Second anthology of the year!

Regular readers may remember that I got my first ever pro-short story acceptance at the start of this year with the CSFG A Hand of Knaves anthology. Since then, I’ve been a busy beaver, sending off shorts left, right and centre. I even got three rejections in one day which wasn’t the best for the old ego.

Happily, I can now announce I have a second short story coming out with a professional publication. Specul8 Publishing is a Queensland based publisher and journal and its new themed anthology, Temporal Fractures: (mis)adventures in time, comes out in December 2018.

I’m so excited to let y’all know that my story, ‘The Life and Crime of Dr Minnie Isaacs PhD,’ will be in it. It’s a sci fi romp full of silly fun and I hope you love it.

The full author line-up is below. I am pretty stoked that I’ll be in an anthology featuring H G Wells!

temporal fractures

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Posted in Creative Writing, Genre: Science Fiction, Genre: Speculative Fiction | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Forbrydelsen Series 1-3 Review

The Danish original crime show, Forbrydelsen (translated wrongly into english as The Killing, when actually it means The Crime), has long been on my to watch list. My Mum had watched all three series aons back and told me all about how good Sofie Grabol was in it, and back in my LiveJournal days, many people on my flist constantly made graphics and art and re-capped episodes. Still, it took me making the decision to quit my job start of this year to start the binge and it’s taken me four months to get to the end despite only forty episodes, largely because I didn’t want the show to end.

01KILLING2-jumbo

Forbrydelsen follows three series of police detective, Sarah Lund’s (played by Sofie Grabol) misfortunes in love, family and the workplace amidst backdrops of political intrigue and the worst kinds of cover-ups, violence and evil murders. Sofie’s Lund is closed off, distant and obsessive, focused on detection to the exclusion of all else. Grabol is fascinating as the protagonist, and I love that she was given free reign to play her character with man-like qualities. Lund is good at her job, irrespective of gender and her gender has little impact on how she solves cases.

Having watched A LOT of crime drama over the years, certain tropes I can smell a mile off and have grown tedious after multiple retreads. For example, the closed off, lonely, ever isolated detective trope is well-worn, even if usually the detective isn’t played by a female, and by the end of three series the novelty of Lund had worn off a little. I kept hoping for a small ray of sunshine to her miserable existence that never came. When the story veered towards romance, both times I guessed the outcome because I’ve seen the trope so often before. If a detective in a drama falls in love with someone chances are they’re a) the murderer or b) going to have something terrible happen narratively at the last second so that the two can’t be together. Both of these tropes played out at some point in the series. Such was the power of Grabol’s Lund though, that I kept watching, still fascinated by her complex portrayal.

The writer of all three series writes in a similar way to Paul Abbott, he who wrote the thoroughly excellent mini-series, State of Play. Series 1’s political story especially felt very reminiscent of that mini-series. The first series had the best political story; it fitted well with the murder storyline, we saw enough of everyday wheelings and dealings that it felt realistic, Troels Hartmann was an enormously likeable character and the ending was bleak, but felt earnt. Though I liked the politician in Series 2, his ending felt false, with the writer echoing Series One’s bleakness for the sake of it. The same happened again in Series 3, but I cared even less about the Prime Minister.

Series 1 is by far the best series in my opinion, largely because of the way the story tracked the grief and the heartbreak of the Birk Larsen family. Series 2 felt pot boilery and suffered without an emotional hook into any of the victim’s pasts or relationships. Series 3 tried to re-create the magic of the Birk Larsen’s with the Zeeland family, and though the actors portraying Emilie’s parents were excellent, the storyline felt too samey to deliver any surprises. My only criticism of Series 1 is that it was drawn out a touch too long.

Series 2 was slow to get started, but careened towards its electrifying ending from about episode four onwards. Aside from an odd side trip to Afghanistan, I barely even noticed how contrived the murder plot was or how lucky the murderer got to escape detection for so long. The ending is truly chilling and I enjoyed it the same way I enjoyed Series 1, but for different reasons. Lund’s journey back to her car, the rest of her force parting to make way for her, made her both a hero and even more isolated than ever before.

