I’m delighted to be on the blog tour for The Tattoo Thief by Alison Belsham and to be sharing my review with you!
It is hard to believe that The Tattoo Thief is Alison Belsham’s first crime book, it is a very impressive debut from an author who has previously written screenplays. I found that I was immediately drawn into the book and the characters and the gruesome murders.
And do be warned that this book is gruesome and doesn’t hold back in describing the murders and crime scenes. This doesn’t bother me but I’m sure that there are some more sensitive readers who might struggle with it.
I really loved the policeman who was trying to solve his first case of being in charge, Francis was a great character and I loved a lot about him. He is the first to admit that he knows nothing about tattoos and so has to learn quickly, lucky for him Marni, a local tattoo artist, is there to help guide him. I was slightly concerned that the book might go for the stereotypical route when portraying the tattoo community in Brighton, but that was definitely not the case here.
I really did love reading this book, I love a book that sucks me in and makes me guess who might have done it. The book is fast paced and well written, the authors research is evident, giving the book a sense of realism. If you love your crime thrillers then you’re sure to love The Tattoo Thief.
Thank you to Trapeze Books for a copy of The Tattoo Thief by Alison Belsham. I was under no obligation to review the book and all thoughts are my own.
A policeman on his first murder case
A tattoo artist with a deadly secret
And a twisted serial killer sharpening his blades to kill again…
When Brighton tattoo artist Marni Mullins discovers a flayed body, newly-promoted DI Francis Sullivan needs her help. There’s a serial killer at large, slicing tattoos from his victims’ bodies while they’re still alive. Marni knows the tattooing world like the back of her hand, but has her own reasons to distrust the police. So when she identifies the killer’s next target, will she tell Sullivan or go after the Tattoo Thief alone?
About The Author:
Alison Belsham initially started writing with the ambition of becoming a screenwriter-and in 2000 was commended for her visual storytelling in the Orange Prize for Screenwriting. In 2001 she was shortlisted in a BBC Drama Writer competition. Life and children intervened but, switching to fiction, in 2009 her novel Domino was selected for the prestigious Adventures in Fiction mentoring scheme. In 2016 she pitched her first crime novel, The Tattoo Thief, at the Pitch Perfect event at the Bloody Scotland Crime Writing Festival and was judged the winner. After signing with agent Jenny Brown, The Tattoo Thief was bought by Trapeze books and published in May, 2018.
The Tattoo Thief by Alison Belsham is out now in ebook and paperback and is available from Amazon UK and Amazon US.
Today it’s my stop on the blog tour for End Game by Matt Johnson, published by Orenda Books. Matt has written an incredibly powerful account of losing his friend, WPC Yvonne Fletcher. End Game is the final part of the Robert Finlay trilogy.
Losing a friend
17th April sees the 36th anniversary of one of the worst days I have ever experienced. It is a day when a friend and colleague was shot and killed. Three decades later, despite the identity of the killer being known, he remains a free man.
On 17th April 1984 I was a 27 year old advanced car driver working in central London on a police traffic car. WPC Yvonne Fletcher was a 25 year old officer on the Vice Squad at West End Central Police Station. My wife of the time served on this same squad. Yvonne was one of her best mates and part of our circle of friends.
Yvonne had been at a house-warming party at my home a few weeks before this fateful day. My lasting memory of her is of seeing her sitting at the bottom of the stairs in my house, looking relaxed and chatting with friends.
At 10.18 am Yvonne was with a small contingent of officers supervising a demonstration outside the Libyan Peoples Bureau in St James Square, London. Her fiancé was among the officers with her. Yvonne had her back to the Bureau.
Without warning, someone in the Libyan bureau fired a Sterling submachine gun into the group of protesters and police officers. Eleven people were hit by bullets, including Yvonne.
Severely injured WPC Yvonne Fletcher being helped by colleagues
An ambulance was quickly sent to the scene and my patrol car was sent to escort the ambulance to the Westminster Hospital.
Anyone who has worked in central London will know just how quickly a major incident can cause the streets to become blocked. Main roads rapidly snarl up and the side streets and rat runs that the taxis and locals use, soon follow. Gridlock is the result.
Getting the ambulance to the hospital proved to be a nightmare. We were forced to drive onto pavements and, on several occasions, we had to get out of the car to get vehicles moved so we could get through. At that time we were aware that the casualty was a police officer, but didn’t know who.
