Recently Read – Monument To Murder by Mari Hannah

Monument to Murder by Mari Hannah

Genre; Crime (police procedural)

MurderWhen skeletal remains are found beneath the fortified walls of an ancient castle on Northumberland’s rugged coastline, DCI Kate Daniels calls on a forensic anthropologist to help identify the corpse.

Meanwhile, newly widowed prison psychologist Emily McCann finds herself drawn into the fantasy of convicted sex offender, Walter Fearon. As his mind games become more and more intense, is it possible that Daniels’ case has something to do with his murderous past? With his release imminent, what exactly does he have in mind for Emily?

As Daniels encounters dead end after dead end and the body count rises, it soon becomes apparent that someone is hiding more than one deadly secret…

My thoughts:

I love reading series fiction because you can really get involved with the characters. There is more opportunity to become involved with their lives as the writer has a longer arc to play with for storylines for any character they choose. So, after finishing the Ellie Griffiths, Ruth Galloway series (as far as it’s come) earlier this year, I had to decide on another series to start or finish and I realised that I had been reading Mari Hannah’s Kate Daniel’s series but had now become a little behind, so this was a perfect series to catch up on next.

I will start with a disclaimer, by saying that Mari is a friend, so take these thoughts as you will.

It had been a while since I had spent any time with Kate Daniels, but it felt like slipping onto a sofa with a glass of wine and a good friend when I picked up Monument to Murder. In fact, I’d kind of forgotten just how much I’d enjoyed Kate’s company.

She has a great relationship with her DS and the rest of her staff. She’s firm but she’s also fair. She also has a complicated love life! Which adds a more sensitive side to her and it’s nice to see because she is very efficient at her job.

I loved the setting for Monument to Murder. The rugged coastline that is attended at a particularly cold time of year and I adore cold settings! Mari Hannah sets it in your mind beautifully. And with an added chill factor.

I liked the two strands of this novel. It, at first, seems as though there are two completely different stories being told and even though that was the case, I was thoroughly enjoying each part of them. Every time we moved from one to the other, I was being held there by great storytelling and real characters that made me want to know more, that made me want to find out what happened next for them. But, of course, you’re not going to have two random stories running through a novel. They do converge and converge brilliantly and smoothly.

The antagonist Walter Fearon is suitably creepy, even his name is enough to give me the creeps. He’s not someone you’re going to want to meet in a hurry. This is where Mari’s work as a probation officer has come to serve her particularly well, I imagine. She has crafted a brilliant character in Fearon.

This is another solid book in the Kate Daniels armoury and I’m looking forward to catching up with Kate again.

Recently Read – The Silent Room by Mari Hannah

The Silent Room by Mari Hannah

Genre; Crime

SilentA security van sets off for Durham prison, a disgraced Special Branch officer in the back. It never arrives. On route it is hijacked by armed men, the prisoner sprung. Suspended from duty on suspicion of aiding and abetting the audacious escape of his former boss, Detective Sergeant Matthew Ryan is locked out of the investigation.

With a manhunt underway, Ryan is warned to stay away. Keen to preserve his career and prove his innocence, he backs off. But when the official investigation falls apart, under surveillance and with his life in danger, he goes dark, enlisting others in his quest to discover the truth. When the trail leads to the suspicious death of a Norwegian national, Ryan uncovers an international conspiracy that has claimed the lives of many.

My Thoughts:

Mari Hannah is a friend, so I’ll put that out there first. That way you can take my thoughts as you want.

I’ve read many of Mari’s Kate Daniels books in the past and you can tell straight away that this is another of Mari’s books by the feel and tone of it, even though it’s separate from Kate Daniels and is a standalone. It has her voice. She knows what she’s doing, where she’s going and how she wants to handle it. You know you are in safe hands when you pair yourself with a Mari Hannah novel.

The Silent Room is a thriller from the get-go as the security van is hijacked by armed men and the disgraced Special Branch cop is taken out of the back and away. But, it’s a thriller with Mari’s very steady capable hand holding you there. You don’t feel rushed as though you’re falling over things, but you do feel the tension as it builds up.

