Posted in Blog Tour

2018 Ngaio Marsh Awards Blog Tour – Broken Silence – Vivienne Fletcher

I was delighted to be invited to take part in the blog tour to celebrate all the finalists in both the Best Novel and Best First Novel categories for the 2018 Ngaio Marsh Awards. The winners will be announced at WORD Christchurch festival on 1 September.

• Marlborough Man by Alan Carter (Fremantle Press)
• See You in September by Charity Norman (Allen & Unwin)
• Tess by Kirsten McDougall (VUP)
• The Sound of Her Voice by Nathan Blackwell (Mary Egan Publishing)
• A Killer Harvest by Paul Cleave (Upstart Press)
• The Hidden Room by Stella Duffy (Virago)

• The Floating Basin by Carolyn Hawes
• Broken Silence by Helen Vivienne Fletcher (HVF Publishing)
• All Our Secrets by Jennifer Lane (Rosa Mira Books)
• The Sound of Her Voice by Nathan Blackwell (Mary Egan Publishing)
• Nothing Bad Happens Here by Nikki Crutchley (Oak House Press)

It was therefore with great pleasure to do a short Q & A with author Vivienne Fletcher whose YA novel is one of those finalists but first lets take a look at the book, Broken Silence:

A stranger just put Kelsey’s boyfriend in a coma. The worst part? She asked him to do it. Seventeen-year-old Kelsey is dealing with a lot – an abusive boyfriend, a gravely ill mother, an absent father, and a confusing new love interest. After her boyfriend attacks her in public, a stranger on the end of the phone line offers to help. Kelsey pays little attention to his words, but the caller is deadly serious. Suddenly the people Kelsey loves are in danger, and only Kelsey knows it. Will Kelsey discover the identity of the caller before it’s too late?

• I’ll start with the obvious question: When did you know that you wanted to be a writer? Did you write stories as a child?

I made up stories as a child, but I struggled a lot with spelling and learning to write, so getting them down on paper didn’t come until later. I was fortunate enough to have a fantastic teacher when I was around seven or eight, who helped me work through my blocks and learn to love writing. That was the first time I said I wanted to be a writer. I cycled through a few other career ideas as I grew up, ranging from air hostess to child psychologist, but writing was something I always came back to.

• What were your five favourite childhood books?

Oh wow – so many to choose from, but these were the first ones that came to mind, which shows they must have stayed with me. Ranging from picture book to young adult novel:

1) The Choosing Day by Jennifer Beck
2) The Cat Ate My Gymsuit by Paula Danziger
3) Under the Mountain by Maurice Gee
4) To the Dark Tower by Victor Kelleher
5) Dare Truth or Promise by Paula Boock

• Tell us a little about your novel, what readers can expect from it?

Broken Silence is a fairly dark and gritty young adult thriller. Seventeen-year-old Kelsey is dealing with a lot – an abusive boyfriend, seriously ill mother, an absent father, and the beginning of an eating disorder. When she moves in with her brother, things are supposed to get better, but instead she begins receiving strange phone calls. The caller is protective of Kelsey, wanting to help her, but plays this out by attacking and sometimes killing anyone he perceives to be a threat to her.
I’ll be honest, this isn’t one for the faint of heart, but I think it’s a book that many people will enjoy for the high stakes and fast pace. The idea first came to me, when I was thirteen and spent an evening watching Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer with my best friend. Obviously the concept evolved and matured over the years, before I eventually wrote it down, but that should hopefully give readers an idea of the type of genre to expect.

• How important is the setting to your book?

I wanted Broken Silence to be set in New Zealand, while also be relatable to readers in other countries. There are little nods to it being set in Wellington, which those familiar with New Zealand will recognise, but it’s not overly important to the story. Kelsey is written as Kiwi, but first and foremost she’s written as a teenage girl just like those in many other places around the world.

• Where do you find the inspiration for your lead character?