I remember that the ambulance overtook the police car just before we reached the hospital. We had to get out of the car to clear traffic from a junction and the crew seized the opportunity to make progress and get through. When we pulled in behind the ambulance, Yvonne had already been taken into the emergency area. I remember seeing the fantastic efforts and the work that was being put in by the nursing staff to help her. They were fantastic and couldn’t have tried harder.
Yvonne died from her wounds one hour later. She had been shot in the back and abdomen.
After escorting the ambulance, my car was sent to help with the traffic chaos that followed the start of the resulting siege.
I went home that afternoon and switched on the six o’clock news. It was only then that my former wife and I learned that the murdered officer was our friend.
The following day, I was assigned as a driver to the SAS team that had been brought in and stationed at a nearby RAF base. My job was to run the lads around, in short I was a gofer and taxi driver. I made frequent trips to the infamous ‘blue screen’ that was built to block the view into the square and I was present on the night that something amazing happened.
Yvonne’s hat and four other officers’ helmets were left lying in the square during the siege of the embassy. Images of them were shown repeatedly in the British media. They came to represent something quite iconic as a symbol of unarmed police officers who had been attacked so ruthlessly.
What happened was that a PC, acting completely on his own, ran into the square and snatched Yvonne’s hat. There were shouts of ‘get back, get back’ from the firearms officers but the unarmed PC was determined and fast. As he returned to the blue screen, he was bundled away by a senior officer and a firearms officer. I never did find out what happened to the PC but I suspect he got into trouble.
Fact is, what he did was a reckless thing to do. It is quite possible that the hat may have been playing a part in the hostage negotiations that were going on behind the scenes. We will never know. But what I can tell you is how much that PCs actions lifted the spirits of people like me who were sitting watching while the ‘powers that be’ seemed to be doing very little. Grabbing Yvonne’s hat from under the noses of the terrorists stuck two fingers up to them and told them what we thought of them.
To that anonymous PC, I say thanks.
The ‘Peoples Bureau’ was surrounded by armed police for eleven days, in one of the longest police sieges in London’s history. Meanwhile, in Libya, Colonel Gaddafi claimed that the embassy was under attack from British forces, and Libyan soldiers surrounded the British Embassy in Tripoli.
No satisfactory conclusion was reached in the UK, and following the taking of six hostages in Tripoli, the occupiers of the Bureau were allowed to fly out of the UK. The Tripoli hostages were not released for several months, ironically almost on the exact day that the memorial to Yvonne Fletcher was unveiled.
In July 2012 Andrew Gilligan of The Sunday Telegraph received reliable reports that Salah Eddin Khalifa, a pro-Gaddafi student, fired the fatal shot. Unlike a previous suspect named as the killer, Mr Khalifa is known to be alive and may, one day, be arrested. He is currently living in Cairo, a city to which he moved as the Gaddafi regime crumbled.
Yvonne’s death is still the only murder of a British cop on UK soil to remain unsolved.
But, we haven’t forgotten.
Robert Finlay seems to have finally left his SAS past behind him and is settled into his new career as a detective. But when the girlfriend of his former SAS colleague and close friend Kevin Jones is murdered, it’s clear that Finlay’s troubles are far from over. Jones is arrested for the killing, but soon escapes from jail, and Finlay is held responsible for the breakout. Suspended from duty and sure he’s being framed too, our hero teams up with MI5 agent Toni Fellowes to find out who’s behind the conspiracy. Their quest soon reveals a plot that goes to the very heart of the UK’s security services. End Game, the final part in the critically acclaimed Robert Finlay trilogy, sees our hero in an intricately plotted and terrifyingly fast-paced race to uncover the truth and escape those who’d sooner have him dead than be exposed.
About The Author:
Matt Johnson served as a soldier from 1975-78 and Metropolitan Police officer from 1978 -1999.
His debut novel Wicked Game – a crime thriller – was published by Orenda Books in March 2016. The sequel Deadly Game, was published in March 2017, the finale End Game, in March 2018.
In 1999, Matt was discharged from the police with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Whilst undergoing treatment, he was encouraged by his counsellor to write about his career and his experience of murders, shootings and terrorism.
Matt was eventually persuaded to give this a go, and one evening, he sat at his computer and started to weave his notes into a work of fiction that he described as having a tremendously cathartic effect on his own condition. He used his detailed knowledge and recollections to create what has been described by many readers as a fast paced, exciting and authentic tale of modern day policing and terrorism.
