Posted in Blog Tour

The Restless Dead by Simon Beckett – Blog Tour

Writing a Series

by Simon Beckett

When I sat down to start The Chemistry of Death, my first novel to feature British forensic anthropologist David Hunter, it wasn’t with the intention of writing a series. Back then my main concern was writing a good, scary thriller that people would enjoy, and that had a decent chance of attracting a publisher. I didn’t give much thought to anything beyond that.

It was only later, when I realised there was enthusiasm for more books about the same character, that I began to think seriously about a sequel. Sequels, in fact. Of course, that’s a fantastic position for a writer to find themselves in. At the same time, it’s a very different situation to writing a stand-alone novel, where the story and characters conclude on the final page.

‘You’ve already got the main character, all you have to do is write another story about him,’ a friend of mine commented when I was worrying over the follow-up. ‘How hard can it be?’ Fair point. But just because you’ve managed to bottle lightning once doesn’t mean it’s easy to do again. In fact, thinking that way is a good way of falling flat on your face.

One of the difficulties of any series is retaining those elements that made the first book a success, while still keeping the stories and characters fresh. And the longer the series goes on, the harder it is to prevent the laws of diminishing returns from creeping in. That killer plot twist you dreamed up in book two, for instance, might have had you punching the air at the time. But how do you top it in book three? Let alone books four or five?

The answer is that you probably can’t. At least not in the same way, and it would be a mistake to try. If each book in a series follows exactly the same formula, then you’ll quickly become bored by writing it. And if that happens it’s a safe bet your readers will feel the same way.

Every author has their own way of dealing with this. Mine was to take my lead from real-life forensic anthropologists; specialists in badly decomposed or damaged human remains, who are called out to crime scenes across the UK. It allows me to place David Hunter in a different location for each novel, with a mostly new set of characters to interact with. That gives the individual books their own distinct identity, and helps keeps the series from becoming stale. For me as well as – I hope – the reader.

Of course, it can also bring its own set of problems, not least a sense of having the re-invent the wheel from scratch each time. But no one ever said writing was easy. That much holds true whether it’s a series or a stand-alone you’re writing.

Amazon UK
Amazon US

I’d like to thank Simon Beckett for this fascinating piece about turning a single book into a series – you can read my review of The Restless Dead here

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

The Restless Dead – Simon Beckett

Crime Fiction
4*s

From the very first page where we are treated to a graphic description of what happens to a body when it is immersed in water, to the last page, there is no doubting the research that has gone into making the descriptions of our narrator, David Hunter, forensic anthropologist, feel absolutely realistic.

Composed of over sixty per cent water itself, a human body isn’t naturally buoyant. It will float only for as long as there is air in its lungs, before gradually sinking to the bottom as the air seeps out. If the water is very cold or deep, it will remain there, undergoing a slow, dark dissolution that can take years. But if the water is warm enough for bacteria to feed and multiply, then it will continue to decompose. Gases will build up in the intestines, increasing the body’s buoyancy until it floats again.
And the dead will literally rise . . .

David Hunter’s role at the university is under threat, he now suspects that he has been blacklisted as an advisor in murder investigations and without the kudos this role brings, his new contract for work at the university is in question. Added to this he has been invited to a house party in the Cotswolds for the weekend by his dear friends, only to find that they are trying to set him up with a woman. He dutifully packs his bags with more than a whiff of reluctance and then as he is about to leave he gets a call from the police about a badly decomposed body they’ve found in the Backwater’s Estuary in Essex.

Although this looks to be a fairly open and shut case of the suicide of a local missing man, the police and David Hunter still try to definitively identify the body despite obstacles being put in their way by the father of the suspected victim. Alongside this investigation there is another into a missing woman who had links to the named man and then by a series of unfortunate events David Hunter finds himself personally involved with some of the interested parties in the case.

The first section of the book moves slowly from an action perspective but fully lays the ground for a whodunit of massive proportions. If you’re reading preference tends more towards the action side of crime fiction then you will not be disappointed by the way the pace picks up in the second half of the book where the danger comes up close and personal.

Rarely does a crime fiction book so intrinsically entwine the setting so totally into the story. The Restless Dead would simply not have been the same book without the danger of the wetlands, the creeks that criss-cross the landscape with water rushing in on those unaware of the dangers of this particular location. Added to that we have the atmosphere and eloquent descriptions of the houses, and their inhabitants set alongside the dangerous tides.