There’s a lot of me in Kelsey … or at least teenage me. I have of course changed as I’ve grown up, but I remember the intensity of being a teenager and those memories have inspired her character.
The way I write, the story comes to me first, then I spend some time piecing together who the events happen to. There are bits of many women I’ve met in there. In the past, I worked as a youth support worker and later as a mental health phone counsellor. Kelsey isn’t based on any one person I spoke to during that time, but many of stories I heard from people influenced how I wrote her, and her reactions to the situations she faces during the course of the story.

• How would you introduce them at a party?

This is Kelsey. *subtle whispered aside, behind a cupped hand* She’s been through a hard time recently, so please be gentle with her, and excuse her if she’s a little rude!

• Do you have a writing schedule? Perhaps you have a target of a set number of words per day?

For me it depends from project to project. If I’m working on a first draft, I write from 10am-midday at least three days a week (usually more, but depends on other work commitments.)
Right now, I’m working on editing a second draft, so I’ve been setting a goal of editing one chapter per day, however long that takes to get it to where I want it to be.

• Where do you write?

At the moment, I write sitting on the floor with my dog in my lap. She’s a wonderful helper. She keeps me warm and on track, as I can’t get up from the computer until she wakes up. It’s a great place for editing, though it may not be so comfortable once I’m on to the next project and writing longer blocks of text!

• Are there any more books in the pipeline?

Yes – at the moment I’m working on my third YA novel. This one has paranormal elements, so a bit of a different direction from Broken Silence and Underwater, but it still has dark themes and a mystery running through it which I hope readers will enjoy.

Thank you so much Vivienne, some brilliant answers to my questions, and I particularly love that introduction to Kelsey!

About Helen Vivienne Fletcher

Helen Vivienne Fletcher has been writing for children and young adults for the past ten years. She has won and been shortlisted for several writing competitions, including making the shortlist for the 2008 Joy Cowley Award. In 2015 she was named Outstanding New Playwright at the Wellington Theatre Awards for her play How to Catch a Grim Reaper. Her e-picture books have been sold worldwide, and translated into French, German and Spanish. Helen is the author of three picture books for children, two young adult novels – Broken Silence and Underwater, and a short story collection for adults, Symbolic Death. You can find more about Helen’s books on her personal website:

Posted in Weekly Posts

Weekly Wrap Up (October 29)

Last month I was honoured to take part in the Ngaio Marsh Awards blog tour to celebrate the finalists in the eighth annual Ngaio Marsh Awards, for excellence in New Zealand crime, mystery and thriller writing for which I reviewed the engaging non-fiction true crime book: The Many Deaths of Mary Dobie by David Hastings.

First-time crime writers Fiona Sussman, Finn Bell, and Michael Bennett swept the spoils at the 2017 Ngaio Marsh Awards in Christchurch on Saturday night.

Fiona Sussman is the first female author to win the Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel. THE LAST TIME WE SPOKE (Allison & Busby) is her second novel but the first foray into crime storytelling for the former GP who grew up in Apartheid South Africa. It explores the ongoing impact of a brutal home invasion on both victim and perpetrator. “Laden with empathy and insight,” said the international judging panel. “A challenging, emotional read, harrowing yet touching, this is brave and sophisticated storytelling.”

Self-published e-book author Finn Bell won Best First Novel for DEAD LEMONS and was a finalist for Best Crime Novel for PANCAKE MONEY. His debut explores themes of addiction, loss, and recovery as a wheelchair-bound man contemplating suicide decamps to a remote cottage in Southland, only to be obsessively drawn into a dangerous search for a father and daughter who went missing years before.

Experienced filmmaker Michael Bennett (Te Arawa) won the inaugural Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Non Fiction for IN DARK PLACES (Paul Little Books), the astonishing tale of how teenage car thief Teina Pora spent decades in prison for the brutal murder of Susan Burdett, and the remarkable fight to free him. The international judging panel called it “a scintillating, expertly balanced account of one of the most grievous miscarriages of justice in New Zealand history”.

