The Hangman’s Hold by Michael Wood DCI Darke 4 #booktour

5 Stars from me!

I am delighted and honoured to be part of the Blog Tour for The Hangman’s Hold – particularly as I am enjoying the Matilda Darke series so very much. I recently had the privilege of asking Michael Wood a few questions about himself and his writing style, see here for my Interview with the Author, Michael Wood.

A rich and diverse group of characters makes The Hangman’s Hold a thoroughly engaging read which will keep you on your toes. If you are a fan of crime thrillers and ‘enjoy a good murder’, you will also love this series from @MichaelhWood and I highly recommend that you go back to the beginning and read the books in order. This is the best way for you to understand the complexities of Matilda’s character and pick up the subtle nuances and peculiarities of the relationships within her team.

I’ve been with Matilda since the beginning and truly love these books, she sits firmly on my shelf among novels by Mark Billingham, Stuart MacBride, Simon Kernick, Alison Bruce, Lisa Hall, Jane Isaac, Ann Cleaves, Peter James, Helen Cadbury, Sarah Ward and Linwood Barclay – to name but a few.

In The Hangman’s Hold, DCI Matilda Darke and her team seem to be right in the middle of the focus from a smart but provocative killer who knows exactly how, when and where to locate victims; ready to lie in wait and deliver their own form of justice. The concept of this is dark and unsettling. The police team struggle to find forensic evidence and the killer continually taunts Matilda and local journalist, Danny Hansen. Will Danny’s naivety turn out to be his downfall, or is he somehow involved?

Like Matilda, I felt immediately drawn into the case as soon as her wonderful friend Adele became close to the first victim and potentially at risk herself. I felt so sorry for Adele, who very much deserved to meet a wonderful date, yet not only is her beau murdered but he then turns out to have a somewhat murky past – how can she reconcile herself to having enjoyed his company? How will she learn to trust again after this? Fortunately, Matilda is there for her (it’s nice to see Matilda supporting Adele for a change) and the friendship between these two ladies is enviable.

With a mounting body count, Matilda finds herself appointed with a profiler who muddles her thinking with his strong resemblance to her beloved deceased husband. This leads to her fighting her own demons amid a growing pressure to solve the case as she struggles with her conflicted feelings towards another man – albeit one her reminds her so much of James. This is such a well articulated thread throughout the books and forms part of what makes Matilda so real, vulnerable and relatable.

Tension builds once the profiler suggests that the killer may be someone Matilda knows which leads to mistrust and defensiveness with Matilda’s team and is a sublime demonstration of the destructiveness of paranoia as her team second guess themselves and each other. How can you work together as a team if you don’t trust your colleagues to have your back.

‘Taking the law into your own hands’ is another excellent thread through this book and it shines a light upon society and the way we are all so quick to label and to judge. The repercussions of which can be catastrophic. It made me stop and think about the loved ones and families of the accused/convicted as they are often the ones who are left picking up the pieces and the impact upon the lives of wives, mothers, fathers, children and even distant relations can be immense. Stop and think for a minute, if someone close to you was convicted of a hideous crime how fast do you think your own life would unravel?

Without giving away any spoilers… I am very much looking forward to the next book!

 

Synopsis:

Your life is in his hands.In the gripping new serial killer thriller from Michael Wood, Matilda Darke faces a vicious killer pursuing his own brand of lethal justice. Perfect for fans of Angela Marsons and Helen Fields.

There’s a killer in your house.
The Hangman waits in the darkness of your living room. As soon as you get home, he will kill you – hang you by the neck – and make you pay for all the crimes you have tried desperately to forget.

He knows your darkest secrets.
The police are running out of time. DCI Matilda Darke is facing her worst nightmare: a serial killer pursuing his own brand of lethal justice, whose campaign of violence is spreading fear throughout the city.

