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Tuesday 25 June 2013

‘An Unholy Communion’ by Donna Fletcher Crow

Published by Lion Fiction, 
April, 2013. 
ISBN: 978-1-78264-004-2

'The black figure plunged over the edge of the tower and hurtled towards the earth. Then as the skirt of his cassock flared like a parachute, the scene changed to an even more horrifying slow motion. Falling, falling, falling.' Felicity Howard awakes from a nightmare and realises, to her horror, she has overslept on Ascension morning and will be too late to join her fellow ordinands at the College of the Transfiguration to sing hymns of praise and rejoicing on the top of the tower.

It is the first time that Felicity, an American, has had the opportunity to attend the Ascension Day celebration and, standing at the foot of the tower, she is determined to enjoy the experience despite her disappointment at not being with the singers at the top. Then a clerical figure plummets to the ground in an extraordinary and terrifying replica of Felicity's dream. Felicity is the first to reach the dead man. He is clutching a scrap of paper bearing a strange symbol but, as Felicity holds the paper, it bursts into flame and turns to ashes before her eyes.

Felicity's fiancé, Father Anthony Sherwood,  identifies the dead man as Hwyl Pendry, once a student of his own, who was a deliverance minister, dealing with paranormal, evil events in Wales. However, Anthony has not seen Hywl for several years. 

All that Felicity wants to do is have a quiet holiday and prepare for her wedding but Anthony has agreed to stand in as the leader of a youth pilgrimage through rural Wales and asks Felicity to accompany him. The pilgrimage culminates at St David's, where Hwyl Pendry had been a minister.
Anthony and Felicity set off with their mixed band of young pilgrims, with Anthony conducting religious services and telling them the story of saints and martyrs connected with Wales as they reach various spiritual landmarks. The scenery is beautiful and the young people settle down well together despite wide differences in their backgrounds and interests, but the pilgrimage is dogged by strange accidents and freak weather conditions, like the sudden storm that blows up when Anthony is holding a mass at a holy shrine: 'The darkness seemed so thick Felicity wasn't sure she could grope her way to the altar only a few feet in front of her. The wind lashed as if it would fling her from the hillside.'
Anthony is certain that some deep evil is attempting to prevent them completing their pilgrimage. Thirteen-year-old Adam, the youngest of the pilgrims, has already been in danger more than once during the pilgrimage but now he vanishes and Anthony and Felicity fear he has been adducted for some sinister, spiritually corrupt reason. Past religious history and contemporary greed and ambition combine to endanger Felicity and Anthony, their charges and holy artefacts. Together they must prevail to save young Adam, protect the other young pilgrims and each other from harm and solve the dark secret behind Hywl's death.

An Unholy Communion is the third in the Monastery Murders series and carries the story of Felicity and Anthony forward. The book is a compelling read. It is a remarkable mixture of exquisite description of scenery, church history and ritual brought to life, a warm and loving central relationship and a dark and evil conspiracy. The book stands alone, although I would have liked a little more of the back story that shaped Felicity and Anthony's relationship. Indeed I was eager to read the first two books. Perhaps the warmest recommendation I can give An Unholy Communion is the fact that I immediately ordered the first two Monastery Murders and have found all three books excellent. 
Reviewer: Carol Westron
Donna Fletcher Crow  is the author of 40 books, mostly novels dealing with British history.  The award-winning Glastonbury, A Novel of the Holy Grail, an Arthurian grail search epic covering 15 centuries of English history, is her best-known work.  She is also the author of The Monastery Murders: A Very Private Grave, A Darkly Hidden Truth and An Unholy Communion as well as the Lord Danvers series of Victorian true-crime novels and the literary suspense series The Elizabeth & Richard Mysteries. Donna and her husband live in Boise, Idaho.  They have 4 adult children and 12 grandchildren. She is an enthusiastic gardener.
To read more about all of Donna’s books and see pictures from her garden and research trips go to:
You can follow her on Facebook at:

Carol Westron is a successful short story writer and a Creative Writing teacher.  She is the moderator for the cosy/historical crime panel, The Deadly Dames.  Her crime novels are set both in contemporary and Victorian times, and her Scene of Crimes novel The Terminal Velocity of Cats will be published in July 2013.

