#BookExtract: SONG OF THE DAMNED by Sarah Rayne

song of the damned

Having undertaken an assignment at Cresacre Abbey School, researcher Phineas Fox discovers that curious legends about the school’s past still linger, including the fate of a group of nuns who disappeared 200 years before. What happened to them? And who is the mysterious Ginevra, the shadowy figure whose true identity has never been known?

 

 

 

A macabre liturgy. A mysterious carving. The new Phineas Fox mystery sees him trying to solve an intriguing 200-year-old mystery. Have a sneaky read of this book extract…

Gina’s arms were starting to ache from being strung up against the wall; she dragged at the silk belt and the handkerchief again, praying for one of them to rip, but neither did.

The macabre singing had stopped. She listened, but could not hear anything. Or could she? The sounds were so faint they were almost sounds that it was impossible to be sure. They might simply be echoes of this cottage’s past – of the long-ago monks whose priory had stood on this land centuries earlier.

Were they peering at her across the centuries, those monks, chattering their rosary beads together, telling each other that this was the wanton, wicked Gina Chandos, the girl who had done the forbidden things with a man, and who deserved to be the victim of a sacred murder?

But Gina would never believe she deserved this, not if a hundred dead monks hissed and gibbered at her, and not if a thousand rosaries chattered and rattled and swung to and fro like cracked bones.

She moved slightly in the small, cramped space, and as she did so, something moved with her – something that was on her right-hand side, something that was impossibly close to her.

A hand came out of the dark enclosed space and cold fingers closed around her.

SONG OF THE DAMNED is out now in the UK and from 1 November in the US. Click here for more details.

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Did You Know? THE SIDEMAN by Caro Ramsay

sideman

DI Costello has resigned. Convinced that George Haggerty murdered his wife and son despite his cast-iron alibi, Costello has gone solo, determined to expose a ruthless killer without being hampered by police protocol. But is she right about Haggerty’s guilt? And where has she disappeared to?

 

 

 

“A solid police procedural with more twists and turns than some of Scotland’s dangerously narrow roads” Kirkus Reviews

The dramatic Scottish backdrop plays a large role in Caro Ramsay’s latest Anderson & Costello thriller, and she has a fascinating fact to share . . .

In Tyndrum Argyll a small lochen nestles in the glen. On the shore lies a large stone with an engraving of a claymore – a sword over a metre long and very heavy. History would tell us that in 1306, Robert the Bruce came this way while pursued by King Edward’s army. He was cornered, he fought hard against the odds, losing his army and his horses. One of the enemy grabbed his cloak and pulled Robert from his mount. Robert killed his foe, and then, to make good his escape, he threw his heavy sword into the lochan where it remains to this day. Protected by The Lady Of The Lake.
Where have we heard that before?
Well, I had a really good look and couldn’t see any weaponry lying around, but the Lochan Of The Lost Sword made its way into THE SIDEMAN.

THE SIDEMAN is out now in the UK and from 1 October in the US. Read more here.

Five things you might not know about… Simon R. Green

murder in the dark

Ishmael Jones has been despatched to assist a group of scientists who are investigating a mysterious black hole which has appeared on a Somerset hillside. Could it really be a doorway to another dimension? When one of the scientists disappears into the hole – with fatal consequences – Ishmael Here aremust prove whether it was an accident . . . or murder.

 

 

 

Mind the gap . . . The latest Ishmael Jones paranormal mystery features a rather creepy and sinister black hole. What happened to the scientist who disappeared down it? We were intrigued – and slightly spooked! – throughout this gripping read. 

Find out five things you might not know about the wonderful Simon R. Green:

  1.  Books I’ll always keep: Salem’s Lot by Stephen King. Inquiries of Doctor Eszterhazy by Avram Davidson. Our Lady of Darkness by Fritz Leiber. They all changed the way I write, but showing me what else was possible.
  2. My favourite bookshop will always be Dark They Were And Golden-Eyed, the very first sf&f specialist bookshop, in Berwick Road, Soho. A truly magical place, full of amazing books.
  3.  Movies: Star Wars, Alien, And Then There Were None, Carpenter’s The Fog, and The Cat and the Canary (Bob Hope version).
  4. I ride motorcycles, and I appear in open air Shakespeare productions
  5. I once wrestled a ghost. Yes, really.

