Killer Review: The Beautiful Dead by Belinda Bauer

So last month Belinda Bauer featured on the November First Monday Crime Evening Panel, so when asked whether I would like to review this book I jumped at the chance.

Blurb:

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‘I give you the art,’ he said, as if he’d read her mind. ‘And you put on the show.’

Eve Singer needs death. With her career as a TV crime reporter flagging, and increasing pressures at home, she’ll do anything to satisfy her ghoulish audience. Her career is built on the bones of the dead; her one aim to secure that perfect shot of the body bag. And luckily for Eve, there is a serial killer at work in London…

The killer needs death too. He sees beauty in death and revels in watching his victims take their final breath. For the killer, the line between artist and executioner is irrevocably blurred. He even advertises his macabre public performances, inviting the public to see his ‘show.’

When he contacts Eve and offers her unpresented access to his plans, she welcomes the chance to be first with the news from every gory scene. Until she realizes that the killer has two obsessions.

One is public murder.

And the other one is her . . .

The story centres around Eve Singer, a TV crime reporter who is always looking for the next big exclusive to keep her at the top of her career and to satisfy her viewers. But the sight of blood and gore makes her sick, which in her line of her work makes her a target of her colleagues. So when the killer starts messaging her with hints at his next kill, Eve jumps at the chance to get the story first – but little does she know that the killer has set his sights on her.

I loved this story!

I have previously read Backlands by Belinda Bauer which I adored, so when I was recommended this novel I couldn’t wait to get my hands on this.

The story opened with an absolute corker – I won’t spoil it for you here but what I will say is it really sets the tone to this novel and hooked me into the story right away.

The story is told from the point of view of Eve and the killer, who I must say is such a fascinating character and not your average murderer. He had such a twisted mindset and acted in such a way that I couldn’t guess what he would do next! I was so engrossed in his crimes I just couldn’t tear my eyes away from the page.

Eve is such a strong character I couldn’t help but rooting for her and her determination to keep her job in order to care for her father comes through the narrative and makes her actions realistic if somewhat questionable.

I also loved the characters of Eve’s father Duncan, who suffers from dementia but has such a sweet soul, Mr Elias, Eve’s bumbling and lonely neighbour and Joe, Eve’s cameraman, who she has a lot of banter with. I was so absorbed in the lives of these characters I couldn’t get enough of this book.

I found myself sympathising with all the characters throughout – I know worryingly even with the killer. I thought Eve’s relationships with both her dad and Joe made this an emotive and pacey story.

The story is a slow burner where the pace really ratchets up towards the last third of the novel but this just kept me on my toes.

I thought this was a new twist on the classic serial killer thriller making this a refreshing and exciting criminal read. I would recommend this for any crime fan who loves a good psychological thriller with a difference.

With thank to Becky Short at Penguin Random House for my advanced review copy.

To buy this book on Amazon just click here

Or to order this book from Waterstones click here.
To find out more about Belinda Bauer follow her on Twitter at @BelindaBauer.

First Monday is a crime night devoted to readers, writers, hard core crime fans or industry professionals a chance to mingle and to hear about the latest crime books. First Monday happens on the first Monday of each month with a different panel of authors designed to cater to a wide-range of tastes. I love First Monday evenings which never fails to deliver!

For more information check out the Goldsboro Events page here or follow them on Twitter @1stMondayCrime.

 

 

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September First Monday Crime Event

I have been taking a little bit of an unplanned blogging break for the past two weeks but couldn’t resist sharing my experience last week when I attended the September session of the First Monday Crime Event.

The night featured a host of brilliant authors including, Sophie Hannah author of a number of psychological novels and has recently penned two new Hercule Poirot novels, Tim Weaver author of the successful David Raker series, Rod Reynolds author of the superb Texarkana novels featuring Charlie Yates and debut psychological thriller author Jane Corry.

This was yet another superb night filled with criminal discussions, wine, books, fun and ended with drinks in the local pub.