Sunday 23 June 2013

‘Already Dead’ by Stephen Booth

Published by Sphere, 
20th June, 2013.
ISBN: 9787-0-7515-5171-6

Detective Sergeant Diane Fry is back in Derbyshire E Division headquarters, and she is not happy about it.  Ben Cooper is on extended sick leave following the burns he received when he tried to save his fiancé Liz, who was working as a scene of crimes officer during an arson attack. (See Dead and Buried).

The body of a man has been found in shallow water – did he drown?  Attending the post-mortem Diane finds the pathologist Mrs van Doon less than helpful or disinclined to assist Diane.  With little to go on Diane and her team investigates the solitary life of Glenn Turner, an insurance investigator with few friends. Could his death be revenge for someone who didn’t receive the insurance payment they expected.

This is the thirteenth book in the series and I well remember the excitement I felt when I read the first, Black Dog. Although,  I have enjoyed all the books in the series, this is the one that engendered in me the same excitement.  Why?  Well the mystery surrounding the death of Glenn Turner is as convoluted, complex and engrossing as the previous mysteries have been.  But in this one the characters who have developed over the last twelve books are now sorely tested.  Ben Cooper is pushed to the limit and behaves in a way that seems out of character. But how do any of us know how we will behave in abnormal situations.  I liked Cooper more in this book than in any of the earlier ones.  And began to like Diane, who I confess has always annoyed me, as I dislike her lack of empathy and never understand why she doesn’t learn that a kind word will achieve more than a snappy attitude.  This time, I felt some sympathy as she is struggling and doesn’t know why.

The mystery kept me guessing, and was satisfyingly tied up, but the real surprising twist comes at the end. I will be first in line for the next book.  Highly recommended.
Reviewer: Lizzie Hayes
Earlier books in the series are:  Black Dog, Dancing With Virgins, Blood on the Tongue, Blind to the Bones, One Last Breath, The Dead Place, Scared to Live, Dying to Sin, The Kill Call, Lost River, The devil’s Edge, Dead and Buried.

Stephen Booth was born in the English Pennine mill town of Burnley. He was brought up on the Lancashire coast at Blackpool, where he attended Arnold School. He began his career in journalism by editing his school magazine, and wrote his first novel at the age of 12. After graduating from City of Birmingham Polytechnic (now  Birmingham University), Stephen moved to Manchester to train as a teacher, but escaped from the profession after a terrifying spell as a trainee teacher in a big city comprehensive school.  Starting work on his first newspaper in Wilmslow, Cheshire, in 1974, Stephen was a specialist rugby union reporter, as well as working night shifts as a sub-editor on the Daily Express and The Guardian. This was followed by periods with local newspapers in Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire. He was at various times Production Editor of the Farming Guardian magazine, Regional Secretary of the British Guild of Editors, and one of the UK's first qualified assessors for the NVQ in Production Journalism.  Freelance work began with rugby reports for national newspapers and local radio stations. Stephen has also had articles and photographs published in a wide range of specialist magazines, from Scottish Memories to Countrylovers Magazine, from Cat World to Canal and Riverboat, and one short story broadcast on BBC radio. In 1999, his writing career changed direction when, in rapid succession, he was shortlisted for the Dundee Bool Prize and the Crime Writers' Association Debut Dagger competition for new writers, then won the £5,000 Lichfield Prize for his unpublished novel The Only Dead Thing, and signed a two-book contract with HarperCollins for a series of crime novels.  In 2000, Stephen's first published novel, Black Dog, marked the arrival in print of his best known creations - two young Derbyshire police detectives, DC Ben Cooper and DS Diane Fry. Black Dog was the named by the London Evening Standard as one of the six best crime novels of the year - the only book on their list written by a British author. In the USA, it won the Barry Award for Best British Crime Novel and was nominated for an Anthony Award for Best First Mystery. The second Cooper & Fry novel, Dancing with the Virgins, was shortlisted for the UK's top crime writing award, the Gold Dagger, and went on to win Stephen a Barry Award for the second year running.  In 2003, Detective Constable Ben Cooper was a finalist for the Sherlock Award for the Best Detective created by a British author, thanks to his exploits in the third book of the series, Blood on the Tongue. The publication of Blind to the Bones that year resulted in Stephen winning the Crime Writers' Association's 'Dagger in the Library' Award, presented to the author whose books have given readers most pleasure. The same book was nominated for the Theakston's UK Crime Novel of the Year award in 2005. Subsequent titles have been One Last Breath, The Dead Place (both finalists for the UK Crime Novel of the Year in 2006 and 2007), Scared to Live, Dying to Sin, The Kill Call, Lost River and The Devil's Edge. The 12th Cooper & Fry novel, Dead and Buried, will be published in the UK in June 2012. A special Ben Cooper story, Claws, was released in 2007 to launch the new 'Crime Express' imprint, and was re-issued in April 2011. All the books are set in England's beautiful and atmospheric Peak District. At the end of 2006, the Peak District National Park Authority featured locations from the Cooper & Fry series in their , new  Peak Experience visitors’ guides recognising the interest in the area inspired by the books.