MURDER IN THE DARK is out now in the UK and is available from 1 December in the US. Read more here.

THREE MARYS by Glenn Cooper: The Power of Miracles

three marys

Cal Donovan investigates an impossible miracle. Three Catholic teenage girls called Mary, from different countries, are pregnant. All three are proven virgins. When two of the Marys disappear, Cal must uncover the truth, even if it puts his own and others’ lives at stake. Could this miracle cause the collapse of the Catholic faith?

 

 

 

Three impossible births. Three incredible miracles. One deadly secret. The eagerly anticipated follow-up to SIGN OF THE CROSS is out now in the UK! Miracles are at its core, and author Glenn Cooper speaks about the power they hold below.

This book is fundamentally about the power of miracles and in a way, the central role miracles have played in the foundation the world’s religions. In THREE MARYS, Cal Donovan, professor of the history of religion at the Harvard Divinity School, is asked by Pope Celestine to investigate the miraculous pregnancies of three girls named Mary, all of whom are, without a doubt, virgins. Such is the clamor about these virgin conceptions and subsequent virgin births that the Catholic Church faces its greatest schism since the emergence of Protestantism in the 14th century.

In researching the book, the power of miracles in sustaining religious faith came into sharp focus. Perhaps no one encapsulated the concept better than Pope John Paul II when he said simply that miracles are a call to faith. The miracle, he wrote, is organically linked with the word of God the revealer. It is a “sign” of his presence and action—a particularly striking sign.

The central role of miracles in Christianity is beautifully illustrated by an anecdote involving the 3rd American president, Thomas Jefferson who had a pet project of taking a sharp knife to his family Bible. Jefferson had little patience for Biblical miracles. He felt they detracted from what ought to be the Bible’s overriding teachings—Jesus’s moral and philosophical teachings. So he excised all passages of the New Testament that made mention of miracles. The resulting length of the so-called Jefferson Bible was only half that of the original!

All the major religions of the world rely heavily on miracles, none more so than the Catholic Church which invests heavily via the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints, tasked with recommending sainthood for people who have been confirmed as performing at least two miracles. Here are a couple of surprising statistics:

How many saints have been canonized by Pope Francis since his pontificate began in 2013?

885

What percentage of evangelical Christians believe that miracles happen in the modern world?

90

THREE MARYS is out now in the UK and is available from 1 December in the US. More details here!

#BookExtract: A BAD BAD THING by Elena Forbes

bad

When DI Eve West is suspended from duty, she receives help from an unexpected quarter. Hardened criminal John Duran says he’ll help clear her name if she investigates a miscarriage of justice in return. But why is Duran so keen to help a fellow inmate convicted of the murder of a stable-girl? And why has he chosen Eve to look into the case?

 

 

 

When a police operation goes catastrophically wrong, DI Eve West isn’t expecting help from an unexpected quarter – a criminal she helped put away many years before. Is there more to John Duran’s offer to help Eve clear her name if she investigates a possible miscarriage of justice than meets the eye? This first in a new series is a multi-layered mystery that packs a real punch! Check out this deliciously creepy #bookextract below.

She was about to go back inside when she heard a noise. It
sounded like the snap of a branch and it came from the woodland
area just beyond the cottage boundary. She stood still and listened.
Silence. A cold winter moon had slid out from behind a patch of
cloud. It was almost full and shone brightly on the frosty fields
and garden below, but the woods were black and she couldn’t
make out anything beyond the perimeter. She heard another sound,
some sort of hurried rustling in the undergrowth, followed by the
crack of another branch. It could be deer, or maybe a badger,
something largish and relatively weighty, but she wanted to make
sure. Using her phone as a torch, she followed the path around
to the side of the house where the hedge finished and a makeshift
fence started, and shone her torch into the trees beyond. The beam
of light was weak, but she picked up a movement.

‘Who’s there?’ she shouted.

