Thriller of the Month – Silent Scream, by Angela Marsons

Thriller of the Month – Silent Scream, by Angela Marsons

British thriller writer Angela Marsons has sold 2m books. It’s easy to see why when you read her first crime thriller, Silent Scream (currently a bargain 99p on Amazon). The first page features a child’s clandestine burial, while a well-to-do woman is murdered in her bath in the next chapter. Marsons grabs the reader by the throat right from the start, and never lets go.

This twist-packed detective story has a very American feel, with the lawmen’s banter calling to mind vintage cop shows such as Hill Street Blues. However, like its author, heroine DI Kim Stone is based firmly in the Black Country.

The post-industrial urban sprawl to the west of Birmingham is sympathetically described. Marsons makes it clear that it’s not all high-unemployment sink estates; there are wealthy areas too. Occasionally, the distinctive local dialect crops up in characters’ conversations, but Marsons displays a light touch with that and there is no struggle to understand them.

So what of the story? Kim Stone finds herself chasing the serial killer of individuals who worked at a children’s home that burned down ten years before. Having established a link between the victims, Stone is in a race against time to protect remaining employees of the institution. Her suspicions that bodies will be found in the home’s grounds sadly proves correct. That triggers emotions for Kim Stone, who spent much of her early life in care. In fact, although perceived by others as cold and lacking in social graces, Stone is extremely emotional below the surface. In particular, she is determined to stick up for those without a voice. There is never any doubt that Stone will find the murderer, because she is so highly motivated by her desire to bring justice to the dispossessed.

Naturally, there are obstacles along the way – as well as plenty of red herrings and twists. The Queen of Suspense, Marsons keeps us guessing. Both the unmasking of the killer, and subsequent heartwarming ending, came as a complete surprise to me. They were, however, completely credible.

The book is a page turner, and I polished it off in a day. The only off note for me was Marsons’ rather harsh description of the Bull & Bladder pub. Luckily, she admitted the error and apologised in a later book. As a temple to Bathams Bitter, the alehouse serves some of the best beer in the land, and I’m jealous that one of her characters calls it his local. Having said that, I wouldn’t want to share the fate she has in store for him…

This is the first in a long series about Kim Stone. I’ll definitely work my way through the rest!

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I’m also a crime thriller writer, focusing on the buzzy British cities of Birmingham and London. Read “5 minute crime thriller” The Gap here.

Christmas Beers & Other Festive Treats

Real ale was a rite of passage for me, one of the pleasures of coming of age. Living in the Midlands, I discovered the delights of mild, a sweet, dark drink that’s rarely available elsewhere. I remember sinking pints of it at a job interview that went so well, it finished in the pub! Today, one of the best examples of the style is Two Towers Birmingham Mild, which Marty, Brummie hero of The Vodka Trail rather likes as well.

Luckily for dark beer fans, Christmas brings a crush of winter warmers with it. Here are my favourites – some available only in their locality, others nationwide. Bottoms up!

Let’s start with Two Towers. Their Sleighed Porter is dark as night, sweet with liquorice, and served at their Brum brewery tap from a pump decorated with a cartoon of local(ish) boy, Noddy Holder. Deceptively strong, it slips down a treat.

Moving south west, Bath Ales Festivity is widely on sale in supermarkets, so buy a few bottles to crack open on Christmas Day. It’s a quaffable porter with a hint of coffee.

Even better, if you can find it, is the Bristol Beer Factory’s Bristletoe. An oatmeal porter, it’s chocolatey and moreish. If the lady loves Milk Tray, give her this tall, dark handsome stranger to try.

Twisted Ales, in the shadow of the White Horse of Westbury, has concocted a festive beer that would drink well in summertime too. Crafty Santa is a well-balanced amber ale with a clean malt and a hoppy background. Extremely refreshing, it’s a great beer to knock back after Christmas shopping.

Deepest Oxfordshire has produced some fine brews too. Hook Norton Twelve Days is fruity like a barley wine, although not quite as strong – ideal for melting your icicles in the darkest depths of winter. Bah Humbug from Wychwood is another Oxfordshire winter warmer. Widely available in bottles, it’s golden and spicy.

Finally, slip across to Rudgwick in Sussex, where the Firebird Brewing Company unashamedly calls its Old Ale XXXX a “warming winter beer”.  It’s black, smooth and slightly smoky, and totally delivers on Firebird’s promise.

