December UK and April US Editor’s Pick: MIND OF A KILLER by Simon Beaufort

mind of a killerThis month’s Editor’s Pick is from Kate Lyall Grant, Publisher.

Set in 1882, during the turbulent weeks following the death of the great English naturalist Charles Darwin, and introducing idealistic young newspaper reporter Alec Lonsdale as an appealing new series sleuth, MIND OF A KILLER is the first in an intriguing new Victorian mystery series, and represents an exciting new departure for Simon Beaufort, author of the well-received Sir Geoffrey Mappestone medieval mystery series. I was thoroughly taken by this richly detailed, satisfyingly complex historical mystery, crammed full of period flavour and peopled by a cast of engagingly colourful characters, both real and imagined, and I hope Alec Lonsdale and his spirited female colleague and co-investigator Hulde Friederichs will appear in many more books to come.

The action kicks off when Alec, writing up the story of a fatal house fire for his crusading newspaper, the Pall Mall Gazette, discovers that the victim’s death was no accident but the result of cold-blooded, premeditated murder. But why would someone kill a humble shop assistant and steal part of his brain? Following the discovery of a second body, and then a third, Lonsdale and Friederichs team up to uncover evidence of a shocking conspiracy that reaches to the highest echelons of Victorian society.

The well-realized late 19th century London setting – from posh gentlemen’s clubs like the Garrick and the Oxford & Cambridge to the earthy camaraderie of more humble establishments such as the Dog & Bone public house, down to the grim routines and appalling depravities of the workhouse – effectively highlights the blatant hypocrisies of this class-bound society, hidebound as it is by rigid social conventions and in-built snobberies. Throughout the novel, real historical figures mingle seamlessly with fictitious – and, as it transpires, the death of Charles Darwin and some of the theories he espoused during his lifetime have a particularly relevant (and chilling) part to play in the central mystery.

I would highly recommend MIND OF A KILLER to anyone who enjoys the intelligent, atmospheric and fiendishly plotted historical mysteries of authors such as Antonia Hodgson or S. G. MacLean.

Visit our website for more information on this title.

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Behind the Book: BAD COPS by Nick Oldham

BAD COPS is the latest fast-paced, tension-filled thriller in the gripping Henry Christie series. Nick spoke to us about the book, which comes out 29 December.

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BAD COPS is the twenty-fifth novel in the Henry Christie series – a number which still astounds me. The novels tell Henry Christie’s life story – more or less chronologically – from him being a young cop on the beat in Lancashire, to being a Detective Superintendent, retirement and beyond. That said, I still have a whole bunch of stories to tell about Henry from the archives, as it were – and BAD COPS is one of those. Set between the events of BAD TIDINGS (2013) and LOW PROFILE (2014), Henry is off sick recovering from a gunshot wound when he’s basically coerced by his boss, FB, to investigate two unsolved murders in an adjoining police force. Much against his better judgement, Henry cannot resist this temptation, which of course leads him into all sorts of trouble as he finds himself pitted against a ruthless female villain.

Most of my books are set in real places in and around Lancashire and beyond, but unusually, BAD COPS is set in a fictional police force called Central Yorkshire, somewhere in the middle of the real North, South and West Yorkshire forces, but with a coastline on the North Sea. The coastal city in which most of the story is set – Portsea (again fictional) has a significant bearing on the story. Sometimes it’s just fun and interesting to invent fictional places and not to be constrained in any way by geography!

 

Previous titles in this series include:

 

Visit our website for more information on the series.

 

 

FREE FROM ALL DANGER Book Launch in Leeds

 

9780727887535_FCFREE FROM ALL DANGER is the page-turning new novel in the acclaimed Richard Nottingham historical mystery series from Chris Nickson, out now.

The series is set in Chris’s beloved home town, Leeds, in the 18th century, so where better to launch the book than in one of his favourite places – Leeds Library, the oldest subscription library in the British Isles, which has been in the same location since 1808.

Read Chris’s personal account of this special night below!

