Posted in Uncategorized

Reading and Reviewing in 2017

Well it’s that time for reflection on the old and setting new goals for the new year so I’m going to start in my traditional way with a few facts and figures.

I have read and reviewed 147 books in 2017, one less than this time last year and boy some of those books have been really worth shouting about!

This amounts to 48, 281 pages 657 pages more than last year so obviously I’ve chosen some longer books to delight me in 2017 – that is an average of 132 pages per day!! No wonder I keep saying I don’t have time to do anything – to be honest that figure shocks even me!

Good old Goodreads tells me that my longest read was The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne was the longest book I read at a whopping 592 pages which was my very last review of 2017

The shortest unsurprisingly was a short story  Promises to Keep by Elizabeth Haynes at a mere 41 pages.

 

 

of the oldest books on my TBR was Room by Emma Donoghue which I finally read earlier this month – this was the book most read by other readers on Goodreads – 926,679 other readers there have also read this popular book, although I suspect many of them did so a little before I did!

The book I shared with the fewest readers was a debut crime thriller The Last Thread by Ray Britain, written by a former Police Officer not only were we treated to a new Detective but the authenticity of the read shone through – this book deserves a wider audience for sure!

A whopping 92 books fell into the crime fiction/psychological thriller categories although the psychological thriller count was down by 8 from 2016 to a mere 35.

My non-fiction reads declined slightly from 15 to 13 book fitting into this category, including a must-read for book-lovers; The Book of Forgotten Authors by Christopher Fowler although a large proportion of these are also crime related.

As always my goal for the year was to read more of my own books so not only did I participate in Cathy’s wonderful 20 Books of Summer 2017 challenge (which I completed on time – go me!) I chose a number of books that fitted with 2017’s obsession with the variety of ways true crime is presented and books inspired by true crime which was kicked off by the brilliant Little Deaths by Emma Flint

I also participated in the Mount TBR Challenge on Goodreads for the first time where I completed 34 of my aimed 36 books purchased prior to 1 January 2017.

 

In all I read 56 of my own books or a relatively respectable 38% of my reads for 2017 which is a vast improvement on the 49 books completed in 2016 and very nearly the 40% I was aiming for. I was spurred on by realising how many superb books I already own with The Other Typist by Suzanne Rindell being an early delight.

Of course though I’m a book lover and so this is exactly the time and place to say thank you to all the authors and publishers who have given me copies of your books to review – there are simply too many outstanding reads of the year (although tomorrow I will pick my top ten published in 2017) a whole 92 books read in 2017 were ARCs including Shelter by Sarah Franklin a historical novel set in the Forest of Dean where I lived from 1979 to 1987 – a setting that was also used in The Doll Funeral by Kate Hamer

As for you all, what you seemed to enjoy most in 2017 were the following Top Five Reviews of the year were:

He Said/She Said by Erin Kelly
The Sixth Window by Rachel Abbott
The Other Typist by Suzanne Rindell
Painkiller by N.J. Fountain
Anne Perry and the Murder of the Century by Peter Graham

Two of these are from my own bookshelves proving that it isn’t just the newest releases that captures reader’s attention!

Finally at the beginning of December I completed the annual filling in of the Reading Bingo squares with some choices of the year.

 

2018 Goals

Beyond the Goodreads Reading Challenge, I don’t normally go in for bookish goals but I am going to break with the tradition and set myself some (gentle) targets for 2018.

  1. In 2017 I discovered what a wonderful array I have already in my possession and so the target is to read 40% of my own books in 2018. To give me some motivation I have decided to allow myself to buy one book for every three of my own that I read – of course there are some get-out clauses – the annual book sales held on the island are exempt and I will be visiting the library for any must-reads that I don’t own.
  2. The latter clause is important as I really want to up my reading or re-reading of classic novels, I shelved just one book in this category in 2017 although two others could have been put there but I felt they belonged better elsewhere. My target is to read at least 6 so one every other month and the library is the place to go for these. Despite being a library member all of my life, I haven’t visited anywhere near enough in more recent years which is something I feel guilty about.
  3. I am taking part in the Mount TBR Challenge again with an aim of reading 36 books – let’s see if I make it in 2018.

On the blog

  1. I am (very) slowly amalgamating the tabs with the aim of putting all the reviews for 2013-2015 onto one tab – this ongoing project must be completed by the end of March 2018.
  2. My about me page is in dire need of an update especially as it is visited far more often than I expected with 660 views in the last year.
  3. And of course I will shortly display an updated shelf as my header to welcome in the start of 2018.
  4. I always used to write my book review before starting a new book and this habit is being resumed in 2018 – this has been a very busy year and as much as I love blogging it has been a real struggle to fit everything in and I’m hoping this will help me get a better balance, rather than frantically writing reviews at the weekend when I need to endlessly check names (I have a real blind-spot in this department) as well as other elusive details.
  5. Finally I will remember to post each review to Cleopatra Loves Books Facebook page which at best has been intermittent since I set it up earlier this year.