And he is closer than you think.
As the body count rises, Matilda is personally targeted and even her most trusted colleagues fall under suspicion. But can she keep those closest to her from harm? Or is it already too late?

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The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley

4 stars from me

The Hunting Party is a fabulous debut and I had the pleasure of reading it from within a remote cottage in the Welsh countryside (not quite the Scottish highlands in the snow but close enough!).

I enjoyed the playful elements of the story which I agree could easily be likened to an olden days whodunnit but for me the star of the show was the relationships between the friends and the uncomfortable tensions contained within them. Incredibly well observed and well told.

Great debut and I look forward to more by this author.

 

Synopsis: The Hunting Party is the author’s first crime novel and is described as combining elements of Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None (HarperCollins) and The Secret History (Penguin) by Donna Tartt.

The novel follows a a tight-knit group of Oxford university alumni as they celebrate New Year’s Eve in the wilderness of the Loch Corrin Estate in Scotland. A HarperFiction spokesperson said: “In these wild, white climes the group reminisce, go deer stalking, and hide friendship-destroying secrets, secrets that set a razor-sharp sequence of events in motion, culminating with a broken body in the snow.”

The Party by Lisa Hall

5 stars from me!

Wow what a doozy! This book hits you from very the beginning when poor Rachel wakes up and the events of The Party hit her like a tonne of bricks. Make sure you’ve got a comfy chair and a mug of tea as you will be hooked!

It is easy to imagine the horror she feels and her bravery as she confronts the situation is really quite commendable. She is a tenacious character and I liked her. You can’t help but imagine yourself in her situation and it is an uncomfortable realisation that she could equally have chosen to do nothing.

Having read Tell Me No Lies and Between You and Me by Lisa Hall I had high hopes for The Party and I wasn’t disappointed.The book switches between ‘before’ and ‘after’ and you piece information together as you go along, some characters are more likeable than other but all of them are there for a reason!

There is some wonderful misdirection and many a dead end of of which is testament to Hall’s mastery. Do you like the right people, do you trust the right people, do you trust yourself?

Like the two earlier books, The Party is a standalone with fabulous characters who draw you deeper into the story with every turn of the page. I did guess the ending but it in no way spoiled the story for me.

I have thoroughly enjoyed all three books and can’t wait to read more by Lisa Hall.

 

Synopsis: It was just a party. But it turned into a nightmare.

‘Compelling, addictive…brilliant’ B A Paris

When Rachel wakes up in a strange room, the morning after a neighbour’s party, she has no memory of what happened the night before. Why did her husband leave her alone at the party? Did they row? Why are Rachel’s arms so bruised? And why are her neighbours and friends so vague about what really happened?

Little by little, Rachel pieces together the devastating events that took place in a friend’s house, at a party where she should have been safe. Everyone remembers what happened that night differently, and everyone has something to hide. But someone knows the truth about what happened to Rachel. And she’s determined to find them.

The Party is the gripping new novel from bestseller Lisa Hall.

The Poison Bed by E C Fremantle

2 stars from me

I’m sorry to say this book just didn’t do it for me.

The ‘hype’ of Gone Girl meets The Miniaturist made me want to read it but I couldn’t connect with it. I spent the first chunk of the book bewildered by who was ‘speaking’ and that made it incredibly hard for me to engage with the characters and therefore the story itself.

I loved the concept and knowing it was based upon truth made it even more exciting for me. The Poison Bed has a vast amount of 5 star reviews so I guess I must have been missing something but it didn’t work for me.

Synopsis: Elizabeth Fremantle’s THE POISON BED is a chilling, noirish thriller ripped straight from the headlines.

A king, his lover and his lover’s wife. One is a killer.

In the autumn of 1615 scandal rocks the Jacobean court when a celebrated couple are imprisoned on suspicion of murder. She is young, captivating and from a notorious family. He is one of the richest and most powerful men in the kingdom.

Some believe she is innocent; others think her wicked or insane. He claims no knowledge of the murder. The king suspects them both, though it is his secret at stake.

