Jan 10, 2017

The Dry, Jane Harper

You lied. Luke lied. Be at the funeral.

Federal Agent Aaron Falk wasn’t going to go to his former best friend’s funeral. Too many memories and he hasn’t been back to Kiewarra since he and his father were chased out twenty years ago. Back then Ellie, his girlfriend was found dead and Luke was Aaron’s only alibi. Now Luke is dead, seemingly by his own hand. Aaron returns to his hometown and finds it slowly being sucked dry by the unending drought. His reluctant investigation into Luke’s death could be the spark that burns Kiewarra to the ground.

This is a great debut novel, wouldn't be surprised to see an Edgar headed Jane's way. 

Her Every Fear, Peter Swanson

When Kate was growing up she always assumed the worst about everything and everyone, until the worst actually happened; almost robbing her of her independence and her life. 

Kate now lives in a pokey little London flat so the offer of a flat swap with her American cousin Corbin sounds too good to be true. Soon Kate is arriving in Boston. But all is not well in her new apartment block, people are watching her, the girl across the hall is dead and the police won’t say how, just that Corbin is a person of interest. Does Kate really know her cousin at all? 

The tension ratchets up until Corbin’s past and Kate’s present violently intersect in another corking standalone thriller from Swanson. 

A Q & A with Jane Harper

1) There was a pretty heated auction that happened for THE DRY. But I also hear you had some other important stuff going on that day...

I think the day a novel goes to auction is something any author would treasure, but for me the memory is especially clear as by coincidence it was also my wedding day! Why celebrate just one life-changing event when you can celebrate two? I managed to resist any urge to check in with my agent and just concentrated on enjoying the day itself, but it definitely added to the excitement knowing the auction was taking place. I was so thrilled by the offers when I heard from her the next day, so it was a really crazy but wonderful few days for me.

2) Where did you see your first copy of The Dry on sale and what went through your head when you saw people buying it?

The first time I saw copies 'in the wild' was at my local bookshop in St Kilda, near Melbourne. I was walking past and the store had a huge window display with posters and copies of The Dry advertising the novel's launch event being held there a few days later. It was thrilling as that was the moment it all suddenly seemed real. I still absolutely love to see it in stores as the idea of seeing it on a bookshop shelf was something that really motivated and inspired me while I was writing it.

3) Who are some of your favorite authors? What authors inspire you?

I like to read widely, but my favorite books tend to be fairly fast-paced and with a few twists and turns along the way. I've been a big fan of writers like Lee Child, Val McDermid and David Baldacci for a long time, and in recent years I really enjoyed Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl and I love books by fellow Aussie authors Liane Moriarty and Hannah Kent. I do like to mix it up though with both commercial and literary titles because I think great books can be found across every genre.

4) Who would you cast as Aaron, Luke, Ellie and Gretchen in the movie version of THE DRY?

I get asked this a lot and I never have a good answer! I'm always a bit reluctant to pin the characters down to any particular actors because I like readers to imagine the characters in their own way. I'm also usually more interested to hear who other people would cast -- sometimes I completely see why they've chosen that person, and sometimes they have imagined the character in a completely different way to me, which I always find fascinating!

5) Was the setting for The Dry inspired by any particular place?

The fictional town of Kiewarra features heavily in the novel, and is a drought-stricken community in regional Victoria, Australia, five hours from Melbourne.

The town itself is an amalgamation of many rural communities I visited while working as a journalist in Australia and the UK. While none of those places were anywhere near as dysfunctional as Kiewarra, they helped me get a sense of what it is like for people so reliant on things they cannot control, such as the land and the weather.

I was also interested in those communities where people have known each other, for better or worse, for most of their lives.

6) How did the main character Aaron Falk develop?

Aaron Falk left Kiewarra under a cloud as a teenager and built a new life for himself in Melbourne as an officer with the Federal Police. He is a financial investigator who is reluctant to return to Kiewarra and even more reluctant to stay for any length of time.

I wanted his character to be very much at odds with the people he left behind in the town – he is fairly quiet and cerebral and is a fish out of water on his return. The fact that he is such an outsider allows him to be the readers' eyes and ears and it is through him they experience the shock at just how far this community has fallen.

7) What was the road to publication for The Dry?

I applied for the Curtis Brown Creative 12-week online novel writing course in late 2014, and as part of the application process submitted a synopsis and 3000-word extract. I came up with an idea for a murder-mystery set in regional Victoria, that eventually became The Dry.

The course started in October 2014, and I completed a first draft during the 12 weeks. I knew of the Victorian Premier's Literary Award for an Unpublished Manuscript and set myself the goal of entering, primarily as an artificial deadline to myself to get the novel into shape. I entered the award in April 2015 and in May found out I had won.

On the back of that I gained agent representation through Curtis Brown Australia; the novel was sold at auction to Pan Macmillan in August 2015 as part of a three-book deal. The Dry has since been sold in separate three-book deals to Flatiron Books in the US and Little, Brown in the UK, as well as being sold for translation in more than 20 territories.

8) What are you working on now?

I'm currently working on a novel due out in Australia in 2017, and in the US and UK the following year. The main character from The Dry, Aaron Falk, returns and the book is once again based in Australia, but in a different setting. It is similar in tone and feel to The Dry, with a crime and mystery element. The book will build on Falk's character but can be read in its own right rather than as a direct sequel.

9) What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

I firmly believe writing is a skill that can be taught and learnt. Some people will find it comes more naturally than others but, like any other creative skill such as painting and dancing, most people benefit from expert tuition and advice.

I had tried a few times to write a novel and never got past the first few chapters. I ended up writing The Dry as part of a 12-week online course run by Curtis Brown Creative out of London. I found the external pressure and feedback helped me to really make progress, and start to believe I could actually finish my book.

I would advise anyone who is struggling to complete a novel on their own to consider a good quality course and see if that helps bring things together.

10) What's been the best part of the experience?

There have been so many fantastic moments with The Dry. My dream was always to write a novel that would get published, so one of the absolute best things now is being able to pick up a finished copy of the book and see my own words printed inside.

My thanks to Jane Harper and to Amy Einhorn and Amelia Possanza at FlatIron Books

Duplicity, Ingrid Thoft

Fourth in the excellent Fina Ludlow PI series.

Fina is called in by Carl Ludlow of Ludlow Associates to prevent an heiress giving away property to a church her mother (and Carl’s old flame) thinks is just after the girl for her money. Fina’s investigation seems to be going nowhere until a member of the church dies unexpectedly and then things really start to happen.

Threats, beat downs, tire slashings, the charismatic leader of the church files a police complaint about Fina, affairs, financial issues with the victim's family. Fina's family are also causing her grief. Rand has returned from Florida, his daughter Haley starts going off the rails immediately and Fina's parents seem to side with Rand despite knowing what he did to Haley.

Fina starts to investigate Rand's past; following a trail of blondes back to his college days in a bid to build a criminal case against him. She figures with enough evidence Carl will have no choice but to send Rand packing again, this time for good. She couldn’t be more wrong.

Jan 3, 2017

Beautiful Dead, Belinda Bauer

A serial killer is turning his victims into works of art and his next intended victim is TV reporter Eve Singer.

Eve works the murder beat for iWitness News, she has a mentally deficient father, a tyrant of a boss and a young blonde Fox News style clone angling to take her job. Eve is covering the murder when she catches the killer's eye. Without realizing his significance she forms an attachment, the killer starts feeding her tips, whispering in her ear, putting on a show just for her. Eve knows she’s walking a tightrope. This is the story that could either forge her career or make her the next victim and the killer knows she's beginning to doubt him...

Dec 21, 2016

Seven days in the book world with Peter Swanson

This week: an early Christmas present. 

Peter Swanson is the author of three novels, The Girl with A Clock for a Heart, The Kind Worth Killing and coming early in 2017, Her Every Fear.

A graduate of Trinity College, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and Emerson College; his writing and poetry has been featured in Asimov’s Science Fiction, The Atlantic Monthly, Measure, The Guardian and The Strand Magazine. Swanson’s books have won him the New England Society book award and finalist for the CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger which is appropriate because the first adult novel he read was Goldfinger. 

He thinks that ‘Being lost in a book, totally removed from your own life, is one of the greatest feelings in the world.’ Peter lives with his wife and cat in Massachusetts.

Here is Peter's week in his own words.

While I normally only read one book from start to finish at a time, this past week has been an odd one. I have a deadline coming up for a Top Ten List of Best Books With Voyeurs for The Guardian, so I have been reading like a maniac. These are the books I’ve dipped into during the last seven days.

The Cry of the Owl by Patricia Highsmith (1962). It starts off with a harmless voyeur who gets his kicks spying on a lone woman. Not one of Highsmith’s best but still very good.

Sliver by Ira Levin (1991). It was a fast read, like all of Levin’s books, about a rich man who buys an apartment building so he can spy on all of his tenants. Sick and twisted, and with a nice suspenseful conclusion.

The Collector by John Fowles (1963). A very creepy  and well-written novel (Fowles’ debut!) in which a butterfly collector turns his eye to a pretty girl he sees on his street. You can imagine that it doesn’t end well.

Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted life by Ruth Franklin (2016). I needed a little break from voyeurs so started this one. I love biographies of writers, and am partial to the mid-twentieth century, so this book was very appealing to me.

The Story of Your Life by Ted Chiang (2010). This is a science fiction short story that I read because it was the basis of Arrival, one of my favorite films from this past year. The story was actually better than the film, testament to what a writer can accomplish in the short story form. Emotionally devastating. 

Peter's week in a nutshell

The Cry of the Owl (2016)
Sliver (1991)
The Collector (1963)
Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life (2016)
The Story of Your Life (2010)

The Kind Worth Killing is out in paperback 9780062267535
Her Every Fear is out in Hardcover January 10th, 2017 9780062427021

Dec 20, 2016

Hollow Men, Rob McCarthy

Start of a new series featuring Dr. Harry Kent. Harry is tenacious, flawed, a former army medic who now works at John Ruskin university hospital and moonlights as a police surgeon for the Metropolitan police. He gets called in during a siege of a London fast food restaurant where teenager Solomon Idris is holding a gun on staff and customers and demanding medical attention, a lawyer and a BBC reporter.

Harry assesses that Solomon is gravely ill and in no condition to fire the gun he’s holding. It doesn’t stop the boy being shot by a police marksman. Harry rushes him to the Ruskin where a second attempt is made on Solomon’s life. Harry, now determined to protect his patient at all costs starts digging into the backgrounds of his colleagues; including Dr. James Lahiri, the man who saved Harry’s life in Afghanistan and whom Harry repaid with the worst kind of betrayal.

As Harry gets closer to the truth, his and Lahiri’s past comes back to bite him and Harry is pulled in for questioning. Can he clear himself and stop Solomon from being silenced forever?