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Extraordinary People, by Peter May

DETAILS

Title: EXTRAORDINARY PEOPLE
Author: Peter May
Publisher: Quercus Books
ISBN: 9781782062080
Genre: Murder-Mystery

BACKCOVER BLURB

Half-Scottish, half-Italian Enzo MacLeod used to be one of the top forensics experts in Scotland, and now he lives in Toulouse, working as a university professor. Divorced in Scotland and widowed in France, he has an estranged Scottish daughter and a French daughter he has raised by himself.

As if his life isn’t complicated enough, he soon finds himself unexpectedly in the hunt for solutions to some vexing cold cases thanks to an ill-advised wager about the power of forensic science.

Meanwhile, in Paris, a man desperately seeking sanctuary flees into a church. The next day, his sudden disappearance will make him famous throughout France.

Deep in the catacombs below the City of Light, MacLeod unearths disturbing clues deliberately left behind by a killer. But as the retired forensics expert draws closer to the truth, he discovers he may just wind up the next victim for his troubles.

WHAT I THOUGHT

I so wanted to ‘like’ EXTRAORDINARY PEOPLE by Peter May but, in the end, this one was a little too staged, with sluggish pacing. Moments that could have and should have been tense, and dramatic, were lost amid the travelogue descriptions that sucked up more than their fair share of page length. It’s all very well to set the scene, but quite another to go on and on with too much incidental detail, that it becomes tedious.

The characters themselves were under developed and, at times, a little too opaque, if not, obvious. The plodding French detective who smokes too much. The far-left leaning reporter who dresses like a film star. To the femme fatale psychologist MacLeod falls in love with who seems to be as clueless as Enzo. Never mind that one too many of the situation they found themselves in—whether finding convenient clues on Google, to someone standing on a plaque dedicated to a dead dog—were all a little to contrived for my liking.

The lead character of Enzo—who has already enjoyed an amazing life with two daughters by different mothers, a divorced wife, a dead mistress and a drastic career change resulting in moving to another country. All this before the book even starts—sounded too much like a drop-out hippie (think Scottish comedian Billy Connolly) rather than the respected forensic specialist turned professor he’s supposed to be. And for someone who was supposed to have been at the top of his game, a specialist in his field, he doesn’t know how to use a computer, is somewhat laughable. Suspension of disbelief is stretched to the max.

Add in the fact that he’s perpetually being on the derogatory side when in the company of women, from eyeing and ogling a 23 year-old student’s breasts to lusting after a woman he’s only just met, and the ex of one of his (supposedly) closest friends. It make the man come across as lecherous. Or, as a Scot might say, a dirty old man! Maybe the author was pouring a little bit too much of himself into Enzo than is considered healthy. Either way, it didn’t endear the character to me in any way, shape, or form.

That said, if you like the simplistic, Agatha Christie style kind of murder mysteries, where the befuddled hero steadfastly unravels all the arcane clues to their conclusion—contrived or otherwise—then you might like this. Otherwise I suggest you look elsewhere.

Q&A with author Steph Broadribb

The first question has to be, how did a girl from Birmingham (in the UK) end up training as a bounty hunter, in the US?

It was all in the name of research! Once I knew that Lori Anderson would be a bounty hunter I knew I needed to find out as much as I could about the realities of that job – and about how it felt being a woman in the largely male dominated profession of bounty hunting – in order to make Lori as a character, and the story itself, as authentic as possible. I researched it online and via books and TV, but there’s no substitute to getting out there and finding things out first hand. By flying over to California and training with a really experienced bounty hunter, and in getting to speak with some great women who do the job for real, I felt better able to write about Lori’s world and all the challenges she faces.

What part (if any) of your training as a bounty hunter formed the basis of your character, Lori Anderson, in DEEP DOWN DEAD?

All of the scenes which involve the ‘business’ of bounty hunting are informed by my training – in that there are specific processes and documentation that have to be followed and produced, and so I’ve tried to keep these as true to life as possible while also not letting the day-to-day stuff that’s less interesting slow down the action. There are the little practical details too – things like the plexiglas divider in Lori’s truck and her use of plasticuffs – that come directly from my training. But there are also things that are different from how I was trained – Lori (and JT her ex-mentor) operate in an old school way – they’re lone operators – whereas in California where I trained it’s much more the norm for bounty hunters to work in teams. This contrast is a main feature in the story of the second book in the series – DEEP BLUE TROUBLE – as Lori finds herself having to team up with a group of bounty hunters in San Diego and the differences in how they work (among other things!) is an increasing source of friction!