Who is telling the truth? Who has the most to lose? And who is willing to commit murder? 

The Pupil by Dawn Goodwin

3 stars from me

I found The Pupil to be an engaging book which drew me into the lives of the main characters and I loved the juxtaposition of main character Katherine’s current life and her visits to her mum. Actually, in a lot of ways the bits where she visits ‘home’ are some of the most compelling of the book.

The ‘twists’ in the book were, for me, a bit of a non event, they will heavily indicated throughout which made them a bit of a damp squib. I don’t think I really liked any of the characters either – the chip shop owner was probably my favourite!

I don’t like giving 3 star reviews, it feels rude and disrespectful to the author who has spent so much time crafting this tale for our enjoyment, however I do need to be true to myself and true to those books which I hold up high and say ‘this is worthy of 4 or even 5 stars’, so the 3 stars signifies that I enjoyed this book – in fact I read it an a day, it has some excellent parts and for me the overall story line – particularly the ‘twists’ and some of the characteristics of the key players could do with a few little tweaks.

That said, I am going to find myself a copy of ‘The Accident’ by the same author as it has excellent reviews and I am sure there will be many great works from this author in future.

Synopsis: One moment of carelessness. Four shattered lives. 

Psychological suspense that explores a labyrinth of lies, manipulation and revenge. Perfect for fans of Louise Jenson and Katerina Diamond.

Literary agent Viola Matthews is sure she’s met Katherine Baxter before. So when her husband and bestselling novelist Samuel Morton introduces Viola to the quiet, unassuming woman he has offered to mentor, she knows their paths have crossed before. The question is where?

As their worlds collide and the bond between Samuel and Katherine deepens, Viola realises she must take control. 

If Viola is right, then Katherine needs to pay for something that happened twelve years ago.

Fear by Dirk Kurbjuweit

4 stars from me

My word, what an interesting book!

Fear, by Dirk Kurbjuweit, has a lovely flow to it. It runs at a gentle pace and the prose is often really quite beautiful and intellectually stimulating. The depth in which the relationship between husband and wife is explored feels true and raw and is exquisitely reported. So many scenes in this book will resonate with readers.

The tale itself is quite simple, yet it will provoke great thought from readers as you imagine yourself in the surreal and horrible situation. With one question being the over riding theme: what would you do?

I found myself likening Fear to old school literature – the gentle pace felt reminiscent of To Kill A Mockingbird and the commentary in my head had echoes of Green Mile.

Fear is a very good, gripping read – utterly different from most books out there in this genre – poses questions and provokes thought.

 

 

Synopsis: READ THE MOST CRITICALLY ACCLAIMED PSYCHOLOGICAL THRILLER OF 2018:

‘You’ll never see your neighbours in the same light again’ OBSERVER
‘Beautifully written, frightening and absorbing’ THE TIMES
‘As intellectually stimulating as it is gripping *****’ DAILY TELEGRAPH
‘[An] uncomfortably close-to-home thriller’ – SUNDAY TIMES
‘Something we’ve not see before in contemporary crime fiction’ GUARDIAN
‘Takes you right into the heart of darkness’ MAIL ON SUNDAY
‘There’s a twist at the end that is worth waiting for’ INDEPENDENT
‘A terrifying study of a family threatened by the tenant living downstairs’ WOMAN&HOME
‘If you liked WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN, try FEAR’ – BBC NEWS
‘This creepy tale of obsession will make you wonder ‘what would I do?’ SUNDAY MIRROR
‘A gripping tale of domestic terror’ IRISH TIMES
‘A must have new read’ DAILY EXPRESS

You’d die for your family. But would you kill for them?

Family is everything. So what if yours was being terrorised by a neighbour – a man who doesn’t listen to reason, whose actions become more erratic and sinister with each passing day?

