#BlogTour | #GuestPost: Dead Man’s Prayer by Jackie Baldwin (@JackieMBaldwin1) @KillerReads

Dead Man's Prayer (1)Ex-priest DI Frank Farrell has returned to his roots in Dumfries, only to be landed with a disturbing murder case. Even worse, Farrell knows the victim: Father Boyd, the man who forced him out of the priesthood fifteen years earlier.

With no leads, Farrell must delve into the old priest’s past, one that is inextricably linked with his own. But his attention is diverted when twin boys go missing. One twin is recovered in an abandoned church, unharmed. But where is his brother?

As Farrell investigates the two cases he can’t help but feel targeted. Is someone playing a sinister game, or is he seeing patterns that don’t exist? Either way, it’s a game Farrell needs to win before he loses his grip on his sanity, or someone else turns up dead.

Welcome to my stop on the Dead Man’s Prayer blog tour.  I was over the moon to be asked to participate in Jackie’s tour as DMP sounds a stonking read!  I can’t wait to get started on this one, once the #terrifyingTBR becomes a smidge less terrifying!

I am delighted to have a guest post by Jackie Baldwin to share with you today.  When Jackie suggested writing about what drives her to explore crime, I was thrilled.  It’s a brilliant post, very suited to damppebbles and I love it.  Over to Jackie…

What Drives Me To Explore Crime?

As a child I attended our local Convent School and developed the perception that there was good and there was evil. The world was cast in these certainties. There was no room in this scheme of things for much in the way of grey areas.

As a newly qualified solicitor I ended up practising criminal law. In Scotland, if you are in private practice you are always acting for the defence as all cases are prosecuted by the Crown. Almost immediately, my certainties crumbled. I discovered that, for the most part, criminals were weak, inadequate individuals who made kneejerk decisions in difficult circumstances, rather than intrinsically bad people. Many of them were likeable and desired to change but found it difficult to break free of old patterns of behaviour. As Duty Solicitor I would be locked in a cell with clients who had allegedly committed a wide spectrum of crimes but strangely, I never felt threatened. I strongly believe that you can’t view a criminal without also viewing the context within which they operate. Many of my clients had traumatic upbringings with one or more abusive parents. Most of them had serious substance abuse issues. In fact, I would go so far as to say that the majority of low level crime is due to people trying to scrape money together for a fix or becoming aggressive and losing the rag when on drink or drugs. I believe that many of the addicted people I came across were effectively self-medicating for anxiety and depression. Of course, there were exceptions. Once every few years I would come across someone who made the hairs on the back of my neck prickle a warning and knew that I was in the presence of something dark and ugly.

As a writer I feel that crime is a fertile area to explore. Committing a murder is breaking a taboo. It tears down the gossamer web of society we have wrapped round ourselves to feel safe. This can only be restored when the murderer has been caught and punished. In the old days when detection rates were low and punishment functioned as both deterrent and retribution there was the public spectacle of the hanging. Then, as detection rates increased and society evolved, punishment retreated behind high walls and more complex needs had to be balanced such as retribution, deterrence and rehabilitation.

In that sense, every crime novel is like a quest. Every resolution brings a feeling of release. I am particularly drawn to the psychology of crime in fiction. In real life crime can be swift and brutal, apparently random and motiveless at times. In fiction, I like to understand the internal logic of the villain. People are complex. Often our motivations are buried deep in our unconscious mind and hidden from us. One psyche can consist of many different parts. In damaged people these parts can be in opposition to each other, fighting for supremacy in a subterranean, hidden war, in which the outward explosion of violence can signify a battle lost.

***

Thanks again, Jackie for this insightful piece.  I can’t wait to read Dead Man’s Prayer so look out for a review coming your way soon (hopefully)!

Dead Man’s Prayer by Jackie Baldwin was published in the UK by Killer Reads on 2nd September 2016 and is available in eBook format (paperback to be published in December 2016) | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads | KillerReads |

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Jackie_02_by_Kim_Ayres.jpg

Photo credit to Kim Ayres

Jackie Baldwin is a Scottish crime writer and former criminal lawyer. Dead Man’s Prayer is her debut novel.

Connect with Jackie via Twitter @JackieMBaldwin1 or Jackie’s Facebook Author Page.

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#GuestPost: Caimh McDonnell, author of A Man With One of Those Faces (@Caimh)

51wI8sVmPFL._SY346_“The first time somebody tried to kill him was an accident.

The second time was deliberate.

