Today is Day 9 of the Blog Tour for BONES IN THE RIVER. Last stop on the tour is ShotsMag Confidential, where I’m the guest of the remarkable Ayo Onatade, talking about taking the first book in the Lakes Crime Thriller trilogy, DANCING ON THE GRAVE, from being a standalone into the start of a new series.
Although I’ve said I’ll do three books with CSI Grace McColl and Detective Nick Weston for the moment, I’m not ruling out more. And if the response is as positive as it’s been so far, that has become a distinct possibility!
When is a Series not a SeriesThere was Never Going to Be a Second BookWhen my Lakes-set crime thriller, DANCING ON THE GRAVE came out in late 2018, it was fully intended as a standalone novel. In fact, I stated as much in the sub-title of the book.
I’m not quite sure who I was trying to convince.That story is my take on the Washington Sniper incident from back in 2002, but transported to the English Lake District. I focused the story around four of the main characters—rookie CSI Grace McColl; recently transferred Detective Constable Nick Weston; the sniper himself; and the disturbed teenage girl who becomes his spotter.Unlike my first-person POVCharlie Fox series, DANCING ON THE GRAVE was written in close third-person viewpoint, so I could get right inside the heads of the characters—including the perpetrators. That made it feel, to me as I wrote it, unlike the usual police procedural. The story allowed me to explore a number of themes that were important to me, about the abandonment of former military personnel after their service was up, and what seems to be the current obsession with ‘being famous’ without regard to reason.But I didn’t think it would be an easy book to follow up, even if I’d been intending to. Reviewers and readers had other ideas.Such was the response to Grace and Nick that I was eventually persuaded to give them a second outing. (Although, strictly speaking, Grace’s first appearance was in a short story,Tell Me, which you can currently read on the Crime Readers’ Association website.)The basic idea for BONES IN THE RIVER has been with me in some form or another for more than fifteen years. Back in the early 2000s, I was living in the small market town of Appleby-in-Westmorland in Cumbria, while building a house in the Eden valley. Every year in the first week in June, Appleby Horse Fair takes place in the town. It’s been held in one form or another since medieval times, but since the beginning of the last century it’s grown into the largest gathering of Gypsies and Travellers in Europe.Held from Thursday to the following Wednesday (but mainly Friday to Sunday) the Fair attracts around 10,000 members of the Travelling community—quadrupling the population of the town. Another 30,000 visitors flock in to watch the spectacle of horses being washed in the River Eden and shown off along the Flashing Lane.Locally, it’s greeted with mixed feelings. There are those who love it for the extra business and revenue it generates. And equally those who hate it for the disruption it causes. Not just during Fair week, but also in the run-up to the event, as the different Romany clans begin to assemble in outlying villages.It is, I was told, a very good time to settle old scores. If one of your neighbours has pissed you off, you wait until the Fair to get your own back, and blame it on the Gypsies. The police are always out in number and trouble is, shall we say, not unknown.So I set my story against this backdrop. It was somehow a metaphor for what was going on in the country at large over Brexit, where outsiders were viewed with suspicion and distrust. My aim was to portray without romanticising or demonising either. People are people, and there are good and bad of all types.I also wanted to look closely at the effects of a split-second bad decision on someone who has spent their life on the ‘right’ side of the law. To see the slow, corrosive consequences as they are forced to compound their sins.And, having discovered the title BONES IN THE RIVER as part of a song by Gillian Welch, I knew I was going to have to make the River Eden as much a character in the book as the people.Once again, you see one crime as it’s committed and I make no effort to hide the identity of the perpetrator for long. But then a second body emerges, and there’s more mystery to the who and why.If people react as well to BONES as they did to DANCING, then it’s a style I hope to repeat. I’ve already promised a third instalment with Grace and Nick. After that, it’s up to my readers. If they like what they see (including the Force Medical Examiner, one Dr Ayo Onatade) then there will be more crimes to come in the wild hills of Cumbria!
What I Learned From The Day Job: Zoë Sharp
I suppose there was half a chance that writing fiction might have been my day job, right from the start. After all, I penned my first novel at the age of fifteen—and I do mean ‘penned’. I wrote the entire thing, long-hand, in a month, and gave myself the most appalling writers’ cramp in the process.
That early effort did the rounds of all the major publishers, where it received what’s known in the trade as ‘rave rejections’—everybody said they loved it but nobody actually wanted to publish it.
Looking back, I’m rather glad about that.
Because, in order to be a writer, you need different experiences under your belt. At the age of fifteen, I’d had few worth mentioning. Apart from living aboard a catamaran from the age of about seven and leaving school at twelve. But that, as they say, is probably another story.