 

 

 

 

It’s not often you have the chance to work with someone you first met fifty years ago. But when the opportunity arises, why not seize it? Going way, way back, Chris Emmerson and I had our first band together. He played guitar and sang, his brother on drums. I was a scarcely proficient bass player. We were all very young teenagers, at the same school, in love with music. Fast forward several decades, many lives and miles, and we discovered each other again. He still played music. I’d stopped, more than a decade ago, my instruments gathering dust. Instead, I wrote novels and music journalism. With a new novel, Free From All Danger, coming out, I wanted to do something different for a book launch. A performance. Some extracts from the novel, some parts specially written. I asked if he’d be interested in writing the soundtrack to accompany it. He was. The result happened on Thursday, November 9 at the Leeds Library, one of my favourite places. It’s the oldest subscription library in the British Isles, in the same location since 1808. We were in the New Room, an 1880 add-on. I’d spent a month rehearsing. This was so far out of my comfort zone that it was appealingly terrifying. And that feeling only grew as the audience started to arrive.

I’ve done of semi-studio recording of the piece. You can judge for yourself.

People were surprised. It was different. It had music, atmosphere. But I wanted to take people aback. Simply standing up there and reading is fine, but why not give them more if you can? Chris did a glorious job on the music, and a friend, Hal Parfitt-Murray of the Danish band Basco, contributed the fiddle piece.

And then, once I was done, the Hill Bandits took to the stage and commanded it as they performed the traditional folk song ‘Our Captain Cried’. Why that song? Because it contains the line that gives the book its title. A song I’ve loved for years, full of heartbreak and yearning and hope.

I don’t have a recording of their version, but this is another – quite different – take on the song:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Flt-HD9s-_k

Done, drained, happy. And full of gratitude to Chris, Hal, the Hill Bandits, Waterstones for coming to sell copies of the book (many were purchased; it’s always an author’s nightmare that no one will want it), Leeds Big Bookend for their involvement, and the Leeds Library for hosting it.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to curl into a tiny ball and spend the next week hibernating.

Click here for more titles in the intriguing Richard Nottingham series from Severn House.

 

 

 

 

Five things you should know about J.R. Ripley . . .

 

 

J.R. Ripley, aka Glenn Eric Meganck, is the creator of the brilliant Maggie Miller mystery series. The latest addition to the series, BEIGNETS AND BROOMSTICKS, is out 30 November.

1. When not reading crime novels – and I read lots of them so I won’t try to pick any favorites – other authors whose books have had an impact on me (and whose novels I see as I look over my shoulder) include Herman Hesse, Aldous Huxley, Kurt Vonnegut (I got a chance to visit the Vonnegut Memorial Library recently when in Indianapolis for Magna cum Murder), Patricia Highsmith, Haruki Murakami and, more recently, Andrey Kurkov and Carlos Ruiz Zafón. I keep their books sitting on my shelves like old friends in rockers sitting around on the front porch. Of course, there are many more, but those spring to mind.

2. I am a singer/songwriter and my music has been featured in rotation on hundreds of radio stations, MTV and other programs. This experience certainly played a role in the Tony Kozol series of mysteries, which feature a working musician who tours the world in the pursuit of his passion and his livelihood. If you Google me or check out glennmeganck.com, you will probably uncover some very embarrassing copies of my tunes and videos! And yes, I warn you, I am planning a modest 2918 tour.

3. A few of my other interests include hiking and other outdoor activities, travel, fitness, motorcycling, sports cars, birding (I also write the Bird Lover’s mystery series), cooking and pets (at its peak, the clan included one dog, two turtles and seven cats!).

4. I am a high school dropout. I quit high school out of extreme boredom at the end of my junior year. However, within a few months, I was enrolled at the junior level at university where I studied anthropology, in general, and Mesoamerican archaeology, in particular. I got my BA in two years, did some graduate work then pursued the life of a starving writer and musician working as needed at dozens of factory, trade and labor jobs, other times working as a copywriter and editor, and even started some businesses. I’m happy to report, I now spend my days doing what I always wanted to do – writing and making music.

5. Like Kitty Karlyle (from my Kitty Karlyle Gourmet Pet Chef mystery series), and unlike Maggie Miller who pokes serious fun at her sister, Donna, for her dietary choices, I am a vegetarian. Like Maggie Miller, I once decided to open a beignet café myself! Having tried it, I learned something very important: I am a much better writer than I am café owner!

Visit Glenn’s website and click here for more information on the Maggie Miller mystery series.

November UK and March US Editor’s Pick – THE MAGIC CHAIR MURDER by Diane Janes

The Magic Chair Murder

This month’s Editor’s Pick is from Kate Lyall Grant, publisher.

