Editor’s Pick August 2018 UK/December 2018 US: A BAD, BAD THING by Elena Forbes

 

This month’s Editor’s Pick is A BAD, BAD THING by Elena Forbes.

bad

We are delighted to welcome acclaimed psychological thriller writer Elena Forbes to the Severn House list with A BAD, BAD THING, the first in a brand-new mystery series featuring former police officer Eve West, who is drawn into a dark and complex case when she’s asked to investigate a miscarriage of justice.

As the novel opens, Eve is suspended from duty after a police operation goes catastrophically wrong. Receiving help from an unexpected quarter – a criminal she helped put away many years before – Eve feels she has no choice but to agree to his request to investigate a possible miscarriage of justice in return. But why is a hardened criminal like John 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?

Teaming up with crusading journalist Dan Cooper, Eve begins to uncover disturbing flaws in the original police investigation. As her enquiries progress, it becomes clear that Eve has been keeping secrets of her own – and when those secrets begin to be dragged to the surface, she comes to realize that she has been plunged into a case more complex and sinister than she ever imagined.

Just some of the many elements that make A BAD, BAD THING an exceptionally strong whodunit are, not least, the heroine herself: Eve is smart and strong, but not invincible, and this makes her very accessible and her mysterious backstory ever more intriguing. Then there’s the multi-layered plot, which contains more than enough unexpected twists and turns to keep even the most seasoned mystery reader glued to the page: on one level there’s the intriguing background of Eve herself; on another, there’s the fact that she may well have been set up in the shocking opening episode – and it’s clear that the criminal John Duran has some strange knowledge of how and why; while on the third level there’s the mystery surrounding the stable-girl’s murder; and the questionable innocence of her alleged killer, who has been serving time ever since. There are some fabulous twists at the end, when all the mysteries begin to unravel and tie together in many unexpected ways.

And if that’s not enough to pique a reader’s curiosity, I don’t know what is!

I would highly recommend A BAD, BAD THING to fans of complex psychological thrillers such as those of Clare Mackintosh, Tana French and M J Arlidge.

A BAD, BAD THING is available 31 August in the UK and 1 December in the US. Read more here.

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We’re recruiting! Publishing Assistant role at Severn House Publishing

Come and work with us!

Publishing Assistant

Due to the recent promotion of our current Editorial Assistant, we are hiring again.
Severn House is a vibrant independent publishing house, specialising in commercial fiction, especially crime and thrillers, romantic sagas, horror and historical fiction for primarily the British and American library markets. In 2017 we were acquired by Canongate Books, but remain independent within the group. We are looking for a meticulous and energetic Publishing Assistant to join our small and dynamic team.

Based in London, this entry-level position will support the Editorial and Marketing teams in all aspects of the publishing process – from the moment of acquisition to publication and beyond.

The key tasks you will be responsible for include (but are not limited to) the following:

• Supporting the editorial team and specifically the Publisher
• Liaising with authors, agents and freelancers to ensure individual projects are on track according to the publishing schedule
• Collating and checking proofs and covers for print
• Helping maintain up-to-date bibliographical data within Biblio
• Creating prelims for new titles
• Working with colleagues to create targeted marketing campaigns across Facebook, Twitter and company newsletters
• Loading titles on to NetGalley and approving reviewer requests
• Reading and reporting on new submissions

Some experience of editorial, marketing or production processes of a trade book publisher would be an advantage. A keen eye for detail as well as exceptional interpersonal and organisational skills are essential.

Starting salary will be £21K plus benefits.

Please email your CV and covering letter by Friday 13th July to jobs@severnhouse.com. Only successful applicants will be acknowledged.

 

 

July US titles out today!

 

Cats, novelists, country houses, iconic women, politics, Victorian Leeds, mental turmoil, secret missions, nuns and royalty . . . These new reads out now in the States are bursting with intrigue!

murder1MURDER TAKES A TURN by Eric Brown

A weekend at the grand home of a successful novelist leads to murder in the new Langham & Dupré mystery. 

