An Interview with Abby Vegas, author of Clean Break


I love supporting debut novelists (perhaps in the hope someone might support me if I ever finish my novel!) and it is with great pleasure that I welcome Abby Vegas, author of Clean Break, to Linda’s Book Bag today.

Clean Break is available for purchase in e-book and paperback from your local Amazon site. However, Clean Break will be free on September 28th, 29th and 30th!

Clean Break


Lane Haviland can’t seem to catch a break. She’s dead broke, barely functioning as an adult, and completely alone in New York City. Her so-called “apartment” is a six-by-nine cell in a Brooklyn basement. And her new boss hasn’t ever met a personal or professional boundary she can’t bulldoze through.

Still, Lane’s determined to at least attempt to claw her way back to respectability. But she can’t seem to get her mysterious handyman, Viktor, out of her apartment – or her headspace. Maybe that’s a good thing: Viktor’s easy on the eyes, and that deep-voiced Russian accent is beyond sexy. But as he and Lane grow closer, he can no longer hide his connections with a dangerous criminal underworld – where secrets can be deadly.

An Interview with Abby Vegas

Hi Abby. Thank you so much for agreeing to answer some questions on my blog about your writing and your debut novel Clean Break.

Thanks for having me!

Firstly, please could you tell me a little about yourself?

I’m a married mom of two school-age girls. We all just moved from Connecticut to Michigan. I am writing this from inside a pile of moving boxes and bubble-wrap.

(That sounds like hard work!)

When did you first realise you were going to be a writer?

My first novel came in fits and starts – I think I was falling into the beginner’s trap of waiting for inspiration to strike. I’d write a few scenes and then I’d look them over critically and think “Nah, that’s nowhere near good enough” – and then I’d put everything aside and go do something else. (This is a terrible way to write a book and I don’t recommend it.) My moment of truth came in the form of a New Year’s resolution: I’d finish a first draft of the novel by the following New Year’s Eve. I beat that deadline by two weeks.

(Oh dear. I think you’ve just described my own approach to writing.)

Which aspects of your writing do you find easiest and most difficult?

I love writing dialogue – it comes more easily to me than exposition. It’s kind of like having a conversation with imaginary characters inside my head, which sounds strange but it’s true.

Most difficult for me is getting started. Not just starting on a new project, but getting started each time I sit down to write. There’s this vague anxiety (standard for most writers, I think) that the well is empty and nothing will come out.

You have been described as a female Chandler who can write a brilliant one-liner. How far does this come easily to you and how much do you need to work at this element of your writing?

I tend to crack wise in real life, so it’s fun to infuse fictional characters with some of that sass. Humour is tricky, though. You have to cut out everything that doesn’t work and be ruthless about it.

The cover of Clean Break gives prominence to the female figure. How did that image come about and what were you hoping to convey (without spoiling the plot please!)?

I just about gave myself an ulcer deciding on a cover. I wanted Lane (the heroine) to be front-and-centre because Clean Break is really her story. There’s definitely romance and humour and suspense in there as well, but at its heart I believe the book is Lane’s journey from one very specific point in her life to another. Lane’s romantic interest, Viktor, also earns a place on the cover – and he’s a shadowy figure there.

Clean Break is set in New York. How important was this location to you and why not another city?

I grew up in New York City. Living there is strange – you’re literally stacked on top of each other in high-rise buildings, crammed into subway cars like sardines. It’s paradoxical, but even in all that wall-to-wall humanity it’s pretty easy to feel isolated. I loved the idea of two lonely people finding each other against such a glittering, crowded backdrop.

Clean Break appears to bridge women’s fiction and crime or mystery fiction. How far was this your intention and how far did it arise naturally from your writing?

My favourite authors tend to touch multiple genres in their books – Deborah Harkness, Diana Gabaldon, and Helen Fielding. So yes, I was absolutely aiming for that sweet spot where women’s fiction meets romantic suspense!

Although there is romance, there’s no explicit sex in Clean Break. Why did you choose this approach?

I’m no good at writing smut, although I do enjoy reading it. Several Clean Break readers have commented that they found it refreshing how the chemistry builds up slowly between Lane and Viktor – it’s a mutual attraction that builds and simmers in a realistic way. Slow burns are very sexy.