That just leaves me to thank you all for visiting, commenting and writing your own entertaining posts and reviews that has me constantly rationalising my book choices!

Posted in Uncategorized

Reading Bingo 2017 edition

reading-bingo-small

This is one of my favourite posts of the year so there was no question of me repeating this following my relative success in filling in the squares in both 2014, 2015 and 2016

I purposely don’t treat this like a challenge by finding books to fit the squares throughout the year, oh no! I prefer to see which of my (mostly) favourite books will fit from the set I’ve read.  As you can imagine this becomes a bit like one of those moving puzzles where one book is suitable for a number of squares… and then I’m left with empty squares which I have to trawl through the 137 books I’ve read and reviewed to see if any book at all will fit! This keeps me amused for many, many hours so I do hope you all enjoy the result.

Click on the book covers to read my reviews

A Book With More Than 500 Pages

Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood clocks in at 560 pages beautifully and tantalising revealing a story of Grace Marks an Irish servant who in 1843 was accused of Thomas Kimner and Nancy Montgomery in Ontario, Canada. We meet her some years later when Dr Jordan becomes interested in studying her case and we hear what she has to tell him whilst she stiches quilts for the Governor’s household. This fictional story is one of a number of books I’ve read this year which are inspired by true-crime and Margaret Atwood’s skill with her pen did not disappoint at all. I have also watched the Netflix series which stays remarkably true to the book

 

A Forgotten Classic

I only have one title under classics this year so I present another Beryl Bainbridge novel this year.  one of the author’s later novels published in 1981. The story is set in Moscow and I’m reliably informed is supposed to illustrate the Kafkaesque nature of the country at that time, but sadly I just ended up being mightily confused by this novel although I was very much taken with the description of air travel at this time, far less regimented than the flights we take these days.

 

A Book That Became a Movie

I haven’t watched the film of The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas which was released in 2008 but I was very taken with the book written by John Boyne which tells the story of Bruno, a young German boy whose father is posted as a Commander to Auschwitz. Young Bruno begins talking to a boy of a similar age to him through the fence separating and segregating the Jews in the camp from the outside world. Through a child’s eyes we are exposed to the horror of the camp something that is made much worse because of the innocence of our narrator.

 

A Book Published This Year

As a book reviewer I have read lots of books published this year but decided to feature one from a debut author Ray Britain, this author having been a member of the Police Force in the midlands until his retirement when he decided to turn his hand to crime fiction. The Last Thread is the first in the DCI Stirling series and despite being a realistic glimpse into policing is still a mighty fine story too. The opening scenes bring home the realities of policing when despite an effort by our protagonist to intervene, a teenager plunges from a motorway bridge onto the road below.

 

A Book With A Number In The Title

The Verdict of Twelve by Raymond Postgate was originally published in 1940 and bought to a whole new generation of readers by the British Library Crime Classics series. As might be expected the twelve is in relation to the number of men and women that sit on the jury in this courtroom drama. With the book split into three distinct acts, the background to the jury, the charges and the deliberations all brilliantly and engagingly executed. This is backed up by brilliant postscript.

 

A Book Written by Someone Under Thirty

Always one of the hardest spaces to fill, I have no-one that falls into this category this year.

A Book With Non Human Characters

The Good People by Hannah Kent is set in south-west of Ireland in 1825 and 1826 and is full of fairies, not of the Disney variety though, these are the fairy folk, that Irish folklore had walking amongst them. These fairies were as wont to carry out evil acts as they ever were good. With Nóra Lehay having the misfortune to lose her husband at the same time it becomes clear that her child is mute opens her up to gossip and isolation amongst the locals. A beautifully written story which despite being moving is quite a bleak tale.

 

A Funny Book

I don’t read many funny books so this year’s entry comes from Caimh McDonnell who nabbed this spot on the reading bingo last year. Angels in the Moonlight combines laughs with Crime Fiction in the most perfect mix, especially in this book, the prequel set in 1999. The crimes are not minimalised or overshadowed by inappropriate humour but the strong element that runs through the book allows the reader to feel a wide range of emotions as we follow our intrepid hero Bunny.

 

A Book By A Female Author

The story of a Singer sewing machine might sound pretty dull, but The Sewing Machine by Natalie Fergie is anything but. We first meet our machine at the factory in Clydebank where in 1911 ten thousand workers went on strike, Jean being one of them although her loyalties are divided between her boyfriend and her family. We later meet the sewing machine in the hands of Connie who we learn about in part through the records she keeps of what she’s made on it. Lastly it is found by Fred in his recently deceased Grandfather’s flat. A story of all those big emotions across three separate lives. Brilliantly presented and executed with precision.

