Margaret James Turns to Crime!

We recently celebrated the release of Margaret James’ first crime novel with Ruby Fiction, The Final Reckoning. Today on the blog Margaret is telling us a little bit about the crime fiction she enjoys and the inspiration for her first writing foray into the genre …

Why do authors write crime fiction? Surely real life can be terrifying enough? Who wants to read about imaginary crimes when there are plenty of factual horrors in the newspapers and on our screens every day?

Well, a quick glance at the bestseller charts will reveal that plenty of people want to read about fictional crimes. Romantic and crime fiction regularly top the genre charts both in bookshops and in libraries.

I’m a big fan of crime, thriller and mystery fiction. But, having said that, I’m not a fan of in-your-face cruelty and mayhem. As a mother of daughters, crime fiction in which a young and innocent woman is horribly killed is a big turn-off for me and I never read it. Ditto stories about the abductions and murders of children – those are even more distressing. My preferred crime reading is the kind that offers me a puzzle. Who did whatever someone did? Why did they do it? I don’t want to have to care too much about the murder victim. Actually, I much prefer it if this person kind of deserved their fate.

So, when it came to writing some crime fiction of my own, my starting point was the puzzle. Why would someone want to murder a middle-aged man in a rather decisive but unusual way? What message, if any, was the killer leaving for the police to find? My heroine, Lindsay Ellis, is the one who stumbles across the body, but she is never a suspect. Eventually, the dead man’s son is tried for his father’s murder, but he is acquitted. Who else would have had a motive to kill?

Nobody – apparently.

The fun of writing The Final Reckoning came from filling it with twists and turns, from puzzling my characters as much as I hoped I would puzzle my readers, and from delivering the kind of twist that would encourage these readers to guess the truth, but to guess wrong.

I’m hoping the solution to the mystery will come as a surprise to readers, but that most readers will say: yes, of course, it had to be like that! Rather than: oh, as if!

I haven’t cheated these readers. I’ve slipped in plenty of clues pointing to the identity of the murderer and also to the murderer’s motivation. But, of course, as the writer, I have known the answer to the big question in this novel all along. So it looks rather obvious to me!

The Final Reckoning is available as an eBook on all platforms and also as an audio book on Amazon, Audible and iTunes. Click on the cover image above for purchasing options. 

For more on Margaret
Follow her on Twitter @majanovelist
Like her on Facebook Margaret James Novelist

Introducing a new imprint: Death by Choc Lit!

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Last week, we released the first book on our ‘Death by Choc Lit’ crime imprint; A Stranger’s House by Clare Chase. Today on the blog Clare introduces the imprint and talks a little bit about the ‘ingredients’ that went into the making of the first Death by Choc Lit novel …  

Death by Choc Lit? What flavour of novel is that?

I feel very honoured that the publication of my latest novel, A Stranger’s House also marks the launch of Choc Lit’s new imprint, Death by Choc Lit: gripping, edge-of-your-seat reads.

The tagline got me thinking about crime, mystery and suspense fiction, and the vast range of stories that fall under that banner. I know that all Death by Choc Lit titles will promise a healthy dose of suspense, but beyond that, the specific ingredients will vary. A Stranger’s House is a murder mystery, and within that, here’s my particular mix:

A developing relationship

I know you’d expect this from a Choc Lit title! Ruby, my heroine, has been through a rough time with her ex-partner, Luke, and she’s cautious about any new emotional entanglements. However, the intensity of the situation she finds herself in throws her feelings into confusion. And the person who stirs her interest is holding back a momentous secret.

A location with more to it than meets the eye

I chose to set this book in Cambridge, and have written a follow-up, featuring the same characters, that’s also set in the city. I’ve lived here for over twenty years now, and the place fascinates me. It’s achingly beautiful at times, and there’s something constantly melancholic and nostalgic about it. I think it’s because of the high proportion of students. If you stay and become grown-up in the city, you’re always conscious of the passing of time, and lost youth! Cambridge is also a place of contrasts. You get choirs singing Elizabethan madrigals from punts on the river, whist drunks deal drugs on the commons. It’s a small city too, and secrets travel fast. A high proportion of residents work for the university (I used to myself), and there are lots of connections you might not expect.