I could be argued that Matt Johnson is living proof PTSD is a condition that can be controlled and overcome with the right help and support. He has been described by many fans as an inspiration to fellow sufferers.
Matt is represented by James Wills of Watson Little, Literary Agents and by Kaye Freeman of Andromeda Talent. The former for all literary, audio, tv and film rights; the latter for all public speaking engagements.
I’m delighted to have Carol and Bob aka RC Bridgestock on If Only I Could Read Faster today as part of their blog tour for When The Killing Starts which was released yesterday. First I have a guest post from them followed by my 4* review. Enjoy!
From Fact to Fiction – A job like no other…
It is often said that we should ‘write what we know’ and so far that method has worked for us. But then again we write crime fiction, and between us we have nearly 50 years of police experience. This unique combination has enabled us to create our down-to-earth character Detective Inspector Jack Dylan, with warmth and humour because he is loosely based on Bob. Dylan’s partner Jen is also loosely based on me, very loosely I might add… And some traits of characters you meet in the Dylan series are also taken from those we’ve met ‘in the job’ – a profession often regarded as ‘a job like no other’.
It is one thing reading or writing fictional crime novels or watching them on TV; but why would anyone want to deal with the aftermath of man’s inhumanity to man, or be able to? Questions like this makes me wonder if ‘life’ prepares us for what’s to come …
Bob spent his school holidays on his grandparent’s farm, he had a paper round before and after school and his Saturday job was in a butchers. Leaving Grammar school before the mock exams, because he was offered an apprenticeship, meant that he had no academic qualifications, and he soon realised after qualifying as a butcher that unless he owned a shop there was little money in it. So, with a young family to provide for he went to work in a dye works. He stuck it our for two years. The money was good but when he saw colleagues with terrible burns, and when he blew his nose it gave off the colours of a rainbow, he knew enough was enough.
He had encountered three runs-in’s with the police in his young life. Once when he was five; his brother gave him a fog detonator that he had taken from the railway line. Bob being smart knew it wasn’t the watch his elder said it was and he threw it away. His railway inspector father found out what he had done and knowing how dangerous the detonators could be, immediately called the police. A short ride in a blue and white Morris 1000 police van took him to the ‘scene of the crime’, in the company of a stern looking police officer. Bob got a clip round the ear for wasting police time and another from his dad when he got home. The second incident was in his butchering days. Returning home on the bus one dark night, over the moors, from the slaughter house, the bus was stopped and a police officer climbed onboard. After speaking to the driver the officer walked slowly down the aisle, his eyes only for Bob. He grabbed the young butcher boy by the scruff of the neck and escorted him unceremoniously off. Apparently an eagle-eyed passenger had caught sight of Bob’s blood splattered smock which was tucked neatly under his arm, and on alighting promptly informed the police. Bob assumed the blue and white apron might’ve given the police officer a clue as to his profession, but nevertheless he was given a clip around the ear for wasting police time and told to put it in a plastic bag next time. He and was left by the side of the road to walk the four miles home – his allocated bus fare already spent! On the third occasion he was quietly enjoying his ‘pie and peas’ from the van in Birstall market square after a night out, when a copper barked at him to ‘move’! Before Bob could say, ‘Bob’s your uncle,’ he was thrown into the back of a police van with a dog that, if it wasn’t called Bite, it should’ve been. Luckily on this occasion the officer got an urgent call and Bob was released promptly with another clip around the ear.
So he decided, if he couldn’t beat them he might as well join them…
But please don’t despair if you haven’t walked the walk and talked the talk. You already know more than you think…
Eight years ago we had never put pen to paper – some confidence for those just about to start writing their first novel. The bad news is on hearing the wordswrite what you know I have seen faces immediately show defeat. But, these four short words can be misleading, build barrier as well as impose limitations on the imagination, and breed uncertainty.
The good news is that we all know a lot more than we think we do. Funny, it took me years to realise that little snippet of wisdom! What we ‘know’ isn’t just what our everyday material life we live. It is so much more…
For instance, we all know what scares us, what being frightened feels like, how we react if we touch something hot or cold, or smell something rancid. It’s that knowledge that we, the author has to draw upon to make our stories believable to others. Your fears of the dark, pain, the unknown, are other people’s fears too. You know what prompts these feelings just as much as the other primal emotions of happiness, sadness and anger; for these are a range of feelings that we all share as human beings. Just remember that when you are writing your story to make those emotions/reactions real to your reader.
