Her debut thriller was a phenomenon, but here an embarrassment of narrators and the clunky withholding of information is death to suspense
More accidents happen in the home than anywhere else, a fact to lend some much-needed plausibility to the overworked genre of domestic suspense, or grip-lit as it’s sometimes known. About 60 debut novels cross my desk every year (I chair the New Blood panel at the Theakston Old Peculier crime writing festival), and for the last three or four years, the proportion of this subgenre has been rising.
The author has to hold back information, hinting at its existence, obliquely suggesting where there might be secrets
Not a problem in itself: if the books were original, well written or thought-provoking, nobody would be happier than I. But sadly that’s not generally been the case. There have been notable exceptions, of course: clever, suspenseful reads such as Renée Knight’s Disclaimer or Ben McPherson’s A Line of Blood. Then there are the mega-sellers such as Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, SJ Watson’s Before I Go to Sleep and Paula Hawkins’s The Girl on the Train, which all gave us interesting twists on the idea of the unreliable narrator.
These books need to deliver at least one shocking moment when the reader realises that they have been looking at the picture the wrong way up. There must be a sudden twist in the direction of travel, taking us to an entirely unexpected destination. We readers journey hopefully, willing that moment to arrive.
Fiona Cummins, Jane Harper, Joseph Knox and Kristen Lepionka have been revealed as the four debut authors picked by crime writer Val McDermid for her influential “New Blood” panel at the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival.
McDermid has hosted the annual panel since 2004 and has included S J Watson, Stuart MacBride, Clare Mackintosh, Belinda Bauer and Dreda Say Mitchell among her past New Blood picks.
Fiona Cummins’ Rattle (Macmillan) is a serial killer tale set in London’s Blackheath; Jane Harper’s The Dry (Little, Brown) tells of a triple killing in a small Australian town; Joseph Knox’s Sirens (Doubleday) is the story of a teenage runaway; and Kristen Lepionka’s The Last Place You Look (Faber) has PI Roxane Weary seeking to prove the innocence of a man on death row.
The New Blood panel will take place on Saturday 22nd July at the Old Swan Hotel, Harrogate, during the 2017 Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival. Special guests for the festival, the 15th, will include Lee Child, Ian Rankin, Dennis Lehane, Brenda Blethyn, Peter May and Arne Dahl.
What do you get when you put two heavyweights of the Crime Fiction world together on one stage at Humber Mouth? Chemistry and then some. Val McDermid and Mark Billingham played off each other like they’d been doing a double act for years.
With thirty novels ‘not out’, endless radio plays and dramas Val McDermid is a true doyenne of the genre. Her books are read worldwide and her Wire in the Blood series found critical and popular acclaim on TV as well as the page, with Geordie actor Robson Green brilliantly taking the role of Dr. Tony Hill. Speaking about her Lifetime Achievement Award Val says,‘You normally have to die before you get one of those.’ It was actually Mark Billingham who presented her with it at Harrogate Crimewriting Festival, she explains how having been part of ‘Harrogate’ since it began, she is especially pleased with that one.
Mark Billingham is also no stranger to success, with sixteen novels to his name, including the deeply disturbing Thorne series, with David Morrissey in the title role, which debuted on Sky One in 2010. He was presented with the UK’s top crime-fiction award the Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Novel of the year for Lazybones in 2005.
In conversation with Nick Quantrill – a crime fiction writer who set his acclaimed Joe Geraghty series right here on the streets of Hull – the two bestselling authors have been showered with accolades and awards, but you wouldn’t think it to hear them. Incredibly likeable, open ,honest and straightforward about their work they delight, entertain and even thrill, the Hull Central Library crowd.
Between the three of them they talk TV adaptations with Val saying ‘First time I sat down with Robson and co. I thought these people really get it.’ She continues, ‘As long as the tone of the book is still there, and there is not a dislocation between the book and the television it works.’
You normally have to die before you get one of those
Reminding us that it doesn’t always work Val explains how Reg Hill did his best not to let any of his fellow authors see the first incarnation of the much loved Dalziel and Pascoe with by all people, Hale and Pace.
The two authors also discuss the importance of having standalone novels as well as the highly anticipated series of books, often featuring one detective.