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.



Signed and dusted!

Thank you to everyone who came to support me at the launch of Swimming with Sharks at The Shires Waterstones yesterday. It was amazing to see so many wonderful people: friends (including one I hadn’t seen in 18 years since we both left South Africa), family (including one who can’t read yet – ha, can’t walk either, but was there to hold my hand for a bit until he drifted to sleep), fellow author Alison Knight and my wonderful editor Greg Rees all the way from Cardiff.

And the winner of the champagne pulled out of the bottle by Greg is…. TARAAAA: Sarah Cobb! Congratulations!

Swimming with Sharks links:

A day in the life of DI Marsh – my guest post on Jane Risdon’s blog

Today my Guest Author is ANNA LEGAT. Back in February I was honoured to be a guest on her blog and so today I am returning the favour. Anna is going to tell us something about A Day in the Life of DI Gillian Marsh Anna’s detective. Anna, who is DI Marsh and where can […]

via Meet DI Gillian Marsh – My Guest Author Anna Legat’s unlikely heroine. — Jane Risdon

Extract from Swimming with Sharks: Enter Gillian


Day 9


It is the ninth day today. Gillian Marsh has been living on the edge: getting no sleep, jumping at every telephone ring and following the Six O’clock News for any sign of cataclysms, abductions and acts of international terrorism. Eight days ago her daughter went globe-trotting: Thailand, Australia, South Africa – in that order. Forty days of living on adrenalin and crackers, then back home – hopefully life lessons learned vicariously through other people’s misfortunes. Forty days – like The Flood…

Tara is not alone, she has a friend with her, but that is of little consolation. Both girls are only eighteen and have not seen much of the world outside the sleepy safety of Sexton’s Canning. Although Tara was born in South Africa she does not remember any of its perils; Gillian took her out of there when she was four, when Gillian’s marriage to Tara’s father Deon fell apart amidst tears, the spittle of angry words, and clenched fists. South Africa was not a place for a single mother with a little girl in tow. Gillian returned home with her tail between her legs. Her parents were delighted. Deon, on the other hand, declared the move a personal insult and withdrew into silence. Then, out of nowhere, three years ago, he got in touch, his second marriage in tatters, another ex-wife on the run and a teenage son in a boarding school somewhere in Somerset.

Deon wants to get to know his daughter. It is his right – who is Gillian to argue? For years, she has been feeling guilty for depriving Tara of a father. Those days are gone.

It was great when Deon came to visit and met Tara. They hit it off straight away, father and daughter, like two peas in a pod. But Gillian knew the day would come when Tara would want to go and see her father on his turf. She hoped it wouldn’t be too soon. Her prayers had not been answered. Tara decided to run to her dad as soon as she turned eighteen. There was no stopping her. She is a foolhardy girl, and her friend Sasha is bad news. It is their gap year. They are adults. They do as they please. Gillian is in for forty long days of sheer dread.

She will keep herself busy. The other option is to go mad with worry. For the past eight days she has been mulling over the mortal dangers her daughter is facing: human traffickers, tsunamis, food poisoning, AIDS-infected syringes buried in sand, sharks and enraged elephants. Gillian will put it out of mind. Next week she is going to London: three-weeks of training. She has been putting it off, citing the demands of single parenthood, but with Tara gone she has run out of excuses. Her promotion to the rank of detective inspector has been hanging over her head like the sword of Damocles. She will have to let it fall.

Her desk is the windmill of her mind with the sawdust of closed but undocumented casework threatening to suffocate her. She will have to deal with it in the next two days. Anything would be better than her single-finger typing. She often thinks of the keyboard as her personal punch bag. It is a battered old thing, but indestructible if you consider the amount of coffee spilled over it and the flurry of invectives thrown at it, all in vain.

Any distraction from her worst fears and even worse desk jobs is a good distraction, so when PC Miller ushers in an elderly couple, who in loud tandem demand to speak to someone in authority, Gillian is at hand to lend a sympathetic ear.


“She told us she’d be back yesterday, lunch time.”

“Did she say lunchtime, dear?”