I will now admit that I have only read the first book in this series, The Chemistry of Death, and it was clear that I’d missed some excitement in the intervening three books, but in no way did this spoil the enjoyment I got out of reading The Restless Dead which had me gripped by the series of mysteries to solve which kept my theories in a total sense of flux.

I’d like to thank the publishers Penguin Random House for providing me with a copy of The Restless Dead ahead of the publication date of 6 April 2017. This review is my unbiased thanks to them, and the talented author Simon Beckett for keeping me entranced in the world of decomposed bodies, mysteries aplenty, a few broken characters and a smattering of love interest all in a region set apart by virtue of its unpredictable landscape.

First Published UK: 6 April 2017
Publisher: Penguin Random House
No of Pages: 416
Genre: Crime Fiction – Series
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Weekly Posts

This Week in Books (April 5)

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

At the moment I am reading and thoroughly enjoying The Restless Dead by Simon Beckett which was published in eBook format in February but is out in hardback tomorrow.

Blurb

Once one of the country’s most respected forensics experts, Dr David Hunter is facing an uncertain professional – and personal – future. So when he gets a call from Essex police, he’s eager for the chance to assist them.

A badly decomposed body has been found in a desolate area of tidal mudflats and saltmarsh called the Backwaters. Under pressure to close the case, the police want Hunter to help with the recovery and identification.

It’s thought the remains are those of Leo Villiers, the son of a prominent businessman who vanished weeks ago. To complicate matters, it was rumoured that Villiers was having an affair with a local woman. And she too is missing.

But Hunter has his doubts about the identity. He knows the condition of the unrecognizable body could hide a multitude of sins. Then more remains are discovered – and these remote wetlands begin to give up their secrets . . . Amazon

I have just finished The Special Girls by Isabelle Grey, the third in the Grace Fisher series, which is also published tomorrow, 6 April 2017 – as are a whole heap of brilliant books!

Blurb

A case of historical child sex abuse by a famous doctor is linked to the murder of his young and popular colleague at a summer camp deep in the Essex woods.

A young psychiatric registrar is found beaten to death in the woods close to a summer camp for young patients suffering from eating disorders. It is run by the charismatic, world-renowned Professor Ned Chesham. DI Grace Fisher investigates, but it is not long before she is pulled from the case – to head up a Metropolitan Police review into a cold case involving Chesham himself.

Nearly twenty years ago, one of Chesham’s patients made allegations that he sexually assaulted her. The investigation at the time found no conclusive proof, but Grace soon discovers another victim, and a witness whose account never reached the police. Does this mean the original investigation was bungled? Scotland Yard would certainly like her to conclude otherwise.

As Grace uncovers the lies that led to the young doctor’s murder, she discovers the full extent of the damage done to Chesham’s ‘special girls’ – and the danger they are still in. NetGalley

Next I plan to read Dead Woman Walking by Sharon Bolton and I have a feeling I’m in for a real treat with this one which will be published on

Blurb

Just before dawn in the hills near the Scottish border, a man murders a young woman. At the same time, a hot-air balloon crashes out of the sky. There’s just one survivor.

She’s seen the killer’s face – but he’s also seen hers. And he won’t rest until he’s eliminated the only witness to his crime.

Alone, scared, trusting no one, she’s running to where she feels safe – but it could be the most dangerous place of all . . . Amazon

So chillers and killers all round for me this week! What are you reading?

Posted in Weekly Posts

First Chapter ~ First Paragraph (March 28)

First Chapter
Welcome to another Tuesday celebrating bookish events, from Tuesday/First Chapter/Intros, hosted by Bibliophile by the Sea Every Tuesday, Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea posts the opening paragraph (sometime two) of a book she decided to read based on the opening. Feel free to grab the banner and play along.

This week my opener comes from The Restless Dead by Simon Beckett, the fifth in the David Hunter series which will be published in hardback on 6 April 2017.

Blurb

Once one of the country’s most respected forensics experts, Dr David Hunter is facing an uncertain professional – and personal – future. So when he gets a call from Essex police, he’s eager for the chance to assist them.

A badly decomposed body has been found in a desolate area of tidal mudflats and saltmarsh called the Backwaters. Under pressure to close the case, the police want Hunter to help with the recovery and identification.

