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.

Thriller of the Month – Trouble with Product X, by Joan Aiken

The late British writer Joan Aiken is best known as an author of supernatural children’s stories, but her adult tales are worth seeking out too. This thriller is like a Formula 1 car, racing along at breakneck speed with many twists on the way. It’s a period piece, written about fifty years ago and set in a world my parents would recognise, when a train from London to Penzance took nine hours and you could avoid rush hour traffic jams in London.

Just as TV’s Mad Men showcased the US advertising industry in 1960s Manhattan, “Trouble with Product X” sheds light on their counterparts in London. Product X is a wonderful new perfume, expected to take the market by storm. Certainly, manufacturers Gay* Gal think so, and ad agency Salmon and Bucknell is delighted to win the account. It’s all hands to the pumps and Martha, a young copywriter, is despatched to Cornwall to produce ads for TV. She’s accompanied by colleagues, cameramen and assorted hangers-on, including a creepy client and his unpleasant chums. The trouble with Product X, as she rapidly discovers, is that the formula has been lost – or has it?

Tension rapidly mounts as the rich and beautiful are revealed to be feckless kidnappers and murderers. Luckily, Martha finds some good eggs on whom she can rely, including stalwart colleague Tom and a community of brusque monks with hearts of gold.

The book is a fun, quick read, and could almost be approached as historical fiction given that the events take place five decades ago. Joan Aiken worked as an advertising copywriter herself, and writes amusingly of the flattery employed to sell unprepossessing products. There too many twists and turns in the plot to describe, but all are believable (just!), and the book is well-written. Hats off to The Murder Room for republishing it for the Kindle. Note that old paperbacks are available for pennies on Amazon under another title, “Beware of the Bouquet”.

 

*The word “gay” is used a lot in the book in a very old-fashioned sense, basically describing a desire to go drinking and dancing.

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I’m also a writer of fun, fast thrillers – read The Gap, a “5 minute crime thriller” set in modern London, FREE, here.

Thriller of the Month – Dublin Dead, by Gerard O’Donovan

Newspaper stories of Irish crime lords describe mysterious murders and colourful characters like The Monk and The Viper. That’s plenty to inspire Gerard O’Donovan, who writes tense crime thrillers set in Dublin.

Dublin Dead’ is his second novel. In his first, ‘The Priest’, DI Mike Mulcahy and reporter Siobhan Fallon were an item. That’s no longer the case. Taken to the brink of death by a psychopath in ‘The Priest’, Siobhan bears physical and mental scars. She’s been suffering from PTSD. They’ve split up. For Mike, no other woman measures up to Siobhan, and his unrequired love for her is the thread that ties ‘Dublin Dead’ together.

Although they’re both investigating different leads – he a drugs deal that’s gone wrong, she a mother’s concern for her missing accountant daughter – their paths cross at several points in the story, including the dramatic finale. Gerard O’Donovan writes well, ratchets up the tension as the book progresses, and finishes with an unexpected but very believable twist. In my opinion, ‘Dublin Dead’ is the better book of the two, offering a smoother narrative and more hints at gore rather than graphic detail. It’s easy to follow without reading ‘The Priest’ first and those pages just keep turning. Highly recommended.

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I’m a crime thriller writer focusing on stories set in British cities. As a taster, read 5 minute crime thriller ‘The Gap’ here.

Thriller of the Month – The Maltese Falcon, by Dashiell Hammett

When nights are long and there’s a bottle of whisky to hand, a vintage American crime thriller really hits the spot. It doesn’t get much more classic than Dashiell Hammett. Although of its time, his style is half a world away from the arch aristocratic novels of British writers like Agatha Christie. Instead, eyes are hooded, women alluring and men are as likely to reach for a gun as they are to light a cigarette.

The Maltese Falcon opens with a bang. San Francisco private eyes Sam Spade and Miles Archer are given a case, and far too much money, by a beautiful girl. It doesn’t take a genius to suppose it will all go horribly wrong. Sure enough, a mere few pages later, Archer is dead.

Sam Spade’s loyalties are tested as he sets about cracking the case. More corpses swiftly emerge (a wounded man even staggers into his office to expire in front of him). He faces more hindrance than help from the forces of law and order. As always, the San Francisco fog seeps into his bones. Indefatigably, he rolls another cigarette.

With myriad twists and shifting alliances, it’s anyone’s guess who did it right until the final chapter, although Sam probably has a shrewd idea.

Despite being a period piece, the book’s pages just keep turning. Dashiell Hammett’s style is an easy read. You’ll undoubtedly know The Maltese Falcon became an atmospheric film starring Humphrey Bogart. Whether you’ve seen it or not, you’re bound to enjoy the suspense and entertainment offered by the book. Secondhand copies can be picked up for pennies on Amazon, and there’s also an Audible version borrowing heavily from Bogart.

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Like crime thrillers? Read my very own 5 minute crime thriller, The Gap, free, here. While it’s distinctly British, like The Maltese Falcon, it hints at darkness beneath the surface…

5 Social Media Tips For Readers

I hope I persuaded writers to use social media in my blog last week. Of course, Facebook, Twitter et al are great for readers too. There’s no better way to learn about new books and connect with others who share the same interests. Here are my 5 top tips for readers to get the most from social media:

#1. Start your own book blog – Having a dedicated blog to talk about and review books is a great way to attract like-minded readers and more book recommendations. Share your content on sites like Twitter and Facebook and start your own online community. I always review a Thriller of the Month in this blog, and I’d welcome ideas for more books to read – do get in touch to tell me about your favourites.

#2. Learn to love lists – If you use Twitter, lists are a great way to categorise accounts you are following. I’ve created several lists, to follow authors, genres and publishers I like. By all means take a look at them, and seek out lists that others have created as well.

#3. Create a book group – Curate your own online book club with a Facebook group. This is the perfect platform for sharing and discussing what you’re reading, gathering book recommendations and sharing content. If you wish, you can still meet and enjoy a drink together (this appears to be an essential ingredient in every real life book club I’ve visited). Check out Bristol’s Plastered Prose Posse for ideas!

#4. Use hashtags – Searching for book and writing related hashtags on Twitter is a simple way to discover new authors and books you might otherwise have missed. I’m totally addicted to #TheCultureHour on Twitter on Wednesday evenings. Authors also love to hear about people enjoying their work, so tweet about it and tag them in!

#5. Have a Goodreads accountGoodreads is one of the biggest social media platforms for readers. Even if you don’t want to review books yourself, you’ll enjoy and learn from the discussions taking place there.

It goes without saying that none of this will cost anything at all. I really believe that reading is one of the cheapest, and best, forms of entertainment you can choose!

Do you have a book blog or readers group? Do get in touch if crime thrillers appeal to you!

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I’m a British crime thriller writer who loves to read most genres. For a 5 minute crime thriller with your coffee, please check out The Gap here.