This Week on the Blog

My week kicked off with my review of William Boyd’s short story collection; The Dreams of Bethany Mellmoth, probably one of the few books in this format that I have wholeheartedly enjoyed.

My excerpt post for Three Days and A Life by Pierre Lemaitre got a mixed reaction in the comments section, I’m going to be reading this one soon…

This Week in Books featured the authors Nina Bawden (more of her later), RC Bridgestock and Elly Griffiths 

RC Bridgestock appeared on Cleopatra Loves Books on Thursday when one half of this writing duo, Carol, joined me to share her favourite childhood books as part of the blog tour for When A Killer Strikes. There were so many familiar titles on this list and Carol’s love of the children’s library where she fell in love with the tatty books shines through

On Friday I reviewed the winning book of The Richard and Judy Search for a Bestseller Competition 2016 – Caz Frear deservedly walked away with the prize with her novel Sweet Little Dreams which is up there with my favourite crime reads of 2017.

I ended the week with my review of Nina Bawden’s book The Solitary Child a book that was full of foreboding and I tagged ‘incredibly enjoyable in a miserable sort of way’  Apart from the plot itself it was equally interesting to see the contemporary opinions in the late 1950s, I won’t go into details but there are parts that wouldn’t pass the PC police today.

This Time Last Year…

I was reading The Museum of You by Carys Bray which I adored, surprisingly because this isn’t my normal type of reading matter at all.  Twelve year old Clover Quinn never knew her mother and has just one blurry photo taken with her as a baby.  After a trip to Liverpool’s Maritime Museum and  having a conversation with one of the curators, she decided that she is going to sort through all her Mum’s belongings and find out all about her. Then she is going to display her findings in the second bedroom, complete with cards explaining each item in the display. This could have been a slushy story, but Carys Bray kept the tone just right and it is funny and heart-warming without descending into mush.

You can read my full review here or click on the book cover


Clover Quinn was a surprise. She used to imagine she was the good kind, now she’s not sure. She’d like to ask Dad about it, but growing up in the saddest chapter of someone else’s story is difficult. She tries not to skate on the thin ice of his memories.

Darren has done his best. He’s studied his daughter like a seismologist on the lookout for waves and surrounded her with everything she might want – everything he can think of, at least – to be happy.

What Clover wants is answers. This summer, she thinks she can find them in the second bedroom, which is full of her mother’s belongings. Volume isn’t important, what she is looking for is essence; the undiluted bits: a collection of things that will tell the full story of her mother, her father and who she is going to be.

But what you find depends on what you’re searching for. Amazon

Stacking the Shelves

So having managed to negotiate the change to the new jurisdiction NetGalley I’m pleased to say all my unread books are still sat nicely on my shelf, including the latest addition, Turning For Home by Barney Norris. I loved his previous book of interlinked stories, Five Rivers Met on a Wooded Plain so I’m looking forward to seeing what this one has to offer – it will be published in the UK on 11 January 2017.


‘Wasn’t the life of any person made up out of the telling of two tales, after all? People lived in the space between the realities of their lives and the hopes they had for them. Everyone needed their stories, the other side of the ribbon of their lives, the real life and the dream, the statement and the meaning, all of them a tape’s breadth apart from each other, impossibly divided, indivisibly close.’

Every year, Robert’s family come together at a rambling old house to celebrate his birthday. Aunts, uncles, distant cousins – it has been a milestone in their lives for decades. But this year Robert doesn’t want to be reminded of what has happened since they last met – and neither, for quite different reasons, does his granddaughter Kate. Neither of them is sure they can face the party. But for both Robert and Kate, it may become the most important gathering of all. NetGalley

I also have bought a copy of The English Daughter by Maggie Wadey after being drawn to this non-fiction read after seeing a post on one of your lovely blogs – sadly I can’t remember whose. If it was you ‘thank you’


As a child I was aware of my mother being different from my father and his family, and that her difference was somehow connected with her being Irish, but I knew almost nothing of her youth and upbringing. In the year or so before she died, she did begin to talk to me about her past. The first sequence of the book is based on those childhood memories. Only after my mother’s death do I go to Tipperary and there I begin to discover another story, the life she never told me about. Amazon

What have you found to read this week?


