When the victim of a car crash begs journalist Alex Devlin for help before disappearing without trace, Alex finds herself caught up in a mystery that won’t let her go.
Determined to find the missing man, she is soon investigating a conspiracy that threatens some of the most vulnerable members of society.
But will Alex be prepared to put her own life on the line to help those who can’t help themselves?
This is the fourth book in the Alex Devlin series, and let me tell you Alex Devlin is a character you would want on your side should you really want the truth. A little unusually for a crime fiction series, Alex is a journalist and someone who has investigated the painful truth about the deaths of her niece and nephew. This fact means the reader can be sure that nobody nor anything will stop her pursuing the leads to find the truth…
This is just as well because when Alex is given a proposal for a story she believes it is going to be relatively straightforward, oh Alex, how wrong can you be? Cora’s brother Rick has gone missing and she believes the fact that he slept rough will result in a lack of interest by the police. Alex was already casting her net in search of a story to write for the local East Anglian paper, and when she finds out that more of the homeless appear to have disappeared she follows the trail.
This is a bang-on contemporary story which avoids the pitfalls that I find some author’s fall into . This storyline doesn’t feel forced, I didn’t ever feel that the issue came first and then repeatedly shouted from the rooftops. Nevertheless the book necessarily shines a light on those members of society that are often invisible because we do not wish to see them. Fortunately Mary-Jane Riley does what all good authors do, she made me want to find out the truth alongside Alex (and others who she persuades to assist her) so that I became invested in the storyline too.
One of the reasons why I fell in love with this series, is the characters; Alex Devlin has the qualities I admire but this is an author who is able to create both obvious baddies and villains of the more subtle variety too. Boney in this book was one of the obvious variety but believably so – I know we are always told that criminals don’t have their trade stamped across their forehead but that doesn’t mean that there are those out there that most of us would instinctively give a wide berth to! This creation of a wide range of characters right across the spectrum and ensuring a large percentage have depth means that the whole book is given a backdrop of realism to play out the at times most gripping of scenes.
If you haven’t read any of the Alex Devlin series, I do urge you to start at the beginning because although each one will read most satisfactorily as a standalone, I know you will want more and all good bibliophile’s know that you really should read a series in order if you are going to read them all!
Previous Books in the Alex Devlin Crime Fiction Series
I want to finish by stating just how delighted I was to be asked to take part in this blog tour; a huge thank you Mary-Jane for ensuring I was included despite my absence from the blogosphere and of course to Dampebbles for putting me at the end of the tour as requested so that I could fit in a wedding and read the book and remember how to write a review…
First Published UK: 3 May 2019
Publisher: Killer Reads
No of Pages: 330
Genre: Crime Fiction – Series Amazon UK Amazon US
I was absolutely delighted when Mary-Jane Riley asked me to kick-off the Blog Tour to promote her latest book, Dark Waters having been a huge fan of the previous two books in this series which features journalist Alex Devlin.
I have interrogated Mary-Jane Riley about Dark Waters in the following Q&A Session.
Well Mary-Jane Dark Waters is the third in the journalist Alex Devlin series; is it getting easier to write the books now the character is developed or does it sometimes curtail how you’d like her to behave?
Hmm, interesting question, Cleo. I’ve always found Alex pretty easy to write. It’s like I’ve always known her, perhaps because there’s a bit (a lot?) of me in her. I do usually know how she will react to events, and that’s what makes writing the novels with her centre-stage so satisfying. It’s not what I want to happen but what Alex wants to happen, how she reacts, the decisions she makes. I hope she always behaves true to character, and there’s no point in making her do something she wouldn’t. Does that make sense?
Tell us a little about Dark Waters, was there a Eureka moment which inspired the novel?
