Welcome to Detectastory

Hello Readers!

I’ve been meaning for a while to start a crime fiction blog so today I’m biting the bullet and finally getting round to writing my first post. My plan for the blog is to mostly write about crime fiction (including novels and short stories as well as TV series and films) and authors but also write the odd post about historic true crime and occasionally post my own crime fiction.

My love affair with crime fiction began in my teenage years, when my dear Grandma gave me a much loved copy of The Pale Horse by Agatha Christie and I was instantly smitten. That old book is one of my most prized possessions. In more recent years, I have read more modern crime fiction such as Sophie Hannah’s Poirot mysteries and Ruth Ware’s Christie-esque thrillers. I am currently reading Missing Presumed by Susie Steiner. So far I love this novel, I really love the depth of her characters and the plot is refreshingly modern. I will talk more about all the books I’ve just mentioned another time. Today I want to talk about something else entirely.

My favourite murder mystery TV series at the moment is Death in Paradise. I am enjoying the current series immensely. I was flicking through the Radio Times a few days ago and came across a short review of last week’s episode which ended with the statement ‘no one watches Death in Paradise for the plots’. I was astounded. I particularly enjoyed last week’s episode in which a PhD student was the victim at a literary festival on Saint Marie. I find the plots refreshingly easy to follow, that is the whole appeal of the show to me. The statement is clearly untrue as I, for one, do indeed watch Death in Paradise for the plots. How about you?

 

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The Murder of the Phoebe Hoggs – Attitudes to Female Killers

Good afternoon readers!

I have just been reading a history magazine and came across an article about the gruesome murder of Phoebe Hogg and her infant daughter, also called Phoebe in Victorian London in 1890. The Victorians at the time were not only shocked at the brutality of the murders but also that they had been carried out by a woman.

The story goes that Mary Eleanor Wheeler (also known as Eleanor Piercey) was having an affair with Frank Samuel Hogg and was completely besotted with him. She decided that if she disposed of his wife and daughter, Frank would be on his knees begging her to marry him. Piercey did not go for poison, the more usual weapon women use to kill, instead she cut her victims’ throats and dumped their bodies on wasteland.

The most surprising thing about this case is where public sympathy lay. I would have expected sympathy for the brutally murdered wife and daughter. But a lot of the press coverage at the time didn’t even name the victims. Mary Eleanor was constantly mentioned in the press and treated with sympathy throughout the investigation. The trial was covered as if it was a love story. Mary was eventually convicted of the crimes and given the death sentence. Following her conviction, public sympathy led to a petition for her release. Mary still insisted she was innocent. Her petition didn’t succeed and public sympathy waned. She deservedly hung for her ruthless crimes.

My feeling is that the society of the time showed sympathy for her as they struggled to believe that a woman could be capable of such cruelty. Public opinion towards female killers has changed dramatically since then though.

The case of Catherine ‘Kitty’ Genovese

Good evening readers!

I have just started a free OU course called Forensic Psychology – Witness Investigation. The aim of the course as a whole is to try to use forensic psychology techniques to solve a fictitious crime over the course of a few weeks. The clues are released gradually week by week so it’s important to not reveal too much information to others doing the course.

This week focused on eyewitness psychology. One of the exercises this week involved following the investigation of an armed robbery and determine which pieces of information are reliable. One thing I found interesting in the first week of the course is the reactions of bystanders to crimes they witness. This was demonstrated through the case of Catherine Genovese.

Ms Genovese was an American woman who was murdered outside her apartment block in the New York district of Queens in 1964. This doesn’t appear remarkable at face value but what is unusual is that about a dozen of the neighbours were aware of the attack while it was taking place but did nothing to help Genovese. This case led to further research into teh ‘bystander effect’. This describes the psychological phenomena that in large groups of witnesses it is less likely that one person will intervene. There are three possible explanations for this. Firstly, onlookers may be unsure of helping while others are watching. Secondly, they may feel others are better able to help. Lastly, they may simply not help because they see that nobody else is helping. I find this all intriguing.

I am really looking forward to the next week of the course. I’ll let you know how I get on.

 

Times Crime and Thriller Writing Masterclass

Good morning readers!

In my last post I promised to tell you how I got on at the Times Crime and Thriller writing masterclass. I’ve been looking forward to this ever since I booked it in February and it absolutely lived up to my expectations. The panel of speakers at the event included Sophie Hannah (Writer), Julia Wisdom (Publisher), Jane Gregory (Literary Agent),  Henry Sutton (Creative writing lecturer and crime writer) and Charles Cumming (writer).

I had a bit of trouble finding the right building. The venue was the News UK building. I finally found it but as the only way of identifying the right building was to lie on my back on the ground and look up at the sky, this took quite some time. The class took place on the 17th floor so the views of London were just amazing. Anyway,  I am losing the plot. I mingled with fellow aspiring writers while we waited for the the event to begin.

I’m not going to give you a blow by blow account of what happened during the course of the evening as that may well bore you to death. I am going to cut it all down and tell you the main points that I discovered. So here goes.