Langham’s literary agent, Charles Elder, receives a cryptic letter inviting him to spend the weekend at the Cornish home of successful novelist Denbigh Connaught. Accompanying Charles to Connaught House, Langham and his wife Maria discover that they are not the only guests. And when a body is discovered in Connaught’s study, dark secrets that haunt the past of each and every guest – including Charles Elder himself – are uncovered.

Find out more here.

tin godTHE TIN GOD by Chris Nickson

When Superintendent Tom Harper’s wife is threatened during an election campaign, the hunt for the attacker turns personal.

Standing for election as a Poor Law Guardian, Tom Harper’s wife Annabelle and the other female candidates have been receiving anonymous, threatening letters. The threats turn deadly with carefully-targeted explosions. The only clue Harper has is a scrap of paper containing a fragment from an old folk song. But what is its significance?

Find out more here.

red hand of furyTHE RED HAND OF FURY by R.N. Morris

A series of bizarre suicides leads Detective Inspector Silas Quinn to revisit his own troubled past . . .

June, 1914. Following three, seemingly unrelated suicides, DI Silas Quinn knows he must uncover the link between the three men if he is to discover what caused them to take their own lives. The one clue is a card each victim was carrying, depicting a crudely-drawn red hand. To find out what it means, Quinn must revisit his own dark history.

Find out more here.

sabotage in the secret

SABOTAGE IN THE SECRET CITY by Diane Fanning

Can research chemist-sleuth Libby Clark uncover the traitor within in this gripping World War II mystery?   

May 1945. Harry S. Truman has become president, the Allied Forces are closing in on Berlin and the research scientists at the secret facility in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, are doing their bit to bring the war to a conclusion. But a campaign of small acts of sabotage convinces Libby that one of their number is deliberately trying to delay the mission. But when the pranks turn deadly, can Libby unmask the traitor within?

Find out more here.

daeth of a novice

DEATH OF A NOVICE by Cora Harrison

A young nun’s death raises disturbing questions in the compelling new Reverend Mother mystery.

When new young nun, Sister Gertrude, is found dead inside a wooden shed, the Reverend Mother delves into her background and finds some puzzling anomalies. Could there be a link between her death and the gunpowder explosion on Spike Island? The answers to this question and more must be found if the Reverend Mother is to catch a vicious murderer.

Find out more here.
cross my pathCROSS MY PATH by Clea Simon

Private Investigator Care is riding on the wave of success, but is she about to come crashing off?

Care’s reputation as a private investigator is growing. An elderly woman seeks Care’s help in finding out what happened to her brother. Blackie senses he’s met this woman before, sometime before he became a cat. But who is she – and what is their connection? At the same time, a dockworker asks Care to find a colleague who’s gone missing, and the investigation takes a disturbing new twist . . .

Find out more here.

queen's progressQUEEN’S PROGRESS by M J Trow

Kit Marlowe must make sure Queen Elizabeth’s royal progress goes to plan, but there are problems ahead.

May, 1591. Queen Elizabeth decides to embark on a Royal Progress, and Kit Marlowe is sent ahead to ensure all goes smoothly. But Marlowe’s mission is dogged by disaster with the discovery of bodies along the way. Are the incidents linked? Is there a conspiracy to sabotage the Queen’s Progress? To uncover the truth, Marlowe must come up with a fiendishly clever plan.

Find out more here.

Behind the Book: 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?

 

 

The north of Scotland features some of the most dramatic and stunning scenery in the UK, but which parts in particular inspired Caro Ramsay so much she featured them in her new Anderson & Costello thriller, THE SIDEMAN? Find out below! 

In the North of Scotland runs the ‘North Coast 500’, a popular tourist route that can be deadly on the off season. It includes the Bealach na Bà, (The Gaelic translation is The Pass Of The Cattle but my translation is ‘ burnt-out clutch’) a beautiful single-track route, the third highest road in Scotland and the most dangerous. At the top is a small car park surrounded by cairns. On a warm spring day, it was quite pleasant and the view went on for miles. The road closes during the winter months, the gates close, no traffic allowed as it is too dangerous.

