Blog Tour: ‘Cut Dead: A DI Charlotte Savage Novel’ by Mark Sennen

Cut Dead

Title: Cut dead: A DI Charlotte Savage Novel

Author: Mark Sennen

Publisher: Avon (Imprint of Harper Collins)

Publication date: 27th February 2014

Paperback: 400 pages (or in my case advanced proof ring bound!)

Why did I choose to read this book? I was invited by Avon’s PR agency LightBrigade to take part in the blog tour and since I hadn’t read a psychological thriller for quite some time I accepted the invitation.

Where to read this book: At home with a comfort blanket – John Lewis do an excellent and affordable range – and all the lights on!

Refreshments: The sinister and really quite gruesome descriptions in the story doesn’t really lend itself to a snackathon in fact your appetite will be gone after a few chapters. However, to drink due to it’s Devonshire setting perhaps a nice refreshing Cider to keep your wits about you!

Review:

‘He could be out there right now. Passing you on the street. You’d never know …’
DI Charlotte Savage is back, chasing a killer who was last at large ten years ago, a killer they presumed dead … Now he’s back and more dangerous than ever.When three headless bodies are found mutilated in a pit, it’s a particularly challenging case for DI Savage and her team. The bodies bear the hallmarks of a killer who was never caught, last at large ten years ago, butchering girls on Midsummer’s Day. Could this be a copycat or has the original killer resurfaced? With a steady stream of bodies arriving at the morgue and gruesome secrets from the past emerging DI Savage is up against it to find the killer before he attacks again? The past has caught up with them. And so has he…


The style of writing for this crime novel is a multi-narrative, dividing the chapters between the voices of the police force, namely DI Charlotte Savage but also that of our psychopathic serial killer. This is effective in building not only tension but fear within the reader especially with the added countdown to the next murder on the 21st June, which is only 7days away from when they find the bodies.

The extracts from the serial killer are really chilling. As a reader we are brought as witnesses to not only the selection of his next victim but also the descriptions of what tortures he is going to bear down on her. Added to this are the snapshots of his unimaginably trouble childhood and the events that led up to the moment of his first kills. Finally the details and introduction to his assistant ‘Micky’ who’s psychological disabilities and predilections towards the women which is nothing short of grotesque provide us with a nightmare duo.

I enjoyed immensely the detailed descriptions of the police procedures especially the aspects of having to deal with the PR machine and the media sensationalizing the story. Equally, the extracts regarding the mob mentality and the pressures to make an arrest were particularly interesting given today’s social expectation in regards to the police force.

Running parallel to the central storyline is that of DI Charlotte Savages personal vendetta against the unknown hit and run driver who killed one of her twin daughters. This provided a supporting role to the themes of family and motherhood that consistently run through the story. It also highlights Charlotte’s determination to catch the killer and combined with a huge plot twist at the end of the novel creates a smooth transfer into Sennen’s next outing with DI Savage.

Occasionally I found the odd sub-plot unnecessary; perhaps it was to provide a distracting red herring. However, the addition of a murdered local prison warden and a series of bribes were I found rather superfluous to the overall story. Also there were a number of names of police detectives that I either lost track of or forgot instead I focused my energies on the main roles of Savage and XX.

Overall, this is a dark, sinister and immensely satisfying crime novel. Having not read any of the other DI Savage series I was pleased to discover that this didn’t affect my enjoyment.
I would recommend this to all crime enthusiasts, however, if like me you read before bed perhaps it’s best you bolt the doors and buy a night light as it doesn’t guarantee the sweetest of dreams – even with the cake!

Rating: 7 out of 10

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Author Q&A: Hélène Gestern author of ‘The People in the Photo’

HélèneGestern

HélèneGestern author of ‘The People in the Photo,’ which is published today by Gallic Books, talks to me about her debut novel, her inspirations and hints at what’s to come next in French literature.

