Posted in Book Review, Books I have read, Mount TBR 2018

Sweet William – Iain Maitland

Crime Fiction
4*s

Sometimes when you have quite a few books on your TBR, many of which I have added because of the wonderful reviews my fellow bloggers have written, I don’t remember any of the details of quite why I bought them. In my defence I read many books and even more reviews of books so I can’t be expected to remember the finer details. So in short it isn’t that unusual for me to dive into a book with only a faint idea of what to expect. I can safely say, I didn’t expect what I got with this book, one that is anything other than forgettable.

Raymond Orrey has a plan. He is going to escape from the psychiatric unit, his current home to find his son William and take him away to the South of France to live a blissful life. Orrey is not mad, not like his fellow guests at the Nottinghamshire hospital, he doesn’t dribble or rock himself, he’s planned his escape, as well as he possibly can and he knows where he needs to get to. To the house in Aldeburgh where his son William is visiting with his ‘new’ parents, to attend the parade for Halloween and maybe to have a ride at the funfair. Raymond is going to take William away to a better life, with him, his father.

William is really quite small but he’s had a hell of a disrupted life in that short time and although the short break in the holiday home isn’t friction free – after all, families all have their tensions especially when more than one generation gathers at a time and his ‘grandparents’ are part of the treat. William is also diabetic and not a fan of having his blood tested for sugars.

What follows is mad. Not a politically correct word I’ll admit but the most suitable one. Reading Sweet William is a bizarre experience. Raymond Orrey gives us a blow by blow account of his escape and his thoughts. We are drawn into his world when he seems to ask advice when his plans go awry. Seeing as he didn’t really have any beyond escaping and travelling to his son, this happens frequently. Should this man run or try to blend in with the crowd? Would the police be looking for him or does he have time before they are alerted? We have the questions and then see what he chose in the next chapter – this goes on for 48 hours and is exhausting. Why? Because it pulled this reader entirely into a world where it is hard to keep reminding yourself that Raymond is mad, most likely very dangerous and it doesn’t matter how many times he tries to convince you otherwise. Of course we are never convinced by those who need to repeatedly tell us they aren’t mad but this author has written this so well that sometimes despite this, you get drawn into Raymond Orrey’s chaotic world so that when he weighs up his options you find yourself predicting which, if any, will be the most successful whilst keeping in mind the careful care needed to keep William safe and well, care I wasn’t sure his father would manage.

This is an unusual piece of crime fiction, I’m so glad I took Fiction Fan’s advice, the skill of the writer is abundantly apparent even if the title is entirely misleading, this is the darkest read I’ve unexpectedly fallen into in a long, long time! That said I can’t wait to see what this author produces next.

This is the 18th book I’ve read and reviewed as part of my Mount TBR Challenge for 2018. I am aiming to read 36 books across the year from those purchased before 1 January 2018. Sweet William was purchased on 28 December 2017 thereby qualifying by the skin of its teeth!

First Published UK: 19 October 2017
Publisher: Saraband
No of Pages: 251
Genre: Crime Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Put A Book On The Map

Put A Book On The Map #BookOnTheMap #EastAnglia

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I am delighted to welcome Katherine Sunderland who blogs at  Bibliomaniac and Mary-Jane Riley to put the very first book on the map in East Anglia.

The Bad Things and After She Fell form the first two books in the Alex Devlin series which uses the back drop of Norfolk and Suffolk to these crime thrillers with a strong psychological edge. Susan from The Book Trail has also created maps for these two books on her site so you can hop over to see her for an East Anglian extravaganza

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For those of you not from the UK, or like me whose geography is a little on the weak side Norfolk is a county on the East of England, it borders the counties of Suffolk, Cambridgeshire which together with Norfolk make up the region known as East Anglia and is about 100 miles north-east of London. As Alex Devlin does a fair bit of travelling as the journalist turned investigator, it seemed appropriate to give her the whole region of East Anglia rather than a mere county or town.

Although I’ve visited Norwich many times as Owen went to Norwich University of the Arts, and we’ve had family visits to Norwich Castle, walked around this picturesque town and had a wonderful and hilarious evening in the Revolution Cuban Restaurant Bar,sadly I haven’t explored further afield and so I was delighted that Katherine and Mary-Jane have bought the places mentioned in these two excellent books to life!