You go to the police, but they can’t help you. You become afraid to leave your family at home alone. But there’s nothing more you can do to protect them.

Is there? 

The Devil’s Work by Mark Edwards

4 Stars from me

This clever tale is a psychological thriller which had me feeling at times as though I was on a roller coaster climbing towards the top of a slope that I knew would soon be hurtling me down the other side!

There are some really great (for great read awful, despicable, deplorable) characters within these pages who you simply can’t help but loathe – are you right or wrong about them though, that is the question.

I half thought this book wouldn’t live up to the blurb, I worried it might be too fluffy and possibly even a hybrid crossing the chic lit borderline; trust me, it isn’t, it is a stone cold psychological thriller that will well and truly leave you guessing!

Synopsis: A gripping psychological thriller from the bestselling author of Follow You Home and The Magpies.

It was the job she had dreamed of since childhood. But on her very first day, when an unnerving encounter drags up memories Sophie Greenwood would rather forget, she wonders if she has made a mistake. A fatal mistake.

What is her ambitious young assistant really up to? And what exactly happened to Sophie’s predecessor? When her husband and daughter are pulled into the nightmare, Sophie is forced to confront the darkest secrets she has carried for years.

As her life begins to fall apart at work and at home, Sophie must race to uncover the truth about her new job…before it kills her.

Lost Girls by Angela Marsons

5 Stars from me

So so good!

I am so excited because I don’t think I’ve read any other books by Angela Marsons which means I get to go back to DI Kim Stone book one and then read my way through them! Bliss.

The premises of the kidnapping is brilliant – and serves as a timely reminder, tell your children not to go with strangers – anyway, it is a kidnapping with a cruel twist as the kidnappers want the two sets of parents to go into a bidding war to save just one of the girls…

Kim herself is beautifully complex character, a true hard nut with a caring side and relentless drive to find the truth, solve the case and make things right for people. She and her team are a force to be reckoned with.

What I liked best about Lost Girls is that the story is covered from several angles, all of which are executed seamlessly. You immerse yourself with DI Kim Stone and her team, you feel like you are sat around the ‘war room’ table with them and can almost smell the coffee. Then you are there with the girls in the cold, in the dark, with the damp and fear creeping over you. Then you are with the couples, their despair, their secrets and their anguish becomes your own.

So very well constructed, written and played out – I absolutely loved it and will be fast heading to buy a copy of Silent Scream.

 

Synopsis: Two girls go missing. Only one will return.

The couple that offers the highest amount will see their daughter again. The losing couple will not. Make no mistake. One child will die. 

When nine-year-old best friends Charlie and Amy disappear, two families are plunged into a living nightmare. A text message confirms the unthinkable; that the girls are the victims of a terrifying kidnapping. 

And when a second text message pits the two families against each other for the life of their children, the clock starts ticking for D.I. Kim Stone and the squad. 

Seemingly outwitted at every turn, as they uncover a trail of bodies, Stone realises that these ruthless killers might be the most deadly she has ever faced. And that their chances of bringing the girls home alive, are getting smaller by the hour… 

Untangling a dark web of secrets from the families’ past might hold the key to solving this case. But can Kim stay alive long enough to do so? Or will someone’s child pay the ultimate price? 

Missing, Presumed by Susie Steiner

4 stars from me!

Cracking debut, I love the DS Manon Bradshaw character and as someone else has said on a review – I didn’t want it to end.

Missing, Presumed is set in Cambridgeshire which made it all the more appealing to me as I am familiar with a lot of the place names and can picture them very clearly as I read.

Manon is just fabulous, she reminded me of a mix of DCI Matilda Darke, Vera Stanhope and Olivia Coleman – yes I know that is a meld of the living and the fictional! The rest of her team are also good solid players – I completely love Davy.

This is a brilliantly creative storyline, essentially focusing on a missing person yet with a whole host of side stories and sub-plots ensuring that the narrative stays alive, busy and engaging. I really enjoyed it and look forward to reading more by Susie Steiner.

