Book recommendation – The Departed by J.V. Baptie

the departedA body is found in a car boot following an accident, and Detective Inspector John Morrison is under pressure to identify the killer. Was it someone who had murdered before, several decades ago? Or is it a copycat killing?

Meanwhile, Trish, John’s ex-girlfriend, had been working hard to forget the past – until she finds new evidence about her aunt Moira’s disappearance nearly two decades earlier.

Did Detective Inspector Helen Carter miss something in the initial investigation in 1978, and could she live with the consequences if she had?

The past and present intertwine in this gripping case of murders and missing persons.


A week or so ago I was excited to receive a copy of J.V. Baptie’s second novel, The Departed. In a nutshell, it’s a crime novel set in my home town of Edinburgh with a dual timeline that I just loved.

Baptie’s first novel, The Forgotten was set in Edinburgh in the seventies and, reluctant as I am to call part of my own life ‘history’, Baptie got the historical flavour of the city and that period just right. I loved her female policewoman, Helen, and was keen to see what would happen to her in this follow up.

Well it was very interesting. Yes, Baptie went back to the seventies, but she also jumped her characters forward in time to 2008. Helen is still in the force, now working on cold cases, but a new case links back to a murder she worked on in 1977. Then there’s also the unsolved disappearance of Moira McKenzie. So how does that connect to the death of a young student, Sarah Smith?

The Departed is well plotted and moves at a great clip. Baptie adeptly handles a fairly large cast of characters, and her writing sparkles with crisp descriptions. I felt I could see everything very clearly and this would adapt really well for T.V.

Often these kind of books can be read as stand-alone and I guess that this is true here, but I’d strongly recommend reading The Forgiven first. It’s a great story too. You can’t get too much tartan noir in my experience.


baptieJ.V. Baptie graduated from Manchester Metropolitan University in 2017 with an MA in Creative Writing. When not writing, she is also an actress and has appeared in a variety of children’s show and stage plays.

 

2 weeks to go…

With 2 weeks to go until the official publication date for The Road to Newgate, I thought I’d do a little update post on the kind of things keeping me busy/awake at night.

To party or not to party?

One of my main preoccupations in the last month or so has been trying to decide whether to have an actual in-person book launch. I am not good at such things and the whole look at me, look at me, aspect makes me feel deeply worried! Add to that that over here in the Mushroom Capital of America (aka the Kennett Square/West Chester area of Pennsylvania) we are already in week 3 of the long summer holidays and lots of people are away and… nope. No party planned.

Titus_OatesBUT… I am having an online launch on facebook. Not quite sure how this will go, but I’m hoping to do some giveways and have some friendly authors talking about books and particularly about the importance of antagonists to make stories exciting to read. I will talking about this unpleasant chap (among others!)

 

Here’s a link to that: Book launch for The Road to Newgate

 

Book blogs

Ah, book blogs. Book bloggers are awesome at a) reading lots of books and b) sharing their love of books. For The Road to Newgate I’m doing a couple of tours – one this week and another in August. I’ve also done some outreach of my own and so hopefully there will be people reading the book very soon and talking about how they found it. All fingers and toes are crossed. Links will be posted as things appear.

Writing about stuff about the book (Yay. This is the bit I love)

Recently I’ve written about 17th century coffee shops – very important to my character Nat but not the favourite place of his lovely wife Anne. Read that here.

I’ve also done a piece about jobs for women in the 17th century, a time when a married woman pretty much belonged to her husband. Read that one here.

And I have another coming out next week about childbirth and midwifery. Loved writing that one. Will post a link when it is published but here’s a picture from one of the books I refer to in the article, Jane Sharp’s The Midwives Book, published in 1671.

Other bits and bobs are in the works too.

Foetus_in_the_womb

Posting books

Today I posted off 2 signed copies of The Road to Newgate plus two of the little books my mum has made. One went to a friend’s mum, someone who super kindly read my last book as it struggled through the proof reading stages and helped me catch some late errors that the publisher had missed. And the other went to the winner of a blog giveway. It’s a funny thing to send your words out into the world!

New writing

Oh yes that. Mmm. Well it’s not easy to make a lot of progress during the summer with 3 kids at home and either demanding food or to be driven somewhere. Plus there is the World Cup and now Wimbledon to distract me. However, I am plotting and thinking and doing all that background stuff that will pay off when the time comes. Soon I hope!

Book review: A Jane Austen Daydream by Scott D. Southard

It is a truth universally acknowledged that Jane Austen did not write enough books. Only six. Six! And those six are so well loved that a whole industry has risen up to supply the unending demand for more things Jane. I’ve read my fair share, with mixed feelings in some cases, but this latest one to come my way was a pleasure to read from start to finish.

perf5.500x8.500.inddThe book in question is A Jane Austen Daydream by Scott D. Southard.

The key word here is ‘daydream’. This novel is a fictional – almost speculative – biography of Jane Austen in her twenties. While Southard uses lots of biographical facts about Jane and her family for his plot, this is not in any sense a dramatization of her known biography. Instead it’s an imagined life, a what might-have-been (but probably wasn’t). And it’s a lot of fun.

