Q&A with Kate Horsley, author of THE AMERICAN GIRL

Category: Interview

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What drew you to the world of crime fiction?

I’ve been obsessed with things that go bump in the night since I can remember. I grew up a house that was rumoured to be haunted by a woman who’d lived there. The bedroom she died in was known as the “red room”: the wallpaper was red and I used to imagine I could see her face in the pattern and wonder how she died. There were also two spectral children who my brothers and I pretended to have tea parties with. The house was also full of crime novels because my mum was writing about them… So, there was no escaping a life of crime in the end.

 

What author (besides yourself) do you think that everyone should read?

H.G. Wells. However often I go back to his books, I’m amazed at how gripping they are. He’s a master not just of the page-turner, but of making every sentence count towards the suspense.

 

Tell us about your new book:

The American Girl tells the story of an exchange student called Quinn Perkins who stumbles out of the woods near a French town. Barefoot and bloodied, her appearance creates a stir, especially since her host family has mysteriously disappeared. Journalist Molly Swift is drawn to the story and will do anything to discover whether Quinn is really an innocent abroad, or a diabolical killer intent on getting away with murder. Molly herself, however, is not entirely to be trusted.

 

Did a lot of research go into it?

I was in France when I came up with the idea for The American Girl and so my research involved visiting places similar to those featured in the book, asking lots of questions and taking copious notes. I wrote some of the novel in the bar that La Gorda is based on and it’s just like the club is in the book. Anything I couldn’t find while I was in France, I looked up in a book or on the internet.

 

Do you think you could pull off the ‘perfect murder’?

I love lists and planning, which would help with the “perfect” part and I can be a bit of a neat freak, so that would help with hiding the evidence after the fact. Unfortunately, though, the whole thing might come adrift because I’m such a terrible liar…

…or am I?

 

What’s your top tip for aspiring authors?

Keep notes on things: your ideas for titles and plots, your characters, overheard snippets of dialogue. I don’t keep mine in any particular order. It’s just good to know I’ve written them down somewhere.

 

What’s your method – regular writing schedule, late at night, listening to music – what inspires the magic for you?

I keep starting my writing day earlier and earlier so that I can fit everything else in. I think eventually I’ll be getting up at 4 am to write! I like having something on the TV in the background. I read an article that said familiar background noise stops you from daydreaming and I’ve found that to be true: putting on something I’ve watched a million times like Buffy really keeps me focused and also keeps me company while I’m working.

 

What’s your favourite pastime (aside from reading/writing)?

Travelling and reading, which luckily go really well together. Reading a good crime novel and travelling somewhere new seem to me to be the two most thrilling feelings in the world.

Thank you!

 

You can find The American Girl by Kate Horsley available here on eBook.

A brave new world – by Jackie Baldwin, author of DEAD MAN’S PRAYER

Category: Author Post

The irony of being published as an ebook has not been lost on me. All my life, I have been easily frustrated by technology and prefer to use pen and paper and speak to a ‘real person.’ I used to run a busy court department with one large hard backed diary. My system was never down. I have allowed myself to fall so far behind with modern technology, I fear I may never catch up.

If I had a time machine, I would send back the following tips to myself…

  • That thing you found on your desk after maternity leave and called ‘the abomination?’ Get it back out of the cupboard and learn to deal with it. Computers are not malign entities out to get you, (yet!)
  • Get a move on with that book you plan on writing. You need time lapse photography to show progress that slow.
  • Do not snort, roll your eyes and paw the ground like a bull when you see a Kindle for the first time. One day you’re not only going to be using one, your book is going to be on one. You are going to have so many books on that Kindle it is going to resemble a literary black hole with its own gravity field.
  • When your husband buys you a Smart phone do not thank him, smile sweetly, and ask him to take it back to the shop. Learn how to use it. You will also be able to chat on it to an AI called Siri and ask it meaningful questions in the hope that you will one day get a sentient reply.
  • Start going to parties, or store openings or anywhere with crowds of people in preparation for attending crime festivals. Practise your opening conversational gambits in the checkout at Tesco.
  • Engage with social media. Change your Facebook settings so that you are not the only one who can see your posts. Oh and do some posts. Nothing terrible will happen if you post that is raining. (Usually, but subject to the usual disclaimers).
  • One day you will be on something called Twitter and make tweets of 147 characters or less. I mean it, stop laughing!
  • You will go on a blog tour. No it’s nothing to do with rock music and you can’t buy a T-shirt. No you don’t need a suitcase or a tour bus. Organise this in plenty of time if you want to maintain a tenuous grasp on your sanity.
  • You will have to read from your book in public. Wear a stiff unyielding fabric that won’t tremble with you.

