Book Review: The Locksmith, by Barbara Howe

Reviewed this for Booksellers NZ – Reposting my review from their site…

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_the_locksmithWho is the Locksmith, and what role does he play in this fantasy tale? You will keep this question in mind as you read through the adventures of Lucinda Guillierre, a young girl living with her stepsister Claire and her stepmother, in the magical world of Frankland, ruled by The Office.

The Office was created in historic times by the Great Coven, which established the four offices of Air, Fire, Earth, and Water, and their leaders. Each Office has a Guild, for the study and training of Witches and Wizards of each element.

Unsettled by her lack of magical progress, she resigns herself to a future as a normal person, but agrees to take her sister Claire to challenge the path to meet the Fire Warlock, to have a wish granted. She takes with her, her only true possessions her father left her —two large books…

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Hounds of the Underworld- authors’ interview

Aren’t writers supposed to be solitary?

cover_Hounds of the Underworld
Cover designed by Daniele Serra

 

  • Dan Rabarts: That’s just a myth we like to maintain so we don’t have to invite anyone to our parties. Writers are actually about as social as spider monkeys, and we like to do many of the same things when we’re together: eat our bananas upside-down, groom each other for tasty insects, that sort of thing. But we keep this top secret because if everyone knew, everyone would want to be writers and come to our parties.
  • Lee Murray: It’s not exactly a party! There’s definitely a myth circulating that writing is a solitary occupation, and yet I don’t know any successful writer who works entirely in isolation, even those not writing in collaboration. Obviously, there are times when you have to glue your bottom to the chair, put your head down, and churn out the words, but most writers will contact experts to support their work, send early drafts out to a critique group or writing buddy, and then, when draft is completed, beta-readers and editors move in, all of whom contribute to the work in different ways. As far as I can tell, writing a novel is always a collaborative process.

How did you come to collaborate with each other?

  • Dan: A little book called Baby Teeth kicked it all off. I had a crazy idea and got some people on board and realised I’d bitten off more than I could chew, no pun intended. Lee stepped up to help pull it all together.
  • Lee: I think with Baby Teeth – a charity project ‒ the way the anthology came together was atypical, with stories coming in from both established and emerging writers, so from an editing perspective, it was always going to be a challenge. Professionally, Dan and I brought different skill sets to the table and we tried to make it fun and not too intimidating for the newbies. Ask any of the writers: it was like a comedy routine going on in the margins, the pair of us battling it out, trying to find the best way to polish the text. On the way we both learned some new techniques, which we carried over into our individual projects. By the time Baby Teeth went on to win the Australian Shadows and Sir Julius Vogel awards it was clear the partnership was something we should explore further. I threw it out there, and Dan said, why not? But ours is more than just a professional arrangement. On a personal level, we clicked from the get-go. We’re friends: I love Dan’s sense of humour, his can-do attitude, and his wonderfully weird and twisted way of thinking. And the great thing is, our families get on too ‒ we both have incredibly supportive long-suffering spouses ‒ so when we can, we get our kids together, crack open a few drinks, and fire up the BBQ. It’s not all work.

How did you split the collaboration process – decide who contributed what?

  • Lee: Hounds of the Underworld is a he-said she-said narrative, with me writing the science consultant Penny Yee, and Dan writing her ex-con brother, Matiu. So while we each contribute to the development of the other characters, it’s as if we have ownership of those particular story threads. In terms of process, the Dan and Lee approach is an odd mixture of planning and ‘pantsting’, with doses of affectionate squabbling. In fact, the sensible big sister and subversive little brother roles of Penny and Matiu apply to our writing process too, where I am the big sister who knows best and Dan has the crazy go-off-on-a-tangent ideas. Broadly speaking, we have an idea of where we want the story arc to go, but I never quite know what to expect when I open Dan’s latest section, exactly where he’ll have taken a scene. Down some dark alleyway, usually! Working with Dan definitely means taking the story to another dimension.
  • Dan: Yip, we manage to keep this balance of driving the narrative forward in our own ways: Lee with solid research and plausibility, and me with random unexplained explosions. But we frequently sit down during the process and make sure that, at least to some extent, we’re working towards the same goal. The push-pull dynamic that Penny and Matiu share to get their results isn’t that far removed from our collaborative process.