Since my last post I’ve read 3 books and gained just 2 so my TBR now has a total of 173
Physical Books – 96
Kindle Books – 56
NetGalley Books – 21

Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Books I have read

The Many Deaths of Mary Dobie – David Hastings – Ngaio Marsh Awards 2017


I was thrilled to be asked to be part of the blog tour to celebrate the Ngaio Marsh Awards 2017 and even more excited when the book I was asked to review was one in the true crime genre, one that I have been exploring with a passion over the last few months.

David Hastings takes us back to 1880 New Zealand when a young woman, Mary Dobie was found lying dead under a flax bush near where she had been walking, possibly finding a place to sketch, as she was a talented artist one who had provided some illustrations for her brother’s book about ferns.

As I have found in so many books in this genre, the book doesn’t just focus on the investigation into the murder itself but explores the life of the victim, and her family who were on a three-year trip to New Zealand from England, and puts the death into the context of the social history and politics of the time and place, the latter I knew very little about.

Mary had travelled to New Zealand on a boat with her sister Bertha and her mother Ellen and we hear about the trip in part from the notebook that the two sisters wrote and drew in on the long trip. These entries are fascinating as neither sister behaves in quite the way we expect young Englishwomen to behave in the Victorian age. They were curious women, eager to learn about life and so on the ship they learnt about the sails and navigation from the crew crossing the social barriers normally in place. This was important in the context of the crime itself, not for the purpose of stating that Mary had put herself in the face of danger but more to give a real feel of the woman she was, outgoing and confident with a range of experiences that rival what most women of her generation would have experienced.

By the time of the murder Ellen and Mary were in Opunake on the Taranaki coast area to say goodbye to Bertha who had married during their extensive trip which also took in Samoa and Fiji. The Taranaki area was in a state of tension by this time, facts that David Hastings explains in detail and far more clearly than I can summarise here, between the settlers and the Maoris. The settlers had staked a claim to the land some twenty years previously but only more recently had started building roads carving up the area causing the Maoris to retaliate with their own non-violent protests. Both sides feared the next move the other may make and it was against this background that Mary was murdered. The timing of the murder was key and for a while it wasn’t clear whether the crime was committed by a Maori or a Pakeha let alone whether the motive was robbery, rape or a political act.

The author does a fabulous job of explaining all of the details of the political background, the characters of those involved and in the end taking us through the trial and the (mis)use that was made of Mary Dobie’s death after the event by those in power.

I read my copy of The Many Deaths of Mary Dobie in eBook format and would advise those of you who like the sound of this book to buy the physical copy as there are many wonderful pictures, those drawn by the Dobie sisters as well as some photographs which would be better seen alongside the text as unfortunately I have yet to master the flicking backwards and forwards to a satisfactory degree on my kindle.

I applaud the author for making the politics of the area so easily understood, and for bringing to life an unfamiliar region to his readers. This book held my attention throughout the voyage, the social history explored during the family’s travels and the trial itself. A very welcome addition to my true crime reading indeed.

First Published UK: 30 October 2015
Publisher: Auckland University Press
No of Pages:  240
Genre: Non-Fiction – True Crime
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Don’t miss out on the rest of the blog tour – there are some fantastic books, and blogs, to discover!