Thursday 20 June 2013

‘All Fall Down’ by Louise Voss and Mark Edwards

Published by HarperCollins, 
14th February 2013. 
ISBN: 978-0-00-746072-4

According to the author biog, the two authors in this partnership pride themselves on producing quick-fire page-turners which are ‘all thriller, no filler.’
That’s a pretty ambitious claim for any author in the relatively early stages of a career, but while I wouldn’t agree that they pull it off completely, they do come pretty close.
Mostly the pace doesn’t let up for a second. There’s a world-threatening virus with no known cure, and a bomb which wipes out half the virologists who might find one; a stunningly beautiful villainess on a quasi-religious mission; a cute kid with a feckless father; and the biggest body count I’ve ever encountered in a thriller, even before the virus starts cutting swathes through the population.
Having escaped the bomb through being a good mother, uber-virologist Kate Maddox is whisked off to the secret lab with only days to spare before the virus infects the whole of North America. Meanwhile her partner shakes off his FBI minder and sets off on his own mission of revenge, while the bad guys, or in this case girls, use any means at their disposal to prevent the cure being found. And Kate’s young son has his own agenda.
All Fall Down could be described as a plot constructed by the evil love-child of Meg Gardiner and Michael Crichton. Add to that protagonists with demons past and present, a city in lock-down and a research lab in a top-secret location, and the race to save the world (literally in this case) is well and truly on. There’s even some scientific background to add a bit of meat to the narrative.
Several characters even find time for the now-obligatory graphic (and gratuitous) sex scene: top of the brief list of bits I would recommend the authors jettison as ‘filler, not thriller’.
A page-turner it certainly is: a high-octane rollercoaster adventure with stakes as high as they can go. It’s chunky enough to make an ideal holiday read, with plenty to appeal to thriller lovers of both genders.
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick

Mark Edwards and Louise Voss met after Louise saw Mark on a TV documentary about aspiring writers, and a writing partnership was born.  Their first two thrillers, Killing Cupid and Catch Your Death, were huge hits when the pair self-published them online, becoming the first UK indie authors to reach No. 1 in both the Amazon Kindle and Amazon Fiction charts.

Lynne Patrick has been a writer ever since she could pick up a pen, and has enjoyed success with short stories, reviews and feature journalism, but never, alas, with a novel. She crossed to the dark side to become a publisher for a few years, and is proud to have launched several careers which are now burgeoning.    
She lives on the edge of rural Derbyshire in a house groaning with books, about half of them crime fiction.

Wednesday 19 June 2013

‘Shadows in the Cotswolds’ by Rebecca Tope

Published by Allison & Busby, 2013.
ISBN: 978-0-7490-1123-9

In this twelfth book in the series we find Thea in pensive mood, with no house-sittingcommitment for some weeks. So when her mother calls to say she knows a man in Winchcombe who’s wanting someone to mind his house for a fortnight’, Thea finds herself on her way, hoping for a few days of quiet and solitude. She wants to examine her feelings for Drew Slocombe, the death of whose wife has abruptly terminated their relationship. 

But a few days minding Oliver Meadows house, is soon interrupted by the discovery of a dead body in the garden.  Moreover, Thea discovers that Oliver is the brother of Frazer Meadows, with whom her mother has linked up after a gap of thirty years, and they are both coming to stay.

Whilst a satisfying mystery, as I couldn't work out whodunit and why,  there is much introspection in the book. Thea is struggling with her feelings, and her mother has a new old love that she cannot quite sort out.  Although Drew Slocombe is not actually involved in this investigation,  he is also struggling with his feelings.

As with all previous books in the series, Rebecca Tope brings to life the village and its inhabitants.  I always want to get in the car and go there.  Mystery upon mystery with great characterisation. This is a must.
Reviewer: Lizzie Hayes

Rebecca Tope  is the author of three popular murder mystery series, featuring Den Cooper, Devon police detective, Drew Slocombe, Undertaker, and Thea Osborne, house sitter in the Cotswolds. Rebecca grew up on farms, first in Cheshire then in Devon, and now lives in rural Herefordshire on a smallholding situated close to the beautiful Black Mountains.
Besides "ghost writer" of the novels based on the ITV series Rosemary and Thyme. Rebecca is also the proprietor of a small press - Praxis Books. This was established in 1992

Tuesday 18 June 2013

‘Bad Blood’ by Dana Stabenow

Published by Head of Zeus,
12th March 2013.
ISBN: 978-1-7818-5120-3

Dana Stabenow
s series about Kate Shugak, a native Alaskan, has been going for quite a while - this is the twentieth volume - but the momentum of the series remains as strong as it ever was. Kate is a superb protagonist - she is tough and resourceful but she has her human weaknesses. As a PI she has the local knowledge needed to function in such a specific area as Alaska. For her sidekick Kate has Mutt, who is half wolf and half husky, together they make a formidable combination.

In this adventure Sergeant Jim Chopin investigates the death of a young Kushtaka man at the village fish trap. His investigation is difficult since his first suspect is from Kuskulana and there is a long established feud between the villages of Kushtaka and Kuskulana. Jim has to call on Kate for aid when there is a second murder - of a Kuskulana man - because the two tribes refuse to talk to him. Things escalate from that point on, as is apt to happen when Kate, Jim and Mutt get their teeth into crime investigation. As always the scenery of Alaska and the Alaskan way of life are prominent in the background and the characters are memorable. Although many characters have appeared regularly in previous books, there is no need to have read the other books first. I found the story carrying me along quickly and excitingly to a very dramatic conclusion.
Reviewer: Jennifer S. Palmer
The 20 book Kate Shugak series began with A Cold Day for Murder. Dana Stabenow also writes a crime series about Liam Campbell, ( a four book series so far) and has a science fiction series about Star Svendotter (3 books). 

Dana Stabenow was born in Anchorage, Alaska on March 27, 1952, and raised on a 75-foot fish tender in the Gulf of Alaska. In 1964, the Great Alaskan Earthquake occurred during her twelfth birthday party. She graduated from Seldovia High School in 1969 and put herself through college working as an egg grader, bookkeeper and expediter for Whitney-Fidalgo Seafoods in Anchorage. In 1973 she received a B.A. in journalism from the University of Alaska.  After graduation she spent one more summer knee-deep in humpies and blew everything she earned on a four-month backpacking trip to Europe with Rhonda Sleighter, a college roommate and one of the dedicatees of Play With Fire. There, she discovered English pubs, German beer and Irish men. In 1982 she enrolled in UAA’s MFA program, from which she graduated in 1985. Her goal was to sell a book before she went broke and although she made it the book fell with an almighty thud on the marketplace and was never heard from again. In 1991 her editor sniffed out the existence of the first Kate Shugak mystery and offered her a three-book contract.

Jennifer Palmer Throughout my reading life crime fiction has been a constant interest; I really enjoyed my 15 years as an expatriate in the Far East, the Netherlands & the USA but occasionally the solace of closing my door to the outside world and sitting reading was highly therapeutic. I now lecture to adults on historical topics including Famous Historical Mysteries.

Monday 17 June 2013

‘Airs and Graces by Roz Southey

Published by Crème de la Crime, 2012.
ISBN: 978-1-78029-017-1

Set in Newcastle Upon Tyne in 1737 this is the sixth in the series starring Charles Patterson, artist and, apparently, amateur detective. The local upholsterer and most of his family have been brutally murdered, and Charles and his friend Hugh arrive just in time to see the murderer getting away.  She is one of the upholsterer's daughters, angry at being taken from her adopted home in London and moved to what she sees as the backwaters of Newcastle.

Despite seeing her fleeing the scene of the crime, Charles is not convinced of her guilt and, when he connects with a mysterious women from the parallel world that he can link to, he is even more doubtful.  Even if she was guilty of hating her family he isn't convinced she could have done the murders and the evidence is confused at best.

Charles is put on the case as the local constable, Phillips, is ill and he knows that Charles has, as he puts it "experience in these matters".  He is also expected to look after the visiting architect, at the request of his patron, who has come up from London to design and build the new city Assembly Rooms. 

This is a nicely painted story, with some thoughtful characters and an unusual take on the crime novel, with its supernatural edge.  Charles, the main protagonist, is nicely drawn, as are the other players in the narrative, in both "real" and spirit worlds.  Along with the mystery, there is the nice contrast of the petty politics and discriminations of this era, which flesh out the backstory and personalities of the main and side characters.  The writing is well crafted and despite the contortions required to marry up the two worlds, natural and supernatural, Roz Southey does it with flair, along with a real feel for the history and layout of the old city of Newcastle, my home city. 

I have not read any of the other books in this series and so this was a complete foray into the unknown for me.  Having read Airs and Graces, I will now be tempted to look out for past Charles Patterson mysteries to add to my repertoire.  Recommended for those who like historical mysteries and are not afraid to play with the genre.
Reviewer: Amanda Brown

Roz Southey, an academic historian lectures at the International Centre for Music Studies in Newcastle Upon TyneShe is the author of five previous novels in the highly-aclaimed Charlespatterson series.

‘The Secret Adventures of Charlotte Brontë by Laura Joh Rowland

Published by The Overlook Press,
10th January 2013.
ISBN: 978-1-590290-154-1

Just as Jane Eyre combined naturalism with Gothic melodrama so this book combines a setting in the Victorian era with a thrilling story. It is a thriller based on the solid foundation of knowledge of conditions in Victorian England and knowledge of Charlottes own life. The story becomes fantastical and emotionally powerful in the style of the Bronte sisters own writings.

In 1848 Charlotte Bronte is forced to visit her London publisher, accompanied by her sister Anne. On the train journey from Yorkshire they meet a young lady and, in London, Charlotte witnesses a murder; these events combine to produce a spine chilling series of adventures involving the whole Bronte family. 1848 is, of course, a year of Revolutions in much of Europe and the intrigue into which Charlotte is drawn has ramifications outside Britain. The machinations of a master criminal endanger Charlotte herself, her family and her country.

The climax of the story comes at sea - a setting which seems peculiarly suited to the British Empire with its basis in sea power. Charlotte also makes clear to us the deep roots that her writing has in Yorkshire. The dramatic character of the story encompasses other well known Victorians in the toils of the web of intrigue woven by the villain.

The style that Laura Joh Rowland uses certainly has undertones of the Bronte novels and fit
s the subject matter well.
Reviewer: Jennifer S. Palmer
Laura Joh Rowland has penned a second volume of Charlottes adventures entitled Bedlam: the Further Secret Adventures of Charlotte Bronte. She is also the author of a series of ten mysteries about a 17th century Japanese, Sano Ichiro, who is the Most Honourable Investigator to the Shogun.

Laura Joh Rowland went to the University of Michigan, where she earned a B.S. in microbiology and a master's in public health. She worked as a chemist on an EPA research project on pollution in Lake Huron. She was a microbiologist for a company that manufactured media for growing bacteria. In 1981 she and her  husband moved to New Orleans, where she became a sanitary inspector for the city (issuing citations to people who had junk cars and trash in their yards). Then she got a job as a quality engineer with Lockheed Martin at the NASA facility where the fuel tank for the Space Shuttle is built.  She liked to illustrate children's books. So she enrolled in a class to learn how to write one that I could illustrate, and discovered that she liked writing better than illustration.

Jennifer Palmer Throughout my reading life crime fiction has been a constant interest; I really enjoyed my 15 years as an expatriate in the Far East, the Netherlands & the USA but occasionally the solace of closing my door to the outside world and sitting reading was highly therapeutic. I now lecture to adults on historical topics including Famous Historical Mysteries.

Friday 14 June 2013

Martin Edwards

Leigh Russell in conversation with
Martin Edwards

Martin Edwards  is an award-winning crime writer whose fifth Lake District Mystery is The Hanging Woodl. The series includes The Coffin Trail (short-listed for the Theakston’s prize for best British crime novel of 2006), The Arsenic Labyrinth (short-listed for the Lakeland Book of the Year award in 2008) and The Serpent Pool. He has written eight novels about Liverpool lawyer Harry Devlin, and two stand-alone novels, including Dancing for the Hangman. He won the CWA Short Story Dagger in 2008, has edited 20 anthologies and published eight non-fiction books.
For more information visit:

Q Where most authors might be satisfied with one successful crime series, you have two, set in Liverpool and the Lake District. You also write many articles, short stories, and blog posts, in addition to the thorough research you carry out. Not only that, you are generous in giving time to support organisations like Mystery People and the CWA. It doesn't take a detective to work out where this is leading... How do you find time to write? Are you one of those mythical authors who wake up at 5am to write, or do you burn the midnight oil? Please tell us about your writing process.
A I’m definitely an owl, not a lark, so no 5am starts for me! I enjoy working in the evening and sometimes quite late, but not often after midnight.. The fact I have a day job as a solicitor is not quite such a drawback as it may seem. I know that if I don’t get writing when I do have the chance, I won’t produce a thing, so I tend to have a go whenever time permits. As with most things in life, though, motivation is what counts. The fact is, I have always loved crime fiction, and I think I’m very fortunate to be part of a community that is not only fascinating but full of delightful people.

Q Your Harry Devlin novels are being reissued with additional features, including introductions written by stellar names. Has the production process for books changed since the publication of your first novel, and do you think books - like authors - have to offer more to promote themselves in today's competitive market place?
A I’m really thrilled that the wonders of digital publishing means that ebook and print versions of those early Harry Devlin books are available again. They were books I enjoyed writing and one day I might return to exploring Harry’s world. For reprints, giving readers added value in the form of special features like those in the Devlin reissues, is highly desirable  I was enormously grateful to friends like Frances Fyfield, Val McDermid and Andrew Taylor who contributed new intros to the various books, while Mike Jecks allowed me to include an essay he once wrote about my work. I hope that these features, and the ‘making of’ essays that I included, will encourage people to take a look at the Devlin books. What pleases me most is that a number of good judges reckon the books have stood the test of time. But how to attract a wider readership without a big publicity budget? It’s the challenge that faces so many of us, and as you rightly say, it’s a competitive market place. For me, the key for all authors trying to promote their books is to be themselves, and focus on whichever marketing strategies suit In my case, that means devoting time and energy to my blog, “Do You Write Under Your Own Name?” I enjoy writing the blog posts, and if you enjoy something, you don’t mind putting in the effort. That’s the long answer – the short answer to both questions is ‘Yes’!

Q You are known for carrying out careful research. Tell us about your most harrowing, and your most enjoyable, experiences while researching your novels.
A As a card-carrying wimp, I always try to avoid harrowing experiences if I can, but I must admit that dragging my children around the rainswept Lake District when I was researching The Coffin Trail was a bit of an ordeal for all of us. Enjoyable experiences – too many to mention, but I really loved walking round and then up Hallin Fell near Ullswater when planning The Frozen Shroud. Blissfully

peaceful, and beautiful. And a rarity - the weather was fantastic! More generally, researching books has brought me into contact with many people and places I’d never have encountered otherwise. I’ve been struck by how generous people are to a total stranger who asks them all kinds of weird questions.

Q  What crime story are you currently reading (or perhaps watching on television?) and  what books are on your 'to read' list?
A I’ve just finished The Tooth Tattoo by the admirable Peter Lovesey and I’m answering these questions just before the final episode of Broadchurch, a very good whodunit series that I have really admired. At the top of my pile of books to read are The Scent of Death by Andrew Taylor, The Shadow Collector by Kate Ellis and an obscure older one, Corpse in Cold Storage by Milward Kennedy.

Q Tell us about your current writing project
A The Frozen Shroud is due to be published in the UK in June, and I’m currently planning another Lake District Mystery, as well as doing quite a lot of research into Golden Age detective fiction. I’d love to write a history of that period one day..
I won't ask you tell us which of your two series you prefer, but can you tell us what differentiates them? Why did you choose to write a second series, rather than writing twice as many Harry Devlin novels? Is there a benefit to you, as a writer, in having two series on the go? (I have a hidden agenda in asking this, as I've just agreed to write a spin off series to accompany the Geraldine Steel series.)

After writing seven Harry Devlins, I produced a stand alone, Take My Breath Away, which was bought by David Shelley, of Allison & Busby. David then suggested I try a new series with a rural background. I said, ‘How about the Lake District?’ and he gave me the thumbs-up. He’s now the editor for J.K.Rowling, and though I don’t think J.K. picked him because of what he’d done for my career, I’m certainly grateful to him! The Lake District books have a slightly slower pace than the Devlins, and probably less humour. The central relationship between Hannah and Daniel gives the series a particular flavour, and because there’s a lot of emphasis on setting, atmosphere, and character, and perhaps a bit less on the puzzle element, I find that the Lakes books tend to be preferred by women readers. But there are exceptions! The advantage of varying the kind of books one writes is that it helps to avoid staleness and formulaic writing. There is a risk, though, in writing too fast, and I know that some writers who are committed to write two books or even more a year find the pressure testing. I’d feel the same. There’s a lot to be said for quality rather than quantity for the sake of it.

Q What is the appeal of crime fiction for you as a writer? How does the enjoyment of writing the genre differ from the thrill of reading other authors' crime novels?
A I’m fascinated by people and relationships, and always have been. Crime puts people and relationships under intense pressure and scrutiny and that can be especially compelling to read about or write about. For me, the pleasure of writing has much to do with the pleasure of creating something that didn’t exist before, and would never have existed if I hadn’t decided to bring it into being. Of course, what you create never turns out to be quite as brilliant as the original concept, but a lot of the fun is in trying to improve. Fail again, fail better, didn’t Samuel Beckett say that? As a reader, I enjoy the puzzles in Christie and Colin Dexter (and Jonathan Creek)  but I also relish the more sophisticated approach of, say, a Ruth Rendell or a Gillian Flynn. Crime fiction is such a broad church (see, I’ve got Broadchurch on the brain...) that there’s something in it for everyone who enjoys a good read.

Q You mentioned 'stamina' is an essential quality for writers. Can you explain what you meant by that?
A Writing a novel takes me a year or more. Most of the time, when I’m writing, I’m dissatisfied with what I’ve written (I think a lot of writers feel the same, which makes me feel slightly less inadequate!) To keep going, when you are worried that what are writing isn’t good enough to meet your own standards is hard work. You need self-belief and confidence to carry on, but you also need energy and, I think, stamina. If you keep on keeping on, sooner or later the book will improve. At least that’s been my experience so far...

Q On your website you wrote that the Harry Devlin novels are a comment on urban life in the late
twentieth century, and the Lake District mysteries are concerned with rural life in the twenty first century. How important is context to you in your writing, and did you deliberately choose a rural setting as a contrast to the city background of the Devlin novels?
 A           As I mentioned, the idea of a rural setting came from David Shelley. I chose the Lakes because I love the area and I thought it would be a terrific place to ‘have’ to research. The importance of the context for me is that it shapes the mood of the writing. There’s a lot in the Lakes books about the heritage of the area, not just the literary heritage but also, in The Arsenic Labyrinth, the industrial heritage and, in The Frozen Shroud, the social heritage. I’m very interested in what is happening to rural England now, just as I’ve long been fascinated by the changing face of Liverpool. Shortly after I moved to Merseyside, we had the Toxteth riots, now the waterfront looks a bit like Manhattan. Things always change, and I think Liverpool’s changed for the better. My hope is that inevitable changes in rural life will not prove too destructive. Time will tell.

Q One of the hardest interview questions I've been asked was when to give 6 little known facts about myself for a 'Getting to Know You' feature  for a BBC radio interview. I'll let you off lightly, and ask you to share just one little known fact about yourself.
A I once featured in the pop music pages of the Oxford Mail because I’d written a lyric for a song on an album by a friend called Giovanni Carrea. I’d like to say it topped the charts, but....

Books by Martin Edwards

Harry Devlin, Liverpool solicitor.
All the Lonely People
Suspicious Minds
I Remember You
Yesterday’s Papers
The Devil in Disguise
First Cut is the Deepest

 Daniel Kind and DCI Hannah Scarlett 
The Coffin Trail
The Cipher Garden 
The Arsenic Labyrinth
The Serpent Pool
The Hanging Wood
The Frozen Shroud

Take My Breath Away
The Lazarus Widow