Tell us about the most {worrying / enjoyable} part of collaborating?

  • Dan: Worrying? There’s always the risk that one of us will be abducted by aliens or otherwise removed from the process, and the one that’s left will have to not only pretend to be the other writer, mimic their style, fall into their ideas, take ownership of plot points we’ve deliberately maintained some distance from, but also knowing we’d have to maintain the other person’s social media profiles until the aliens release them back into the wild. All those hashtags. So many hashtags.
  • Lee: {rolls her eyes} Lynne, please don’t get him started. I’m going to open up the next section of the sequel and find it has aliens in it now, aren’t I? The downside is that people assume we must be married! No, I think the biggest worry is that our lives keep getting in the way. Family. Work. We’ve learned to be flexible.
  • Dan But enjoyable? That’s the magic of it. It’s having an idea which is only half-formed, and bandying it around with someone excited and committed to the project, invested in the world and the characters. Lee will bring something new to that misshapen idea, an unexpected twist that gives it direction and completion, and you have this synergy going on that leads to cool things happening, taking form on the page. Whole is greater than the sum of the parts, sort of thing.
  • Lee: The thing I like is that I only have to write half the book. Actually, collaborating ends up being more work than writing on your own, but being a ponderously slow writer myself, sharing the work helps me with the word-count head games!

With which other writers would you / have you collaborate/d? Tell us about that…

  • Dan: We’ve both collaborated with other writers, and produced some fairly cool works as a result. I’m part of a writing band called Cerberus, which comprises myself, Grant Stone and Matthew Sanborn Smith, and one of our stories, Dada, has appeared in Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine. We produce some extremely weird fiction. But my favourite collaboration outside of the Rabarts/Murray workload right now is a little story called “The People Machines”, which my ten-year-old son and I are writing at bedtime. It’s a story about two boys who get the power to turn into any machine they can imagine, just in time to protect the world from the evil, machine-eating Corlocks. Fart jokes and witty puns abound.
  • Lee: I have a collaborative YA novella, Mika, with YA specialist, Piper Mejia. We’d already worked together on a number of student anthologies, and when I moved to Wellington, the project gave us a reason to talk every week. With Mika, a Kiwi version of the Wizard of Oz, we wrote alternating chapters and then ‘smoothed’ the final text, so it reads like a single writer. I also have a couple of picture books out on submission, both collaborations with Eileen Mueller. But like I said earlier, all writing involves an element of collaboration.

 

 

Tell us what fun and games went into the cover design…

  • Lee: It’s gorgeous, isn’t it? It’s by Italian artist, Daniele Serra. In terms of fun and games, there weren’t any: we sent in some ideas, just concepts really, and it came back perfectly formed.

What’s your favourite way to meet your readers ‒ at book signings, conventions, or other events – and why?

  • Dan: Book launches, for sure. Because that means they might be buying a book. Yay! (Buy books, people. We love you when you buy books.) But otherwise, pretty much anywhere. Bars are good. Personally, I like those impromptu gatherings of a dozen people dropping in on an unsuspecting restaurant downtown somewhere to chinwag and press the flesh and talk books and writing and the deplorable state of American politics while comparing craft beers. Good times.
  • Lee: Any time you meet someone who likes your story. Online. At a launch. Conventions. Anywhere. There’s nothing more uplifting than to know you’ve inspired a reader. I walked into the supermarket once, and a woman came running over to me and said, “You’re that writer lady, aren’t you? You’re doing so well.” That was pretty special.