I know you’ve always liked fiction with strong female protagonists. If you could have a conversation with a woman from someone else’s book, who would you choose and why?

I’d love to grab coffee with Bridget Jones. She’s a feisty, flawed heroine – my favourite kind!

If Clean Break became a film, who would you like to play Lane and Viktor?  

I think Emily Blunt would make a great Lane. She’s wonderful in everything she does, and she has a quiet toughness about her. For Viktor I was picturing Richard Armitage in my head while I was writing. He has a very expressive (and gorgeous) face.

If you had 15 words to persuade a reader that Clean Break should be their next read, what would you say?

Readers have said it’s a funny, sexy book with great characters – a quick, satisfying read.

Thank you so much for your time, Abby, in answering my questions and good luck with Clean Break.

About Abby Vegas


Abby Vegas has always been a writer and story-teller. She is a fan of Richard Armitage and draws and writes for the webcomic Awkward Celebrity Encounters.

You can follow Abby on Twitter and visit her website.

A Book Birthday with Barbara Copperthwaite, author of Flowers for the Dead

flowers for the dead kindle format 04.jpg

Barbara Copperthwaite is not only a talented writer, but one of the loveliest people you could want to meet so I’m thrilled she’s back on Linda’s Book Bag with a guest post to celebrate a year since the publication of Flowers For The Dead. I interviewed Barbara here so you can see for yourself just what she’s like! Flowers For The Dead is available for purchase in e-book and paperback here.

Today Barbara is telling us all about the way Flowers For The Dead has been received over the last year and how she still worries.

Flowers For The Dead

flowers for the dead kindle format 04


Adam Bourne is a serial killer who thinks he is a saviour. When he murders young women and cuts off their lips, he believes he has done it to make them happy.

How did he become warped from the sensitive four-year-old who adored his gran and the fairy tales she read to him? What turned him into a monster who stalks his victims? And what is he trying to say with the bouquets he sends?

When he meets Laura Weir, Adam weaves a fairy tale romance around them. A tale she has no idea she is part of. As he hatches his twisted plan for their fairy tale ending, can anyone stop him before he creates the ultimate sacrifice to love?

Conquering the Fear

A Guest Post by Barbara Copperthwaite

Twelve months ago I self-published my second psychological crime novel, Flowers For The Dead. I was so horribly nervous, and terrified that it would sink without trace.

I had thought that my second novel would be less terrifying, but it seemed that the fear was greater. Last time I had nothing to prove, but I had something to live up to, thanks to my first novel, Invisible, becoming an Amazon Top Ten bestseller (Kindle Murder). I counted myself as exceptionally lucky for that success, as I had heard the terrible tales of how most self-published authors sell fewer than 100 books; that they sink without trace never to be heard of again; that they haunt the echoing annals of Amazon forever, forced to carry clanking chains (okay, I made the last bit up, but you get the picture).

After dodging the bullet (and chains) first time, surely it was too much to expect the same again…

Of course, I loved Flowers For The Dead. I had spent long months living and breathing the characters, making them as rounded and realistic as possible. Creating a story that is both chilling and extreme, yet also plausible in the real world. I had wanted to write a tale that was a little thought-provoking, that played with readers’ expectations, that was different. But the problem with different is that other people simply may not ‘get’ it.

With those fears rattling in my mind, I nervously sent it into the world, while worrying like hell what the reaction would be.

It got off to an incredible start. The day before publication, the Sunday Mirror featured a review of Flowers For The Dead. What’s more, they made it their “Choice Read” of the week – picking it over global bestselling authors Lee Child and Jane Shemilt. Oh my goodness!

Thanks to that auspicious beginning, Flowers For The Dead rocketed straight into the Top Twenty of the Psychological Thriller chart on Amazon, and became the site’s Number 1 Mover & Shaker, which was very exciting! At Christmas I was given the best present when it sat at number 24 in the ENTIRE Kindle Paid For Chart (and Number 3 in the Murder chart).