Synopsis: Mid-December, and Cambridgeshire is blanketed with snow. Detective Sergeant Manon Bradshaw tries to sleep after yet another soul-destroying Internet date – the low murmuring of her police radio her only solace.

Over the airwaves come reports of a missing woman – door ajar, keys and phone left behind, a spatter of blood on the kitchen floor. Manon knows the first 72 hours are critical: you find her, or you look for a body. And as soon as she sees a picture of Edith Hind, a Cambridge post-graduate from a well-connected family, she knows this case will be big.

Is Edith alive or dead? Was her ‘complex love life’ at the heart of her disappearance, as a senior officer tells the increasingly hungry press? And when a body is found, is it the end or only the beginning?

An Interview With An Author: Michael Wood

Having read and enjoyed Michael Wood’s books (For Reasons Unknown, Outside Looking In, A Room Full of Killers), and conversed with him on twitter – where he has a delightfully dry, self depreciating and gentle style – I couldn’t resist asking if I could interview him for my blog. Being the true gent that he is, he readily agreed and his answers are below. I hope you’ll enjoy this insight into the life of Michael Wood as much as I have and, if you haven’t already done so, please do take a look at his books.

 

Q1. When did you write For Reasons Unknown?

For Reasons Unknown was written many years before it was finally published. The finished product is very different to the original draft, though the main plot is the same, the characters, the settings, the protagonist, all of those changed throughout the many versions. I think I called it something different too, but I can’t remember what.

 

Q2. What are the best and worst things about being an author?

The best thing is having a book published, having people read it and, hopefully, enjoy it. It’s wonderful to meet fellow writers and readers. The worst part is the actual writing. It’s incredibly lonely. One aspect of writing I enjoy is the research when it comes to a new novel. I love finding out new and bizarre aspects of policing or forensics I can put into my books.

 

Q3. There is a theory that every writer has an uncompleted novel tucked away in a drawer – do you? If so, why did you abandon it and do you think it will ever see the light of day?

I certainly do. I showed it to my agent who liked it and gave it a good going over with a red pen. It’s been edited and updated. Fingers crossed it will be published one day. It’s different from my Matilda Darke novels and it’s not set in Sheffield.

 

Q4. Who would you say is your biggest literary influence?

There are three crime writers who I first read many many years ago whose books I loved and realised I wanted to be a writer: Minette Walters, Val McDermid and Reginald Hill. High class novelists. I’d devour every word they wrote.

 

Q5. I love Matilda Darke, did the character come to you all at once or did it change as you wrote?

Matilda Darke started out as a man. However, when I was writing him, I realised something didn’t quite work and I couldn’t put my finger on what it was. Then I saw a competition in a magazine for unpublished crime writers to send their work off. One of the judges was Ruth Rendell. One of the rules was that the protagonist had to be a woman. That’s when I realised my main character should have been female rather than male. I created Matilda and slotted her into the book and it worked. Unfortunately, I missed the deadline for the competition.

 

Q6. If you could liken yourself to one character from your books, which one would it be and why?

I’m very much like Matilda. She’s full of angst and self-doubt. She’s good at her job but she lacks confidence. That’s definitely me. She also has a house full of crime fiction novels, again, which is very me.

 

Q7. You are fantastic at crime fiction, do you see yourself sticking to this genre or is there a different style that you fancy taking on?

Thank you for the compliment. I do have an idea for a literary drama that I’d like to write at some point. Crime fiction is taking up a lot of my time at present, but maybe one day I’ll get time to write it. It’s a story of three unconnected people facing a personal battle on the same day in London. At the end of the story they are drawn together through one massive event. I’ve got it all mapped out I just need to write it.

 

Q8. Which do you prefer:

– Wine or beer?  Beer.

– Cats or dogs?  Dogs.

– Mac or pc?  PC.

