Review of The Dark Web Written by Christopher Lowery Written by Daniel Stubbings

Book Synopsis

The tentacles of the Dark Web are tightening their grip around the world. From Moscow to Shanghai, Washington, UK, the Middle East and Europe, nowhere is beyond their reach.

When a computer scientist dies mysteriously in Dubai, Jenny Bishop’s nephew, Leo Stewart, is hired to replace him. Leo’s life is soon in danger, but he is the only person who can find the key to prevent an impending global cyber-attack. With the help of Jenny and old and new friends, he must neutralise the threat before the world’s vital services are brought to a halt in a flagrant attempt to once again redraw the borders of Europe and Asia. Can the deadly conspiracy be exposed before the world is thrust into a new Cold War?

Christopher Lowery delivers a gripping final chapter in the bestselling African Diamonds trilogy, with a thriller that is powerfully resonant of today’s global dangers, hidden behind the ever-changing technological landscape.

The perfect read for fans of Gerald Seymour, Wilbur Smith and Frederick Forsyth.

My Review

After reading the first two instalments in the African Diamonds Trilogy. I was excited to see how Christopher would wrap up this intense series of thrillers. Unfortunately, it didn’t live up to my exceptions.

Now this isn’t a haters review. As there were elements of the book which I really enjoyed. Some of the descriptions used for the hollowing murder scenes were described in such detail I was left feeling I was the murderer. All my senses taking a beating as I read on to discover what happened next. By the time I finished reading I stared down at my hands excepting to see blood.

However, for every scene that got my blood pumping others within the book seemed to have no purpose. Just away for the author to fill time as they figured out what to do next. Causing the excitement and tension created by the previous scene to dwindle, as characters went into long-winded explanations regarding the workings of computers, and their companies’ hierarchies which left me screaming for the momentum to be maintained.

The main issue I had was that none of the main characters had any characteristics or features, which helped the reader distinguish one from the other. As the story unfolded I found myself having to go back to remind myself who characters were, and their importance to the story. In the end this became exhausting and forced me to do the one thing I have never with a book.  I did not finish. I gave it two hundred pages and thought I really don’t care about any of these characters or plot and placed it back on my bookshelf.

Now if you love the dark underbelly of the internet, and like globetrotting conspiracies which take you from Moscow to Japan and are addicted to computers then I would recommend this book. Unfortunately, it wasn’t for me. It gets 3 stars for some haunting murder scenes but on the whole, I would say there are better thrillers out there.

I was sent an advance copy by Urbane Publications for an honest review this doesn’t affect my views.

The Dark Web by Christopher Lowery is released on 16th April 2018 and is available for pre-order now.

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Review of Mageborn by Stephen Aryan Written by Daniel Stubbings

Book Synopsis

Thousands died when mages sundered the earth and split the sky.
It was a war that devastated entire kingdoms.
Now one man believes eradicating magic is the only way to ensure a lasting peace. He and his followers will do anything to achieve his goal – even if it means murdering every child born with the ability.

Review

A riveting tale of mystery, intrigue, and at times mind-blowing scale, is what Stephen Aryan delivers in the first of a brand series Mageborn. Set in the same world as his Age of Darkness trilogy, Stephen weaves a complex tale of character driven fantasy always leaving you wanting more. This book was one of my most anticipated releases of the year, and I am glad to say it hasn’t disappointed.

I love the world of Age of Darkness the magic system, characters, environments, and sensory detail stayed with me long after I had finished reading the books. This book adds further to this grand world, providing us with new storylines on characters we were only shown glimpses of in the previous series to peak our interest, as well as revealing some secrets on returning characters such as my favourites Balfruss and Eloise.

This story is set 10 years after the war has taken place after the Warlock was defeated. The mysterious Red Tower has returned run by the Grey Council of Balfruss, Eloise, and Garvey helping to train children who develop the ability to use the source the well of all magic in the world. However, all isn’t running smoothly with growing fear of magic increasing everyday due to the rallying cries of soldiers, under the guidance of the complex Habreel, and mysterious Akosh who is she really? Leading to chaos throughout the West, and other countries as seekers the gold mask wearing mages tasked by the Grey Council, and the Red Tower, to discover children with the gift are attacked. Leading to witch hunts resembling the Salem witch trials, and Medieval England which I couldn’t help noticing as an influence within this story, as the fear and paranoia increases throughout the narrative all magic is threatened. Forcing our characters to make some difficult choices how will it all end?

The story is told from several points of view, giving a wider insight into the world which Stephen has created and allows threads to flow more naturally enabling a fast pace to be maintained. Resulting in epic fight scenes, and snappy dialogue which doesn’t slow down as you frantically turn the page to keep up. Stephen really does put the epic in epic fantasy.