Dark Waters begins with the discovery of two bodies on a boat on the Norfolk Broads. The idea of using the Broads wasn’t so much of a eureka moment of inspiration as a slow realisation…. The Bad Things is set on the Suffolk coast, After She Fell on the crumbling cliffs of North Norfolk, so for my third I felt I wanted to go inland. And then I thought about the atmospheric Broads and how a boat could stay moored for several days before anyone would wonder what was going on….. That was the basic premise and I built the novel up from there! Sometimes that’s all you need, and I asked myself the usual questions: who were the people who had died? How had they met their end? Why were they on the boat? Did they know each other? And so on. I think I have probably done a disservice to the Broads, though, it really is a gorgeous place to visit! Do you have an idea what situations you are going to place poor Alex in next? Yes, that’s me checking that there is another book in the pipeline!
Yes. Oh, you want me to say more? Well… no, you’ll have to wait….
How long does it take to produce your first draft of each book? Yes, this is me trying to work out how long I have to wait for the next book!
It varies, and though I would love to be one of those people who writes the whole story as a first draft, I’m not. First of all I think about the story. A lit. Then I write bits, some of which will be scrapped. After that, when I think I know what I’m doing, I tend to write a third, then go back over that and edit. After the second third I’ve just about got the story I want to tell in my head or in my notebook as bullet points and can write the last third pretty quickly…or at least that’s what I’m telling myself as I’m just past that stage now! Then I read it through again and edit, and for my final edit I print it out and go through it. It probably takes about nine months in all.
You chose to set the series mainly in Norfolk with the memorable opening of two bodies being found on a barge in the county, however we also travel across the county boarder to Cambridge University. How much research do you do on the settings to make them feel so authentic?
I’m glad they feel authentic, thank you! I’ve lived in East Anglia for many years, and when I was a BBC reporter I travelled quite widely across Norfolk and Suffolk, so I know the area pretty well. My husband and I do take day trips out to the main places where the books are set – so Southwold for the The Bad Things, a village called Happisburgh for After She Fell and Wroxham and Ludham for Dark Waters. We do an awful lot of walking around and I take photos, and we usually ending up eating fish and chips. For the Cambridge section of Dark Waters I went to Cambridge, and I also spoke to a good friend who was at the university, so she could give me some insights!
In this episode, without giving too much away, Alex is having family problems. She really hasn’t had an easy ride so far in this area so I’m wondering do you secretly hate her or is it more that you enjoy showing her tenacious nature?
I love Alex! In Dark Waters she really suffers from being in the sandwich generation, don’t you think? Still trying to look after her son, Gus, and also her parents, particularly her father whose health is failing. I think it’s true of the lives of many women between, say, forty and fifty, don’t you? I do love how she battles through and survives both mentally and physically.
This book delves way back into the past in one strand of the storyline. I find this kind of storyline very appealing but wonder how hard is it to choose how much to reveal of the past when the main action is taking place in the present?
That’s another great question! I write the different strands separately and I’m not sure I actually ‘choose’ how much to reveal, it sort of happens naturally…. I suppose, thinking about it, that I look to that storyline as an echo of the past – I don’t want to overwhelm the present action. I usually end up cutting a lot of the past story, making it, hopefully, tighter.
Do you have a writing routine?
A very loose one…. I like to get some writing done in the morning after I have walked the dogs, even if only a little because at least I’ve got started. Hopefully I’ll do a couple of hours (with frequent breaks!) then maybe an hour after lunch and another hour early evening….that is in an ideal world….one I don’t really inhabit!
Do you read books in the same genre that you write in?
I do, I love the genre….reading and writing it. I enjoy a good thriller too and a long, rich saga! What was your last read?
I have a couple of books on the go…. Wendy Cope’s new poetry collection Anecdotal Evidence, and an interesting spy thriller The Language of Secrets by Asuma Zehanat Khan, but that’s not what you’re asking is it! I have just finished Skitter by Ezekiel Boone, which is about man-eating spiders and the end of the world. I love a good sci fi /dystopian thriller…..
Wow, having fallen a little bit in love with tenacious journalist Alex Devlin at the start of this series; Where the Bad Things Are, there is always a tiny worry that your heroine can let you down. Oh no, this book opens with a frankly gruesome description of bodies decay and didn’t stop twisting my emotions hither and thither until I sadly turned the last page.
