2018 Authors

Our 2018 Authors

To discover more about each of our authors, please click on the red ‘Menu’ on the top left of the screen which will take you through to the rest of the Bute Noir website.  Under ‘Authors 2018’ there is a page for each author and details of the sessions that they are taking part in.

See you there!

An Evening With Alanna Knight | 2 August 2018

Alanna Knight MBE will be returning to Bute Noir 2018 having been at our inaugural festival in 2016.

Although Bute Noir is 3rd to 5th August this year, Alanna has kindly agreed to do a pop up event at Bute Museum the evening before all our events kick off and as she has sold out her event “Bloody Bute” with Myra Duffy and Michael J. Malone already, it is maybe just as well!

Alanna will be discussing her latest novel ‘Murder Lies Waiting’ with Myra Duffy which as you can see from the front cover, is set on Bute. Tickets are £4 and available from Bute Museum, Print Point and Rothesay Library.

 

Sold Out Events | Bute Noir 2018

Bute Noir officially launched at the end of May and within the first week, over 50% of the tickets had been sold.

As of today’s date, 70% of the tickets have gone and the following events are sold out:

‘From Screen To Page To Screen’ with Helen Fitzgerald and Alexandra Sokoloff , 7.30pm – 8.30pm on Friday 3 August.

Rothesay Library 9pm – 10pm Friday 4 August – Chris Brookmyre interviewed by Luca Veste

Rothesay Library on Saturday 4 August at 2pm – 3pm for Our People And Places with Craig Robertson and Denzil Meyrick

‘Is It Always A Crime’ with Graeme Macrae Burnet and Michael J Malone 5pm – 6pm on Saturday 4 August.

‘Bloody Bute’ with Myra Duffy, Alanna Knight and Michael J Malone – 12.45pm – 1.45pm on Sunday 5 August.

‘The Last Stand’ with Craig Robertson, Alex Gray, Anna Smith and Luca Veste – Sunday 5.30pm, Bute Museum.

‘Northern Stars’ with Ysra Sigurdardóttir and Alex Gray at 7.30pm – 8.30pm, Rothesay Library, Saturday 4 August

‘Now For Something Completely Different – Chris Brookmyre, Helen Fitzgerald, Abir Mukkerjee and Luca Veste Library – 3.30pm – 4.30pm Saturday 5 August.

‘Time’s Up’ Museum -, Alexandra Sokoloff, Sarah Hilary, Mari Hannah and Ysra Sigurdardottir 4 August, 12.30pm – 1.30pm.

Friday’s Noir at the Bar which happens at the Black Bull is also completely SOLD OUT as is the walking tour with Myra Duffy on Saturday morning!

Tickets are really going fast!

 

Bute Noir Crime Reading Challenge

CRIME BOOK CHALLENGE 2018

Can you read at least one of each by the end of 2018?

1 … with a one word title

2 … published in 2018

3 … written before 1950.

4 … a collection of short stories

5 … by a Scottish author

6 … set in Scotland

7 … set in the future

8 … with a female investigator

9 … with real life crimes

10 … translated from a foreign language

11 … set in America

12 … set in neither the UK nor America

13 … whose author has the same first name as you

14 … an author you have never read before

15 … that is in the ‘cosy crime’ genre

16 … that is a military thriller

17 … turned into a movie or TV series

18 … in audio book form

19 … written for children or young adults

20 … with a red spine

21 … that has won an award

22 … by an author who has died in the past 12 months

23 … recommended to you by a friend

24 … biography of a real life killer or real life crime solver

25 … with a title of more than six words

26 … from a charity shop

27 … that has been a banned book in at least one country in the world

28 … that you have started before and never finished

29 … written by an author of colour

30 … by a Bute Noir 2018 author

 

www.butenoir.co.uk

 

The Deaths of December | SJI Holliday

THE DEATHS OF DECEMBER
SUSI HOLLIDAY

Mulholland Books

The strap-line on my Review Copy is ‘Have yourself a deadly little Christmas’ and a blood-spattered broken bauble. Has she been round my house when I’m trying to put up my glass tree ornaments? There’s always bloody-fingered carnage round at mine …

What does the book tell us about itself?:

When an advent calendar is delivered to the police station, no one takes any notice, until they open it to find a murder behind every door.