Red: Thanks, Dan and Lee for the distance interview

Raw-Dogs-Screaming

Hound of the Underworld can be purchased at
publishers {click the logo to go and buy}

 

 

Hounds of the Underworld, by RABARTS & MURRAY

cover_Hounds of the UnderworldI feel as if Dan or Lee, or both, wrote to the background of AC/DC’s If you want Blood, You’ve got it. Because blood is what links together the best of the worst events in this New Zealand futuristic gripper. Matiu – a “sidekick” to his sister Pandora, is haunted by a spirit being of whom, after his years of therapy, he thought he had gained control. Until he touched a bowl.
A simple bowl, but it draws blackness into him, and he sticks to Pandora’s side throughout her work – unofficially – on a police murder case.
Which evolves into a multiple crime. Penny (Pandora) finds herself in situations a simple lab technician should not need to be in; but she too is gripped by the need for resolution – and by worry over Matiu’s changed state.

Rabarts and Murray have solid research behind the story, set in the 2020s, a future in which is revealed a most plausible system of agricultural production and city life. All the more awful is the juxtaposition of the past spiritual elements against daily life, which chill your bones. You’ll find yourself underlining, highlighting, re-reading…just because you want to.

Here’s one of many passages I loved…underlining mine…


Penny can’t understand why her parents insist on treating her like a twelve year-old. She’d called for a driver, not a damned babysitter. The last thing she needs is Matiu tagging along like a piece of soggy toilet paper stuck to her shoe. She clamps her lips shut and glances back. And just look at him: head down, shoulders slumped, hands stuffed in the pockets of his leather jacket. He’s the one behaving like a sulky teen. Why does he have to go talking to himself when they’re out in public, anyway? Mumbling under his breath to his imaginary friend… She steps through the doorway, noting its splintered frame, and is confronted by a human wookie. Two metres plus, with oversized hands, and long overdue for a haircut.

“Who the fuck are you?” it bellows.

Penny jumps, startled. “I was called…”

Get a grip, Penny. You’re not here to audition for Miss Muffet. You have a right to be here…

“You the lab girl? The one that Noah Cordell recommended? Pandora somebody? Cordell swore you were reliable; I expected you half an hour ago.”

Penny tries not to bristle at the slight. After all, this is work. And apart from a few tests—some simple DNA analyses to resolve a private paternity suit and routine monitoring of the blooms stinking up the city’s beaches—there hasn’t been much cause to turn on the fumehood since she left LysisCo. She squares her shoulders, extends her hand.

Suck it up, girl.


The tone is light, especially that first paragraph I’ve dropped in here. Imagery via words – as underlined – is the strength of their writing. Maybe I could have picked something more thrilling…but not all would be able to not squirm.
Note: expect a distance interview to be posted soon.
Māori language (phrases or words) are used, and a glossary of translations aids the non-kiwi reader.

Publishing details?

Hounds of the Underworld © 2017 by Dan Rabarts and Lee Murray
Publisher Raw-Dogs-Screamingof Bowie, MD
First Edition; Printed in the United States of America
Cover Image: Daniele Serra; Book Design: Jennifer Barnes
ISBN: 978-1-935738-96-1

Buy at  Amazon
Read more about Dan and Lee at Red Dog Screaming


More about the Hounds of the Underworld:

 

On the verge of losing her laboratory, her savings, and all respect for herself, Pandora (Penny) Yee lands her first contract as scientific consult to the police department. And with seventeen murder cases on the go, the surly inspector is happy to leave her to it. Only she’s going to need to get around, and that means her slightly unhinged adopted brother, Matiu, will be doing the driving. But something about the case spooks Matiu, something other than the lack of a body in the congealing pool of blood in the locked room or that odd little bowl.

Matiu doesn’t like anything about this case, from the voices that screamed at him when he touched that bowl, to the way his hateful imaginary friend Makere has come back to torment him, to the fact that the victim seems to be tied up with a man from Matiu’s past, a man who takes pleasure in watching dogs tear each other to pieces for profit and entertainment.