A Book With A Mystery

This box always makes me smile because pretty much all the books I read have a mystery of some description in them. Before the Poison is a standalone novel by Peter Robinson featuring a historical murder trial which examines the roles of a woman’s morals in the likelihood of her being accused of murder, this time in the 1950s. In the modern tale of this story a recently bereaved composer becomes wrapped up in the story of Grace Fox who was accused of murdering her husband one snowy winter’s day. Aided by a diary Chris examines the story closely which has a personal link to the school he attended as a child. Fascinating and disconcerting as I couldn’t quite believe this was pure fiction.

 

A Book With A One Word Title

This year I have just one book which is a one word title, perhaps they are falling out of fashion? Fortunately it is a book that I loved. Shelter by Sarah Franklin is set in 1944 in the Forest of Dean which is where I lived before leaving home to make my way in the big wide world. The author shapes her story around the Lumberjills posted to the Forest to aid the war along with the Italian Prisoners of War who worked alongside them. The story was realistic and heart-warming and despite a difficult relationship with the area as a teenager, Shelter, made me appreciate some of its better qualities.

 

 A Book of Short Stories

CWA Anthology of Short Stories: Mystery Tour edited by Martin Edwards is a fabulous collection of short stories from a wide range of popular crime fiction writers. I loved exploring the different styles and places that are featured within this collection which well and truly bought home to me all the possibilities this form has to offer the reader. My copy now has a firm place on my bookshelf as it will be invaluable when seeking out some of the longer novels of those who appear in this brilliant book.

 

 Free Square

I’ve chosen The Other Typist by Suzanne Rindell for my free square for the simple reason this would have easily been featured in my top ten post of the year, except it wasn’t published this year. I love an unpredictable story and Rose who works in the Police Precinct in 1920s Brooklyn is the protagonist for just such a tale. Through her eyes we see what happens when Odile enters the typing pool, elegant sophisticated Odile is the star of the show but does Rose know her secrets? The journey back to early scenes is all in this book, and what a wonderful journey the author took me on.

 

 

A Book Set On A Different Continent

Regular readers of this blog won’t be in the slightest bit surprised that this book has made it onto the Reading Bingo. A Dangerous Crossing by Rachel Rhys was my First Book of the Year for a very special reason. Although the book opens as Lilian Shepard boards the Orentes from Tilbury Docks she is travelling to start a new life as a servant in Australia. Through her eyes we see the world as she makes the journey across the seas, meeting her fellow passengers including many that the social mores of England would have stopped her from socialising with, but life is different on an Ocean Liner. The brilliant period details of a world on the brink of war alongside fabulous characters and a mystery made this one of my favourite books of the year.

 

A Book of Non-Fiction

I’ve had a bumper year for excellent non-fiction reads but as many of them are crime related I’ve chosen The Book of Forgotten Authors by Christopher Fowler which is crying out to be on the bookshelf of booklovers up and down the land. The style of writing is often as irreverent as it is succinct with the author puts his own spin on why an author has been forgotten but interspersed between the 99 authors are longer chapters looking at subjects as diverse as The Forgotten Disney Connection and The Forgotten Booker Winners.

 

The First Book By A Favourite Author

In March I read the debut novel Everything But the Truth by Gillian McAllister and having really enjoyed being sucked into the moral dilemma she posed,I have also read her second novel Anything You Do Say later in the year – so yes, she is a favourite author. Starting with a glimpse of a text on her partner’s phone Rachel Anderson starts to dig, and once she’s started all manner of fall-out commences. This book packed a real emotional punch because not only was it cleverly presented but it also was jam-packed full of realistic characters who behave like ‘real people’

 

A Book I Heard About Online

Since blogging I find most of my new author finds on-line and to be honest, it is fairly easy to persuade me I must read all types of crime fiction but one blogger had a special reason for recommending this novel, Sewing the Shadows Together by Alison Baillie to me, because she lived in the place of the fictional scene of the murder Portobello, the seaside suburb of Edinburgh. Thirty years later the case is reopened and the wounds that never really healed split apart once more. With convincing characters and a solid sense of place this was one recommendation I’m glad I didn’t pass by on.

 

A Best Selling Book

Lisa Jewell is the master of drawing me into a story from the very first page and Then She Was Gone lived up to that early promise. This is the darkest of the author’s novels yet and on the one-hand seems to be a fantastical tale but it is so underlined by truths that this aspect only becomes apparent when you examine the story closely, yet move the prism to one side and all seems to be completely believable. Ellie Mack disappeared on her way to the library. She was just fifteen years old and her disappearance blew the remaining four Mack’s apart. Several years later her mother Laurel, meets a man in the local café and everything changes once more.