During the session the authors discussed their inspiration behind their novels, Sophie Hannah was approached by her agent and the Agatha Christie estate to write a new Hercule Poirot novel. Sophie has always been a big fan of Agatha Christie’s novels which are usually ‘puzzle based mysteries’ which she has replicated in the Poirot novels.

Tim Weaver created the David Raker series who features a missing persons investigator still coming to terms with the death of his wife and wanted through his series to ‘give a sense of who the missing people are and Raker.’

Rod Reynolds is a big fan of noir novels and has set his new novel Black Night Falling in the 1940s in Hot Springs, Arkansas, which was ‘the mobs vacation.’ He discovered this little gem of a place while researching his first novel The Dark Inside. Black Night Falling sees reporter Charlie Yates thrown head first into trouble struggling to do the right thing before it is too late.

Jane Corry spent a few years as a writer in residence in a male prison. This experience changed her writing voice creating a darker humorous tone. Jane wanted to stretch family boundaries in My Husbands Wife which I think she does a fab job of as well as featuring a male prison and a charismatic prisoner who rocks one of the main protagonists, Lily’s life.

The authors also discussed the pros and cons of using a lot of physical characterisations within crime novels and the dreaded plotting question. Overall, this was yet another fabulous evening showcasing a range of amazing crime writers.

The next First Monday event will be in October and will feature SJ Watson, Antonia Hodgson, Stuart Neville and William Ryan. Tickets can be purchased here.

Don’t forget to follow at @1stMondayCrime for updates on all their upcoming events.

Don’t forget to follow all of the authors on Twitter as well:


Now for the featured novels:

Closed Casket by Sophie Hannah is the second in the new Hercule Poirot mysteries which sees the return of Hercule Poirot and Inspector Edward Catchpool who has been invited to a house party by Lady Athelinda Playford at her mansion in County Cork, but it is no ordinary gathering. As guests arrive, Lady Playford summons her lawyer to make an urgent change to her will – one she intends to announce at dinner that night  She has decided to cut off her two children without a penny and leave her fortune to someone who has only weeks to live. But after Lady Playford’s announcement a killer strikes…

Broken Heart by Tim Weaver is about a woman who drives to a secluded beauty spot on the Somerset coast. CCTV watches her enter but doesn’t see her leaving. In fact, Lynda Korin is never seen again. How can someone just disappear? Her sister calls missing persons investigator David Raker. For him, the mystery of where she went is only the start. The real question is why a woman with no reason to run would choose to leave her entire life behind? Was it her decision? Or did someone make it for her? Raker is an expert at following the echoes of decades-old lies. But only Lynda Korin knows the most shocking secret of all – and she’s missing, presumed dead…

Black Night Falling by Rod Reynolds is set a few months after The Dark Inside (Reynold’s debut novel) where reporter Charlie Yates, having left Texarkana for the safety of the West Coast finds himself drawn back to the South, to Hot Springs, Arkansas, as an old acquaintance asks for his help. This time it’s less of a story Charlie’s chasing, more of a desperate attempt to do the right thing before it’s too late.

My Husbands Wife by Jane Corry asks the question what if your life was built on a lie? When lawyer Lily marries Ed, she’s determined to make a fresh start. To leave the secrets of the past behind. But when she takes on her first criminal case, she starts to find herself strangely drawn to her client. A man who’s accused of murder. A man she will soon be willing to risk everything for. But is he really innocent? And who is she to judge?

July First Monday Crime Round-Up

So this week I had the pleasure of both assisting and attending the July First Monday Crime event which was sponsored by Killer Reads.

The panel consisted of debut authors Anna Mazzola and Beth Lewis, successful crime novelists Andrew Taylor who is the author of a number of crime and historical novels and Stephen Booth who is the author of the Cooper and Fry series. Keeping the panel in check as panel chair was Claire McGowan author of the Paula Maguire series who also runs the MA in crime thriller novels at City University – the very same course I’m currently studying on.