Now Paul Muchrone finds himself on the run with nobody to turn to except a nurse who has read one-too-many crime novels and a renegade copper with a penchant for violence. Together they must solve one of the most notorious crimes in Irish history . . .

. . . or else they’ll be history.”

You know how I love a guest post (if not, I love a guest post!) so I was delighted to be asked to host a post from debut author, Caimh McDonnell.  When I found out it was a ‘darkly comic Irish crime thriller’ there was no way I was going to refuse.  I have willingly dipped my toe into this sub-genre on a couple of occasions and have always emerged with a smile on my face.  It’s not a genre I thought I would enjoy as I like blood, guts and gore in my books but it seems among the blood, guts and gore you can squeeze a giggle in there too!

Anyway, enough from me.  Over to Caimh…

The Problem with Comedic Crime

Here are two things you should know about me:

  1. I write ‘comedic crime’
  2. I hate ‘comedic crime’

To be clear, I mean the phrase and not the unfairly-maligned sub-genre.

‘Comedic crime’ is just an awful name. It doesn’t bring to mind the genius of someone like Christopher Brookmyre or Carl Hiassen does it? No, instead it inspires the image of three clowns trying to break into a pie factory with a ladder they are very bad at carrying. As stomach-churning two-word combos go, it ranks right up there with ‘improvisational dance’ and ‘experimental cooking’.

My wife and I have spent more time than I’d care to admit debating alternatives ways to describe my debut novel A Man with One of Those Faces. For a while there, she was very keen on ‘crime with a twist’ but I couldn’t get on board. I’m first and foremost an avid reader of crime fiction, as I’m guessing you are too. As we both know, all crime has a twist – or if it doesn’t, we as readers are going to get very annoyed. We love a whodunit, a howdunit or a whydunit, but none of us are big fans of a yep-as-stated-in-the-opening-chapter-that-fella-dun-it-in-the-method-determined-for-the-motives-predicted.

Intent is key – both for characters and indeed for an author. Looking back on all my obsessive consumption of the many flavours of humorous crime over the years, I think that’s the one big lesson I learnt. Crime fiction of all ilks is primarily driven by plot. Things happen, they have consequences, characters make big decisions. As an author, you have to always make sure that your plot is driving your story forward. If you allow your characters to wander away from it in order for you to just squeeze in that punchline you’ve thought up, the reader will sense it. If you aren’t taking your story seriously, why should anyone else?

The odd thing about the aversion to comedic crime amongst some readers, is that it doesn’t extend to other areas. The Sherlock TV series is brilliant but it does mix in a fair dollop of comedy with the action. Many of the works of Quentin Tarantino could be most accurately described as ‘comedic crime’ too. Nobody does that though, do they? No, in fact, come to think of it, isn’t it amazing how early in his career ‘Tarantinoesque’ became a thing? Forget awards, forget box office receipts, you know you’ve really made it when you’re an adjective. (side note: I don’t suppose anyone would fancy trying to make Caimhian a thing? No, thought not.)

So, to come back to my original point, I guess ‘comedic crime’ has an image problem, in my head at least. The next time you hear it though, do me a favour; don’t think of those three clowns trying to break into a pie factory with a ladder they’re very bad of carrying. Instead, try and picture two clowns tied up in the backseat of a car being driven at breakneck speed towards a cliff by a gun-totting madman. Where’s the third clown you ask? He’s already dead in the boot. Actions have consequences and comedy, like crime, is a very serious business.

***

Brilliant, thank you Caimh.  I am delighted to have a review copy of A Man With One of Those Faces on the #terrifyingTBR so look out for a review soon(ish)!

A Man With One of Those Faces by Caimh McDonnell was published in the UK by McFori Ink on 5th September 2016 and is available in paperback and eBook formats | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads |

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caimh_press_pic2Caimh McDonnell is an award-winning stand-up comedian, author and writer of televisual treats.

His writing credits include The Sarah Millican Television Programme, A League of Their Own, Mock the Week and Have I Got News for You. He also works as a children’s TV writer and was BAFTA nominated for the animated series ‘Pet Squad’ which he created. He was also a winner in the BBC’s Northern Laffs sitcom writing competition.

During his time on the British stand-up circuit, Caimh has firmly established himself as the white-haired Irishman whose name nobody can pronounce. He has brought the funny worldwide, doing stand-up tours of the Far East, the Middle East and Near East (Norwich).

His debut novel, A Man with One of Those Faces, a pacy crime thriller set in Dublin, is out now. Connect with Caimh via Twitter @Caimh or his Facebook page.