No answer. She grabbed one of the posts and climbed up onto
the fence, stepping carefully over the barbed wire that ran along
the top rail and dropping almost silently onto the stretch of rough
grass on the other side.

‘Hello? Who’s there?’ As she started walking towards the
woods, she heard the crack of breaking branches, the noise now
further away, moving swiftly up the hill in the direction of the
main road. Even a large deer wouldn’t make such a din. Someone
had been watching her.

A BAD BAD THING is out now in the UK and is published 1 December in the UK. More details here.

#BookExtract: THE LAST NIGHT OUT by Catherine O’Connell

Last night out

After her bachelorette party, Maggie Trueheart wakes up hungover and in bed with a stranger. Then she’s hit with the harrowing news of Angie’s murder; her friend who had been at the party last night. In the build-up to the wedding day, more secrets are revealed and the murderer zeros in on another victim… Can the killer be stopped in time?

 

 

It’s a chilling race against the clock to catch a determined killer in this dark psychological thriller. Who is lying and who is telling the truth? Will Maggie make it down the aisle? Read a #bookextract from the first two pages below…

PRESENT DAY

I sit alone in the Music Tent, in the back, away from any others. Rain pellets the pavilion’s roof, dulling the atonal chords of the Schoenberg piano concerto. The dissonant music brings to mind how imperfection can be beautiful. A young cellist rushes in late and squirms into his seat in the orchestra. The change in the conductor’s demeanor is barely perceivable, but it is clear he has taken note of the musician’s tardiness. Is this a career-changing mistake on the cellist’s part? It could well be. Music is a competitive field.

I wonder how many outcomes have hinged on such cringeworthy moments: how many lives have been indelibly changed as a result of one misstep? Whether by choice or by deflection, the consequences of the alternate path can be dire. I ponder how my life might have turned out if not for my great misstep. Quite differently, I am certain.
There is comfort in knowing I was not directly responsible for Angela’s death. Though over a quarter century has passed since that night, it still creeps into my thoughts with undue frequency. And when I think of how my life turned out in the aftermath, there is always a twinge of guilt.

The rain ceases pounding just as the music comes to a rousing finish. The orchestra stands to thunderous applause, the tardy cellist rising alongside the others. Something about his lateness has appealed to me, and the realization comes in a flash. It is not too late to tell the story. It is never too late to out the truth. I slip from the tent ahead of the crowd and hurry across the parking lot to my car. As I drive home, with the peaks of the majestic Rockies rising to either side of me, I am already composing the words. By the time I arrive home, they are ready to fall into place.

So if you will, travel back with me to a warm humid Chicago night in June of 1988. Changes were in play, but no one had any idea how profound they were. Disco was gasping its last breath, both men and women wore their hair long on the sides and short on top, jeans were stonewashed and high-waisted. Cher and people who lived in trailers were the only ones with tattoos. Gays were just coming out of the closet, while AIDS was already an epidemic. Computers were a novelty to anyone outside business, email barely existed, texting was science fiction, and if anyone had a cell phone, it was nearly the size of a shoe. The hottest phone technology was redial. As women, we were the first full generation of career seekers, monetarily and sexually liberated at last. But with our roles still being challenged in a man’s world, we often settled for a lot less.

That’s a snapshot of Chicago when this story begins. While I can bear witness to my role, you, the reader, must allow for the liberties I will take in assuming voice for the others. Though there may be some inaccuracies in my interpretation of what took place, I suspect in the end my story will ring true.
Want to read more? THE LAST NIGHT OUT is available now in the UK and from 1 September in the US. Click here for further info.

KINDRED SPIRITS by Jo Bannister: The Importance of Friendship

kindred spirits

When two kidnappers attempt to snatch away Gabriel Ash’s sons outside the school gates, it’s only the intervention of his friend, Constable Hazel Best, that keeps them safe. As she investigates, Hazel uncovers disturbing information about another crime, the repercussions of which are still threatening innocent lives seventeen years later.

 

 

We were completely engrossed in the new Hazel Best and Gabriel Ash mystery with its twists and turns, and it’s always a treat to be reacquainted with Hazel and Ash and see their unlikely friendship develop. Author Jo Bannister discusses the importance of friendship in the series below.

