Wednesday, 25 April 2018

McDROLL - FEELING IT (2013)


Synopsis/blurb.....

Ten plate-steel short stories with a beating heart. A great mixture of noir, crime, humour and slice-of-life dramas.

McDroll’s crime fiction has a nip of noir and a splattering of Scottish humour and can be found floating around in the digital world, most notably in Shotgun Honey, All Due Respect and Near To The Knuckle. Other stories can be found in the anthologies Off the Record, The Lost Children, Burning Bridges and True Brit Grit. 

McDroll is the author of the crime novella The Wrong Delivery and the short story collections Kick It Together and Kick It With Conviction.

A shortish collection of stories from Scottish writer McDroll.

1. The Glasgow Bus ….. a couple of criminal geniuses (not) on a day trip

2. Primroses At My Feet ….. hmm, beyond my ken this one - a relationship? a meeting?

3. Third Party Insurance …. love and obsession, a white van and jealousy

4. Gone ….. hmm hard to summarise, an intervention from a good Samaritan is ignored. Fantastic sense of place - the sea, the wind, the weather

5. Burying My Children ….. malt whisky, grief and a laying to rest

6. An Angel’s Face ….. domestic violence, a fearful existence, a tragic accident, nothing more to lose

7.  A Promise Is A Promise …. "Revenge was sweet and a little evil now and then felt so good."

8. Fishing For Trouble … abandonment, fly-fishing, a pervert and a comeuppance

9. More Than A Bargain ….. a lost family and a new hobby

10. Bleeding Lipstick …. a short con and one of Strathclyde’s finest


Ten in total, the majority with a great sense of place and setting. I could feel the wind and the spray of the sea as I read. Powerful, evocative descriptions and all in a few short pages. There’s a mix of stories with some hard-hitting tales and some slightly less serious and a couple if I’m honest I didn’t really get. That said I enjoyed the collection and will read more from the author in the future.

4 from 5

She has an author Facebook page (somewhat inactive) here and a Twitter account - @McDroll

Read in April, 2018
Published - 2013
Page count - 68
Source - purchased copy
Format - Kindle

Saturday, 21 April 2018

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS WITH KEITH NIXON

Keith Nixon, on the blog yesterday with my thoughts on his Burn the Evidence, answers a few questions for me.....
















I’m guessing the book writing’s maybe not full time? If not, what’s the day job? Can you give us a quick biography of yourself?

Haha, I wish, Col! By day I’m a Business Development Director in the digital print industry. 26 long years. Originally I’m a chemist but basically I talk too much to work in a lab. I get to work with companies developing printers in all sorts of industries like 3D printing to ceramic tiles.

Do you have a typical writing schedule?

Any spare moment really. But typically early morning before people are up, maybe after they’ve gone to bed depending upon the time (I’m a morning person), seven days a week pretty much 365 days a year.

Do you insert family, friends, and colleagues into your characters?

I used to, but a lot less now. My debut, The Fix, was a cathartic exercise – I wanted to kill a work colleague, but not go to prison. These days the characters have their own personalities.

When you have an idea and you sit down to construct your story – do you know what the end result is roughly going to look like? Are you a plotter, or do you make it up as you go along?

Historically I’ve been an evolver – I typically have the kernel of an idea, get a few ideas down and go from there. But I end up wasting a lot of time and rewriting huge chunks. For the four Gray books I’ve been working with the rather brilliant Allan Guthrie and I’ve become a plotter now and won’t change.

Are there any subjects off limits?

A bacon sandwich with tomato ketchup.

Horror stuff, anything to do with kids, needless violence for the sake of it. By mistake I once reviewed a book with all three of these in, I couldn’t finish it.



How important is setting to your work? I’ve read a few of your books set in Margate and they resonate with me. For a number of childhood years, my wife and her family had an annual pilgrimage there for their holidays. Nostalgia won out a few years back and we re-visited the town. Fair to say it’s a little bit different now from when she visited during the 70s. You must have a strong connection with the town.