The surrounding terrain is the most inhospitable and bleak in the UK, often used by certain elements of the armed forces for honing their survival skills.
And I knew I was going to put a body there. In midwinter, at midnight.

There is also the Cave of Smoo, the most dramatic coastline cave in the UK – unique as it is formed from both the sea and freshwater burns. They are brutally striking and the perfect place to hide a body. Or so I thought.

We went to investigate, parking the car at Durness, a ten-minute walk to the caves. We left the scenic beach in brilliant sunshine. Two minutes later the weather changed and we were soaked through. Five minutes after that I was holding on to a fence to stop me being blown off the cliff. At the mouth of the cave, there were about fifty Japanese tourists sheltering from the elements. All of them looking anxiously at the raging sea. Nobody was looking at the cave. It was busier than Oxford Street on Christmas Eve. It didn’t make it into THE SIDEMAN.

PS. There is an underground river from this cave into an another. You can, if you are very brave, climb down a ladder into a small subterranean boat. Then you can lie down in the boat and, by pushing your hands on the roof of the rock tunnel, make your way to the other cave. I was told that the rock face is about four inches above your own face at some parts. You do need to watch the time as you need to get out again before the tide closes off your escape route. Not for me.

I was walking along an overgrown path on the shore of Prince Edward Province on Lake Ontario, no signs of life anywhere, just the lapping of the waves on the rocks and the birdsong. Moving deeper into the undergrowth to investigate what appeared at the ruins of a wall, I found myself standing on something very hard. Scraping away the leaves underfoot I saw brilliant white, then black. It was a terrazzo dance floor with a gold compass engraved in the middle. Amazing!

Later I Googled the old hotel that stood there for over a hundred years, seeing sepia pictures of ladies in the high fashion of the day walked the pier as jazz musicians sat underneath in boats and entertained them.

In the blink of imagination, that hotel was transported to the north coast of Scotland…

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

 

Behind the Book: 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?

 

 

The ultimate girls’ night out ends in tragedy when Maggie Trueheart wakes up to find one of her friends has been murdered after her bachelorette party.  What inspired Catherine O’Connell to write this dark psychological thriller about six friends whose lives are changed for good after a night out?

I have always been a writer – practicing or otherwise. In an attempt to get a jumpstart on a writing career – and support myself – I worked a variety of jobs to include tending bar on Chicago’s Rush Street during the very colourful eighties. It was quite enlightening, to say the least, watching the dynamic between men and women after a few drinks. Then flash forward to the nineties when my husband and I operated a nightclub tour called The Party Bus  started with author Brad Thor, coincidentally. While Brad went on to his writing career, I was stuck at home, trying to write while answering the phones and spending weekend nights riding the Party Bus alongside overserved bachelorettes. My experiences and observations in Rush Street bars and on the Party Bus melded to create THE LAST NIGHT OUT.

THE LAST NIGHT out is available now in the UK and from 1 September in the US. Read more here.

#BookExtract: THE LUCIFER CHORD by F.G. Cottam

 

lucifer chord

Researcher Ruthie Gillespie is writing an essay on Martin Mear, lead singer with Ghost Legion, the most decadent rock band on the planet, before he disappeared without trace in 1975. Just what did happen to Martin Mear? When Ruthie’s enquiries lead her to a derelict mansion on the Isle of Wight, events take a truly terrifying turn…

 

 

This mysterious, sinister and terrifying new thriller from F G Cottam kept us on the edge of our seats, and you can have a sneaky peek at the THE LUCIFER CHORD to see why it gave us the chills by checking out this book extract:

There was a Fred Astaire patter of shoe leather on linoleum; an antic, joyful sound that signalled excitement and filled Ruthie Gillespie with terror. Her own feet felt leaden, immoveable, literally petrified. A stiff black shape skittered through the bathroom door and wheeled across the floor in front of her. It became still and was a top hat, the black silk lining coarse with ancient grease she saw, the sheen long absent from its black, moth-eaten exterior.

