Wednesday, 2 September 2015

The Girl Who Broke the Rules, Blog Tour

Today I welcome back Marnie Riches, author of The George Mckenzie series
Marnie Riches
Having read both of Marnie's books I was delighted to be included in her blog tour, and chose to ask her somesearching questions; about her writing, her characters, and what's next for George McKenzie. 

Wendy: Why did you choose the porn industry as a setting for your story? And why the emphasis on desire, sexuality and sexual violence?
Marnie: When I was a final year student, although I was doing a degree in languages, I was allowed to “borrow” a paper from the Social Sciences faculty. I chose “Women in Society”, and violent, hard-core pornography was one of the topics that I opted to study. I had intended to embark on a PhD on pornography, but for a variety of ill-thought out reasons, ended up taking a job instead and joining an indie rock band. Decades later, when I was writing The Girl Who Wouldn’t Die, I realised that my interest in gender differences, the nature of desire and sexuality had found its way into my story. In The Girl Who Broke the Rules, I already knew I wanted George to train to be a criminologist, so having her do the PhD I had aspired to do and having the story tackle the darker side of desire seemed like a logical next step.

Wendy: I’m going to ask you a question George asks Dermot Robinson here, ‘Do you think erotica inspires men to commit sexually violent crimes against women?’
Marnie: In terms of vanilla or hard-core erotica, absolutely not. In terms of violent porn, still my answer is no, I don’t. And in fact, in the course of my research, I came across an interesting study that had been conducted in the Czech Republic, where pornography had been banned during Soviet Rule. When the ban was lifted, all porn was allowed – no restrictions on child pornography or violent, hard-core pornography. The incidence of sexually violent crimes being committed actually went down once the ban was lifted! So for me, that is proof that there is no causal link between pornographic content and crime. However, I do think that violent hard-core pornography reinforces the idea that women are passive, sexual objects and second class citizens. We still have enough sexual inequality in the first world! We really don’t need to invite more. So, normal erotica is a normal, healthy part of adult sexuality, in my opinion. But violent images in pornography politically feels like a backwards step to me. I’m not in favour of censoring adults’ fantasies about other adults, but published material where profit is made should not shirk a sense of responsibility to 50% of the population!

Wendy: Georgina Mackenzie has a very difficult relationship with her mother. Your other characters don’t fare much better with theirs. Why are dysfunctional familial relationships a theme?
Marnie: When I observe people – especially Northern Europeans – I often see a veneer of harmony and calm masking something fraught just beneath the surface. The stiff upper lip that the British are famous for is just a euphemism for suffering in silence! In my family, however, we’re all of shouty, dramatic immigrant stock. Our dysfunction is laid bare. An only child to a single parent - like George and Letitia - my mother and I argue frequently, though we do get over it and are close. My mother is not Letitia! Nevertheless, there’s no doubt that family dynamics I see around me have inspired George’s toxic relationship with her mother. Never underestimate the manipulative abilities of parents! I don’t want to read about happy, balanced characters. There’s no drama in it for me. I want to explore how mean people can be to those they love the most. Why is George so abrasive? Why does van den Bergen suffer from health anxiety? What has made them the people they are? More often than not, childhood trauma is at the root of adult foibles.

Wendy: Van den Bergen surprised me in this story. He seemed more vulnerable than in The Girl Who Wouldn’t Die. Was this intentional?
Marnie: When you’re writing a series, you’re in a position to give your main protagonists real depth, giving them even more backstory and peeling the layers of their innermost thoughts away to show what lies beneath. I knew in The Girl Who Broke the Rules that I wanted van den Bergen to play a more central role, to give the series some balance. I’m not a huge fan of the two-dimensional Alpha Male who sucker punches his way through a thriller, never giving much thought to his mission other than to get the bad guy and shag the girl. I like to defy gender stereotypes, so although van den Bergen is a successful Chief Inspector and no pushover, I wanted to reveal a more thoughtful side to this artistic, serial-killer-catching misanthrope.