It’s thought the remains are those of Leo Villiers, the son of a prominent businessman who vanished weeks ago. To complicate matters, it was rumoured that Villiers was having an affair with a local woman. And she too is missing.

But Hunter has his doubts about the identity. He knows the condition of the unrecognizable body could hide a multitude of sins. Then more remains are discovered – and these remote wetlands begin to give up their secrets . . . Amazon

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

First Chapter ~ First Paragraph ~ Intro

1

Composed of over sixty per cent water itself, a human body isn’t naturally buoyant. It will float only for as long as there is air in its lungs, before gradually sinking to the bottom as the air seeps out. If the water is very cold or deep, it will remain there, undergoing a slow, dark dissolution that can take years. But if the water is warm enough for bacteria to feed and multiply, then it will continue to decompose. Gases will build up in the intestines, increasing the body’s buoyancy until it floats again.
And the dead will literally rise . . .

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Well that’s an opening that you don’t want to linger over too much but yet so very enticing!

What do you think? Would you keep reading?

Posted in Weekly Posts

Weekly Wrap Up (January 22)

Weekly Wrap Up

This Week on the Blog

Well after my poor reviewing total last week I’ve managed to post four reviews over the last seven days which means I’m now nearly up to date, well apart from those reviews that are being kept back for various reasons…

On Monday I proudly posted my second five star review of the year for The Sixth Window by Rachel Abbott which is my favourite of this accomplished series so far. Set in a building renovated from an old Workhouse when teenage Scarlett hears crying she is compelled to investigate…

My excerpt for my Tuesday post was from Julia Crouch’s latest novel, Her Husband’s Lover .

On Wednesday my This Week in Books post proclaimed that I was reading my third of my own books for the Mount TBR challenge, Martin Edwards’  The Cipher Garden which means that I’m bang on target. I’m also thoroughly enjoying choosing from my TBR depending on my mood at the time, it is refreshing.

Next was the Blog Tour for Relativity by Antonia Hayes which used physics metaphors in a surprisingly appealing novel about a young boy who had suffered a brain injury.

Friday had me reviewing the first of those Mount TBR books, Redemption (aka The Murder at the Vicarage) by Jill McGown, the second in the Lloyd and Hill series, one that I loved when they were newly published in the 80s to the early 2000s.

My fourth review for the week was Tattletale by Sarah J Naughton which will be published in March – a cleverly layered novel with a darkness at its heart.

This Time Last Year…

I was reading the amazing Burial Rites by Hannah Kent which I loved and read with anguish as the young Agnes Magnúsdóttir met her fate despite my desperate willing that history could be altered to give her a better ending. I don’t think I will ever forget the power of this book, so if like me, you left this one languishing on the TBR, dig it out!
You can read my full review here

Buriel Rites

Blurb

Northern Iceland, 1829.
A woman condemned to death for murdering her lover.
A family forced to take her in.
A priest tasked with absolving her.
But all is not as it seems, and time is running out:
winter is coming, and with it the execution date.
Only she can know the truth. This is Agnes’s story. Amazon

Stacking The Shelves

Having laughed over and loved Jane Fallon’s Getting Rid of Matthew and Got You Back reads of a few years back, I didn’t take to her next couple of books, but then around the blogosphere were reviews for her latest book My Sweet Revenge and I couldn’t resist requesting this one from NetGalley. Not big and not clever as the review slots are fully booked for the first quarter of the year… but I don’t read much ‘lighter’ fiction so this one is for emergencies!

my-sweet-revenge

Blurb

I want to make my husband fall back in love with me. Let me explain. This isn’t an exercise in 1950s wifeydom. I haven’t been reading articles in old women’s magazines. ‘Twenty ways to keep your man’. That couldn’t be further from the truth.
I want him to fall back in love with me so that when I tell him to get the hell out of my life he’ll care. He won’t just think, ‘Oh good’. I want it to hurt.
Paula has had Robert’s back since they got together as drama students. She gave up her dreams so he could make it. Now he’s one of the nation’s most popular actors. And Paula’s just discovered he’s having an affair. She’s going to remind Robert just what he’s sacrificing. And then she’s going to break his heart like he broke hers. It will be her greatest acting role ever. Revenge is sweet. Isn’t it? NetGalley

I was sent a copy of The Restless Dead by Simon Beckett by the lovely publishers Penguin Random House, sadly I will upset many of you as I only recently read The Chemistry of Death which is book one in the David Hunter series, and this is… book five! Despite what Amazon is showing the kindle version will be published on

the-restless-dead

Blurb

It was on a Friday evening that forensics consultant Dr David Hunter took the call: a Detective Inspector Lundy from the Essex force. Just up the coast from Mersea Island, near a place called Backwaters, a badly decomposed body has been found and the local police would welcome Hunter’s help with the recovery and identification . . .