Two bodies are found dead in a barge on the Norfolk Broads and Alex just happens to be in the area at the time. Seeing a chance to make a scoop she chats to the boat owner and the police ringing her old boss Bud Evans to see if he’s willing to run a piece. Within a day or so the verdict of suicide being the one the police are going with unsurprisingly as the deceased connected over the internet on a suicide website. Now I love it when crime fiction takes in (the often depressing) contemporary twists and although I’d vaguely heard of such sites, I was interested to see the character’s take on them too.
As always Mary-Jane Riley spoils her readers with a number of different strands all being played out simultaneously giving the reader no chance to catch their breath. We have the most recent past covered to give us some idea of what has happened in the gap between the end of After She Fell and the start of Dark Waters. We see the family continue to come to terms with the actions of her sister which dominated the first book and we also visit Cambridge University in the early 1970s, in haunting extracts from a first year’s foray into this great place of learning.
I love the fact that Alex is a journalist rather than a Police Officer as that way she isn’t so bound by procedures, or the need to act as a team. Some of the lighter scenes see her negotiating a way to stay on the story when Bud dispatches Heath from the crime desk to file the story. The battle between doing a more worthwhile story rather than extreme coupon is so compelling that Alex, much to the disgust of her friend Lin, is prepared to use her free time to dig into the lives of those who died on the barge but only if Heath lets her in on what he’s found out so far. I wonder how often this kind of dynamic plays out in the world of the freelance journalist.
As in the previous two books, you can’t doubt that any of these characters are anything other than real people.
With so much action going on it must be easy for the author to lose the oomph that makes the characters who they are, but not Mary-Jane, each one from primary to secondary characters are absolutely alive and kicking (well apart from the dead ones!) The plotting is ingenious with the steps along the way being revealed at just the right point to keep the storyline moving forward without ever feeling that the author is holding out on us.
I raced through Dark Waters, thrilled to catch up with Alex, delighted with the twists and turns that this tale took us on and so I turned the last page, sad to say goodbye, until next time!
First Published UK: 16 March 2018
Publisher: Killer Reads
No of Pages: 332
Genre: Crime Fiction – Series Amazon UK
DARK WATERS is the third crime thriller in the series featuring journalist Alex Devlin. It begins with a macabre discovery on board a pleasure cruiser on the beautiful Norfolk Broads – the decomposing bodies of two elderly men. It appears the dead men did not know each other and police suspect an internet suicide pact.
Alex’s search for the truth reveals a darker story. She finds a connection between the two men and possible links to other unexplained deaths.
As she investigates further, the stakes rise and her own family becomes embroiled in the mystery. Her inquiries lead her to the University of Cambridge. Could the roots of the puzzle lie there with a tragedy that unfolded amongst a group of carefree students many years before?
Long-buried secrets come to the surface and Alex’s life and the lives of her family are on the line. As the past and the present collide, Alex questions everything she thinks she knows about those she loves.
Mary-Jane wrote her first story on her newly acquired blue Petite typewriter. She was eight. It was about a gang of children who had adventures on mysterious islands, but she soon realised Enid Blyton had cornered that particular market. So she wrote about the Wild West instead. When she grew up she had to earn a living, and became a BBC radio talk show presenter and journalist. She has covered many life-affirming stories, but also some of the darkest events of the past two decades. Mary-Jane has three grown-up children and lives in Suffolk with her husband and two golden retrievers.
DARK WATERS is her third crime thriller featuring investigative journalist, Alex Devlin.
If you like what you’ve read the links to buy the books are here!
Eve Singer is a TV crime reporter, in other words she operates in a world where she not only deals with the nasty side of humanity in her reporting but she also contends with knowing that her time on the screen is limited, it will only hold up if she continues to be successful, and keep her looks. Of course as her job means that she is the person who intrudes on the grief-stricken at their most raw, sympathy for her plight may not be overwhelming. However the public face of Eve Springer isn’t the same as behind closed doors; there she cares for her father who suffers with dementia, juggling carers and confusion.