The first in a brand-new traditional mystery series, set in the north of England in 1929, THE MAGIC CHAIR MURDER introduces us to two very likeable amateur sleuths in Frances Black and Tom Dod, and represents an intriguing new departure for romantic suspense author Diane Janes. The action kicks off when a committee member of a local literary society disappears, only for her body to turn up two days later. Teaming up to uncover the truth behind her death, Frances and Tom unearth a series of disturbing secrets surrounding their fellow society members.

At first glance, this is a gentle murder mystery redolent of the traditional Golden Age detection fiction of Agatha Christie and Dorothy L. Sayers – yet all is not quite as it seems. Beneath the icy politeness and genteel good manners demanded by the rigid social mores and stifling conventions of the period lurk dangerous passions, all the more savage, when finally unleashed, for having been repressed for so long.  There are seriously dark undertones here, ensuring that the story is rather more vicious than it appears on the surface; the characters’ wild and uncontrolled emotions reflected in the wildness and savagery of the bleak Lancashire landscape that surrounds them. I also particularly relished the period detail, which is lovingly and painstakingly evoked: this is a world still reeling from the after-effects of the First World War; where a population still grieving for their lost menfolk is just beginning to experience the distant rumblings of the onset of World War Two.

Cunningly crafted, with its plentiful red herrings, credible suspects and unexpected twists and turns, the plot kept me entertained, absorbed and intrigued throughout, right up to the surprising denouement.  In short, I think this is the start of a highly promising new series and I hope we’ll be seeing a lot more of Frances and Tom in many mysteries to come.

Visit our website for more information on this title.

Behind the Book – Vanished by Karen E. Olson

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Baguettes, café au lait, the Eiffel Tower, houseboats along the Seine. Paris is one of my favorite cities. I discovered its charms on my honeymoon, which is perhaps a bit of a cliché, but it really is a perfect place for romance. My love for the city was also inherited, in a way, from my mother-in-law, who was an art historian and spent a lot of time doing research there throughout her life. My husband and daughter and I traveled with her and my father-in-law to Paris in 2009, and seeing it through Edith’s eyes was special for all of us. And when my family went back and rented an apartment for a week, we truly felt Parisian as we frequented the neighborhood markets and navigated an area with few tourists.

It was that trip that made me start thinking about setting a book there.

Tina Adler, the computer hacker in my Black Hat series, was merely a speck of an idea at that point. But when I began writing HIDDEN, without even thinking about it, I realized that she’d spent summers in Paris with her grandmother and spoke fluent French. Which worked really well when she went to Quebec in SHADOWED. I wanted Tina to go to Paris, but because she’s off the grid, it needed to happen more organically than just going there. She needed a real reason. So when she discovers Zeke Chapman is there and possibly in trouble, it’s perfect.

Some of the action in VANISHED takes place in the neighborhood where we rented our apartment, near République in the Marais. Since it’s been four years, I relied on photos from our trip and used my skills as a former newspaper travel editor to bring the city alive for my readers. We used the ATM machine at the corner that I describe in the book. A Google street view – an author’s best friend – showed that the corner was blocked off by construction now, but since this is fiction, I didn’t really have a problem with that.

Will Tina stay in Paris? Sadly, no. But I was happy to spend some time there with her, and dream of the next time I can visit the City of Light.

Visit our website for information on this title and previous titles in the series.

 

 

 

Did You Know . . . this about hackers?

9780727887559_FCBefore I started VANISHED, I found a video online that showed someone pulling a debit card skimmer off an ATM machine. The video explained how the skimmer worked and showed what it looks like inside. This fascinated and horrified me, as skimmers can be on any ATM anywhere, or even at gas pumps at the gas station. All of our personal information is available on a small magnetic strip on a card that is so easily compromised.

According to an article in Consumer Reports, FICO Card Alert Services reported a 70 percent increase in the number of debit cards compromised at ATMs in 2016, and the number of card readers and merchant devices hacked was up 30 percent. Hackers can be caught when they go to retrieve the skimmers, but more and more hackers are using Bluetooth technology and they are able to access the information wirelessly or through texts, so they never have to go back to the machines. The hackers then put the information online in a carding forum and sell it.

All of this became the centerpiece of the book. The scariest thing might be what’s perceived as the most mundane. While the rest of the world is watching the hacking of elections, I wanted to show how we are at our most vulnerable in our daily lives.

Previous titles in the Black Hat Thriller series. For more information visit our website.