Since then, Flowers For The Dead has continued to do well, and I’ve been overwhelmed by the way people have taken the main character, Adam, into their hearts. The comment I hear most frequently is: “I never thought I’d feel sympathy for a serial killer!” Readers love that the novel is a unique take on crime fiction, unlike anything they’ve read before.

It seems that my fears people wouldn’t ‘get’ Flowers For The Dead was unfounded, thank goodness.

Of course, now I have the same fears over my next book, Dying Light, which I recently finished. And I’ve no doubt I will be same about the one after that, and the one after that, and… But right now, I’m celebrating a wonderful year of Flowers For The Dead – and looking forward to many more. Thank you to EVERYONE who has bought my book or supported me through tweets, Facebook messages, reviews, and kind words. It means a lot!

About Barbara Copperthwaite


Before turning to full time fiction writing Barbara Copperthwaite was a journalist and editor. She took voluntary redundancy and hasn’t looked back. Barbara likes writing gritty fiction with a human heart. When she isn’t writing, you’ll often find her taking photos of the natural world.

You can find out more about Barbara by visiting her website and following her on Twitter. You’ll also find her on Facebook.



Barbara’s novel Invisible is available for purchase in e-book and paperback here.

Something is wrong. With her marriage, with her husband, with her. But as she pours her heart out to her diary, it’s clear she doesn’t know what.

Until one explosive night she finds a possible answer.

Suddenly hated and vilified by everyone, she clings to her relationship – even while wondering if she really knows her husband at all…

Invisible is a stunningly powerful, gripping and original psychological thriller of subtle insight that takes you on a twisted journey through one woman’s marriage.

You can find out more about Barbara’s book birthday with these other bloggers:


Strangers by Paul Finch


I’m absolutely delighted to be part of the launch celebrations for Strangers by Paul Finch. Strangers was published on 22nd September by Avon Books, an imprint of Harper Collins, and is available for purchase in e-book and paperback on Amazon and by using the links on the publisher page.

I’m thrilled to be sharing an audio clip from Strangers too. You can listen by clicking here.



Unknown, alone, and fearing for your life.

As PC Lucy Clayburn is about to find out, going undercover is the most dangerous work there is.

But, on the trail of a prolific female serial killer, there’s no other option – and these murders are as brutal as they come.

Lucy must step into the line of fire – a stranger in a criminal underworld that butchers anyone who crosses the line.

And, unknown to Lucy, she’s already treading it…

Always gripping. Always gruesome. Paul Finch will leave fans of Rachel Abbott and MJ Arlidge gasping for more

My Review of Strangers

When PC Lucy Clayburn makes a mistake early in her police career, little does she realise what else there might be in store for her.

Strangers is my first Paul Finch read and it most certainly won’t be my last. I thought it was completely brilliant.

Firstly, Paul Finch creates a plot that simply left me breathless – literally. I found my heart rate increasing and my breath ragged as I read this truly exciting narrative. At times I found events violent, but never gratuitously so, and always in a way that built a clearer picture of the villains and the world in which they operate or as a means to advance the plot.

I loved the focus on Lucy, as instead of the curmudgeonly hard boiled middle aged men of many crime novels, we have a strong young woman who is utterly realistic in presentation. Yes, she’s physically attractive and flawed as one might expect, but she is also human and engaging so that I cared about her, liked her and wouldn’t mind being her!

But alongside great characterisation, tight and believable plotting and fast paced, thrilling, action, what impressed me most about Strangers was the overall quality of the writing. Strangers felt literary in a way that some crime novels do not. Highly visual, I could picture the settings with ease and felt I was transported to the Manchester of the book. Dialogue felt natural so that it was as if I could eavesdrop real people and believe in them completely. Paul Finch has a literary style that flows so well, reading his prose is an absolute pleasure.

I know the market is saturated with crime thrillers but I really believe that Strangers is one of the best books in the genre and Paul Finch one of the most talented writers.

About Paul Finch


Paul Finch is a former cop and journalist, now turned full-time writer. He cut his literary teeth penning episodes of the British TV crime drama, The Bill, and has written extensively in the field of children’s animation and for Dr Who.

However, he is probably best known for his work in thrillers, crime and horror. His best known work to date is the five-novel DS Heckenburg crime series, the first three titles of which all attained official ‘best seller’ status and can be found here.

Paul lives in Lancashire, UK, with his wife Cathy and his children, Eleanor and Harry.

You can find out more about Paul via his website, his blog and by following him on Twitter. There’s also more about and from Paul with these other bloggers:


A Publication Day Interview with Elle Wild, author of Strange Things Done


It gives me enormous pleasure to welcome Elle Wild to Linda’s Book Bag. Elle’s novel Strange Things Done is published today 24th September 2016 by Dundurn in e-book and will be released in October in paperback. Strange Things Done is available for purchase from the publisher, Amazon and all good book sellers.

In celebration of publication day, Elle agreed to be interviewed for Linda’s Book Bag. I found her answers to my questions utterly fascinating.

Strange Things Done


As winter closes in and the roads snow over in Dawson City, Yukon, newly arrived journalist Jo Silver investigates the dubious suicide of a local politician and quickly discovers that not everything in the sleepy tourist town is what it seems. Before long, law enforcement begins treating the death as a possible murder and Jo is the prime suspect.

Strange Things Done is a top-notch thriller — a tense and stylish crime novel that explores the double themes of trust and betrayal.

An Interview with Elle Wild

Hi Elle. Thank you so much for agreeing to answer some questions on my blog about your writing and about Strange Things Done which is published today.

Hello! Thank you for hosting me.

Firstly, please could you tell me a little about yourself?

Certainly. In my “former lives”, I’ve been a short filmmaker, freelance journalist, copywriter, and radio host. I wrote and hosted a 20-episode program called “Wide Awake” for the CBC’s Early Edition on Radio One in Vancouver. The latter was one of the strangest jobs I ever had – I stayed up all night recording sound bites from various events around the city, then spun them into stories and added voice over narration and music. (The CBC referred to me as their “Resident Insomniac”.) The stories would play as the sun was coming up over the city. I loved it, though it was exhausting and I had to go straight on to work (at an advertising agency) in the morning.

(Crikey, that sounds really crazy!)

When did you first realise you were going to be a writer?

Oh, I think I always knew that I was going to be a writer or a painter. For a while I tried to balance my two passions by making films, which is really a marriage of story and images. When I was a kid, I used to keep a school journal where you would put your class picture and check off little boxes to indicate what you wanted to be when you grew up. Every year the boxes I checked were: writer, detective, and cowboy. (I guess there was no box for painter.) At any rate, now I write detective stories, so I wasn’t far off – just missing the horse.

If you hadn’t become an author, what would you have done instead as a creative outlet?

Definitely I would have been a painter. I still might be one day, I hope.

How do you go about researching detail and ensuring your narratives are realistic?

I interview a lot of people. My debut novel is set in Dawson City, Yukon (in Canada) and I secured an Artist in Residence position there to immerse myself in the place, have an opportunity to study the locals, and ask a lot of questions. I met with members of the Dawson RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) to ask procedural questions, and have since been speaking to local police in my area. I also met with the town coroner, the mayor, and members of the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in (the First Nations band in Dawson City). One of my main characters is First Nations, so I particularly wanted to be well informed about where he might live and what kind of background he might have come from, and why he might make any choices he was going to have to make.

(Blog readers will find that link fascinating too, Elle)

Which aspects of your writing do you find easiest and most difficult?

I’ve learned so much in writing my first novel. I find it relatively easy to come up with ideas, but I’ve learned to be harder on my ideas in the beginning and to pitch a lot of different ideas to colleagues, friends, family and also my agent in order to learn which idea is easiest to pitch – because the pitch is everything. If the story doesn’t have a unique angle in a one sentence pitch, it will be very difficult to sell through to an agent or for the agent to sell through to a publisher. The writing word-by-word or line-by-line is important, of course, but no one will ever get that far if they don’t like your 1-line pitch.

What are your writing routines and where do you do most of your writing?

Well, my writing routines adapt according to what’s happening in my life. I started out by writing when my baby was sleeping, then he stopped napping. For a while I tried writing instead of sleeping. Once my son started school, I wrote while he learned. Since he’s been home for the summer, I’ve taken to setting my alarm for 5am every day and write until he wakes up. This year will be different again, because my husband and I have made the choice to homeschool our son – so I’ll need to keep my monastic 5am start. Not ideal, but hopefully it just shows you that you can always make time when you think you have none.