 

A Book Based Upon A True Story


Ah so you thought I’d come unstuck by using Alias Grace earlier on in my Reading Bingo but fortunately this year has been the year when I sought out books inspired by true crimes and Little Deaths by Emma Flint was the first one of the year. This book is based upon the life of Alice Crimmins who was tried for the murder of her two children in New York in 1965. The thrust of the story is that Alice was tried for her morals rather than being based on evidence. I became so immersed in Alice’s tale that I was simply unable to put this well-researched book aside.

 

A Book At the Bottom Of Your To Be Read Pile

2017 was the year I made a concerted effort to read some of my earlier purchases that have been languishing on my kindle. Silent Voices by Ann Cleeves was purchased way back in 2012 and is the fourth in the brilliant Vera series. In this outing a body is found in a sauna at a health club Vera visits in a short-lived attempt to tackle her lifestyle. What more can I say, fab characters, a proper mystery with clues to be solved and the best non clichéd detective to walk the beat.

 

 A Book Your Friend Loves

I went on holiday to Crete in 2016 and visited the island of Spinalonga, a former leper colony. On my return I told my friend all about it and she urged me to read The Island by Victoria Hislop which she’d already read. Well eventually the book made it to the top of the TBR and I fell in love with the story, bought even more alive because I’d trod in the footsteps of the fictional characters that I read about. This is almost a saga story following one family from the nearby town of Plakka and the realities of life on a leper colony in the relatively recent past. A book that I won’t forget in a hurry and a delight to read.

 

 

A Book That Scares You

I rarely get scared by a book but the cover of Anne Perry and the Murder of the Century by Peter Graham was enough to give me the willies. This is another true crime read, the brutal murder of a mother by a daughter and her friend in New Zealand in 1954 and perhaps because of the senselessness of the crime this book got to me far more than many of my reads in this genre. The girls lived in a land of make-believe, and had an intense friendship which was about to be halted due to Anne Perry’s move to England. The author investigates the girl’s earlier lives and comes up with some theories but none quite explain why this rare act of matricide was perpetrated. The fact that one of the girls became a mystery writer just adds another level of intrigue.

 

A Book That Is More Than 10 Years Old

2017 has been a year where I have explored a selection of books written about  true crime and so it would have been remiss of me not to include what is widely considered to be the first in this genre. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote, published in 1966 tells the story of the murder of The Clutter family in Kansas. We learn about the victims in the lead up to the murders and afterwards the characters of the murderers are revealed. The amount of research that must have gone into this book is immense and this was carried out by the author and his close friend at the time, Harper Lee who wrote To Kill a Mockingbird.

 

The Second Book In A Series

I loved Mary-Jane Riley’s first book, The Bad Things which I read towards the end of 2016 so it was no surprise that After She Fell was purchased so I could find out more about Alex Devlin in this, the second book in the series. Alex Devlin returns to North Norfolk to investigate the death of a friend’s daughter. What she uncovers at the excusive boarding school that Elena Devonshire attended undermines the coroner’s original finding of suicide. There are multiple viewpoints, a whole heap of well-defined characters and a set of events that will have the readers longing for Alex to reveal the truth.

 

A Book With A Blue Cover

So last year I had a wealth of blue covers to choose from and even commented how they were becoming more popular; not so this year! Fortunately The Fact of a Body by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich is an excellent choice because not ofound was from a mixed genre form of Memoir combined with true crime. This was engaging and interesting in equal parts telling the story of a true-crime as well as showing the legal files alongside the memoir section that examines the consequences of crime on its victims. Fascinating although far from an easy read.

 

 

Well sadly I’m a square short, I really do need to start picking up some younger author’s works but on the whole a pretty impressive year, if I do say so myself.

How about you? How much of the card could you fill in? Please share!

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

The Last Thread – Ray Britain

Crime Fiction
5*s

I couldn’t help but be intrigued when I was contacted by Ray Britain to see if I would be interested in reading his book with a view to writing a review, not least because this is a book written by someone who has been on the front-line of policing. You can read my interview with Ray Britain here. That’s not to say I didn’t approach the book with some degree of trepidation as the author was at pains to stress that his novel would reflect real-life policing and I wondered if the reality would quash the exciting storylines, after all most of us realise that what we see on TV and read in some (not all) novels can’t possibly reflect the more painstaking aspects of policing in modern Britain. I needn’t have worried at all, the author has the mix of reality and fictional plotting perfectly balanced and the knowledge that this could be ‘real’ made the resulting read more meaningful.