Series 3 felt more together than series 2, but the political story line lost me early in. I couldn’t keep track of people’s motives, and what’s more, didn’t really care enough to try either. However, the Zeeland story line was absorbing and the reveal of who was really behind the sexual abuse and murder of a long-forgotten foster child was dark, nasty and devilish. I do agree with others, who wished Lund’s exit could have been more ambiguous, left to viewer imagination. I also didn’t buy the Prime Minister’s silence on the old case, given his personal connection. Still, I’m glad I watched all three series and enjoyed my time with the Faroe Island jumper wearing Lund and felt a bit bereft when it was all over.

Forbrydelsen Series One: 10/10 inky stars
Forbrydelsen Series Two: 7/10 inky stars
Forbrydelsen Series Three: 8/10 inky stars

Now to go find Borgen on Netflix! Another show I’ve somehow avoided seeing despite the hype!

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Doctor Who Re-watch: The Unquiet Dead

Ah Mark Gatiss. What a love/hate relationship I have with your Who episodes. Still, I think this is one of your best. Gatiss is always at his best in a period piece story imo, and this one has a lot of fun with The Doctor meets famous historical figure (this time, Dickens) trope as well as a bunch of Victorian horror tropes; spirits, ghosts, vampires, seances, visions and zombies all get a kind of nod.

So what happens? Rose and The Doctor go back in time to 1869 and find all is not well in Cardiff where Dickens is performing A Christmas Carol. The dead are walking. A mysterious alien race is unleashed through a rift gate. Why have they been stranded and why do they need bodies? Watch the episode or read below to find out.

Pre-Title Sequence

Maureen: Though the opening titles weren’t quite as strong as last week’s, they were still pretty good. The period piece, walking dead ghost story opening is creepy, even given the old fashioned SFX and as Ben points out, the screeching sound is used to spine tingling effect.

Ben: This was another banger of a pre-title sequence, I mean, any scene that ends with a possessed body running screaming into the night gets a thumbs up from me. Upon rewatching (I’ve found watching the episode again whilst writing my review rather helpful) I noticed how prominent they made the gas a character; Sneed opens the episode lighting a gas lamp, and throughout the scene you can hear the hiss of the gas below conversation. And then you see the gas possess grandmama, kill her grandson and make off into the night! Along with the exasperated “oh no, not again” from Mr Sneed, they really give you all the threads of the story right away. Also of note – this is the first episode written by Mark Gatiss!

The Companion

Maureen: I’m loving the Rose/Doctor chemistry in this episode, and the absence of Mickey is bliss. Billie Piper and Christopher Eccleston have great chemistry, evident right away when they spar back and forth about where the TARDIS toilet is and that Rose looks ‘blimey… beautiful… considering’ she’s human. I am a bit partial myself to good old Billie Piper in 19th century attire, even if the Rose is nineteen reveal makes the Doctor/Rose relationship a little icky for me. Doesn’t stop the quote below being lovely:

Rose Tyler: Think about it, though. Christmas 1860. It happened once. Just once, and it’s… gone, it’s finished. It’ll never happen again. Except for you. You can go back and see days that are dead and gone, a hundred thousand sunsets ago. No wonder you never stay still.

The Doctor: Not a bad life.

Rose Tyler: Better with two.

There’s also a lovely parallel going on this episode between The Doctor/Dickens and Gwen (the servant girl with the sight)/Rose as companions. I love that in this episode, just like the prior one, Rose finds the downtrodden and listens to them actively in a way Nine never would. She talks to Gwen about her pay, about her schooling and about love in a lovely scene.

We also see a deepening contrast between Rose and The Doctor. Rose thinks about the human cost to The Doctor’s plan and advocates on behalf of having a heart. Nine is still damaged from The Time War, angry and bitter. But Rose is also a thoroughly modern companion, young and naive, and Gatiss isn’t afraid to remind us of that. Gwen calls Rose out, telling her she knows Rose thinks she’s superior, and that Gwen herself, has the right to a voice to choose.