Many crime readers have tired of the serial killer motif which you could say has been done to death (pun intended) but although The Beautiful Dead does have a serial killer, and one with a particularly warped motive, this book under the skilled pen of Belinda Bauer doesn’t actually resemble those except in the most superficial way. Admittedly this book opens with a particularly gory murder scene, although even this has a welcome edge of humour to fend off any nausea, but as the killer has fixated on Eve Springer, the focus is slightly to the side of the mounting pile of bodies and struggling police investigation and firmly directed at the reporter.
With Eve firmly on centre stage with only her photographer Joe to depend on, when the killer makes direct contact she is caught between wanting to fulfil the investigative part of her role and thereby securing her job, and maybe getting one with more long-term prospects and doing the right thing by turning any possible clues over to the police and letting them do their job. I like a book where there are moral judgements to be made, and only time will tell if Eve has made the right call…
That’s not to say the killer doesn’t have a lead part to play too; they do and right from the off we are given a sense of who they are, what their motivation might be although the author stops short of giving us an idea who is next on the ‘hit list’ it is clear that the killer wants Eve’s attention and so the crimes are designed for maximum impact. Taking that as a key motivator means that this is not a serial killer with an obvious pattern, no these kills are inventive designed to be noticed by Eve rather than the police. There was one point when I gasped out aloud, I was so shocked by what I’d just read. The writing is so vivid that you simply can’t help but conjure up the scenes, even if at times you’d rather not!
I have enjoyed each and every one of this author’s books and applaud her for coming up with a different ‘feel’ to each one. This book is laced with humour of the laugh out loud type at times; disconcerting when on the next page there is another body or another terrifying phone call to contend with, but a welcome relief nonetheless. Belinda Bauer is one of the most talented writers around and once again she proves her credentials as a ‘clever’ writer in The Beautiful Dead. I was in no doubt when reading this book that every word had been carefully placed for a reason, no room for downtime with a bit of waffle during this read, this is one of those reads that despite being desperate to find out how it would end, I didn’t want to race through the pages, I couldn’t, for fear of missing something very important.
I’d urge all lovers of crime fiction to try this with one warning for those of an aversion to graphic deaths because while it never felt gratuitous within the context of the story, I can see that this won’t be to everyone’s tastes.
I was lucky enough to receive an ARC from the publishers Grove Atlantic of The Beautiful Dead which was published on 17 November 2016. This review is my unbiased thanks to them, and of course Belinda Bauer for thoroughly entertaining me with this gripping thriller.
First Published UK: 17 November 2016
Publisher: Grove Atlantic
No of Pages: 352
Genre: Crime Fiction Amazon UK Amazon US
In the Water Clock Jim Kelly has produced a `comfortable’ crime story which implies that any murder happens out of sight with no violence…. Not true, but the style of writing and the wry sense of humour that accompanies it somehow gives a warmer feel . Philip Dryden a newspaper writer whose wife Laura in a coma drives around the fens using his personal cabbie, Humphrey Holt, gathering copy to phone through to the partially deaf copywriter at The Crow.
One of the trips leads him to a body in the boot of a car. Local policeman Andy Stubbs has something Philip Dryden wants so he investigates the murder. There are links to a robbery in 1966 on World Cup day which Dryden is determined to unpick.
This book was written over a decade ago that adds to the slightly old-fashioned feel. I loved the descriptions of the office workers at The Crow, the long memories of those who live on the Fens and the great writing. A good plot and likable characters has definitely put Jim Kelly as an author for me to read more of. I received this book through Amazon Vine.
Other books in the Philip Dryden Series
The Water Clock 2003
The Fire Baby 2005
The Moon Tunnel 2005
The Coldest Blood 2006
The Skeleton Man 2007
The Funeral Owl 2013