Some of the characters I enjoyed most were Wren a young girl who is from the strict country of Drassia. Where girls are expected to conform, and respect their elders, and when their ability to access the source develops are sent straight to the Red Tower and can’t return home. The reason why I found her to be such an intriguing character, is because at the beginning she is shy just wanting to learn, trying to fit in, and make friends, which she does in the shape of Tianne a sweet timid girl who never says a bad word about anybody, and Danolph who unbeknown to them holds a talent which could impact on them all. However, this all changes when she is attacked by the school bully, displaying a power over the source which causes other students to respect her, and poses questions what can she see within the source, and what does she do that others don’t? You can’t help but fall in love with her vulnerability, and her determination as the story progresses. Forcing her to make some decisions which impact upon her present and her future.

The other character which will draw me back for the next book is Munroe. A powerful battlemage who has a complicated past, and is extremely protective of her family her son Sam, and her mercenary husband Choss.  Choss is another character which Stephen has developed which has me wondering. what did he used to be? As well the way in which Stephen leaves his story in this first installment, tore at my emotions in a way I haven’t experienced with most support characters recently in my fantasy reads. I must know what happens next because trust me it is one hell of a cliff-hanger.

However, getting back to the Munroe the reason why I think she was the one character I raced ahead during the book, so I could read her chapters. Is because of her diversity. She isn’t like most females I read in fantasies. She is a badass with magic, and hot headed which we have seen a lot in fantasy, but what makes her standout in my eyes, is that Stephen has written her with a delicacy and vulnerability which draws you in and makes you follow his cleverly written clues about her hidden past, as well as highlighting her frustrations about her abilities, and trust issues as she goes on missions for the Red Tower. Leading us as readers down many paths asking us who will she discover, and what will she hide to protect what she loves? I loved her such a strong focal point.

This book poses many questions for further additions to this already widespread world. If you love your fantasy to have well structured magic systems, strong female and male characters, mysterious towers, and more subplots than you can count. Then pick up this book a powerful addition to the fantasy genre a 5 star read.

 

Review of How to Stop Time By Matt Haig Written by Dan Stubbings

Book Synopsis

HOW MANY LIFETIMES DOES IT TAKE TO LEARN HOW TO LIVE?

Tom Hazard has a dangerous secret. He may look like an ordinary 41-year-old history teacher, but he’s been alive for centuries. From Elizabethan England to Jazz-Age Paris, from New York to the South Seas, Tom has seen it all. As long as he keeps changing his identity he can keep one step ahead of his past – and stay alive. The only thing he must not do is fall in love . .

My Review

This opening paragraph. “I am old. That is the first thing to tell you. The thing you are least likely to believe. If you saw me you would think I was about forty, but you would be very wrong. I am old- old in a way that a tree, or a quahog clam or a Renaissance painting is old.” Is all you need to know to make you read on in this astonishing book. It takes you right in opening your mind to endless possibilities. I couldn’t stop reading after those first few sentences.

I must admit that when I first heard about this book. I was afraid it would be another Interview with a Vampire, detailing the exploits of some tormented immortal as they watch the eons of time take hold. However, I was wrong Haig has been able to put his own spin on immortality. Now this doesn’t mean that Tom Hazard our main protagonist is immune from tragedies as his life unfolds. Some of the most emotional scenes involve heartache and pain for Tom. Watching his mother drown for witchcraft, his one true love dying of plague, and the constant trauma throughout the narrative of his missing daughter Marion. Not to mention the subplot of Tom’s involvement with a shady secret society known as Albatross, run by a mysterious figure called Hendrich who wants to help Tom find his daughter but is he a friend or foe?

The way in which Matt Haig can explore the human condition in its various forms is utterly astounding. Asking us as readers the question are we really this self-absorbed, and what really defines a twenty first century individual? As I read I began to question everything I see as important within my life in a positive light. This passage sums it up perfectly. “We are made to feel poor on thirty thousand pounds a year. To feel poorly travelled if we have been to only ten other countries. To feel too old if we have a wrinkle. To feel ugly if we aren’t photo-shopped and filtered”. The words just seemed to stay with me making me want to explore his writing in more depth.  I just loved how Matt was able to add these everyday issues into this genre expanding book.

As the story progressed the images Matt was able to implant into my imagination gave this story new life. As I was taken on a rip-roaring tour of the roaring twenties from high class jazz bars, and swinging piano jigs, onto the globe of Shakespearean England and an enticing tale with literacy genius William Shakespeare himself, before taking us back to modern day London in all its splendour as Tom goes through the perils of being a history teacher. The assault of colour, voices, and themes, just rifled off the page pulling me along for the ride.

This book has it all love, romance, torment, torture, time travel, murder, secret societies and an examination of the human condition in all its forms. My advice: When you pick up this book make sure you haven’t got work in the morning, because you’re not putting it down until dawn is breaking through your curtains it is that good. 5 stars. Well done Mr Haig well done sir indeed.