Our protagonist is DCI Doug Stirling and we first meet him on top of a bridge working in a voluntary role negotiating with a youngster who is about to commit suicide. Not the early damp start to the day that anyone would enjoy and yet the author had me in the moment from the first page willing Doug to be able to save a young life. It’s not to be and we see the stress the DCI is under especially when the Police Complaints Commission become involved in what seems like a never-ending investigation into what happened on the fateful day. Doug tries to put it behind him and due to a lack of professional officers he is working on the gruesome death of a man found murdered in a burnt out car but ordered to keep a low-profile while he’s under investigation. This is where the story really hots up and the mystery thickens by the minute, especially when a firm identification of the victim is made.

The Last Thread is an outstanding debut with an exceptional plot which is complex yet not so much so that I ever lost any of the threads, let alone the last one! The characters are well-rounded, perhaps a little too earnest at times but of course they are modelled on those who are dedicated to the job and not the detectives of old with a permanent pint in their hand and a life full of angst to forget. There are a couple of the rottener types of detectives to keep the book spiced up and the author also provides some of the office banter that keeps far less intellectually puzzling working lives turning up and down the country.

Best of all for me is this book is set in Worcestershire, something I was unaware of when I agreed to read it and as those of you who follow this blog know, I love reading books set in places I’m familiar with and my brother lives in Worcester so this book fully qualifies, and passes the test as I could easily recognise some of the settings described so well by the author.

The Last Thread was a great read, I’m delighted to note that the title implies that Doug Stirling will be returning, soon I hope as a book written from someone who has lived the life but can also tell a cracking good tale is just what this crime lover needs.

First Published UK: 17 September 2017
Publisher: Ray Britain
No of Pages: 536
Genre: Crime Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

 

Posted in Weekly Posts

This Week in Books (September 27)

This Week In Books
Hosted by Lipsy Lost & Found my Wednesday post gives you a taste of what I am reading this week. A similar meme is run by Taking on a World of Words

I am currently reading The Secrets She Keeps by Michael Robotham, a standalone psychological thriller.

Blurb

Everyone has an idea of what their perfect life is. For Agatha, it’s Meghan Shaughnessy’s.

These two women from vastly different backgrounds have one thing in common – a dangerous secret that could destroy everything they hold dear.

Both will risk everything to hide the truth, but their worlds are about to collide in a shocking act that cannot be undone.

The compelling new psychological thriller that will break your heart into tiny pieces, from world-renowned author MICHAEL ROBOTHAM. Amazon

The last book I read was The Adversary by Emmanuel Carrère, possibly the most chilling read of the year so far for me.

Blurb

ON THE SATURDAY MORNING OF JANUARY 9, 1993, WHILE JEAN CLAUDE ROMAND WAS KILLING HIS WIFE AND CHILDREN, I WAS WITH MINE IN A PARENT-TEACHER MEETING…

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. Amazon

Next up is some crime fiction with The Last Thread by Ray Britain who wrote this book following a highly successful career in policing in the UK.

Blurb

Accused of pushing a boy to his death in a failed suicide intervention, DCI Doug Stirling is suspended from duty. Attacked in the media and haunted by the boy’s smile as he let go of Stirling’s hand, he must look on helplessly as an incompetent colleague intent on destroying him investigates the boy’s death, supported by the vindictive Deputy Chief Constable, McDonald.

Weeks later, an anonymous call leads the police to a remote location and the discovery of a burnt out car containing the body of an unidentified man who has been savagely murdered. Short of experienced senior investigators, ACC Steph Tanner has no choice but to take a professional risk. Throwing Stirling the lifeline he needs to restore his reputation, Tanner appoints him as SIO to lead the investigation.

But with no witnesses, no forensic evidence and more theories than investigators, Stirling’s investigation has far too many ‘loose threads’ as he uncovers a complex, interwoven history of deception, betrayal and sadistic relationships. Was the victim connected to the crime scene? Is the murder as complex as it appears? Or is there a simpler explanation?
Still traumatised by the boy’s death and with time the enemy, does Stirling still have what it takes to bring the killer, or killers, to justice before McDonald intervenes?

Things are already difficult enough when DC Helen Williams joins the investigation, a determined woman who seems intent on rekindling their past relationship. And is Ayesha, the beautiful lawyer Stirling has grown fond of, connected to the murder somehow? Amazon

What do you think? Any of these take your fancy? Please do leave your thoughts in the comments box below.

Posted in Author Interview

The Last Thread by Ray Britain #AuthorPost

I’m starting the week with something special this week. Ray Britain a former Police Officer published his first book in the DCI Doug Stirling series yesterday, The Last Thread arriving a little ahead of the original schedule. I will of course be reviewing the book very soon, but in the meantime I will hand over to Ray to tell you more. I’m sure I won’t be the only crime fiction lover who will be excited to read a book from someone in the know!