Santa’s not the only one in red this Christmas …

It looks like a regular advent calendar. Until DC Becky Greene starts opening doors… and discovers a crime scene behind almost every one. The police hope it’s a prank. Because if it isn’t, a murderer has just surfaced – someone who’s been killing for twenty years. But why now? And why has he sent it to this police station? As the country relaxes into festive cheer, Greene and DS Eddie Carmine must race against time to catch the killer. Because there are four doors left, and four murders will fill them…”

Let me introduce you to your two new favourite coppers – fresh-out-of-the box Detective Constable Becky Greene and the older and more experienced DI Eddie Carmine. They both have a penchant for a fried breakfast and are as sharp as tacks when it comes to working out the clues.

I’ve not read anything by Susi Holliday before and only encountered her for the first time at Bute Noir and I was struck by her great (dark!) sense of humour, so I was delighted to discover that sense of humour sneaks into The Deaths of December too.It’s not a comedy book, but there are nice light touches to break up the many body-strewn advent calendar doors. This might be the first of Susi’s books that I’ve read, but it most certainly won’t be the last.

We start on a Friday with Nine More Sleeps To Go. Right from the outset there is a sense of a race-against-time. From the get go, all the things you love about Christmas are here, but skewed from their regular jolly annual appearance. The Advent Calendar count down which always fills one with excited anticipation now becomes an ominous clock against which the police officers race.  There are craft fairs, there is snow and there is murder with (jingle) bells on.

The story is told from several points of view – first of all we meet the mysterious Photographer before moving the other main characters Becky, Carly and Eddie. Only the photographer speaks in the first person which gives us access to more information than our two detectives have. Will they puzzle things out in time?

At the back of your mind you are aware that the story is winding up at Two More Sleeps and, Ding Dong Merrily on High, we’re NOT quite done yet! What about One More Sleep?! Don’t stop reading before the Epilogue or you’ll miss the dead cat bounce and full resolution of the story.

I was up ALL night reading this Winter Tale as it drew me forward to its snow-sprinkled conclusion. Honestly, my eyes were sore. It was GREAT.

Who did I love the best? I loved all the characters in this book, to be honest. There was some interesting insights into Becky’s past and Eddie Carmine’s home life is not exactly happy. They are very likeable and realistic creations with a good line in banter. You are willing Carmine and Greene to catch The Photographer before he pulls focus and trains his lens a little closer to home…

What did I love most about this book? I do love when an author can make you feel compassion for a killer yet you are still desperate for that killer to be caught. That’s a skill in itself! If pressed, I would say that I loved the character of Carly best of all. I don’t want to say too much because she really is important to the plot, but I really felt for her and the life that she has found herself in.

Get it and read it as a little Christmas treat to yourself!

Merry Christmas from everyone at Bute Noir!

Murderabilia | Craig Robertson

MURDERABILIA

Craig Robertson

Simon & Schuster

 

DI Rachel Narey and former police photographer turned photojournalist Tony Winter are back with a bang in Murderabilia.

Here’s the cover blurb to whet your appetite:

The first commuter train of the morning slowly rumbles away from platform seven of Queen St station. And then, as the train emerges from a tunnel, the screaming starts. Hanging from the bridge ahead of them is a body. Placed neatly on the ground below him are the victim’s clothes. Why?

Detective Inspector Narey is assigned the case and then just as quickly taken off it again. Winter, now a journalist, must pursue the case for her. The line of questioning centres around the victim’s clothes – why leave them in full view? And what did the killer not leave, and where might it appear again?

Everyone has a hobby. Some people collect death. To find this evil, Narey must go on to the dark web, and into immense danger …

You don’t have to have read ANY of Craig Robertson’s other Narey/Winter books in order to enjoy this one. Their relationship is on a serious footing and they both find themselves in unfamiliar territory – Narey becomes confined to bed, Winter finding his feet at his new job as a photojournalist.

I’ve only read a few of Craig Robertson’s books, but I learned about Urbexing (In Place of Death) and now here in Murderabilia I have discovered that murderabilia is actually a proper thing. It’s where people collect memorabilia surrounding crime, criminals and victims. Chilling thought, isn’t it? When Craig came to Bute Noir this year, he spoke with Denise Mina and Luca Veste about what murderabilia he himself had bought as background research for this book. We all shivered, but I’m betting that there wasn’t one amongst us who wouldn’t have liked to see for ourselves the hand-penned letter from Moors murderer Ian Brady. It’s so not stamp-collecting! After Brady’s death earlier in the year, the letter has undoubtedly gone up in value… * shudders involuntarily*

Narey, pregnant, bed-bound and off the case, makes a few tentative steps into the world of the dark web as she hunts for clues and soon finds herself being consumed by it: You can buy masonry from the house where the Manson Family murdered Sharon Tate. Sharon Tate was eight and a half months pregnant at the time she was murdered. The blurring of the lines between real crime and the fictional crime leads to a strange sense of it ALL being real.