When you’re not writing, what do you like to read?

Oh, I read everything I can get my hands on, but mainly a balance of what would be termed straight “literary fiction” and “literary mystery”. I just finished Anna Mazzola’s wonderful debut, The Unseeing, and I’m currently reading another terrific and very whimsical historical mystery called Edgar Allan Poe and the London Monster. Some of my favourite writers include Margaret Atwood, Karen Russell, Michael Chabon, and Alan Bradley. I’m also really looking forward to reading Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien and All That Man Is by David Szalay.

Do you have other interests that give you ideas for writing?

I think I’m interested in everything. Sometimes I get ideas from strange stories I find in the newspaper. I recently wrote a short story (published in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine) based on a news article that suggested Japan was considering using robots to care for its elderly.

Strange Things Done has a very cold looking cover. How did that image come about and what were you hoping to convey (without spoiling the plot please!)?

Well, I’m afraid I can’t take credit for the cover of the book, as it was designed by the publisher, though I like it.

Dawson City, your setting for Strange Things Done, is a small community. Why did you choose this rather than a large city for the location of your novel?

I wanted to experiment with the conventions of noir. Generally speaking, “noir” makes me think of a large, dark city, and of things happening in shadowy alleys, so there was something interesting to me about setting a noir in a very bright, snowy place, and in a small town. Also, I like the pressure the setting puts on the characters – they know a local must be responsible for what has happened, and that there’s really nowhere to run once freeze-up hits. It all felt very claustrophobic. Dawson City is surrounded by mountains and by the Yukon River. In the winter, when the river freezes, the ferry is dry-docked and the Top of the World highway to Alaska closes, meaning that there is really only one route out to the south. If the road snows in, you’re pretty trapped and isolated. I find that scary.

You’ve recently returned to Canada after a spell in the UK. What similarities and differences in attitudes to reading and to writers did you notice?

We have internationally renowned writers in Canada, like Margaret Atwood and Michael Ondaatje. In fact, there are currently two Canadians on the Man Booker Prize shortlist, Madeleine Thien and David Szalay, so we definitely produce writers here. That said, there probably aren’t as many prizes available for writers in Canada, and there are significantly less literary agencies. According to the Writers’ Union of Canada, there are only about thirty agents in Canada, so the competition to find representation is quite stiff. (I count myself very lucky to have an agent – I’m represented by Westwood Creative Artists.)

It’s also much more difficult to feel connected to the literary hotspots because of the sheer geographical size of Canada. Most of the agents and publishers are in Toronto, which is a long way away if you live on the West Coast like I do. I have never met my agent or publisher in person. When I lived in England, I lived very close to Bath, and was close enough to Bristol to attend events like CrimeFest, or I could take a train into London fairly easily where, as you know, everything happens. I definitely feel less connected here, and I do miss that sense of being in the centre of it all in England.

How important is Canada to you as an inspiration for writing?

Ironically, I think that sense of isolation and distance that I’ve experienced in Canada is also something that informs my writing, and in a way, connects me to other Canadians.  That said, I’m not always going to write about Canada  – my last story was set in Tokyo and my upcoming novel is set in Victorian London and Dorset – but I think the importance of landscape and sense of place will always influence my work, and perhaps the sense of being on the outside looking in.

Strange Things Done has been described as Nordic style noir in genre. What is your response to that epithet?

I would take that as a compliment, as I’m a huge fan of Nordic noir. I particularly loved Peter Hoeg’s Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow and S.J. Gazan’s The Dinosaur Feather. I would count count them as influences.

Poetry has been the inspiration for the title of Strange Things Done. What part does poetry play in your life?

I come from a family of storytellers. My mother was a librarian and was also the library’s storyteller, so I grew up listening to her entertain kids at circle time. My father had memorized tracts of poetry in his youth and liked to break them out around the campfire like a party trick, his favourite being The Cremation of Sam McGee by Robert Service. That poem made me very curious about the Yukon, and eventually I wound up doing an Artist in Residency there for a couple of months in Dawson City, as I said. I’d like poetry to play a bigger part in my life than it does currently. I think it’s fair to say that I’m still learning, but I’m in awe of the way a poem can create a mood or tell a story in just a few short lines.