Wendy: Silas Holm is really creepy. How do you think he compares to other crime fiction baddies?
Marnie: I love Silas Holm! He took me by surprise and wasn’t in my original synopsis for the novel at all. I confess, Holm is me, tipping the wink to Hannibal Lecter, although in Silas’ case, he is an anaesthetist with a fetish for amputees, rather than a psychologist with a thing for cannibalism. Anyway, I couldn’t find a name to rhyme with Amputee or Pervert. I suppose I could have had Herbert the Pervert, but he wouldn’t have fitted in a serious story about evisceration and trans-national trafficking. The real baddie-star of The Girl Who Broke the Rules is The Butcher, of course, but if I talk about that, I’ll be spoiling the surprise!

Wendy: There is a huge attention to detail in your story and I imagine you must have spent a long time researching. How much of your research inspires what you write, and how much of what you write inspires what you research? Chicken and Egg question.
Marnie: I spend a month, full time, researching each book and do bits in between as and when gaps in my knowledge arise. The Girl Who Broke the Rules is, in many ways, a medical thriller, so I had to do a mountain of research into the technicalities of The Butcher’s modus operandi. It was the research that gave me the idea to include an endocrinology subplot. I fell in love with the phrase, “catecholamine storm” and ended up doing a pile of reading that spun its own mini-story! Interviewing real life criminologists to help me flesh out George’s working practices generated little flourishes in the story too, but the biggest inspiration came from research I did twelve months ago on trafficking, when I was putting the synopsis for this book together. Coupled with news stories I saw in the media, I couldn’t fail but to be creatively stimulated by the horrors reported there. I write about crime, after all!

Wendy: Did the research upset you? (Did you actually sleep at night?)
Marnie: No. I found the research thought-provoking. I have a strong sense of social justice and thought I’d raise awareness of the problem through my writing. And yes, I sleep like the dead at night, but that’s because I cram an awful lot into the day and get up very early. My brain doesn’t have the space for nocturnal upset!

Wendy: I read an article about women being hard-wired to love thrillers because our brains are more attuned to working things out, our lives are generally more complicated, and we are natural problem solvers. Who are you thinking about when you are writing? Women, or men?
Marnie: I don’t write for male or female readers. I put together the book that I would want to read, telling a story that would interest me. Other than that, I have my agent in mind as my principal reader. He’s the one who sells the series to publishers worldwide, so he’s as invested in its success as me. Plus, he has Pulitzer Prize winners and Man Booker types on his list, so I need to write something really clever that will pass muster with him!

Wendy: Your plotting is a thing of beauty. We are constantly transported from the mind of one character to another and from one plot strand to another. It’s very complex and must require a huge amount of planning. How do you keep on top of everything?
Marnie: I begin with a two page synopsis, telling the story from start to finish and introducing the main characters. Then, I write the first draft, ensuring I have my high points in the correct places. But once finished, I go back and re-plot the entire thing, moving the sections and chapters around so that there’s balance and good flow. I write in distinct scenes from different characters’ POVs, which makes shuffling easy. I make notes – especially towards the end, so that I remember to tie up every loose thread I had intended to tie up!

Wendy: What can we expect next from George Mackenzie? ...
Marnie: The Girl WhoWalked in the Shadows is out soon. I’m currently writing the final scenes, which is FUN! It’s another fast-paced but dark tale that continues themes from the previous George stories. This time, Europe is in the grip of an Arctic deep freeze. There’s a killer on the loose called Jack Frost, who plugs his victims with dagger-sharp icicles, leaving no damning forensic evidence behind. But wait! What has happened to Van den Bergen and how does George get roped into this hunt for a serial-killer? Flashbacks to the abduction of two Dutch toddlers – one of van den Bergen’s cold cases - bring another gripping, heart-rending dimension to an intricate puzzle that only George can solve.