A sense of place is always really important, I think. The location can be a character in itself. I lived in Thanet (basically Broadstairs, Margate & Ramsgate) for many years. Margate is a great mix of grime, sleaze and wistful fun. I think it’s a great backdrop for crime. And I know the place really well. We still visit regularly & it doesn’t change much. And really, to my knowledge, there wasn’t a crime book set there at the time.

How long from conception to completion did your latest Solomon Gray book, Burn the Evidence take? Was it a smooth process or were there many bumps in the road along the way?

There have been plenty of speed bumps along the way because of my lack of planning at the outset of the series. However, the editing team at Bastei, the publisher, are great and in the end it worked out fine. Interestingly, the ‘cliff hanger’ at the end of Burn The Evidence really exercised some early reviewers, but it was supposed to be an introduction, really.

Did the end result mirror your expectations at the start of the process, or is it a very different book to what you imagined?

Well, if talk about Dig Two Graves, that’s massively different. It was a 50,000 word Nanowrimo entry back from 2008. It went through a vast number of plot, character and title changes. Typically though, what I end up with is never the same as what I expected – some idea always pops up along the way. I believe as a writer you have to be flexible.

What’s been the highlight of your writing career so far?

Working with Allan Guthrie, he’s been a proper mentor.

Any unpublished gems in your bottom drawer?

Unpolished maybe! I’m a third of the way through a crime / black comedy stand-alone and I also have a part-written third instalment in my Caradoc historical fiction series, but they take a year to write because of the detail.



What’s the current project in progress?

I’ve just put in what I hope are the final edits on the third Gray novel quickly followed by submitting the fourth (and final) Gray. Otherwise it’s a few days off then onto the part written black comedy for a bit of fun.

I think Burn the Evidence is about your tenth novel to date, does it get easier with each passing book or is it still a challenging process?

Ninth, I think, Gray three is number ten which is amazing! In my humble opinion it should be a challenging process, otherwise you’ve got a simple book on your hands. As I mentioned above now I’ve become a lot more planned then Gray four (book eleven) was the easiest for a while to write but tough to plan. Really before I worked with Al Guthrie I’d backed myself into a writing cul-de-sac and it wasn’t enjoyable any more.

Do you have a favourite from your canon? If you could press one of your books into the hands of a new reader, which one would you choose?

Wow, that’s a tough choice! Probably Russian Roulette – seven partially interlinked short stories about Konstantin. Quick to read each one.

Regarding your earlier books, any plans to return to Konstantin or Caradoc? (I’m fairly sure I spotted an enigmatic tramp in the pages of one of the Solomon books!)

Yes, Konstantin squeaked in. All of my books have at least one recurring character – the landlord of the English Flag (the last character I based on somebody I knew) usually makes it. I’d like to write both. But Caradoc takes a year to properly research and Konstantin would have to be self-published because nobody is willing to pick up a series somebody else has handled, but I definitely plan to go back to them. One day.



Re Solomon Gray, I think you recently said you are working on the fourth in the series, do you have a finite number planned or is it a series and character which will run and run?

Very good question. The story arc concerns Gray’s missing son, Tom. That will definitely finish with book four. After that it’s up to Bastei, whether Gray has sold enough for them to want him back. If they don’t then, as I mentioned above, other publishers are very unlikely to be interested (it’s a market thing) so I’d have to self-publish. I’d definitely like to write more about Gray, he’s developed nicely over the series and has a dark side.

Regarding the story arc with Gray’s missing son Tom, without spoilers, I’m guessing there might be progress and some sort of resolution achieved at some point…. or maybe not?

Totally right, Col. Finishes in book four. It has to be resolved really. It can’t be Inception – loved the film but the ‘is it, isn’t it’ ending was a pain. The ending for Tom is totally black and white.

