The Trouble with Goats and Sheep by Joanna Cannon: charming and heart-warming

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The premise of this story is simple but brilliant: Mrs Creasy has gone missing; Grace and Tilly, a pair of ten-year-old sleuths embark on a search, but instead of looking for Mrs Creasy they are searching for God. After all, He knows everything, including where Mrs Creasy is hiding. Once God if found so will be Mrs Creasy. I found great affinity with the girls – similar notions bumbled about in my head when I was their age.

Joanna Cannon puts the whole Avenue under a magnifying glass. The reader has insight into the lives and personalities of all residents. Secrets seep to the surface, skeletons fall out of the closet. The author handles difficult themes aptly and without sentimentality. Bigotry. Prejudice. Sense of community. Social ostracism.

I revelled in Cannon’s prose, which is refreshing, elegant and lyrical. She is the queen of anthropomorphism. An example: “Before she disappeared, he never said I love you. Unsure of themselves, the words had become trapped and awkward, and reluctant to leave. Instead of saying I love you, he said Take care of yourself, and When will you be back? Instead of saying I love you, he placed her umbrella at the bottom of the stairs, so it wouldn’t be forgotten, and in the winter he put her gloves on the chair by the door, so she would remember to pull them on to her hands before she left. Until she disappeared, this was the only way he knew how, but since she had gone, he found that the words had become untethered. They fell from his mouth in the silence, certain and unashamed. The rattled under the bridge at the canal and tripped across the towpath. They waltzed around the bandstand and chased along the pavements as he walked.”

This a charming, heart-warming story about our inherent obstinacy and our equally inherent goodness of the heart.

Interview with Wiltshire Times

I am talking to Wiltshire Times about Nothing to Lose, book #2 in the DI Marsh series.

I might have a new case for DI Marsh – the mystery of the missing ‘t’. Have a look!

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Fact & Fiction in Nothing to Lose – Reality Bites (fact#2)

Reality bites – this sounds like a pun in very bad taste. You will see what I mean if you carry on reading. It is time for my second revelation relating to the storyline in Nothing to Lose: anorexia.

In Nothing to Lose Gillian watches her daughter Tara shed pounds like they’re going out of style. Being a detective, she snoops into Tara’s life (and bedroom) to discover a battery of slimming products. This confirms every mother’s worst fears – that her child is spiralling into an eating disorder and starving herself to death. It is a fearful prospect because it is more a disease of the mind than the body. You can’t cure an anorexic – not until they are ready to accept food and keep it in. And that moment may never come. Anorexia is a catch-twenty-two: the more you try to control it, the more it controls you. Any external intervention against your will meets with a wall of resistance. I know. I’ve been there.

Just like Tara, I was about eighteen, in my first year of university. I had just moved from the sleepy, tranquil world of my childhood in the country to a frenzied, crowded city. I didn’t know what hit me. Life overwhelmed me. It had spun out of my control. I was lost. I was surrounded by strangers; no space to hide, no holes to crawl into. The speed of my life was nauseating. I could not keep up with it. I could not control it. The only thing I could control was food. It wasn’t about dieting, not in the beginning. It was all about re-introducing order into my life. Only later did I start to count calories, and after that, when I stopped counting, I simply couldn’t bring myself to eat. The mere smell of cooking made me feel sick. I think that was where I crossed the line – the point of no return.

Just like Gillian, my mother was beside herself with worry. At first, she thought I was on drugs, but she quickly realised it was all about food. She would find sandwiches buried in the drawers of my desk, steaks languishing on the compost heap, attracting vermin. Once I even managed to pour soup out of my bedroom window right onto my father’s head. My father was in the garden, pruning roses. The soup was bean soup. My mum went into a spasm of hysteria. But even that had no effect on me.

Only when I saw a photo of myself in a bikini did I finally realise I was a walking skeleton. With clothes on, my sharp edges and protruding ribs were well camouflaged.

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But without my clothes… look at this at your own risk.

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I was horrified! I started eating: tentatively and with frequent relapses into 6 ½ stone. You’re never quite out of the danger zone. You’re never quite fully recovered. Any emotional trauma, any change of circumstances, any heightened anxiety and you’re back to square one.

In Nothing to Lose, Tara suffers a similar fate after she is rejected by that good for nothing Charlie Outhwaite.

Nothing to Lose is the second book in the DI Marsh crime series, available now on Amazon and from major bookstores. The book is available at a promotional price of £5.59 at WHSmith

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Fact and fiction in Nothing to Lose – fact 1

Of course Nothing to Lose is a work of fiction and any resemblance to actual people, living or dead (dead is more likely to be the case in crime fiction), or actual events is purely coincidental. And yet something or someone real has to feed the author’s imagination…

In Nothing to Lose my imagination gorges on my fears. Real fears, if fears can be real.

The story starts with a head-on collision resulting in four deaths. That head-on collision, on that particular stretch of that particular country road had happened in my mind many a time before the book was written. Every day, travelling to work in the morning I saw that accident happen over and over again.

It is a treacherous road: after a limited length of dual carriageway where every lunatic frantically overtakes everything that moves (slower than himself), the road narrows abruptly and climbs up a steep hill, facing the morning sun which on a bright day can be blinding. Bear in mind that on the other side of the hill there are equally impatient lunatics keen to get to the top ahead of the pack, hoping that luck is on their side. I could easily be one of them (I don’t suffer Sunday-drivers on a Monday morning gladly), but then I see it happen – the head-on – and I slow down, and stay in line behind the slow coach with a belching exhaust. Call it a premonition.