2017 Ngaio Marsh Awards Finalists

• Pancake Money by Finn Bell
• Spare Me The Truth by CJ Carver (Zaffre)
• Red Herring by Jonothan Cullinane (HarperCollins)
• Marshall’s Law by Ben Sanders (Allen & Unwin)
• The Last Time We Spoke by Fiona Sussman (Allison & Busby)

• Dead Lemons by Finn Bell
• Red Herring by Jonothan Cullinane (HarperCollins)
• The Ice Shroud by Gordon Ell (Bush Press)
• The Student Body by Simon Wyatt (Mary Egan Publishing)
• Days are Like Grass by Sue Younger (Eunoia Publishing)

• In Dark Places by Michael Bennett (Paul Little Books)
• The Scene of the Crime by Steve Braunias (HarperCollins)
• Double-Edged Sword by Simonne Butler with Andra Jenkin (Mary Egan Publishing)
• The Many Deaths of Mary Dobie by David Hastings (AUP)
• Blockbuster! by Lucy Sussex (Text Publishing)

Posted in Weekly Posts

Weekly Wrap Up (August 20)

Weekly Wrap Up

A year on from my daughter and son-in-law’s wedding which has seen them become proud home-owners and cat guardians, they are off on holiday which means I am in charge of Bertie who truth be told has turned out to be a total scardey cat and needy to boot. Not that my daughter minds as she is totally besotted, she even forgave him when he didn’t like the latest in a long line of catty presents! This photo came with the message, “I don’t think Bertie likes his bow-tie”, but you’ll note as any self-respecting cat he understands that he must have his photo taken before it could be removed! Poor Bertie and poor me because I fear the enormous responsibility ahead!

It’s also meant that I had a hasty message saying she needed some books to read on holiday and then proceeded to quiz me on why I only have book number x in this series and why this book isn’t shelved over there by that one… she clearly takes after her mother though as she’s taken ten and is sacrificing clothes for book room in the suitcase. So by rights I currently don’t own a fair few that I will include in my TBR count at the end of this post!

This Week on the Blog

I’ve been finally writing some of the (very) outstanding reviews in my bid to have all my 20 books read and reviewed by the deadline for 20 Books of Summer Challenge, which is two weeks today, but I started the week with my review for Sophie Hannah’s latest book Did You See Melody? which will be published on Thursday 24 August 2017.

On Tuesday my excerpt post was from Each Little Lie by Tom Bale which I hope to get around to reading very soon.

This Week in Books saw me highlighting books that were all set, at least in part, in the past and included the authors; Eve Chase, Julie Summers and Ann O’Loughlin.

On Thursday I reviewed the first of two non-fiction true crime books, The Spider and the Fly by Claudia Rowe. This book features a serial killer in prison who corresponds with a journalist and is part true-crime/part memoir.

Thursday was also the day I appeared on Christine’s blog, Northern Crime, with my choice of summer crime read – you can read all about my choice here.  This series of posts is wonderful as bloggers have come up with a wide variety of choices which goes some way in making up for the amount of rain that has poured from the sky lately! If you haven’t already done so do check out Top Crime Bloggers recommend summer #crime reads 2017

On Friday my review of The Ripper of Waterloo Road by Jan Bondeson took me further back in time to 1838 (fifty years before Jack the Ripper) featuring the murder of Eliza Grimwood which despite the New Police’s best efforts was never solved.

Yesterday I reviewed Murder is Easy by Agatha Christie, it now being a tradition to have a least one of  The Queen of Crime’s books in the challenge. To my delight I didn’t remember anything about this book at all so needless to say, I didn’t solve the puzzle.

This Time Last Year…

Well in truth I probably had no time to be reading but the spreadsheet tells me that the last book I finished before the wedding was You Should Have Known by Jean Hanff Korelitz and it’s a book I’m even fonder of in retrospect, being a clever look at those people who think they know best! In short Grace Sachs is a marriage counsellor who thinks that women shouldn’t hook up with unsuitable men and so has written a book telling them how to spot them – far better than turning to her years down the line and complaining when the clues were already there. And then Grace finds out her husband Jonathan isn’t exactly who she thought he was… A book full of observations and frighteningly accurate characterisation.