“She did. She said by lunchtime, actually. The plane, she said, was landing at 8:40 at Heathrow, terminal 4. I have taken it all down. Flight number, the date, the time… I’ve got it here.” Mrs Devonshire’s bird-claw hand submits a notepad bearing the flight details recorded in an immaculate cursive handwriting. “If you could take a copy. I’d like my notebook back, please.

“The problem, you see, is that Miss Eagles knows we’re going away tomorrow. We told her straightaway when she came to ask if we’d look after Fritz. We said, it’s fine, we don’t mind taking care of Fritz, but we’ll be off on Friday morning. How fortunate, she said, that I’ll be back before you leave, otherwise I’d have to take Fritz to a cattery. He wouldn’t like that, I said. Eunice would never part with him. Eunice, you understand, was Miss Eagle’s aunt. Sadly, she passed away last year. We’ve always been good friends with Eunice. We’ve been neighbours for forty years. Miss Eagles moved into Eunice’s cottage, what… would you say five months ago, dear? Maybe four… I lose count.”

“She told us to call her Nicola,” Mr Devonshire gazes pleadingly at his wife. He has a narrow face with pale, arched brows that give him a look of permanent bewilderment.

“We couldn’t, dear, not right away… We’ve only known her for five minutes. Well, I couldn’t anyway. You can call her what you like, though I simply wouldn’t go as far as the first-name basis… I’m particular that way. Anyway, we don’t want to bore the police with details.” At this point Mrs Devonshire’s attention returns to Gillian. “As I was saying, Miss Eagles was very excited about her holiday. She’s never been to the Maldives, she said. Neither have we, I told her, small world! We had a giggle, didn’t we dear?”

Mr Devonshire nods agreement and pats his wife’s hand with affection. Gillian is copying the details from the notebook: a flight from Colombo, UL4016, lands 8:40am, Wednesday 6th February, mob: 078 45291022… “Have you tried calling her on her mobile? She left you her number.”

“Well, no!” Mrs Devonshire looks horrified. “The cost is prohibitive even if she weren’t abroad, which she may well be, considering that she isn’t here, don’t you think? We thought the police should be making the telephone calls, especially the ones abroad… We are pensioners, and like I said, we’ve only known her for five minutes…”

“We wouldn’t want to intrude on her privacy.”

“No. But we are leaving tomorrow. We’ve had a holiday home booked for months. The same holiday home we book every year. We go every year, you understand, without fail. We couldn’t cancel if we wanted. It just wouldn’t do! On the other hand, we simply can’t walk away from it, can we dear? We owe it to dear old Eunice, don’t we, to look after that girl.”

Gillian feels a cold sweat run down her spine. She is thinking of Tara. What a bad idea it was to let her go. God, what a damn stupid idea!

“How old is Miss Eagles?”

“Oh, we don’t know, do we dear? We wouldn’t dream of asking. She isn’t a spring chicken. I don’t want to sound rude, you understand, but she is… what I call beyond the childbearing age.”

“A bit frumpy, lots of layers on her, like a sheep dog,” Mr Devonshire adds with surprising competence. “Late thirties. Tallish. Mid-built. Brown hair, sort of – wiry and bouncy. Pleasant manner…”

“Dear, you’re talking of her as if she were dead! She may still be alive, just… delayed, or detained somewhere. I dare not speculate…” Mrs Devonshire covers her mouth, stifling a gasp. “Though I’d say she’s more in her forties, early forties – that’s what I mean by beyond the childbearing age. It takes a woman to know these things. Does her age have any bearing on her disappearance?”

“No, not that I know of. It’s just that you called her a girl.”

Mr Devonshire smiles. “If you were our age…”

“Let’s not detract from the matter at hand, dear. You see, Miss Eagles is missing. We are going away tomorrow, and that leaves us with the small problem of Fritz.”


“Fritz, the cat. We’ve been looking after him, didn’t you hear me? He used to belong to Eunice, and when she passed away Miss Eagles took over, very kindly – she could’ve sent him to an animal shelter.”