(The Cremation of Sam McGee is here if blog readers would like to read it)

If you could choose to be a character from Strange Things Done, who would you be and why?

Oh, I’d definitely choose Sally because she is so comfortable in her own skin and has such a good time being herself, without any kind of judgement. That’s pretty far away from how I am myself, and probably how most writers are. I think writers drown themselves in their own tiresome self-analysis and judgement.

If Strange Things Done became a film, who would you like to play Jo and why?  

I’d love to see someone in the vein of Eva Green (Penny Dreadful) or Rachel McAdams (The Notebook) play Jo Silver. I think both women have an interesting balance of fragility and strength. Either are capable of convincing you that, despite appearances, they have a kind of inner steel running through them. Oh, I also love Ellen Page (Juno). She has wonderful comedic timing and would bring a certain frankness to the role.

If you had 15 words to persuade a reader that Strange Things Done should be their next read, what would you say?

I’d say, “Strange Things Done is an award-winning northern noir in the vein of Peter Hoeg.”

Or I’d quote someone else:

 “What a wonderful dark, quirky, and complex debut novel this is.”

– Ian Hamilton, internationally bestselling author

Thank you so much, Elle, for your time in answering my questions.

Thank you! And thank you to anyone who reads the novel.

About Elle Wild


Elle Wild grew up in a dark, rambling farmhouse in the wilds of Canada where there was nothing to do but read Edgar Allan Poe and watch PBS mysteries. She is an award-winning short filmmaker and the former writer/host of the radio program Wide Awake on CBC Radio One. Her short fiction has been published in Ellery Queen Magazine and her articles have appeared in The Toronto Star, Georgia Straight, and Westender. Wild’s debut novel, Strange Things Done, won the Arthur Ellis Award 2015 for Best Unpublished First Crime Novel, and was shortlisted in multiple contests internationally. Recently returned from the U.K., Wild currently resides on an island in the Salish Sea named after the bones of dead whales.

You can follow Elle on Twitter and visit the Strange Things Done website.

Around The World in 80 Tales by Dave Tomlinson


I love travel as much as I love books and so when I was offered the chance to review Dave Tomlinson’s Around The World in 80 Tales how could I refuse? Around The World in 80 Tales was published on 16th August 2016 and is available for purchase in e-book from your local Amazon site.

Around The World in 80 Tales


Travel is an amazing experience and I’ve spent years of my life living out of my backpack. I’ve explored well-beaten tourist trails and to far corners beyond them. Each journey is an adventure and each adventure gives with a story to tell. So one day I decided that yes, I would write 80 of my best Travel Stories.

After leaving me speechless, travel then turned me into a storyteller!

I’ve found that travel is a kaleidoscope of people, places, events, history, culture, food and fun. Through the pages of my book, I’ll bring it all to life for you. The stories are fascinating, inspiring, amusing and amazing. Some even get a little crazy but collectively they are an insight into the wonderful highs and gritty realities of travelling the world on a budget.

My review of Around The World in 80 Tales

Dave Tomlinson has taken his travels and turned them into a travelogue with first person accounts of his adventures written in around 500 words per location and with photographs mostly taken by the author to illustrate.

I have to confess I didn’t read Around The World in 80 Tales all in one go or in the fairly random order it is presented, but kept dipping in to the contents beginning with the places I’ve been to myself like Laos, Australia, Ecuador, Japan and Taiwan. I think this is a book that rewards such an approach as the reader can travel where they fancy with Dave Tomlinson as the mood takes them.

I was entertained too, by finding out about the places I have yet to visit and having my preconceived expectations confirmed or undermined by Dave’s experience. I think his trip on an Indian train isn’t one I want to repeat when I eventually go to India, but he has confirmed that I really need to see the terracotta army in China!