 

Mary-Jane Riley – Author

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I like to think my earliest memory of East Anglia is of me as a two-year-old, running across the beach at Mundesley, laughing. Perhaps I can remember the sparse luxury of the converted railway carriage in which we stayed. Or maybe it’s when I’m a little older, sheltering from the cold east wind inside a tent on the same beach with my father, eating ham sandwiches while my brothers sand-surfed. I know I can remember walking around Sheringham on a treasure hunt, looking for the clues in shop windows. And the time we went to the Summer Theatre at Southwold – though I can’t remember what we saw.

Some years later, quite by chance, I came to live in Norfolk with my new husband. We’ve moved around Norfolk and Suffolk once or twice, moves dictated by children and jobs, but for more than half my life now I have lived in this wonderful area of England.

I love it here. I love the isolated villages, the desolate salt marshes and reedbeds, the mysterious forests, the sandy beaches, the crumbling cliffs. The sky is wide and often grey, the air is crisp, the winds sharp from the North Sea.

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East Anglia, with its contrasts and edginess is the perfect place to set a crime novel – as many writers have discovered – P.D.James, Ruth Rendell, Nicci French, Dorothy L Sayers to name only four – so what better place for me to use for my first crime novel?

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With children and dogs, we have spent many hours trudging along beaches in summer and winter. The seaside has a very different feel about it in the cold months, and that is what I wanted to capture with The Bad Things. I didn’t want the light and sunny feel of a town in the summer, I wanted people huddled in coats, waves crashing on the shore, grey sky meeting grey sea. I wanted isolation, desolation. But I wanted a family place too, where a family should be happy, but where dark secrets lay just below the surface. Southwold was perfect, only it would be known as Sole Bay to enable me to play around with the geography (and not upset people!). It has beaches, a harbour lined with wooden sheds selling fresh fish, salt marshes and a wide horizon. In the winter the cold sea can be cruel – breaching sea defences, eroding the beaches and the coastline, flooding buildings.

 

I wanted the ‘Fine City’ of Norwich to play a part too… the vibrant market that sells everything from artisan bread to foam pads for cushions, the Forum building that houses the Millennium Library and is ultra-modern in design, juxtaposed with the beautiful old St Peter Mancroft Church. Scenes set in the city also gave the book a space to breathe, before plunging back into the events happening in Sole Bay.

Absolutely perfect.

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It was on a visit to North Norfolk that inspiration struck for my second book, After She Fell. On a lovely day we took a trip to the village of Happisburgh (known as Hallow’s Edge in the book). Over the years, I had written many news stories about coastal erosion in the area, and I wanted to see it for myself. We walked along the edge of the cliff, and came across a road that ended in – nothing. It had fallen into the sea. I peered over the edge, and down below were the granite rocks that were supposed to protect the cliff, then there was the sea. When I looked to my left, I saw a beautiful Arts and Craft house.

That was it. I had always wanted to write a book set in a boarding school – blame too much Enid Blyton and a lonely childhood for that – and in my imagination I saw that house as a private school. What if a pupil from the school fell off the end of the road? I also wanted to explore the realities of youngsters living in an isolated village, and the tensions between private school pupils and local teenagers. There is also a beautiful lighthouse in the village, perfect for…. you will have to read the book to find that out.

And then, just down the road is Mundesley…. of course my characters had to go there. It is still a typical Norfolk seaside town, with cafes that do tea and coffee and shops that sell buckets and spades and windmills, and beautiful, golden beaches. I thought it would be somewhere where the characters could breathe – just for a while. It would also serve as a suitable contrast to the claustrophobic village and school.

It was also a chance for me and my husband to eat fish and chips on a bench near the town’s tiny museum and to walk on the beach and picture that two-year-old me, laughing.