Ben: Right off the bat, Rose is getting her flirt on with The Doctor! They really are laying the attraction on thick, although it could just be that the two of them have excellent chemistry compared to Rose and the wet rag that is Mickey.

In stark contrast to last week’s episode, you can tell Rose is truly enjoying experiencing an 1800’s Christmas. Well, she is for the five minutes before the screams start. What I’m starting to get annoyed by is this is now the third week where she becomes a damsel in distress; in this case being knocked unconscious by Sneed, kidnapped, and left in a room with two zombies to die only to be rescued by the Doctor.

She gets some great moments in the rest of the episode though, telling off Sneed and the sweet then creepy scene with Gwyneth in the pantry in particular. Also of note is the way she stood up to the Doctor when it came to Gwyneth, contrasting how Rose sees her as a (dumb) person who shouldn’t be getting into any alien business, and the Doctor sees her as something of a tool. A means to an end. Final point to mention – the scene when Rose realises her own mortality was excellent. It doesn’t matter they’re on Earth before she’s born, of course she can still die. This is real.

Secondary Companions of the Week

Maureen: I loved, loved, loved the actress playing Gwen and the brilliant mind reading speech she gave to Rose; both chilling and beautiful.

Gwyneth: And you’ve come such a long way.

Rose Tyler: What makes you thinks so?

Gwyneth: You’re from London. I’ve seen London in drawings, but never like that. All those people rushing about, half naked. For shame. And the noise, and the metal boxes racing past. And the birds in the sky… No, they’re metal as well. Metal birds with people in them. People are flying. And you, you’ve flown so far, further than anyone! The things you’ve seen. The darkness… The Big Bad Wolf.

Gwen is the second example (after Jabe) of a companion who never was, and like Jabe, she is a highly likable character.

Ben: As shown at the start of the episode, poor Mr Sneed and Gwyneth are very much in over their heads, but they’re trying their best to keep the living dead down. Luckily for them, Gwyneth has something of A Gift and is able to locate their stiff, but not before she’s made rather a commotion. The scene of her and Rose bonding in the pantry is pure magic, with the easy banter giving away to unease when you realise Gwyneth is actively reading Rose’s mind (giving us the second Bad Wolf reference of the season that I’ve noticed). She then proceeds to gives us the second-best séance scene in a tv show behind the séance in Penny Dreadful. Iconic stuff.

One of my main criticisms of this episode is how they never really explain how these powers came to be – how did she grow up on top of the rift if the rift is in the basement of a haunted house she only recently started working at? Why do the Gelth need to use a human as a gate? On top of that, how did she manage to close the gate, sacrificing herself and saving the day, if she’d already been dead for five minutes like the Doctor said? It’s all a bit too ill-defined for me. All in all, though, Gwyneth was a great character who added a lot to the episode.

And finally, poor Charles Dickens. At the start of the episode he is in something of a funk, blathering on about family and just being a general Debbie Downer. Getting interrupted by a blue screaming woman and accompanying ghost in the middle of his performance didn’t provide any relief, for reasons unknown to me. He does lighten up somewhat in accompanying The Doctor in his chase to recover Rose, but only because of some serious fangirling by The Doctor. The whole scene is rather silly, really.

He doesn’t do much for the rest of the episode except to move from dismissing it all as fakery to having the horrifying epiphany that there is much in existence beyond his understanding. He does provide some crucial assistance at the end of the episode though, realising they can use the gas to draw the Gelth out from their possessed bodies. When we say goodbye to Mr Dickens he’s back in good spirits. Having gone through the 5 stages of grief, he has come to accept the new world, and is excited to explore these new ideas in his books.

Maureen: Ben covered a lot of ground, so I don’t have much to add, other than it’s interesting to note that Dickens is the first time New Who does the whole ‘go back in time to meet famous person’ trope. I think Vincent and The Doctor is a stronger episode, but perhaps some of its inspiration comes from this earlier episode. Dickens is inspired to change the ending to The Mystery of Edwin Drood, but he dies a week later, as The Doctor calmly tells Rose. In Vincent, there are no more artworks because he commits suicide. The parallels are interesting.