‘Time to make whoopee,’ the voice from inside the bathroom said, and Ruthie knew that the voice, with its tone of antique pastiche, belonged to someone from the distant past, from the time when the Fischer House revelled and thrilled, from a decade of debauchery and from someone long-dead, reluctant to be forgotten despite that.

‘Who’d have thought it, after all this time,’ the voice said. ‘Happy days are here again.’

THE LUCIFER CHORD is out now in the UK and from 1 September in the US. Got the nerves to find out more? Click here.

Did you know? LOOSE TONGUES by Chris Simms

Loose Tongues

New cop DC Sean Blake must tackle a series of bizarre and brutal killings in his first week on the job.

A series of chilling murders has left Manchester in a state of terror. Women are being found dead in their homes, their bodies arranged in the same macabre pose. Each has been strangled, her mobile phone forced down her throat. Newly-qualified Detective Constable Sean Blake has just landed a position on the investigating team. If he is to catch the killer, he knows he must think outside the box. But is he prepared for the vengeful wrath of a truly twisted mind?

Tense, compelling and dark, the victims in Chris Simms’ new thriller LOOSE TONGUES are selected in a truly chilling way . . .  

The killer in LOOSE TONGUES selects his victims through what he overhears them talking about on their phones in public. As anyone who travels by train or bus knows, there are people who don’t care if everyone around them has to listen to what they’re saying. Use of smart phones continues to grow – a study last year estimated users in the UK now spend over two hours each day on their device.

LOOSE TONGUES is available now in the UK and from 1 October in the US. Find out more here.

Did You Know? CRUISING TO MURDER by Mark McCrum

cruising

Francis Meadowes is lecturing on crime writing aboard the Golden Adventurer as it cruises down the West African coast. His fellow passengers are an eclectic group. But is any one of them capable of murder? When one of the guests is found dead in bed and a second disappears overboard, Francis is drawn into a baffling murder investigation.

 

 

We loved being at sea and navigating choppy waters with Francis Meadowes in this thoroughly entertaining mystery.  But did you know that a cruise ship is an ideal location for murder? Mark explains below…

If you wanted to bump off a nearest and dearest (or even just an unloved acquaintance), a cruise ship is still an excellent place to consider. For once a ship has steamed out of territorial waters and is on the high seas, it has also steamed out of national jurisdiction. You may have a Security Officer on board, but they are employed by the cruise line and, in legal terms, following up any incident at sea is the responsibility of the country the ship is registered in, which most likely means a state such as the Bahamas, Panama or Liberia – hardly known for the international reach of their police forces. Only seventeen per cent of those who fall overboard, for whatever reason, are rescued and live to tell the tale.

In recent years, the US has tightened up security considerably, passing the Cruise Vessel Safety and Security Act 2010, but this applies only to crimes involving US nationals or within the maritime jurisdiction of the US. Meanwhile, the ‘cruise contract’ that passengers sign before going onboard frees the cruise line itself from responsibility for a host of mishaps, as many of the loved ones of those who have died at sea have found to their cost. Many of these alarming stories are detailed on the website of the International Cruise Victims Association www.internationalcruisevictims.org

Want to find out more about Francis Meadowes and CRUISING TO MURDER? Click here.

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Ancient Law and Opera? Behind the Book: SONG OF THE DAMNED by Sarah Rayne

song of the damned

A macabre liturgy. A mysterious carving. An intriguing 200-year-old mystery for music researcher Phineas Fox to solve.

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?

 

In this fascinating feature, author Sarah Rayne explains how old laws and modern opera inspired the plot of her intriguing new mystery, SONG OF THE DAMNED.