After Nothing to Lose was written, a head-on collision did indeed occur in that very spot, in the dazzling midday sun. A man, having probably pushed his luck too far, ploughed into the oncoming traffic. He got away with his life. My characters did not. But that is where fiction begins.

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Nothing to Lose is now OUT and can be purchased in all major bookshops, and online on Amazon.

Out now

Announcement of a new arrival – Nothing to Lose is out and about!

Yes, yes, yes! Nothing to Lose is finally out and about! Published today, at the strike of midnight (I fancy), and ready to take its first tentative steps into the big and scary world of crime fiction.

I’ve just been interviewed by Wiltshire Times, but forgot to ask when the interview is scheduled to come out, so watch this space for further announcements about the date.

Great big thank you is due to Accent Press, and particularly my tireless editor, Greg Rees, the publishing manager, Kate Ellis and the marketing manager, Karen Bultiauw for all their help in getting the book pruned and groomed for its grand entrance into the world. My husband, Steve, deserves a special THANK YOU in capital letters for… everything: encouragement, feedback, pointing out the obvious and his unrelenting confidence in me (enough of it for both of us).

Off you go, Nothing to Lose, spread your wings and fly!

Out now

Fresh off the press: Nothing to Lose

P1060670I was thrilled earlier today to discover a little parcel on my doorstep. It contained my author’s copies of Nothing to Lose, a second instalment of DI Marsh mysteries. The cover is amazing and in keeping with the first book, Swimming with Sharks.

The blurb on the back reads:

After a head-on collision resulting in four deaths and a fifth person fighting for his life, DI Gillian Marsh is sent to investigate. Nothing seems to add up. How did four capable drivers end up dead on a quiet, peaceful country road?

As Gillian unpicks the victims’ stories, she edges closer to the truth. But will she be able to face her own truth and help her daughter before it’s too late?

Nothing to Lose will be launched on 7th April 2017, but it can be pre-ordered on Amazon, through the Publisher or from any major bookshops.

 

Review: The Loney by Andrew M Hurley

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In ‘The Loney’ an annual Easter pilgrimage is undertaken by a group of devout Catholics to a shrine in a desolate, seemingly God-forsaken ‘nowhere place’. The pilgrims take lodgings in a decrepit old house that used to be a sanatorium for terminally ill children. Both the house and the area hide unspeakable secrets. So do the local residents.

The pilgrimage is led by a charming and fresh-faced Father Barnard, but the figure of his predecessor, Father Wilfred, is looming over the story, large and intimidating. Father Wilfred died unexpectedly and in inexplicable circumstances shortly before the trip, and as the events unfold, his story is told in parallel and at some point it takes over the spotlight.

The purpose of visiting the shrine is to receive a miracle for Hanny. He is the younger of two brothers and he is mute and apparently retarded. His older brother, Tonto, takes care of him. He is also the narrator of this story. The reader sees things through the eyes of a teenage boy, and grows with him as his understanding of events deepens as the story goes on. The innocent play the boys engage in out in the wild is overshadowed by the eerie discoveries they make and by suspicious characters who barge into the storyline. Alongside Tonto the reader struggles to make sense of the place and the people.

This is a beautifully presented moment in time seen through the eyes of a child, unexplained in logical or linear terms, but one that can be felt, feared and marvelled over. It is about shades of faith of different shapes and sizes, but with a common denominator of the ‘beyond reason and common sense’ mystery. The line between belief and superstition is blurred. Nothing is confirmed, but the sense of alternative reality is all-pervading.

I loved this book for it its non-conventionality, its mystique and its structure which seems to lead nowhere and yet in the end it opens your eyes to see something you are unable to describe in words.

O Come All ye Faithful to Malmesbury Abbey

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On Saturday night, I feasted on music, gorging on the angelic singing of Malmesbury Community Choir, and delighting in the heavenly voices of the Westonbirt Girls’ School Chamber Choir. It was quite a treat and it conjured up Christmas on a count of four!

I tried to join in with some of the singing, alas my sheepish bleating failed to rise to the occasion. God and all His Saints must have been cringing up in Heaven at my tragic rendition of O Come All ye Faithful.

The beautiful Malmesbury Abbey was packed and bursting at the seams, so we had to find a place to sit beside King Athelstan’s tomb, on – as it happened – a very cushy little sofa, left there for the sole purpose of accommodating late arrivals from the far end of the county. We also had an unorthodox view of the goings-on. We were looking at the conductors, observed their animated faces and even more animated bodies.

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Watching a conductor in action is something else! The male conductor’s hands were in constant motion as if he was kneading dough: squeezing and stretching it, massaging it with his fingers, pulling, flicking and leaving it to rise. The lady conductor was like a weaver: picking thin strands of wool and dragging them through the air, then feeding them into the body of the melodic fabric, extracting loose ends on the other side, tying them into small knots and snipping the frayed bits at the end. It was all like some mysterious sign language that only the singers could understand, and respond to with their song.

And then at the end, the conductor put his finger to his lips. Motionless silence.

I sang carols all the way home, just like the fifth little Piggie, to my poor husband’s utter dismay. All stars ran away from the firmament, leaving only one crestfallen Moon and one disoriented Star.

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A remedy for a cold winter night

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Watercolour, ‘Water Villa, Meeru Island, The Maldives’ (c) Steve Wylie

 

Chilled to the bone by the wintry weather, I have no choice but to reach for ‘Swimming with Sharks’ and immerse myself in the sweltering-hot world of a Maldivian island. A gentle touch of heated mystery will go a long way.

I see offers of new paperbacks of ‘Swimming with Sharks’ at a humble £2.74, lower than the kindle price!  For link, click here:   https://www.amazon.co.uk/Swimming-Sharks-Gillian-Marsh-Legat/dp/1783759658/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=