Continue the discussion with Marnie on Twitter
Read my reviews of Marnie's books here, and here, and take a look at her guest blog for me here.
And if you still want to know more, take a look at Marnie's website.

Thank you, Marnie .

Thursday, 27 August 2015

An unexpected gift from my mum

My mum died in 1997. She was 66, and far too young to go. I had three young children at the time and although she was everything a grandma is meant to be – supportive, loving, kind, and fun – family life left little time for us to just sit and chat, about her.

Our shared history meant I knew who she was anyway; she loved books, and reading, and telling stories to her grandchildren. She had a great imagination and a wonderful sense of humour. She trained at RADA to be an actor, then went into teaching and used her training to produce wonderful plays in the school where she worked. Her imagination was always at work – as a mum, a teacher, a friend.

My mum's actual
handwriting!
That’s the mum I knew. What else did I need to know?

Eighteen years later, I’ve discovered something else; something I wish I’d known back then. My mum wrote stories.

In the process of clearing out the family home recently, in amongst the piles of paper and drawers full of memories, I discovered pages and pages of my mum’s handwriting; the beginnings of two stories, very Alan Bennett in style and humour, but my mum’s voice is loud. Her words reveal so much: her sense of humour, her love of people, her insight into why people behave as they do, and a little bit of mystery. It is all typically Mum, and yet I had no idea she wrote anything like this.

I'd have liked the chance to sit down with her and discuss writing. I'd have liked the chance to share our stories with each other. I'd have liked to have got to know her as a writer. But instead, I have her stories...or at least, the opening scenes of her stories. And short of channelling my mum in a bid for some kind of spiritual intervention, I will never find out what happens next.

Friday, 21 August 2015

The Girl Who Broke the Rules - a review!

The Girl Who Broke the Rules is the second stunning thriller from Marnie Riches.
I was delighted and horrified by this book in equal measure. Delighted by the complex patchwork of unwholesome characters, the constantly shifting point of view, the level of knowledge and incredible attention to detail; horrified by the violent images, the treatment of women and children, and the perverse sexuality. 
Yet it was both delight and horror which kept me reading to the end because I just had to find out how this hideous situation would be resolved.
Most of the characters are flawed – and by that I don’t mean they are badly drawn; quite the opposite. We couldn’t loathe them if they weren’t so real. We couldn’t feel for them, gasp at the horrors of their lives, or notice the shreds of their humanity. The situations they find themselves in are shocking, horrible, and compelling. George Mackenzie, the heroine, isn’t especially likeable, but she’s gutsy and determined and steers us bravely through the darkness to the light at the end of the tunnel.
But it is only a light. Whilst this particular crime may be solved, the ending is not completely sewn up and if we want to find out what happens next, The Girl Who Walked in the Shadows is out in 2016.
The Girl Who Broke the Rules is a dark and daring page-turner, and if you like that kind of thing, I highly recommend it. 

I'll be interviewing Marnie on the 2nd September, so do come back then to find out what she has to say about The Girl Who Broke the Rules, her intriguing characters, and what we can expect next.

Friday, 7 August 2015

Top Tip #1 = READ YOUR WORK OUT LOUD



Okay – so not everyone can afford to have Ellen Degeneres read their book out loud, but there’s a lesson here. If you read your work aloud, you’ll see (and hear) all sorts of potential problems you couldn’t find otherwise.

Reading out loud forces you to read every single word; when reading silently to yourself, there will be words, sentences and even whole paragraphs you skip over. You might not even realise you are doing it, but you will.