 

Review of Book of Dust Volume One: La Belle Sauvage by Philip Pullman Written by Daniel Stubbings

My Review

In September the highly anticipated prequel to the masterpiece His Dark Materials trilogy was released. Book of Dust: LA Belle Sauvage. A social media frenzy ensued with people rushing out to buy their copy, hungry to discover how Lyra became the heroine we all remember from our childhood.  I was one of them racing home from work to my pre-ordered copy waiting in my mailbox. Opening the cover with glee as I was plunged back into the parallel world of Oxford and the sensory delights which in my opinion only Philip Pullman can deliver. Unfortunately, I was left feeling underwhelmed.

The main reason being I struggled to engage with the protagonist Malcolm. Forcing myself through chapters I became increasingly frustrated with the character Pullman had created. He just couldn’t stir the emotions needed to make me care about Malcolm’s story. As chapters unfolded I found myself rooting for the villain Bonneville, as an intriguing dark side was revealed to the reader. Begging to be explored by Pullman in more detail, and feeding my imagination on how Bonneville and his deformed daemon would impact so heavily on Lyra’s early life. I would have liked more scenes from his viewpoint as I felt this would have greatly improved major elements within the book. However, when it came to Malcolm for me he lacked development and just felt to overdone within modern-day fantasy. What I mean by this is the typical story of an ordinary boy having their life turned upside down by some unexpected magical power or adventure. Usually I enjoy this. Unfortunately for me Malcolm just didn’t have the uniqueness or magic system I need to make me read on with wide-eyed amazement, leaving me feeling deflated as his preteen adventures developed.

Now don’t get me wrong some chapters are wonderfully written. Giving us unique insight into why the story has taken a certain turn. The enchanted island and the League of St Alexander, being good examples of two chapters which will bring about a lot of discussion from readers on how this will impact on Lyra in the long-term, and raises several questions into the current political climate within our own world. I also enjoyed the development of daemon relationships, between Asta and Ben. Who are Malcolm’s and his companion Alice’s daemons, allowing us to explore the rules of these creatures in more detail.

What lets it down for me is a lack of direction. To long is spent on them floating in a boat as they attempt to escape the flood, with nothing happening but changing nappies and being soaked to the bone. As well I just didn’t enjoy how much-loved characters from the original trilogy are portrayed. A perfect example being Lord Asriel. In this book we see him holding Lyra as a baby on a moonlight walk around a nunnery, being a protective and dedicated father coming to Malcolm’s aid on several occasions. This is in complete contrast to the cold-hearted and at times almost sadistic figure from His Dark Materials, making it for me unbelievable.

Now it may just be that this is the first book in a new series, and my exceptions were too high with all the hype. Of which I am hoping as I adore the original series. I would give this one a 3.5, as I do like the secret organisations and conspiracies which are alluded to in many chapters. Enabling this series to have a more teen/adult feel to it. Unfortunately, this just wasn’t for me hoping for better in book two.

 

 

 

 

Review of His Guilty Secret By Helene Fermont Written by Daniel Stubbings

his guilty secretToday is my day on the ‘His Guilty Secret Blog Tour’. Thank you to Helene Fermont and BookPublicistUK for inviting me. It’s been wonderful to be involved.

Book Synopsis

When Jacques’s body is discovered in a hotel room his wife, Patricia, suspects he has been hiding something from her.

Why was he found naked and who is the woman who visited his grave on the day of the funeral? Significantly, who is the unnamed beneficiary Jacques left a large sum of money to in his will and what is the reason her best friend, also Jacques’s sister, Coco, refuses to tell her what he confided to her?

Struggling to find out the truth, Patricia visits Malmö where her twin sister Jasmine lives and is married to her ex boyfriend. But the sisters relationship is toxic and when a family member dies shortly after, an old secret is revealed that shines a light on an event that took place on their tenth birthday.

As one revelation after another is revealed, Patricia is yet to discover her husband’s biggest secret and what ultimately cost him his life.

His Guilty Secret is an unafraid examination of the tangled bonds between siblings, the lengths we go to in protecting our wrongdoings, and the enduring psychological effects this has on the innocent…and the not so innocent.

My Review

This is a book where secrets won’t remain buried, coming out in scandalous tales of betrayal, forbidden love, jealously, manipulation, and death. Making every secret take on its own life.  The chapters seemed to melt away as Helene took me on an emotional journey, through beautifully woven subplots, characters, the roaring metropolis of London, and the Scandinavian jewel of Malmo, adding both urban and cultural dynamics to a story. When it ended I was screaming with despair.

The first chapter hooks you straight away, igniting your inner detective as you begin to put together the clues. Who is Jacques? What are his hidden secrets? Who is the woman he is travelling with? Is she more than just a mistress? And what is the gift they have both been given? Helene’s writing style only helps to heighten these feelings as you can imagine her voice coming through with every word as you begin to take notes connecting the dots. It is an explosive start.

