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‘Ice-pick-sharp, packed with intrigue, action and spine-chilling suspense. Devour will keep you gripped from the very first page’ Kathryn Fox

Media and Reviews

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‘Why is location so critical for thrillers?’ asks the Book Trail

August 17, 2017

In a few weeks’ time I fly to Stirling in Scotland to participate in crime fiction festival Bloody Scotland. I’ll be on a panel with authors Tony Black and J.G. Sinclair discussing the locations of our most recent thrillers, and how we use location to enhance mood and heighten danger. The Book Trail did a Q & A interview with me on this very topic and I’d love to share it with you here. If for any reason the link doesn’t work, it is transcribed below:

Why is location important?
You hear estate agents go on about ‘location, location, location.’ But the location of a novel is just as important. The right location can add a whole new level of interest for the reader. It can even become a character in the book, as Antarctica does in my previous thriller, Thirst. In Thirst I want the reader to feel a connection to the great white continent because it is the central character’s love of Antarctica that makes him its champion, and he will almost die trying to protect it.

Location is also a way to enhance the mood of a scene. A dark and dank abandoned warehouse can be menacing, whereas, the clear blue skies and sunshine after a raging blizzard, can suggest hope. I think one of the best examples to demonstrate the link between mood and location is in Joseph Conrad’s classic, Heart of Darkness. The jungle is a brooding presence that becomes increasingly threatening the closer Marlow gets to finding Kurtz. The jungle is almost a living, breathing character.

I choose the locations for my thrillers carefully. They need to be the best place to tell each story. As I write fast-moving thrillers, full of danger and menace, I can use location to enhance the threat, as I do in the opening chapter of Devour, in which Kevin Knox is left to die in an Antarctic ‘white out’, an extreme blizzard. If I’m writing an action scene, I like to locate it somewhere that makes it more threatening for my hero. For Olivia Wolfe in Devour, it’s a remote Antarctic camp, and an attack on her life when she’s alone in a tent at night.

Why did you pick the location you did?
I follow Antarctic scientific developments and expedition news, and came across the Lake Ellsworth expedition in 2012, led by Professor Martin Siegert of the UK’s Grantham Institute. I was fascinated by the idea that inside sub-glacial lakes, buried for centuries beneath thick ice, life could exist that has never before had contact with humans. A question immediately sprang to mind: what if bringing this microbial like to the surface was a very bad idea. This became the premise of Devour.
Your books are based on real events. Can you tell us more?
The premise of Devour was inspired by a real Antarctic expedition in 2012, in which a small team of scientists attempted to drill down through three kilometres of ice to reach sub-glacial Lake Ellsworth, which had been buried for centuries. Sadly, they didn’t succeed. But in Devour, they do succeed in bringing ancient microbial life to the surface. Little do they know the catastrophe they are about to unleash.

How on earth did you do the research you did?
I have spent time in Antarctica and this experience enabled me to write about this alien and savage place with a confidence I don’t think I would have had if I hadn’t been there. Antarctica is unlike any place I have ever been. I had not experienced such extreme cold before. It was only by going there that I could convey not just what it looks like, but also what is feels like, smells like, tastes like, and sounds like. I was lucky enough to get on a Russian, former scientific exploration ice breaker, heading for Antarctica. I also spent time at British Antarctica Survey in Cambridge and the Australian Antarctic Division in Tasmania, Australia, talking to their explorers and scientists, and learning Polar survival techniques.

Any tips for people in Scotland on how to deal with the cold (not on a level with what you’re used to!)
Antarctica is the last great untouched wilderness, a continent the size of Europe, and the location of the coldest temperature ever recorded, which is −89.2 °C (−128.6 °F). However, if you travel to Antarctica in the summer, you will experience temperatures from −40 °C to a toasty 0 °C. I imagine Scotland knows temperatures like these. To avoid frost bite, keep your face, hands and feet covered as best you can, wear layers of clothing, and always ensure your ship, camp, or station knows exactly where you are at any given time. Blizzards can materialise very quickly and you may need rescuing!

Living in Australia, then England, books set in Antarctica….that is quite a scale in temperature! Where next? anywhere hot?
Prey is the next book in the Olivia Wolfe Thriller Series, and this one is set in warmer climes – South Africa.

You’re an adventurer at heart. What does adventure mean to you?
Everything! That’s why I tend to write action- adventure thrillers. Adventure means exploring our beautiful planet, testing myself, and expanding my mind. Without an adventure to look forward to I would go stir crazy.

Favourite cultural thing from each of the three countries
Australia: Favourite phrase: No worries! Favourite cultural thing: drinking wine outside the Sydney Opera House on a sunny day, watching the boats on the harbour.
England/Scotland: Favourite food: Fish and chips and mushy peas, and English/Scottish beer. Australians complain the beer from the tap is warm. I like it that way! Favourite phrase or word: Bastard! It sounds more biting when you say it with an English (or indeed Scottish) accent.
Antarctica: Favourite phrase: white out. It says everything in two words. Favourite cultural thing: meeting penguins and letting them pack my boots!

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Five star review of Out Of Bounds by Val McDermid

July 21, 2017

A chilling mystery told with compassion and wit, and a central character I feel I know like a best friend.

Cold case detective, Karen Pirie, the central character in Out Of Bounds, is a beautifully flawed, compassionate, ballsy, obsessive, lonely character. Even when times are tough for her, she can be generous to those in trouble, including her less-than-bright side-kick, and a group of Syrian refugees. In fact I love how subtly McDermid weaves into the narrative the contentious issue of what happens to refugees as they are being processed for asylum.

Pirie finds herself trying to solve not one, but three cases: the rape and murder of Tina McDonald twenty-odd years ago, a current suicide which she believes is murder, and a bombing of a light aircraft twenty-two years ago for which the IRA was blamed. And McDermid weaves theses plots together brilliantly.

I remember watching a YouTube interview of Val McDermid by Peter James in which she was asked, ‘What is the question you least like being asked?’ Her reply was, ‘How do I come up with my ideas.’ With over thirty published books to her name, there is no doubt that the wonderful McDermid has no shortage of ideas for great stories and continues to captivate our hearts and imaginations.

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Review of Chris Ewan’s Long Time Lost

July 12, 2017

Reminiscent of Jack Reacher, a savvy, enthralling thriller…
The premise of Long Time Lost is a clever one: Nick Miller helps people disappear, setting them up with a new life and identity, because witness protection just doesn’t cut it when it comes to criminals like Connor Lane, who can find almost anyone. Kate Sutherland is the focus of Miller’s efforts throughout the story, and his relationship with her makes the thriller more than an intriguing crime-spy thriller, which it most certainly is. It makes it personal, as we watch them deal with their worlds implode and the dance of trust and doubt they both experience. Renner has to be one of my favourite henchmen of all time. Old school. Loyal. Saddled with a Mancunian psychopath, a killer with no scruples, a new type of assassin. I heartily recommend this book!

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Review of Spare Me The Truth: C.J. Carver is a master of the high-octane thriller

July 9, 2017

Secrets, betrayal and a killer who will have you looking over your shoulder.

Spare Me The Truth opens with a bang: with fast action and a tantalizing mystery – who is Cedric and why must Stella Reavy re-enter Dan’s life, an act which is clearly going to wreak havoc with his life – and this is exactly how I like my thrillers to start. The worlds of three intriguing characters are about to collide: Reavy’s daughter Dr Grace, Dan Forrester who lives a quiet life which somehow he knows doesn’t feel right, and PC Lucy Davies, who is investigating the disappearance of Bella Frances. Each of these characters either keeps a dark secret or is about to find out something shocking about a loved-one. In fact secrets, and whether people should be told the truth, is a theme that runs throughout the whole breathtakingly exciting book. Three plots are expertly interwoven into a nail-biting climax. C.J Carver is a master of the high-octane thriller not just because she writes action and characters so well, but because of her humanity.
Published by Zaffre Publishing.

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L.A. Larkin is now firmly on my must-read list: C.J Carver

July 7, 2017

I happen to be a big fan of thriller author C.J. Carver, who, like me, is a bit of an adventurer. So imagine how happy I was to see this five star review of DEVOUR by C.J. Carver on GoodReads

I love opening a brand-new book by an author and reading those first few lines. I especially love it when those first few lines tell me I’m in safe hands, and that the book is going to ring all my bells with believable characters, great action scenes and a watertight plot line that leads to a cracking ending.
I loved the protagonist Olivia Wolfe, and although she’s super-capable, almost a superwoman, Larkin uses a deft touch to show her character’s vulnerabilities. Out of all the book characters I’ve read, Olivia Wolfe is at the top of my list to invite to dinner and L.A. Larkin is now firmly on my must-read list.

June 30, 2017

Thank you C.J. Perhaps we could hold a dinner party one day and invite all our favourite characters!?

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