Blurb

Accused of pushing a boy to his death in a failed suicide intervention, DCI Doug Stirling is suspended from duty. Attacked in the media and haunted by the boy’s smile as he let go of Stirling’s hand, he must look on helplessly as an incompetent colleague intent on destroying him investigates the boy’s death, supported by the vindictive Deputy Chief Constable, McDonald.

Weeks later, an anonymous call leads the police to a remote location and the discovery of a burnt out car containing the body of an unidentified man who has been savagely murdered. Short of experienced senior investigators, ACC Steph Tanner has no choice but to take a professional risk. Throwing Stirling the lifeline he needs to restore his reputation, Tanner appoints him as SIO to lead the investigation.

But with no witnesses, no forensic evidence and more theories than investigators, Stirling’s investigation has far too many ‘loose threads’ as he uncovers a complex, interwoven history of deception, betrayal and sadistic relationships. Was the victim connected to the crime scene? Is the murder as complex as it appears? Or is there a simpler explanation?
Still traumatised by the boy’s death and with time the enemy, does Stirling still have what it takes to bring the killer, or killers, to justice before McDonald intervenes?

Things are already difficult enough when DC Helen Williams joins the investigation, a determined woman who seems intent on rekindling their past relationship. And is Ayesha, the beautiful lawyer Stirling has grown fond of, connected to the murder somehow? Amazon

 

Interview with Ray Britain

Author of ‘The Last Thread’
ISBN: 978-1-9998122-0-1 (Amazon)

So, who is Ray Britain?

A fair question. I was a police officer in the United Kingdom with a varied career in uniform and detective roles and completed my career in a high rank, but the investigation of crime and the camaraderie amongst detectives remained my preference. As a Senior Investigating Officer (SIO) I led complex crime investigations, some of which engaged discreet national capabilities. For many years I was also a police Negotiator.

Okay, so why the pen name?

For reasons of personal and family security I use the pen name of Ray Britain because, over the years, I locked up many criminals but not all of them seemed to understand it was their actions that led to their imprisonment. Also, as my career progressed I was increasingly involved in discreet, national law enforcement capabilities which I cannot discuss. (The Official Secrets Act still applies!)

You were a police negotiator?

Yes. The full title is Hostage & Crisis Intervention Negotiator. In the UK it’s a voluntary role, over and above the ‘day job’ – one’s day to day responsibilities – and often meant being ‘called out’ of a warm bed to support police colleagues faced with a variety of difficult situations.

Such as?

That’s one of the attractions of the role, you never knew what your next deployment might be. Often, it was negotiating with someone to surrender to armed officers and avoid being killed. More frequently, it was negotiating with people intent on taking their own lives. Less often it was to negotiate the release of hostages being held at gunpoint or other weapons. In the UK, except for a relatively small number of highly trained specialist firearms officers, police officers perform their duties unarmed. One of the few countries in the world still to do so, and long may it continue.

Tell us about your principle character, DCI Douglas Stirling?

Doug Stirling is a thoughtful, reflective character, notoriously private with an intriguing, untold back story. He expects his people to work hard but works harder still. Stirling is easily drawn to intelligent, interesting women which can cause complications if his private life conflicts with the demands of his professional responsibilities. Women find Stirling attractive and interesting but can be frustrated by his reserve and his avoidance of emotional commitment.

And the lead female characters?

There are four prominent female characters, all with strong personalities. The book contains adult themes but to say more would spoil the story.

Why did you write ‘The Last Thread’?

I’ve always wanted to write a book and the common advice is to stick with what you know. There were other reasons too. As a professional investigator, I’m often frustrated by the inaccurate and improbable representation of crime investigation in the many television dramas that enter our homes each evening. Whatever the complexity of the crime, they are solved within impossible time frames with the most sophisticated technology seemingly always available. It provides entertainment, of course, but frequently misleads and raises public expectation beyond what is always achievable, in reality. Like all aspects of the public sector, the police service is cash strapped and must operate within tight, and tightening budgets.

How accurate is your story to real investigations?

Very! From the need to work with limited resources, often with dated equipment and in accommodation that’s often inadequate or well past it’s ‘best by’ date, right down to aspects of internal and external political pressures that any SIO can expect to work with in leading his or her investigation.

What’s the story behind your latest book?

Everything is drawn from my professional experiences, or as observed through the investigations of colleagues. Apart from drawing on memories of my Father, my characters are fictitious but they are informed by some of the people I’ve had the privilege to work alongside.

So where can I buy The Last Thread?

It’s available as an eBook at both Amazon and Smashwords.

What was the best and worst part of writing?

The best part is getting the story out of my head and onto the page, plotting its twists and turns and the red herrings to make it interesting for the reader. The worst bit is editing and proof reading! However, it allowed me to strip out irrelevant stuff and, hopefully, made it a better read.