Relationships are critical to the story throughout because all of the characters’ lives entwine with one another. Helping expose flaws that make these characters come to life as they go through the trails of second guesses, paranoia, and deceit. This is shown to us in several interesting chapters. Every time you turned a page it seemed like a new secret was waiting to entice us in, from Coco’s drug and alcohol abuse, to Jasmine’s real reason for the toxicity towards her sister and Isabelle protecting Jacques’ most deceitful secret of all. As well as Patricia’s relationship with Jacques, what did she really know about her husband? What was he hiding? Why is he now dead? You just didn’t know what was coming next.

The relationship which gripped me from the beginning was Patricia and Jasmine. The pure bitterness which Jasmine shows for Patricia is astounding and I loved it. It doesn’t help matters that Jasmine is married to her sister’s ex Patrik, however, as their relationship unravels we see multiple reasons for the sisters’ distrust of one another. From an untold secret within Patricia and Patrik’s relationship, a family secret that has affected Jasmine her entire life. This subplot within the story really explored how even though you are sisters it doesn’t mean you will get along. This is one of Helene strongest points as a writer – she digs deep into the characters emotions and makes them identifiable with her readers.

The character of Jacques haunts every page. His deep manipulative ways are burning in the background. The level of control he has over the three main women in this hollowing tale is mind-blowing and even after his death they can’t seem to escape. These different manipulations are displayed to the reader throughout the book in many different ways giving us a unique insight into how he has been able to deceive and lie to them all. Some of the key ones are Patrica and Isabelle’s deep love for him, Isabelle hiding their gift and Coco’s blind loyalty even though it could permanently damage her and Patricia’s relationship. This shows how Jacques’ shadow still influences their daily lives. As Patricia fights to find out the truth about Jacques mysterious death, Helene exposes us to these abuses of power giving us key information into what motivated Jacques to continue his flawed double life. Jacques is the lynch pin of the book effecting every character in both large and small ways. Some of these are very clear to the reader from the start, where others take time to be understood.

The presentation of Jacques from all three women’s viewpoint allows for both strength and vulnerability to be shown. I feel we see this most as the story unfolds with Patricia, as she begins to question everything she thought she knew about the man she loved. Helene presents this to the reader in several ways, from angry confrontations with Coco who she knows is hiding something behind her booze and drug induced haze and her desperate attempt to repair her relationship with Jasmine after returning to her childhood home of Malmo. Patricia is a character that tests your emotions to the limit and who we are also able to see the most development from throughout the story.

This is a deeply disturbing read at times. Allowing the reader to question and discuss many everyday issues. Plunging you into a world of secrets and lies which could truly destroy a person. That is what I enjoyed most about this read. Helene isn’t afraid to write these taboo subjects from alcohol misuse to infidelity. This book has it all. This is a 4.5 star read perfect for anyone who enjoys psychological thrillers.

I received my copy from the Book Publicist for an honest review. This doesn’t affect my views on the book.

His Guilty Secret poster

 

 

 

Guest Post by Author David Stuart Davies on his new crime thriller Blood Rites Posted By Daniel Stubbings

Today I am part of the Blood Rites blog tour and it is a great honour. Thank you to Abby Fairbrother and Urbane publications for inviting me. Also thank you to David for his amazing book.

About the Author-

DSD

David Stuart Davies is an author, playwright and editor. His fiction includes six novels featuring his wartime detective Johnny Hawke, Victorian puzzle solver artist Luther Darke, and seven Sherlock Holmes novels – the latest being Sherlock Holmes and the Ripper Legacy (2016). His non-fiction work includes Starring Sherlock Holmes, detailing the film career of the Baker Street sleuth. David has also penned a Northern Noir trilogy of gritty crime novels set in Yorkshire in the 1980s: Brothers in Blood, Innocent Blood and Blood Rites.

David is regarded as an authority on Sherlock Holmes and is the author of two Holmes plays, Sherlock Holmes: The Last Act and Sherlock Holmes: The Death and Life, which are available on audio CD. He has written the Afterwords for all the Collector’s Library Holmes volumes, as well as those for many of their other titles.

He is a committee member of the Crime Writers’ Association and edits their monthly publication Red Herrings. His collection of ghost and horror stories appeared in 2015, championed by Mark Gatiss who said they were ‘pleasingly nasty.’

David is General Editor of Wordsworth’s Mystery & Supernatural series and a past Fellow of the Royal Literary Fund. He has appeared at many literary festivals and the Edinburgh Fringe performing his one man presentation The Game’s Afoot – an evening with Sherlock Holmes & Arthur Conan Doyle. He was recently made a member of The Detection Club.

Authors Links: Web: http://www.davidstuartdavies.co.uk/ Twitter: https://twitter.com/DStuartDavies @DStuartDavies Via Urbane: http://urbanepublications.com/book_author/david-stuart-davies/

Book Synopsis-

Blood Rites is a Northern thriller set in Huddersfield, Yorkshire in the 1980s featuring Detective Inspector Paul Snow. DI Paul Snow has a personal secret. He is a homosexual but is desperate to keep it secret, knowing it would finish his career in the intolerant police force of the time. As this personal drama unfolds, he is involved in investigating a series of violent murders. All the victims appear to be chosen at random and to have no connection with each other. After the fourth murder, Snow is removed from the case for not finding the killer but continues investigating the matter privately. Gradually, Paul manages to determine a link between the murder victims, but this places his own life in great danger. Can Paul unmask the killer as he wrestles with his own demons?

Release date 9th November 2017

Exclusive extract about his new crime thriller Blood Rites

My Life of Crime

David Stuart Davies

The room is quiet. I take my seat in the semi-circle and give a silent nod to the others in the group and wait for my turn. When it comes, I stand up, holding a copy of Blood Rites, my latest novel in my right hand and in a clear voice, I state, ‘My name is David Stuart Davies – and I am crime writer.’

Well, I have been an aficionado of crime fiction since the age of twelve. It was in my salad days that I fell in love with Sherlock Holmes after encountering him on the school library shelves. The Hound of the Baskervilles was the particular volume in question and I devoured it with glee. Around the same time the local television station was screening the Basil Rathbone films. Those two happenstances sold me into Sherlockian slavery for life.

Eventually I read the whole of the Holmes canon, all 56 short stories and four novels. I wanted more. What could I do? The answer was obvious: write my own Sherlock adventures. Although this juvenilia was corny, creaky and very amateurish it helped to deepen my love of the character and the art of creating characters and mysteries.

When I went to university, I wanted to write my final dissertation on Conan Doyle but I was told in no uncertain terms that he was not an important enough author for such a project. As an antidote to this dismissal of the great man, for my own amusement, I began writing an article on the films of Sherlock Holmes – a particular passion of mine. The piece just grew and before I knew it I had a book length manuscript. I sent it off to a publisher and, glory be, it was accepted. So the year I received my degree I also had my first book published, Holmes of the Movies. Peter Cushing agreed to write the

introduction and I had the thrill of meeting the great man and begin a correspondence with him.

My first published Holmes novel was Sherlock Holmes and the Hentzau Affair in which I mixed Conan Doyle’s characters with those of Anthony Hope’s from The Prisoner of Zenda. My second Holmes novel continued this crossover approach by having Holmes tackle Count Dracula in The Tangled Skein.

I continued to write Holmes novels – as I still do – but around 15 years ago I thought that it was about time I invented my own detective. That’s when I came up with Johnny Hawke – Johnny One Eye. He was a private detective working in London during the Second World War. He was a promising young policeman working at Scotland Yard as war broke out in 1939 and so, like every patriotic fellow, he joined up to fight for his country. However, during training a rifle exploded on the firing range blinding him in one eye. He was invalided out of the army and the police could only offer him a desk job because of his disability. This was too tame for adventurous Johnny so with his compensation money he set himself as a private detective, determined to fight for his country on home territory dealing with criminals and all enemies of decency and law and order. The first novel was called Forests of the Night. Five other books followed: Comes the Dark, Without Conscience, Requiem for a Dummy, The Darkness of Death and A Taste for Blood. All are available as eBooks now.

When I felt the Johnny Hawke saga had run its course, I returned to the Victorian era with a hero of my own: Luther Darke. He is a somewhat dissolute and eccentric fellow, a wealthy artist, a lover of alcohol but an ace ‘puzzle solver’ who is often consulted by Inspector Edward Thornton of the Yard to help clear up a little mystery. Darke appeared in 7 short stories in The Darke Chronicles. I was particularly proud of the

first tale in the collection, The Curzon Street Conundrum, which is a cunning locked room mystery.

Then came Detective Inspector Paul Snow. I wanted to have a policeman working in my home town of Huddersfield. Colin Dexter used Oxford for Morse; Ian Rankin used Edinburgh for Rebus; I would use Huddersfield for Snow. I decided to set the novels in the 1980s before DNA and other forensic discoveries made policing less cerebral and more scientific. Today crimes can be solved by a microscope and a computer. I wanted personal interaction.

Snow had to be different from all the other sleuths on the block. I decided to make him gay. This wasn’t a casual or cynical decision. I remembered a colleague and friend when I was teaching who was gay. He was terrified that other members of staff and the pupils would find out and make his life hell. He lived with this danger hanging over him. I saw that this was a situation for many gay people, especially in the 1980s. It was a time when homosexuals were seen as comic characters or sexual threats. With Paul Snow as a high ranking officer in the police force, which at the time had quite a homophobic culture, this terrible situation could be explored with sensitivity and sympathy. Despite the danger of exposure, Snow had to carry on his job dealing with terrible crimes, desperate to catch the real villains in society, while protecting his own back. It was only later that I saw a connection between Paul and Johnny One Eye: two men on the periphery of mainstream society doing their level best to clean up those mean streets of Murdersville.

The first novel, Brothers in Blood concerns a trio of young men, who as teenagers go out to kill someone for fun. It provides them with a high which normal life fails to give them. As they get older and move away from Huddersfield, they still meet up once a year to murder a stranger – for fun! And then something happens which forces them

to kill for a purpose and their brotherhood is now under threat. Snow investigates only to discover threads of his own life entangled with the crime.

