Head in a Book

I honestly don’t know what I’d do if I couldn’t read. It’s such a pleasure to be able to escape everything and journey to new places. Here are some books I’ve really enjoyed over the past few months. A bit of all sorts. Happy reading!

Amity and Sorrow by Peggy Riley

The Man on the Street by Trevor Wood

The Long Call by Ann Cleeves

Only You by S. Williams

The Water Cure by Sophie Mackintosh

Now We Shall Be Entirely Free by Andrew Miller

Sister by Rosamund Lupton

Fifty-Fifty by Steve Cavanagh

The Patron Saint of Liars by Ann Patchett

New Year New Reads

One of the enduring comforts over the last year has been finding and enjoying wonderful stories. Several of these titles featured in my #FridayReads recommendations on Twitter. I hope you’ll find something here to transport you, entertain, amuse or move you. Happy reading!

Good Girl, Bad Girl by Michael Robotham

Spring by Ali Smith

The Glittering Hour by Iona Grey

The Flight by Julie Clark

The Guest Book by Sarah Blake

Blackwood by Michael Farris Smith

The Magician’s Assistant by Ann Patchett

Expectation by Anna Hope

If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things by Jon McGregor


Escape Into A Good Book

Good news for book lovers – indie bookshops throughout the UK have joined together to launch Bookshop.org so you can order books online and support local shops during lockdown – and beyond. You can also borrow eBooks and eAudiobooks from libraries through the BorrowBox scheme.

What to choose? Here are some of my recent favourites – and among them is the book I’ve enjoyed best of all in 2020 (jointly along with Hamnet by Maggie O’ Farrell). Can you guess which it is?

The Most Fun We Ever Had by Claire Lombardo

Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

A Thousand Moons by Sebastian Barry

We Begin at the End by Chris Whitaker

The Mirror and the Light by Hilary Mantel

Cruel Acts by Jane Casey

Confession with Blue Horses by Sophie Hardach

My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite


Quiet Acts of Violence – Waiting for the Verdict

It is always nerve-wracking waiting for responses to a new book but I think this year has been even more challenging for many of us (me included) as my latest title came out during the pandemic when live events weren’t possible, bookshops and libraries were closed and distribution centres working at seriously reduced capacity. And we were all dealing with the shock and disruption and the awful reality of coronavirus.

I was very pleased to have support and help from some wonderful book bloggers including Tracy Fenton at Compulsive Readers who designed a lovely blog tour banner for me (after getting a glimpse of my own pitiful attempt!) Early reviews from these bloggers were a real boost: ‘a topical, emotionally charged and compelling story’ Compulsive Readers; ‘combines excellent writing with a clear-eyed view of contemporary issues’ CRIMEPIECES; ‘A powerful story, excellently written with compassion and painful honesty. Outstanding’ Random Things Through My Letterbox; ‘An unputdownable read, this story delivers on all levels’ Karen’s Book Bag.

And these lovely reactions came in from the press: ‘Strong, damaged, lippy northern female police officers — edgy Jade and stressed Donna do not disappoint … Ordinary people are made to matter, as the case reveals some difficult truths’ Sunday Times Crime Club and ‘Staincliffe is one of the few authors who can combine political anger with great entertainment and somehow never lose sight of either’ Morning Star.

So a big thank you to everyone who has reviewed, bought, borrowed or downloaded Quiet Acts of Violence. And a big cheer to those who encouraged me to revisit the detectives from The Girl in the Green Dress. I hope to return to Donna and Jade again before so very long.  

Ten Top Titles

It’s been a couple of months since I posted some recommendations (though I regularly shout about #FridayReads on Twitter). Here are ten suggestions for your delectation. Happy reading.

Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell

Black Car Burning by Helen Mort

The Dutch House by Ann Patchett

We Don’t Die of Love by Stephen May

The Dreamers by Karen Thompson Walker

Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones

History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund

Splinter in the Blood by Ashley Dyer

Fires in the Dark by Louise Doughty

Real Tigers by Mick Herron

Quiet Acts of Violence

‘Jade was buzzing, little shocks and fizzes of adrenalin sparking through her blood. Always the way when they were called to a death. The end of everything for somebody. The start of something for Jade.’

