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Author of the Month

Name: Ed James

First Novel: Ghost in the Machine

Most Recent Book: In For the Kill

'A sure fire winner and will appeal to anyone who loves a rocking good read with heart!'

Synopsis:
A university student is found strangled to death in her bedroom, but when the embattled DI Simon Fenchurch is called in to investigate, the case strikes dangerously close to home.

On the surface, the victim was a popular, high-performing student. But as secret grudges against her emerge, so too does evidence that she was living a double life, working on explicit webcam sites for a seedy London ganglord. Everyone Fenchurch talks to knows a lot more than they’re willing to tell, and before long he’s making new enemies of his own—threatening to push him and his family past breaking point.

With too many suspects and not enough facts, Fenchurch knows his new superiors are just waiting for him to fail—they want him off the case, and off the force for good. His family is in more danger than ever before. So how deep is he willing to dig in order to unearth the truth?

Review:
James tells his complex and sinister tale over a matter of three days… and boy, does he fill those three days with the most frenetic investigation for his creation, DI Fenchurch.

Fenchurch is one of those coppers that put himself in the firing line, but as his superior tells him, the misfortunes of those he is investigating never seem to come back on Fenchurch. He really is like Teflon, nothing sticks. This is not to say that Fenchurch isn’t human. He has really been through the mill recently with the discovery of his long lost daughter, Chloe who was abducted eleven years ago, but who denies their existence as her parents. This is strong stuff and plays a part in the case as Chloe attends the same university as the victim of Fenchurch’s latest case.

James deals with issues that have been in the news, student loans and the measures some will go to make money and how those in power are willing to exploit those who wish to avoid huge loans by the end of their education. It makes for dark stuff, which James deals with, not letting the pace falter.

I picked up ‘In For The Kill’ as I haven’t read any of James’ books and I am always thirsty for a new author to read, (although to my amazement he has quite a number of books under his belt already!) and I will now be searching out his other books. For me, ‘In For the Kill’ was a one sitting read. The pages flew by as I followed the investigation which ducked and dived, keeping me enthralled. I also loved how amongst all this, James gave back stories and depth to his other characters such as DS Nelson and DS Kay Reed (with her fabulous quiff) and I am pleased to hear through James’ Q&A that Reed will be taking more of a centre stage role in a future book! This book had heart and guts, which is something you don’t find regularly as private lives of those involved appear to be dumped in favour of the murder investigation. Not so here and James should be applauded for juggling all the balls in the air without slowing the pace.

Here you will find University politics, people of different walks of life and persuasion and those caught in the crossfire. By the time I finished, I felt as exhausted as Fenchurch and his gamy knee! A sure fire winner and will appeal to anyone who loves a rocking good read with heart!

Reviewed by: C.S.

CrimeSquad Rating



Questionnaire

1) ‘In For the Kill’ deals with a case of a murdered student at Southwark University. This is quite topical as it deals with how students survive and what they do to lessen the weight of the crippling loans when they graduate. Was there any research done to find out about student life?
Well, a lot of the book draws on my own experiences as a student in the late 90s, though I obviously didn’t work as a cam boy or a cuck… It drew on a lot of my experiences, like getting lost in the system, being so skint that I had to spend a lot of time working. I was lucky to be the last of the generation who had student grants, though it was trifling by that point, but my three cousins are in that millennial generation where they’re graduating with those crippling debts into a shrinking jobs market.

In terms of research, the cam girl idea came from Jamie Bartlett’s THE DARK NET, which has a lot of interesting detail on it. I also regularly read the Vice website and they cover both modern student life and the sex industry in great detail, with refreshing honesty.
2) There is the continuing drama of Chloe/Jennifer, Fenchurch’s daughter who was abducted and is also a student at Southwark. Are we to expect more family dramas in future books?
Book 5, KILL WITH KINDNESS, is in the can and is out on 7th August, so you’ll just have to wait and see.

But yes, the family drama is what I feel differentiates those books from others I’ve written and it’s what I enjoyed most about writing them. There’s a very deliberate emotional growth for Fenchurch from the first book to where he is now, and the journey isn’t over for him.

One thing I’d say is that one of the ideas I’m playing about with for a future book will be much more in the family drama vein, with a much thinner police procedural layer. I’ve written at least fifteen of them now and I need a bit of a break! It’ll still be crime, but more focused on character than plot.
3) Fenchurch is a maverick who has had some very near misses and scrapes in the past. He flies very near the knuckle and has the luck of the Gods. Is his luck about to run out?
Yes and no. You’ll see more follow-through from the events of IN FOR THE KILL in the next book and Fenchurch’s longstanding position as a maverick will have to change, one way or another. He’s developed from a shell of a man to someone who can feel emotions again, but doesn’t know what to do with that feeling. And the difficulties he’s facing with his superiors, well let’s just say that it’ll come to a head.
4) I really liked DS Kay Reed and her quiff! Please say we will see more of her.
Oh hell yeah. She’s front and centre in book five.

It’s interesting that you liked her. In the very first draft of THE HOPE THAT KILLS (not the one with vampires, no), she wasn’t in it. Nelson was the sidekick and there were another two DSs, but the editor for that book, the wonderful Jenny Parrott, suggested that I bring her to the fore more. I merged the two, changed the name and lo and behold Kay Reed was born. She’s the angel on Fenchurch’s story, whereas DS Nelson is much more of the devil. Keeping two DSs in balance is like Fenchurch keeping his life in balance. Which is obviously not that easy for him.

And you know that family drama I mentioned? Well, it may or may not be a spin-off with Kay as the lead character… Watch this space.
5) You have sold thousands on e-book and have three series on the go. What advice would you give to someone starting down the path you have taken to publishing?
When I was getting one of his books signed, Ian Rankin told me to get lucky and stay lucky. It’s sage advice.

And I was really lucky — when I self-published my first in 2012, lucky enough to ride the silver rush of the ebook market, along with people like James Oswald. The gold rush was over, but there was still a huge opportunity there. It’s much, much harder now to break through, but people still are.

I think if you’re wanting to get ahead in crime fiction, my advice is spend a while honing that first book, making sure the recurring characters are sufficiently engaging, then develop a method and pattern that you can quickly repeat to produce sequels in the series. That’s what readers of police procedurals want — an engaging character solving interesting cases, published frequently.
6) Are you a fan of crime fiction? If so, which three crime novels would you like with you if stranded on a desert island?
I think you have to be a fan to write in a genre, otherwise people will see through it. That said, I have great difficulty reading police procedurals nowadays, partly because I can see behind the curtain and know the tricks people are pulling, but also if I read it before I go to sleep, my sleeping brain will dream write the next few chapters and it’ll all be gibberish and I’ll be aware that it’s gibberish but . . . A writer’s life, eh?

The first book I’d take with me would be Laidlaw by William McIlvanney, which is responsible for starting the whole tartan noir thing, but it’s so much more than that. The writing is evocative of a lost time and place, Glasgow in the 70s, and focuses on the psychological damage of a murder and how it affects a community.

The second book would be The Missing and The Dead by Stuart MacBride, which is his masterpiece, I think. It takes the whole “there’s been a murder” aspect of tartan noir and shoves it out to rural Aberdeenshire, without an immediate murder, and in uniform. It doesn’t lose anything for it, and freshens things up, showing what a Scottish crime novel in the 21st century should be.

The last one I’d take would be an omnibus edition of the LA Quartet by James Ellroy. I know it’s four books, but let me off with that. What I love about those books is, while they were written in the 90s, they were set back in America’s glory days of the fifties and show that we’ve always been as evil and dark. We’ve not come from glory and descending. We’re already there and always have been. And maybe we’re getting a little bit better because the evil bastards aren’t getting away with it as much as they used to. Maybe.

Author photo by Kitty Harrison