The second in the series, Blood Rites, concerns the murders of a group of young children. Snow identifies the link between the victims, but the murderer has gone to ground. During his investigation Paul meets a young woman, Matilda, for whom he has some affection. He likes her and they get on well. Reluctantly he asks her out. On one level he realises that he is using her as his ‘moustache’ – a term used by gay men for women who give them heterosexual ‘respectability’. However, Paul really likes Matilda, a secondary school headmistress, and feels warm towards her – but in essence his affection is platonic rather than sexual. He is aware that in the long term this relationship cannot go anywhere and this preys on his conscience. Certainly, for him, marriage would be the ultimate deceit. He is too decent a person to go down that road. Complications arise when he is propositioned by a fellow officer and he has to deal with this dangerous scenario while carrying out his investigations.

In the final novel in the trilogy, Blood Rites, while Paul is searching for a serial killer at loose in Huddersfield. There is no apparent connection between the victims and so Paul meets a brick wall at every turn. He feels the murderer is taunting him. Meanwhile Matilda is pressing him to take their relationship to the next level. Matters grow more complicated when her estranged gay brother turns up and takes a fancy to Paul. Once again his feelings are in turmoil, but greater shocks are in store when he finally tracks down the killer which leads to a heart stopping climax.

I have to say that I am proud of the Snow novels and genuinely believe I have created a memorable trilogy of crime stories. If you do not gasp out loud as you reach the final pages of Blood Rites, I will be most surprised.

 

BRBT

 

Guest Post by Louise Dean Award Winning Author and Creator of Kritikme.com Posted by Daniel Stubbings

Offering advice on how to write and  information on her 90 day course read on:

The Five ‘fs’ that make great novels

As a writer I am known for my frank and darkly comic novels and have been writing for twenty years, but it’s only in the last few months that I’ve undertaken to examine my own process as part of the ‘apprenticeship’ I offer to novelists in my creative writing course at Kritikme.com. I took a close look at the mechanics of storytelling in classic literary novels and discovered that all longer form stories are tragedies and underpinning them are five elements that date back to Aristotle’s own study of the tragedy in his ‘Poetics.’ I have dubbed these the Five F’s.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not advocating to would-be writers the pre-fabrication of plot or rigorous and lengthy plotting. When it comes to ‘plot’ I’d rather you did not. Tools for plotting, spreadsheets and charts become an alternative to writing. You think you’re ‘writing’, but you’re not writing.

‘Now listen carefully; except in emergencies, when you are trying to manufacture a quick trick and make some easy money, you don’t really need a plot….’ Katherine Ann Porter.

The story of a novel is propelled by a major moral crisis. The idea for a great novel can best be phrased in a paradox. Try noting one down one today. It’s easy; the rub between two opposing ideas will give you the spark of a novel. Dying man learns to live. That was mine for my first novel Becoming Strangers which won a couple of prizes The Betty Trask and Le Prince Maurice and found itself on the Dublin International Literary and the Man Booker longlist too. So, put the kettle and grab a pen and write your paradox down on the back of an envelope.

As they won’t be happy until they’ve done one, I ask my Kritikme.com writers to prepare a plot and then I suggest they throw it away.

I don’t think I could bring myself to the white page every day if I knew for sure what would happen next. As I explain to my writers at the very outset, and no doubt they find it either rash or reprehensible – prepare yourself for something like a love affair. As you may know, these are finest when brief and intense. Stephen King recommends a season, or ninety days, as the perfect timing for an affair of the heart, which a novel most certainly is. He’s right. You need to change your ways and hunker down.

The structure of a novel is important, but it’s not as important as creating work that’s driven by the main character’s compulsion to avoid facing what he or she must face to grow and become a hero or heroine. So the structure must be relegated to the creation of material, ruthlessly. That’s the gambit, that’s the game changer.

‘The structure of a piece is often something that happens quite late. Normally you can only decide what to do with what you’ve got when you can see what it is that’s there.’ Hanif Kureishi

It’s the secret to novel success, but it’s terribly hard to stop yourself biting the nails of your writing hand, which is where the routine, rigour and group mentality come into their own. You’re being encouraged held to account and a word count.

Once your material has started to take life, the structure can be applied to it, helping you make sense of what you. It is only at the back end that we draw upon the Kritikme Five F’s tragedy which unfold sequentially in a longer story:

  1. Flaw. The situation which accommodates his or her fatal flaw or moral problem shows signs of no longer being tenable….it is shifting.
  2. False hope. Your hero or heroine’s remedy seems to succeed … but fails terribly causing them serious damage or a reversal of fortune.
  3. Flight. He or she runs from the situation and gets insight into their flaw, recognising their failing.
  4. Fury. In deep, he or she rages against the hell around them.
  5. Facing it. They emerge from the fight with deep acceptance of their mortal condition and reconciliation with their true universal nature, either in life or death.