How did you approach the cover design?

I wanted something that was moody, hinted at the sinister theme of the story line and made the reader curious to find out more. I found a local photographer I could work with and, together, we constructed the image you see. I hope you like it as much as I do.

What do you read for pleasure?

I like good crime fiction that reflects real world and is grounded in reality. Some plots are so fantastical that I don’t complete the book. I like biographies too as other people’s lives interest me.

What is your e-reading device of choice?
A Kindle.

What are you working on next?

I have several story lines and plots already mind-mapped out and will resume writing once I’ve got ‘The Last Thread’ out to market. As an Indie author, I’ve found there’s a lot of work involved in getting your work published to market and in marketing your brand. Having said that, I’m finding it a fascinating and stimulating experience.

What motivated you to become an indie author?

The ease of getting your work out there, rather than writing endlessly to mainstream publishers which seems to be the experience of many. But, there’s a hell of a lot of work after that in getting yourself noticed.

When you’re not writing, how do you spend your time?

I really enjoy walking, the higher, the better. My first love is the Lake District with the French Alps a close second. In the winter, I try to get away skiing with some friends. And reading, of course, is a wonderful pastime.

How long were you in the police for, and where?

For over thirty years in a police service in the Midlands region of the UK. Police services in the UK are typically based on traditional county lines.

Is there anything else you’d like to say?

Only to say thank you. I hope your readers will try the book and do please leave a review.

Thank you so much for taking the time out to visit Cleopatra Loves Books.

To find out more here are all the links you need!

Amazon UK
Smashwords
Website
Facebook

Posted in Weekly Posts

Weekly Wrap Up (September 10)

 

Sadly no cute cat photos to lure you in this week as my time has been taken up by work and sleep with of course some obligatory reading squeezed into any spare time.

This Week on the Blog

My week started with my review of One Day in December by Shari Low, a very enjoyable story about four people and the events that changed everything in just 24 hours.

My excerpt post came from My Last Confession by Helen FitzGerald which is about a Parole Officer and a murderer.

This Week in Books featured the authors Caimh O’Donnell, Susie Steiner and Chris Curran.

On Thursday I reviewed the psychological thriller Lost in the Lake by A.J. Waines on its publication day. This compelling tale features some musicians, an accident, a psychotherapist and a lost memory.

My review on Friday was for The Other Mrs Walker by Mary Paulson-Ellis, one of my holiday reads from back in June – I awarded this original story of the search for a dead woman’s identity, the full five stars.

It was back to a psychological thriller for my final review of the week; Her Deadly Secret by Chris Curran, proved to be a five star read involving a missing child.

This Time Last Year…

I was reading The Trespasser by Tana French, the sixth in the Dublin Series by this oh so talented author. Each book in this series can be read as a standalone as unlike many crime fiction series there isn’t a single story arc, or indeed a chief protagonist. Instead one of the characters from earlier in the series may feature in a later book.
The centre of the plot of The Trespasser is about the murder of Aislinn Murray a young woman, identikit to the numerous other women with straight blonde hair and a pout to match, who has had her head bashed in. There is no forced entry to the house and the table is set for two. All the detectives need to do is find the dinner date!

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

Blurb

You can beat one killer. Beating your own squad is a whole other thing.

Being on the Dublin Murder squad is nothing like Detective Antoinette Conway dreamed. Her working life is a stream of thankless cases and harassment. Antoinette is tough, but she’s getting close to the breaking point.
The new case looks like a regular lovers’ quarrel gone bad. Aislinn Murray is blond, pretty and lying dead next to a table set for a romantic dinner. There’s nothing unusual about her – except that Antoinette has seen her somewhere before.

And her death won’t stay neat. Other detectives want her to arrest Aislinn’s boyfriend, fast. There’s a shadowy figure at the end of Antoinette’s road. And everything they find out about Aislinn takes her further from the simple woman she seemed to be.

Antoinette knows the harassment has turned her paranoid, but she can’t tell just how far gone she is. Is this the case that will make her career – or break it? Amazon

Stacking the Shelves

I was lucky to receive a copy of The Blackbird Season by Kate Moretti complete with black feathers that scared me half to death when I stuck my hand in the envelope! This book will be published on 26 September 2017.

Blurb

Where did they come from? Why did they fall?

In a ​quie​t​ town, a thousand dead starlings fall onto a high school field, unleashing a horrifying and unexpected chain of events that will rock the close-knit community. Beloved coach and teacher Nate Winters and his wife, Alecia, are well respected throughout town. That is, until one of the​ ​reporters investigating the bizarre bird phenomenon catches Nate embracing a student, Lucia Hamm. Lucia soon buoys the scandal by claiming that she and Nate are ​having an affair, throwing the town into an uproar and leaving Alecia to wonder if her husband has a second life. And when Lucia suddenly disappears, the police only have one suspect: Nate.