As with Craig’s other books, this rattles along at a cracking pace (with me only stopping to google murderers and crimes to keep tabs on what was real and what was not!) and keeps you on your toes right to the end.

Poor Narey and Winter! Craig likes to be very cruel to the pair of them and this book is no exception – it’s an emotional roller-coaster for the couple! The juxtaposition of Narey and the precious cargo that she is carrying with the horror of the world that she is VOLUNTARILY wading around in on-line becomes uncomfortable reading. But that’s surely one of the book’s aims– murderabilia IS a ghoulish, fascinating and exploitative way to spend one’s hard-earned shekels.

Murderabilia is not only a great story well told, it holds a mirror up to a part of life that is quite real, quite unusual and quite unpleasant.  Don’t take my word for it that this is a good ‘un to read – Murderabilia was on the short list for The McIlvanney Prize at Bloody Scotland this year and also long-listed for the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel of the year.  I can’t wait to read Craig’s next book: The Photographer drops in January 2018!

What did you think of Murderabilia? Come over to our facebook page and chip in with your comments!

The Long Drop | Denise Mina | Review

THE LONG DROP

DENISE MINA

Crime literature fascinates us; you only have to look at the popularity of Bute Noir and our mothership Bloody Scotland to see that. Add a dollop of real life crime to the mix and that fascination ramps up to dizzying levels. In the Long Drop, Denise Mina blends crime fact and crime fiction to create an unputdownable novel that horrifies us as much as it hypnotises.

So, what’s the book about? This from the cover notes:

William Watt wants answers about his family’s murder. Peter Manuel has them. But Peter Manuel is a liar.

William Watt is an ordinary businessman, a fool, a social climber.

Peter Manuel is a famous liar, a rapist, a criminal. He claims he can get hold of the gun used to murder Watt’s family.

One December night in 1957, Watt meets Manuel in a Glasgow bar to find out what he knows.

Peter Manuel terrorised 1950s Lanarkshire with a string of rapes and murders at a time when rapes and murders were rare and serial killers rarer. Ask anyone who lived in the area at the time and they will most surely remember the headline splashes of murder and then the newspaper court coverage of the good-looking psychopath who murdered at least eight people in the Uddingston and Birkenshaw areas on the outskirts of Glasgow.

William Watt was away on a fishing trip to Argyll when he was informed about his family’s murder. A serial womaniser, police quickly suspected him of being the killer and he was sent to the notorious Barlinnie prison for nearly 70 days, all the while protesting his innocence. On his release, he publicly vowed to find the real killer. Attention-seeking fantasist Manuel got in touch and promised to reveal the killer’s details. It is recorded by Watt’s lawyer, Lawrence Dowdalls, that Watt and Manuel met on more than one occasion.

From these facts, Denise Mina weaves her tale.

Peter Manuel

The criminal career, trial and execution of Peter Manuel is well-documented and fairly cut-and-dried, so it takes a huge amount of skill to turn well-known facts into a thrilling read, but Mina draws upon her ample experience (and research) and fashions it into a real page-turner. It is little wonder that The Long Drop has won the McIlvanney Prize for Scottish Crime at Bloody Scotland this year.

The litany of assaults and murders are, of course, horrifying and compelling but more so (for me) is the idea that a man who lost his family could sit and drink all night with the man who took it all away from him. Granted, he was looking for hard evidence from Manuel, but imagine if it was your 17 year-old daughter and your wife that had been murdered, could you have gone for a night’s drinking with the person you suspected had done it?

William Watt

Me neither – what kind of man could do that? Perhaps the kind of man that was already familiar with the darker corners of Glasgow? The drink-fuelled night spent in the seamier haunts of Glasgow has such a ring of authenticity about it (people used to drive whilst extremely drunk), you can smell the beer and taste the cigarette smoke and the macho culture of 50s Glasgow is palpable.

We are introduced to colourful real-life characters, such as Dandy McKay, a feared Glasgow gangster with bizarre fashion sense – plenty of money, but no style.