 

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THE BAD THINGS out in ebook and paperback: getBook.at/TheBadThings
AFTER SHE FELL out now as ebook and paperback: getBook.at/AfterSheFell
Mary-Jane Riley @mrsmjriley
Katherine Sunderland of Bibliomaniac – Blogger
 katherine-sunderland

I was absolutely thrilled to be asked by my Book Blogger Heroine Cleo to take part in her new series of blog posts which looks at the setting and location of reader’s favourite novels.

I’m going to talk about Norfolk. The best place in the world!

Book: Mary Jane Riley “The Bad Things

Location: Suffolk and Norfolk Coast

We have been going to Norfolk at least 3 or 4 times a year for the last ten years. I love the huge skyline that stretches on forever, the never-ending flatness of the countryside and the sense of remoteness and isolation as you travel along the winding lanes. There is also an immediate sense of having to slow down, sometimes very literally when you get stuck behind a tractor on the meandering single lane roads but I think it’s also because of the simplicity of the horizon and the unspoilt coastline. My husband loves it because of the patchy mobile reception and temperamental WiFi meaning he can become unreachable for a few precious days!

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Every beach along the North Norfolk coast line is different. There are the popular sandy beaches and seaside resorts; there are the lesser known sandy beaches, there are beaches framed with colourful beach huts and then there are the marshlands that stretch as far as the eye can see until the grassland merges into the murky water. There are beaches which are good for surfing, swimming, building sandcastles, flying kites, epic walks and crab fishing.

 

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For us, Norfolk has always been one of “The Good Things” in our family, but that said, a busy beach, a crowded resort, an isolated headland and sinking marshlands are all prefect locations for stories about crime, mystery and tragedy – how many times has your mind envisaged missing children, a drowning, a devastating argument……

 

And what’s better than a beach at winter? I love the bleakness of the coast line and the exposure to the chilling wind. What of Norfolk’s eroding coastline -it’s unable to protect itself so how will it protect you? And those marshlands with their unpredictable tides – the way the water feeds in along its many invisible rivulets, weaving its way in and out of the higher land until before you know it you are completely cut off and cast adrift into the sea. Oh yes, a perfect setting for a novel!

When we were in Norfolk last year, I read a few thrillers set in the area. I was attracted to Mary Jane Riley’s book because the font cover reminded me of Holkham beach. It could have easily have been a photo from my album with my children wandering off to play while I put my head in a book!!

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Although the setting for “The Bad Things” is a fictional town based on Southwold in Suffolk, the coastline is very similar to Norfolk and I think Riley has used elements of Norfolk towns in her writing.  I enjoyed Riley’s novel because her descriptions of Suffolk/Norfolk are so vivid and incredibly easy to picture. They lend themselves perfectly to the atmosphere of the story and Riley uses the location to increase the tension and suspense in “The Bad Things“. I suppose reading a gripping thriller, with the most terrifying premise for any parent, which is set in a place where you always feel relaxed and safe should make me feel more unsettled, but it didn’t spoil my break at all and actually I just enjoyed being able to really “see” the novel.

If in doubt, make sure you have chosen to read your novel at one of the many friendly, bright and cheerful cafes that are sprinkled throughout the county!

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Thanks so much Cleo for letting me take part in your #PutABookOnTheMap! To read my full review of “The Bad Things” by Mary Jane Riley please click here:

Bibliomaniac’s Review of The Bad Things

For a list of other books set in Norfolk click here:

Bibliomaniac’s Norfolk Reading Suggestions

You can find Katherine on twitter @KatherineSunde3

The Bad Things Book Reviews from the blogosphere

The Bad ThingsThe Bad Things by  Postcard Reviews and can be found on twitter @TracyShephard

The Bad Things by Grab This Book who can be found on twitter @grabthisbook

The Bad Things by The Book Review Café who can be found on twitter @ReviewCafe

The Bad Things by Cleopatra Loves Books – that’s me, I can be found at @cleo_bannister

 

After She Fell Book Reviews from the blogosphere

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After She Fell by The Book Lover’s Boudoir who can be found on twitter @pscottwriter

After She Fell was written by Lizzie Hayes of Promoting Crime Fiction, this review can also be found at the wonderful resource for crime fiction lovers Mystery People

After She Fell by Relax and Read Book Reviews who can be found on twitter @callejajos

 

And Claire Knight has provided a review of both books at Crime Book Junkie  she can be found on twitter @ClaireKreads

 

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Now don’t forget to hop over to see Susan The Book Trail to see the details of the book settings on her wonderful maps.