Your debut novel ‘Eux sur la photo’ has already won 15 literary awards in France, did you expect it to be so successful?</P

Actually, it has won 25 awards to this day. I never expected such a success. I had just written a text and didn’t even think about publication. A friend of mine, who had read the story, convinced me to send it to a publisher. I sent the manuscript by post, the most ordinary way, and I got a positive answer.

Do you feel pressure now to produce an equally successful second novel?

No. When I’m writing, I am totally involved in the project, and I do not think about anything else, neither publication nor success. In truth I refuse to take these dimensions in account. I’ve already published another novel, La Part du feu and I’m completing a third one. Obviously, I’ll be happy if they get as many readers as my debut novel, but that’s not my purpose.

The focus is on family history – are the experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

This story is not mine. It is based on some themes (like silence around past) that sound actually very familiar to me, but they appear in the novel after major transpositions. I do not feel authorized to evoke my relative’s private life.

The leading lady shares your first name is this important/ meaningful in some way?

I suppose it is, even if I didn’t have a long reflection about it. As I said, this text was not aimed to be published and when I wrote it, it was obvious that its narrator should be called Hélène. I’m aware that this creates a strange autobiographical effect, but it was not an intentional one. At the end, I tried to replace this first name by another, but it sounds so unnatural that I preferred to give Hélène her name back.

How and why did you decide to structure the novel as being a series of letters?

The project was entirely based on an epistolary system : the challenge was to tell the story through two voices, two sensibilities, these of a man and a women who have a different look on their parents’ past. I would describe what happens in their memory, their lives and maybe their souls when they discover the truth. Their reactions (to refuse ? to accept ?) were as important for me as the events they discover. In fact, I introduced a third narrator, more neutral : the unknown voice that describes each photograph.

Are photography and the way it documents history something close to your heart?

I’m completely fascinated by photography, and I’ve observed and commented on it for years. I can spend hours in a museum or in a bookshop to look at pictures, observe peoples’ faces and try to guess which message these fragile tracks try to deliver us through years. Paradoxically (and maybe is it the main reason of my interest), I do not own family pictures.

Was the 1970’s a conscious choice for the setting of the original photo?

It was absolutely a conscious choice that the first plot, Pierre and Natalia’s meeting, takes place in the decade preceding May 68. At this time, women were torn between a compelling aspiration to independence, and social rules that prevented them from living on their own. This contradiction was awful and reached a point of no return in France; it was one of the reasons (even if rarely noticed) for social French revolt in May 68. Natalia’s destiny is a sad illustration of it. The People on the Photo is, among other thing, a tribute to this generation of women, and especially to those who sacrificed their dreams under social and family pressure.

What authors/books do you feel have influenced your writing?

As epistolary genre is concerned, certainly Madame de Sévigné, a French Marquess of XVIIth century who wrote thousands of letters to her daughter, Madame de Grignan, and, in another style, Choderlos de Laclos (The Dangerous Liaisons). I also read much poetry when I was younger, and it created a close relationship with language. I read now few novels (I prefer diaries and autobiographies), but admire very much Perec, Sebald or Munoz Molina, because of their art of construction. I am in love with Anne-Marie Garat’s books, a French author whose whole literary work is dedicated to photography; Annie Ernaux, who created a genre between autobiography and sociology, had also and still has a deep influence on me.

What book are you reading now?

Jean-Luc Bénoziglio’s La Pyramide Ronde. The story of a Pharaoh so convinced of his omnipotence that he orders his architect to build a spherical pyramid.

Can you give us an idea of what your next book will be about?

The project I am working on is based on a picture, taken during a tragic event and published in newspapers and on the internet. It destroys the life of the two persons appearing on it. The point is : is any counterattack is possible in the age of the internet ?

What’s your must-have writing snack?

I have none.

I reviewed The People in the Photo and rated it an impressive 9 out of 10. Make sure you buy your copy from Gallic Books from the 17th February.