#GuestPost: Catherine Hokin (@cathokin), Historical Fiction author #damppebblestakeover

I am delighted to welcome you to another #damppebblestakeover post.  Following a short break over the Summer we are back with a bang…for a short while anyway!  My guest post series is drawing to a close but I am thrilled with the fabulous authors that have wanted to take part, their inspirational posts and of course, the excellent feedback I have received from readers.  Thank you one and all, the bookish community totally rocks! #damppebblestakeover may well be back in the future, maybe sooner rather than later as my wrist surgery has been rescheduled for early November.  Keep your fingers crossed that it goes ahead this time around – saying that, if it doesn’t, November and December will become #damppebblestakeover months (otherwise I will have a very empty blog)!

One of my favourite things about this series of posts is that I have featured authors of genres outside of my crime and thriller comfort zone.  Today I am thrilled to welcome historical fiction author, Catherine Hokin to the blog.  Catherine’s debut novel, Blood and Roses, centres around Margaret of Anjou, the wife of Henry VI and oh my, it sounds too good to not put on the wishlist!  Here’s the blurb:

CRDg-oxW8AAKMmD“Blood and Roses tells the story of Margaret of Anjou (1430-82), wife of Henry VI and a key protagonist in the Wars of the Roses.

This is a feminist revision of a woman frequently imagined only as the shadowy figure demonised by Shakespeare – Blood and Roses examines Margaret as a Queen unable to wield the power and authority she is capable of, as a wife trapped in marriage to a man born to be a saint and as a mother whose son meets a terrible fate she has set in motion. It is the story of a woman caught up in the pursuit of power, playing a game ultimately no one can control…”

Today Catherine shares with us a post about her favourite character, the dangerous woman.  I can understand Catherine’s fascination with the dangerous woman.  Some of my favourite crime reads are about a determined, ruthless female lead who does what she has to do, no matter what that is, in order to get what she wants. Over to you, Catherine…

Dangerous Women

I like dark characters. Some people excel at funny, frothy, shopaholic types; some people write moody and magnificent souls who constantly wrestle with the meaning of life and don’t tangle all that well with it. My characters are dangerous women. They are driven (usually by the pursuit of power or some form of love, never the romantic kind), act against expectation when the need arises (or when they create it) and have a core of steel which can be pushed against but never broken.

Although I knew I wanted to write historical fiction, I started down the writing road cutting my teeth and learning my craft with short stories. The one I am most fond of, Stolen Moments is about an amoral woman who steals from the moment she can walk, simply because she can. Her actions reach their peak in the abduction of a baby and, unsurprisingly, things do not go well. Because it was a competition finalist, I got feedback and that was fascinating: some of the judges were convinced it couldn’t have been written by a woman as it was too ‘wicked’ (they’re not meeting the right women), a couple of others genuinely said to me that they presumed (I think hoped) I didn’t have children. I have – they’re fine. What was most interesting about the reaction was how uncomfortable many people were around the concept of a ‘dangerous’ woman who broke social norms.

When I started my novel Blood and Roses about Margaret of Anjou, the wife of Henry VI and a key player in the Wars of the Roses, it was her demonization that first fascinated me. Most people, if they meet Margaret at all, meet her through Shakespeare’s plays. Shakespeare was, of course, in the pay of the Tudors so his treatment of her is pure propaganda and, to be honest, almost cartoonish. He refers to her as “a foul wrinkled witch’ and has her wandering round court clutching the severed head of her supposed lover the Duke of Suffolk, dripping blood everywhere like a deranged baddy from Gotham’s Arkham Asylum. Complete nonsense: contemporary sources describe her as “more wyttyer then the kynge” and as a “grete and strong labourid woman” who was capable of formulating military strategy and was a far safer pair of hands than her husband who had a habit of falling into prolonged comas when he wasn’t imagining himself as a saint. Was Margaret dangerous? Yes, to her enemies. But, when judged by the standards of the incredibly vicious conflict that is sweetened by the title the Wars of the Roses, she was no more dangerous than any of the men around her. Margaret was multi-faceted, difficult and fascinating. She believed the English throne belonged to her family, to her and to her son, and she fought tooth and nail to keep it despite fierce and brutal opposition. My Margaret takes a very dangerous risk for power’s sake and she pays for it but she never gives up, even when she probably should. That’s what dark characters do.