The Doctor

Ben: My first observation is that The Doctor really is terrible at driving the TARDIS, and also interior planning. Why exactly does one have to go through a maze to get to the wardrobe?? And then we get The Doctor laying on some of his classic backhanded flirting, “You look beautiful, considering”. Smooth, Doctor. Real smooth. Then comes the second confirmation that The Doctor is a terrible driver: Not only is this not London(it’s Cardiff – a location which will show up repeatedly in the future), it’s not even 1860 (it’s 1869)!

When the screaming starts he’s moderately useless, getting distracted by Charles Dickens and the gas and letting Rose get chloroformed, but luckily, he arrives back at the funeral home just in time to save Rose and start figuring out what these gas beings want. I wasn’t a huge fan of how blindly and willingly the Doctor went along with the Gelth’s plan, but considering they straight up call him The Doctor, I suspect the reference to them being victims of the Time War was a deliberate act to get the guilt flowing.

Maureen: Unlike Ben, I quite liked the characterization of The Doctor in relation to The Gelth. This Doctor is seriously damaged, his whole race is dead and he firmly believed he played a part in his and other species destruction. He feels he must atone for his past transgressions, and here, right before him, are The Gelth ready to feed his ego and make him feel good about himself. When Nine says, ‘I trusted you. I pitied you,’ he sounds incredulous, unable to believe another species could manipulate him so coldly. It’s a near perfect character moment for me.

The Gelth, Gwyneth: We are so very few. The last of our kind. We face extinction.

The Doctor: Why? What happened?

The Gelth, Gwyneth: Once we had a physical form like you. But then the War came.

Charles Dickens: War? What war?

The Gelth, Gwyneth: The Time War. The whole universe convulsed. The Time War raged, invisible to smaller species but devastating to higher forms. Our bodies wasted away. We’re trapped in this gaseous state.

I am loving the drip feeding of Time War information we get every week!

I continue to enjoy Nine’s sense of humour too. I laughed out loud when he said of the morgue, ‘this is Bleak House,’ again in his conversation about being Dickens number one fan, and when he blythly said of Gwen that he ‘loved a happy medium.’

Aliens of the Week

Ben: We get a good few twists this week with the aliens – first off, they’ve possessed bodies of the dead, and are killing willy-nilly; then we find out they’re actually the Gelth, alien refugees who lost their physical forms as a result of the Time War and, trapped in a gaseous state, want to inhabit human corpses in order to survive.

I was a bit suspicious from the séance scene onwards, because of how thick their spokesperson laid on the “Pity the Gelth!” line. Unfortunately, Gwyneth has started calling them her angels at this point, so of course they’re getting rescued. You can’t get between a Godly woman and her angels. The final twist comes after Gwyneth opens the gate and we find out the Gelth are in fact a hostile species looking to conquer the Earth. It’s fitting then, that Gwyneth is the one that foils their plan in the end, but not before poor Mr Sneed dies and we get an excellent moment of the Doctor and Rose coming to terms with their mortality.

Maureen: The Gelth are probably the most morally ambiguous aliens New Who has explored thus far. Yes, they want to take over earth, but they have legitimate reasons to do so. They have lost their entire world after all! The final twist of how The Doctor and Rose resolve the ‘invasion’ felt a little too get out of jail free card for me, but I enjoyed the twists up until that moment, and the link between Gwen and The Gelth leading to her Sight made for some great spooky scenes.

So how did we rank this episode overall?

Maureen: I quite enjoyed this. I thought the ending was a bit silly, but otherwise a strong episode. 7/10 inky stars.

Ben: Overall I thoroughly enjoyed the first period drama episode of New Who, I’m giving it an 8/10.

