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.


Ten Top Reads for 2020

Happy New Year! Here are ten books that I thoroughly recommend. You might have seen them on my #FridayReads on Twitter during 2019. They’ll transport you to pastures new in the coming year.

The Birdwatcher by William Shaw

In The Absence of Miracles by Michael J. Malone

The Testaments by Margaret Atwood

Turn A Blind Eye by Vicky Newman

Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk

A Window Breaks by Chris Ewan

Give Me Your Hand by Megan Abbott

Wolf Country by Tunde Farrand

Everything Under by Daisy Johnson

The Lost Man by Jane Harper

Quiet Acts of Violence

I’m currently writing Quiet Acts of Violence, a follow-up to The Girl in the Green Dress and featuring the same detective duo – DI Donna Bell and DC Jade Bradshaw. Originally I wasn’t sure whether the two women would become series characters though I recognised they had the potential to return. Then readers of The Girl in the Green Dress asked me if I’d plans to write more Donna and Jade, they were keen to see them again. Given I’d enjoyed writing them so much and felt there was lots still to discover about them it seemed increasingly like an excellent idea. So here I am. Quiet Acts of Violence sees Donna and Jade investigating the death of a newborn baby and launching a hunt for her missing mother. It’s a novel about family and betrayal, injustice and poverty, the ties that bind and those that break us. Publication date is July 2nd 2020.

Great Stories

When I read I want to be drawn into another world, share someone else’s adventure. There’s nothing quite like losing myself in a good story. And all these books, different though they are from each other, gave me that pleasure.

Brother by David Chariandy

The End We Start From by Megan Hunter

The Guilty Party by Mel McGrath

Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss

Stone Mothers by Erin Kelly

Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo

Clock Dance by Anne Tyler


Nine Knockout Reads

I need say no more.

The Last by Hanna Jameson

The Confessions of Frannie Langton by Sara Collins

Dead Lions by Mick Herron

The Overstory by Richard Powers

Sealskin by Su Bristow

The Chalk Man by C. J. Tudor

Washington Black by Esi Edugyan

Anatomy of a Scandal by Sarah Vaughan

Worst Case Scenario by Helen Fitzgerald