It’s always exciting when there is an author and series to discover and I’m delighted to be part of the celebrations for James Nally’s Games With The Dead. I haven’t had chance to read Games With The Dead yet but am very much looking forward to doing so and it’s tucked away in my suitcase for an upcoming trip.
Games With The Dead is published by Avon Books, an imprint of Harper Collins, and is available for purchase through this link.
Games with the Dead
Irish runaway. Insomniac. Functioning alcoholic.
Life is about to get complicated for DC Donal Lynch.
When a young woman is kidnapped, Donal is brought in to deliver the ransom money. But the tightly-planned drop off goes wrong, Julie Draper is discovered dead, and Donal finds his job on the line – a scapegoat for the officers in charge.
But when Donal is delivered a cryptic message in the night, he learns that Julie was killed long before the botched rescue mission. As he digs further into the murder in a bid to clear his own name, dark revelations make one thing certain: the police are chasing the wrong man, and the killer has far more blood on his hands than they could even imagine.
A gripping, brutal and addictive thriller, perfect for fans of Ian Rankin and James Oswald.
Normal, Not Paranormal
A Guest Post by James Nally
Three books in and I’ve discovered that you lot, fans of crime fiction, can be a pragmatic and cynical bunch! Sure, your reviews to date have been mercifully kind, for which I’m eternally grateful. But there’s been one universal gripe, the sight of which threatens to snap my last functioning nerve. Typically, it goes something like this: ‘I love the characters / plots / humour, but not the paranormal stuff.’
You see, the hero of my series and latest novel, Games with the Dead, endures terrifying nocturnal encounters with dead people. More specifically, whenever DC Donal Lynch gets close to a recently-murdered body, that victim comes back to haunt and torment him until he finds their killer. It might sound ‘out there’ but I’ve got news for those who dismiss it as ‘hooky’: Donal Lynch’s surreal visions are not paranormal! In fact, there’s a good chance you’ve shared the same gruesome, hallucinatory phenomenon yourself, it’s just that your brain has consigned it to the recycle bin.
Donal suffers from a condition called Sleep Paralysis which afflicts a surprising amount of us. Indeed, one scientific study claims that over half of us experience at least one Sleep Paralysis episode during our lifetimes. So, what is it?
It all starts when we enter REM or dreaming sleep. Our bodies are hard-wired to go into paralysis so that we don’t act out those dreams and take someone’s eye out. When you wake, your dreams are supposed to snap off like a light, allowing normal bodily functions to return. But what if your dreaming brain doesn’t switch off? This is at the root of the sleep paralysis experience and where it all starts to get very weird…
What follows is an almost perfect neurological storm. You wake but you can’t move, so you panic. Your eyes are open, you can see the ceiling above you, but still you can’t move a muscle. You feel weight or pressure on your chest, convincing you that someone or something is climbing aboard! Your amygdala – the ‘fight or flight’ trigger in your brain that detects danger – is on high alert. In short, you’re awake, unable to move, terrified and convinced something is on top of your chest, intent on dispensing real harm.
Your brain grapples to justify the terror you feel, so it hallucinates your worst fear, typically a ghost, witch or, as depicted in Henry Fuseli’s famous 1781 painting “The Nightmare”, a demon.
Indeed the ‘mare’ in the word ‘nightmare’ derives from the Norse word ‘mara’, which refers to a supernatural being – usually female – that lies on people’s chests at night suffocating them.
Every night, I leave my bedroom door open, but she never shows…
Anyway, historians now believe that victims of Sleep Paralysis triggered the hysteria that led to the infamous Salem Witch Trials of 1692. Accused witch Susan Martin had reportedly told Robert Downer that ‘some She-Devil would shortly fetch him away’. That night, Downer claimed ‘as he lay in his bed, there came in at the window, the likeness of a cat, which flew upon him, took fast hold of his throat, lay on him a considerable while, and almost killed him.’ Poor Susan and many other innocent women were executed because sufferers of sleep paralysis had woken to find a wizened old homicidal hag on their chests, for witches had become the bogeywomen of the day.
Studies have uncovered similar, localised tormentors. Two of the best-documented examples are Kanashibari in Japan, and the Old Hag of Newfoundland.
The term Kanashibari, meaning ‘to tie with an iron rope’, comes from the belief that ancient Buddhist monks could use a mystical restraint to paralyse others. The Old Hag phenomenon is recorded mostly in Newfoundland. Across the Caribbean, the local term for sleep paralysis is kokma, interpreted as the souls of unbaptised babies strangling victims in their sleep. Meanwhile, since the 1950s in the western world, alien abduction has become the latest culturally-influenced incarnation of sleep paralysis.
In his Sleep Paralysis episodes, Donal Lynch just happens to see people whose murders he’s investigating. And they’re always trying to tell him something. In book three, we finally found out why.
It turns out Donal has a gift, wrapped in a family curse, that only his mother can explain…
If she lives long enough…
(Crikey James. Having suffered from hallucinations last summer when I was ill, just reading your guest post has brought me out in goosebumps…)
About James Nally
James Nally was a journalist for 15 years, before leaving to become a producer and director of TV and film. This is his first novel, and is based on his experiences of his years writing about the murder victims of London.
You can follow James Nally on Twitter @jimnally.
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