What I liked most about Around The World in 80 Tales is the personal style that captures a local flavour so that I got a real feel for the less touristy areas of the countries visited. Occasionally the vocabulary lacked some of the romance I associate with travel writing, but I think that also made the vignettes more accessible too. Around The World in 80 Tales reminded me of the photobooks my husband makes after our travels and for some readers it may be too personal an approach, but I would still recommend reading it as a means to get a flavour for a country before you visit.

There are some lovely photographs that accompany the writing, mostly taken by the author himself, that bring to life the places being described.

Around The World in 80 Tales is an interesting travelogue for those who want to visit countries vicariously.

About Dave Tomlinson


Dave is a travel blogger who has spent over ten years travelling many countries and continents, cheaply and safely and he delights in sharing his passion for travel with others.

You can find out more about Dave and his travels by visiting his website, finding him on Facebook and following him on Twitter.

Improbable Tropes, a Guest Post by Caimh McDonnell, author of A Man With One Of Those Faces


It gives me great pleasure to welcome Caimh McDonnell to Linda’s Book Bag today with a guest post on a topic dear to my heart, improbable tropes in crime fiction. Caimh’s darkly comic crime novel A Man With One Of Those Faces was published on 27th August 2016. A Man With One Of Those Faces is available for purchase on Amazon UK and  Amazon US.

A Man With One Of Those Faces


A darkly comic Irish crime thriller.

The first time somebody tried to kill him was an accident.
The second time was deliberate.
Now Paul Mulchrone finds himself on the run with nobody to turn to except a nurse who has read one-too-many crime novels and a renegade copper with a penchant for violence.

Together they must solve one of the most notorious crimes in Irish history . . .
. . . or else they’ll be history.

Improbable Tropes in Crime Fiction

A Guest Post by Caimh McDonnell

Dear TV Producers,

I hereby swear that, regardless of how bad the rest of it is, I will faithfully watch at least three series of any cop show that contains the following scene in its opening episode.

EXT: Evening. A rainy parking lot.

A woman in her 20s, attractive enough to maximise the audience’s horror when she dies, stands under an umbrella while a handsome in a world-weary way police detective, whose gruff exterior hides a heart of gold, questions her.

Detective: “Just take me through it one more time mam.”

Victim No 1: “Well, like I said, I was just coming back to my car and I was about to get in when I noticed him trying to hide in the back seat.”

Detective: “I see.”

Victim No 1: “I mean, why would anyone do that? It’s a small car, how on earth did he think I wouldn’t see him? Who has ever gotten into a car and not noticed a fully-grown human being in the back? I mean, who does that?”

Detective: “No one mam. Nobody has ever done that.”

I’ll be honest, I am an absolute nightmare to watch TV with. If a lazy device such as the attacker who can inexplicably make themself invisible in the back seat of a mid-sized car pops up, my long-suffering wife knows that the next twenty minutes is going to involve me pontificating on exactly how unlikely that is to have ever happened. Such a device isn’t the sole preserve of the over-worked hack either. Aaron Sorkin, a god amongst screenwriters and my personal all-time hero bar none, uses this device in A Few Good Men. Worse, Tom Cruise gets out of his car, buys a paper and in all of the 30 seconds it takes, a man sneaks into his back seat, ready to pop up and scare the bejesus out of Tom when he gets back. The newspaper seller is helpfully blind but Tom isn’t. In fairness to the otherwise utterly flawless Mr Sorkin, the backseat driver is a CIA specialist but as far as I’m aware, the CIA has yet to find a way to generate a Harry Potter style cloak of invisibility.

Obviously, whether it is a film script or a novel, every writer should avoid such devices or better yet – point them out. Nothing makes your work seem more authentic than pointing out how unrealistic other people’s is. I’ve noticed that is one particular trick that even the very best authors can’t resist. In Darkly Dreaming Dexter, the first of Jeff Lindsay’s brilliant Dexter books, Dexter refers to how unrealistic the CSI shows on television are. In The Mercedes Man no less an author than Stephen King, then refers to how unrealistic Dexter is. No doubt somewhere right now, some author is trying to work up the courage to dare to point out something unrealistic in a Stephen King book. I wish them luck.

In the meantime, I will continue to get upset about inexplicable occurrences like the invisible attacker in the back seat. I even wrote a short story in an effort to get this particular monkey off my back. It is called How to Send a Message and if you’d like to read it, it is one of a triumvirate of short stories that can be read for free by those who sign up to receive my newsletter here.