Everyone knows what it feels like to have the sun on your back, to sit in front of a nice warm fire and feel snuggled, warm, safe; to fall over and scrape your knee – you probably did that hundreds of times as a child.
Think also of the other senses. What do you hear?
You know full well how you react to a loud bang and how others do too. Or what your body does when you put something tart in your mouth. By sharing those sensations the reader will immediately know how your character is feeling too. For example, Daisy put a slice of lemon in her mouth and pulled a sour face. We don’t need to add, she recoiled and cringed at the tangy taste because we, the reader, can imagine it.
So, by drawing upon what you share with others you’ve instantly created a rapport between you, your reader and your character, and this trigger in turn will help share emotions. This in turn will help you build a place. What do you see? The place is irrelevant you could be in a garden, a lounge, a bedroom… Now, as you move on you’ll begin to realise that the situations that you ‘know’ does not necessarily have to happen where it happened to you. This experience could happen anywhere you want – even in another time, or in a fictional world.
The next step is to create a character – someone who we want people to remember whether they love, hate or feel indifferent towards. Give them a look, a trait, a catch-phrase that is unforgettable – for instance, do you remember Kojak the big, bald, hard-nosed detective with a lollipop addiction who constantly said, ‘Who Loves Ya Baby’? See what I mean?
To make characters in stories in the past or the future come alive we do our research to find out what the fashion was, transport, the technology of the time. Research is another form of knowing.
You will need to know how to make them real today.
Remember people are people, no matter where or when they lived. They will all have experienced love, hate and curiosity just like you and me. Even if your characters are from another planet, or exist in some futuristic land you’re going to have to give them traits that your readers can identify with, here and now so the story will work.
So, taking what you have and what you know, from experience and research you can make-believe….
A story’s success is only waiting to be shaped by your imagination.
Now what are you waiting for?
We often get asked how we write together.
Bob writes the police procedural which is the main storyline for each DI Jack Dylan novel. All the Dylan books stand alone in terms of the crime story. He writes this with the ‘mask’ of the detective clearly on, as he doesn’t concentrate on the victims background until the evidence is given to him by way of it being revealed to the investigation team. The initial crime scene in mind he writes through the enquiry. The reader of a Dylan book is firmly sat on the detectives shoulder throughout both in his professional life and at home treating them to all the highs and lows of any case he takes charge of.
Once the crime has been solved I get the narrative and I start from the beginning – Bob doesn’t do a re-write – that’s my job. I write the home-life storyline, the emotion. I draw out of Bob his ‘real’ feelings and write the scenes from his sometimes harrowing descriptions. Personally I think writing has been cathartic for Bob. Bob says its work! We’re lucky to write procedurals as there is never a case of not knowing how to move the story forward.
However, we don’t write about factual murders. We have too much respect for the victims, or the relatives of the victims who have already suffered enough; but every crime scene we write about Bob has seen. Every post-mortem is etched in his sub conscious forever: all he has to do is draw on the memory of the incident. He will never forget. The family saga which ties the books as a series also allows a new storyline in each book so the books do truly stand alone and this is due to us watching the couple grow, as well as their family with all the drama that brings…
‘When The Killing Starts’ Di Jack Dylan (Book 7) released 30th June 2016
When the Killing Starts is the seventh book in the D.I. Jack Dylan series. However, it is the first book in the series that I have read and I had no problem keeping up so it can easily be read as a standalone book.
RC Bridgestock is in fact two people, a husband and wife team who now write together (and do a huge amount of amazing charity work).
Perhaps because it is written by an ex police officer, this book felt really real and true to life. Dylan’s relationship with his wife felt particularly genuine which may well be down to the real life experience of the other half of the writing team.
The main storyline in When the Killing Starts is focused on the frankly evil Devlin brothers. I found their part of the story really good, and I enjoyed reading about how Dylan was tracking them down. While Dylan is running that investigation he is also overseeing another murder investigation. I found that a bit of a distraction really, I would have preferred it if Dylan had focused on one investigation. Although I do recognise that no doubt in real life they do run multiple investigations at the same time.
If you are new to police procedural books then these are great books to start with. The assumption is made that the reader has little to no knowledge of how police investigations work, so things are explained clearly.
When the Killy Starts is a really good book, it is well written and I will definitely be reading more from RC Bridgestock and D.I. Dylan.
I received a copy of When the Killy starts from the authors in return for an honest review.