You can read my full review here or alternatively click on the book cover


Grace Sachs, a happily married therapist with a young son, thinks she knows everything about women, men and marriage. She is about to publish a book called You Should Have Known, based on her pet theory: women don’t value their intuition about what men are really like, leading to serious trouble later on.
But how well does Grace know her own husband? She is about to find out, and in the place of what she thought she knew, there will be a violent death, a missing husband, and a chain of terrible revelations. Left behind in the wake of a very public disaster, and horrified by the ways in which she has failed to heed her own advice, Grace must dismantle one life and create another for herself and her child. Amazon

Stacking the Shelves


I was hugely grateful to receive a copy of Anything You Do Say by Gillian McAllister having enjoyed Everything But the Truth by this author earlier this year. Anything You Do Say will be published on 25 January 2018.


Gone Girl meets Sliding Doors in this edge-of-your-seat thriller.
Joanna is an avoider. So far she has spent her adult life hiding bank statements and changing career aspirations weekly. But then one night Joanna hears footsteps on the way home.
Is she being followed? She is sure it’s him; the man from the bar who wouldn’t leave her alone.
Hearing the steps speed up, Joanna turns and pushes with all of her might, sending her pursuer tumbling down the steps to lie motionless on the floor. Now Joanna has to make a decision: Fight or flight? Truth or lie? Right or wrong? NetGalley

Emma from damppebbles is a truly wonderful woman and she posted me a duplicate copy of The Adversary by Emmanuel Carrère which was published back in July – this sounds brilliant and I can’t wait to read it.



With these chilling first words, acclaimed master of psychological suspense, Emmanuel Carrère, begins his exploration of the double life of a respectable doctor, eighteen years of lies, five murders, and the extremes to which ordinary people can go.

‘As a writer, Carrère is straight berserk; as a storyteller he is so freakishly talented, so unassuming in grace and power that you only realize the hold he’s got on you when you attempt to pull away… You say: True crime and literature? I don’t believe it. I say: Believe it’ Junot Díaz Amazon

From Amazon Vine I have a copy of One Bad Turn by Sinéad Crowley which is the third in the DS Claire Boyle series, having loved the first Can Anybody Help Me? I now really need to purchase the second book, Are You Watching Me?, so expect to see that here soon!

What happened between Eileen and Heather to make Eileen so determined to ruin her old friend? Claire Boyle must dig up the secrets from their pasts to find out – and quickly, because Leah is still missing, and time is running out to save her. Amazon

I’m ending my stacking the shelves on a high this week with The Many Deaths of Mary Dobie by David Hastings which is courtesy of Ngaio Marsh Awards in New Zealand – they have asked little old me to be part of their blog tour to highlight the finalists. To say I was thrilled was an understatement and even better the book they matched me with is true crime (my current reading obsession) which is absolutely perfect. Craig Sisterson you made my week!!


Dreadful murder at Opunake’, said the Taranaki Herald, ‘Shocking outrage’, cried the Evening Post in Wellington when they learned in November 1880 that a young woman called Mary Dobie had been found lying under a flax bush near Opunake on the Taranaki coast with her throat cut so deep her head was almost severed.

In the midst of tensions between Maori and Pakeha, the murder ignited questions: Pakeha feared it was an act of political terrorism in response to the state’s determination to take the land of the tribes in the region. Maori thought it would be the cue for the state to use force against them, especially the pacifist settlement at Parihaka.

Was it rape or robbery, was the killer Maori or Pakeha? In this book, David Hastings takes us back to that lonely road on the Taranaki coast in nineteenth-century New Zealand to unravels the many deaths of Mary Dobie – the murder, the social tensions in Taranaki, the hunt for the killer and the lessons that Maori and Pakeha learnt about the murder and about themselves. Amazon

What have you added to your shelves this week? What do you think of my finds?


Since my last post I’ve read 3 books and gained 6!
The current total is therefore hurtling in an upwards direction to 182
Physical Books – 101
Kindle Books – 62
NetGalley Books – 19