I find it more interesting to explore friendship than romance. It takes so many different forms, expands to much wider boundaries, and doesn’t come with an operating manual.  Each friendship must set its own parameters.  Its intensity may vary with changing circumstances without necessarily being weakened, and it can last a lifetime by constantly remodelling itself.  Friendship is what love would be without sex getting in the way.

This series of books explores multiple facets of friendship. Hazel Best and Gabriel Ash have nothing in common except basic decency and friendship.  But that’s a powerful combination.  There’s not much that decent people won’t do to protect their friends.

There’s also Ash’s friendship with his dog Patience. Whether or not she talks to him – he hears her but no one else does – there’s no mistaking their devotion to one another.  Hazel has a wide range of friends, from the CID inspector at the police station where she works to the homeless youth she took in as a lodger and the gentleman farmer on whose estate she grew up.  Each relationship is unique, and important in making her who she is: a strong, kind, confident young woman with a drive to help her fellow-man.

Perhaps it’s as well that Hazel and Ash are good at friendship, because neither has been successful in love. Ash’s wife vanished with their children: he thought they were all dead and it was his fault.  And Hazel’s most recent lover was a control freak who tried to remake her to his own blueprint and punished her when she rebelled.

With track-records like that, it might be better if they stick to what they’re good at. But the longer they’re together, the more times they rescue one another from disaster, the greater the danger that one day they’ll risk turning their friendship into something else.  If they do, they’ll never be able to go back . . .

KINDRED SPIRITS is out now in the UK and from 1 September in the US. Read more here.

SPRING BREAK by Gerald Elias: fiction inspired by real stories

spring break

Reclusive, blind violin pedagogue Daniel Jacobus is about to become enmeshed in a culture of sexual harassment and its cover-up at the highest levels. When a faculty member dies of natural causes, only the curious behaviour of a violin student at Jacobus’s master class is an indication to him that something may be terribly amiss . . .

 

 

 

In recent times the spotlight has fallen on the #MeToo movement and misconduct in many different fields, including the music industry. Gerald Elias writes about the inspiration behind the latest Daniel Jacobus mystery, SPRING BREAK, and his hope that the story will empower others.

This is very difficult. I wrote a book, SPRING BREAK, which was released in hardcover in the summer of 2017. It is a mystery, and like the first five installments of the Daniel Jacobus series, is intended to be entertaining. But there’s another side to SPRING BREAK. It confronts the issue of sexual misconduct by men in power in music conservatories. The plot and characters were developed from stories I had heard from students, including former students of mine, and from articles in the media in which courageous young women – mostly but not exclusively – were beginning to speak out about the sexual abuse and harassment they had suffered at the hands of music faculty. They had gone to the media because time after time their stories had fallen upon administrators’ deaf ears.

On July 26, a carefully researched story in the Washington Post outed the long time concertmaster of the Cleveland Orchestra, among other luminaries in the field. Classical music has been my profession for over forty years. As a concert violinist and university professor I know, know of, or have worked with many of the stellar musicians whose names have drawn headlines in the past year. But those headlines were not for their musical achievements. It’s intensely painful to find out they are sexual predators. But, and we must never forget this, it’s not nearly as painful as what their victims have endured and will carry with them for the rest of their lives.

The paperback version of SPRING BREAK will be released in the UK in August and in the US in October. The story is fiction. The characters are fiction. But the issue is far too distressingly real and immediate. It is the epitome of ambivalence for me to try to seek commercial success by promoting a book on this subject. However, I do so because, if in concert with the #MeToo movement, it helps sustain public attention toward the issue of sexual misconduct and empower more people to have their voices heard, it has the potential to do some good. And I do so also because I’ve been heartened by the encouragement of some of these brave young musicians for daring to write critically of the ills of my own profession. As I wrote at beginning of SPRING BREAK: Dedicated to music students, especially female ones, because it’s hard enough to learn to play the violin.

SPRING BREAK is available now in the UK and the US. Find out more here.

Editor’s Pick Sept 2018 UK/Jan 2019 US: THE HANGING PSALM by Chris Nickson

This month’s Editor’s Pick is THE HANGING PSALM by Chris Nickson.

hanging psalm

 

Welcome to Leeds.

