Thursday, 31 May 2018

Monthly Post: June 2018
Are authors getting pushier?

The Scarab Heart (The Involuntary Medium, #2)The Scarab Heart (The Involuntary Medium, #2) by Michael Gallagher
Current average rating: 4.38 of 5 stars

So who was the other guest at the wedding, the one who works in publishing? Martin, a charming man who runs a small-to-medium company, with whom I had an unexpectedly pleasant chat. “Time was,” he said, “when reading groups would beg authors to come and talk about their latest books. Now authors go round begging the groups!”

He was responding to what I’d told him about a reading group I attend, a small, in-the-flesh Crimes & Thrillers group that I’d recently set up a Facebook page for, where people round the world can see and comment on what we’ve been reading. My fellow members and I soon realized that most of the people asking to join were authors who had no interest in what we were reading. Read on…

This month’s giveaway is a free download of The Scarab Heart. This time our reluctant medium is off to the Valley of the Kings, where she finds herself embroiled in an ancient family feud, and gets caught up in antiquities theft and murder. Offer ends on June 30th 2018, and, no, there’s absolutely no review required!

“I have got to say, these books are unlike any other I have read…almost impossible to put down.”—Helene Gårdsvold Reviewer (5 stars)

Happy investigating!

Find me on my website Michael Gallagher Writes, on Facebook, and follow me on Twitter @seventh7rainbow

Sunday, 20 May 2018

Magpie Murders

Magpie MurdersMagpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Magpie Murders has been lauded for its cleverness. Stephen King (no less) tweeted this of it: “It’s as good as an Agatha Christie. Better, in some ways. Cleverer.” If you’ve heard of it, you’ll probably already know that it’s a book within a book, and as such it is fiendishly difficult to review.
At its heart there is an Agatha Christie style whodunnit set in the 1950s: “Magpie Murders” by the (fictitious) recently deceased crime writer Alan Conway, and the first half of Horowitz’s book gives us the text—minus the final chapter, which we only get later.
Conway’s detective is Atticus Pünd, who is in many respects a cipher for Hercule Poirot, and the setting is classic Poirot territory, the quiet rural village on Saxby-on-Avon. When the busybody of a housekeeper at the manor house dies in a fall down the stairs, Pünd is called in but resists the call, only accepting the case when Sir Magnus Pye, her employer, is later murdered.
Anyone who likes Poirots will probably enjoy this part. In style it reminds me a little of Dead Man’s Folly. There are clues, naturally, but they are by far outweighed by the number of red herrings of which there are plenty. I was taunted by cryptic crosswords and mentions of codes, and when Pünd declares that he knows everything, my attention quickened:
‘Gold!’ Pünd hadn’t spoken for so long that Fraser started, hearing his voice.
‘I’m sorry?’ he asked.
‘The fool’s gold concealed by Sir Magnus Pye. I am convinced that everything revolves around it.’

It does. Just not in the way that I’d hoped. If it had, I would have thoroughly enjoyed this whodunnit.
And so to the second half of Horowitz’s book, which concerns itself with the apparent suicide of Alan Conway, Pünd’s creator. We are no longer in cozy mystery mode anymore. Conway is a nasty piece of work and there are many of his acquaintances who would wish to see him dead. Susan Ryeland, his editor at Cloverleaf Books, is determined to investigate.
Horowitz goes to great length to make this part of the novel as realistic as he can. We get mentions of Agatha Christie Ltd. and Sophie Hannah; indeed, even Agatha Christie’s grandson Mathew Pritchard turns up as a character. We are taken into the mind of an author at work: how they name characters; how they create settings; where their ideas come from; what their bookshelf contains (I’m glad to say mine holds up pretty well). Parallels are drawn between Conway’s book and “real life”; anagrams, acrostics, and similar puzzles all rear their heads again. Plagiarism is discussed, as is the current state of publishing. It’s all fascinating stuff, at least to a writer of the genre. Horowitz dazzles with the sheer number of voices (mostly first-person) with which he tells us this tale.
And yet, for all that, if you want to solve either of these mysteries, I suggest you stick to good old motive, means, and opportunity. But that’s just my humble opinion…what’s yours? Do let me know what you think.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, 1 May 2018

Monthly Post: May 2018
Legacy publishing houses, purveyors of quality?

The Bridge of Dead Things (The Involuntary Medium, #1)The Bridge of Dead Things (The Involuntary Medium, #1) by Michael Gallagher
Current average rating: 4.10 of 5 stars

Last August I attended a wedding where, for the first time, I met two people who are or were involved in the world of traditional publishing. One was Fiona, a former manager at a large prestigious publishing house, who, it turned out, commissioned a report fourteen years ago on an early draft of my first novel, The Bridge of Dead Things.

It “quickly establishes itself as a remarkably assured, well-written, funny and complex Victorian Gothic,” the report read. “It is at the very least extremely good, and quite possibly exceptional…but it’s definitely not a HarperCollins children’s book. More Wilkie Collins than The Diamond of Drury Lane, in other words.”
Prescient, no? I’d never thought of it as a children’s book, but as rejection letters go, they don’t get much better than that! It went on to recommend I find myself a literary agent, which I did, though it took a further four years. I mention all this to establish my credentials. Although I may now be an indie author, at one time or other I have had my feet in both camps. It used to be that the reading public could rely on the good reputation of legacy publishing houses. They would be spared the spelling errors and ragged grammar that supposedly typify an indie author’s work. But is that really still the case? Read on…

This month’s giveaway is a free download of The Bridge of Dead Things. A working-class Victorian girl discovers she has a unique if unwanted power and is soon drawn into a world of seances, ghost grabbers…and murderers. Definitely not a HarperCollins children’s book! Offer ends on May 31st 2018.

“I absolutely loved it! I don’t give out 5 stars very often, but I did for this book! Mysteries abound and Gallagher does an amazing job creating an atmosphere of rising fear and creepiness…I hope that there are many more additions to the Lizzie Blaylock series because I now consider myself a firm fan!”—Suzy Schettler LibraryThing Early Reviewer (5 stars)

Happy investigating!

Find me on my website Michael Gallagher Writes, on Facebook, and follow me on Twitter @seventh7rainbow