Day 3 of the Blog Tour for BONES IN THE RIVER is a review by Sarah Hardy at By The Letter Book ReviewsIt is always fascinating to see what different reviewers pick up on in any book, and this was no exception:

My thoughts:

It always horrifies me when you hear of hit and run accidents. I would like to think most of us would do the right thing if the unfortunate ever happened but sadly this isn’t always the case.

The fact that there are two deaths to investigate made this story much more intriguing. Especially as one happened years before. Throw into the equation that gypsies have set up home, the police, like most of us, can’t help to jump to conclusions as to who might be behind the deaths.

From the start the reader knows who the culprit is for the hit and run. I loved that we knew, adding to the tension of the already gripping story line and making me want to scream at the characters at who its was. The author spends time on the investigation and the leg work of interviewing. This leads to some shocking discoveries as well as getting to know the people under investigation better. Of which some had me disliking more whilst others my empathy increased.

BONES IN THE RIVER is a realistic crime thriller that kept me hooked throughout. The author makes every minute of the investigation interesting and I couldn’t wait to discover what was waiting for me with each new chapter. It is a story filled with hidden secrets and lies which made it all the more exciting as Grace and the team work hard in unveiling the truth. A tense, page turner of a read.

You can read the review or comment on it over on By The Letter Book Reviews.

Day 2 of the Blog Tour for BONES IN THE RIVER sees me answering questions for Donna Maguire at DonnasBookBlog. Donna came up with some great questions, as you’ll see below:

My Interview With The Author!

Q1. When did you know that you wanted to be an author?
A1. I guess I always wanted to be an author, but the first time I realised it might be a realistic possibility was when I was fifteen and I actually finished writing my first novel. Before then, most of my story efforts ran out of steam by the end of the first chapter—sometimes even the end of the first page. I wrote the whole of that first one in longhand, then my father typed it up for me. That first manuscript did the rounds of publishers, where it received what’s known in the trade as ‘rave rejections’. Everybody loved it. Nobody wanted to publish it.

The first pieces of writing I had published were non-fiction. I began working as a freelance journalist, specialising in the motoring industry, back in 1988. After a few years, I taught myself enough photography to sideways into photo-journalism. I’ve been making a living from word and pictures ever since, including—since 2001—numerous works of fiction.

Q2.  What inspired you to write this book?
A2. When I wrote the first Lakes crime thriller, DANCING ON THE GRAVE, I fully intended it to be a standalone novel. I’d tried out the character of CSI Grace McColl in a short story, Tell Me, and liked her enough to take her forward into a longer work. (That short story was also made into a short film.) The first book was my take on the Washington Sniper incident of a few years ago, but set in the English Lake District.

After DANCING came out, the reaction was such that I knew I really needed to revisit Grace and the detective she works with, Nick Weston. Having lived in and around Appleby-in-Westmorland for years, I’d always wanted to set a story during the annual Gypsy Horse Fair. Established in the 1600s, the event has become the largest gathering of Gypsies and Travellers in Europe. It attracts off-comers in huge numbers and causes all kinds of friction. Locally, it’s also known as a very good time to settle scores. Or, as is the case in BONES IN THE RIVER, to try to escape blame.

Q3. If you could see this book in one sentence what would it be?
A3. ‘Driving along a country road at night, you hit a child; there are no witnesses and you have everything to lose, so what do you do?’

Q4. What are you up to next?
A4. I’m just finishing off an eBook of Bonus Features for the revised edition of DANCING ON THE GRAVE—it’s been given an eye-catching new cover to link in with BONES IN THE RIVER, now it’s part of a series. I did an eBook giveaway to my mailing list of Bonus Features & Behind the Scenes articles, features and interviews for the last Charlie Fox book, BAD TURN: #13. I wanted to do the same for DANCING. Afterwards, I have another standalone novel in the works, before I write the next Charlie Fox crime thriller. And then, of course, I’ll start on part three in the Lakes trilogy. Apart from that, and some moderate house renovation in what I laughingly call my spare time, I’m just loafing…

Q5. Who is your biggest inspiration?
A5. I think I have to have to say Lee Child. Not only is he someone I greatly admire as a writer, but he’s also the consummate professional, always approachable, unfailingly entertaining as a panellist or interviewee, generous with his time, and always ready to support other writers. I’m proud to call him a friend.