And welcome to 1820. THE HANGING PSALM is the first in a brand-new historical mystery series from acclaimed writer Chris Nickson, set in Regency Leeds and introducing thief-taker Simon Westow. Fans of the genre are in for a real treat!

Simon Westow is a skilled thief-taker who has a comfortable business finding and returning his clients’ stolen possessions. But he’s never been asked to find and return a person before…

When John Milner, a successful Leeds businessman, asks Simon to find his kidnapped daughter, Hannah, he’s suddenly facing a challenge like no other. Is it a challenge too far? Accompanied by his enigmatic and capable young assistant, Jane, Simon takes to the shadowy streets of Leeds for information, and the pair soon find themselves confronting danger at every turn. But Hannah’s disappearance is just the start. The roots of her kidnapping are darker than Simon could ever have imagined, and he soon realises that he is being taken on a journey into his own past – a journey that will lead him to an old enemy desperate for revenge. As he closes in on Hannah’s plight, the drama is only just beginning.

There is so much to get excited about in this book. Anyone who’s read one of Chris’s Tom Harper or Richard Nottingham novels will come to THE HANGING PSALM with high expectations, and Chris writes about the city of Leeds and draws his characters with all the skill and authority we’ve come to expect, peppering the story with a number of exhilarating twists and turns. It starts in the Moot Hall, with Simon answering questions before a committee about his time in the workhouse as a boy. As he recollects his experiences, the brutality of life in the workhouse and the past he has escaped from is brought to life in startling detail, and we quickly get the measure of Simon as a character. He has suffered but isn’t broken – on the cusp of turning thirty, he has a wife and two children, and from nothing he has built a comfortable life for himself and his family in the harsh environment of Regency Leeds. His resilience and sense of justice come to the fore as he tries to find Hannah. It’s clear that Simon is someone who can never be written off, even in his darkest moments, and I was immediately drawn to him.

Also worthy of a special mention is Simon’s sidekick, Jane. Like Simon, she is a complex character with a harrowing past. Jane prides herself on her ability to blend into the background, but this young woman is anything but ordinary: enigmatic, courageous yet vulnerable, a lost soul with a sharp mind and lightning quick reactions, she really is one of a kind, and I can’t wait to see her character grow in future books. Together, Simon and Jane are a fascinating and formidable pairing.

Last, but by no means least, there’s Regency Leeds at its vibrant best: the imposing mills dotting the landscape, the savagery of the workhouses, the immeasurable gap between the rich and the poor. Nickson brings the gritty, bustling streets of Leeds to life, particularly at night. He knows the history of this proud industrial city and its geography like the back of his hand – knowledge which is infused into Simon’s character as he navigates its menacing streets.

With a cast of characters as intriguing and layered as the plot itself – which keeps us guessing with some richly dramatic, heart-stopping moments – the HANGING PSALM is a brilliant first instalment in an exciting new historical mystery series. I can’t wait to get my hands on the second in the series – a genuinely mouth-watering prospect.

Watch out Tom Harper and Richard Nottingham: Leeds has a new hero!

THE HANGING PSALM is available from 28 September in the UK and 1 January in the US. Find out more here.

THE SAVAGE SHORE by David Hewson: bookish inspiration

savage

Nic Costa has been sent undercover to the Calabrian coast to bring in the head of the feared ‘Ndrangheta. But the deception is taking its toll. Out of their depth in a lawless part of Italy, Costa and his team find themselves pitched as much against one another as the mob. Is Nic getting too close to the enemy for comfort?

 

 

 

Which books have inspired David’s writing? Two in particular stand out . . .

I, Claudius

I, CLAUDIUS by Robert Graves. As a kid, it first inspired me to want to go to Italy.

Godfather

THE GODFATHER by Mario Puzo taught me you can be entertaining while telling deep and dark tales.

I used to be a journalist for The Times, Sunday Times and Independent, and first visited Italy as a reporter nearly forty years ago.

THE SAVAGE SHORE by David Hewson is available now in the UK and from 1 November in the US. Find out more here.