The novel opens – in the spirit of Pride and Prejudice – with Jane and her elder sister Cassandra being invited to a ball. Mrs Austen, very Mrs Bennett-esque, is greatly excited at the prospect of marrying off her two daughters, and Jane, to be fair, is equally ready. Having heard from a gypsy that she will fall in love, when Jane encounters a handsome, eligible young man in the library at the ball, she is more than ready to cast him as her husband-to-be. But ‘the other Austen daughter’ – as she is known in a clearly disparaging contrast to Cassandra – does not find her path to love, or publication, runs smoothly.

Screen Shot 2018-04-23 at 8.20.12 PMSouthard’s Jane is an engaging, witty character. She is a little silly at points but matures nicely and learns from her mistakes (think Emma, anyone?). Jane’s search for success in love and literature had me turning the pages, and the cast of characters surrounding her is well-drawn and often amusing. I particularly liked her brothers, both in terms of their characters and their crisp and engaging dialogue.

Because Southard’s main character is Jane Austen, her every exchange offers an opportunity to link to the books that we all know and love. Jane’s story parallels those of her literary creations at times – especially Elizabeth Bennett and Anne Eliot. She meets a Mrs Catherine de Bourgh, a Mary Crawford, and a man putting on a performance of Lover’s Vows, the play that caused so much distress to Fanny in Mansfield Park. There is a comic Reverend, a best friend called Harriet… I could go on, but I won’t spoil the fun.

Serious bravery is required to take on Jane Austen and mess with her in fiction. Janeites know their stuff. Even non-Janeites (like me) know quite a bit. I’ve read all the books. Some of them several times. And I’ve a sketchy knowledge about Jane Austen’s life, at least in terms of her death and love life. But I’m confident that fans of Austen who open this book in the right spirit – ready to be entertained and enjoy a Jane that might not quite match up to their own preconceptions – will thoroughly enjoy their trip to a well-written, witty Regency England, full of references to those six wonderful books. Highly recommended.

Scott Southard author pic(1)Scott D. Southard, the author of A Jane Austen Daydream, swears he is not obsessed with Jane Austen. He is also the author of the novels: My Problem with Doors, Megan, Permanent Spring Showers, Maximilian Standforth and the Case of the Dangerous Dare, and 3 Days in Rome. With his eclectic writing he has found his way into radio, being the creator of the radio comedy series The Dante Experience. The production was honored with the Golden Headset Award for Best MultiCast Audio and the Silver Ogle Award for Best Fantasy Audio Production. Scott received his Master’s in writing from the University of Southern California. Scott can be found on the internet via his writing blog “The Musings & Artful Blunders of Scott D. Southard” (sdsouthard.com)  where he writes on far-ranging topics like writing, art, books, TV, writing, parenting, life, movies, and writing. He even shares original fiction on the site. Currently, Scott resides in Michigan with his very understanding wife, his two patient children, and a very opinionated dog named Bronte.

 

 

Books and terrorism

A post a little off my normal historical reading and writing beat…

First, a little background. Between 1991 and 1998 and again between 2004 and 2008, Chris and I lived in south Manchester – in Heaton Moor, Sale and Bramhall to be be precise. Maddie (now 12) was born at Stepping Hill in Stockport. And with friends and family still living there we were so saddened by the terrorist attack at the Ariana Grande concert – at a venue we have loved going to, and one that on that night was full of kids around Maddie’s age.

It’s not the act of terror that I want to focus on however, but the response to it. As far as I can tell from the other side of the Atlantic, the people of Manchester’s response has been wonderful: not just ‘keeping calm and carrying on’, but actively choosing to be optimistic and openhearted, instead of frightened, angry and afraid. This has made a great impression on me, particularly because I’ve just read and reviewed an amazing novel on this very topic.

Screen Shot 2017-06-12 at 12.28.26 PM

A Good Country by Laleh Khadivi tells the story of Rez, an American teen whose parents were immigrants from Iran. It is wonderfully written and very hard to read – especially if you have teenage kids like we do. My full review for Bookbrowse is here:

Review of A Good Country

And here is the link to the Beyond the Book article that goes with it about terrorism in the US:

Where do terrorists in the US come from?

Without giving the game the away, A Good Country starts with a likeable sixteen year old, Rez, who seems to have a bright future. His family have a very comfortable life in California and Rez’s grades are great. But this is the world of the Boston Bombing. And it is the impact that that event, and another fictional terrorist atrocity in a local shopping mall, and how they play into Rez’s isolation and rejection of his future in America, that really stand out for me. In the wake of these events, Rez sees white, middle-class Americans – neighbours and school friends – turn away from him, or glare at him with suspicion because of his Iranian heritage. He is pushed away by the world he has grown up believing he was part of, and he reaches out instead for a sense of belonging and brotherhood with other sons and daughters of immigrants. Through this, Raj falls prey to extremist ideology, the dark side of the internet and promises of a false future.

A Good Country is one of those books that you read with a sense of watching a train wreck that you can do nothing to stop. But although there were many reasons for Rez’s choices, I did feel that the way he was treated after the terrorist acts could have and should have been different. I hope that for young men of immigrant families in Manchester, it will be.

Screen Shot 2017-06-12 at 12.32.54 PM
i love manchester