Hounds of the Underworld blends mystery, near-future noir and horror. Set in New Zealand it’s the product of a collaboration by two Kiwi authors, one with Chinese heritage and the other Māori. This debut book in The Path of Ra series offers compelling new voices and an exotic perspective on the detective drama.

Amortals – an oldie but what a goodie!

Forbeck's AmortalsSome while back, dreaming of writing a sci-fi or similar novel, I had a few ideas to use. A city with its streets named as for a Battleships game, or a spreadsheet…avenues named A to Z, with the streets crossing them numbered 1 and onward. Buildings towering high over the poor.

Dammit. Forbeck had beaten me to it, back in 2010, although I, c. 2016, had never heard of him, nor read Amortals. {Hangs head in shame.}

There’s a helluva lot more to Amortals, though.
Imagine being rich, powerful or fortunate enough to be able to have your body cloned, so when you die your “memories” is transferred to the clone—if you’ve gone in to store a backup—who renews your life…you never really die.

Imagine being the first ever, now old enough to have six generations descended from you. Imagine you have been part of an investigative organisation, for years. Imagine a female President—in 2168.
Imagine believing you are the only living version of yourself.

Imagine you’re known as Methuselah, and you’ve been amortal for two hundred years, and you are Agent Dooley, Ronan Dooley. Your eyes have artificial lenses implanted, hooked to nanoservers, via which you can call up any data layer you need. You have been killed and recloned many times.

The Amortals Project has become the most vital government program in the world. You work now, this lifetime, for the FBI – a corporate body in this century. The case for your latest lifetime?
To find out who murdered you, and why…

As Dooley works with his partner – he chose her himself in his last lifetime, but does not remember (no backup) – his discoveries are unsettling, as he realises he has not really had a good grasp of the project which began with him as its first cloning. And, unless you are already a Forbeck fan, the journey to resolution will surprise you with its cross-over of reality and technology. A masterpiece…

Matt- ForbeckLearn more about Matt Forbeck here.

Use the buy links at Forbeck’s site,

or buy directly from…

 

Hide And Seek, by M J Arlidge

ARLIDGE_Hide and Seek_NZArlidge’s style has me determined to get my hands on each novel in the D. I. Helen Grace series of crime stories. His characters – both the police team members, and each title’s new cast members – are well and truly alive on the page – real, and human with their foibles and fancies.

In Hide And Seek our favourite police officer-no-more is in her worst possible place: the world behind the bars of Holloway. Both the guards and the inmates (some of whom are there because of Helen) have already adjudged her as a rotten copper – before her trial – and as just another crim.

When the inmate of the cell beside Helen’s is found dead in her bed, left by her killer in a bizarre and ghastly state, it is Helen who has to remind the inmates that none of them are safe. Helen is driven to watch both guards and inmates alike in her effort to identify the killer.

She faces suspicion and hostility from both sides. The second and third kill creates a frenzy among the inmates. An understandable error of thinking delays her eventual discovery of the murderer, which she learns the hard way. Seriously, the hard way.

The unwarranted (as in, not official) actions of loyal D. C. Charlie Brookes are what decides the sequel*.

Published 2016 by Michael Joseph, for Penguin/Random House
ISBNs:
Hardbound:     978-0-718-18383-7 (NZ ISBN: 978-0-718-18383-7)
Paperback:      978-0-718-18384-4 (NZ ISBN: 978-1-405-92562-4)

Researching Holloway

Arlidge has posted about his research into Holloway prison, carried out almost while conceiving the story for Hide And Seek.

Read about his research at  DeadGoodBooksBlog logo

The Series:

   Eeny Meeny
   Pop Goes the Weasel
   The Doll’s House
   Liar Liar
   Little Boy Blue
   Hide And Seek
   *   Follow My Leader, later in 2017

The New Zealand Cover differs from editions produced for northern hemisphere markets
ARLIDGE_Hide and Seek       ARLIDGE_Hide and Seek_USmaybe

 

 

 

Kill the Next One, by Federico Axat

AXAT_Kill The Next OneWhen I began reading, I was hooked…especially at the double-back. As Ted battles with the enormity of what he has done, and what he may do, I became increasingly meshed with the multitude of dilemmas in which he found himself.