Having failed at my first attempt to be a novelist, I became side-tracked by a variety of jobs in my teenage years, including crewing boats and learning astro-navigation. I was mad keen on horses, rode competitively, and once even took part in a rodeo. I learned to shoot—did a little competing there, too. Long guns, mostly. I considered myself an average shot with a handgun but, as I discovered on my last visit to a US indoor gun range, most people can manage to miss the target entirely at less than ten feet.
As for jobs, I became a freelance motoring writer at the height of the classic car boom of the late 1980s. That quickly transmuted into being a photojournalist, having taught myself both how to write commercial magazine articles and also how to take images good enough for numerous front covers and centre spreads.
It was hardly surprising, then, that eventually I’d have to start writing a character who was a photographer. Enter Grace McColl, first in DANCING ON THE GRAVE and now in BONES IN THE RIVER. Grace started out as a keen amateur photographer, who became involved in providing evidence for the defence in a court case. She was then approached by the Head CSI at Cumbria police, who asked her if she’d ever thought of joining the side of the angels. Always nice to be able to write any parts of the story concerning photography without having to do lots of research.
My time spent writing about cars also played a part in BONES IN THE RIVER, which begins with a hit-and-run incident. Understanding how the mechanics of a vehicle work makes writing scenes with them in so much easier and, I hope, more accurate.
Plus, all that time spent with horses came in very useful for a book that takes place during the largest Gypsy and Traveller horse fair in Europe. There were still plenty of times when I had up to a dozen different scientific research books laid on the table at the side of my desk as I wrote, though. Fortunately, forensic science and pathology are such fascinating subjects.
They tell you to write what you know. I disagree. I think you should write what you’re desperate to find out instead.
Read the full article over on Elementary V Watson.
Day 7 of the Blog Tour for BONES IN THE RIVER. Today, it’s the turn of the wonderful Jen Lucas to review the book for Jen Med’s Book Reviews. A thought-provoking look at the underlying themes, plus a plea for more!
If you like a mystery in which CSI and Detective work side by side (sort of) in order to solve a crime—one that in this case, at least from the start, isn’t clear to them is even a crime yet, then this is definitely the book for you. Now, as readers we are faced with a perspective that is completely separate from that of the investigating team. We know things that they have yet to discover, but then they are set to make a discovery that will take us by surprise too. Confused? You won’t be if you read the book—which I highly recommend you do as it is a brilliant read.
We start with a case of a potential hit and run, one with a startling conclusion that will guarantee to take you by surprise. But this is not the only thread in this story and when a skeleton is discovered on the riverbank close to the annual Horse Fair in Appleby, it leads Grace McColl and Nick Weston to a group of Travellers who are haunted by both secrets and a familial legacy which leads to all kinds of conflicts.
It is easy to paint Travellers in a negative light, as nothing more than thieves, not to be trusted. It is the reputation they have earned, whether justified or not, as they lead a lifestyle that many in the more rooted community cannot understand. However, whilst there is an air of mystery about certain members of the community, Zoë Sharp has worked hard not to bow to any singular stereotype, or make any aspersions about Travellers in general, whilst still conveying the judgement and prejudice that their community is subjected to. It is a delicate balance but very carefully handled. It was the elements of the story in which the Traveller culture is explored more closely, that idea of the sort of head of a clan, which I found fascinating. The story served to challenge my own prejudices without alienating me from what I was reading and I often found myself incensed by the behaviour of the self proclaimed civilised locals who sought to discriminate against the Travellers in their midst. Like every community, there are the good and the bad folk, and the bad are not always easy to identify whilst those you may trust least can often take you by surprise.
I do love the characters of Grace and Nick and the chemistry between them is undeniable. It’s not an easy partnership, several obstacles standing in their way, not least of which is Nick’s partner—the mother of his child. Theirs is a complicated relationship, not likely to be made any easier by revelations from within this book. Then there is Grace’s ex-husband—a man who cannot take a hint when told that they are over. Of course that’s not made any easier when you factor in Grace’s mother, Eleanor. Oh my word how I like her. She is a canny lady that’s for sure and she has the measure of those around her very quickly. She is keen, quick witted and very sly in her own way. A brilliant character and it’s easy to see where some of Grace’s spirit comes from. And it’s a good thing that Grace is so determined and strong as she will need her wits about her this time around as at least one of the people she is hunting for knows how to stay one step ahead.