When reading aloud you will (in no particular order):

  • pick up on the natural rhythms, language, speech, sense of time and place and so on
  • get a sense of what feels right and wrong, much more readily than if you keep the words to yourself
  • notice the words you overuse
  • become acutely aware of clumsy expressions
  • know which sentences are too long when you run out of breath before you get to the end
  • have a more immediate feel for the pacing, either because it moves too fast or too slow, with not enough beats for you to take a moment’s rest from the plot
  • notice problems with your characters (eg, are they distinguishable from one another?) 
  • notice information dumps; the places where you do too much telling and not enough showing
  • feel bored if there are no, or too few, variations in tension
  • know if you really like and identify with your protagonist, over and above your minor characters
  • notice if major plot points are not given enough prominence
  • know if you have tied up loose ends

This is not a comprehensive list, by any means, but it should give you a better sense of what you are looking for, and hopefully convince you that reading out loud is a good thing. 

Of course, you might not find any problems with your manuscript and feel that the whole experience of reading aloud was a waste of time… maybe that's what EL James thought too...

Sunday, 26 July 2015

One of those Ta-Daaa moments...

...and I’m so excited to be part of it.

"Part of what?" I hear you say.

"Why, the cover reveal for Marnie Riches new pulse-pounding thriller – The Girl Who Broke the Rules – of course!"

When the mutilated bodies of two sex-workers are found in Amsterdam, Chief Inspector van den Bergen must find a brutal murderer before the red-light-district erupts into panic.

Georgina McKenzie is conducting research into pornography among the UK’s most violent sex-offenders but once van den Bergen calls on her criminology expertise, she is only too happy to come running.

The rising death toll forces George and van den Bergen to navigate the labyrinthine worlds of Soho strip-club sleaze and trans-national human trafficking. And with the case growing ever more complicated, George must walk the halls of Broadmoor psychiatric hospital, seeking advice from the brilliant serial murderer, Dr. Silas Holm…

Available in August! 

Having read and loved Marnie’s last book – The Girl Who Wouldn’t Die – I cannot wait to read this one.



Monday, 13 July 2015

Writing for Adults and Children, by Colette Victor

What’s the difference between writing for adults and writing for children? This is a question that was put to me recently.

My first reaction would be to say there’s not that much difference in writing for these two audiences. You get into your character’s head, you listen to them and you tell the story like they’re experiencing it. 

This is true, of course it is, it’s the very basis of good storytelling, but there’s more to it than just that. I’m used to writing for adults. I’ve written seven novels, four of which never made it to publication, all of them for adults except one. 

What to do with lobsters
in a place like Klippiesfontein
(Cargo Publishing, 2015)
These are the aspects that, for me, typify writing for adults:
  • I can write about any subject matter; difficult social issues, sex, characters who might be morally dubious but interesting all the same…
  • My characters can speak any way they like. If they want to use a four-letter word, they can. If they are morally inclined towards blasphemy, that’s OK. They speak like they speak and I don’t stand in their way.
  • I know my end reader is a fully formed adult with a mind of his or her own that won’t easily be corrupted by the words I write. I can experiment with form or style because I know my readers are well read, have been exposed to all manner of stories told in the widest possible variety of ways. They are, in most cases, sophisticated readers and often expect things to be a little difficult and are stimulated by a challenge.
This translates into a lot of freedom for a writer of adult fiction but, at the same time, where there’s freedom there are also fewer rules and boundaries. And rules and boundaries, for all their restrictiveness, also offer certainty and a sense of knowing where you’re going.

And it’s precisely here that I often find myself stumbling. My biggest problem with adult fiction is plot. No matter how well I plan and structure my story at the start of a new project, my characters ignore my efforts and go off on tangents of their own. This inevitably leaves me with heaps and heaps of rewriting and restructuring in the end.

Head over heart
(Chicken House, 2014)
This, to an extent, is where writing for children is easier. I’ve worked with a lot of young people from all races, religions and creeds. There was a particular story idea that grew out of this experience and just wouldn’t let me go so, after a few years, I decided to simply write it. Being a complete novice at writing for young people, I bought myself the book How to write for children and get published by Louise Jordan (Paitkus 2010). In this book, Jordan likens the structure of a children’s book to a three-legged stool:
1.One leg is the beginning; What is this story about?
2. The next leg is the middle; What is the problem?
3. The last leg is the end; What happens?
Without all three its legs the stool will topple over.         

I know, I know, this structure can just as easily be applied to an adult novel and that would solve all my plotting problems, wouldn’t it?

Well, no. By strictly adhering to this structure with my YA novel I was able to write a good book in a relatively short space of time. But applying this to my next book, an adult novel I just completed, did not lead to the same satisfying result and I was left wrestling with my plot just like all my previous adult novels.

But then in writing for young people (in my case, young people between the ages of eleven and fifteen) I had a whole list of other pitfalls I had to watch out for:
  • Bad language and sexually explicit content are not acceptable.
  • Sensitive social issues must be dealt with in a safe or politically correct way (even my politically incorrect character had to be toned down despite the fact that the whole reason I created him was to highlight a politically incorrect viewpoint and challenge it.)
  • My scope for experimenting with style and form was more limited because my audience was younger. They are, by definition, less experienced readers who need to cultivate the sophistication that most adult readers have. My story had to be cleaner and more straight forward.
No matter how much I believed I was in touch with young people and their views, I had to remind myself I was an adult with no experience of being young in the world they’re living in today. I made sure I consulted them about sticky points along the way. I often sat down with these young girls (in my case, Muslim girls, because the book I was writing was about the hijab) and asked them how they saw the world. They were very generous with their time and flattered to be consulted by an adult.

So which do I prefer? I’m not sure. I suppose I’m in my comfort zone when I’m writing for adults but, at the same time, writing for young people was a challenge I really enjoyed - so much so actually, that the next book I’m doing will be YA too.

What, in your experience, is the essential difference between writing for adults and children?

For more from Colette, visit her website,
Blog, or Follow Colette on Twitter

Monday, 6 July 2015

Second Book Syndrome, by Emma Haughton

Emma Haughton
Two months on from the publication of my second YA thriller, Better left Buried, I thought it would be a good time to reflect back on my experience of bringing another book into the world. I remember wondering some time ago whether it would be as hard as the first time around. As manic. As nerve-wracking. As scary.

And the answer is… yes and no. Writing the damn thing wasn’t so bad. I managed to escape the infamous ‘second book syndrome’, at least initially. Many authors say coming up with another idea and bringing it to fruition is very difficult; tempting to think that having done it once before, you’re in for an easier ride. Sadly that’s rarely the case. Each book presents its own unique set of problems and challenges, and you have to find a different way through the forest with every story.

 However , I side-stepped the whole problem by selling the second book ready written. No cunning plan or anything, just the way it worked out. By the time I went out on submission with Now You See Me, I’d already written Better Left Buried. (Mind you, being on submission with two books rather than one has its own issues, but I’ll save that for another blog post.)

Once Usborne took me on, though, it wasn’t all plain sailing. The editing process for Better Left Buried was… err… hell. Three structural edits, then an extremely rigorous copy edit which left no stone unturned in terms of questioning plot points or character motivation.

Happily, I can confirm that publication was generally an easier experience this time round. Thank god. As I’ve written about on this blog before, I found the process of publishing my first book quite terrifying. The feeling of exposure to the wider world. Dealing with the verdicts.

Second time around it was still nerve-wracking – impossible to bring a new baby into the world without angsting about how it will be received – but I’d had my blooding. I’ve grown a thicker skin in the last year or so. Yes, bad reviews and ratings still sting, but with nothing like the ferocity of the first.

I’ve also grown used to the constant nagging worry about sales, publicity, awards and so on - all the usual stuff that fills a writer’s head on a daily basis. And I’ve learned the only cure is work. Immersing yourself in your next book is the best, indeed the only effective way of insulating yourself from worries about those already out there, making their way in the world.