Because they would like it to be that of Leo Villiers, the 31 year-old son of a prominent local family who went missing weeks ago, and they are under pressure to close the case. Villiers was supposed to have been having an affair with a married woman, Emma Derby. She too is missing, and the belief is that the young man disposed of his lover, and then killed himself. If only it was so straightforward.

But Hunter has his doubts about the identity of the remains. The hands and feet are missing, the face no longer recognisable. Then further remains are found – and suddenly these remote wetlands are giving up yet more grisly secrets. As Hunter is slowly but surely drawn into a toxic mire of family secrets and resentments, local lies and deception, he finds himself unable, or perhaps unwilling, to escape even though he knows that the real threat comes from the living, not the dead. Amazon

And lastly I have bought one of the books from my wishlist with my Christmas Amazon Voucher: The Ripper of Waterloo Road: The Murder of Eliza Grimwood in 1838 by Jan Bondeson was published on 13 January 2017 and has finally winged its way to the Channel Islands – a sneaky peak inside tells me I’m really going to love this piece of non-fiction Victorian crime.

the-ripper-of-waterloo-road-png

Blurb

When Jack the Ripper first terrorized the streets of London, the Daily Telegraph reported that his crimes were as ghastly as those committed by Eliza Grimwood’s murderer.
Grimwood’s is arguably the most infamous and brutal of all 19th-century murders. She was a high-class prostitute, and on 26 May 1838 she brought a client back home with her. The morning after, she was found with her throat cut and her abdomen viciously ‘ripped’. The client was nowhere to be seen.
The convoluted murder investigation, with suspects ranging from an alcoholic bricklayer to a royal duke, was followed by the Londoners with great interest, including Charles Dickens, who based Nancy’s death in Oliver Twist on Grimwood’s. Indeed, there was much dismay when the murder remained unsolved.
Jan Bondeson links this murder with a series of other opportunist early Victorian slayings, and, in putting forward a credible new suspect, concludes that the Ripper of Waterloo Road was, in fact, a serial killer. Amazon

And finally my Put A Book on the Map project has been steaming ahead behind the scenes. One of the spots has been filled with the pairing of the lovely author Alison Baillie with supportive blogger Joanne from Portebello Book Blog to put her book Sewing The Shadows Together which is partially set in Portebello, a coastal suburb of Edinburgh.

I had Alison’s book on the wishlist and despite the fact that this project wasn’t designed to add even more books to the TBR, when I was preparing my spreadsheet and looking at the synopsis, reviews around the blog etc, I simply couldn’t resist any longer.

sewing-the-shadows-together

Blurb

Can you ever get over the death of your sister? Or of your best friend?

More than 30 years after 13-year-old Shona McIver was raped and murdered in Portobello, the seaside suburb of Edinburgh, the crime still casts a shadow over the lives of her brother Tom and her best friend Sarah.

“Shona had been gone for so long but the memories still came unexpectedly, sometimes like a video from the past, sometimes distorted dreams, but she was always there.”

When modern DNA evidence shows that the wrong man was convicted of the crime, the case is reopened. So who did kill Shona? Sarah and Tom are caught up in the search for Shona’s murderer, and suspicions fall on family and friends. The foundations of Sarah’s perfect family life begin to crumble as she realises that nothing is as it appears. Dark secrets from the past are uncovered, and there is another death, before the identity of the real killer is finally revealed…

Set in Edinburgh, the Outer Hebrides and South Africa, Sewing the Shadows Together is a thoroughly modern murder mystery that keeps the reader guessing to the end. Filled with characters who could easily be friends, family or people we work with, it asks the question:

Do we ever really know the people closest to us? Amazon

What have you found to read this week – do share!

tbr-watch

Since my last post I’ve read just 2 books but gained a grand total of 4 new ones making the grand total of 189

Physical Books – 107
Kindle Books – 69
NetGalley Books – 13