That about covers it.

Oh, and enjoy every single crazy moment!

Jackie Baldwin’s chilling debut crime novel, Dead Man’s Prayer is out now in ebook. Buy it now.

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Exclusive Extract from THE LEGACY OF THE BONES by Dolores Redondo

Category: Extract

Get a sneak peak of The Legacy of the Bones the second book in Dolores Redondo’s atmospheric Baztan trilogy, featuring Inspector Amaia Salazar out 25th August in paperback!

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CHAPTER ONE

The atmosphere in the courthouse was stifling. The damp from rain-soaked overcoats was starting to evaporate, mixing with the breath of the hundreds of people thronging  the corridors outside the various courtrooms. Amaia undid her jacket as she greeted Lieutenant Padua, who made his way towards her through the waiting crowd, after speaking briefly to the woman accompanying him and ushering her into the courtroom.

‘Good to see you, Inspector,’ he said. ‘How are you? I wasn’t sure you’d make it here today,’ he added, pointing to her swollen belly.

Amaia raised a hand to her midriff, heavy from the late stages of pregnancy.

‘Well, she seems to be behaving herself for the moment. Have you seen Johana’s mother?’

‘Yes, she’s pretty nervous. She’s inside with her family. They’ve just called from downstairs to tell me the van transporting Jasón Medina has arrived,’ he said, heading for the lift.

Amaia entered the courtroom and sat down on one of the benches at the back. From there she was able to glimpse Johana’s mother, dressed in mourning and considerably thinner than at her daughter’s funeral. As though sensing her presence, the woman turned to look, greeting her with a brief nod. Amaia tried unsuccessfully to smile as she contemplated the haggard features of the woman, who was tormented by the knowledge that she had been powerless to protect her daughter from the monster she herself had brought into their home. As the court clerk began to call out the names of the witnesses, Amaia couldn’t help noticing the woman’s face stiffen when she heard her husband’s name.

‘Jasó n Medina,’ the clerk repeated. ‘Jasó n Medina.’

A uniformed officer entered the courtroom, approached the clerk and whispered something in his ear. He in turn leaned over to speak to the judge, who listened to what he said then nodded, before calling the prosecution and defence barristers to the bench. He spoke to them briefl y then rose to his feet.

‘The trial is adjourned; if necessary, you will be summoned again.’ And without another word, he left the courtroom.

Johana’s mother cried out, turning to Amaia for an explanation.

‘No!’ she screamed. ‘Why?’

The women with her tried helplessly to comfort her. Another officer walked over to Amaia.

‘Inspector Salazar, Lieutenant Padua has asked if you would go down to the holding cells.’

As she stepped out of the lift, she saw a group of police officers gathered outside the toilet door. The guard accompanying her motioned to her to enter. Inside, a prison officer and a policeman stood propped against the wall, their faces distraught. Padua was leaning into one of the cubicles, his feet at the edge of a pool of still fresh blood seeping under the partition walls. When he saw the inspector arrive, he stepped aside.

‘He told the guard he needed to use the toilet. As you can see, he was handcuffed, yet he managed to slit his own  throat. It all happened very fast, the officer didn’t move from here, heard him cough and went in, but there was nothing he could do.’

Amaia went in to survey the scene. Jasó n Medina was sitting on the toilet, head tilted back. His throat was gaping from a deep, dark gash. His shirtfront was drenched in blood, which oozed like red mucus between his legs, staining everything in its path. His body still radiated warmth, and the air was tainted with the smell of recent death.

‘What did he use?’ asked Amaia, who couldn’t see any object.

‘A box cutter. He dropped it as the strength drained out of him. It’s in the next-door toilet,’ he said, pushing open the door to the adjacent cubicle.

‘How did he get it through security? The metal would have set the alarm off.’

‘He didn’t. Look,’ said Padua, pointing. ‘See that piece of duct tape on the handle? Somebody went to a lot of trouble to hide the cutter in here, no doubt behind the cistern. All Medina had to do was peel it off.’