The Vault Festival presents ‘Fear & Loathing In Las Vegas’

The Vaults Entrance

fal5Fear & Loathing

Title: ‘Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas’

Author: Hunter S. Thompson

Adapted & Directed: Lou Stein

Artwork: Ralph Steadman – there was a separate area with a collection of original artwork from the novel which was fantastic, Steadman expertly captures the unique inner workings of Thompson’s mind.

Genre: I’m not sure this can even be categorized, but if I make a stab, I would say ‘drug-fueled, madcap adventure’ or alternatively a cynical satire on American society and that oh so elusive hunt for the ‘American Dream.’

Actors: Boasting a tiny cast of seven the headline roles are: Ed Hughes playing Raoul Duke, Rob Crouch playing Dr Gonzo and John Chancer as the narrator.

Why? To be matter of fact I love this book, call me unoriginal but I find the works of Hunter S. Thompson bloody brilliant. I enjoyed the adaptation of the novel which stars Johnny Depp and so when learning the location and style of this production I couldn’t not attend, especially with the tickets being a bargainous £25 – plus it meant I managed to avoid the sickening Valentine’s day scene that was to be found across the rest of London.

Where? The location was inspirational for the style of the play, The Vaults Waterloo. This is to be found by descending a dodgy looking staircase and into an underground graffiti decorated tunnel. The labyrinth of tunnels lended itself spectacularly to the production and really added to the overall enjoyment. I had been a patron of The Vault before at the fantastic Blitz Party so if you get the chance you should definitely try to attend an event at this venue.

Refreshments: I expected the drinks to carry a hefty price tag, however, I was happy to see that a double & mixer was only £5, so I had a couple of rum & cokes and my date for the evening had a couple of ales – which were apparently acceptable. At the interval I purchased a couple of pulled-pork tostdas (these were over priced at 2 for £5 for what was in essence a canapé) unfortunately these were probably tastier about an hour before as by the time we bought them the tortilla was dry and easily breakable, the pork lacked flavour too but the jalepenos definitely brought a tear to the eye! – the speck & gorgonzola pizza we picked up later from Alba, just off Clapham High Street was by far superior.

Synopsis:Dr Hunter S Thompson’s twisted, madcap adventure to find the heart of the American Dream. Two assignments in Nevada turn super-ugly for a young journalist and his travelling companion, an attorney. Partly because they’re chock full of narcotics, but mostly because they’re on a savage journey to discover how the idea of America got broken, and why there’s no way back to freedom, real freedom.”

Review:

Another evening of battling against the hefty wind and rain, that made even my hardy golf umbrella quail at the idea of being used, I managed to navigate my way through the throngs of single red roses and bedraggled last minute heart shaped balloon purchases and descended into the tunnels of The Vaults.

My partner in crime for the evening had come from the opposite side of the tunnel so after a very confused phone conversation describing the graffiti we were stood by we found each other and entered the labyrinth that would be our romantic Valentine’s home for the evening.

Umbrella and motorbike paraphernalia dumped in the cloakroom, double rums purchased (surprisingly cards are accepted down in the depths of waterloo) we headed into what looked like a cross between a circus and a crack den – marvelous!

The theatre set was exceptional in its attention to detail and the original scenes described in Hunter S.Thompson’s novel. The rear wall was painted with reproductions of some of Ralph Steadman’s nightmare-cartoon representations of the trip, with further artwork projected on to it along with newspaper cuttings, news clips including the skull of an animal. In terms of the set this was simple yet effective with the initial act being centered around the now iconic souped-up convertible dubbed the “Great Red Shark.

As it should be the soundtrack throughout the performance was top class, especially ‘White Rabbit’ and ‘Somebody to Love’ both sung by Jefferson Airplane (not live unfortunately) being blasted out – I really need to by an album!