“Most people would…”

“Now, we’ve been looking after him in her absence. Not much trouble, wet food at night and cat biscuits for breakfast. Quite a pleasure looking after old Fritz, isn’t it dear?”

Mr Devonshire smiles at the idea of old Fritz. “So it is.”

“But now, since we’re going away, we can’t leave Fritz on his own until Miss Eagle’s return, can we? What, if the worst comes to the worst and she doesn’t return? I know we shouldn’t be thinking on those lines, but we can’t take that risk – we can’t leave Fritz alone. We couldn’t do that to dear old Eunice, could we?”

“No, we couldn’t.”

“Now, where is he, dear?”

“I left him with the officer on duty, at the Reception Desk downstairs.”

“So there! Fritz is at the Reception Desk. Please, bear in mind that he is not used to being confined. He’s a free spirited young man.”

“You mean the cat? You left the cat with PC Miller downstairs?”

“We couldn’t leave him all on his own in an empty house to fend for himself, could we?” There is unmistakable admonishment in Mrs Devonshire’s tone. “His owner has gone missing. We are reporting her missing, do you understand? You are the person in authority, are you not?”

Gillian agrees and assures the old lady that steps will be taken to track down Fritz’s owner. She shows the elderly duo out and waits for them to say their goodbyes to Fritz, who is yowling in his cage, much to PC Miller’s dismay. Gillian shakes her head, silently prohibiting the constable from querying the animal’s presence at the station.

On the step outside Sexton’s Canning Police Station, Mr Devonshire grabs hold of Gillian’s hand and presses a large key into it. “It’s to the cottage. We’re leaving first thing tomorrow morning, but I will be putting a note in the door for Nicola to contact you for the key and the cat, if you don’t mind.”

Scan_20160430“No, not at all. We’ll look after Fritz.” This probably breaks every rule in the book, but what do you say to an elderly couple expecting your help? Direct them to the nearest RSPCA?

“That’s good.” He shuffles away, his head leaning towards his left shoulder. He catches up with his wife by a red station wagon where she is strapped into the passenger seat, ready to go. They have a brief exchange and, hurriedly, Mr Devonshire waves to Gillian to wait. He shuffles back, this time with a page from Mrs Devonshire’s precious notebook. “Our telephone number in France. As soon as you know what’s happened to Nicola, let us know, will you? We promised Eunice we’d look after the girl.”

And then you promised the girl to look after the cat, Gillian smiles under her breath, but says nothing out loud other than to wish the old man a good holiday, and not to worry – she will be in touch.


Swimming with Sharks (Accent Press) was released on 28th April 2016.


A woman goes missing in Paradise

The sharks you are likely to encounter in the Maldivian waters are small, friendly and don’t really live up to their billing. You take one look at them and you breathe a sigh of relief. They aren’t that bad – those sharks. They can’t be. You are in Paradise. Even sharks wear halos here.


But appearances can be deceiving. And when your brain is baked under the equatorial sun, an equivalent of gas mark 8, it can be easily deceived. You begin to doubt your own judgment: is it all an illusion? It isn’t in a shark’s nature to be nice and friendly. Far away from home, everyone is a stranger. And under the umbrellas of palm trees beats a heart of darkness.


When Nicola Eagles wanders into this treacherous world, her first instinct is to fear it, but soon the sun begins to melt her defences and she lets herself drift a bit – a small fish in the deep blue sea.

Swimming with Sharks tells Nicola’s story.

She really existed. We met her on an idyllic Maldivian island a few years ago. She was a bland, unremarkable person, someone you’d never notice in a crowd, but there, on an island teeming with honeymooners, she stood out big time – she was on her own.


We first encountered her in the restaurant as she took a table next to us and smiled timidly at my husband. It wasn’t even a smile – it was a twitch of a muscle, a blink of an eye and a coy tilting of her head. Husband smiled back, being a well-mannered man. There was nothing to it, but I decided to leave nothing to chance. From that day on I had my eye on her.


I gave her a name and considered her personal circumstances. Who was she in the real world, in her real life? Why was she there on the island? But, more to the point, why on earth was she there alone?