Dangerous women are having a moment in popular culture: Claire Underwood in House of Cards making Lady Macbeth look like mother of the year; Marvel’s troubled, hard-drinking Jessica Jones; the power-flip in Game of Thrones which has brought all the female characters into terrifying relief. These women break the rules, they are complex and compelling and cannot be second guessed – writers like to write them and audiences want to meet them, in literature as much as film and television. In my second novel (just completed and with my agent so keeping everything crossed), the lead character (Katherine Swynford) is a woman perfectly happy to unleash hell when her family is threatened and she fights back hard when social mores threaten to overwhelm her. She is a lioness and she bites.

Deliciously ruthless, dangerous women who don’t do what convention expects – that’s who I will always write about but, trust me, their dreadful deeds are purely from my imagination so don’t run away if you meet me. I’m really quite a happy soul…

***

Thank you for this brilliant post, Catherine.  When book two is ready for launch, please think of damppebbles.  You and your dangerous, convention defying female leads are always welcome.

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CHCatherine is a Glasgow-based author whose fascination with the medieval period began during a History degree which included studies into witchcraft, women and the role of political propaganda. This sparked an interest in hidden female voices resulting in her debut novel, Blood and Roses which brings a feminist perspective to the story of Margaret of Anjou (1430-1482, wife of Henry VI) and her pivotal role in the Wars of the Roses.  Catherine also writes short stories – she was a finalist in the Scottish Arts Club 2015 Short Story Competition  and has been published by iScot magazine – and regularly blogs as Heroine Chic.

Purchase Links: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Blood-Roses-Catherine-Hokin/dp/1910130044/

Social media links: Catherine’s website Catherine’s blog | Catherine’s Facebook author page | Catherine on Twitter @cathokin |

#BookReview: Brick by Conrad Jones (@ConradJones)

51JlDcCMTvL“When a teenager is the victim of an unprovoked attack while walking his dog, a murder investigation begins.

A cruel twist of fate makes his innocent family the targets of a vicious campaign of terror.

As the detectives of Liverpool’s Major Investigation Team try to contain the violence, several key members of an organised crime family begin to topple, causing shock waves across the planet.”

Apologies to those suffering from a sense of deja vu right about now.  My recent jet-setting lifestyle (that’s Great Yarmouth, Tavistock and Newquay!) seems to have sapped my ability to use wordpress (or it’s had an update, or I just pressed the wrong button!). Many thanks to those who liked and shared this post earlier today but here’s the full version, rather than the abridged!

This is a great book which I thoroughly enjoyed from start to finish.  One of those where you can easily lose a couple of hours by becoming so drawn into the story that you don’t really notice what’s going on around you.  Such a GREAT read and I will be adding Conrad Jones to my ‘authors to keep an eye out for’ list.

Bryn is your average 14 year old lad.  He keeps himself out of trouble, has two older brothers who do the same thing and two fairly useless parents.  He’s a normal, likeable young man.  But life changes for Bryn when he encounters ‘the fat man’ whilst out walking his beloved pet dog, Alice.  After exchanging a few choice words, Bryn is chased through the local park by ‘the fat man’ and his much more athletic avenger.  Bryn suffers the beating of his short life, beaten to a messy pulp.  Exhausted and bloodied but desperate to save his dog, Bryn reaches out for the nearest object to stop the battering and finds a house brick.  Before long a murder investigation is underway and Bryn’s family are the main focus of a revenge driven organised crime family with international links.  Can they survive the reign of terror brought against them…?

Bryn is so lovely that you can’t help feeling shocked by what happens to him throughout the book; from that first savage beating and everything else that occurs after that.  There were some real jaw dropping moments for me, I felt outraged for Bryn.  How could this poor, sweet lad become a murderer (albeit, accidentally).  If you’ve read this book, did you feel the same?  I’d be interested to know.

The links between the crime families were intricate and I enjoyed seeing how one family could easily wipe out another, along with the lengths the characters would go to to protect their own backs.  There’s almost a domino effect going on which I found immensely satisfying.

Would I recommend this book?  I would.  It has a great plot with characters you will love and characters you will loathe, the perfect balance of good versus evil.  You’ll be cheering Bryn and his family on, hoping they all make it to the end in one piece (do they? Well, you’ll have to read the book to find out).  I mentioned it earlier and I will say it again, I will be keeping an eye out for Conrad Jones’s books in the future and I would love to read more of this author’s work.

Four out of five stars.

Many thanks to #TBConFB and Conrad Jones for a copy of Brick in exchange for an honest review.

Brick by Conrad Jones was published in the UK by The Thriller Factory on 25th July 2016 and is available in paperback and eBook formats | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Goodreads |

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cj1Conrad Jones is a best selling thriller writer with three thriller series published.