In terms of the actors, the stand-out performance for me goes to the narrator, John Chancer, his whole being became that of Hunter S. Thompson’s semi-autobiographical character and the performance was brilliant. However, kudos has to be given to Rob Crouch whose infamous bath scene was, to be candid, a ‘show-stopper’ and was acted with pure commitment to the character and with serious aplomb. Praise must also be heaped on the support acts, whose roles changed intermittently throughout ranging from hotel staff, to policemen, especially that of Libby Northedge who took on the role of Lucy with style and acted some of the most extreme and impressive facial expressions I’ve ever seen anyone pull!

Overall, I would like to believe that this once-in-a-lifetime collaboration between Hunter S.Thompson’s old friend and colleague Lou Stein and the legendary British illustrator Ralph Steadman would have made this most famous and memorable of authors happy – because it sure as hell impressed everyone in the audience that I was sat in – if you can I urge you to buy tickets before it’s too late!

Rating: 9 out of 10

The Folio Society Spring Book Launch

The Day of the JackalFolio DisplayFolio hard at work

Event: The Folio Society share their new titles for the Spring, bringing together authors, illustrators and book enthusiasts for one beautiful event

Who: I got the invited by The Folio Society’s PR consultancy firm FMcM. However, the event was hosted by The British Library and The Folio Society who interestingly enough will again be collaborating from the 8th until 9th March for inaugural ‘Folio Prize Fiction Festival’ (buy tickets here).

When: Thursday 13th February

Where: It was held in the Folio Gallery of the absolutely stunning British Library.

Refreshments: Greeted with white wine, which was circulated quite regularly, I was then introduced to a range of delicious and beautifully presented canapés. These ranged from mini chicken tikka wraps, vegetarian sushi (with a dangerously strong wasabi!), sweet potato sticks with a tzatziki dip to an adorable mini pulled pork burger all topped off with a calorific chocolate brownie.

Freebies: The goodie bag was superior, containing a selection of notelets bearing Shakespearean quotes, a Parker ball point pen and of course a Folio edition novella all encased in a long-life purple Folio bag

Review:

After traipsing through the wind and rain, thank the lord there wasn’t a TFL strike to boot, I arrived at The British Library with the feeling that I really should come here more often. Ditching about ten layers of clothing and a golfing umbrella in the cloakroom it was time to immerse myself amongst the lovely people of the Folio Society.

I should point out that I knew no one there so slightly daunted I accepted a passing glass of white wine and headed to the Spring Folio book stand. I can’t really impress on you enough how stunning and what high quality these illustrated editions are and the one I was most interested in seeing was ‘The Day of the Jackal’, which didn’t disappoint with its shadow-like illustrations and dark cover jacket created by the ridiculously talented Tatsuro Kiuchi. Another I was particularly interested in was Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë, illustrated by Folio favorite Santiago Caruso who captured the Gothic themes running through the tale wonderfully.

After admiring the display I found myself mingling near the string quartet, classy touch, where I bumped into one of the illustrators Charlotte Orr, a recent art graduate who had won the opportunity to begin her illustrious career during her third year. Her skill and style can be discovered in the pages of the Folio spring edition of, The Dynasties of China by Barbara Gascoigne.

The speeches kicked off with an introduction from Baroness Blackston, Chairman of the British Library before she passed over to Toby Hartwell the managing director of the Folio Society. Toby waxed lyrical about the Folio Society before informing us of the exciting news that there will be an ‘inaugural’ Folio Festival prior to the ‘inaugural’ Folio Prize results event and all taking place within the 3 days between the 8th and the 10th March! Tickets for this event can (and will) be purchased from The British Library website.

After this announcement we were introduced to Lawrence Norfolk who has penned the introduction to The Voyage of Argo and who after a brief but interesting speech passed us on to the fantastically talented John Vernon Lord, illustrator of Finnegans Wake and who recounted stories and anecdotes, peppered with jokes, that endeared and entertained without reserve.

At the close of the speeches I noticed that my friend had arrived so we took another couple of turns around the room where I had the pleasure of introducing myself to FMcM’s CEO Fiona, before sneaking off for another selection of canapés, a couple more glasses of white wine and another look at the beautiful books.