My head spun with the merry-go-round of events as his life unfolds after attempting suicide. What was going to happen next, for crying out loud? The puzzle was so enigmatic, I had to keep reading as events unfolded.

The more Ted learned, the more intricate the tale…fascinating. His fouled relationship with his wife and daughters, his enmeshment in so many complications, the discoveries we find… all gripped me. Definitely a one-sitting read!

An unusual tale, told in a series of twists…which I’m afraid seemed (to me) to wrap up too suddenly, leaving something indeterminate unsaid. The final chapter seemed a bit of a let-down, but the fact remains, I’ve read no crime novel like this before, and I want more from AXAT!

The Blurb: An audacious psychological thriller where nothing is what it seems. Ted McKay had it all: a beautiful wife, two daughters, a high-paying job. But after being diagnosed with a terminal brain tumour he finds himself with a gun to his temple, ready to pull the trigger. Then the doorbell rings. A stranger makes him a proposition: why not kill two deserving men before dying? The first target is a criminal, and the second is a man with terminal cancer who, like Ted, wants to die. After executing these kills, Ted will become someone else’s next target, like a kind of suicidal daisy chain. Ted understands the stranger’s logic: it’s easier for a victim’s family to deal with a murder than with a suicide. However, after killing his targets, Ted’s reality begins to unravel. Kill The Next One, an immersive psychological thriller from an exciting new voice.

Publisher: The Text Publishing, Australia  2016
Originally published as La ultima salida (The Last Way Out)2016
Translation © Hachette Book Group Ltd with permission
of Little, Brown and Company, NY

ISBN:
Print: 9781925355871
Ebook: 9781925410259

Other AXAT titles:

  • The Meadow of the Butterflies
  • El aula 19/Classroom 19 (Digital edition)
  • Benjamin

More titles listed at Federico’s site (behind the portrait) Federico AXAT

Federico is also found here…
Twitter: @FedericoAxat, and FaceBook:

Reviewing “Night School” by Lee Child

child_lee-jack-reacher-21

“In the morning they gave him a medal, and in the afternoon they sent him back to school”

 

Night school, set in 1999, is Lee Child’s twenty-first novel in the Jack Reacher collection. (It’s debatable about referring to the Reacher books as a series, as they’re not serial in Jack’s timeline..)

If Lee Child wanted to keep Jack Reacher fans happy, then this has certainly achieved its purpose.

In Night School Jack is made invisible by sending him to training school – where he finds two other ‘students’. All are invisible to personnel in the Military Police, the FBI and the CIA.

The three agents are to work a clandestine investigation into all possible threats, reporting only to the National Security Advisor to the President, through his senior deputy Dr. Marian Sinclair who briefs them: An Iranian (a double agent) living with three Saudis in a safe house in Hamburg, has reported a message carried by a courier “The American wants one hundred million dollars”. Their job—to learn what is being offered, worth that price. There are two rules: Rule Number Two: talk to no one – except Sinclair. Rule number one: do not burn the Iranian asset. Reacher brings in Sergeant Frances Neagley, and heads to Hamburg to find out what they can.

Soon after arriving, they are called back to McLean, where they are briefed on a possible product – a Trojan virus has just appeared on the black market: it can override the patch coding for ensuring computer systems correctly handle the millennium clock change – the Y2K threat – and stop computer clocks at any moment. The team’s focus now is to track down who could be arranging that Trojan’s sale. Who more likely than a geek? And a convention of coders was held in Hamburg at the time of the message being reported.