The story also segues into wonderfully written chapters that look at the story from the point of view of three or so of the minor characters; little vignettes that add additional depth and dimension to the story. I found the chapter based on the Isabelle Cooke’s father very powerful.

I admit, I struggled with some of the court conversations. Parts of the dialogue are quite strange and at Bute Noir Mina confirmed that when she was reading the court transcript of Manuel questioning the witnesses (he dismissed his legal team and opted to represent himself), she sometimes felt that she had missed out a page or that the pages were in the wrong order. However, she takes this weird disjointedness, which in the hands of a less experienced author could have sunk the whole book, and manages to parse it into the backstory that she has created.

In the end there is no surprise, Peter Manuel still swings in a long drop, but Mina doesn’t stop the story there. She extends her gaze beyond the high walls of Barlinnie and looks out over the city and into the future – the savage assaults that are coming: the destruction of Glasgow to make way for the coming of the M8, the shady land deals that turned men into millionaires overnight, and she leaves us wondering – is the story of Peter Manuel so very cut and dried after all?

Dark & Deadly | Antti Tuomainen | Doug Johnstone | Alexandra Sokoloff

Clutching my rucksack full of books to my chest, it was time to hurry up the hill from Print Point to the Library for the last session of the evening.

Outside the library, I met a very tall, very charming man who could only be Antti Tuomainen, our Finnish author.  I asked him how to pronounce his name (fyi Onti Two-oh-my-nan, but with less emphasis on the ‘nan’ bit).  Rather recklessly I told him that I had one word of Finnish (learned in a pub in Italy from a terribly nice Finnish chap).  My friend Seona blanched.  This could possibly be a terrible mistake.  I didn’t actually know what the word meant, other than it was a bit raffish.  I repeated the word.  Fortunately Antti didn’t faint clean away, but he did clue me in on what it meant.  It wasn’t too bad, but maybe not one for repeating in front of the Minister, if you know what I mean 🙂

Inside the place was absolutely buzzing.  Again I managed to get a seat near the front (vital for photography purposes!)  I managed a snap of Doug meeting Antti.  He’s tall, isn’t he?

Doug and Antti

I read Antti’s The Healer (winner of the Clue Award for Best Finnish Crime Novel no less, also available from Rothesay library, folks) and it was difficult to reconcile this affable and always-smiling chap with the dark and deadly goings on in the dystopian near-future where The Healer is set!   Antti spoke about the background to ‘The Mine’ and ‘The Man Who Died’.  His forthcoming book, ‘Palm Beach Finland’ allows more of his lighter side to appear. Although the book has just been released in Finnish (September 2017), it won’t be out in English until next year.  Looking forward to getting my hands on it!

Doug Johnstone is one of those authors who takes you by surprise – an author who was a journalist is not unusual, but an author, journalist AND has a Phd in Nuclear Physics?! Come on, that’s SPECIAL!!  He’s published eight books now – all of them have been either short-listed for or won awards for crime fiction.  His latest novel, Crash Land, was published at the tail end of 2016.  I later entered an unseemly scrum with an elderly gentleman over the last copy of Crash Land on Print Point’s book display.  I won.  I’m not ashamed.

The interviewer for the evening was Alex Sokoloff, herself no stranger to things dark and deadly as her serial killer stalks the USA taking out all the sort of people that you would like to take a gun to yourself!  *thoughts drift to President Trump* …

Under Alexandra’s careful questions, Antti and Doug kept us regaled with anecdotes and stories, whetting our appetites for their back catalogues and teasing us with what was yet to be published!

Doug and Antti signing copies of their work. Yeah, there was also restorative wine!
Alexandra Sokoloff and Antti Tuomainen. Yeah, there were also restorative lagers ….

And then, as the clock struck 10pm, it was time for me to roll home to bed.  But not before I’d prepared a packed lunch for the bus tour the following morning …. it’s all go at Bute Noir!

Americana | Steve Cavanagh | Mason Cross | SJI Holliday

After the gripping session with Denise, Craig and Luca in Rothesay Library, I and all the other Bute Noirians hot-footed it down to Print Point for their first event of the weekend.

Of course, there was wine (there’s always wine at Bute Noir – it’s become the tradition!) and at Print Point there are always THE most marvellous cakes, baked by Karen’s mum. The cakes have also become a bit of a Bute Noir tradition and I make a mental note to find out how many she has baked by the end of the weekend!