DS Matthew Ryan wants to clear the name of his boss and starts to investigate but is officially stopped, this by no means stops him. He’s loyal to his friend and doesn’t believe what is being said about him. So, he continues to investigate with the help of others. I loved the side characters in The Silent Room. Mari not only built up great front-runners but she paid attention to each character she put on the page. They each had their own quirks, their own backstories. In fact, I’d struggle to say which person was my favourite, they all had something about them I liked. Though, actually, I do have to give a personal shout out to Bob the dog, as he has exactly the same name as the dog I lost only a couple of years ago. (She was a girl though – Bobbie, the Springer.)

This book will keep you turning the pages to see what happens next. You won’t be able to put it down. I know I couldn’t.

Earlier I stated this was a standalone thriller, I will say that I doubt this will stay standalone for very long. The characters are strong and work well together. I have a feeling that if this novel is received favourably, then we may well see more of Matthew Ryan and A N Other. And no, I haven’t spoken to Mari at any length or about her books at all, recently, so I have no insider knowledge. This is going purely on the strength of The Silent Room as it stands now. I think Ryan and “Other” would make a great pairing.

With thanks to the author and publisher for my advanced reader copy.



Congratulations to Mel Sherratt and Mari Hannah

The UK based Crime Writers Association announced the shortlist for the Dagger in the Library award on Thursday. The award is for a body of work from an author. The long list was chosen by voting readers and the shortlist is decided by  a panel of judges including previous winner Steve Mosby, CWA Director Lucy Santos and a group of UK librarians.

The five shortlisted crime authors are:

Sharon Bolton                   (Transworld)

Elly Griffiths                      (Quercus)

Mari Hannah                     (Pan)

James Oswald                   (Michael Joesph)

Mel Sherratt                      (Thomas & Mercer)

Mel and Mari are personal friends and I wanted to send out a big cheer for them. It’s a huge achievement and one I’m proud of them for.

Wishing all the well deserving shortlisted authors the best for the next round. To get this far is acknowledgement of your work. Your readers can’t get enough!

What’s Your First Draft Like? – Mari Hannah

Today I’m thrilled to have award winning crime writer, Mari Hannah on the first draft hot seat.

MariWhen an assault on duty ended her career as a probation officer, Mari Hannah turned to scriptwriting. She created a number of projects, most notably the pilot episode of a crime series for the BBC, a piece of work she later adapted into her crime debut – The Murder Wall – which went on to win the Polari First Book Prize. Her second book – Settled Blood – won the Northern Writers’ Award.

The Times described her series character DCI Kate Daniels as a Northerner set to join the roster of top literary detectives.

When you decide to write something new, what is the first thing you do?

When an idea first occurs, it consumes me. This is particularly annoying if I’m in the process of writing another book. Like it or not, that often happens. There’s always part of me that believes the new idea is rubbish. Even so, I can’t stop thinking about it. If it remains with me, I know I’m on to a winner. When the uncertainty is out of the way, I begin by imagining the main characters in my head. Nothing is written down at this stage.

Do you have a set routine approaching it?

I plan everything out before taking to the computer and couldn’t do it any other way. It’s a method that worked for me in screenwriting – it’s worked for me in novel writing too.

Pen and paper or straight to the keyboard?

It depends on how I feel. Sometimes, it’s straight to the keyboard to write a lengthy synopsis which will takes me around a week. Other times I use a card system where I write out the main story beats as scenes or, in the case of a book, chapters. This is particularly useful as I can move them around at will, something I can’t do with a synopsis. I’ve written several of my ideas as screenplays first. There are obvious benefits to this. It forces me to think visually. I get a lot of the dialogue down and brief descriptions of the action. It also concentrates the mind. At the conclusion of each scene, I imagine those drums at the end of an episode of Eastenders. I’m thinking: what hook can I create to keep the reader engaged for what comes after? It has to be strong enough to keep them turning the pages.

Mari desk

How important is research to you?

In terms of police procedure, very. I’m not anal about it but I owe it to my readers to be as authentic as possible. Fortunately, I come from a criminal justice background and have a working knowledge of the police, the judiciary, courts, prison system etc. My partner is an ex-murder detective who advises me on all matters relating to criminal investigation. Outside of policing, I’ve found many professionals willing to talk me through a range of subjects. Kate Daniels #2 and #3, for example, required a knowledge of flying I simply did not have. I’m lucky to have friends who are pilots.

How do you go about researching?

I tend to research locations first. I take loads of photographs and decide upon time of year, that kind of thing. I’ve learned as I’ve gone along not to overdo the research. Ninety-nine times out of a hundred it overcomplicates matters. The trick is to do a little and more if necessary in subsequent drafts. Much of it will hit the bin in the editing process and that is wasted effort. Anyway, too much research slows the pace. It should almost be invisible.

How do you store everything; ideas, research, images that catch your eye?

I store a lot on my smartphone. I use the Voice Memos application to interview others or talk to myself – I get a lot of funny looks! It’s quick and easy. I take pictures on my phone too and store them in the cloud until I need them.

Tell us how that first draft takes shape?

After the planning stage, I write every day if I can possibly manage it. I loosely follow a three-act structure: set up, development, and resolution. When I reach the end of the set up, I read over my work before attempting what is often referred to as the ‘muddle in the middle’ and then reread again before I write the resolution and pump up the action in a race to the finale. I know it sounds like a faff but it gives me confidence to know that it all gels (in my head at least) and that I haven’t dropped the ball on the way through.

Are there any rituals you have to do or items you must have with you while writing that draft?

Before I even write the title, I Google the sunrise/sunset times for the period I’m working in. It keeps me from writing stuff that is happening after dark when witnesses can’t possibly see! I also begin a timeline document on a second computer that keeps me right in terms of days of the week. You can’t interview a bank manager on a Sunday. My last book took place in the autumn when the clocks went back. If you are writing in real time, it’s important to know these things. If you make a mistake, readers will pull you up on it.

Does the outside world exist or are you lost to us for a period of time as the magic works?

Once I’m in the zone, I just go for it. I turn off notifications. Leave my phone in another room. I abandon Twitter mates – perhaps stopping by briefly at night to say hi. People are very forgiving. They understand what a drain on your time social media can be. Oh, and I ignore my partner apparently! I never listen to a word she says, rarely coming up for air. I’m expecting divorce papers any day now.

Mari wallWhat does your workspace look like?

It’s a box room with two desks, two chairs and a murder wall – a white board like in a real incident room – and woe betide anyone who might touch it! I have many reference books on the shelf above my head: law, policing (especially homicide cases), psychology and sociology books from when I was training to become a probation officer. I use them often. I write in silence, using music only to create the right atmosphere. For example: if I’m feeling particularly upbeat and need to write a really sad scene.

Edit as you go or just keep getting words out?

I edit as I go, rereading and cutting the previous day’s work before I move on. No ‘dirty’ draft for me. I can’t write on unless I know that what is behind me makes perfect sense.

I see many writers counting words in a day. Word counter or other method of keeping track of progression?

Word counter? No. I try to write a chapter a day, whatever length it might be and no matter how long it takes. Sometimes I manage that. Sometimes not. When I began writing, I could agonise over a sentence for hours. These days I’m more relaxed. If I don’t want to write, I do something else. I write for pleasure. It should never be a chore.

So, that first draft is down. Roughly how long did it take? And what shape is it in?

As I said above, I edit as I go. By the time I’ve reached the end, the draft is in good shape, pretty much ready to show my agent. I read it through, polishing – my partner calls it fiddling – until it is the very best I can make it and then I send it off and bite my nails. My agent gives me notes, I rewrite if necessary, and then it goes to my publisher. I reckon it takes about a month to plan, three months to write, a couple of weeks to edit once my agent has seen it – then we’re good to go. Except that I’m usually in various stages with other books. You can bet your life that as you hit the final straight, a copy edit or proofread for an earlier book will arrive, so I’m afraid that drags it out, sometimes for months.

In what format do you like to read it through, ereader, paper or the computer screen?

I used to use paper until I found a wonderful app called iAnnotate created by a company called Branchfire. It is such an amazing piece of kit, allowing me to annotate (but not change) a manuscript. It’s really useful for when I’m on the move. I have it on two iPads so that when I’m reading and making notes, so is my partner. Did I mention that she is my first editor and chief collaborator, an unlimited source of murderous thoughts and anecdotes?

What happens now that first draft is done?

I crack open a bottle. 🙂

Thanks for digging into the depths of the first draft. It’s been a pleasure having you.

You can find Mari on her website, Twitter and Amazon

Monument to Murder

monumentWhen skeletal remains are found beneath the fortified walls of an ancient castle on Northumberland’s rugged coastline, DCI Kate Daniels calls on a forensic anthropologist to help identify the corpse.

Meanwhile, newly widowed prison psychologist Emily McCann finds herself drawn into the fantasy of convicted sex offender, Walter Fearon. As his mind games become more and more intense, is it possible that Daniels’ case has something to do with his murderous past? With his release imminent, what exactly does he have in mind for Emily?

As Daniels encounters dead end after dead end and the body count rises, it soon becomes apparent that someone is hiding more than one deadly secret…


As usual, if you want to take part in the First Draft series, just let me know! You can find a list of the previous Q&A’s Here.

This Is How You Pronounce Rowling – Harrogate part 1

21.7.14 004Thursday last week saw the annual trek to Harrogate for the Theakston’s Crime Writing Festival held at the beautiful Old Swan in Harrogate. It’s a place where well established crime writers, new up and coming writers, still trying to be published writers, and readers, all mingle together in the same space without segregation and talk all things crime with copious amounts of their favourite tipple on hand. Be that tea, coffee, wine, Theakstons of course, or something a little shorter. It is one of the highlights of the crime writers year.


My first stop however had to be Betty’s tea shop in town to sample the delights of the China Rose Tea and of course the cream tea alongside it. And on the way out I bought some China Rose tea to bring home with me. I also couldn’t resist taking a photograph of these little fella’s!

21.7.14 020
Piggin out at Betty’s

21.7.14 029Friday Morning saw the start of the panels. The first one I saw was ‘The Good Old Days‘ A discussion chaired by Martyn Waites with guests James Oswald, Mel Sherratt, Mark Edwards and Mari Hannah, discussing the different routes into publication – self publishing and traditional publishing. It started with Martyn Waites attempting to do a large hall selfie but not quite getting it right, then being corrected by Mari for pronouncing her name wrong. (It’s Mari as in Sari.)

James Oswald stated that if you intend to self publish then you are in for a lot of work as you are doing everything yourself.

Mel Sherrat said she does a bit of both…

There was some heated talk about the cost of ebooks and what readers are willing to pay for certain items such as cups of coffee but not books.

It then moved on to audience questions and in response to one question from the audience member who asked at what point the panel called themselves writers, Edwards seemed to struggle with this but Oswald stated ‘If you write, you’re a writer.’ Hear Hear!

In the ‘Worse things happen at home‘ panel, a discussion about violence in the home, Cath Staincliffe gave the best quote for me, when asked in audience questions whether it was nature or nurture, that whichever it was, we still have to take responsibility for our own actions.

Friday evening saw the highlight event. The prize attraction for many. Robert Galbraith was coming to Harrogate! AKA J. K. Rowling. Unfortunately, photographs were not allowed, so I have none to share on this post.

Galbraith was interviewed by Val McDermid and it was a relaxed affair. Galbraith wore a smart suit and tie for the occasion and carried it off well! She stated that the reason she turned to crime – in a manner of speaking – following children’s fantasy – was because she had always read it and is a lover of the genre. So for us crime lovers, that is wonderful to hear. She is a classic crime lover. Preferring the whodunnits like Christie and Allingham. She talked about squealing and dancing around her kitchen when she got a glowing blurb from McDermid before anyone knew her identity. A funny thought considering her highly regarded prowess with a keyboard, but writers are insecure creatures. And she did confirm that the reason she attempted to go it alone and undercover of pen name was to see if she could make it without her name giving her the advantage. Hence the dancing in the kitchen.

She talked about her character Strike and said she has no plans to stop writing him, so crime fans of this series can sit easy. She is happy in the genre and knows enough about him to keep going.

One thing she did say, was that she wished she had been published after she had been married, that way she would be J. K. Murray and everyone would know how to say that, but as it is everyone gets her name wrong. So, for your information – you pronounce is Rowling as in Rolling, like rolling down a hill 🙂

And here’s my signed book of The Silkworm!

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More on Harrogate tomorrow….

Recently Read – Deadly Deceit by Mari Hannah

The Recently Read posts are not typical book reviews. As a writer, I do not believe I should be reviewing the hard work of other writers. These posts are simply books I have recently read and enjoyed and will share with you. They will not always be crime books as I am trying to widen my reading selection. I hope you enjoy some of these with me.

Deadly Deceit by Mari Hannah

Deadly DeceitFour a.m. on a wet stretch of the A1 and a driver skids out of control. Quick on the scene, Senior Investigating Officer Kate Daniels and partner DS Hank Gormley are presented with a horrifying image of carnage and mayhem that quickly becomes one of the worst road traffic accidents in Northumberland’s history. But as the casualties mount up, they soon realise that not all deaths were as a result of the accident…

On the other side of town a house goes up in flames, turning its two inhabitants into charred corpses. Seemingly unconnected with the traffic accident, Kate sets about investigating both incidences separately. But it soon becomes apparent that all is not what it seems, and Kate and her colleagues are one always step behind a ruthless killer who will stop at nothing to get what they want.

My Thoughts;

This is the third in the Kate Daniels series and Hannah doesn’t drop the ball for a second. In fact she gathers all her balls together, throws them in the air, creates utter chaos, then calmly goes about tying things back together as you get to know the characters, get to like them and want them to do well. The pace is fantastically written as plots are woven throughout and just when you think you know you’re at the end, she hits you with one you didn’t see coming in the slightest. I was gobsmacked by one of the twists at the end. The sign of a great crime writer. If you like crime fiction and want an interesting female protagonist, then the Kate Daniels series is well worth checking out. I’m now waiting for the next DCI Daniels book.

Recently Read: Settled Blood By Mari Hannah

The Recently Read posts are not book reviews. As a writer, I do not believe I should be reviewing the hard work of other writers. These posts are simply books I have recently read and enjoyed and will share with you. They will not always be crime books as I am trying to widen my reading selection. I hope you enjoy some of these with me.

Settled bloodSettled Blood – Mari Hannah


When a young girl is found dead at the base of Hadrian’s Wall, it’s not long before Detective Chief Inspector Kate Daniels realises her death was no ordinary homicide. She was thrown from a great height and was probably alive before she hit the ground.

Then a local businessmen reports his daughter missing, has Daniels found the identity of her victim, or is a killer playing a sickening game?

As the murder investigation team delve deeper into the case, half truths are told, secrets exposed, and while Daniels makes her way through a mountain of obstacles time is running out for one terrified girl.

My Thoughts: 

This book is the second in the series for the protagonist Detective Chief Inspector Kate Daniels. After a strong start and gripping end to the first novel, The Murder Wall, I wondered how you could come back and beat that, but this novel does just that, it comes back stronger and a lot more sure of itself. The characters really have their place in this book and I really love Kate Daniels Sergeant Hank Gormley. For me, he was just a brilliantly down to earth guy who could definitely be warmed to. The rest of the supporting characters were strong, all carrying their own stories and were well fleshed out. The plot was incredible and the sense of place was just stunning. The location in which the crimes were set out were beautiful if not chilly and bleak, but they drew you in and you were there with them. What a beautiful and cold place Hannah weaved.

The story was also wonderfully weaved, with details and relationships being weaved together with such slight of hand, you often didn’t see it happening, until at the final hurdle, you realised, that it was a damn good read and you’re at the end!

The finale brought Kate Daniels into her own when she was pushed into a situation she couldn’t have foreseen and see needed to make a decision on facing it or not. Very real emotions that any of us would feel were considered. Brilliantly written. It had me hooked.

I can’t wait for book three now.