Amaia sighed.

‘And there’s more,’ said Padua, with a look of distaste. ‘This was sticking out of his pocket,’ he said, holding up a white envelope in his gloved hand.

‘A suicide note?’ ventured Amaia.

‘Not exactly,’ said Padua, handing her a pair of gloves and the envelope. ‘It’s addressed to you.’

‘To me?’ Amaia frowned.

She pulled on the gloves and took the envelope.

‘May I?’

‘Go ahead.’

The adhesive strip opened easily without her needing to tear the paper. Inside was a card; in the middle of it a single word was printed.

Tarttalo.’

Amaia felt a sharp twinge in her belly and held her breath to disguise the pain. She turned the card over to make sure nothing was written on the back, before returning it to Padua.

‘What does it mean?’

‘I was hoping you’d tell me.’

‘Well, I’ve no idea, Lieutenant Padua,’ she replied, puzzled.

‘It doesn’t make much sense to me.’

‘A tarttalo is a mythological creature, isn’t it?’

‘Yes, as far as I know it’s a kind of Cyclops. It exists in both Graeco-Roman and Basque mythology. What are you getting at?’

‘You worked on the basajaun case. The basajaun was also a mythological creature, and now Johana Márquez’s confessed murderer, who tried to copy one of the basajaun crimes to conceal his own, kills himself and leaves a note that says:

Tarttalo”.

You must admit it’s curious, to say the least.’

‘You’re right.’ Amaia sighed. ‘It’s strange. However, at the time we proved beyond doubt that Jasón Medina raped and murdered his stepdaughter, then made a clumsy attempt to pass it off as one of the basajaun crimes. Not only that, he made a full confession. Are you suggesting he wasn’t the murderer?’

‘I don’t doubt it for a minute,’ said Padua, glancing at the corpse. ‘But there’s the question of the severed arm, and the girl’s bones turning up in the Arri Zahar cave. And now this. I was hoping you might . . .’

‘I’ve no idea what this means, or why he addressed it to me.’

Padua gave a sigh, his eyes fixed on her.

‘Of course not, Inspector.’

Amaia headed for the rear exit, anxious not to bump into Johana’s mother. What could she say to the woman: that it was all over, or that her husband, like the rat he was, had escaped to the next world? She flashed her ID at the security guards; it came as a relief to be free at last of the atmosphere inside. The rain had stopped and the bright yet hesitant sunlight, typical in Pamplona between showers, emerged through the clouds, making her eyes water as she rummaged in her bag for her dark glasses. As ever when it was raining, finding a taxi to take her to the courthouse during the morning rush hour had been almost impossible; but now several of them sat idling at the rank, while the city’s inhabitants chose to walk. She hesitated for a moment beside the first car.

No, she wasn’t quite ready to go home; the prospect of Clarice running around, bombarding her with questions was decidedly unappealing. Since her in-laws had arrived a fortnight earlier, Amaia’s idea of home had been seriously challenged. She gazed towards the enticing windows of the cafés across from the courthouse and at the other end of Calle San Roque, where she could see the trees in Media Luna Park. Working out that it was roughly one and a half kilometres to her house, she set off on foot. She could always hail a taxi if she felt tired.

Leaving behind the roar of traffic as she entered the park gave her an instant sense of relief. The fresh scent of wet grass replaced the exhaust fumes, and Amaia instinctively slackened her pace as she crossed one of the stone paths that cut through the perfect greenness. She took deep breaths, exhaling with deliberate slowness. What a morning, she thought; Jason Medina perfectly fitted the profile of the criminal who commits suicide in jail. Accused of raping and killing his wife’s daughter, he had been put in solitary confinement pending his trial; no doubt he’d been terrified at the prospect of having to mix with other prisoners after being sentenced.

She remembered him from the interrogations nine months earlier, when they were investigating the basajaun case: a snivelling coward, weeping and wailing as he confessed his atrocities. The two cases weren’t connected, but Lieutenant Padua of the Guardia Civil had invited her to sit in, because of Medina’s clumsy attempts to imitate the modus operandi of the serial killer she was chasing, based on what he had read in the newspapers. That was nine months ago, just when she became pregnant. Since then, a lot of things had changed.

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