One other character who was something of a revelation in this book is Queenie. Although she lives her life in a largely patriarchal community where her only role is to support her husband and bring up her children (and I say only with a roll of my eyes and more than a hint of sarcasm), she is so strong of spirit and heart that you cannot help but admire her. She is the calm at the heart of a storm, a voice of reason unafraid to stand up for what she believes in, no matter what peril she puts herself in. She is naturally wary of the police having had no reason to trust them in the past, but the reluctant respect she shares with Grace helps to drive the story. There is a real depth to her character and she is easy to grow to like. Although it’s not always easy to understand her acquiescence to her husband and brother, there is that underlying spark that signals a woman who will ultimately not be cowed by others.
The book is full of moments of tension and conflict and moments that will make you smile in spite of a very hard hitting storyline. It is a tale of long held secrets, of prejudice and mistrust and of family, for good or for bad. Parts will make your heart break, others will even make you angry or perhaps make you laugh. But what they will do is combine to produce a storyline that is 100% absorbing and a completely compelling read in a series I am loving.
I know this series is set to be a trilogy, but then it was only ever going to be a standalone at one stage. Is it too much to hope for that after book three there might just be room for a little more? Fingers crossed as these books are definitely recommended.
Read the review and leave a comment over on Jen Med’s Book Reviews.
Day 6 of the Blog Tour for BONES IN THE RIVER. Today the fabulous Noelle Holten has posted her review at Crime Book Junkie. I think it’s fairly safe to say she enjoyed the book, but don’t take my word for it:
Set in Cumbria / Kirkby Stephen / Appleby the reader is immersed in a novel which looks at the travelling community; discrimination; blame; fear; family; loyalty; grief; secrets; consequences; mistrust; corruption; loss; deception and a search for the truth/justice.
Zoë Sharp is one of my favourite authors because no matter what, she delivers a story that instantly has you on the edge of your seat. What an opening! My eyes widened as I read the final sentence and that was it – HOOKED! What I loved about this book was the puzzle that keeps you guessing in relation to the secondary thread whilst the main storyline has you screaming at the characters as they unravel a horrible crime – you see, the reader knows early on who the police and CSI are looking for – and you absolutely won’t believe it! So it’s not the WHO it is the HOW the outcome will be revealed that will have you racing through the pages! Within the pages, there is great description – you are there in the moment – and it’s hard not to imagine the beauty of the setting balanced against the horror of the crime… There is an authenticity to the novel as well, it was clear that Zoë Sharp did her research and I also enjoyed the #kickass moments – some that might make even Charlie Fox proud!
When I read the first book: DANCING ON THE GRAVE I wanted more – I loved DC Nick Weston and CSI Grace McColl so was thrilled to hear that Zoë took on board her readers *ahem* demands and followed up with this book! But readers – both are fabulous stand-alone stories so you can read them on their own – but given we learn a little bit about each of the main players in the first book, you may as well read it – it’s brilliant! DC Nick Weston is still trying to prove himself but we learn a lot more about him and I have to say, I love him even more. Same applies to Grace McColl – she’s determined and not afraid to follow her gut but the insight we receive in BONES IN THE RIVER about Grace goes a long way to explain or hint at why she is this way. I also like the almost uncertainty that hovers over the relationship (personal and professional) between Grace and Nick. And Zoë Sharp can write a baddie well – but in this novel, there are a few who might surprise you when all is revealed and you may even feel sorry for some…
So would I recommend this read? That would be a hell-to-the-yeah I would! Another cleverly constructed and riveting read from the oh-so-talented, Zoë Sharp! BONES IN THE RIVER delivers everything I look for in a crime thriller: relatable characters, a compelling and believable plot and a pace that is sharp, fast and addictive. Highly recommended!
You can read or comment on the review over at Crime Book Junkie.
CSI Grace McColl and Detective Nick Weston are back in book two in the Lake Thriller trilogy. The book opens with a murder. This isn’t a whodunnit, we find out immediately who the killer is although the police don’t know. During the investigation of this crime a body washes up in the river and the two cases become intertwined.
I really enjoyed the procedural aspect of the story. I also like these characters very much. There were a couple of plot devices I did not enjoy. I won’t get into specifics because it might influence the reader; I just want to explain the lower star rating. Overall, this was a solid story with great characters. It was well researched, or at least seemed to be, the details were very interesting. I really like all the animals, from pets to breeding horses, the personalities were as filled out as their human counterparts.
This could definitely be read as a stand alone, but the first book, DANCING ON THE GRAVE is fantastic.
As we speak, I am in the midst of a Blog Tour for the publication of my new book, the second in the Lakes Crime Thriller trilogy, BONES IN THE RIVER. I should have been talking about the book at Newcastle Noir and CrimeFest as well.
Current circumstances—UK lockdown for Covid-19 coronavirus—have put paid to any physical festivals or conventions. So, everything has moved online, with panels and interviews and readings. I took part in the recent Virtual Noir At The Bar (Episode 5 on April 29, from about 44:00min to 51:00min) instead of actually meeting up, in an actual bar, to do actual readings from our works.
As well as keeping on top of the Blog Tour, I’m also deeply into the planning of the next two books. And that’s where I run into the biggest questions of all.
How are we going to write about the events of 2020 in the future?
If I look at BONES IN THE RIVER, for instance, the events of the story occur at the annual Appleby Horse Fair, held in the Cumbrian market town for hundreds of years and famous as being the largest gathering of Gypsies and Travellers in Europe.
This year it has been cancelled.
The opening scene, in which a man accidentally runs down and kills a child on a deserted country road at night, could still happen in lockdown—but not after he’d just spent an evening having a meal with friends where they were undoubtedly all sitting around a dinner table—inside—in close proximity.
My CSI, Grace McColl, goes from crime scene to office and out into the field again, mixing with both the public and her colleagues. My detective, Nick Weston, goes to interview suspects and potential witnesses in person rather than by phone or Zoom, because how can you really get a feel for the reactions of the people you’re talking to unless you can see them while you talk.
People are brought in for questioning—their legal representatives sitting alongside them. What will happen in future? Zoom again, or will this cause a major leap forwards in projection hologram technology?
Grace visits her mother, Eleanor, who has moved back from the south coast up to Appleby. Grace’s ex-husband, Max, has been making himself useful around Eleanor’s new house and garden, perhaps as a way of trying to reinsert himself into Grace’s life. Even with the slight easing of lockdown due to take place in the UK from June 1, this is dubious behaviour. They have a barbecue—which as it’s outside would probably be allowed. But Nick also attends and he doesn’t count as family. Not sure he and Grace stay the full six feet apart at all times there, either…
Besides, Nick’s a father with a young daughter, Sophie. Would he risk her health by associating with others more than he absolutely had to for his job? And what about Nick’s partner, Lisa, who has been working suspiciously late at a hair and beauty salon that wouldn’t be open for business yet anyway.
While one of the other CSIs is suspended for a supposed error. He’s staying at home in his scruffs, watching the TV and playing video games—perfectly feasible in these lockdown times! But then he gets a visit from one of his colleagues and, instead of insisting the man stays on the doorstep so they can chat (no garden available in a little terraced house in Workington) he invites the man inside his home—without hand sanitiser, gloves or face mask.
The Travelling community at the Fair live in close proximity inside their vardo and bow-top horse-drawn caravans, and spend their time largely out of doors, but at the Fair they all mix and mingle with no thought to cross-contamination. There’s plenty of washing goes on, but it’s mostly of horses in the River Eden, as fits with tradition rather than to prevent the spread of Covid-19 infection.
And at the stand-off near the end of the book, the police are more concerned with the numbers involved than the risks of getting too close to the saliva of others.
If I’d been writing this book next year, and setting it this year, it might have been a very different story altogether.
So, what do I do about the third instalment? Do I mentally set the story pre-winter 2019, when Corona was still just a beer, and a virus was something more likely to be contracted by your computer than by your elderly relatives?
After all, I didn’t specify that BONES IN THE RIVER was set in any particularly year. It’s contemporary but not tied to any specific, non-transferrable event—the millennium, for instance.
But, in a few years’ time, the obvious setting of a book pre- or post-Covid-19 will undoubtedly date it. I went through my very first book recently, KILLER INSTINCT and UN-dated it. I didn’t change the story but I did take out references to minor things that I felt dated it badly. References to computer floppy disks, video cassette tapes—even public phone boxes, most of which have either disappeared from our streets or been turned into tiny libraries or stations for community defibrillators.
The next book I have planned is a bit more of an experiment, and therefore could be set at any time in the last few years. I don’t intend to make reference to Covid-19 in that story. It still feels too soon. Too raw.
This will give me time to see what’s going to change in societal behaviours in the slightly longer term before I start the next Charlie Fox book. If Charlie’s greatest threat to someone in the future is that if they don’t stop what they’re doing, she’ll cough on them, it’s going to change things in a big way…
What are your feelings, both as writers and readers about the inclusion of Covid-19 in books written right now, to be read in the next year or eighteen months? Do you want them to reflect these strange times in full and horrible detail, or do you read as more of an escape of what’s going on around you, and therefore not want to be reminded?
And will pre-2020 become seen as the new Golden Age—both of crime and of life?
This week’s Word of the Week is petrichor, meaning the smell of rain on dry earth. It comes from the Greek petra which means stone and ichor, which means the fluid that flows in the veins of the gods in Greek mythology. My thanks to EvKa for sending me this among a whole list of wonderful words. A gift to treasure for a logophile like me!
You can read and comment on this blog over on Murder Is Everywhere.
Today is Day 4 of the Blog Tour for BONES IN THE RIVER. Today I’m the guest of Tina Hartas at TripFiction. This site specialises in the locations of books, so wherever in the world you live, or are thinking of visiting, you can find a book there which is set in that particular place. As Appleby-in-Westmorland is central to the story of BONES IN THE RIVER, that was the obvious topic of our conversation:
Talking Location With author Zoë Sharp: APPLEBY-IN-WESTMORLAND
#TalkingLocationWith…. Zoë Sharp, author of BONES IN THE RIVER: Lakes crime thriller Book No2 in Appleby-in-Westmorland
It was the street names of Appleby that first fascinated me—Scattergate, Low Wiend, Battlebarrow, The Sands, Doomgate. They sound more like something out of Game of Thrones than a small market town in Cumbria.
But Appleby—the ‘in-Westmorland’ part was only added in the 1970s when the county of Westmorland was abolished—dates back to the Norman conquest. Its claims to fame include the fact that George Washington’s father received his classical education at the Grammar School in Appleby, and the town has been represented in parliament at different time by William Pitt the Younger and by Viscount Howick, who became Earl Grey. Both men went on to become Prime Minister.
Lady Anne Clifford lived and restored Appleby Castle in the 17th century. She founded the alms houses on Boroughgate, gives her name to an ancient path, Lady Anne’s Highway, that stretches a hundred miles from Skipton Castle to Brougham Castle in Penrith. Independent of spirit at a time when women were seen mostly as property, I give a nod to her in BONES IN THE RIVER by creating a pub called the Lady Anne’s Arms. There are plenty of fine pubs in Appleby but, considering the events I have happen there, I don’t think any of them would thank me for using a real location.
The river of the book title is the Eden, which runs through the middle of Appleby. It rises high above the Mallerstang valley to the east, and eventually spills out into the Solway Firth, ninety miles to the north. It is, apparently, one of the few rivers in England that flows northwards.
Appleby is the home of the annual Gypsy Horse Fair. This is held in the second week in June, lasting from Thursday to the following Wednesday, although the main days are Friday to Sunday. It takes place on Fair Hill, which was originally unenclosed land just outside the borough boundary, where the old Roman road crosses Long Marton Road. The latter is closed to traffic during the Fair, when it becomes the Flashing Lane, where horses are trotted up at great speed to show them off for potential buyers. This is after, of course, they’ve been washed in the Eden.
There are records of the first fairs at this site going back to the medieval period. They went through various incarnations until, at the turn of the last century, the event had become a major fixture on the Gypsy and Traveller calendar. Today, the Fair is huge, attracting around 10,000 from the Travelling community—the largest such gathering in Europe. Another 30,000 spectators descend on Appleby.
It’s a misnomer that the Fair takes place by Royal Charter from King James II. It actually has a ‘prescriptive right’ to exist, after having done so for so many years. In 2020, sadly, the coronavirus outbreak has led to the Fair’s cancellation.
I can’t help a certain feeling of irony that the very year BONES IN THE RIVER comes out (on May 26 2020), where Appleby, the Fair, and the surrounding area plays such a big part—will be one of the rare occasions the Fair will not go ahead.
When I lived in Appleby, I always knew it would be a wonderful time and place to set a crime thriller. After all, such a large influx of strangers into a small community is always going to cause friction. Not only between incomers and locals, but also among neighbours. “It’s a good time to settle old scores,” I was told. “You can get your own back on people who’ve annoyed you all year, and blame it on the Gypsies.” The fact that so many people converge on the town, stay for a limited period, then scatter again, creates a time imperative to solve any crime that takes place there.
I knew that I wanted to make the course of the River Eden an integral part of the story. From Water Yat at Mallerstang—an open area where the Gypsies often set up camp—through the amazing waterfall at Stenkrith and the wide, shallow stretch in Appleby where the horses are taken into the water to be washed. The river became more than simply a location—it became another character in the book. And it’s those stories, where the setting is as vital to the narrative as the things that happen there, are so often the ones I enjoy reading—and writing—the most.
Read the illustrated version of this piece over on TripFiction.
Day 3 of the Blog Tour for BONES IN THE RIVER is a review by Sarah Hardy at By The Letter Book Reviews. It is always fascinating to see what different reviewers pick up on in any book, and this was no exception:
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.
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!
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