This winter, my hero will be spoiled for choice!

What’s your favourite? Drop me a line at aaabbottstories[at]gmail.com

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As well as drinking craft beers, I write crime thrillers and short stories. There’s a rather sweet Christmassy tale in short story collection Festive Treats, an Amazon No 1 with contributions from 15 writers. You can get it FREE here.

A Fair, A Festival and Fabulous Beer – April’s Literary Highlights

I’ve been hanging out with readers and writers at three very different events this month – the London Book Fair, a live fiction night at a pub in Birmingham, and the Hawkesbury Upton Litfest at a village in the Cotswolds. All were not only fun, but a chance to learn from other thriller writers. Most of all, I get a buzz being around others who love books as much as I do.

I wrote a blog about the London Book Fair in 2015. If you’re not sure why everyone in the book trade (apart from the most important people, readers!) hits town every year, do take a look! Deals are done, free wine flows and there’s frantic networking. For me, the key messages this year were to make my thrillers available as audiobooks and go for a darkly sinister cover for my next crime thriller. Watch this space!

I’ve also blogged about live fiction events and literary festivals before. I can’t recommend them enough to readers. Stories come alive when they’re read aloud by their writers. The pub night, organised by Donna of Twitter’s @TheCultureHour, featured the well-respected New Street Authors. They all proved to be polished live performers as well as writers. Even better, it was hosted by The Gunmaker’s Arms, the showcase and brewery tap for beers from the Two Towers Brewery. The beer was awesome, a bargain at under £3 a pint, and worth a trip to the pub in its own right. I indulged in their Birmingham Mild, a style of ale quite hard to find outside the British Midlands, yet one of the most delicious drinks on the planet.

It’s only natural that the Two Towers, named after nearby landmarks that inspired the great JRR Tolkien, would want to support the local literary scene. So, back to the books, the main event of the evening. Although there were stunning performances by master of suspense Andrew Sparke and the cutting, creative and comical Gareth J Wood, it was New Street Author David Wake who stole the show. His steampunk Derring-Do Club series had the audience in stitches. Check them out, and if you’re organising a litfest, ask him along. With a theatrical background, David knows how to make an audience very happy indeed.

Coincidentally, half of the Hawkesbury Upton Litfest was also hosted by a pub, the ancient Fox Inn. A sweet honey-coloured Cotswold stone village, Hawkesbury Upton is a world away from Birmingham’s gritty Gunmakers’ Quarter. Seemingly, everyone in Hawkesbury Upton loves to read. At any given time, at least two events were taking place for adults at this full-day festival, and there were art exhibitions and children’s workshops too. A charming green chalk line directed punters between the Fox and poetry performances at the Methodist Church Hall. Did I mention cake? It appeared the villagers were brilliant bakers too, with home-made goodies on sale with all those lovely books.

Highlight of the litfest for me was meeting cosy crime thriller writer Jackie Kabler, whose TV newsroom murder mystery is storming the charts. I too prefer to keep graphic violence out of my books (thriller author Joanna Penn used the term ‘torture porn’ at the lifest) and it’s encouraging to know that’s what readers like too.

I left Hawkesbury Upton staggering under the weight of new books to enjoy! As an amazing April literary feast draws to an end, these are next on my ‘to-read’ list:

Copper Trance & Motorways, by Andrew Sparke – I’m already chuckling at the office politics in this wryly observed crime thriller.

Screaming Blue-City Murder, by G J Wood – I’ve dipped into this fabulous collection of satirical, sweary short stories already. Although I write about a shinier version of Birmingham than Gareth, I love his focus on seedy, sinister secrets. He’s a genius.

Marry in Haste, by Debbie Young. Romantic short stories with happy endings, great with a cuppa.

Me-Time Tales, by Rosalind Minett. More short stories, the ideal solution for time-poor fiction lovers!

The Derring-Do Club and the Invasion of the Grey, by David Wake. After hearing his stirring steampunk at The Gunmaker’s Arms, there was no way I was leaving that pub without a copy to read!

Who Needs Mr Darcy? by Jean Burnett. There’s nothing quite like a Jane Austen pastiche, and unlike others, this one is zombie-free…

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I’m a British crime thriller writer, following in the footsteps of Ruth Rendell, Kate Atkinson and our transatlantic cousin, John Grisham. Read tasters of my work, including 5 minute crime thriller ‘The Gap’ here.