And as I write this, I’ve also passed another landmark – yesterday, right on deadline *high-fives self* I pressed Send on my third book, propelling it into the inbox of my agent and editor. So begins another cycle. But at least now I’m reasonably confident I know the territory. Fingers crossed.  

Emma Haughton was a journalist working for national newspapers and magazines before settling down to write young adult fiction. Her first book, YA thriller NOW YOU SEE ME, was published by Usborne last year. Her second, BETTER LEFT BURIED, came out in May.

Or send Emma a tweet https://twitter.com/Emma_Haughton 


Monday, 1 June 2015

Good Grief

Is this what your next book
is telling you?
My latest book is out on submission. My next book is written but ‘needs work’ and I’m not ready to face it. It feels like I’ve just said goodbye to my grown up baby; I’m left with a sulky unruly teenager, and I don’t have the energy or discipline needed to whip it into shape.

It shouldn’t matter. You need time between projects. You need that space to let go of one thing before you nurture another. New projects need a fresh heart, clear mind, and renewed focus. But until you have all those things, you have to go through a kind of mini-grieving.

If you’ve ever lost anyone you love, you’ll know all about that process - the denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and finally the acceptance... Losing a book isn’t quite as bad of course, but the route remains the same.

DENIAL – This was me a month ago – reluctant to let go. It’s the ‘just one more read through...one more tweak’ mentality. Everyone else is telling you it’s ready, but you can’t believe it, until there really isn’t anything else you can do... And when it’s gone – when it’s out there in Agenty Publishing Land, life becomes meaningless and overwhelming. You certainly can’t face that disorderly manuscript...

ANGER – Your book has gone... and it’s natural to feel deserted and abandoned but why doesn’t everyone else feel the same as you do about it? Why aren’t agents clamouring to their phones to offer you representation? Why aren’t publishers falling at your feet? Why do the wheels of this industry grind so slowly? Anger and pain go hand in hand. It hurts to be ignored... and disconnected. Anger is your anchor and at least it feels better than pain... 

BARGAINING – How about I rewrite the opening? What about the end? If I work on my character’s emotional journey, will you take me on? I could change it to first person present tense, if that would help? Or I could cut it – huge chunks – if you think brevity is best... Because I’ll do anything you ask. I don’t mind editing... in fact, I love editing. I’ll do whatever it takes... just give me another chance. Please?

DEPRESSION – And after bargaining, when it’s a couple of days or even a whole week later and the mail box is still empty... the depression sets in. You withdraw from life, withdraw from Facebook, Twitter, Instagram... and wallow in a fog of intense self-doubt and sadness, wondering, perhaps, if there is anything to be gained from ever writing anything else? You know? Like, what’s the point?

Until suddenly, weeks later and out of the blue... ACCEPTANCE!!!

Out with the old...
This isn’t quite like the usual acceptance of grief – because this isn’t about your acceptance of loss; it’s about that discerning agent’s acceptance of you, the shrewd publisher’s acceptance of your book... your acceptance of yourself as a writer! You start to get dressed again in the mornings, you take all the empty wine bottles to the recycling dump, you call your friends... and finally you have the strength to tame that unruly teenager.

It’s grief. Except, hopefully, it’s good grief.

Saturday, 23 May 2015

Reading fiction makes the world a better place

Reading about the lives of other people is enlightening and educational. When you read, you are using your imagination to climb into the minds, hearts and lives of others and take on their world and their emotions. Good writing  whatever your genre  should be able to make the reader feel, what the character feels; whoever they are, wherever they live, whatever they believe. 

I am talking about empathy here – the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.

Empathy requires you to use your imagination. Reading fiction enhances the imagination, and increases your potential for empathy.  

In their 2006 study, Bookworms versus Nerds, Raymond Mar and Keith Oatley exposed participants to both fiction and non-fiction reading material, and found that 'comprehension of characters in narrative fiction appeared to parallel the comprehension of peers in the actual world, while the comprehension of expository non-fiction shares no such parallels.'  Furthermore, 'the tendency to become absorbed in a story also predicted empathy scores.' 