A novel lives and dies on whether your hero or heroine lives or dies. The Five F’s will see them – and you – through and despatch us at the front door of a home truth; that our welcome on this earth is one which begs each us to be able to take leave with decency.

Anyone who would like to write a book can write a novel, so long as they read books. What’s more you can write a novel and hold down a day job. You should write it in ninety days without fussing over plot, and apply the Five F’s when your material is in your hands. Another old chestnut I’d like to roast is that this is a lonely, solo, undertaking requiring a dusty garret with a sulking cat. On the contrary, it’s good to write alone, but it’s better to write alone in great company and we can thank advances in technology for the virtual companionship afforded by a community like Kritikme for making that possible.

‘My novel took up the sweetest part of my mind and the rarest part of my imagination; it was like being in love and better. All day long when I was busy … I had my unfinished novel personified almost as a secret companion and accomplice following me like a shadow wherever I went, whatever I did.’ Muriel Spark.

Louise Dean is an award-winning author published by Penguin and Simon & Schuster and nominated for The Dublin International Literary Award, The Guardian First Book Prize, and the Man Booker Prize. She is the founder of Kritikme.com, an online creative writing course which teaches people how to write a novel in ninety days. You can get a 10% discount on this course by using the code MYNOVEL10 at the check-out.

Thank you to Book Publicist for getting me involved.km

 

 

Review of Deadlands by Lloyd Otis Written by Daniel Stubbings

Book Synoposis

Dead Lands is a thrilling crime story set in the 1970s. When a woman’s body is found a special team is called in to investigate and prime suspect Alex Troy is arrested for the murder. Desperate to remain a free man, Troy protests his innocence, but refuses to use his alibi. Trying to protect the woman he loves becomes a dangerous game – questions are asked and suspicions deepen. When the prime suspect completes a daring escape from custody, DI Breck and DS Kearns begin the hunt. Breck wants out of the force while Kearns has her own agenda and seeks revenge. Breck has his suspicions and she wants to keep it from him, and a right-wing march provides an explosive backdrop to their hunt for Troy.

My Review

This is a gripping and gritty crime thriller, that will have you on the edge of your seat from the first page. The book opens with the brutal murder of a woman told from the perspective of the murderer simply known as the messenger.

As a reader straight away your trying to put together the clues. Who is the messenger, and why does he want this woman dead.  The language used by Lloyd is bone chilling, and puts you as a reader in the mind of both the murderer, and victim in a unique way completely submerging you in this violent act.

Fast forward to the investigation, and this is where we met the dynamic duo of Arlo Breck and Patricia Kearns. Two detectives part of the sensitive case unit (SCU) with a number of their own issues, to add to a plot which already has you wondering what on earth is going to happen next.

Lloyd has been very clever in how he has presented both characters to his audience. Giving us deep insights into both their backgrounds, but his style of writing his enabled to him to do it in a way were you don’t feel bombarded with information. Therefore allowing the reader to gradually form their own feelings on both characters. For example in the case of Breck, Lloyd slowly gives us parts of his life. His guilt over the unsolved attack on his girlfriend, his constant fight with his feelings for his coworker Beatrice, and his suspicions over his partner Kearns, make for an intriguing character who feels more human with every sentence. Helping us explore his motivations as well as make us begin to question whether he will be able to solve the case.

I found Kearns to be my favourite character. I just felt drawn to her in ways I usually don’t in crime thrillers with female characters. I loved her back story how her loyalty was constantly been thrown into question. What was she hiding, what was her involvement with the case as she harbored a deep secret from her past. Could she potentially carry out the ultimate betrayal, and what secret from her past haunts her from this case. These questions are all posed, and I loved how her chapters were written, they gave nothing away making for an ending which you are just not expecting. Therefore allowing for more development of her character in future cases.

When the first murder scene is investigated, it seems like an open and shut case, due to a credit card and a written note with the name Alexander Troy being found at the scene by Breck.  However when two Alexander Troy’s are discovered. The race is on to discover who is the real Alexander Troy, and why would he carry out two brutal murders.

Another element which adds a different dimension to the story is it set in 1970s London. When policing was different, racial tension was at an all time high, and police corruption was front page news. The book is played out against the backdrop of an anti fascist march, and introduces another strand of characters which further heightened a plot with so many subplots, that your adrenaline doesn’t get a moment’s peace. I just loved the old-fashioned ways, no mobile phones, no laptops. Just good old knocking down doors and taking names. This book is perfect for anyone who enjoys Martina Cole, and Mark Billingham. It is both darkness and light, and I cant wait to see what Lloyd comes up with next it is a 5 star read.

Thanks to Urbane Publications for my copy for an honest review. This does not effect my thoughts.

Review of The Old Guard By Greg Rucka written by Daniel Stubbings

Of late I have found myself been drawn back to my childhood love of comics. Everybody loves the classics. Saying that I wanted to move away from the well-known comics and find something new and fresh. That would make me salivate like a dog with rabies until the next issue hit the shelf.