If you’d like to comment on this blog, or ask any other questions, why not visit DonnasBookBlog?

Today kicks off the Blog Tour for BONES IN THE RIVER with a review from the amazing Karen Cole at Hair Past A Freckle. Karen has taken a deep dive into the book and really got to the heart of what the story is all about in her perceptive, detailed review:

I’m thrilled to be launching the blog tour for Bones In The River today. Huge thanks to Zoë Sharp and Ayo Onatade for inviting me and for my advance digital copy of the novel.

When I reviewed Zoë Sharp’s DANCING ON THE GRAVE a couple of years ago, I concluded it with the hope that the standalone would become a series and so I was delighted to discover that yes, Grace McColl and Nick Weston were going to appear again in BONES IN THE RIVER, the second book in what is now the Lakes Thriller trilogy—although each story can easily be enjoyed as a standalone too.

The novel opens with the death of a child and though it was an accident, the killer makes a panicked decision to hide the evidence. His identity is revealed to the readers very early in the book but rather than diminishing the tension, knowing who was responsible ahead of the investigating team actually increases the sense of nerve-wracking anticipation to the proceedings. There’s a tantalising game of cat-and-mouse played out as the perpetrator takes progressively wilder steps to evade being caught even as a crucial piece of evidence lies in the hands of the police.

The discovery of the boy’s badly damaged and bloodied bicycle sparks a concerned investigation into his disappearance and if a missing child is always likely to stir up emotions in a community, the prospect of violence becomes even more probable here with the influx of Gypsies and Travellers arriving for the Appleby Horse Fair. Relations between locals and the Travelling Community are always strained but as a second body is discovered, the age-old stigma and mistrust of Gypsies means many are quick to accuse them of both crimes and to make it clear they are even less welcome in the area.

The Fair also brings with it the added complication of old arguments—among different Gypsy clans and with the locals. Usually the Shera Rom (head man) keeps a tight grip on things but Hezekiah Smith’s recent death means the position in waiting to be filled. More than one man wants the role and they won’t risk losing face even if it results in bloodshed. Zoë Sharp writes of the difficulties arising from hostilities between locals and the Travelling Community with empathetic insight and her use of Romany words throughout adds an authentic flavour to the story. She draws attention to the abiding bigotry directed at Gypsies whilst still acknowledging their own difficult issues—perhaps most notably regarding some of their less than enlightened attitudes towards women. With that in mind, Queenie Smith is undoubtedly one of the most engaging characters in the novel; her strength and courage in the light of all she endures here meant that I looked forward to every scene this superbly rendered woman appears in.

The strong characterisation extends beyond Queenie, of course; I loved Detective Nick Weston and CSI Grace McColl in the first book and that was cemented here as their contrasting roles and investigative styles perfectly complement one another. The chemistry between them continues to simmer and I welcomed the introduction of Grace’s mother, Eleanor who interferes just enough in her daughter’s life. Meanwhile, the acting Head of CSI, Chris Blenkinship is a thoroughly unlikeable man whose arrogant behaviour ensured I was desperate for his comeuppance. On that score, I particularly loved the fabulous Force Medical Examiner, Dr Ayo Onatade (that name will obviously be familiar to many crime fiction lovers!) whose cool attitude and depth of knowledge so ably puts him in his place on a few occasions.

BONES IN THE RIVER is a gripping police procedural and the intertwining investigations into both a tragic new case and the discovery of a body killed a decade ago are captivating throughout.With long-hidden and more recent secrets gradually being uncovered, the drama is never less than compelling, the sense of place is vividly evoked and the perceptive exploration of complex family issues is thoroughly engrossing. Zoë Sharp’s writing is always first-rate but there are moments when it becomes utterly beautiful and the lyrical poeticism she uses in her descriptions of the river or the day as a storm approaches are simply outstanding passages that I read twice just to savour them.

BONES IN THE RIVER is as brilliant as I’ve come to expect from an author who has become one of my favourites. It’s dark, shocking and exciting but is imbued throughout with intuitive empathy and a dry wit—I loved it!

If you’d like to comment on the review, please visit Hair Past A Freckle.

 

Every week, Mark DeWayne Combs interviews a different author in an indepth interview that takes in their writing, background, and latest books. It was a pleasure to talk to Mark and an honour to be invited to take part in the show. If you’d like to listen to the podcast, you can find it here.

BONES IN THE RIVER, the second book in the Lakes crime thriller series with CSI Grace McColl and Detective Nick Weston, will be published on May 26 2020. Even without the current UK Lockdown situation due to Covid-19, I enjoy taking the book on the virtual road with a Blog Tour.

So—drum roll, please—here are the dates and stops on the tour of the best and brightest book blogs for BONES IN THE RIVER. As well as getting the opinions of the various bloggers and reviewers, I’ll be writing, about the particular setting of the annual Appleby Horse Fair for this book, about starting this new series, answering questions, and talking about how past jobs have influenced my writing career. I hope you’ll join me.

Day 1: May 25
Hair Past A Freckle with Karen Cole

Day 2: May 26
Donna’s Book Blog with Donna Maguire 

Day 3: May 27
By The Letter Book Reviews with Sarah Hardy  

Day 4: May 29
Trip Fiction with Tina Hartas

Day 5: May 31
Sara Weiss

Day 6: June 2
Crime Book Junkie with Noelle Holten

Day 7: June 4
Jen Med’s Book Reviews with Jen Lucas

Day 8: June 5
Elementary V Watson with Vic Watson

Day 9: June 7
Shotsblog Confidential with Ayo Onatade

New Zealander Judith Baxter has always been a Charlie Fox fan, so it was wonderful to read her Books And More Books review of the upcoming Lakes Crime Thriller and find she’s warming to Grace McColl and Nick Weston, too.

As part of Zoë Sharp’s Advance Reader Team, I am delighted to say I recently received a copy of her latest book in the Lake Thriller Trilogy,

This is book No 2 and once again we meet CSI Grace McColl and Detective Nick Watson whom we met in DANCING ON THE GRAVE. This time they are brought together on a couple of murders which may or may not be linked.

‘The traditional Appleby Horse Fair hosts the largest gathering of Gypsies and Travellers in Europe…’ And it is in this setting with the rivalry between the Travellers and locals that Ms Sharp sets the scene.

As she says Half the businesses in town rub their hands in glee about all the extra income, and the other half shut up shop and treat it as an enforced holiday. It’s a well-known fact … it is the ideal time of year for settling scores.”

A child’s bicycle is found dumped in a skip at the side of the road. Grace McColl is called in when it is discovered there is blood on the frame, human blood. Enter Nick Watson, detective recently moved from London to this quiet region of the Fells. But is there a body? and to whom does the bike belong?

While investigating this, the body of an adult is thrown up by the fast-moving river. But there is no identification on him, and why would there be when it is determined that the body has been in the water for ten years or more?

So our protagonists are working on a missing child and a dead adult, both cases at the same time. And all the while in the background, Grace’s boss is working against her and actively confusing one of the cases on which she is working.

Apart from McColl and Weston we once again have the familiar characters of Pollock and Ty Frost and we are introduced to more characters such as Queenie and Bartley Smith, Vano Smith, the Elliots and their complicated family.

As always, the story is well-plotted, the characters well rounded and the plot is believable. And thanks to Ms Sharp for the research that leads to such a strong and believable background to this gripping story. Thank you; I really enjoyed reading about Travellers and their traditions.

I love all of Ms Sharp’s writing and while Charlie Fox will always be my favourite, the more I read of this pair the more I like them. I am looking forward to Book 3.

 I recommend you get a copy of this without delay.

You can read Judith’s review and comment on her site, Books And More Books 2017.

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NOT Newcastle Noir with Neil Broadfoot, Noelle Holten, Ed James and Zoë Sharp

 

Over the first weekend in May, I should have been in Newcastle, attending Newcastle Noir, organised by the wonderful Jacky ‘Dr Noir’ Collins. I was lucky enough to attend the very first crime fiction event Jacky organised, back in 2014 at the Literary & Philosophical Society—the Lit & Phil.

The event has grown hugely since those early days and is now a fixture in the crime writing festival calendar (ahem, 2020 excepted, of course). It now finds its home at the Newcastle City Library, a fitting place for readers, authors and books to combine.

Jacky is still planning to hold some virtual panels online but in the meantime, having got together with my intended fellow panellists for the Murder They Wrote item on the programme, I thought it would be fun to do a bit of a Q&A on writing and publishing with them over on Murder Is Everywhere here.

 

If you missed the Virtual Noir at the Bar event on Wednesday, April 29th, you can watch the recording of the event, with fantastic readings from all the authors, by clicking on the archives here.

Authors attending were (top row, left to right) Robert Scragg, Kirsten McKenzie, Lesley Kelly, Karen Murdarasi, Roz Watkins and (bottom row, left to right) Zoë Sharp, Ashley Erwin, Derek Farrell, and Alan Jones. Vic Watson was in the hot seat as moderator and Simon Bewick was furtling about behind the scenes. Huge thanks to everyone who stopped by to listen to us reading from our latest books.

The Noir at the Bar events have become regular fixtures of the crime writers’ and readers’ calendars. It was blogger extraordinaire, Peter Rozovsky, who came up with the idea. You get a group of writers of dark, noir fiction together in their natural habitat—a bar, where else? They read a piece of their work and maybe give away a book to some lucky audience member. A simple, strong format that works a treat.

Except during the current Covid-19 lockdown, when all the bars are closed and people are strongly advised not to gather.

So, like everything else, Noir at the Bar has moved online.

At 7:30pm UK time on Wednesday, April 29, I’ll be taking part in the latest Virtual Noir at the Bar—although I’m sure that should be Noir at the Virtual Bar. The noir, after all, is real, even if we have to imagine the rest and pour our own drinks.

Vic Watson is hosting this latest session, which will be held via the Zoom platform, with Simon Bewick providing the technical know-how. I’m looking forward to it, if slightly apprehensive about the techy side of it. I’m far more at home with the mechanical than the electronic, and it’s that side of things that is giving me qualms, rather than the whole ‘reading in front of an audience’ thing.

I thought I’d read a piece of the next Lakes thriller, BONES IN THE RIVER, due out on May 26. It’s certainly the work that’s most on my mind at the moment, and it has the darker edge that suits the format.

At previous events—the non-virtual ones—I’ve read both from short stories and scenes or chapters from the current book at the time. Gauging the reaction is always useful, and I’m looking forward to seeing how that will work using this medium.

Of course, one of the nicest thing about NatB events is that you don’t have to be a published author to perform your work at one. Usually, there are invited writers but also a number of wildcard places available. I don’t know if that will be possible this time.

In some ways, with the Q&A chatroom running alongside the spotlight speakers, we’ll have more opportunity to interact with each other, and with those who’ve tuned in simply to hear the writers speak rather than to take part themselves.

I can’t wait!

(Of course, I’m still worried that I’m going to crash the entire Internet in the process…)

Click here to join the Virtual Noir at the Bar mailing list.

Or click here to register for the April 29 event.

This week’s Word of the Week is toponymy, the study of place names, from the Greek topos, meaning place, and onoma, meaning name. To be correct, toponymy is an inventory of place names, whereas the scientific study of their meanings and use is toponomastics. A branch of onomastics, the study of names.

It was so disappointing that Newcastle Noir was cancelled for the beginning of May, so I was delighted to be asked to take part in the Newcastle Noir Blog Tour. I kicked off the tour on Friday, April 24 at By The Letter Book Reviews, hosted by the lovely Sarah Hardy.

Sarah sent me some great questions about appearing in public, my latest books, where my characters come from, and who is my inspiration:

Newcastle Noir is a literary festival celebrating the best in contemporary crime writing. The festival, rooted in the North East of England, brings together writers from the North East, across Britain, as well as from further afield.

Based at Newcastle’s City Library, the festival is hosted in an amazing venue, with plenty of time between events to meet authors, buy books and have a break!

This annual gathering of crime fiction authors and readers offers events geared to a wide audience including panel discussions, readings, talks and crime writing workshops.

So for my stop, I am delighted to have Zoë Sharp join me. Zoë was due to appear on one of the many panels at the event. Very happy that Zoë agreed to me interviewing her instead.

From an author’s perspective, what’s it like appearing at a book festival/event?

I think any kind of public appearance is always going to be nerve-wracking to a certain degree. Writing is such a solitary existence, normally, that getting out from behind our keyboard and mixing with readers, other authors, bloggers and reviewers is just such a lovely experience. With very few exceptions, they’re a wonderful crowd. People have been asking how I’ve been coping with the current UK lockdown. I say that life more or less goes on exactly as usual. With the possible exception that I seem to be using more bleach…

For the rest of the Q&A session, please visit By The Letter Book Reviews here.