All in all a fabulous evening filled with freakishly talented people and beautiful books!

Rating: 8 out of 10 – these books should be top of your ideas list for book loving family members, friends or even just as a treat to yourself check them out now!

Orion Books: A Celebration of Women’s Fiction (& Non-Fiction)

inviteMe and Liz

Event: Orion Publishing Group celebrate their list of female fiction and non-fiction authors.

Who: I got the invite through a literary website I write for Novolicious but obviously it was thanks to Orion that the event was available for me to attend!

When: Wednesday 12th February

Where: The Club Room, Christopher’s – an American style Martini Bar & Restaurant

Refreshments: Greeted with champagne which was kept topped up by the dangerously attentive waiters we were then treated to a series of delectable canapés ranging from a spoonful of pea & mint risotto to a seared scallop, posh chicken nuggets and mini fish and chips.

Freebies: Aside from the free advice about writing from all the wonderful women authors and the rather frank advice about the publishing industry from the rakish group marketing director I was given a stylish copy of ‘Landline’ by Rainbow Rowell.

Review:

The evening kicked off with a rather freezing walk from London Bridge to The Club Room at Christopher’s Martini bar in Covent Garden. Freezing hands in-tact it was slightly awkward greeting people without giving them an experience similar to that of sticking their hand into a deep freezer. The Orion publicity ladies were effusive with their welcomes as Gabby and Sophie bundled me into the room and fiction editor extraordinaire Kate Mills seamlessly led me into a speed dating of Orion’s fabulous female authors.

First up was the lovely Lezanne Clanachan whose debut novel Jelly Bird is being published for public consumption today. Her novel tells the story of Jessica, who boasts a loving husband and a growing reputation as a jewellery designer that is until she discovers her friend Libby alone with her husband heads together in whispered collusion. With her life unraveling, Jessica flees to the seaside town where she grew up. The discovery of an old postcard sends Jessica in search of her first love, Thomas, ‘the ghost boy’ who disappeared one night seventeen years ago. Now to find him, Jessica must confront the secrets that link her to Libby, the missing boy and a brutal murder. Already embarking on her second novel it’s clear that Lezanne is not going to be far from the best sellers list for quite some time.

Included in our chats was fellow author Katherine Webb, whose novel ‘The Misbegotten’ is set in Bath in 1921 and which follows the life of Rachel Crofton who escapes her unhappy employment as a governess by marrying a self-made businessman, but her new life soon takes an unexpected turn. Her forthcoming book is set in Italy in the early 1920’s and the emergence of Mussolini’s Fascist Party, being a previous history student this immediately piqued my interest. The story sounds like a political Romeo and Juliet with two young people, one on the fascist side the other on the socialist side, falling in love.

Swiftly passing though the now rather busy room I was placed in front of Harriet Lane, and her publicist and editor at Orion Books. I was treated to an insight into Harriet’s latest novel ‘Her’ which was described as an urgent book that once you start reading you cannot stop, through in a creepy slightly sinister angle and you’re left with a novel that will leave the reader breathless until the bitter end.

With a top up of champagne I was presented to the bubbly Liz Fenwick whose vivacious personality instantly endeared her to me. Liz is author of The Cornish Affair which won her Novolicious’ coveted ‘Alternative Thursday’ award. After chatting about her writing career I was treated to a whirlwind discussion of her life where I learned that she had achieved an English degree, worked in insurance all before embarking on a world trip with her husband, who works in oil (forgive me for wanting to quote Stewart Lee’s ‘Are you a Sardine?’ sketch), three children born on different continents later Liz splits her time between living in Cornwall and Dubai – although she assures me Cornwall is her real home!

Quick trip to the toilet and then it was on to Deborah Lawrenson whose novel ‘The Lantern’ has won wonderful acclaim being likened to the writing of Edgar Allan Poe and Graham Greene – praise indeed and one which has definitely put itself onto my reading list! It was lovely discussing her previous life in entertainment PR and anecdotal stories of meeting actors who were surprisingly short and Lauren Bacall. Also involved in this discussion was the lovely Karen Howlett of Cornflower Books who has been blogging for over 7 years, putting me slightly to shame.