Also, if you’ve got any similar bugbears that you notice in crime fiction, whether it be TV, Film or novels, do let me know by contacting me through my website. I’m thinking of forming a support group, either for improbable trope sufferers or their long-suffering spouses.

About Caimh McDonnell


Caimh McDonnell is an award-winning stand-up comedian, author and writer of televisual treats.

His writing credits include The Sarah Millican Television Programme, A League of Their Own, Mock the Week and Have I Got News for You. He also works as a children’s TV writer and was BAFTA nominated for the animated series ‘Pet Squad’ which he created. He was also a winner in the BBC’s Northern Laffs sitcom writing competition.

During his time on the British stand-up circuit, Caimh has firmly established himself as the white-haired Irishman whose name nobody can pronounce. He has brought the funny worldwide, doing stand-up tours of the Far East, the Middle East and Near East (Norwich).

His debut novel, A Man with One of Those Faces, a darkly comic crime thriller set in Dublin, is out now.

You can find out more by following Caimh on Twitter and by visiting his website.

Cartes Postales From Greece by Victoria Hislop

cartes postales

My thanks to Caitlin Raynor at Headline for an advanced reader copy of Cartes Postales From Greece by Victoria Hislop. Cartes Postales From Greece is published in hardback on 22nd September 2016 by Headline Review and is available for purchase from all good booksellers.

Cartes Postales from Greece

cartes postales

Week after week, the postcards arrive, addressed to a name Ellie does not know, with no return address, each signed with an initial: A.

With their bright skies, blue seas and alluring images of Greece, these cartes postalesbrighten her life. After six months, to her disappointment, they cease. But the montage she has created on the wall of her flat has cast a spell. She must see this country for herself.

On the morning Ellie leaves for Athens, a notebook arrives. Its pages tell the story of a man’s odyssey through Greece. Moving, surprising and sometimes dark, A‘s tale unfolds with the discovery not only of a culture but also of a desire to live life to the full once more.

My Review of Cartes Postales From Greece

When Ellie finds postcards from A, addressed to S Ibbotson, in her flat pigeon hole they sow the seed of desire to visit Greece. A notebook arrives too as she goes off to Athens and so the book begins.

I’ve always loved Victoris Hislop’s writing  and I have to say that I was apprehensive about reading Cartes Postales From Greece as I was slightly disappointed in my last Victoria Hislop read, The Sunrise, my review of which you can read here, which, although good, didn’t move me like her other writing.

Initially I didn’t ‘get’ this book at all. Ellie seemed to disappear completely and I couldn’t attune myself to the writing. I set the book aside, came back to it later and suddenly I understood. It is not a story about Ellie, or A (even though the notebook tells us and Ellie about his innermost emotions), or S Ibbotson. It is Greece that is the central character, gradually uncovered through the tales A hears on his travels and which are linked with the notebook.

I have one criticism that I didn’t see the need to have Ellie as part of the structure. The ending of the book was too tidy for my liking and A’s notebook is quite strong enough to stand as a plot device alone.

However, Victoria Hislop weaves magical elements into what are, in effect, a series of short stories or snapshots. We meet colourful charcaters from beautiful women to corrupt officials. We read about the history, mythology, geography and economy of Greece. Each aspect is beautifully illustrated by postcards and photographs which are produced with a slight sepia tone giving a dreamlike quality to them and enhancing the concept that perhaps the truth isn’t always told in the stories. There are many layers for interpretation here. I felt reading Cartes Postales From Greece was the next best thing to actually visiting the country. It is incredibly well researched, immaculately written and thoroughly absorbing.

For anyone who loves the country or wants to understand it better, Cartes Postales From Greece is an essential read. Beautifully and vividly written it is evocative and I thought Cartes Postales From Greece is Victoria Hislop at her very best.

About Victoria Hislop


Victoria Hislop read English at Oxford, and worked in publishing, PR and as a journalist before becoming a novelist. She is married with two children.

Her books have been translated into more than 30 languages.

You can find Victoria Hislop on Twitter and Facebook and visit her website.