Karen and her team had crammed as many chairs into the bookshop as was physically possible to squeeze in and fortunately for me, I got one near the front!

Tonight’s session is ‘Americana’ featuring Steve Cavanagh and Mason Cross, ably quizzed by SJI Holliday (I am liking her American flag shirt in this photo). Steve’s from Norn Irn and Mason is Scottish and both authors regaled us with how they ended up writing about American crime when they are both a continent away from it.

Steve, Mason and Susi

The hero of Steve’s series is Eddie Flynn, Mason’s is Carter Blake (or is it?!). Both authors explained how research trips to the USA are vital and how Google is their friend! And boy, is it important to get the details of an American city or procedure correct!

Scottish author Susi was well-prepared for her session with the chaps and by the time we all rolled out into the street after that Friday night chat, I was laden down like a pack-mule with my Denise Mina, Craig Robertson and now a couple of Mason and Steve books!

It wasn’t even the end of the first evening and already I knew that I’d be knee-deep in crime books until Christmas!

The Killing Season | Mason Cross | Bute Noir Online Crime Book Club

THE KILLING SEASON

MASON CROSS

My name is not Alison Cross. Well, it is. But as far as first lines go, telling your reader that your name is not Carter Blake will guarantee to hook their interest 100% from the outset!  I’m hoping that it works for book reviews too!

The Killing Season, the first in the series featuring Carter Blake, was first published in 2014. I only discovered it at Bute Noir this year. There are now four books in the series, so I have a lot of catching up to do.

This is also the first novel by Mason Cross and it is a confident foray into the world of American Noir. Not bad going for a guy from Glasgow!

So, what’s the story? Here’s the blurb from Mason’s website:

“When ex-Marine Corps Scout Sniper and infamous serial killer Caleb Wardell breaks out from Death Row, logic suggests he will go to ground. But Wardell has never been one to follow rules. He starts to cut a bloody swathe across America, picking up where he left off five years ago.

“The FBI are ordered to capture Wardell by any means necessary. With election day approaching, and hunting a skilled serial killer trained in the arts of evasion, they are forced to call in secretive manhunter, Carter Blake – a man with certain specialised talents and a shadowy past. A past that involves Caleb Wardell…

“But when the manhunt quickly spirals out of control amidst a media and public frenzy, Blake finds himself sidelined from the case. Aided only by Special Agent Elaine Banner, and racked by guilt, Carter knows that he must use all of his expertise if he is to track down the psychopathic killer before it is too late… “

The story takes place over six days and this directly affects the structure of the novel – six days, six sections in the book. The chapters within each section are numbered as you would expect, but also allocated a time of day. Chapters can be a few pages or a single page and by the time we get to ‘Day 6’ this idea of having the time always at the forefront of your thoughts really adds to the rising sense of urgency in the book.

The story is told from three points of view – Carter Blake’s, Agent Banner’s and the killer’s, Caleb Wardell.

The only person speaking in the first person is Carter Blake and although we are not given many details about his life, he comes across as a likeable guy, but who clearly has some ghosts in his past that are coming back to haunt him. I can’t wait to find out which other ghosts come back from his past to haunt him as the Mason Cross series unfolds.

I liked the character of Elaine Banner a great deal – a divorced mother of one balancing the demands of a challenging FBI career with the responsibilities and joys of motherhood. Ambitious and able in her job, she feels that she is failing at parenting. Crucially, the ‘working mother guilt’ trope is not just some random female characterisation trait that Mason has thrown into the mix to make her relatable, as we find out as the book progresses.

There’s a growing sexual chemistry between Blake and Banner (don’t worry, your granny will be able to read this book without too many blushes!) and I particularly liked the fact that Banner doesn’t morph from ambitious career woman into someone who thinks Blake might be a good bet to play happy families, just because they have sex. I am looking forward to finding out whether Mason has Blake teaming up with more women than men in other books and what the dynamics of those relationships are.

Killer Caleb Wardell is a great character too: I feared for the life of every person that crossed his path! He’s clever, calculating and utterly devoid of compassion so there is no stage in the book where your sympathies waver, even for a moment; you are always on the side of Blake and Banner.

The book rattles along at a fair old pace, covering the six day period after Wardell escapes. Cross’s writing is lean (not for him a meaningless 20 line description of a train thundering through the Italian countryside. Yeah, I’m looking at you, Dan Brown) but there are brush-strokes and colour enough to let you hurtle through the pages at the same break-neck speed as the FBI who are desperate to catch their man.