I am pleased to say I found it. Its called The Old Guard by Greg Rucka and Leandro Fernandez. The first page draws you straight in this is a fairy tale of blood and bullets, It is the story of one woman and three men who cannot die. Mostly. Their names are Andy, Nicky, Joe and Booker. It’s a story about time, and age and ages, and about friendship and love, and regret. I mean if that doesn’t grab your attention then I don’t know what will.

As the series opens up we find out that the four are an elite team of combat operatives similar to the SAS.  Which have been sent on a mission by an old friend but it’s not as it seems. This set us up for a ride that will take us from the deepest jungle to the city of love Paris. As they go in search of truth and hopefully revenge as well as encountering an unexpected surprise along the way.

This series of comics is currently only five issues old, and already we have seen some major character developments, as they are being told in installments giving us all four main characters viewpoint.

The first five have been told mainly from the point of Andy. Which I have to say so far is my favourite character, giving you as a reader a sense of mystery throughout. You just never seem to know what is quite going through her head. She is a very complex being having a deep internal struggle with herself, as wrestles with her own immortality. Trying to figure how she fits into this group of immortals who have nobody else but themselves.

Greg Rucka writing of this character just makes you connect on so many levels, as he takes you through a number of memories from her long life. Some barely remembered and others crystal clear without giving away her true age. This is an element which is returned to throughout the series so far helping enforce some of our judgements on Andy, but at the same time cast a dark cloud over other aspects in which Greg has hinted at in previous issues.

The art of Fernandez only helps heighten these aspects. With highly detailed fight scenes, flashbacks, and sequences that just tie the story all together. Making for an adrenaline rush which I have to say I not experienced with many other comics.

My only criticism of the series so far, is the lack of explanation about what made them  immortal. Well mostly we have been told some ways in which they can die, but I would really like to know what made them immortal if it was some act of god or virus. I would also like to know what is the purpose of their immortality. Why are they here, and what gets them selected.  I am sure this will come as the series develops just I would like to see more background to some of the other characters.

This series has everything fight scenes, guns, myths, and a crew of characters that you cant help but love and hate. It does what it says on the first page, it is a story of bullets and blood and lots of it but trust me it worth it.

To Outline or Not to Outline that is the Question? By Daniel Stubbings

Recently I been lucky enough to meet a number of writers at events and festivals, and I can honestly say I have had a different answer off each of them when I have asked about outlining. From it is essential you must plot your scenes or you lose sight of your goal, to just write and see where your pen takes you, to never outline it halts your flexibility and creativity.

As an aspiring writer I found myself torn. Should I listen to the published author who outlines every page, scene, and dialogue to the last inch or just write and see what I come up with like the other writer I respect.

I wrestled with this question for a number of weeks. Continuing to write my stories, character profiles, and story arches, crossing out whole pages or pressing the delete key more times than I could count. I even began to write a brief outline for where I knew I wanted to end up. However in the end I just torn it up and went what is the point my scenes just didn’t have the effect I was looking for.

I watched every videos I could find on outlining. The positives and negatives of each from debut authors, to international bestselling ones. Stephen King is one of my favourite all time authors, and if like me you have watched his writing tip videos, his big thing is never outline, and whatever you do don’t write ideas in a notebook. In his words that is where ideas go to die.

So there I was once again thinking what should I do. Should I write down every idea that pops into my head and reflect on them later or just do what Stephen says and let the good stuff stay and just write what comes.

Well after the last event I kind of came to a weird conclusion. I thought to myself both those authors got published. They didn’t use the same method but they got published. I mean lets be honest we all like our eggs done differently, our coffee brewed a certain way. So why cant it be like that when we are writing. I mean don’t get me wrong you need to respect the writing craft, but we all have our own ways of telling stories.

I am not ashamed to say I am nearly two years into writing a novel, and I just finished a second draft. I would say after I came to this conclusion, I have sort of combine the two, from the advice I have been given first hand, and the videos I have watched. I plan my big scenes, where I know this has to happen or my character is just pointless. However I also like to have some freedom, kind of like a road trip you pick a destination and plot your route but there is no harm in stopping off for a walk on the way to explore your own curiosity. As long as you come back to to the road you wanted to go down eventually. Getting lost is part of the fun, and you never know what you might find plus every great story needs interesting subplots.

Outlining  so what is my view?  I guess it is do what feels best for you. If you like to know every scene, and character interaction before you write then go for it grab a piece of A3 paper and get these scenes drawn out. However if your like me and need a combination of both to keep you moving forward then that is fine to. Or if your totally wild like Mr King and discover it as you go then who am I to judge. That is the beauty of storytelling no way is the wrong way, as long as the story means something to you.

So going back to the question at the top of the page. Outlining for me is like everything else in life, do what works for you and if you find you need to make a change then do so. You will hear arguments for and against, but I  finally realised something when I left the last event the authors words still ringing in my ears. Create your own method and stop second guessing yourself.