I wasn’t expecting to find I had combined an ancient law and opera for a book, but Song of the Damned, published in July 2018 UK and 1 December US, turned out to have both elements at its heart.

It’s not, of course, so very rare for opera and the law to meet up.  In Lohengrin Wagner invokes the laws of the Holy Grail as part of the plot, while, at the other end of the spectrum, Gilbert & Sullivan light-heartedly satirize the legal system for Trial by Jury, spattering it with cheerful quarrels over breaches of promise.

But it was a far older law and a much more modern opera that inspired the plot of Song of the Damned.

In 1953, Frances Poulenc composed an opera called Dialogues of the Carmelites.Sarah Rayne1

It relates the grim and emotionally-charged, true story of the imprisonment of sixteen Carmelite nuns during the French Revolution. They were captured because of their religious beliefs, and subsequently executed. The execution seems to have been an extraordinary piece of theatre – of which Poulenc makes full use. The nuns were forced to form a queue for the guillotine, and to mount the scaffold one by one, with the most junior novice being first.  As they waited for death, they re-affirmed their religious vows aloud, and sang various hymns (reports vary as to what the hymns actually were depending on which source you use).  The singing was punctuated by the relentless fall of the guillotine for each nun, their voices gradually diminishing as each was beheaded, until, at the last, only the lone voice of the Mother Superior was to be heard. And then there was silence.

This was a scene that had considerable impact on me. The dreadful inevitability of the massive guillotine blade swishing down – the helpless progression of the nuns towards it.  But then – as is frequently the way with novelists – I began to wonder whether there might be a plot to be found in the story.  Poulenc had already made use of it, of course, and so had one or two other people. A writer called Georges Bernanos wrote a screenplay around it, and the text of that was based on an earlier short story – The Last at the Scaffold written in the early 1930s by Gertrud von le Fort.

So it looked as if the fount had been squeezed dry. Or had it?  Supposing a plot could be woven from the left-overs? Supposing those original nuns could be given links with other nuns – maybe a small convent community in a rural corner of England… And supposing Phineas Fox, the music historian whose fourth outing this was to be, found a lost medieval ritual within a locally-written piece of music – a macabre ritual and a piece of music that could be traced back to those nuns…?

So far so good.  What about the setting, though?  As anyone who has read any of my books will know, I’m keen on atmospheric settings and I’m very keen indeed on houses and buildings with intriguing histories.

It was at that point in the deliberations, and in the early and difficult stages of drafting a plot, that I came across a fragment of a very old English law.

It happened by purest chance.  One afternoon having become lost in the depths of the countryside, I drove past a field with a sign on the gate saying, ‘Infanger’s Field’.

Infanger’s Field?

The English countryside is, it must be said, liberally strewn with strange and intriguing names.  Quite near to where I live is a village called Coven.  It’s an extremely nice place, but its name is always very deliberately pronounced ‘Coe-Ven’.  Purists carefully point out that the name derives from the Anglo-Saxon, cofum¸meaning either a cove or a hut, but despite that, there are occasionally dark mutterings suggesting that the place once had witchcraft associations, and that the pronunciation was politely slurred to hide that fact.

Then there are all those instances of Glue Works Lane and Slaughter Yard. There’s Pudding Lane where the Great Fire of London reputedly started in a baker’s shop. On the other hand, there are places whose names are open to interpretation, such as Cockshutt in Shropshire, which, despite sounding like a venue for a Carry On film, is likely to derive from fowl hunting activities.  Other names are satisfyingly rooted in the past: Oxford has Brasenose College and Brasenose Lane – supposedly from the Brazen Nose door knocker of the original sixteenth century Hall.  Incredibly, though, the city also once had the now-lost Shitbarn Lane, c.1290, which ran between Oriel Street and Alfred Street.

But Infanger’s Field? 

I dashed home to scour bookshelves and the internet.  The bookshelves yielded several indignant spiders, dispossessed of their homes, and a couple of dictionaries and encyclopaedia with ageing pages but legible information.  The internet provided several alternative spellings for the word and about 3,000 search results.