And when Blake and Banner find themselves within Wardell’s sights …. the hunters become the hunted!

The Killing Season is really enjoyable and a quick book to read. It has characters that you care about, tons of action (and an ever-rising body count!) taking place in a short time frame.  It has a sense of urgency that will keep you reading well-past your bed time and a nice little twist to wrong foot you near the end to ramp up your anxiety.

I loved it.

So, now it’s your turn, come on over to Bute Noir’s facebook page and settle down with a coffee and tell everyone what YOU think of the book!

Keeping It Real | Denise Mina | Craig Robertson | Luca Veste

This session took place in Rothesay Library after the Opening Session and had been a sell out for weeks.  Not surprising as this was Denise Mina’s only appearance at Bute Noir and nobody wanted to miss out on listening to her talk on the business of writing about real life crime and criminals.

Luca Veste had stepped in to replace Denzil Meyrick as interviewer for Craig and Denise and if he was nervous about his last minute interview, it didn’t show at all.  Under Luca’s guiding hand, Denise and Craig kept the audience rapt with their tales of the real life macabre.

Relaxing before the Keeping It Real session begins!

In his latest book, Craig Robertson deals with ‘murderabillia’, the disturbingly fascinating hobby where people buy and sell souvenirs of real life crime.   Craig explained that he had actually become involved in this as part of his Murderabillia research and admitted that he now owns a letter written by Moors Murderer Ian Brady and a piece of mantelpiece from the demolished mansion where Sharon Tate was murdered by followers of Charles Manson.  In Craig’s Murderabillia, DI Narey finds herself caught up in the dangerous world of the dark web as she researches an old murder and a new one.

Denise spoke about her book ‘The Long Drop’ which is both fiction and fact, based on the murder of the Watt family by Peter Manuel, in the 1950s.  Denise takes the factual statements from the court case (which are so odd to read that when she was researching the case transcripts she thought that there were pages missing) and has built a story around the Glasgow legend that one night Mr Watt went on an all night bender with Peter Manual – to get at the truth behind his family’s murder … or something even more sinister?

Despite the seriousness of the subject matter, the session was hugely entertaining, giving us as many laughs as it did guilty shivers …

Both Denise and Craig were shortlisted for the 2017 McIlvanney Prize at Bloody Scotland and on Friday 8 September, it was announced that Denise had won!

CONGRATULATIONS  to Denise Mina for winning the 2017 McIlvanney Prize at Bloody Scotland for The Long Drop!

 

Opening Up | Myra Duffy | Alex Gray | Caro Ramsay

As the photographer for Bute Noir, I was all geared up for Karen’s summons to the library to take photos of the authors and I had in my head what I wanted to do: take pictures of them all as if they were in the movie The Usual Suspects – a line up of our motley crew!

Unfortunately, not all the authors were able to be present for the photo session because of travel hiccups, so I ended up going for something much more traditional – a group photo.

The observant reader will spot that in the group photo Steve Cavanagh is clutching a Mason Cross book. That’s because Steve Cavanagh’s book was out on loan!

The authors at Bute Noir 2017
Caro Ramsay, Alex Gray, Myra Duffy, Craig Robertson, Alex Sokoloff, Luca Veste, Lin Anderson and Steve Cavanagh

Once the photos were taken, we hot-footed it along to Bute Museum, which is, thankfully, just next door to the library and there we all settled down for the first session of this year’s Bute Noir event.

I took a nice candid shot:

Ann Spiers, Alex Gray and Caro Ramsay

Soon it was 4.30 and we were OFF!

The Museum was full – our first event was sold-out!

Ann Spiers from the Bute Museum team introduced Bute Noir’s founder, Craig Robertson, and then Craig welcomed everyone to the event and introduced the speakers.

The talented and funny Caro Ramsay then lead the chat between Myra Duffy and Alex Gray. Myra and Alex are both well-known and loved on Bute. Myra writes ‘cosy crime’ fiction and sets all her novels about Alison Cameron here on Rothesay and Alex Gray has family connections here and sets her DI Lorimer novels just up the river, in Glasgow.

Myra, Caro and Alex – waiting to begin

As the ‘Opening Up’ session for the whole weekend, the conversation was varied and – with Caro in the chair – affectionately irreverent!

