Killer Reads’ Summer Reads

Category: Team piece

I like to think of reading as vacation from real life. You can escape down the narrow streets of Rome whilst speeding through The Da Vinci Code, enter the twisted minds of serial killers whilst on the tube and add up all the clues as a detective whilst you wait for your bath to fill up- but what about reading WHILST on holiday? Is that a holiday on a holiday?  It’s starting to get a bit too Inception for me…

Anyway, this summer has been no stranger to some great reads and us Killer Readers have been reading and holidaying a-plenty.

Here’s what the team have been reading whilst jetting off this summer!

Kate: Crime books I read on holiday (desperately casting my mind back…) include Fall from Grace, by Tim Weaver – the first of his that I’ve read, but am now keen to go back to the start of his series; and Dear Daughter, by Elizabeth Little, which I was given at Harrogate, and thought was very pacy and entertaining. Non-crime reads included Friendship, by Emily Gould, a witty, engaging story of two friends living in New York, and the ups and downs of their relationship as they try to make something of their lives; and We Were Liars, by E. Lockhart, which has a brilliant twist, and is a great beach read. I was also lucky enough to read the brand new Logan McRae novel from Stuart MacBride, The Missing and the Dead. Logan is back in uniform, in a new location, and you’re all in for an absolute treat when this comes out in January.

My photo was taken in Antalya, in Turkey. Had one night there on the way to Oympos, and came across one of my favourites on the bookshelf in the hotel! I get excited by small things…

Kate S hols

Katie loved The Missing and the Dead! You might too, order yours now

Lucy: With trips to both Italy and Cornwall this summer, what better time to read S.J. Parris’s latest novel, Treachery? Set in Plymouth, Parris’s latest triumph is so atmospheric that I half-expected to be ambushed every time I walked down a back-alley. And imagine my delight when, in Italy, I spotted a street named after our very own Giordano Bruno! The holiday season also gave me the perfect opportunity to get stuck into Ben McPherson’s haunting and compelling novel, A Line of Blood (out next year), which I’d been excited about reading for ages. I was on holiday with friends at the time and I’m ashamed to admit that I spoke barely a word to any of them until I reached the end. Finally, I read Robert Galbraith’s The Silkworm, which was every bit as good as the first in the series, and The Goldfinch by Donna Tart. At nearly 800 pages, it’s a pretty hefty tome but absolutely, totally worth it.

Lucy hols

Named after one of our Giordano Bruno!  If you want to check out Treachery by S. J Parris too, buy it here now!

Katie S: This year my husband and I took a very delayed honeymoon, travelling around the islands of Cape Verde for two and a half weeks. It feels like another lifetime ago, but it was really a wonderful holiday – we went hiking, saw whales from our hotel balcony, went to the beach… absolutely bliss! Here I am reading in the hammock outside our room at one of the hotels we stayed at. I got through a LOT of books while we were away (so many that I had to start raiding the hotel libraries everywhere we went), but the best book I read while I was away was definitely The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith (AKA JK Rowling). I absolutely LOVED it. Such a great set of characters and so interesting to read something so different and SO good from the author of the Harry Potter series. If you haven’t read it yet, I thoroughly recommend it, and The Silkworm, featuring the same set of characters, and which might be even better!

 Katie hols

Katie M:I’m a little late to the party but I FINALLY read Gone Girl on holiday! I was immediately hooked and couldn’t put it down – my boyfriend pretty much got ignored for the whole day! I’m so excited for the film to come out next month, I hope it does the book justice.

 I also read Broken Monsters, the latest terrifying thriller from Lauren Beukes. I thought The Shining Girls was brilliant so had very high expectations for Lauren’s next novel – and I can safely say I was not disappointed. This dark tale set in Detroit has various plot lines, which weave together into one epic, page-turning, jaw-dropping novel! I love Lauren’s writing style, she brings the story so vividly to life – I’m just glad that I was reading it on a bright sunny beach with lots of people around me, otherwise I think I would have had some serious nightmares!

Katie m hols

Read ‘Broken Monsters’ by Lauren Beukes too and buy yours now!

Yasmin: This summer, I enjoyed a staycation in a very sunny London, and an equally sunny Milan. Sitting on the River Thames, I devoured the Ice Twins – a tale of mistaken identity, lies, and a family trying to keep themselves together on the isolated Scottish Isle of Skye. I couldn’t put this one down and the sun was setting when I hungrily turned the last page! It also made me really want to go and visit the island which sound haunted but absolutely stunning too. Other great reads I holidayed from real life to this Summer include I am Pilgrim which read like a Hollywood blockbuster and Northanger Abbey by Val McDermid. The vampire inspired rewrite of Jane Austen’s classic from the Austen Project by Borough Press. It was such a fun read, and made me want to pick the original again to compare too.