Quiet Acts of Violence sees the return of DI Donna Bell and DC Jade Bradshaw, the detectives from The Girl in the Green Dress. But you don’t have to have read that book to enjoy this one. In Quiet Acts of Violence they are investigating the death of a newborn baby and hunting for her missing mother. The background to the novel is the landscape of austerity and inequality, the poverty it has resulted in, the effects on people’s everyday lives. It’s something I’m even more acutely aware of now as we see the toll of coronavirus on our poorest, most disadvantaged communities and disproportionately affecting BAME people. We have learned how dependent we are on each other, and how much we rely on those in low paid and insecure work for many of our most essential services.

Donna and Jade are two very different characters. Donna is white, middle-aged and married with a large family. She is a skilled professional, a steady hand on the tiller and one who will give her all for the victims of the crimes she investigates. Jade is in her twenties, of Pakistani and Irish parentage, and has overcome a very difficult childhood to find a role as a police officer. Jade is often impulsive, impatient to get results. She’s also vulnerable, sometimes besieged by the demons from her past and the trauma she carries. I’ve loved spending more time with Donna and Jade in the writing of this novel and hope to come back to them again before too long. Meanwhile – happy reading. (Though if you weep that’s even better).




Recommended Reads

Another clutch of books that have completely captivated me. All those different worlds. Although libraries and bookshops are still closed in the lockdown you can order online from some suppliers (there may be a wait for delivery). You can also buy digital books and you can borrow eBooks and eAudiobooks from libraries through the BorrowBox scheme.

Take care, stay safe and happy reading.

The Whisper Man by Alex North

The Stranger Diaries by Elly Griffiths

Things Can Only Get Better by David Barnett

Black Teeth and a Brilliant Smile by Adelle Stripe

Your House Will Pay by Steph Cha

A Station on the Path to Somewhere Better by Benjamin Wood

Daisy Jones and The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Terra Nullius by Claire G. Coleman

The Gustav Sonata by Rose Tremain

Every Book A Journey

During the lockdown when libraries and bookshops are closed you can still order books online from some suppliers (though there may be a wait for delivery). You can also buy digital books and you can borrow digital editions from libraries through the BorrowBox scheme. Here are some titles I’ve really enjoyed – what strikes me about this selection is the variety, they all take place in really different worlds. So if you want transporting somewhere new there might be a place for you somewhere here…

Violet by SJI Holliday

The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead

The Glass Woman by Caroline Lea

The Lion Tamer Who Lost by Louise Beech

Saltwater by Jessica Andrews

The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley

Conviction by Denise Mina

More Great Books

Most of us need no excuse but if you’re staying in more at the moment and want something new to read here are seven very different stories from seven brilliant authors. Enjoy!

All Among The Barley by Melissa Harrison

Platform Seven by Louise Doughty

Big Sky by Kate Atkinson

The Poison Garden by Alex Marwood

All the Hidden Truths by Claire Askew

Circe by Madeline Miller

Leonard and Hungry Paul by Ronan Hession

I Wouldn’t Start From Here

A perennial question I’m asked about my work is how much planning I do. When I started out it was very little. I needed to set off with the characters (I always have to know who the characters are from the start) and see where the story took me. And given that my earlier works were the Sal Kilkenny and Blue Murder detective series there was a natural structure to the story, of uncovering the truth and solving a mystery. In itself it was a rough plan of how things would go. Once I turned to writing stand-alone novels, where those at the centre of the story were people whose lives had been torn apart by crime (victims, relatives, even suspects) but not investigators, there was less of a clear blueprint to follow. I liked that freedom and found that how much planning I did was a movable feast – it depended very much on the story itself and whether I could get away with improvising. By the way, that approach is NOT applicable to TV or Radio scriptwriting where every last detail needs to be agreed and nailed down before a line of dialogue is written. A process that I found very challenging as it went against my natural inclination.

My current work in progress follows people on the run and people after them and so part of the planning involved a geographical outline for the moves everyone is making and where their paths cross. As you can see, from the beautiful diagram above, it’s quite complicated and will be even more so when I try and match it to real locations in the Derbyshire Peaks. Or maybe I’ll make them up too.