It was a lovely opening session for what turned out to be a wonderful – and packed – weekend.

Then for us it was a jog home for some food and a swift return to the library for the next session at 6pm. Yeah, when you go to every event, you need to exist on white wine and cupcakes for 72 hours!

Review | A K Benedict | The Beauty of Murder

 

The Beauty of Murder

A K Benedict

Orion Books (pp 392)

You’ll have to bear with me because I’ve never reviewed a crime novel before and The Beauty of Murder by AK Benedict is quite a doozy to kick off with.

First of all, let’s look at the story: Stephen Killigan is a new Junior Fellow at Cambridge University. He stumbles upon a woman’s body in a churchyard, but when he reports it to the police, the body is nowhere to be found. He soon finds himself caught up in a game of cat and mouse with a manipulative killer that sees him learn to travel back to the Cambridge of the 1700s and desperately try to untangle a web of contemporary and ancient murders.

The main character, Stephen is an unusual kind of guy – not your typical university lecturer – Northern for a start! He’s got tattoos and likes to tinker and fix things. From the outset we are rooting for this ‘outsider’ to the rarefied air of Cambridge: He’s smart, he’s possessed of a warped sense of humour, keeps his friends close by him and clearly tries to do the right thing. Inititally I wondered why he was a Philosophy lecturer; would it make the whole book too high-brow? But when the time travel sets in, we really do need someone whom we can truly believe is mentally dextrous enough to able to cope with a changed reality, not throw themselves screaming from the top of a dreaming spire. Good call.

The tone of the book shifts as frequently as Killgan changes centuries, but not to its detriment. As a reader it kept me on my toes – a thrilling bit, a macabre bit, a really sad bit and POW! A really funny bit. All stitched together beautifully.

I totally buy into the fact that time travel is possible for Stephen and the rules of it as they unfold through the book (eg – you can’t change what happens by going back). The only time when the plot wobbled for me were the REASONS for the murders. Even now, I’m not entirely convinced I understand it, but, oddly it hasn’t detracted from my enjoyment of the book one whit. Maybe because the reasons for murder are often hidden from us and we are more interested in the catching of the killer, than the why of the killing?

There are paragraphs and sentences in this book that stopped me in my tracks and I wish I’d stuck little post-it notes to the sections so that I could find them again for this review. Here’s one, found at random:

‘I’ve been thinking of finding an artist,’ I say.

He looks at me and places his head to one side. His forehead contracts like bacon strips frying.

Ooooh – I love that last sentence because you know exactly what his forhead is doing AND, because the guy is a butcher, it’s even more appropriate. Love it!

Or this:

‘The University Library looms over the Cam like a silent-movie villain.  There’s also the whiff of a crematorium about the dark brick tower in the centre; as I walk up the steps I expect it to puff out the ashes of books and brains, laughing maniacally.’

For me, that’s delicious to read.

There is a glorious cast of vivid characters to support the story, my two favourites being a couple of the women in the book – the eccentric Iris (think of the poem When I am Old I will wear Purple, by Jenny Joseph) and the dedicated cop and devourer of biscuits, DI Jane Horne. Great pen portraits of characters that I wanted to know more about.

Despite still being a bit wobbly on the reasons for the murders, I found The Beauty of Murder very satisfying. I was, at one point, reading it at 3am, slightly out of my tree on cough medicine – but I couldn’t stop reading!

At the end of the book, all the queries that I had were answered very satisfactorily and the loose ends neatly tied up and squared away … and  A K  sets everything up for the next book. Oh yes, there are another six of these adventures in AK’s head!

I can’t wait for the next one!

What do you think of The Beauty of Murder? Who were your favourite characters? What were your favourite parts of the book? Looking forward to the next in the series?

Tell me everything …..

The Beauty of Murder by A K Benedict is available from Print Point and Rothesay Library.

Bute Museum’s Marvellous Artefacts

Bute Museum have risen to the challenge and managed to create 16 excellent images based on the titles of our Bute Noir 2017 authors!

  • Craig Robertson
    Craig Robertson

Sold Out Events!

Only 2 weeks to go and we have just SOLD OUT 2 MORE EVENTS!

‘The Men Behind the Mic’ on Saturday 5th August and ‘Femmes Fatales’ on Sunday 6th August are now fully booked.

You can still purchase tickets for the remaining events by calling 01700503389 or by popping into Print Point and Rothesay Library, only £4 each.