What’s the best thing about writing?


Killing people.

No, not really. I love the inventive process. And the feedback from readers, particularly when they enjoy it.

The worst?

The solo aspect. I’m a social animal, being alone is okay in short bursts. Oh, and editing.

What are the last five books you’ve read?

Not many recently! Just on Christopher Fowler’s latest excellent Bryant & May. Jason Beech’s City of Forts and Paul D Brazill’s new one – both indie mates. And two by MW Craven, his new Poe series – neither of which are published yet, but they are rather brilliant.

Who do you read and enjoy?

I’m stuck on crime novels at the moment. I started writing because of Ian Rankin so I read his when they come out, likewise with Christopher Fowler. Otherwise it’s newer up and comers like Luca Veste, MW Craven, Mason Cross.

Is there any one book you wish you had written?

Pullman’s Dark Materials, because I’m incapable of being that brilliantly inventive and far reaching.



Favourite activity when not working or writing?

Drinking beer or coffee with friends and family.

What’s the last film you watched that rocked you?

Guardians of the Galaxy 2.

TV addict or not? What’s the must watch show in the Nixon household?

Once the kids clear off to bed! We tend to binge watch series, Game of Thrones, The Good Place, Star Trek Discovery and Preacher were the most recent. I’m a bit sick of Grand Designs at the moment, though.



----------------------------------------

Many thanks to Keith for his time. Catch him at the following....

Website      http://www.keithnixon.co.uk/
Facebook   https://www.facebook.com/keith.nixon.5811
Twitter       https://twitter.com/knntom

If you've not tried his work, you're missing out - and there's plenty to choose from....

Konstantin Files
1. The Fix (2013)                    (thoughts here)
2. Russian Roulette (2014)      (thoughts here)
3. I'm Dead Again (2013)
4. Dark Heart, Heavy Soul (2016)

Konstantin Novellas
1. Dream Land (2014)             (thoughts here)

Caradoc
1. The Eagle's Shadow (2014) (thoughts here)
2. The Eagle's Blood (2015)

Detective Solomon Gray
1. Dig Two Graves (2017)        (thoughts here)
2. Burn the Evidence (2017)     (thoughts here)
3. Beg for Mercy (2018) - published in June by Bastei Entertainment

Novel
The Corpse Role (2015)

Friday, 20 April 2018

KEITH NIXON - BURN THE EVIDENCE (2017)


Synopsis/blurb....

Mixing business with family can be a murderous affair ...

A body washes up on the beach near Ramsgate in the South of England. For DS Solomon Gray, the case appears cut and dried—a drowning. An immigrant. Another victim to the sea in his desperate attempt to reach the UK.

As the tidewaters recede, two more corpses surface. One appears to be a refugee, stabbed to death. The other, Gray recognises immediately. Regan Armitage: son of business tycoon Jake Armitage. Gray knows this means trouble.

A post mortem reveals ligature marks on Regan's wrists. Drugs in his bloodstream. All signs indicate murder. Armitage swears to track down his son's killer and avenge his death.

Gray's investigation points to a deadly fire ten years prior, and soon Armitage comes under suspicion. But DS Gray knows what it's like to lose a child and puts aside his distrust of Armitage to help.

How are the dead men connected to each other—and to the infamous fire?

It's then that Gray gets another tip on the whereabouts of his own missing son, Tom...

Burn the Evidence is the second book in a series featuring Detective Sergeant Solomon Gray. The crime series is perfect for fans of Ian Rankin, Stuart MacBride, and Peter James.

Another encounter with Nixon's Solomon Gray on the Kent coastline and another read with murders to be solved, while at the same time touching on some topical issues of the day.

Dead bodies on a beach - drownings maybe, only one of the bodies has been stabbed. One victim is the son of a local criminal turned businessman and and old friend from way back when of Gray's. The others - refugees-cum-illegal immigrants. A quick sweep of the area, indicates someone survived the encounter and is on the loose - witness, potential victim or perpetrator?

There's more going on here than immediately meets the eye, which is as it should be....... murder, revenge, family, secrets, history, people smuggling, drugs, criminal enterprise, competition, Syria, deceit, arson, corruption, abandonment, shelter, charity, re-connection and plenty more.

Lots to like, the same police team as before in Dig Two Graves, the same frictions. Gray still has the shadow of his son's loss hanging over him and while it distracts him temporarily during the investigation it's a minor chord in the background which doesn't detract from the main narrative.

It's another shortish book and none the worse for that. We spend a bit of time in the company of the surviving refugee and we see a snapshot of his life..... loss, pain, separation, sacrifice and bereavement which gives pause for thought. (Maybe not if you're Katie Hopkins, but anyone else with a beating heart and an ounce of humanity.)

Characters - tick
Setting - tick
Plot - tick
Pace - tick
Resolution - tick

My kind of book.

4.5 from 5

Keith Nixon has his website here.

Dig Two Graves was reviewed here. The third in the series - Beg For Mercy drops in June.

Read in March, 2018
Published - 2017
Page count - 229
Source - Net Galley courtesy of publisher Bastei Entertainment     
Format - Kindle

Thursday, 19 April 2018

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS WITH CORMAC O'KEEFFE

Cormac O'Keeffe's "5 STAR READ" Black Water appeared on the blog the other day - here.
















Cormac was kind enough to submit to a bit of questioning on his reading and writing habits...



I’m guessing the book writing’s maybe not full time? If not, what’s the day job? Can you give us a quick biography of yourself?

I'm a journalist, working as security correspondent in the Irish Examiner, a national daily. I've been working in journalism full-time since I left with a Masters in Journalism in 1996. From the very start I covered the drugs area and expanded to the wider crime, policing and justice areas when I started in the Irish Examiner in 2000.


Do you have a typical writing schedule?

Ah, no. I wish I was more structured in terms of writing. I have a very demanding day job, with long and unpredictable hours. And, I have young kids. When I was writing Black Water I got up early several days a week and wrote as much as I could. Several times a year, I took three or four days off and went home to my mother's house and did large chunks of writing and subsequently rewriting and editing.

Do you insert family, friends, and colleagues into your characters?

Family no, nor friends, but to some extent, people that I have met or come into contact through work. There are certain characters - but not any of my main characters - that this would be a factor. But in the main, they are creations of my imagination and they develop their own characteristics.

When you have an idea and you sit down to construct your story – do you know what the end result is roughly going to look like? Are you a plotter, or do you make it up as you go along?

I had no idea whatsoever where I was going. I had no construct or plot, which came much later, literally years later. In hindsight, it would have been a big advantage if I had more of a plan or plot, as I spent huge amounts of time and effort (and pain) hammering and stitching my novel into shape. But, I'm not sure how you do that, plot to a high degree, when characters and plots take on their own life as you write.

Are there any subjects off limits?

Not in terms of subjects. I have some fairly graphic scenes of violence, and exposure of violence to children, and one scene of a violent sexual nature. I think they need to be true to the context of the novel.

How important is setting to your work? I do like a Dublin setting in my reading, having originally hailed from there many years ago.

Setting was hugely important to me. I consider my setting - that along an evocative stretch of the Grand Canal in Dublin - as a main character. My novel begins and ends there and is a constant companion throughout. It forms the bones of the novel itself.


Is Black Water your debut novel?

Yes, it is. Hopefully the first of many!

How long from conception to completion did Black Water take? Was it a smooth process or were there many bumps in the road along the way?

In all, it took about eight years. I started in 2010, initially taking notes of scenes and setting and descriptions of what I saw in my area. It certainly was not a smooth process. Anything but. It was uneven, with ups and down, with self-doubt being a constant companion. Completing the novel took a very long time, and that in itself involved many stages of completion, which really continues during the editing process with the publisher. Getting an agent was a long and difficult journey as was finding a publisher.

Did the end result mirror your expectations at the start of the process, or is it a very different book to what you imagined?

I really had very little picture on an end result. I knew from other writers that the whole process was very difficult and getting published a very long shot. I am happy that the end result regarding my main characters is true to my conception, for want of a better world, of them.

How difficult was it to find a publisher for your book?

It was difficult, as everything else was in the process. As a debut writer I had little idea how it worked. I got a good reaction from a number of publishers, and some very complementary assessments. But getting it across the line is a different story. This is a major commercial decision for them - is there a market for this novel? My novel is not a psychological thriller, it's not a domestic noir and might not readible fit in with the dominant sub-genres at the moment. So it was a bit of a punt for a publisher, one who, not just saw something in the novel, but was willing to take the risk.

What’s been the highlight of your writing career so far?

At the moment, I would say getting my personal delivery of ten copies of the finished book, which happened the other day. It was very moving and almost overwhelming. But I suppose the biggest moment is getting an email from my agent Ger Nichol that Black and White had made an offer. That was special.

Any unpublished gems in your bottom drawer?

There are all in my head, swimming around!

What’s the current project in progress?

Ah, that am slow to go into. But really things are just mad busy at the moment.

What’s the best thing about writing?

I suppose seeing the finished book in my hands is really extraordinary. It still hasn't sunk in. During the process of writing/rewriting, that realisation that you are creating something of real quality (not that it's brilliant, just that you have unearthed something pure) is special.

The worst?

Self-doubt has to be up there. For me, and really for most writers I'd say, it's a constant, either just simmering away in the background and hollaring in your head.

What are the last five books you’ve read?

I'm just finishing Donal Ryan's A Slanting of the Sun, his collection of short stories. His work is just sublime. I also do some reviews for the Irish Examiner, mainly non-fiction. So last one was Good Cop, Bad War by former British undercover cop Neil Woods. It was an excellent insight into the 'war on drugs'. Before than was The Cartel by Stephen Breen and Owen Conlon on the Kinahan crime cartel. Before that was Trouble Is Our Business edited by crime author Declan Burke. It's a collection of short stories by Irish crime writers. Top drawer stuff. The fifth most recent was Solar Bones by Mike McCormack, an utterly beautiful, moving and stunning novel.

Who do you read and enjoy?

Donal Ryan is probably top of my list. He is a truly gifted writer, but one with plenty of bite. He writes about the ordinary man and woman, and those on the margins of society, and perfectly captures the rural underbelly of Ireland.

Is there any one book you wish you had written?

Hmm, that's a tricky one. Before I ever read crime or literary fiction I was a big fantasy reader in my youth. So maybe Lord of the Rings. The imagination, the characters, the setting and the mind-numbing detail in that is simply extraordinary. 



Favourite activity when not working or writing?

Football. I still play every week, five-a-side that is. And in recent years, I co-manage a boys' team.

What’s the last film you watched that rocked you?

Wow, probably many I could say this about. I'm a big sci-fi/fantasy fan, so the likes of BladeRunner 2049 would be there. But one that 'rocked' me? One that has stuck in my mind in recent years is The Prisoners (director Denis Villeneuve), which I came to late. I've seen it a couple of times and it is just such a powerful film, with great performances, good characters and a thrilling climax.



TV addict or not? What’s the must watch show in the O’Keeffe household?

Yes, time permitting. We have loads of series on the go - from Stranger Things to Homeland, and with the tenth anniversary of the end of The Wire I'm tempted to go back. But in terms of the family as a whole, it would be the likes of Masterchef or Grand Designs...or Horrible Histories!



In a couple of years’ time…

Who knows. Living by the sea, writing novels, having a newspaper column, eating fish and hanging out with my family!
--------------------------------

Many thanks to Cormac O'Keeffe for his time.

