Author of the Month

Name: Dreda Say Mitchell

First Novel: Running Hot

Most Recent Book: Vendetta

'I suggest you strap in as you are in for a very bumpy and exhilarating ride!'

When Mac wakes up disorientated in a hotel room he doesnt recognise he is firstly confused. When he feels encrusted blood on the side of his head he is concerned. When he finds the dead body of his girlfriend in the bath, her face shot to pieces by a bullet to the back of the head he is distraught. When he realises the police are arriving at the hotel entrance with him still inside the room with a dead body in the bath that is when the survival instinct kicks in. And that is when the waking nightmare begins.

D.I. Rio Wray is the I.O. for this case and as with every other case she has ever dealt with, she is determined to get results fast. As she begins to collate the evidence another body is found and this one has a connection to the body in the bath. Little does Wray know that the perpetrator of this crime is a lot closer to home than she could ever imagine: Mac, an undercover operative who she first met when they were both police rookies.

Over the space of less than twenty-four hours Mac must find out the truth and clear his name while at the same time trying not be arrested by his best friend or be killed by the Russian mafia. It will be a long, hard day for Mac all round.

I originally heard a faint sketch of this book two years ago. Finally, it has arrived and I must tell you folks, 'Vendetta' was well worth the wait.

Spanning less than twenty-four hours this is one of those spellbinding thrillers that literally sucks you in immediately. With London as the backdrop to such high drama, Say Mitchell lovingly describes the city whilst also not fearing to throw a beam of light on to the darker recesses of this outstanding place in the world with its wide thoroughfares, narrow lanes, pockets of different cultures and eclectic architecture.

What Say Mitchell does so marvellously is to give her characters depth amongst the pulsating drama. No one is simply a plot device, but has every right to stake their claim in the unfolding crisis. In fact, one character meets with a sticky end and I was genuinely upset as over only a few hundred pages I had grown to like them and hoped to see more of this person, only for it to be cut short. Such a personal connection with a character is always a good sign of how an author makes you feel involved with those inside a novel. I loved the interconnection between Mac, Rio and disgraced cop, Calum and look forward to seeing how each one develops in future novels.

There is a great line on the cover from that master of the thriller, Lee Child. He says it like it is and I agree with him. The author starts running from page one and then builds up to a dash of Olympic proportions towards the finishing line. By the end of the book I was physically exhausted. 'Vendetta' is a fantastic thriller. I suggest you strap in as you are in for a very bumpy and exhilarating ride!

Reviewed by: C.S.

CrimeSquad Rating


1) This is a new departure for Dreda Say Mitchell. Why the change in direction?
I adored writing my gangland books, but a really strange thing started happening while I was writing my fourth novel, ‘Gangster Girl’, I realised that I loved the electric pace and the twists and turns. So I started thinking maybe I should be penning thrillers. Also, as an author, you start in one place and then the world begins to open up and I soon saw that I wanted to write more about issues that had nothing to do with gangsters and East London. My writing career has begun to reflect my real life where I wanted – needed – to open myself up to new experiences.
2) The events in ‘Vendetta’ take place over a single day. What difficulties did you experience when trying to insert a whole plot within such a small time frame?
It is difficult but mostly in terms of the practicalities. Within a tight time frame for example, how long would it take a wounded man to walk 5 miles? How quickly could the police organise a rapid reaction unit? Readers have got a keen eye for these things and if you get it wrong, they notice. Mind you, when I watched the first series of 24, I found myself continually asking, ‘No way can Jack Bauer really have done all of that in one hour!’ But as a viewer I soon shrugged that off because it was such an exciting and nail biting crime series.
3) Again, you have involved London and its many landmarks within the book. What is it do you think that makes London such a marvellous backdrop for a crime novel?
London is the whole world contained in one city and it’s an extreme place. It has the super rich, the super poor, every ethnicity, every activity, and every crime. It has connections all over the globe and is a nodal point for the planet. Whatever an author wants, in whatever genre, London has got it. Vendetta’s chase thriller element allowed me to show Mac ducking and diving through some of the city’s iconic landscapes, such as Camden Market and St. Katharine Docks.
4) There is a lot of inter-connected history between Mac, Rio, Calum and Phil Delaney. Are we going to learn more about the connections between these four individuals?
That’s the plan. ‘Vendetta’ is the start of a new thriller series. Wearing my reader’s hat, one of the reasons I’m eager to read the next book in a series is to find out what’s been happening to the main characters; I’m a very nosy person. I think readers are the same. Characters come with loads of personal baggage we want to find out if they will ever resolve. So readers have oodles of questions in their head when they pick up a book – has that character come to terms with their father’s dementia? What’s the main character going to do now her husband has found out about her affair with her superior officer? To sustain a reader’s interest, a crime writer has to put in as much work into creating shocks, surprises and cliffhangers as they do into characterisation. For Mac, Calum and Rio I’ve got a few ideas up my sleeve…
5) Although it features these four characters, ‘Vendetta’ is definitely Mac’s story. Will Mac continue to be centre stage or will you move different characters like Rio Wray and Calum to the fore and have them take some of the spotlight?
The basis for the series was three cops who started their training at The Hendon Police College at the same time. What would happen if their careers took very different paths? What if one became an undercover cop? Another a feisty, highly ambitious policewoman who also happens to be black? The last, a cop who gets booted out of the force? And so Mac, Rio and Calum were born. Instead of the traditional model of a series following a single lead character why not give each of my three characters their own book, with the other two characters in the background? The finishing touches are being added to ‘Death Trap’, the second book in the series, which focuses on DI Rio Wray. The third novel, (currently in development as they say in Hollywood), will push Calum centre stage. But I’m planning to have guest appearances and cameos from other characters as well. There are two chancers in ‘Death Trap’ that will definitely be back for more skulduggery.
6) How much research did you have to do with regards to weaponry and ammunition? Were there other areas of the novel you had to ‘gen up’ on before starting the book?
I’ve got a book on firearms on my shelf, (purely for research purposes obviously), and non-fiction crime writer Tony Thompson – love, love, love Tony’s books – was always on hand to give any advice from his own phenomenal research and knowledge. As I previously said, you have to get these details right. If a man is shot in 1960 with a gun that wasn’t available until 1961, you won’t get away with it. I read around any subject I write about but there’s a very important thing to remember with fiction – you have to make things up. Anything can be plausible if you put the work in to make it so.
7) ‘Vendetta’ ends on a shocker. Will we be reading more about this event in future books?
One project in the pipeline is to pick up on that shocker and do a follow up novella on it. Watch this space.
8) What does your family think about you writing such dark books?
Generally my family are very positive about my work. However, my debut novel ‘Running Hot’ was sent to a very religious relative of mine and she was so disgusted, she put it on a bonfire on November 5th. Talk about a rave review.
9) For writers who are just starting out on their ‘novel journey’, what one piece of advice would you give?
Go for it! Then decide are you the Lone Ranger type who likes to do it all on your own, with only your computer for company or do you prefer to join a creative writing class where others can support your work? I found a creative writing class very helpful in kick starting my writing career.
10) Are you a fan of crime fiction in general? What would you say are the top three crime novels that have made a lasting impression on you?
Definitely I’m a fan and I think you have to be if you want write it. Readers can spot an author faking it a mile off. Love TV and the big screen crime drama as well. As for three crime novels that have a lasting impression, there’s so many – but these three spring to mind for different reasons:

1) ‘Killing Floor’ by Lee Child

2) ‘Sharp Objects’ by Gillian Flynn

3) ‘A Rage In Harlem’ by Chester Himes

I know I’m only allowed three but just had to mention the dark reads of Andrew Vachss.