Saturday, 26 July 2014

Review of Blood of the Dragon Trees #reviewshare

Blood of the Dragon Trees is the first Nik Morton novel I’ve read. Based on this one, I can’t wait to read the other mystery/thrillers he has available. Set in Tenerife, a place I have visited several times, I hoped the author would be able to recreate the setting without giving it the feel of a travelogue. I needn’t have worried. His clear knowledge of the place enables him to put the reader on the island without overdoing the settings in the slightest.

The novel follows the story of Laura Reid, who has come to Tenerife to teach the children of widower and plantation owner, Don Alonso, but gradually (against her better judgement) gets involved with Andrew Kirby and Jalbala Emcheta, who work for CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna). They are on the hunt for illegal traders in endangered species. The criminal gang, run by the mysterious El Jefe, are not just trading animal parts, but also human beings in a people trafficking ring.

Complications arise as Laura develops feeling for Don Alonso’s brother, Felipe, whose past relationship with Andrew is based on distrust.

The action is fast paced and the romantic elements don’t slow this down, rather they add another layer to the intrigue. For those who like to try to guess who the bad people are while reading (like me) there are plenty of artfully placed clues and misdirection, which only become obvious towards the end of the novel.

The crimes are appalling, the characters well drawn and credible, and the settings superb. What more can I add, except this: go and buy a copy. You won’t regret it.

Friday, 18 July 2014

Ten facts about … Lexi Revellian

When did you first realise you wanted to be a writer?
Quite late. I’d always read a lot, but assumed I wouldn’t be able to write well enough to satisfy myself. Then my teenage daughter suggested we write a fantasy together, and writing turned out to be huge fun.

How long does it take you to write a book?
In total, my production rate averages at slightly over a year. But I tend to have gaps between books, and the last two took six months each once I started writing. It also depends how busy I am with my day job designing and making jewellery and silver.

What is your work schedule like when you're writing?
I keep a log of how much I write each day, with notes either gloating or excusing low productivity, such as: ‘2 words. But they were good words!’ ‘Minty said gun bit implausible. Removed 1,800 words.’ ‘Discouraged. Got boil. Woe.’

How many crime novels have you written?
My novels tend to straddle genres. You could call Remix a crime novel; it’s a mystery with a bit of romance, and the only murder happens three years before the novel opens. My others are more thrillers with romance. With a bit of science fiction. And one’s post-apocalyptic. Oh look, a squirrel!

Which is your favourite and why?
I like all my books, and tend to prefer whichever is currently selling best. I have a soft spot for Remix, as it’s such a feel good book, and Ice Diaries because for some reason I found it hard to write – though I enjoyed the struggle – and I don’t think any reader would guess that.

Where do you get your ideas?
All over the place. For instance, my most recent, Wolf by the Ears, was inspired by the death of Boris Berezovsky. Anyone reading up on the surprising number of mysterious Russian deaths in London might well conclude as I did that he was murdered by Putin’s agents, and that our government preferred this not to emerge for reasons of self-interest.

I wrote Replica after breaking my shoulder when biking home in the freezing winter of 2010/2011. Unable to bike or drive to work, I did a lot of walking through icy streets. Trudging unhappily along, I started to wonder what it would be like to be hunted through this hostile London with no home, unable to contact friends for help. That collided with persistent fantasies of having a clone to help me get through my workload.

Who is your favourite character from your own work and why?
I’m drawn to my less immediately likeable characters, maybe because they represent parts of me that don’t often get off the leash. An example is Jeff Pike from Remix, drummer in a mega-successful rock band. His fame and wealth let him get away with being rude and obnoxious and a sexual predator. But he’s fuelled by anger from an abusive childhood, has a hopeless love for the (heterosexual) hero, and is oddly likeable.

Which character from the work of others do you wish you’d invented and why?
No one writes believable characters like Jane Austen. Which character to choose is the difficulty…Elizabeth Bennett is the obvious choice, so perceptive and witty, but I’m going to go for my favourite Austen hero, Mr Knightley. It’s not easy to make a conventional, principled character interesting – much easier to write a flawed hero, or a bad boy redeemed by love for the heroine. Jane Austen effortlessly pulls it off with Mr Knightley.

If you could have been someone from history involved in crime (good or bad) who would that be and why?
Here we run up against my deplorable ignorance of history, plus my ingrained lack of criminality. So…um…

I’d be Ken Perenyi, a self-taught American art forger who lived in London for thirty years. He was investigated in 2003, but never charged, in his opinion because the art world was keen to prevent the exposure of multiple forgeries. The modern art business deserves to be taken advantage of; it’s all about money, and many experts can’t tell the difference between a fake and the real thing.

What are you working on now?
I’m writing notes for a time travelling novel, and hoping it doesn’t totally scramble my brain. I’ve written a short story in this genre, Time Child, and know how confusing it can be. Also, the audio version of Remix is currently being recorded by Anne Day-Jones, and will be available in a couple of months on Audible. I’m excited about this.

I live and work in London - Islington and Hoxton, where my novels are set. I started writing in 2006, have been unable to stop, and have so far written six novels and a collection of short stories. I decided to self-publish in 2010, and have sold 65,000+ books so far.

I make jewellery and silver under my real name, Lexi Dick. I am a liveryman of the Goldsmiths’ Company, and have made pieces for 10 Downing Street, Her Majesty the Queen and Lady Thatcher.


