone in their lives. This clever and plausible thriller is one with which it is all too easy to relate. Your fellow commuters might be just that, or then again, they might not. The daily trek into work will never be quite the same again. I found this novel interesting and exciting. If you enjoy psychological thrillers, I See You by Clare Mackintosh is well worth reading.

Valerie Penny