The team sift through records of americans attending the convention, turning up one ex-Pat American living in Hamburg. News comes in of a Hamburg police report from a witness to an agitated meeting between an American and a “middle-eastern” man. Tracking movements of American military moves, Reacher & Neagley discover three serving in Germany have gone AWOL – one for four months. Reacher & Neagley are ordered back to Hamburg, with pics of all american geeks for that witness to id.

The investigation continues, with Child giving snippets of the actions of other parties in the plot, building up the complexity of the case, and allowing readers to visualise locations and character, and foresee possible events – yet there are surprises, still. Action scenes are defined crisply, with realistically timed reading pace matched with movement. Threats on the side build tension, and the engrossed reader will surmise the worst scenario possible; resist the urge.

All in all, a satisfying read, from the opening to the resolution. Reacher fans and new readers alike will become engrossed in this book, being released globally on November 7.
Night School by Lee CHILD
388 pages, in forty-five chapters
Published by Bantam Press, of Transworld Publishers, 2016
Released through Penguin Random-House. 7th November

ISBN: 9780593073902

Availability:

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PS: Further information, from Lee Child’s website, the FAQs page [ http://www.leechild.com/faqmedia.php ], question 4…
“If you’re a diehard must-be-read-in-chronological-order person: The Enemy (prequel set 8 years before Killing Floor); The Affair (prequel set shortly before Killing Floor); Killing Floor; Die Trying; Tripwire; Running Blind (US title)/The Visitor (UK title); Echo Burning; Without Fail; Persuader; One Shot; The Hard Way; Bad Luck and Trouble; Nothing to Lose; Gone Tomorrow; 61 Hours; Worth Dying For; A Wanted Man, Never Go Back.” (Not yet updated to show where Night School fits.)

Lee CHILD … How did I not know?

As many followers know, the crime genre is my favourite. I’ve been reviewing crime for New Zealand’s distributor for a few years now.
So WHY have I only just discovered Lee Child?!?

I’ve just finished reading his Reacher novel number 21, sent me by BooksellersNZ

And visited Mr Child’s site. And watched a YouTube vid of Lee Child and Stephen King in a mutually hosted presentation (2015), after the release of Child’s Make Me

Expect a review soon. And in the meantime I’ll be at the local Library…gotta read more!

Little Boy Blue, ARLIDGE’s 5th DI Helen Grace thriller

This series just keeps getting better and better – ARLIDGE M J_Little-Boy-Blue.jpg
Little Boy Blue is more than just a thriller. It’s the most gripping, most creepy, most enthralling of the series. We Grace fans have seen her face her demons, come to admire her gutsy persistence, her empathy, her instinctive judgement.

This time around, we find she will need more, with three murder cases to solve, which all have something in common – Helen. That makes the cases personal.

But she has two things else to deal with. Firstly the quandary of backing off from the investigation, or trusting Gardam (her Detective Superintendent with more than mere business on his mind) by sharing her connections with the victim. And then she has newly ranked DS Charlie Brooks vying with DS Sanderson for Helen’s favour on their way up the career ladder, both getting in each other’s way while working to resolve the increasing scope of the investigation.

While Helen strives to ensure her links to the murder victims do not come back on her career, our old friend Emilia makes the connection, and D I Grace hits the headlines.

From starting to build a profile of the killer, and discover a possible motive, she arrives at a surprising and thoroughly unpleasant meeting with her past, and an arrest to her career devised by deviously clever means. No happy endings in this thrilling, chilling tale…

… leaving me looking forward to seeing where Arlidge will take DI Grace in Hide And Seek, sixth in the series with an expected release in September.

More news: DI Helen Grace Series is in development for BBC TV – I sort of saw that coming.

Published by Michael Joseph, for
33%_penguin-random-house
Hardback edition (Arlidge’s first) –  ISBN: 978-0-718-18183-3
Also available in Paperback – ISBN:  978-0-718-18083-6
Kindle edition also available, published by Penguin

Already available in the Northern hemisphere,
with a NZ release date of 30th May, through

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