Website https://cormacokeeffecrime.wordpress.com/
Twitter https://twitter.com/CormacJOKeeffe

Black Water is published by Black and White Publishing and is available here - AM UK - AM US

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

J.A. MARLEY - GODSEND - BLOGTOUR





Author J.A. Marley's Godsend is released today by Bloodhound Books. Godsend is the sequel to Marley's Standstill, but can be enjoyed as a standalone. 



A recent house move has temporarily (I hope) derailed my reading so John has come to the rescue with a piece for the blog.....

I’m A Sick Individual

I’m sick in the head.

In my defence, it is for very good reasons, but I am pretty sure that my brain does not work in the same way as most people. When you spend your days staring at a blinking cursor on a word document, your mind starts to twist. You’re trying, on a daily basis, to surprise and delight your audience.  This leads to having devious thoughts.  Your priority is to obfuscate, to divert, to create literary sleights of hand. A famous author (I can’t recall which at the moment, my brain is too twisted) told me that writing a thriller is the art of the reader second guessing you as you second guess them second guessing you.  Got that?  Makes your eyes water thinking it through but he is right.

So, my thoughts are constantly trying to wriggle their way through a twisty plot, or the creation of a character whose motivation might suddenly shift direction, but can only do so in a credible, believable way.  See? Discombobulating!

It makes for a curious mindset most of the time.  When writing Godsend, I wanted the characters to spend a lot of the time trying to second guess each other so that the reader had to do the same.  Hopefully all that sick mindedness pays off…let the reader be the judge!

The sickness also reveals itself in other, more subtle ways.  I’ll explain. It’s a sunny day, you decide to go for walk with the dogs and a loved one.  People are strolling through the leafy glades admiring the blue sky or enjoying the smell of the woodland plants.  But me? Noooo. I’m not doing any of those things. I’m imagining whether or not the car park is a good spot for a secluded drug deal or if that thicket might be the perfect place to conceal a cadaver. 

This sort of thing happens to me everywhere. Stuck in traffic?  I’m not humming along to the radio, I’m looking around to see which direction my lead character, Danny Felix, might flick the steering wheel in, while mashing his foot on the accelerator and pulling a manoeuvre to escape a pursuing foe or worse still, the Old Bill. I know I’m not alone in these fanciful, visceral pursuits. Other crime writers do it too.  Crime readers might find themselves thinking about where a body might be concealed too from time to time, but not the constant flow of twistedness that us lot get up to in service of them and the entertainment levels in our books. We think about this stuff constantly

I remember once scaring the bejaysus out of my chiropractor.  She had just finished flinging me around the room like a ragdoll and as I paid her for the privilege I asked her the following question. “You know when in action movies the hero grabs a guard or a villain by the head and does that twisty, neck-wrench thing and breaks their neck.  Is that possible? Will that actually kill someone?” To say that there was a pause of at least five seconds in which you could hear the birds singing outside and traffic going by is not an exaggeration. She stared at me like I’m a sick individual (which we’ve already established I am).  Finally, I reminded her that I write thrillers and she exhaled with some relief. The answer is yes, by the way, but it is not as instantaneous as the movies make it out, and the victim will die a slow and very tortuous death.

And so, to absolutely leave you in no doubt as to me being sick in the head, my last piece of evidence is this.  I love it when people ask me what I do. Because I can simply never resist the temptation to look them straight in the eye and say, with a casual air, “I plan robberies and murders and how to get away with them.” The look on their faces is just too delicious to pass up.  I’m sure this little hobby will get me ejected or arrested at some point in my life, but the risk is worth it, and I don’t care I’m having fun.

And that is the absolute truth of what we crime writers are doing.  We are having fun. Fun in the darkest sense, yes, but it is endlessly fun to weave stories of mayhem, murder and malice. And in being allowed to do so, I, and most of my fellow writers, feel completely blessed. 

Hope you enjoy Godsend as much I enjoyed writing it.

J.A. Marley April 2018
---------------

J.A. Marley has his website here.
He's on Twitter - @jamarleybooks


Godsend can be purchased here - AMAZON UK - AMAZON US

CORMAC O'KEEFFE - BLACK WATER (2018)


Synopsis/blurb…

I killed the boy . . .

Jig loves football and his dog, hates school, misses his dead granda and knows to lie low when his ma's blitzed on the vodka.

He's just an ordinary boy on the brutal streets alongside Dublin's Grand Canal. Streets that are ruled by Ghost and his crew. And now Ghost inked, vicious, unprincipled has a job for Jig.

A job that no one can afford to go wrong not the gangs, the police, the locals, and least of all not Jig.

Fast-paced, compelling and expertly plotted, BLACK WATER introduces a powerful new voice in contemporary crime fiction.

PRAISE FOR BLACK WATER:

‘Shocking and compulsive, Black Water offers a grittily realistic insight into the causes and consequences of inner-city drug crime – think The Wire set in Dublin.’ – BRIAN MCGILLOWAY, NYT bestselling author of Little Girl Lost


‘O’Keeffe pulls you into the dark underbelly of Dublin city with well-drawn characters, chilling dexterity and unflinching truth – harsh, tender, steely and authentic.’ – LOUISE PHILLIPS, author of The Game Changer

One of the most enjoyable books I’ve read this year and even at this early stage a definite contender for one of my top reads of 2018. Admittedly, I do have a bias towards Dublin set novels - my family all hail from there and I was born there, albeit more than half a century ago.


In Black Water, author Cormac O’Keeffe serves up a tale of inner-city strife in Dublin’s not so fair city. Jig is a ten year boy, teetering on the precipice of involvement with the local drugs gang. A little errand run on behalf of Ghost, one of the king-pins in the Canal Street gang has dramatic repercussions when the target of his message – an elderly woman dies on receipt. Jig, manipulated and coerced by Ghost now has to work off his debt. Debt? WTF!

In the following pages, we see the effects of this event on the community through the eyes of Jig, his football coach, different elements within the Gardai Siochana (Irish police), a community worker, a priest and others including the gang’s top dog. A further dramatic event occurs which heightens tension on the streets.

Brian McGilloway makes a comparison regarding this book – think The Wire set in Dublin – which sums this up perfectly….. drug gangs, junkies, feckless parenting, feral teenagers, police mistrust, Republican activism (ok you might not find that in Baltimore), a broken community, a decline in the influence and authority of the church, police factions competing with each other and jockeying for power and influence, informers and bugs, a code of silence and a look the other way mentality.

The good guys – the authorities don’t all wear white hats with elements within the police service not above manipulating and bending people in much the same way as the targets (the Canal Street gang and a local Republican group) they are trying to take down use people.

Personal elements within the book, made events seem very real and plausible. Jig has a crap home life. His mother and father ignore him. If he does attract their attention it’s to inflict a verbal or physical assault. His brother, Maggot a few years older is already involved in the local gang and has had his run-ins with the police. His sister cares for him but is a recovering addict herself. His main preoccupation are his dog (passed onto him by his much loved and missed granda) and his football. Jig’s a gifted player and one possible escape from a life and a community bereft of hope or opportunity is through his sport. But not if the gang get their clutches into him.

Brutal, hard-hitting, impressive, realistic, and a tad depressing. If this is a reflection of life in Dublin in the 21st Century, I’m glad my dad didn’t live to see it.

5 from 5

Black Water is Cormac O’Keeffe’s debut novel (hard to believe really). It is released tomorrow.

He has his website here

Read in April, 2018
Published – 2018
Page count – 320
Source – review copy from Black and White Publishing (thanks Lina)
Format – trade paperback

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

KEITH NIXON - DIG TWO GRAVES (2017)


Synopsis/blurb.....

Was it suicide ... or murder?

When teenager Nick Buckingham tumbles from the fifth floor of an apartment block, Detective Sergeant Solomon Gray answers the call with a sick feeling in his stomach. The victim was just a kid, sixteen years old. And the exact age the detective's son, Tom, would've been, had he not gone missing at a funfair ten years ago. Each case involving children haunts Gray with the reminder that his son may still be out there - or worse, dead. The seemingly open and shut case of suicide twists into a darker discovery. Buckingham and Gray have never met, so why is Gray's number on the dead teenager's mobile phone?

With his boss, Detective Inspector Yvonne Hamson, Gray begins to unravel a murky world of abuse, lies, and corruption. An investigator from the Met is called in to assist, setting the local police on edge. And when the body of Reverend David Hill is found shot to death in the vestry of Gray's old church, Gray wonders how far the depravity stretches and who might be next. Nothing seems connected, and yet there is one common thread: Detective Sergeant Solomon Gray, himself. As the bodies pile up, Gray must face his own demons. Crippled by loss but determined to find the truth, Gray takes the first step on the long road of redemption.

Set in the once grand town of Margate in the south of England, the now broken and depressed seaside resort becomes its own character in this dark detective thriller. Dig Two Graves is the first book in a series featuring Detective Sergeant Solomon Gray. The crime series is perfect for fans of Ian Rankin, Stuart MacBride, and Peter James.

"Keith Nixon does for Margate what Peter James did for Brighton … As dark and brooding as the wind-lashed shores of the North Sea, and with its disturbing echoes of the Elm Guest House scandal and suggestions of deep-seated institutional corruption, Dig Two Graves is a superb addition to the rich Brit Crime scene."
- Tim Baker, CWA shortlisted author of Fever City

An interesting series opener with Nixon's Solomon Gray. Gray has issues. The disappearance of his son, Tom ten years ago still haunts him. He holds himself accountable for Tom's disappearance. The aftermath - the decline of his marriage, the suicide of his wife and his ongoing separation from his surviving daughter - are all matters of ongoing regret. He still harbours hopes of finding his son alive and every spare minute is spent on reviewing the case file or exploring new possibilities however unlikely or tenuous. It's fair to say a huge shadow blights Gray's life and his sorrow resonates throughout the book.

The case in hand  - a sixteen year old boy going over a fifth floor balcony, suicide or something else?
This is a police procedural - so something else is the order of the day.

I liked this one, I enjoyed the dynamics of the police force involved in and around Gray. His direct boss is Yvonne Hamson. Her boss Carslake is an old friend of Gray's and the personal connection sometimes irritates her as Gray can on occasion try and circumvent the chain of command. The other member of the team is Michael Fowler. We also have interaction and a sympathetic relationship with the pathologist, Ben Clough .

Other deaths follow and there is also the involvement of a Met Officer in the original case. The dead sixteen year old having had some London links.

The setting is Margate, a Kent seaside resort that has definitely seen better days. That I visited the town itself a year or two ago, lent a certain familiarity to the backdrop. Definitely somewhere I want to return to, though probably only on the written page.

Dig Two Graves is short for a police procedural - approximately 230 pages long - though the novel never feels rushed. Nixon's just gets to where he wants to take the reader without any undue fuss. That said the relationships and characters of the main players are developed and interesting. There is a resolution to the initial tragedy and the subsequent deaths, but there is definitely some unfinished business for Solomon Gray.

4 from 5

Keith Nixon has his website here.

Burn the Evidence is the second in the Solomon Gray series and was read not long after this one.
Nixon also has a couple of other series under his belt - the Konstantin Files and a series with Caradoc, set in Ancient Britain. Some of each have been previously enjoyed.

Read in March, 2018
Published - 2017
Page count - 226
Source - Net Galley after approval from publisher Bastei Entertainment
Format - Kindle