– Tea or coffee?  Coffee.

– Morning or evening? Evening.

– Harry Potter or Northern Lights?  I haven’t read either.

 

Q9. Who is your favourite author?

This is tricky as I have so many favourite authors. The work of Charles Dickens helped me a great deal as a child. I’ll read anything Minette Walters and Val McDermid publish. Reginald Hill will always have a special place in my life. Peter James is a wonderful author and I’m a massive fan of Ruth Rendell, Elly Griffiths, Henning Mankell, Yrsa Sigurdardottir, Peter Robinson, Mark Billingham, Alex Marwood, Sarah Hilary, James Oswald. The list is endless.

 

Q10. There are lots of aspiring authors out there and it’s well known that being ‘spotted’ by an agent or publisher is difficult; how did you get your big break?

I’m still waiting for my big break. I wasn’t spotted. I had to work bloody hard to get a publisher and an agent and I’m still working hard now. It’s not easy. You need a thick skin, determination, and the ability to put in the long, lonely hours required to write a book and get it accepted by an agent/publisher.

 

Q11. Where and how do you prefer to write?

I make detailed hand-written notes on my plot, subplot, recurring characters and new characters before I sit down at the computer to write. This initial step is done anywhere; on the sofa, in bed at night, in a coffee shop. Once that stage is finished, I sit at my desk and write non-stop until the first draft if complete.

 

Q12. How long did each book take you to write?

I have no idea. I try not to keep count of how long it takes as if one book only took six months and the next took nine months, I’d wonder why one took longer than the other.

 

Q 13. What is your best cure for writers’ block?

A dog. The best writing companions ever.

 

Q 14. What sort of child were you at school and did your English teacher have you pegged as a future author?

I was very quiet at school; head down, work in on time, never pushing myself forward. School days were horrible. I loved English, especially when we had to write short stories. I don’t think my teachers realised I was there as I was so quiet. I think I was just a name in the register.

 

Q15. When I finish reading a book that I’ve loved I almost feel a bit bereft as I miss the characters in my life. How do you feel when you’ve finished writing one?

The same. I miss Matilda and her team as they’re great characters. They all have something special about them. Matilda is struggling personally and trying her hardest to get through life. Rory is fun and cheeky and enjoying life. Sian is the strong, stable mother-figure. Adele is a wonderful friend to Matilda; she’s lively and bubbly. Scott is thoughtful and serious. I love them all. I have back stories for each of my main characters, some of which won’t even make it to the novels, but it’s for me to know who they are, what makes them tick and react to certain situations. I have plans for them all too. They all have an end story.

 

Q 16. Where do you get the ideas from for your crimes?

Everywhere. Other novels, the news, newspapers, magazines. My mum often cuts out real life stories she reads and magazines and gives them to me in case I was to use them. I have a folder full of inspiration. It’s strange how you’ll be having an innocent conversation with someone and an idea will pop into your head. I do a great deal of research and talk to detectives, doctors and pathologists. They sometimes say things that give me ideas too.

 

Q17. I’ve only been to Sheffield a few times, if I go there and look for the places mentioned in your books will I find them (are they real)? A kind of ‘Matilda Darke Murder Tour’ if you will!

Definitely. All the places mentioned in the books are real. Occasionally, I’ve altered the geography of Sheffield and in The Hangman’s Hold I created a whole new road as what I wanted for the finale wasn’t there, but about 98% of the locations exist.

 

Q18. What is the best/worst job you’ve had?

Best job is what I’m doing now. I love writing. Worst job was as a PA for a director within the NHS who never came off her phone. I only lasted three days. I hated it.

 

Q19. What is your favourite TV show?

This is difficult as I don’t watch much TV. Programmes I own on DVD which I watch regularly are: Blackadder, Wallander, Waking the Dead, Red Dwarf, The Sculptress, Warriors, Dalziel and Pascoe, Great Expectations.