  • To be an author is to be alone. The job of a writer is viewed as being glamorous but it isn’t always, it involves a lot of time working alone.
  • Voice is very important. A fresh and original voice is vital to the success of a writer. This can be achieved through practice and determination (but talent is important too).
  • Planning your work early on avoids the need to redraft much later on.
  • Not all advice is equal. Trust your instincts – they’ll tell you who to listen to and who to ignore.
  • Start with the title. Once you have a title you can then write a detailed plan of the novel/story.
  • Write the easy chapters first. This is a good way of getting started. It can also make the harder chapters easier to write.
  • Don’t over-plan. Planning is good but it’s also OK to allow your characters to take you on a different course.
  • Research thoroughly but don’t include all your research in your novel. Imagine your novel is a film set. You have to build the whole set by research but then you may only focus on one small street on the set.
  • Take your favourite novel and pull it apart. Not literally of course but analyse why you love it. What is it about the novel that really appeals to you? How is the novel structured?
  • Read and write EVERY day.

 

I’ve got one or two short stories to redraft. Once I’ve done that I’ll post them on here.

Bye for now.

Pictures Or It Didn’t Happen

Good evening readers!

I have booked a Times Crime and Thriller Writing Masterclass on Monday of next week. One of the authors attending will be Sophie Hannah. I recently read and posted on her latest Poirot mystery, Closed Casket. In preparation for the masterclass I decided to familiarise myself with more of her books.

I have just finished reading her book ‘Pictures Or It Didn’t Happen’. I don’t want to give too much away but it is a great heartwarming ‘love conquers all’ tale.

I’m wondering how I should prepare for the crime writing class on Monday. Which questions should I ask. I would like to know more about how to structure a plot to create a feeling of suspense and mystery. I would also like to know about how the authors go about creating characters and deciding on the physical setting for the novel as well as the historical/social setting.

I am quickly becoming a huge fan of Sophie Hannah and can hardly wait to meet her on Monday.

I’d like your opinion on which questions I should ask.

I’ll let you know next week how I get on!

Bye for now.

 

 

 

The Beautiful Dead

Good morning readers!

I trust you all had a good weekend.

Here is my critique of The Beautiful Dead by Belinda Bauer. 😉

Jack the Ripper meets the ABC Murders. That is how I would describe this riveting read.

The novel is both sinister and gory from the start. The killer takes his first victim in the first few pages and we quickly get a feel for his creepy nature as he promises to find his next victim soon. It is brilliant insight into the mind of a serial killer.

The other protagonist of the book is Eve Singer. Unusually for a crime novel, the main character is a journalist reporting the crimes rather than a detective trying to solve them. I really enjoyed the depth of character created by Bauer as well as the interesting mix of crime fiction and literary fiction. The reader gets a lot of detail of the inner thoughts of the main characters and how they become tangled together throughout the book.

The Killer sees his crimes as being exhibitions so he puts up flyers stating where and when the next crime will take place so that he can gather an audience to his crime. Like the probable real Jack the Ripper, Walter Sickert, the Killer is an artist and sees his crimes as being works of art for all to enjoy. He is a psychopath.

The book was sometimes far too gory for me but it was a riveting read all the same.

Bye for now!

 

The White Cottage

Hello readers!

I have just finished reading The White Cottage Mystery by Margery Allingham. This is the first of her books that I’ve read and I picked it up whilst browsing in a bookshop.This was one of her earliest works and her first crime novel.  It first appeared as a series in the Daily Telegraph in 1927 and was published as a novel the following year.

I’ve been a fan of Agatha Christie since I was a teenager. One of my favourite Christie novels is Crooked House because of its interesting plot. I now realise Christie’s plot is not as original as I thought it was when I read her book. Christie and Allingham have very similar writing styles. I really like the way they both use simple language and great craftsmanship as a vehicle to carry the story.

The White Cottage Mystery is a bold and debut novel which is confident in its narrative. The victim is a nasty piece of work whom everyone in the household has a motive to murder. The detective on this case is one W.T. Challoner and his son is his sidekick. The pair follow the trail to France. Challoner eventually closes the case after he apparently reaches a dead end with it. He waits seven years to reveal the shocking truth to his son and daughter in law.

For more information about Margery Allingham have a look at the Margery Allingham Society website here….  http://www.margeryallingham.org.uk/

 

 

Hide and Seek

Good  morning readers! 🙂

“Framed police woman D I Helen Grace must survive prison and prove her innocence in M J Alridge’s sixth bestselling thriller”That is the Publisher’s description of Hide and Seek.

This is the first of M.J. Arlidge’s books that I have read. I picked it up randomly in a bookshop along with Missing, Presumed by Susie Steiner (see my recent post about that book). The two protagonists are similar in that they are both female police officers who have had to cope with the loss of their mothers. However, the styles and settings of the two novels are entirely in contrast with each other.

Hide and Seek is set in a prison and its style is very dark and gritty. The novel is fast paced with short and punchy sentences, paragraphs and chapters which create the impression of an onslaught of stabs or gunshots. I really liked the way the novel is two murder mysteries rolled into one. Helen Grace’s colleague and friend is on the outside investigating the murder that Grace was framed for and is determined to prove her innocence before her trial. Meanwhile, Grace is incarcerated and is trying desperately to find out who is responsible for a spate of grisly murders in the prison. I loved the twist at the end. If you like dark and gritty crime novels then I can highly recommend this one to you. The characters in this novel are less well developed than Steiner’s characters but then that adds to the pace of the novel.

I have a few crime novels on my reading list but can you recommend any to me?

Bye for now 🙂