DEEP DOWN DEAD could be called ‘Southern Noir’ but it’s so much more than that. Why the US and the South for your debut novel, and not say, London or Birmingham?

Ooooh I love the ‘Southern Noir’ term! I guess I wanted to set a thriller in the US because it’s such a great backdrop for an action thriller – the scale of size and the individual personalities of each state makes it a perfect setting and one with endless possibilities as the series progresses. If I’d set it in the UK Lori would have ended up travelling around the M25 or up and down the M40 motorways!! I actually got the idea for the story when I was doing the drive Lori does from West Virginia to Florida, so it felt natural to set the book there. I’m also a big fan of US action thrillers – my writing heroes are people like Lee Child, Jeff Abbott, and John D MacDonald – when I think action thriller I automatically think US!

What made you decide to write Lori in the first-person POV?

It’s how I heard her voice. When I was thinking about the story snippets of dialogue or narrative in her voice would come to me (usually as I was driving, in the bath or in a meeting for my day job!!) and when I jotted them down they’d always be in first person. It just seemed natural to write her in first person when I sat down at my keyboard to start the book.

And lastly, what can we expect for Lori in DEEP BLUE TROUBLE?

Well, the story picks up a few days after DEEP DOWN DEAD ends so I can’t say too much or I’ll give away the ending of that book… but, in essence, DEEP BLUE TROUBLE sees Lori in pursuit of a fugitive that she’s caught once before. It takes place mainly in Florida and San Diego, and has Lori teaming up with a retired PI and a team of Californian bounty hunters to try and apprehend the fugitive before he makes it across the border to Mexico. It’s about family secrets, betrayal and revenge, and again Lori faces some impossible choices.


AUTHOR BIO

Steph Broadribb aka www.crimethrillergirl.com has an MA in Creative Writing (Crime Fiction) and trained as a Bounty Hunter in California. Her debut thriller DEEP DOWN DEAD was shortlisted for the eDunnit eBook of the year award, the Dead Good Reader Award for Fearless Female Character, and Dead Good Reader Award for Most Exceptional Debut.

Check Steph out on Social media: Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

Evil Games, by Angela Marsons

DETAILS

Title: EVIL GAMES
Author: Angela Marsons
Publisher: Bonnier Zaffre
ISBN: 9781785762147
Genre: Murder-Mystery | Suspense

BACKCOVER BLURB

When a rapist is found mutilated in a brutal attack, Detective Inspector Kim Stone and her team are called in to bring a swift resolution.

But Kim little imagines what she’s really dealing with. Behind the man’s killer sits a truly ingenious sociopath, a lethal individual undertaking their own twisted experiment into the darkest limits of manipulating the most vulnerable.

As the body count rises, Kim begins to close in on the true mastermind. But for the first time she has found an equally intelligent adversary — and one who likes nothing more than an enemy worth killing

WHAT I THOUGHT

Author, Angela Marsons, has created not only a deeply flawed, memorable lead character in the guise of  Detective Inspector Kim Stone—whose backstory is, quite honestly, heartbreaking— but also in her adversary whose mind is so focused and driven, it’s chilling.

While both characters share a great deal in common—seemingly cold, aloof and, at times, unable to connect with others on certain levels—they couldn’t be more different. One is hellbent on finding out the truth and who’s behind a grisly set of murders even if it means digging deep into her own tortured past. While the other is plotting and planning the next step in what is, for them, an experiment in human nature. And, while to all outward appearances, an upstanding member of society, Angela Marsons carefully exposes this person’s sickening and twisted persona bit, by bit, showing us how evil really works.

Marsons story and premise in EVIL GAMES is subtly nuanced, carefully plotted, with enough little twists and turns that you almost feel like looking over your shoulder. Her characters are all well fleshed out and while the tone of EVIL GAMES is dark and, at times, twisted, Marsons also finds time to lighten the mood, here and there, with the odd comic moment between members of Stones team. Refreshingly, the dialogue is as honest as the story, and true to the characters. All of which makes for a thoroughly enjoyable read.

Never a twee, or stilted moment, the subject matter is handled with great care and attention to detail, and Angela Marsons never shies away from making this feel all oh so real. And, as such, delivers a hard-hitting and, at times, very emotional story that resonates long after the last page is read.