After these wonderful chats with a variety of female authors I was feeling satisfied with a tinge of sleepiness, I blame the bubbles, so with a last glance over to see the illustrious Rebecca Front at the other side of the room I made off to retrieve my things from the cloakroom. However, suited and ready to face the outside world again I was accosted by the rakish Orion group marketing director who wanted to know what I liked reading before proceeding to describe a fantastic sounding forthcoming non-fiction title ‘Berlin’ – business card pocketed I’m hoping to receive an advanced proof soon, fingers crossed!

Thanks again Orion for having me!

Rating:8 out of 10

Book Review: ‘The Tiny Wife’ by Andrew Kaufman

Tiny Wife

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Title: The Tiny Wife

Author: Andrew Kaufman and illustrated by Tom Percival

Publisher: The Friday Project

Publication date: 3rd January 2013

Pages: 80

Why did I choose to read this book? I loved the first one so much why I started bulk buying books written by Kaufman, plus it’s been a suitable length of time since I reviewed the last one ahmm a month.

Where to read this book? I seem to carry my life in my handbag add to that a gym bag, on occasion, and you’ve got a heavy burden. Therefore, The Tiny Wife weighing in at 80 pages is the perfect lightweight commuter companion for all you fellow people who have similar handbag or man-bag issues.

Refreshments: Commuting isn’t really conducive to food and drink, far too many things to juggle especially on the Northern line when you’re wedged between an armpit and someone’s rucksack/ bouffant hairstyle, so I would recommend at best a bottle of water and perhaps a cereal bar – my favorites are the Jordans range.

Review:

A robber charges into a bank with a loaded gun, but instead of taking any money he steals the most emotionally significant object currently in their possessions. Leaving the bank the purple chapeaud thief explains that he has taken 51% of their souls and now they must learn how to rejuvenate their souls, or die. Once he has made his escape, strange things start to happen to the victims. A lion tattoo comes to life, a husband turns into a snowman, a baby starts to shit money and Stacy Hinterland discovers that she’s shrinking a little each day only too aware that she will soon shrink away to nothing.

Told from the view point of Stacey’s husband this novella is my second foray into the unique mind of Mr Kaufman and his surreal reflections on life and society. This book will only take you at most a couple of hours to read but it’s creativity and frankly bizarre character plots, twists and turns will leave a lasting impression.

The story is focused on Stacey and her family. The item stolen from her is a calculator, this maths machine has factored into every important decision she has made in her life, from her marriage to the birth of their first child Jasper and without this she starts shrinking. The lesson I believe in her story is to not to reduce everything to probabilities and just let go and let happiness happen by chance. And her story culminates in a rather happy life lesson relating to growing-up and the very real need to retain a passion and love for life and for those around you.

The stories are swift and varied for each character within the self-titled Branch #117 support group; this was the name of the bank in which the thief stole their precious items. I enjoy this genre of writing and aspects of the story reminded me of French Noire, especially that of the author Jean Teulé and his novella ‘The Suicide Shop’. The references to the woman turning into candy and another whose husband turning into a snowman are really quite grisly in comparison to the man whose child starts shitting money which leaves us with the message that money doesn’t buy happiness.

Illustrated by the hugely talented Tom Percival the pages feature silhouettes of the thief, the victims and the manifestations of the hunt for their lost souls. These designs evoke a sense of puppets and puppet master with the characters each caught up in Kaufman’s twisted vaudevillian play.

Overall by combining both the whimsical and macabre my second Kaufman self-help book has left me with the underlying message to not take life for granted and with that duly noted I’m off on a tour of London’s best Gin venues – toodle pip.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10 – I really hope these are made into films very soon preferably starring Johnny Depp (not to be obvious but he would be brilliant)