I must say at first she was a cause of minor irritation to me. But then I got used to her. Like I said, she was one of those invisible people you’d never notice in a crowd, someone you’d never give a second thought to. I would endure her proximity in the restaurant where for some reason, known only to her, she would consistently hover near our table. Husband took to offering her his polite greetings to which she responded with the same grateful but bashful decorum. She avoided any eye contact with me and I ostentatiously ignored her. But, as I said earlier, I never took my eyes off her. Until, one day, she was no longer there. Gone. Vanished. Disappeared.

A lone woman who had gone swimming with sharks?


Swimming with Sharks is the first in the DI Gillian Marsh crime series. It’ll be published on 28th April 2016, and it’s available to pre-order now.


prerelppbkpre[1]When fortysomething Nicola Eagles goes on the holiday of a lifetime to the Maldives, she never dreams she’ll fall in love – she’s too shy, too set in her ways. But then she meets someone who changes her life for ever…

Just when things seem to be going right for Nicola, though, she disappears without a trace. Was it a voluntary disappearance, or was she abducted – or murdered? When her absence is noted back in the UK, DI Gillian Marsh is sent to investigate.

Gillian is a good detective but her life is dysfunctional to say the least – and as she delves deeper into the case, she realises that she may be out of her depth professionally too. For Nicola’s disappearance is just the start…




DI Gillian Marsh in Accent’s catalogue

Accent Press have just released their 2016 catalogue, where my new series, the DI Gillian Marsh mysteries, features prominently on page 9. I’m bursting with motherly pride!

The first book in the series, Swimming with Sharks, will be out on 28th April 2016.



My writing process: the art of premeditation


I am about to start a brand new notebook. It’s a historic event, not only because the notebook is strikingly pretty and it lay in my drawer in a virginal state for about five years, but also because that means I have to tear myself away from my old notebooks – and that’s just like taking out my own tonsils with a butcher’s knife.

My notebooks are the mirror of my soul. They are the first tangible step in my writing process. They help me capture those rare moments of creative genius and commit them to paper before they elope from my mind with all those dirty thoughts and unrealised desires that never quite stay long enough to come true.

Planning is every writer’s secret weapon. It can only be equated with solid and thorough premeditation in the near-perfect crime to be committed. It requires a clear purpose, means and an opportunity. When you write crime thrillers like I do, you can’t allow your reader the slightest glimpse into your planning. So it must be cunning and subversive. It has to play with the reader’s mind.

Did I mention that it was my husband who introduced me to methodical planning? I captured his professionalism in the planning department in this cartoon, which I named The Art of Strategic Planning:

art of strategic planningBut going back to my planning. And MY beloved notebooks. They come in all shapes and sizes and they kept me company through many drafts and re-writes, serving mP1060007e faithfully as the mental and emotional dumping ground for all that has been littering my poor head while I was trying to focus on writing.

I wonder how other writers record their research and keep track of their planning, but I can be meticulous in taking down every detail and plotting the storyline in endless bullet points. I relish the moment when I can tick them off. Done! Next one, please: number four! Except that, despite all that diligent planning, the storyline has a habit of running away from me and taking strange turns, at which point my old planning gets the sack and my new planning goes to a new page where it is recorded in numbered points with every confidence of this being the final version of events. Only to be hijacked once again by some unruly character. So I have pages and pages of plotting the same storyline. Sometimes those pages become so crowded that I can’t read my own writing, but because we are on the same version, I simply cannot allow myself to move to a brand new page. So some pages become a little bit schizophrenic with many voices arguing for supremacy.

P1060008And sometimes (I hate to admit this) sometimes I lose focus and my planning notebooks turn into a graffiti wall with bizarre creatures turning up from nowhere and claiming some sort of executive-planner status. Take a look at these. Don’t ask me who they are and where they came from. I don’t know, but they are in my notebooks. They came to me when I could think of nothing, when I couldn’t write or plan – I just sat there with my pen in my hand. And they came along… They are my imps and my muses and that makes them an integral part of my planning process.