The Soft Target Series 6 books
The Detective Alec Ramsay Series 6 books
The Hunting Angels Diaries (horror) 3 books.

11 of his books are available in audio and his novels have been translated into six languages.

He is always keen to talk to readers and writers alike, jonesconrad5@aol.com

Facebook: Conrad Jones Author
Twitter: @ConradJones

#BookReview: Blood For Blood by J M Smyth (@bwpublishing)

51iPbibcIaL._SX324_BO1,204,203,200_“Care. There s a word if ever I heard one. I looked it up in a dictionary once. It had a lot of definitions but not one that applied to me and Sean…

WAITING DAY AFTER DAY

Red has survived the barbarity and abuse of the orphanage. His twin brother Sean has not been so lucky. With a sworn oath to avenge his brother s murder, Red kidnaps a policeman s daughter and leaves her to be brought up in care, to suffer like he and Sean did. But this is just the first part of Red s plan for revenge against all those who took their freedom.

UNTIL FINALLY IT’S TIME

Now, twenty years later, the time has come. The kidnapped girl has grown up and left the orphanage, never knowing who her real parents are or the part she’ll now play in Red’s shocking revenge. And for those who have been living their lives in peace, with faded memories of twin boys who were put into care years ago, life is about to descend into hell.

But with the criminal underworld, the police and an unexpected serial killer on the scene, sometimes even the best laid plans go awry…”

This is one seriously dark book which gets under your skin from the opening chapters.  Not an easy subject matter that some may find upsetting and hard to stomach.  For those who are life long crime fans, and for those with an iron constitution, I can guarantee that you will find this a riveting read.

Red (Robert) Dock and his twin brother, Sean are two of Ireland’s unwanted babies. Raised in an abuse riddled orphanage, Red is strong enough to survive the daily beatings and punishments.  His brother, Sean isn’t as strong and dies an unnecessary death.  Now a grown man and consumed by revenge, Red is hellbent on making others pay for the loss of his twin.  He puts into action his 20 year plan by kidnapping the baby daughter of a high ranking police officer.  He subjects her to the same torture and cruelty he suffered as a child by putting her into the exact same care system he suffered in.  This is only the beginning of an intricate scheme, with many interwoven threads, all aimed at destroying the lives of the people Red feels are responsible for Sean’s death.  Throw in a serial killer who just happens to be in the wrong place, at the wrong time and who knows who will survive.  Will Red be able to avenge Sean’s death and how many will die in the process…?

I found this novel eerily fascinating.  I don’t think you really know the full extent of the story (or the characters) until you reach the very last word of the very last paragraph.  I found myself pondering the story at quiet times during the day, almost like I was making sure it had sunk it and I had all the loose ends tied up in my mind. It certainly stayed with me afterwards.

Red’s scheme is brilliantly clever and his thirst for revenge quite nauseating.  His total lack of feeling towards his fellow man is beyond callous. With all that in mind, why did I find him strangely charming?

For those that aren’t aware (and have been asleep up until this point) this book is set in Ireland, about Irish characters and written by an Northern Irish author. It took me a little while to get my head around the sentence structure and the writer’s style. I think I was having a bad day.  Thankfully, it didn’t take too long to warm to the tone.

The closing chapters are superb. I loved the obscure ways of murdering characters (yes, I’m strange!). Very clever, almost genius in some cases. And I loved that there’s a serial killer in this book, but it not all about him (serial killers get ALL of the attention!).

Would I recommend this book? Yes, I would, particularly if you’re after something a little different. Clever, intricate and full of dark wit. I almost hope to meet Red Dock at some point again, in the future. 

Four out of five stars.

Many thanks to #TBConFB, Black & White Publishing and J M Smyth for providing me with a copy of Blood For Blood in exchange for an honest review.

Blood For Blood by J M Smyth was published in the UK by Black & White Publishing on 14th July 2016 and is available in paperback and eBook formats | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads | Black & White Publishing |

J.M. Smyth was born in Belfast, and moved to London at the age of 15. He has worked as a landscape gardener, antiques restorer, furniture maker, equeastrian gear manufacturer, horse breeder and a tomato inspector… Smyth finally came to writing a long time ambition whilst in hospital following an accident involving an under-sized parachute, and has been at it intermittently ever since. His first novel Quinn was shortlisted for the CWA New Blood Dagger. Blood for Blood is his second novel, and has already been published in Japan, France and Germany. Smyth currently lives in County Louth, Ireland.