Nate​’​s coworker, Bridget Harris, is determined to prove his innocence. Bridget knows the key to Nate​’​s exoneration and the truth of Lucia​’​s disappearance lie within the walls of the school and in the pages of ​t​h​e missing girl’s journal.

The Blackbird Season is a haunting, psychologically nuanced suspense, filled with Kate Moretti​’​s signature chillingly satisfying twists and turns. Amazon

I was contacted by the author of a new crime fiction series and despite repeatedly reminding myself that I don’t need to add any more of these to the burgeoning pile, I couldn’t resist his kind offer as an ARC. The Last Thread by Ray Britain will be published on 1 October 2017.

Blurb

Accused of pushing a boy to his death in a failed suicide intervention, DCI Doug Stirling is suspended from duty. Attacked in the media and haunted by the boy’s smile as he let go of Stirling’s hand, he must look on helplessly as an incompetent colleague intent on destroying him investigates the boy’s death, supported by the vindictive Deputy Chief Constable, McDonald.

Weeks later, an anonymous call leads the police to a remote location and the discovery of a burnt out car containing the body of an unidentified man who has been savagely murdered. Short of experienced senior investigators, ACC Steph Tanner has no choice but to take a professional risk. Throwing Stirling the lifeline he needs to restore his reputation, Tanner appoints him as SIO to lead the investigation.

But with no witnesses, no forensic evidence and more theories than investigators, Stirling’s investigation has far too many ‘loose threads’ as he uncovers a complex, interwoven history of deception, betrayal and sadistic relationships. Was the victim connected to the crime scene? Is the murder as complex as it appears? Or is there a simpler explanation?
Still traumatised by the boy’s death and with time the enemy, does Stirling still have what it takes to bring the killer, or killers, to justice before McDonald intervenes?

Things are already difficult enough when DC Helen Williams joins the investigation, a determined woman who seems intent on rekindling their past relationship. And is Ayesha, the beautiful lawyer Stirling has grown fond of, connected to the murder somehow? Amazon

I was also the proud recipient of The Frozen Woman by Jon Michelet with the book named Norway’s Best Crime Novel which has been translated into English for the first time and will be published on 21 September 2017.

Blurb

A FROZEN BODY
A MURDERED BIKER
A RADICAL LAWYER WITH A MURKY PAST

In the depths of the Norwegian winter, the corpse of a woman is discovered in the garden of a notorious left-wing lawyer, Vilhelm Thygesen. She has been stabbed to death.

A young biker, a member of a gang once represented by Thygesen, dies in suspicious circumstances.

As Thygesen receives anonymous threats, investigating detectives Stribolt and Vaage uncover a web of crime and violence extending far beyond Norway’s borders.

Does the frozen woman hold the key? Amazon

And if that wasn’t enough I had to buy a copy of A Patient Fury by Sarah Ward which was published on 7 September 2017 having fallen in love with this DC Childs series (In Bitter Chill and A Deadly Thaw)



Blurb

When Detective Constable Connie Childs is dragged from her bed to the fire-wrecked property on Cross Farm Lane she knows as she steps from the car that this house contains death.

Three bodies discovered – a family obliterated – their deaths all seem to point to one conclusion: One mother, one murderer.

But D.C. Childs, determined as ever to discover the truth behind the tragedy, realises it is the fourth body – the one they cannot find – that holds the key to the mystery at Cross Farm Lane.

What Connie Childs fails to spot is that her determination to unmask the real murderer might cost her more than her health – this time she could lose the thing she cares about most: her career. Amazon

And I also had to buy a copy of The New Mrs Clifton by Elizabeth Buchan after reading so many great reviews from around the blogosphere of this book

(here’s just one to wet your appetite)

Blurb

‘Wrapped in the roots of the sycamore was a skeleton; the remains of a woman, between twenty-five and thirty. She had carried a child . . .’

At the close of the Second World War, Intelligence Officer Gus Clifton returns to London. On his arm is Krista, the German wife he married secretly in Berlin. For his sisters, this broken woman is nothing more than the enemy. For Nella, Gus’s loyal fiancée, it is a terrible betrayal. These three friends wonder what hold Krista has over decent, honourable Gus. And, they ask themselves, how far will they have to go to permanently get her out of their home, their future, their England? Amazon

 

What have you found to read this week? Any of these take your fancy?

tbr-watch

Since my last post I’ve read 3 books, discarded 1 and gained 5
Making a Grand Total of 179
Physical Books – 100
Kindle Books – 62
NetGalley Books – 17