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Crime writing tips: Some lessons I learnt from Jane Harper at the Sydney Writers Festival

Ah, the Sydney Writers Festival. That place of baby boomers and a strange distrust of genre fiction in the program. That place where I actually got told off in a session for live-tweeting by the person sitting next to me. Yes. Live-tweeting at a writers festival? Who knew that was a thing? Not this lady #stillbitter. What a strange relationship I have with it.

Still, I was grateful to my friend, Lisa Fleetwood, for taking me along to a session with crime novelist, Jane Harper. Myself, Lisa and Robin got to listen for an hour to Jane’s writing process and experiences and I really did learn quite a bit. Enough so, that I went and bought her debut, The Dry, immediately afterwards. We even got a sneaky pic too.

Jane Harper
Photo curtesy of Robin Elizabeth

Things I learnt from Jane Harper: A summary for aspiring writers

1. How to write great suspense? Focus on your plot, a great opening hook and how you start and end your chapters.

2. It’s OK for the first draft to be a skeleton effort. The Dry was 40 000 words and in published form it’s 90 000. Just get your idea down on paper.

3. Writing courses are helpful for meeting like people and getting motivated to finish something. Consider trying one out. (Inkashlings note: I have on more than one occasion and they have definitely moved my work ahead of the game faster and I wouldn’t have finished my first manuscript without one).

4. When writing crime, it isn’t the crime itself that’s what keeps readers interested. It’s the ripple effect that crime has on people and their relationships with each other. Remember this.

5. People in the modern world have short attention spans. Imagine your story is an online newspaper article and your reader is someone who reads a lot online. Make sure your story is pacy enough, with strong, suspenseful ends to chapters, to keep the reader keeping on reading.

Jane is not the first person to give this advice, but it was a great session well worth sharing. Hope this helps someone out there!

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Doctor Who Re-watch: The End Of The World

The second episode of New Who’s first season sees Rose and The Doctor race forwards in time to the end of the world itself. Borrowing (as Who does often) from Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the earth’s end is a spectacle for rich aliens as they watch the sun burn up the planet from a save distance, complete with gift giving and waiters.

doctor-who-the-end-of-the-world

Pre-Title Sequence

Maureen: I really loved the opening sequence to this episode. We learn just enough about how The Doctor rolls (manically and with little care to his companions possible reactions, thoughts or feelings about what they are about to see) to get an idea of where the season is headed. You can really tell the show was written by fans for fans, with the mention of the New Roman Empire instantly making me want to run off and check for the fan fic of that particular adventure. I also noticed Murray Gold’s brilliant soundtrack with a vengeance in this opening. ‘Welcome to the end of the world,’ may be one of the best Who hooks ever to an episode.

Ben: Ahh… these ye olde special effects really take me back to watching Doctor Who back in high school… Anyways, this pre-title sequence sequence had some real snap crackle and pop to it, with Rose and the Doctor flirting up a storm! The Doctor was talking a big game about how far forward in time the TARDIS had travelled and Rose was acting suitably impressed, it was all very high school. But more importantly, their chemistry is excellent, especially in comparison to the chemistry between Rose and Mickey. Which brings us to The Doctor having the excellent idea to bring Rose to the literal death of the Earth! Great second date material there, Doctor.

The Companion

Maureen: I liked Rose a lot more this episode (probably because she was sans Mickey). The banter between her and The Doctor felt more natural and their chemistry is strong. I love how out of place and confused Rose feels when The Doctor tells her she’s surrounded by different species of aliens because it felt realistic.

Rose: The aliens are just… so alien.
The Doctor: Good thing I didn’t take you to the deep South.

For the first time, the romance angle is overt. We see it in the exchange between Jabe and The Doctor about Rose’s function/relationship to The Doctor (Wife? Partner? Concubine? Prostitute?), The Doctor calling Rose his plus one and Rose telling The Doctor to go pollinate with Jabe and that she wanted him home by midnight.