Monday, 14 July 2014

Review of Innocent in Las Vegas #reviewshare

Innocent in Las Vegas by A.R. Winters promises a fun-filled mystery with lots of laughter and cupcakes. It is funny in places and has a good cast of characters. I could have done without the constant food references, but that is obviously a personal preference.

As the first in a new series, Innocent in Las Vegas introduces Tiffany Black, currently a casino dealer, but also P.I. in training.  When Ethan Becker, wealthy casino owner, is murdered, his wife is charged as the murder weapon (a gun) is found in her bedside drawer. Hmm, wouldn’t she have got rid of it, if guilty? Doesn’t that seem a bit as if it might have been planted? Apparently that doesn’t occur to the police or most of Las Vegas who all believe Sophia is guilty and that she has hired Tiffany to make her case look better when it comes to trial.

Tiffany is a bit on the flaky side for an investigator, but I’m hoping she will grow as a character over the series. When she gets into trouble and needs the protection of a security company, Sophia (the accused) introduces her to Stone (tall, gorgeous and monosyllabic).

When Tiffany uncovers a second murder, she naturally believes the two are connected, which sets off a train of events almost leading to Tiffany being shot.

Tiffany’s family members are wonderful and I hope they reappear in the next book. I’ve never been to Vegas, but by the end of the novel I felt as if I had. The settings were well described without being overdone.

Parts of the action are not realistic, but then humorous crime is rarely true to life. That’s where the humour comes in – people get away when they shouldn’t, get to think outlandish things when they should be too terrified to do so and so on. All of which added to the enjoyment of the read for me.

This is an easy read and I’m happy to move on to the next in the series.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Ten facts about … J.J. Hensley

When did you first realise you wanted to be a writer?
I started writing purely as an experiment.  A few years ago, I started wondering if I had the ability to write a novel and, after procrastinating for quite a while, I finally sat down and started typing.  Once I got into the flow of things, I discovered that the process was enjoyable and rewarding.  Having my first novel, Resolve, receive so much positive feedback made me want to write more stories. 

How long does it take you to write a book?
That’s a question with two different answers.  Amazingly, it only took me three months to complete the first draft of Resolve.  However, now I have a daughter so I find it much more difficult to find time to write.  Instead of writing most of a chapter in a day, I might write a few paragraphs before it’s time to go play outside or take a trip to the zoo.  As the father of a young child, it takes me two or three times longer these days to write a novel, but I wouldn’t want it any other way. 

What is your work schedule like when you're writing?
I have a “real” job, so most of my writing is done after my daughter goes to sleep.  I’ve had to learn to be extremely flexible with my writing schedule since 2-year-old children do not seem to have an appreciation for the complexities of the creative process.  They tend to want lots of attention and occasionally some food and water.  Yeah… they are needy little suckers.  

How many crime novels have you written?
I’ve written three thus far.  Resolve was my first and Measure Twice is scheduled to be released later this year.  The third novel is set for 2015 and I’ve completed two-thirds of a fourth book.

Which is your favourite and why?
Even with all of the attention that has been given to Resolve, I think Measure Twice speaks to me in a stronger way.  It’s a story of loss and redemption wrapped in a fast-paced thriller. 

Where do you get your ideas?
I’m a former police officer and former Special Agent with the U.S. Secret Service, so I draw a lot of ideas from my training and experience.  Sometimes I’ll build off something I’ve seen or heard and see if I can work it into a work of fiction. 

Who is your favourite character from your own work and why?
The protagonist in Resolve is a man named Cyprus Keller.  He owns a dog named Sigmund.  I like Sigmund and Sigmund likes everybody. 

Which character from the work of others do you wish you’d invented and why?
That’s an easy one.  It’s Philip Marlowe from the works of Raymond Chandler.  With him you get to write about liquor, women, money, and murder and be a complete smartass along the way. 

If you could have been someone from history involved in crime (good or bad) who would that be and why?
The crime has been largely forgotten, but in 1876 there was an attempt to steal the body of Abraham Lincoln from a cemetery in Springfield, Illinois.  The would be grave-robbers were part of a counterfeiting ring and had aspirations of taking the body holding it for ransom – part of which would be a pardon for an imprisoned engraver named Benjamin Boyd.  The attempt was foiled in part by a U.S. Secret Service operative named Patrick D. Tyrrell who had previously led the eight-month manhunt that resulted in Boyd’s imprisonment. 

It would be amazing to walk in the shoes of Tyrrell and be tied to such an odd, yet amazing event.

What are you working on now?
I’m working on a mystery that I’ve titled Bolt Action Remedy.  It involves the murder of a wealthy businessman who is gunned down on his own property by someone who can ski and shoot with great skill.  The major problem is, the victim’s property bumps up against a biathlon training camp where everybody can ski and shoot.

J.J. HENSLEY is a former police officer and Special Agent with the U.S. Secret Service who has drawn upon his experiences in law enforcement to write stories full of suspense and insight. Hensley graduated from Penn State University with a B.S. in Administration of Justice and has a M.S. degree in Criminal Justice Administration from Columbia Southern University. The author is currently a training supervisor with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management and lives with his beautiful wife, daughter, and two dogs near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Mr. Hensley’s novel Resolve was named one of the BEST BOOKS OF 2013 by Suspense Magazine and was named a finalist for Best First Novel by the International Thriller Writers organization.

He is a member of the International Thriller Writers.

Twitter: @JJHensleyauthor

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