Their 2009 study, Exploring the link between reading fiction and empathy, attempted to replicate these findings whilst ruling out the huge variable of individual personality. They found that 'fiction exposure still predicted performance on an empathy task,' And that 'exposure to fiction was positively correlated with social support. Exposure to nonfiction, in contrast, was associated with loneliness, and negatively related to social support.'

Subsequent studies have backed up Mar and Oatley’s research, with especial emphasis on reading literary fiction. 

"You never really understand a person  until you consider things from his point of view -
until you climb into his skin and walk around in it."

Harper Lee
Empathy is possibly one of the most important social skills we can master. It creates connections, and leads to a deeper understanding of people (why others think, feel and act as they do) as well as broadening our understanding of other cultures and societies. In turn, this increased understanding helps us have better relationships, and build stronger communities.

As if that wasn’t enough, empathy increases our emotional intelligence, our powers of perception, improves communication and develops the imagination. And the more we can relate to and imagine what the emotions and experiences of others actually feel like for them, the less likely we are to judge, which leads to greater sensitivity, more tolerance and more compassion. 

This clearly isn’t a comprehensive study on the subject, but as a writer of fiction, I must frequently put myself in the shoes of another and try to understand how they think and feel; I ask myself, "how would this person react, and why?" I’d like to think this makes me less critical of others, and more inclined to look beyond the behaviour and try to understand how and why people behave as they do.

And when Bring Me Sunshine was studied by students on the Working with Children, Young People and Families course at Cumbria University, I received dozens of letters of thanks (see here for a selection of their comments) for enlightening them about the feelings and experiences of young carers. When readers tell me they felt what my character was feeling, it means I’ve done my job properly. For those readers, perhaps it will also inform the way they go out about their lives… As one student kindly put it:

As our module explores the challenges young people, children and families face, this book is extremely helpful. Compared to other academics texts this book allows the reader to feel more connected and therefore take more from it. I feel as though I will be able to use this book to further my studies as it has given me a wider knowledge on the challenges (young carers) face in today’s society, and how they can be helped.”

Which brings me to my conclusion; you should read fiction not just because it's fun and absorbing and a perfectly blissful way to while away a few hours, but because developing more empathy and compassion will make the world a better place.


Thanks to all those students who gave me such valuable feedback on Bring Me Sunshine.

To read more about the benefits of empathy, take a look at The Culture of Empathy 

Saturday, 2 May 2015

A review of Better Left Buried, by Emma Haughton

I was supposed to finish a draft of my own YA novel before I read Better Left Buried, but I made the mistake of dipping inside and reading the prologue… A few hours later, I emerged, emotionally drained, and yet completely satisfied by this wonderfully gripping novel.

Sarah’s brother has died, her mum’s not coping and her dad’s working away from home. Even her best friend, Lizzie, seems a little remote. Sarah struggles to manage her grief alone, while caring for her mum and preparing for an important singing audition which could decide her future. We have every reason to feel for Sophie, an ordinary girl, in the middle of a family tragedy.

But right from page one we know this goes beyond ordinary and tragic. Danger lies ahead and yet, like Sarah, we’re not exactly sure where, why, or who to trust. There’s a mystery to be solved, and we’re with Sophie all the way, trying to make sense of strange happenings. She is followed by a stranger, her home is trashed, she is attacked in the street… and then she discovers that it’s all connected to her dead brother. He started something...and she has to finish it.

Sophie’s thoughts and feelings are entirely believable and her actions, although incredibly risky, flow naturally out of this very sinister plot.

I loved this book! And even though I was lucky enough to beta read Better Left Buried some time ago (and supposedly knew what was in store) there were still surprises. I was still on the edge of my seat. It’s a great read – for teens and adults – packed, from start to finish, with excitement, intrigue and tension. 

If you like thrillers, you’ll love this. Highly recommended.