I loved how Rose acted around the blue mechanic. She is interested and compassionate in what was a lovely little scene. I was less of a fan of how Rose interacted with Cassandra. She was fairly harsh in her assessment of Cassandra as ‘a bitchy trampoline… just lipstick and skin.’ To be fair, she is overwhelmed and confused by her surroundings so some frustration and snappiness is to be expected. She also didn’t do much other than be a damsel in distress while The Doctor and poor Jabe solved the mystery of the episode, but hey, it’s early days for Rose yet.

Ben: Poor Rose understandably had a bit of a tough time this episode. Being brought 5 billion years into the future to witness the destruction of the Earth is something of a mood killer. And then to be introduced to the ever so naughty Cassandra, who claims to be the last pure human whilst having had every last bit of humanity surgically removed? It’s enough to put even the happiest person in a mood, and from early on she clearly feels very awkward and out of place.

It is a bit disappointing how she gets sidelined for most of this episode, though. She has some good moments being snarky at Cassandra and Jabe, and the touching moment when the Doctor does some technobabble to her phone, enabling her to call home and talk to her mum. But mostly she’s either having a crisis of identity and freaking out that she’s travelling space and time with an alien she knows basically nothing about. Which, as I’ve said already, is pretty understandable considering the circumstances.

The Doctor

Maureen: This episode developed Nine nicely, letting us know he is broken and damaged and very, very angry. This Doctor is brutal, unafraid of punishing people and aliens when they seriously mess up. He also is filled with unbearable guilt; about the universe, about his people and about Jabe too.

Jabe: Stop wasting time… Time Lord.

I still remember how thrilling that line sounded as a teen!

‘Everything has an end and everything dies,’ Nine says to Rose, trying to justify why he let Cassandra die, but you know he’s talking about brave Jabe too.

We also hear the first about the dreaded last of the Time Lords trope, but it’s fresh at this early point and I loved Eccleston’s delivery.

The Doctor: My planet’s gone. It’s dead. It burned like the earth. It’s just rock and dust… there was a war and we lost… I’m the last of the Time Lords.

Ben: The Doctor had some pretty great moments this week: the introduction of the ever so useful psychic paper, “I gift you air from my lungs”, and letting Cassandra dry out and subsequently die a fairly horrific death at the end of the episode. Before that though, we have The Doctor being prickly and mysterious and refusing to answer Rose’s questions, and then doing the same with Jabe and her questions before caving and telling both of them the truth. It’s an important step, and while we don’t get the specifics, it’s still enough to explain some of why the Doctor is how he is.

The scenes he had with Jabe were all so good, as well. I know all the Doctor’s are serial flirts, but Eccleston can really put it on when he wants to. It’s that kind of charisma and connection that inspires his companions to do amazing things, such as Jabe sacrificing her life to save the station. And as a grand crescendo we had him walk between two blades of a fan set to maximum! It was a bit dumb, and you never really see Time Lords having that kind of ability again, but it sure looked cool.

The Alien of the Week

Maureen: Cassandra was a great villain; a capitalist nightmare highlighting everything wrong with our modern world, a world where we value objects and things over people. Cassandra is cruel and callous and vapid and I love that she calls a duke box an iPod and Tainted Love and Toxic classic earth songs.

The Face of Boe turns up for the first time, as do a number of other alien species. The blue people were nicely humanized and Jabe was a beautifully realized character. I would have dug her as a companion!

Cassandra’s little metal spider aliens reminded me of Michael Crichton’s Prey and were genuinely frightening. I can’t say that of every Who alien!

Ben: Boy did they pull out all the stops with the aliens this episode! The world building is simply phenomenal, with a veritable smorgasbord of aliens in attendance. We get some soon to be familiar faces, such as the Face of Boe, and the mysterious Adherents of the Repeated Meme (I hope it’s a dog-related meme). The one critique I have of this episode is, surely these advanced alien civilisations would have figured out a way to make sun shields a bit less fallible. But as far as complaints go, that’s pretty minor. The little robot baddies were animated surprisingly well, all things considered! And the twist with them actually being controlled by Cassandra was a really great moment.

Our verdict?