And it seems that the word comes from the Old English infangene-þēof ‘Thief seized within’ or ‘in-taken-thief’.  Infangenthief or infangentheof, no matter how you spell it, was, an Anglo-Saxon arrangement, supposedly from the time of Edward the Confessor – c.1003-1066, and one of the last of the royal House of Wessex.

It apparently permitted the owners of a piece of land the right to mete out justice to miscreants captured within their estates, regardless of where the poor wretches actually lived.  On occasions it also allowed the culprits to be chased in other jurisdictions, and brought back for trial.  The justice that was meted out was often extremely severe – there was no cheerful Gilbert & Sullivan principle of letting the punishment fit the crime in those days.

The privilege of exercising this law was granted to feudal lords, and inevitably to religious houses.  And later, when the Normans came barrelling in they made cheerful use of it as well.  It helped keep the rebellious Saxons in their place. The law fell more or less into disuse in the fourteenth century and all-but vanished from England’s history.  Except for the occasional name here and there.  Like Infanger’s Field.

Sarah Rayne3

I have no idea if it was a fragment from the past I encountered that day – perhaps a shred of some long-ago feudal baron who had named a field as a warning to miscreants.  And I’m doubtful if I could find the field again.

But there it was.  A long-ago storyline involving a group of nuns in the French Revolution and a macabre musical ritual.  And there, too, was the potential for an atmospheric house that could be given the name Infanger’s Cottage.  A house whose present-day occupants might find themselves forced to make use of the ancient law to guard the secrets that dwelled in the cottage’s foundations – secrets that stretched back to those long-ago nuns and the ritual that had been part of their mysterious story.

SONG OF THE DAMNED is published 31 July in the UK and 1 November in the US. Read more here.

 

 

July UK/November US Editor’s Pick: THE SAVAGE SHORE by David Hewson

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

savage

After a seven-year gap, we are delighted to announce that bestselling author David Hewson is picking up the reins again with Nic Costa, the Caravaggio-loving young Roman detective who first made an appearance in 2003’s A SEASON FOR THE DEAD. In THE SAVAGE SHORE, the 10th in the series, Costa and his team are taken far from their urban comfort zone when they’re sent to infiltrate the mob in a remote part of southern Italy.

Costa has been sent undercover to Italy’s beautiful yet remote Calabrian coast to bring in the head of the feared ‘Ndrangheta, who has offered to turn state witness for reasons of his own. Hoping to reel in the biggest prize the state police have seen in years, the Butcher of Palermo, Costa is aware the stakes are high. But the constant deception is taking its toll. Out of their depths in a lawless part of Italy where they are the outcasts, not the men in the hills, with their shotguns and rough justice, the Roman detectives find themselves pitched as much against one another as the mob.

A wonderfully vivid and absorbing read, steeped as it is in the rich culture, myth, history and geography of southern Italy, and brutally exposing the dark underbelly which lurks beneath the seeming rural idyll of the mountainous Aspromonte region, THE SAVAGE SHORE, with its twisty-turny plot, kept me gripped and guessing right to the end as to exactly who was double-crossing whom as the grand game of deception played itself out.

From the vivid opening scene involving a shockingly unexpected shoot-out at the Zanzibar inn, through the tension-filled scenes featuring the waiting Roman detectives, restless, nervy, bored and bickering, and the equally nerve-wracking episodes involving their undercover colleague Costa’s struggles to maintain his façade as a trusted member of the mob – the committed vegetarian having to grit his teeth and bear it as he must first harpoon and then consume fresh, raw swordfish – I was kept on tenterhooks as I wondered what exactly would happen as the final confrontation with the feared Butcher of Palermo loomed inexorably nearer.

If you enjoy a stylishly written, morally complex and intelligent thriller, where nothing is quite what it seems, THE SAVAGE SHORE is for you.

Find out more here.