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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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.

A Room Full of Killers by Michael Wood

5 stars from me (can I give it 6?)

This book hits you hard from page 1 and simply does not stop.

A Room Full of Killers is sheer brilliance; Michael Wood has excelled himself with not only his characterisation of DCI Darke but also the base elements of humanity, the melancholy that resides within us all and a simply brilliant story.

I think if I were a detective I’d be like Matilda, single, relentless and living in a house filled with books – although you may have to swap the treadmill for a couple of cats. That’s what makes her so fabulous, so tangible, it’s her realness, her flaws and her fallibleness that all make her so believable. She truly is the perfect heroine, and if I were ever wrongly convicted I would like it to be her who looked into my case.

The characters in this book – from the main stayers to those in the sidelines – all come to life within the pages and all of them are real and solid. I can totally see this series being televised and I cannot wait to see who plays Matilda.

As ever, Michael Wood plays homage to some of the crime thriller greats and I love this ‘nod’ to his peers and contemporaries.

As well as being a cracking crime thriller, A Room Full of Killers takes on some pretty weighty issues. Is a killer born or created? Is it nature or nurture? Can you ever truly atone and repent? Should we – society – allow killers to obtain a first class education from within prison, allowing them a potentially brighter future than someone who went through the mill of a comprehensive education? Is it right for a killer to be given a new life and a fresh slate – how well do you ever know anyone?

Although I am sure this would make for a great standalone, I urge you to begin with the first in the series For Reasons Unknown so that you have some history that will add depth and resonance to A Room Full of Killers.

So, thank you Michael Wood for this series which I am enjoying immensely and for bringing DCI Matilda Darke and her team into my life. Sometimes, just sometimes, I could almost forgive you for not being that keen on cats.

 

Synopsis: ‘DCI Matilda Darke is the perfect heroine’ Elly Griffiths

The third book in Michael Wood’s darkly compelling crime series featuring DCI Matilda Darke. Perfect for fans of Stuart MacBride, Mark Billingham and Val McDermid.

Eight killers. One house. And the almost perfect murder…

Feared by the people of Sheffield, Starling House is home to some of Britain’s deadliest teenagers, still too young for prison. Now the building’s latest arrival, Ryan Asher, has been found brutally murdered – stabbed twelve times, left in a pool of blood.

When DCI Matilda Darke and her team investigate, they uncover the secrets of a house tainted by evil. Kate Moloney, the prison’s manager, is falling apart, the security system has been sabotaged, and neither the staff nor the inmates can be trusted.

There’s only one person Matilda believes is innocent, and he’s facing prison for the rest of his life. With time running out, she must solve the unsolvable to save a young man from his fate. And find a murderer in a house full of killers…

 

Outside Looking In by Michael Wood

5 Stars from me!

I am already utterly in love with Michael Wood‘s writing style. I find it incredibly comfortable in a way that I can only liken to picking up a new Peter James DS Roy Grace novel.

DCI Matilda Darke is wonderful. She has the perfect mix of misery and compassion, her own bag of issues and demons that she carries around with her and yet a warmth and compassion bested only by her desire to protect and serve.

Outside Looking In is a simple yet complex tale and, although it stands up on it’s own merits, I would urge you to read For Reasons Unknown first so that you have the back story which is cleverly woven throughout Outside Looking In.

I raced through this book, feeling every shred of Matilda’s pain for her emotional loss and the enormous weight of responsibility she bears for past cases. She is tangible within these pages, a real, credible and believable character. I can picture her and her house and I hope that one day this series will be televised.

Although I said I find Michael’s writing comfortable, please do not think this is a fluffy tale – quite the opposite, it is gritty, raw and fast paced with a descriptive brilliance which brings horror to life and pulls no punches. The storyline throughout Outside Looking In is proper grim and takes the reader on a winding roller coaster before reaching its conclusion.

One other thing I really enjoyed was the continual referencing to other crime thrillers – most of which I have read and loved – I thank Jonathan Harkness for his gift.

I am greatly looking forward to A Room Full of Killers, which sits waiting patiently upon my kindle.

 

Synopsis: The second book in Michael Wood’s darkly compelling new crime series featuring DCI Matilda Darke. Perfect for fans of Stuart MacBride, Mark Billingham and Val McDermid.

When elderly George Rainsford goes to investigate a suspicious noise one night, the last thing he expects to find is a bloodbath. A man has been killed and a woman brutally beaten, left for dead. The victims are Lois Craven and Kevin Hardaker – both married, but not to each other. Their spouses swear they knew nothing of the affair and, besides, they both have alibis for the attack. With nothing else to link the victims, the investigation hits a dead end.

The pressure is on for investigating officer, DCI Matilda Darke: there’s a violent killer on the loose, and it looks like her team members are the new targets. With no leads and no suspects, it’s going to take all Matilda’s wits to catch him, before he strikes again. 

 

For Reasons Unknown by Michael Wood

5 stars from me!

I really enjoyed this fabulous debut and am therefore delighted that there are others in the series to get stuck into already! Huge thanks to Michael Wood for his swift work as there are another 3 books to read 🙂

DCI Matilda Darke is a perfect character for our lead role, she fits the bill entirely with a disastrous recent past, disheveled appearance, low self-esteem, alcohol dependancy, loyal colleagues and moments of brilliance peppered throughout a dogged and determined pursuit of the truth.

All of the characters in the story were incredibly well defined and I have to say (in addition to Matilda) I felt a strong connection to Jonathan Harkness. He vividly came alive on the the pages and I couldn’t help but be drawn to this peculiar yet endearing man.

I can’t praise this book enough and if you are a fan of detective crime thrillers which tear along at a cracking pace then you will love this book. I found the story clever (without being pretentiously complex), gripping, fast paced (without cutting corners) and incredibly hard to put down.

I can’t wait to go on to the next books in the series.

Synopsis: Two murders. Twenty years. Now the killer is back for more…

A darkly compelling debut crime novel. The start of a brilliant series, perfect for fans of Stuart MacBride, Val McDermid, and James Oswald.

DCI Matilda Darke has returned to work after a nine month absence. A shadow of her former self, she is tasked with re-opening a cold case: the terrifyingly brutal murders of Miranda and Stefan Harkness. The only witness was their eleven-year-old son, Jonathan, who was too deeply traumatized to speak a word.

Then a dead body is discovered, and the investigation leads back to Matilda’s case. Suddenly the past and present converge, and it seems a killer may have come back for more…