A mystery to unravel

I like stories where I’m presented with information that could, in principle, allow me to guess the identity of the villain. There are plenty of clues to work on in A Stranger’s House, so the book’s ideal for anyone who likes to indulge in some armchair sleuthing!

A tense climax

I’ve always loved books that mix the detective element with a gradual rise in danger, leading to a life-or-death climax before the action’s over, so that’s the format I follow in my novels.

Crime fiction can be gritty, dark and violent, and of course it can also be humorous and cosy. My novels tread the line between the two. I’m a big fan of Elly Griffiths’ books, and love her balance of life and relationships with sleuthing and suspense. I belong to the Crime Writer’s Association, and they ask their members to rate their offerings on a profanometer, and a platelet counter! I can say that my book is very low on bad language, and there’s no focus on the gore. To me, it’s the characters’ motivations and the mystery that are interesting, and the suspense and relationships that add the spice.

A Stranger’s House is now available on Kindle. Click on one of the links below to purchase.

Amazon UK    Amazon US    Amazon AU    Amazon CA

For more on Clare, follow her on Twitter @ClareChase_ or check out her blog.

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Kiss and Don’t tell (until the end) – why I love romantic mysteries

Clare Chase’s fast-paced and thrilling romantic suspense novel, You Think You Know Me, is out in e-book format today. Read about her love of mysteries and the inspiration behind the novel here on Choc Lit corner. Happy Publication day, Clare! 🙂

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To me, asking if I’d like mystery mixed with my romance is like asking if I’d like a glass of wine with my chocolate.  Either one alone is wonderful, but if I’m allowed to wolf down both at once, I’m a happy woman. Each genre brings its own tension, intrigue and pulse-racing moments, and a mix of the two is a powerful combination.

I also really like the puzzle element. I love not knowing what hidden motives a character might have, and what secrets lie in their past. If I can’t sleep, I find wondering ‘whodunnit’ in the book I’m reading a lot more fun than counting sheep.

Not knowing who to trust ratchets up the tension for the protagonist too. In my novel, You Think You Know Me, the heroine, Anna, is faced with this dilemma. She feels an immediate and powerful connection with a man she’s just met, but finds within hours that he’s given her a false name. Torn between backing off and allowing him to explain, she gets drawn into a dangerous and unstoppable drama.

Romantic mystery is a classic sub-genre, and I was introduced to it quite young, when I first read Daphne du Maurier’s Jamaica Inn. I found it unbeatable: a passionate love story tightly interwoven with intrigue and danger.

Evocative settings mean a lot to me too. Du Maurier’s use of wild moorland was perfect. For my own story, set in the run-up to Christmas, the build-up takes place against the fast-moving backdrop of London, but the denouement makes use of the lonely beauty of the Lakes.

Once I’d got bitten by the romantic mystery bug, I lapped up Mary Stewart’s novels. Meanwhile books like Jilly Cooper’s Bella had me turning the pages so fast I ripped them. But the male thriller writers were just as inclined to pepper their stories with romantic intrigue. I remember finding Dick Francis’ novels quite educational on that front, when I first found them on my grandmother’s bookshelves.

Romantic mysteries are also the stuff of Hollywood, of course, from classics like Hitchcock’s Rear Window, (and indeed, Jamaica Inn), to the unfolding relationship between Jason and Marie in The Bourne Identity.

Sometimes the mystery is very much bound up with the romance, and resolving one leads straight on to the happy ever after in the other. But other authors follow relationship hurdles that are separate from the central plot. Nora Roberts, writing as JD Robb, uses this format in her novels about Detective Eve Dallas and her partner Roarke.

Like the books in its umbrella genres, the romantic mystery comes in many forms, but one thing it always promises is escapism and excitement. Wonderful though everyday often life is, I think there’s a huge benefit in that.

Twitter: @ClareChase_ 

Website: www.clarechase.com

Facebook: Clare Chase author page

Buy You Think You Know Me HERE today.

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Check out the awesome book trailer for You Think You Know Me here: