Category Archives: crime

Book Review – The Snowdonia Killings by Simon McCleave

Blurb

Starting a new life in Snowdonia was always DI Ruth Hunter’s dream. Until a twisted killer turned it into her worst nightmare. 

Detective Inspector Ruth Hunter lives with the pain of her partner’s mysterious and unsolved disappearance. About to hit fifty, the veteran police officer trades in the crime-ridden streets of London for a more peaceful life in rural North Wales. But Ruth has barely settled into her new position in North Wales Police, when the body of a brutally murdered woman is discovered…with strange symbols carved into her skin. Teaming up with an obstinate deputy, Ruth struggles to eliminate anyone from a long line of suspects. When another slain victim is discovered with the same cryptic markings, she’s forced to re-think the investigation.

Has Ruth got what it takes to solve the case before the murderer attacks again?

The Snowdonia Killings is the first book in the DI Ruth Hunter Crime Thriller series and set against the majestic backdrop of Snowdonia, a timeless land of Arthurian legend, folklore and myth. If you like dark police procedurals, psychologically complex characters, and shocking twists, then you’ll love Simon McCleave’s pulse-pounding debut novel.

My Review

Okay, hands up, who hasn’t wanted to kill a teacher/headmaster?

There’s a fair amount of setup to read before the first murder, but it’s totally worth it. By the time we reach the first killing, the reader already thinks the victim deserves it and there are plenty of natural suspects. The second killing is less obvious, but again, not without good reason. 

Ruth acts as the readers way into this book. From her life in the Met and Peckham, her personal backstory (I won’t spoiler it for you), and her decision to move to the quiet life of North Wales, she gives a good insight into what it’s like to be the incomer (as I was when I first came to Wales, and I believe as Simon McCleave was when he wrote the novel). It’s awkward and difficult to find your space, but Ruth does this well forming a great partnership with DS Nick Evans who wants her there in opposite proportion to how much he wants his next drink.

Nick’s drinking is an interesting choice here. Though it is a bit of cliché to have a heavy drinking police officer, Nick is attending AA. He doesn’t seem to be working it through most of the book, but he’s attending. While he is a functioning alcoholic, these things never go as unnoticed as the drinker thinks it does. So, while Ruth sees all the great potential in Nick, she also sees the problem.  But can she open his eyes to it?

Annoyingly for me, I figured out who the killer was quite early in the book, and I kept hoping I was wrong. I wasn’t, but that didn’t spoil it because when the killer is finally revealed and we see all the blind alleys and misdirections, the killer’s motivation is solid and understandable. There’s a real sense of feeling that while murder isn’t justifiable, the reader understands what drove the murderer to it. It makes sense, and that’s always important in crime fiction.

This book is a great introduction to the characters and their lives, and the fledgeling professional relationships that they are building. The text also gives a good sense of place too. By the last page, the reader is comfortable with the two main leads and really likes them, while at the same time wondering how things are going to carry on.

This was a really satisfying read, and I would highly recommend it.

Bio

Simon is a million selling crime novelist. His first book, ‘The Snowdonia Killings’, was released in January 2020 and soon became an Amazon Bestseller, reaching No 1 in the Amazon UK Chart and selling over 300,000 copies. His subsequent novels in the DI Ruth Hunter Crime Thriller Series (11 so far) have all ranked in the Amazon Top 20 and are Amazon Best Sellers. He has sold over a 1.25 million books since 2020. The Chirk Castle Killings, Book 12, will release on June 28th 2020.

The Dark Tide, new Anglesey series for Harper Collins, has just been released at reached UK top ten in Kindle Chart.

Simon is currently in negotiations to make the Ruth Hunter books into a television series.

Simon McCleave was born in South London. When leaving University, he worked in television and film development. He was a Script Editor at the BBC, a producer at Channel 4 before working as a Story Analyst in Los Angeles. He worked on films such as ‘The Full Monty’ and television series such as the BBC Crime Drama ‘Between The Lines’.

Simon then became a script writer for television and film. He wrote on series such as Silent Witness, Murder In Suburbia, Teachers, Attachments, The Bill, Eastenders and many more. His film, ‘Out of the Game’ for Channel 4 was critically acclaimed – ‘An unflinching portrayal of male friendship.’ (Time Out)

Simon lives in North Wales with his wife and two children.

Simon is also incredibly tall as I found out in CrimeFest this year – but then I am a bit of short-stop at 5’5”. (Simon is 6’ 4”)

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Winner!

I’m a winner, that’s not something I often say, but today it’s definitely true.

Today, I got a message from Alison Belsham, to tell me that I’d won a copy of one of her books from a free giveaway.  How lucky is that?

I rarely win stuff like this, so I’m really grateful to win what I know to be such a fantastic book – and it’ll be signed!  That’s so good.  Definitely something to celebrate.  Thanks to Alison, and it all goes to prove, you’ve got to be in it to win it.

Tattoo Thief paperback cover

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Getting Shorty

Between other things today, I have been working on my short story for the Honno submission. I’ve got the word count to the exact allowance, and I’ve checked spelling and grammar, all seems okay.

Only thing is – I’m not sure if it’s great or awful.

This kind of self doubt is not exactly a me problem, it’s a writer thing. Lots of writers I know suffer with what’s called ‘imposter syndrome’. We’re all just waiting to be found out. The reality is that we’re not imposters, but writing is a difficult game.

Anyway, one thing about the short story, is that it’s actually an origin story for the main character in a new series that I’m working on. So I’m hoping that my story gets picked because it’s the first test of the character, so if it gets rejected, I’m in trouble for the series. Very nerve wracking.

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On the Up

Just to let you now, after my little grumble yesterday, my mood is on the up today.  Part of the reason for this is without a doubt, just the erratic alteration of hormones. That said. Other things had a definite uplifting affect. 

This first may seem like a odd thing to feel good about, but it brightened my day.  I work in the conservatory and it’s usually very cold, but I went in to start work around 08:30.  What was lovely, what pleased me was that I didn’t actually have to put the heater on. Small thing, but not having to spend on heating is a good thing to my mind.

Once I settled into work, I saw that at far-too-early-o’clock I had received a message asking if I was free for an editing commission later in the year – I am, and getting work always pleases me.  If you’re looking for a structural edit this year, contact me for a quote (see gailbwilliams.co.uk).

Later this morning, I saw a friend had posted a very nice note about my writing, my books both in crime and steampunk.  Added to that, other people, most of whom I don’t know, piled in with other compliments on my writing. Apparently, I’m still a little over sensitive today, as those touching thoughts brought tears to my eyes.

Then, I made a phone call to a local gardener.  I wasn’t expecting much as we’ve recently had trouble getting tradesmen to the house. However, not only did he turn up when he said he would, he gave us a good price and he started the job straight away.  Not only that – he finished it!

I also managed to get a load of tidying up done, which is always good for my mental health.

So this just goes to show that no matter how dark one day might feel, there’ll be light in tomorrow.

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Reading Between the Lines

Today the Reading Between the Lines festival began, and I was very fortunate to be on a panel this afternoon with Jackie Baldwin and Val Penny.

Before the event we read one another’s books and used those as a basis for the discussion.

All three books have a strong theme of family, not just blood relations, though of course there are plenty of those, but the families we choose to be part of, through friendship, proximity, work and whatever it is that brings people together.

If you want to hear what we had to say, check out the YouTube Reading Between the Lines channel and look for our video, should be up soon. Of course because this is a channel, you’ll also find all the other events there. And congratulations to Lynsey Adams from doing the hard work of pulling all this together.

If you want to read these fabulous books, here are the links
Dead Man’s Prayer
Hunter’s Chase
The Chair

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Timing

Timing is everything in life, but what about in competition?

The last week I’ve been working on a short story for a competition for Honno Crime Anthology, see Honno for details.  I’ve written a whole 5,000 word new and original story.  I’ve had a friend look over it and give me notes. I’ve edited it and I’m happy with it.

It’s now 22nd of March and the competition doesn’t close until the 30th June.  So what do I do?  Do I send it off now or wait till June?

If I send it off now, that will mean it’s done and I can forget all about it and concentration on other projects.

If I wait, I can put it to the back of my mind for a couple of months, then read/edit again before I send off.  But I’ve got a memory like a sieve – what if I forget to send it? Well I guess that’s what diary reminders are for.  I’ve also got a dying laptop – what if I lose the file?  Well that’s what doing a backup is for.

What if in the intervening months, I think of a whole new short story worth putting in?  Well if I’ve not sent anything, then it won’t matter, I can write the new idea and compare the two, then decided. Or possibly send two – not sure if that’s allowed, doesn’t say one way or the other, but I’ll check later.

This is just one of those writer dilemmas that I’m never sure of.  What would you do?

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Crime Blog

Here’s a thing you may not know about me, I have a second blog:

GB Williams Crime Blog

If you get a chance, please pop over there in February as I’m posting a series of interviews with crime authors and I’m finding it interesting to learn more about what makes these people tick.

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January Review

So what happened in January – it started well, but finished on something of a low.

Locked Down is out for review, and the ebook is up for pre-order, the paperback will be up shortly, but Amazon doesn’t allow books to be pre-ordered if they are print on demand, seems odd, but it’s their game, their rules.  So that will be joining the ebook shortly.  I have one review on Goodreads already, so that’s good, and I’ll have to start the promotional stuff soon.

I have been working on Speed of Aether, but to steal a friends comment, Spead of Aether isn’t warp speed.  I’m behind where I wanted to be with this novel at this point.   I’ve reached 46k words, but I should have finished the book by now.

This isn’t because of the book, it is all the distractions, self-publishing especially.

I also took a week out of writing Speed to do a 5,000-word short story for an open competition I heard about. Now the bones of that were down quickly, but it took a fair amount of polish.  The problem was, I didn’t submit it because the feedback I got included the fact that I’d misrepresented a certain fetish.  And after looking into that fetish a bit more, I got the point.  I had.  And though the story was still a good read if you knew nothing about the fetish, I didn’t think it was the right thing to do to put it out there.  So more research needed.  Then I’ll re-write it, ignore the 5k limit and I suspect at some point it will be coming out as a novella.

I’m also down on wordcount, because I have barely been able to work on anything this last week.  I’m picked up a lung infection from somewhere and it’s laid me very low.  I can’t take a deep breath without it making me cough, movement or any form or exertion leaves me breathless – now I admit I’ve not been fit for a while, but I could walk up a flight of stairs without it making me call for oxygen, can’t do that right now. It’s seriously affected my ability to concentrate too.  You wouldn’t believe how long it’s taken to write this blog. Still, it’s an infection, I have been prescribed antibiotics and it will pass.  I just wish it would pass faster.

This year I promised myself that I would read and listen to more.  At least one audiobook and one paperback a month.  It doesn’t sound like much, but both are things that have suffered due to my full schedule.

This month I listened to “The Invisible Library” by Genevieve Cogman. I thoroughly enjoyed the story, Irene and Kai are such fun and the story had plenty of interest points to keep me listening.  The only downside was the narrator, her breathy voice worked well in some places and in others (which was, unfortunately, most places) it annoyed me.  It was like listening to a vicious argument spoken like an M&S Foood advert – This isn’t, an, argument, this, is, an M&S argument.  Really there are times when you want the action to feel active and that narrator lost that impact for me a few times.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s great book, I’d recommend reading it, I wouldn’t want to put you off listening to the audio either, but it was only a 4* for me.

This month I’ve mostly read an unpublished manuscript – which was brilliant!  It needs polish but if the author does what they need to do to get it published, I’m sure it will go down a storm. I’ve also read about half of “A Time for Silence” by Thorne Moore, very good Welsh-centric book. and part of “Dawn’s Early Light” by Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris, one of the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences novels.  These are very different genres and very different storytellers.  But that’s been a good thing because I’ve been able to match what to read to how I was feeling.  Both have their good points, have to admit I’m enjoying the steampunk more as it a joyous adventure story, but there’s a more of an emotional connection with Thorne’s characters.  To be honest, there’s a character in there that I really don’t like, mostly because he reminds me of people I know. But isn’t that what the writers set out to do, entertain and evoke an emotional response?

Anyway, that’s me done for now. I’m going to listen to some “Mortal Engines” now, as that’s about all I have the energy for. I’ll catch up with you as soon as I can.

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I am a Sick Bunny

CrimeFest

Yes – it’s official I am a “Sick Bunny”, will explain later.

I spent last weekend (17 – 20 May 2018) at Crimefest, had a great time, as ever. Caught up with lots of old friends, made some new ones.  Listening to the panels, I’ve picked up some great tips for future novels – and the current work in progress.

I’ve attended a few Crimefests now and never managed to get on the Forensics Excursion, but this year a note went out last minute to say that two tickets had come available, and I was lucky enough to be one of those that snagged one.  It was brilliant.  A great way to look at ‘crime scenes’ and see how they worked. At last now, I understand the priority order how things are numbered for photographs etc. at crime scenes.  Makes so much sense now (the lower the number the more vulnerable the evidence). Will definitely be using what I learned, and it was well worth giving up a lie in to leave the house at 0630 in order to be sure to be there.

Thoroughly enjoyed loads of panels. Would pick out a couple, The “Debut Authors” on Friday with Emily Elgar, Caroline England, Chris McGeorge, Elizabeth Mundy, Robert Scragg.  Meet Robert at Newcastle Noir and he’s one to watch.  Another highlight was the “Bloody Scotland” panel; Lesley Kelly, Douglas Lindsay, Caro Ramsey and Tana Collins, who I’ve blogged about before. My last of the weekend sent me out on a high, that was the “Give Me A Break” panel on Sunday – will be reading books from Oliver Bottini and Alis Hawkins.

It was also lovely to see so many members of Crime Cymru, at the event, and many of them on panels (including Cathy Ace, Rosie Claverton, Alis Hawkins)

Well as you may well know, there’s always Gala Dinner at Crimefest, and I attended this year. The organisers do give delegates the chance to say who they would like to sit with, but this year I decided to take the role of the dice and ask nothing, just see where I got placed.  I was fortunate because I ended up on a table with Kat Hall, Sarah Ward, Oliver Bottini (German Author recently translated into English), Katharina Bielenberg of Maclehose Press.  Even though there was a lot of German spoken (of which my limit is about sprichst du Englisch?), but these were lovely, interesting and inclusive people, I had a great evening.

So why am I a sick bunny?

One of the other people at the table was David Hicks, of The Book Trade Charity.  I’d met David in London in March and we’d spoken, and I’ve given him a copy of my short story collection Last Cast Casebook. I never really expected to hear from his again, let alone bump into him, but I did and he told me that he’d read the collection, and I am a sick bunny. I think that means he enjoyed it, even if some of the stories made for uncomfortable reading – and that means I did my job right.  Woohoo!

So, there you go.  Crimefest was fantastic and I am confirmed a sick bunny.

 

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Newcastle Noir 2018

20180503_203849Phew! Am finally recovered, this blog will give you some idea of why.

Well, last weekend was Newcastle Noir 2018, and it was fabulous!  It’s a long old drive up from South Wales to Newcastle, but after a trip to the dentist for me, we set off at lunchtime and only took seven and a half hours to get there.  Was rather pooped by the time we did.

We had a wander around the city that evening – after that long in a car we needed to stretch our legs, and while I’d made sure we weren’t staying too far from the venue, I wasn’t really ready for the number of steps up from the Quayside to the Lit and Phil of the venue (where I took the picture above).  Am going to need to get in shape for next year!

I have to say I didn’t know what to expect from Newcastle, because I’ve never been there before, but I wasn’t expecting the incredible grandeur of what I think is a lot of Georgian/early Victorian architecture. If you like great old buildings (and I do) this is the place for you. Then there’s the ironwork and bridges to consider – it’s kind of odd stepping out of a hotel and being confronted with the massive engineering of the bottom of the curve supporting the Tyne Bridge. Looking up and seeing how the rail and road bridges were civil engineering over the top of multi-storied buildings was really something.

Thankfully the hotel has sent a warning about the kittiwakes, though in fairness, they didn’t disturb our rest.

The events Newcastle Noir were fabulous, the work that Dr Noir and her wonderful team of helpers put in is just astronomic.  They did a cracking job and it was wonderful to meet such charming and committed people who clearly take great pleasure and pride in what they do.

Then there are the events themselves, the panels and discussions.  Newcastle Noir offers such a range of writers, from the established and famous (Mark Billingham, Chris Brookmyre, Stuart Macbride, Val McDermid), down to the absolute New Bloods (Sandra Ireland, Vicky Newham, Robert Scragg, GB Williams – yes me!).  There were representatives from all over as well, there was Northumberland Noir, Tartan Noir, Nordic Noir, Masala Noir, and Crime in translation, which included Lilja Sigurðardóttir – and embarrassing as it is to admit it, no, I can’t pronounce her surname. So many interesting things to listen to, everyone with a different opinion and all opinions welcome.

Thoroughly enjoyed my panel, another engaged audience, which is always fun, and a good selection of panel companions. Lively answers and different experiences discussed, it was fab.  Audience participation was great – questions that you don’t expect can throw you for six, but I was surprised that I wasn’t thrown. A couple of weeks ago I was saying to a friend of mine (another writer) that I was a bit nervous about doing the panels, but after Llandeilo and now Newcastle – not a worry at all.  I loved it in fact. Now I hate doing presentations in work, generally because I’m never that sure of myself, but when it comes to writing, it’s something so ingrained into who I am, that I don’t have to worry, it’s all just there, the answers don’t have to be dug for, because I just know them. That probably sounds a bit arrogant, and I don’t mean to be, but when you’re talking about something that you’re passionate about, it really does just flow.

What was lovely was also the comments I got from audience members after who came to get their books signed. Every comment was complimentary, and I even had one of my fellow panellists come up after and tell me that a friend of theirs in the audience had said I was the nicest of the rest the of the bunch! That’s so sweet – and probably unfounded, but a lovely thing to hear all the same.

Anyway, it was a great weekend, I’m definitely going back for more next year (if I’m on a panel or not), and I can totally recommend the even to anyone who enjoys crime fiction.

Oh, one last shout out. Forum Books – what wonderful people and thanks for selling books from independent authors who turn up with them on the day – thank you so much.

Great weekend, long drive back, lots had to be done today, hence the last posting, but boy was it a great break from the norm.  Thanks to everyone who contributed to such a marvellous experience.

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