Maureen: I’ve always loved this episode. Partly it’s nostalgia, but I just think it’s a strong episode in general; there’s a great central mystery, interesting world-building and aliens, moments of tragedy alongside humour and a deepening of The Doctor’s backstory and the mysterious Time War. It’s early in the peace, but I’m giving this one 10/10.

Ben: This episode was just peak Who, it’s sci-fi perfection, and we had the first Bad Wolf reference I’ve spotted so far! As much as I’m hesitant to give an episode 10/10 because there’s always the chance there will be a better episode, I really can’t justify a score other than 10/10. Onwards and upwards!

Next week, one of the few Gatiss penned Who episodes Inkashlings actually likes…

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Book Review: The Word is Murder by Anthony Horowitz

The Word is Murder
Anthony Horowitz
Publisher: Harper Collins
First Published: August 2017
RRP: $27.99 paperback

Anthony Horowitz is one of those authors who has been on my radar for a long, long time. I’ve never read his popular Alex Rider series, but they’ve been on my to-read pile for years. Midsummer Murders was a family staple when I was in high school, and Foyle’s War is one of the best crime and historical dramas ever written for the television in my opinion (why oh why ITV did you cancel it? Please tell me there will be more, Horowitz. Please). I’m also interested in Horowitz’s sanctioned Holmes stories, House of Silk and Moriarty. Even if I’m not a fan of Holmes stories, I do enjoy some good Moriarty fan fic. As part of his transition to adult fiction, Horowitz’ most recent two stories are meta crime. I haven’t read Magpie Murders (yes, it’s on my list too), but when I read the super interesting interview I re-blogged from Sophie Masson about The Word is Murder with Mr Horowitz and saw that there was an e-book sale happening, I jumped right in with Horowitz’ most recent. And what an odd beast it is too…

Where Magpie Murders sees Horowitz experiment with the book within a book trope (an author is killed and his editor reads his manuscript to source clues), The Word is Murder goes much further. In a Holmes/Watson dynamic, the fictional detective Hawthorne teams up with author, Anthony Horowitz, to uncover who killed Diana Cowper just after she arranged her own funeral. Diana’s son is famous and much of the story follows various people involved in acting and the fame game.

The word is murder

I enjoyed this unusual crime read, though I suspect writers and avid crime trope and genre fans (such as myself) are more likely to enjoy the novel’s central gimmick. Horowitz posits that he writes the novel at fictional private (sometimes police) consultant, Hawthorne’s request and the novel is written in the first person from Horowitz’ perspective. There is a lot of time dedicated to Horowitz’ own experiences writing crime drama for TV and plotting books, which I found fascinating as a crime writer. Judging by Goodreads reviews, other readers mileage may vary. I did find that sometimes Horowitz became too obtrusive in the story, too self-aware and this detracted from the very well-written, very clever mystery around Diana Cowper. Inventing fictional characters who had CVs rooted in the real world was also a bit distracting for me as I’d seen most of the dramas mentioned and knew no such actor had been in them!

As I mentioned earlier, I’ve never read a Horowitz novel before so had no idea what to expect in terms of writing quality (I knew he could plot a crime story from various dramas). There is no denying that Horowitz is a brilliant writer. I found myself reading passages of dialogue and trying not to weep in despair at how trite my own conversation passages in my manuscript read compared to his. He has a way of sketching strong characters quickly through conversation which brings his story to life.

The overall crime plot was clever, even if I guessed a portion of it. Towards the end there were a number of twists I didn’t see coming and I had no clue who the murderer was till the big reveal. Aside from the more obtrusive Horowitz biography moments, this is a taut, suspenseful work.

The Word is Murder: 3/5 inky stars

You can purchase this book from Book Depository.

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Reblog: Alan Baxter interview for Australasian Horror

Alan makes some super interesting points in his interview about when he knew it was time to try for a short story collection!

via Alan Baxter, Best Collected Work 2016

Posted in Author Interview, Creative Writing, Discussion: Publishing, Genre: Horror, Genre: Short Story Collection | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment