Author of the Month

Name: Martina Cole

First Novel: Dangerous Lady

Most Recent Book: Close

'With Close, Martina Cole doesn’t just come close to writing a perfect crime novel – she totally nails it.'

Patrick Brodie is young, up and coming in the London underworld, and ready to put anyone to ‘bed’ to get what he wants. People are scared of him and what he is capable of doing. They cannot see what kind of man Patrick Brodie is behind those blue eyes of his. At least, not until it is far too late. Deserted by both his parents, Patrick has his heart set on one woman - and one woman only. Lily Diamond. Patrick worships the ground she walks on and, in turn, Lily gives Patrick the sons he wants - and the loyalty he demands. ‘Lil’ is a feisty mother and wife who will defend her husband and family to the bitter end. Life is good, and it seems things couldn’t get any better. But then Lil’s life takes a dramatic turn for the worse…

After tragedy strikes, Lil finds herself deserted, destitute and with five kids to raise. The life she led has vanished overnight and now she needs to get down and dirty just to survive. It is only after some years that her eldest son, Patrick Junior, starts taking back the reigns that were unmercifully ripped from his family’s grasp. Soon there is retribution on a mammoth scale and it is up to Lil to protect her family through the storm that comes from living in a world where violence seems second nature, even with her own children.

This novel spans four decades and the reader can truly sense Lil’s blood, sweat and pain as she deals with her vicious husband, while she brings up her kids to the best of her abilities. Even her pregnancies are described in such intense detail that the reader can only feel for this woman who, at times, seems blessed, yet has so much stacked against her. Lil is a real fighter and Cole is marvellous at painting downtrodden women who struggle through adversity to finally collect their dues. The writing is visceral and intensely raw and, yes, the language is highly colourful. Cole knows instinctively exactly how her characters speak, think and operate. At the same time she conjures up deep insight into these frightening creatures that nobody else could even begin to imagine in their wildest dreams…

Surely winning the British Book Award for Crime Thriller of the Year with The Take was just the start for Martina Cole? With this new book she really does literally grab you by the scruff of the neck and demands that you fly through the pages with her. Make no mistake, Cole writes extraordinarily good crime novels. By being true to her own experiences she knows exactly what she is talking about, and understands her audience too. I literally gasped aloud when one character was dispatched without ceremony - and with maximum violence. Yes, it made me grimace, but it also made me turn those pages even faster than before!

With Close, Martina Cole doesn’t just come close to writing a perfect crime novel – she totally nails it. So, lock the door (yes, definitely lock the door…) and immerse yourself into the Brodie’s unique way of life. With this book Cole is on a spectacular roll and she’s definitely onto another winner - as her thousands of devoted fans will doubtless testify. Now surely nobody can deny her title as the new “Queen of Crime”?

Reviewed by: C.S.

CrimeSquad Rating


1) Where do you get the inspiration for your books?
There’s always something that triggers the story. It’s usually some real life situation or story that inspires me. Real life is always much more extraordinary than fiction.
2) Is writing about real characters and situations important to you?
I like to think I write crime novels with imaginary characters and real situations. Or is it vice versa…? Either way, I write about stuff that I know about and understand. I can’t just create a fantasy world. I have to believe it first. If I buy into a story, then I think my readers usually will too.
3) What do you think makes your books stand out from the crowd?
Most crime writers have a detective as their main character. I write from the criminal’s point of view. I also write about women who are not just victims.
4) Your tough women characters are legendary. How do you approach writing female characters?
Women are pretty tough creatures and I like to think I give it a bit of balance. At the same time I think that sometimes women can be worse than the men when it comes to crime. In most crime books women are portrayed as mad, bad or perfect. I like to think that my women are more real, more rounded, than that. Also, the wives and partners of criminals are always the forgotten ones. The law really is made by men for men. They forget that when you sentence someone you always sentence the whole family. There’s always a much bigger price…
5) Many people imagine your books are highly autobiographical. How much of your life actually is in there?
My books are certainly not all about me, and my life! But they are all based on facts. I do keep extensive notes of ideas and conversations I’ve had with real people. Before I started writing I used to think I was alone in my fascination with all this stuff. Prostitution, criminality, messed-up families and all the rest. I think my readers view the books as cautionary tales. There, but for the grace of God…
6) If your books really aren’t actually autobiographical, would you ever consider writing your own story?
I’ve already been approached quite a few times. I will never write my autobiography – not until everyone is dead, anyway! I think, at the end of the day, it would be just too bland. I don’t think my life’s that interesting.
7) How do you picture your readers when you are thinking about a new book?
I have to say that I always write for me first. My readers come from all walks of life. It always amazes me the diversity of people that come to my signing sessions. I want to know there’s a good, exciting read to be had. If I’m enjoying the ride, I think someone else is likely to be enjoying it as well.
8) How do you approach writing about the criminal world?
I’ve seen the results of crime. I know what that world can do to people. Also, sometimes people just don’t have the same opportunities that we all have. You never know what drives people to do what they do. It’s all a matter of being true to the situations and the characters. I don’t stand in judgement.
9) Do you think that there’s always a firm moral basis to the stories?
Of course there’s a moral basis. I think my books are very moral. I hope they convey some sense that there are just some things you can’t or shouldn’t do. At the same time, everyone has got his or her own sense of morality - and that often shifts about. At the end of the day, if you can live with yourself, that’s what matters. I certainly have some firm personal beliefs. I believe in letting the punishment fit the crime, for example. I believe that if you give respect you get respect. It’s all pretty basic stuff. These are the things that make me tick and they certainly do colour my books. But, as I said before, I try not to judge. I hope that people come away after reading one of my stories with something to inspire them, or, at least, make them think!
10) As the UK’s most successful female author, do you still get nervous when you publish a new book?
Nervous? I’m absolutely terrified! Despite the success I’ve had I always think that each new book is going to be the one that doesn’t do it. I have restless night and dream about piles of unsold books. Fortunately, it’s never happened yet…!
11) How do you think your books are generally viewed?
I think they are taken for exactly what they are by my readers, and that is what’s most important to me. Some literary critics like to put them down - as they do with most crime fiction - but I’m actually starting to be well reviewed by some ‘serious’ critics now. However, like most real authors, I don’t write for critics. I write for me, and I write to be read. It does annoy me when people dismiss my books by saying that I write for a mass audience. That’s absolute rubbish. I actually take it all very seriously.