This was a fantastic, lively evening where the authors each discussed where they found the idea for their stories, the importance of setting, research, writing strong female characters who are morally ambivalent and top tips for aspiring writers, much like myself.

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The evening finished with a fab goodie bag, the opportunity to buy those all important books which the authors signed and a drink at the pub.

July Goodie Bag

The ideas behind the books: Beth was inspired by a TV show (she wouldn’t share which show this was), Anna found the story of Sarah Gale mentioned in the Suspicions of Mr Whicher and researched it, Andrew loves imagery and was inspired by the aftermath of the Great Fire of London in 1666 and Stephen was inspired by the beautiful setting of the Peak District ‘which is a good place to find a body.’

 

Top tips from the writers:

Stephen Booth: ‘There’s no such thing as writers block. Just write. Sit down and write because its your job.’

Andrew Taylor: ‘Write one line a day because that line could turn into a sentence, then a paragraph then into a chapter. Writers write.’

Beth Lewis: ‘You need discipline to finish a book. You’ve got to teach yourself to finish that book, don’t move onto the next shiny idea.’

Anna: ‘Think about your book last thing at night before you go to bed.’

 

So now for the fab books:

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The Unseeing by Anna Mazzola is set in London in 1837 and is the story of Sarah Gale, a seamstress and mother who has been sentenced to hang for her role in the murder of Hannah Brown but petitions the king for mercy. Edmund Fleetwood is appointed to investigate but he is struggling with his own demons. Edmund is determined to seek out the truth. Yet Sarah refuses to help him, neither lying nor adding anything to the evidence gathered in court. Edmund knows she’s hiding something, but needs to discover just why she’s maintaining her silence. For how can it be that someone would willingly go to their own death?

Wolf Road by Beth Lewis is a debut literary thriller. What do you do when the man who gave you everything turns out to be a killer? Since the Damn Stupid turned the clock back on civilization by centuries, the world has been a harsher place. But Elka has learned everything she needs to survive from the man she calls Trapper, the solitary hunter who took her in when she was just seven years old. So when Elka sees the Wanted poster in town, her simple existence is shattered. Her Trapper  is wanted for murder and Magistrate Lyon is hot on his trail, and she wants to talk to Elka. So Elka flees into the vast wilderness, determined to find her true parents. But Lyon is never far behind – and she’s not the only one following Elka’s every move.

Ashes of London by Andrew Taylor is a historical thriller set during the time of the Great Fire of London. London, September 1666. The Great Fire rages through the city, consuming everything in its path. Among the crowds watching its destruction is James Marwood, son of a disgraced printer, and reluctant government informer. In the aftermath of the fire, a semi-mummified body is discovered in the ashes of St. Paul’s, in a tomb that should have been empty. The man’s body has been mutilated and his thumbs have been tied behind his back. Under orders from the government, Marwood is tasked with hunting down the killer across the devastated city. But at a time of dangerous internal dissent and the threat of foreign invasion, Marwood finds his investigation leads him into treacherous waters – and across the path of a determined, beautiful and vengeful young woman.

Secrets of Death by Stephen Booth is the 16th novel in the Cooper and Fry series set in the Peak District. A series of suicides from tourists throughout the Peaks throws Detective Inspector Ben Cooper and his team in Derbyshire’s E Division into a race against time to find a connection to these seemingly random acts – with no way of predicting where the next body will turn up. Meanwhile, in Nottingham Detective Sergeant Diane Fry finds a key witness has vanished…But what are the mysterious Secrets of Death? And is there one victim whose fate wasn’t suicide at all?

 

The next First Monday event will be coming up in September after a break over the summer so don’t forget to follow at @1stMondayCrime for updates on all their upcoming events.

Don’t forget to follow all of the authors on Twitter as well:

Author Interview: Anna Mazzola

Today I’m thrilled to have debut author Anna Mazzola join me for a Q&A about her new novel The Unseeing.

Welcome to the CKT blog Anna.

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Anna Mazzola (photo credit Lou Abercrombie)

To start off with, can you tell us a little bit about your debut novel The Unseeing?

Happy to. The Unseeing is a historical crime novel based on the life of a real woman called Sarah Gale who was convicted in 1837 of aiding and abetting her lover, James Greenacre, in the murder of another woman. Sarah was sentenced to death and petitioned the King for mercy. The Unseeing begins with the appointment of the lawyer who is to investigate her petition, and he – and the reader – has to determine whether Sarah Gale is indeed innocent or whether she is far more involved than she would have us believe.

You have mentioned before that your novel is based on the real-life case of Sarah Gale who was sentenced to hang for the murder of Hannah Brown in the Victorian era. How did you find out about her case and what sparked your interest as a writer to write about this?

I first read about James Greenacre in the Suspicions of Mr Whicher by Kate Summerscale. I was originally interested in the crime because it took place in Camberwell, not far from where I live. However, when I read through the Old Bailey transcript of the trial, it was Sarah who most interested me. Very little was said in her defence – she gave only a short statement denying being in Camberwell at the time of the murder. As she was facing the death sentence for her part in the horrific murder of another woman, I thought that was very strange. What was preventing Sarah from speaking out to defend herself? Was she guilty? Afraid of James Greenacre? Or something else?

Your novel is set in Victorian London, how did you research about this period and did you find anything new and fascinating which you had to include in your novel?

The research part was great fun. I loved visiting the British Library but, as I was mainly researching in the evening after work, I did a lot of my research online, for example on the  Harvard University website (which has many of the original pamphlets relating to Greenacre and Gale), in the British Newspaper Archives, and through a variety of other brilliant sites, including Lee Jasper’s Victorian London. Lots of nineteenth century texts are available via Gutenburg, Forgotten Books and Google books.

I discovered many astonishing and terrible things, particularly about child labour in Victorian London, the lives of the poor, the injustices of the justice system. A tiny fraction of my research became part of the story, but most of it is just stored way in the recesses of my mind and on my computer hard-drive. People go to fiction – even historical fiction – for the story. The facts can’t stand out or you’ll lose the reader.

Did you find it difficult to write about real people and weave them into a fictional story?

In short, yes. Although it was initially useful to have a ‘template’ – an idea of who the characters were, I then felt hampered by what they might have been and what they might have done. In a way, it was fortunate that I didn’t know more about Sarah. She remained an enigma.

Can you tell us a little bit about your writing process, do you plot the story out first or dive right in and see where it takes you? Or a mixture of the two?

For The Unseeing, I created a synopsis and worked from that, but I now know that I should have plotted it out in a far more detailed way. Every writer is different, but I think I work best when I know where I’m headed (even if the plot later changes). For my next novel, I’m working from a far more detailed plot structure. I’ll have to see how that works out!

Who was your favourite character to write about in the Unseeing and why?

It was Sarah. It took me a long time to get to know her, but – probably because of that – she’s stayed with me. I want to know what happens to her next.

Are you working on anything at the moment? If so, can you tell us a little bit about it without giving too much away?

I’m currently writing my second historical crime novel, which is set on the Isle of Skye in 1857. It’s about a young woman who goes to work for a collector of folklore and discovers that a young girl has gone missing, supposedly taken by spirits of the unforgiven dead, although of course that’s not what she believes. Again, the idea was sparked by a real case, but I haven’t tried to base it on the facts in the same way that I did with The Unseeing.

Who would you say is the biggest influence on your writing?

Margaret Atwood. She’s been a huge inspiration since I was quite young. I made the mistake of telling her this when I met her a signing. She didn’t seem impressed: presumably I was the ninth person in the queue to have told her the very same thing.

And finally, just for fun, if you could have a dinner party for three select guests, dead or alive, who would they be and why?

Nina Simone, Aung San Suu Kyi and Madonna. All terrifyingly powerful and talented women with fascinating stories. They would almost certainly have a fight.

A big thank you to Anna for taking the time to answer my questions! 

Don’t forget you can catch Anna Mazzola at the next First Monday Crime in July to grab a signed copy of The Unseeing.

To find out more about Anna Mazzola follow her on Twitter @Anna_Mazz. You can preorder your copy of The Unseeing from Amazon here.

Follow First Monday Crime at @1stMondayCrime for updates on their upcoming events.

 

June First Monday Crime

So the beginning of this week was the return of the First Monday Crime evening event which pulled out all the stops with a panel made up of crime writers Mark Hardie, debut author, Sharon Bolton, Chris Morgan Jones, Peter James and chaired by James Kidd.

This was another fantastic, lively evening full of fascinating stories about snakes, creepy-crawlies, bears, sheepdogs, serial killers and burnt bodies – and that was just the tip of the iceberg!

During the panel event the authors discussed each of their books in turn, the themes in their novels, the difficulties of writing, research, characters, the dreaded plotting conundrum, what scares them, the pressures of writing a novel better than their previous one and top tips for aspiring writers like myself!

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So now for the books:

Mark Hardie,@Markhardiecrime, is the debut author of the gritty crime novel Burned and Broken which features DS Frank Pearson and DC Catherine Russell from the Essex Police Major Investigation Team who are called in to investigate their colleague, the subject of an internal investigation, who is found burned to death in his car. Mark lost his sight 14 years ago but doesn’t let this get in the way of his passion for writing and is currently writing his second novel.

Sharon Bolton,@AuthorSJBolton, is the author of the Lacy Flint series and has written five standalone novels including her recently published novel Daisy in Chains. This novel features Hamish Wolfe who is a serial killer serving time in prison with his own fan club but he has set sights on Maggie Rose, a successful lawyer and true-crime writer who believes she’s immune to the charms of a man like this – but maybe not this time . . .

Chris Morgan Jones, @ChrisMJAuthor, is the author of the Ben Webster spy series. His new novel The Searcher features Isaac Hammer, Webster’s boss, who is under arrest for tapping phones, hacking emails and bribing police.But this isn’t Hammer’s work – this was Ben Webster who has gone missing and last seen in Tbilisi. Hammer has no choice but to break bail to bring back the wanted man but someone is ready to kill him and everyone dear to him to stop him stumbling towards the truth . . .

Peter James,@peterjamesuk, is the author of the Roy Grace detective series set in Brighton. His newest novel, Love You Dead is the twelfth book in the series which sees DS Roy Grace feeling the pressure over his previous case and struggling over the developments in the case of his missing wife. But Grace must face his toughest case yet because a Black Widow is operating in his city. One with a venomous mind . . . and venomous skills.

I’m going to finish this post with a quote from Sharon Bolton from the evening; ‘We are only as good as our last book.’ I’m confident that none of these authors have anything to worry about – fit there blurbs are anything to go by they’ll be as fab as ever!

Books June

Don’t forget to follow all the authors on Twitter to discover more about their novels and make sure to follow First Monday at @1stMondayCrime for updates on their upcoming events.

The next First Monday Crime is in July and will feature authors; Andrew Taylor, Stephen Booth, Anna Mazzola, Beth Lewis and chaired by the fab Claire McGowan which I’m really looking forward to!

 

First Monday Crime Event

This week I went to the First Monday Crime Event, hosted by Goldsboro Books which was held at City University. This is a new crime/thriller evening which will be held in Central London on the first Monday of every month and which will feature a range of amazing best-selling authors.

The event was an instant hit and featured an awesome panel of authors; Leye Adenle, Elly Griffiths, Mary Paulson-Ellis, Amanda Jennings and chaired by Barry Forshaw. The authors discussed their recent novels, their debuts, their experience at submitting the first draft, book themes, the dreaded second novel syndrome, plotting and the notion of a tidy desk.

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They all gave some great recommendations of crime authors they love including; Wilkie Collins, Edgar Allen Poe, anything by Charles Dickens, Lizzie Thompson, Isabelle Grey and Pace Setter Novels from MacMillian Publishers.

IMG_2962This lively and fun evening featured cupcakes, wine and some fantastic goody bags from Orenda Books. After the panel discussion there was even a chance to buy the books and to get these signed by the authors – which is something I always look forward to at events! The evening ended with a lot of socialising down the local pub.

If you get the chance I would recommend anyone who loves crime/thriller novels to go. There is a small £5 charge to attend but with a friendly, fun and lively atmosphere I think it is definitely worth it.

 

To find out more about the next event or to book tickets visit the Goldsboro books events page here or follow @1stMondayCrime.

The Featured Books:

Brit Noir by Barry Forshaw: The Pocket Essential Guide to British Crime Fiction, Film and TV.

Easy Motion Tourist by Leye Adenle

Blurb: Guy Collins, a British hack, is hunting for an election story in Lagos. A decision to check out a local bar in Victoria Island ends up badly – a mutilated female body is discarded close by and Collins is picked up as a suspect. In the murk of a hot, groaning and bloody police station cell, Collins fears the worst. But then Amaka, a sassy guardian angel of Lagos working girls, talks the police station chief around. She assumes Collins is a BBC journo who can broadcast the city’s witchcraft and body parts trade that she’s on a one-woman mission to stop.

Smoke and Mirrors by Elly Griffiths

Blurb: Brighton, winter 1951.

Pantomime season is in full swing on the pier with Max Mephisto starring in Aladdin, but Max’s headlines have been stolen by the disappearance ­­of two local children. When they are found dead in the snow, surrounded by sweets, it’s not long before the press nickname them ‘Hansel and Gretel’.

DI Edgar Stephens has plenty of leads to investigate. The girl, Annie, used to write gruesome plays based on the Grimms’ fairy tales. Does the clue lie in Annie’s unfinished – and rather disturbing – last script? Or might it lie with the eccentric theatricals who have assembled for the pantomime?

In Her Wake by Amanda Jennings

Blurb: A tragic family event reveals devastating news that rips apart Bella’s comfortable existence. Embarking on a personal journey to uncover the truth, she faces a series of traumatic discoveries that take her to the ruggedly beautiful Cornish coast, where hidden truths, past betrayals and a 25-year-old mystery threaten not just her identity, but her life.

The Other Mrs Walker by Mary Paulson-Ellis 

Blurb: Somehow she’d always known that she would end like this. In a small square room, in a small square flat. In a small square box, perhaps. Cardboard, with a sticker on the outside. And a name . . 

In a freezing, desolate Edinburgh flat an old woman takes her last breath surrounded by the few objects she has accrued over a lifetime: an emerald dress, a brazil nut engraved with the ten commandments – and six orange pips sucked dry.

Meanwhile, guided by the flip of a coin, Margaret Penny arrives back at her old family home, escaping a life in London recently turned to ash. Faced with relying on a resentful mother she has never really known, Margaret soon finds herself employed by the Office for Lost People, tasked with finding the families of the dead: the neglected, the abandoned, the lost. Her instructions are to uncover paperwork, yet the only thing Mrs Walker, the old woman in her current case, left behind is a series of peculiar objects.

But in the end it is these objects that will unravel Mrs Walker’s real story: a story rooted in the London grime and moving from the 1930s to the present day, a story of children abandoned and lost, of beguiling sisters and misplaced mothers, of deception and thievery, family secrets and the very deepest of betrayals; in which the extraordinary circular nature of life will glitter from the page. For in uncovering the astonishing tale of an old woman who died alone, Margaret will finally discover her own story too . . .