 

I do hope you’ve enjoyed this visit to East Anglia as much as I have and there are lots more wonderful destinations full of crime coming up on Put A Book On The Map.

Thank you so much to Mary-Jane Riley for writing two (five star) reads set in this great destination, and to Katherine for providing a piece and her pictures which illustrates how a setting that we know well, can add a special something to the reading experience.

All books featured in this #BookOnTheMap project will get a place on the master page listing crime fiction by their destination with links to the wonderful collaboration between authors and bloggers.

Please email me at cleopatralovesbooks70@gmail.com if you would like to participate in this feature.

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read, Five Star Reads

The Bad Things – Mary-Jane Riley

Crime Fiction 5*s
Crime Fiction
5*s

A story with two threads, both successfully executed is the stuff that makes this crime fiction lover’s heart sing. Mary-Jane Riley pulled off both complex story-lines so well that I was frequently incredibly reluctant to part with my kindle, I just had to know how things played out. And yet this was a book that snuck up on me, not that it started badly, far from it, but the more I turned the pages, the more immersed in the story I became, as the plot wound tighter and tighter, and would not let me go!

Alex Devlin is a reporter, she submits pieces to magazines, using whatever inspiration she can find. Fifteen years before Alex’s sister Sasha’s twins, Harry and Millie Clements went missing. Although Harry’s body was found a few days later, no trace of Millie was ever found. Two people were convicted for their murder; Martin Jessop who had committed suicide a little way into his sentence and Jackie Wood who provided him with an alibi. When the news breaks that Jackie Wood has just been released from prison due to the expert witness in the case being discredited Alex desperately wants to give her sister some closure because Sasha still faces a daily battle to keep going. Her marriage to the twin’s father disintegrated in the aftermath and she has a history of self-harming. Then Alex hits on the idea to interview Jackie Wood to see if she can find out the truth…

With a bit of detective work Alex finds Jackie living in a caravan in Sole Bay in Suffolk which isn’t too far from her home in Norfolk. With the scenes set out of season, the descriptions of the seaside were about as far from the picture postcard variety as you can imagine. This works perfectly as a background of a meeting filled with suspicion, recrimination and a dash of hope – but which emotion belongs to which woman?

In the second strand of this tale we meet Detective Inspector Kate Todd who was starting out in her career when she found Harry Clements’ body and no matter how successfully she’s built her career or her long-standing relationship with Chris, she has never forgotten that day. Watching the release of the woman who was involved, only serves to bring the memories back to the forefront of her mind as she ponders how the family of those two small children are faring.

A good crime fiction novel often doesn’t actually depend on the murder that is at its heart, it depends on the character’s reactions, the plotting and the outcome and Mary-Jane Riley delivers on all three and cleverly avoids dwelling on the death of Harry although of course both children are at the forefront of many of the exceptionally well-drawn character’s minds. What sets this above many other crime fiction books is that the book reveals the complex emotions that many of the characters experience, and we get all that by watching them in action. This author hasn’t fallen into the trap of soliloquies full of woe, instead we see how Alex reacts when she goes to check on her sister Sasha. We also see her switching roles, from sister, to mother to reporter and in another superb twist, the object of one crime reporter’s particular interest in the case. With the clues to what really happened all those years ago coming from different viewpoints, I honestly couldn’t put this book down, it is that well-plotted with enough red-herrings and mysterious incidents, to keep even the keenest of crime fiction readers on their toes.

This is quite an emotional read and not just because of the tender age of the victims. I found myself sympathising with both Alex and Kate and also surprisingly Jackie. The author has made it easy to put yourself in each of these very different character’s shoes, and eloquently builds a picture of their lives after the crime was committed.

After reading The Bad Things, I had to purchase the next in the series After She Fell which is currently available at the bargain price of 99p on Amazon.

First Published UK: 27 August 2015
Publisher: Killer Reads
No of Pages: 332
Genre: Crime Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US