Yasmin Hols

In a tiny little bookshop in Milan! Fancy something a bit lighter? Why not read ‘Northanger Abbey’ by Val McDermid now?







Satire and Suggestibility: Val McDermid on Northanger Abbey

Category: Author Post

The first time I read Northanger Abbey I was an undergraduate at Oxford studying the early development of the English novel. I was seventeen – the same age as Northanger Abbey’s young heroine Catherine Morland, though naturally I considered myself far more mature and worldly than she is. And I remember two major things about that. Firstly I felt some impatience with Austen’s position that a woman needed to define herself in terms of her relationship to a man. And the second thing was that I utterly understood that you could, like Catherine, lose yourself so thoroughly in a book that it assumed a heightened reality that was much more interesting than life itself. In fact I spent my teens doing the very same thing, injecting myself into the plots of novels I was reading, because my own daily grind was infinitely duller by comparison. In that respect, I totally got Catherine Morland.

It is probably the least conventional of Jane Austen’s six published novels – and that suited me well since I’m not what you’d call a conventional romantic novelist! It’s also the least well known, which always surprises me because in some respects, it’s much closer to the novels we read now than Jane Austen’s other works. Like the other five, it has at its heart a love story shaped by the conventions of the time. But unlike them, it goes beyond that to take a shrewd and unsparing look at the role fiction plays in our lives.

Northanger Abbey is the novel where Austen tells us what she really thinks about her fellow fiction writers, with all of the wit she had in her arsenal. She takes sideswipes at those who claim fiction is a waste of time. She upbraids other authors for not standing up for themselves and giving their heroines only ‘improving’ books to read and not ‘frivolous’ novels. She points the finger at critics who despise the works that give pleasure to so many readers. It’s a Regency rant that wouldn’t be out of place in a twenty-first century blog – sharp and sarcastic; she skewers those who have no time for novels or their creators.

But that doesn’t mean she’s blind to the deficiencies of some novelists. And in this book she seizes the chance to poke fun at a whole sub-genre of her contemporaries – the gothic horror novel. At its heart, Northanger Abbey is a satire that takes apart the conventions of the gothic horror stories and exposes their ridiculous characters, their improbable narratives and their failure to reflect the lives of their readers in any significant particular. Austen has no patience for the suggestible readers who see the novel as any kind of blueprint for living. And this is where I had my fun.

It’s Austen’s sideways look at the effects of the stories we become obsessed with that makes Northanger Abbey the funniest of Austen’s sly social comedies – human nature remains the same. We all know people who live their lives convinced the zombie apocalypse is just round the corner or who place the same faith in Bridget Jones and her fellow heroines as the young protagonist, Catherine Morland, places in the reality of the horror novels she loves. And with equally unfortunate emotional consequences. The satire bites as hard now as it did at the time of writing.

Reading it now, as the mother of a teenager and the author of more than thirty books, a new Northanger Abbey emerges from Austen’s pages. And that is a novel whose characters are perennial, as true to life now as they were then. We all know empty-headed shopaholic Mrs Allen; the flirtatious Isabella with an eye always on the main chance; the mother who, like Mrs Thorpe, is blind to the flaws of her own fallible offspring; the arrogant jack the lad like Captain Tilney who loves them and leaves them; the brash John Thorpe who could walk into a job on Top Gear; and above all, the sweet-natured Catherine Morland who sees the best in everyone except when she’s led astray by the power of her imagination.

One of the strengths of Jane Austen’s work is that when we reread her, she rewards the different sensibilities of our age. We find a fresh understanding of the novels because our experience of life is wider and deeper. Austen’s skill is to provide new readings of her work that chime with our greater understanding of people’s dreams and fears.

And it’s that Northanger Abbey that underpins whatever vision of the book we take away with us. What makes Jane Austen as relevant today as when she was scribbling quietly in a corner of the drawing room is that she understood what makes people tick. More than that, she found a way to tell us in continually developing ways. Austen truly is the gift that keeps on giving.

– Val McDermid

Northanger Abbey is out now – order your copy today!

Val McDermid re-imagines Northanger Abbey

Category: News

We’re very excited that the next book in the Austen Project is Northanger Abbey, re-imagined by Val McDermid! The fantastic cover, revealed earlier today by the Bookseller was designed by Jon Gray, who also designed the Sense & Sensibility cover. Jon said:

“The book is a re-telling of the Austen classic and we wanted a cover that said just that. You have the classic silhouette of the house along with some contemporary new additions—the security camera, the satellite dish.”

McDermid’s Northanger Abbey, which publishes next March, opens with heroine Catherine at the Edinburgh Book Festival before the action moves to a gothic mansion in the Scottish borders.

We’d love to hear what you think of the new cover!
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