“Carlisle United are playing Millwall and the Major Crimes Team are assigned to crowd control as punishment for their renegade ways. Typically, DI Harry Evans has other ideas and tries to thwart the local firm’s plans to teach Millwall’s notorious Bushwhackers an unforgettable lesson.
Meanwhile an undercover cop is travelling north with some of the Millwall contingent. His mission is to identify the ringleaders and gather evidence against them.
Three illegal immigrants have been transported to Carlisle and are about to meet their new employers.
Nothing is as it seems for Evans and his Major Crimes Team as they battle to avoid a bloodbath while also uncovering a far more heinous crime.”
Welcome to my stop on the Matching The Evidence blog tour which I am sharing with the very lovely Neats over at The Haphazardous Hippo. Once you’re done here, why not pop over and read her guest post from Matching The Evidence author, Graham Smith.
I am thrilled to have both a guest post from Mr Smith to share with you, along with my review of this brilliant novella. Let’s start with Graham’s guest post (my husband thinks I’m trying to coin a catchphrase, I can promise you I’m not…but, I love a guest post!). This one is high on the my list of favourite guest posts to have featured on damppebbles. Over to Graham…
Setting the Pace
We’ve all heard someone say “I just couldn’t put it down” when referring to a book they’ve really enjoyed. I for one am a black-belt at the “just one more chapter” game.
For us authors, hearing someone say that about our books is the praise equivalent of lying on a beautiful beach being fed, watered and caressed by the people of our dreams.
It’s what we all strive for and one of the ways we try to make our work unputdownable is the injection of pace into our storytelling.
Pace is a strange concept. It doesn’t have to literally mean there is fast movement, or dramatic car chases, although these elements are something we may use on occasion. It can mean a partial revelation which raises questions in the reader’s mind. Or it can be a cliff-hanger at the end of a chapter which has the reader desperate to find out what happens next.
Sometimes it can be introduced with a ticking clock where the hero of the story must rescue kidnap victims, thwart a terrorist plot or catch a killer before they strike again. This method adds a subliminal threat level which is amplified by the hero’s efforts to beat the clock.
Another way to inject pace into a story is to place a constant stream of obstacles in the hero’s path.
Imagine this scenario if you will. (I’ve deliberately gone overboard with it but I feel it shows a lot of the elements I’ve already mentioned.) Our hero Clint Square-Jaw has to drop off a ransom in a specific place at a set time or his pregnant wife will be killed to death in the most foul way imaginable.
“Clint grabs the bag of money. Tosses it into the boot of his car. Twists the ignition and hears the engine struggling to fire.
He tries again.
A look around shows an elderly woman climbing into her car on the other side of the street. He rushes over. Hauls her out ignoring the pang of guilt. Clambers into her seat and starts the engine. Before he can drive off he has to move the seat because the woman is a full foot shorter than he is.
By the time he adjusts the seat the old woman stands in front of the car.
He reverses out into the road and squeals off towards his destination. When he rounds the second corner he finds a parade of school children crossing the road and has to slam on the brakes. His fist bangs the steering wheel in frustration until he can again mash his foot against the throttle.
Clint makes good time over the next two miles but encounters a blockage in the road caused by a wagon that’s shed its load.
Desperate he bangs up the kerb and careers around the gesticulating driver. One hundred yards later he hears the monotone thud of a flat tyre. He stops. Runs to the boot of the car. Finds it full of junk.
As he’s tossing the junk out a car pulls up behind him. It’s a good car with sleek lines. He dashes across. Hauls on the driver’s arm. The driver yanks his arm free. Drives his elbow towards Clint.
Two minutes later Clint roars off leaving the bloodied driver lying on the road. A light on the dash catches his eye. It’s the fuel light. It’s glowing. No way will it get him to his destination.”
I’m going to stop here but hopefully that very terse cut-down example shows my points about putting in obstacles. If I was writing the scene for real I would lessen the obstacles and increase the narrative surrounding each little event. I may even break the chapter as Clint encounters one of the more serious obstacles.
The observant readers of this post may have noticed that I used short punchy sentences and urgent words like dashes when writing this overblown example. These are other tricks of the authors’ trade and ones which can really make a difference.
As tempting as it is to inject pace into every sentence, you can have too much of a good thing and the best authors work on a peak and trough kind of system to give both character and reader a chance to grab their breath.
If you’re looking for books with excellent pacing then I heartily recommend Severed and Relentless by Simon Kernick and A.A. Dhand’s Streets of Darkness.
Oh yeah. My books too.
Blimmin’ marvellous post, thank you Graham!
This is the first time I’ve read a book by Graham Smith and I can categorically state that it won’t be the last! I am amazed the author managed to squeeze so much interesting, intriguing content into a novella. I’ve tried to enjoy novellas in the past but they’ve never really had my full support (blink and you’ve missed some vital part of the story, or it’s finished and you’re left wanting more!). I would always opt for a full novel, given the choice. Not only has this book introduced me to author Graham Smith, it’s made me think differently about novellas.
DI Harry Evans is the perfect kind of character for me. He’s a wayward cop doing things his way in order to get the job done – no matter what that takes. The Major Crimes Team are all likeable characters (except DI Campbell) but I felt like I was missing out, having not read the previous books in the series. I’ve seen several other bloggers say this book can be read as a standalone, which I agree with. But it always helps to start at the beginning of a series, no matter what the series or how good the writer is. I immediately downloaded Snatched From Home as I want to read more about these characters; they’ve got under my skin.
I am not a football fan so I was a little disheartened to learn one of the main themes of Matching The Evidence was football hooligans. If, like me, you’re not a fan then please don’t let the football thing put you off. There are a few fleeting mentions of the actual game but the majority of the book focuses on the violence and excuses used by the so-called fans. There’s a lot more to this book than Carlisle United playing Milwall.
Would I recommend this book? I most certainly would. I feel as though I’ve found a new favourite author and I will be keeping an eye out for more from Graham Smith. If you’re looking for a quick read that’s full of action from the get-go that I suggest you get yourself a copy of Matching The Evidence.
Four and a half stars out of five.
Many thanks to Noelle Holten, Graham Smith and Caffeine Nights Publishing for providing me with a copy of Matching The Evidence in exchange for an honest review.
Matching The Evidence by Graham Smith was published in the UK by Caffeine Nights Publishing on 8th September 2016 and is available in eBook format | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Goodreads | Caffeine Nights Publishing |
Graham Smith is married with a young son. A time served joiner he has built bridges, houses, dug drains and slated roofs to make ends meet. Since Christmas 2000 he has been manager of a busy hotel and wedding venue near Gretna Green, Scotland.
An avid fan of crime fiction since being given one of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five books at the age of eight, he has also been a regular reviewer and interviewer for the well-respected website Crimesquad.com since 2009.
He is the author of four books featuring DI Harry Evans and the Cumbrian Major Crimes Team.
Matching the Evidence: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Matching-Evidence-Major-Crimes-Team-ebook/dp/B01JJ5D1AC
Snatched from Home: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Snatched-Home-Would-Children-Harry-ebook/dp/B00U0GRQCY
I Know Your Secret – Out October 2016