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Death Message by Kate London

The synopsis:

October 1987: the morning after the Great Storm. Fifteen-year-old Tania Mills walks out her front door and disappears. Twenty-seven years later her mother still prays for her return. DS Sarah Collins in the Met’s Homicide Command is determined to find out what happened, but is soon pulled into a shocking new case and must once again work with a troubled young police officer from her past, Lizzie Griffiths.

PC Lizzie Griffiths, now a training detective, is working in the Domestic Violence Unit, known by cops as the ‘murder prevention squad’. Called to an incident of domestic violence, she encounters a vicious, volatile man – and a woman too frightened to ask for help. Soon Lizzie finds herself drawn into the centre of the investigation as she fights to protect a mother and daughter in peril.

As both cases unfold, Sarah and Lizzie must survive the dangerous territory where love and violence meet.

Released 6th April 2017!

My Review:

Just finished this novel and have to say, I am a little in shock! It’s such a rollercoaster of a ride. Shocking, emotive, graphic and very realistic. I can see people easily placing this in the police procedural genre, which it is but what will, really hit you as the reader is how often the events played out in the plot happen every day around us. To friends, family or people in our communities.

The novel centres on two Met police officers, of different rank and different roles. DS Sarah Collins is tasked with Operation Egremont, which is to solve the disappearance of Tania Mills from the cold case in 1987. PC Lizzie Griffiths is returning to work, at her new posting with the domestic violence unit, known within the Met as the ‘murder prevention squad’.

DS Collins has a complex cold case to solve that has many dead ends. But she pursues on in search of justice for Tania and her family. The original investigation was ran by (now) DI Peter Stokes. A career detective for whom the case has always stuck with him! Feeling the pressure from not only inside the Met but the pressure DS Collins places on herself she digs through the old case files. Tania was known at the time as a local ‘good girl’. But good girls often go off the rails, or are approached by predators. Did Tania run away? Did she have an accident? Or is it something more sinister?

PC Griffiths on her first day walks straight into a scene of chaos and violence with a domestic assault. With a young mother and her daughter in dire need of help, but refusing all attempts. When problems from Lizzie’s past spill over into the charging structure of the justice system, the abuser is released. How far will Lizzie go to protect the victims? What is the abuser truly capable of?

The novel throws up some interesting and conversation building points. Such as the difference in policing in an era with no social media, texts and CCTV. Attitudes towards domestic violence and sexual assaults. The way the justice system operates and how much the media get involved in cases of abuses against women. Given that both crimes are at an all-time high in 2017, I think this would be perfect for book groups to debate/discuss.

I absolutely loved this novel. It is tough, gritty and edgy! The characters have depth and their personal history is detailed, at times this makes for heart-breaking reading. The relevance of the personal history’s is to ascertain what creates monsters in disguise? What paves the way for murder? The author of the novel is an ex-Met detective and it shows in the writing; the questioning mind and need to understand why people commit crimes and what made the victims vulnerable to their abusers.

A highly recommended crime fiction read, one that will stay in my mind for some time! 5*

Q&A:

I was aware of Kate London and her debut Post Mortem. As my bestie is a friend and work colleague of Kate’s, also from the Metropolitan police service. It was my bestie, who knowing what a book nerd I am bought me a copy of the book. Kate’s new book Death Message is released 6th April so I was very keen to do a Q&A with Kate and ask her some questions about her writing, reading and police career.
Huge thanks to Kate for agreeing to feature on my blog in a Q&A.

 My pleasure, thanks for inviting me.

Q) Death Message centres around two female Met police officers DS Sarah Collins and PC Lizzie Griffiths. Was it important to you to feature the varying roles of women and the great work that they do in the Met police service?

A) I don’t really have an aim like that when I write. I write because a story is swishing around somewhere in the ether and I have to grab it by the tail and try to pin it to the page. Being a woman and having also been a police officer I suppose those two points of view come naturally but as you’ll know from Death Message they aren’t the exclusive voice of the book.  

Q) Death Message, has a plot that focusses on missing teenager Tania Mills. I know from many late night chats with my best friend, that teens have an immense vulnerability with regards to those who wish to do them harm. I know you can’t give specific details, but was the plot inspired by a case of a missing teen?

A) I never use real life incidents as the basis for stories but as both a police officer and as a civilian I have encountered young girls who came to harm. The truth is that we all have. It’s almost impossible to imagine a world in which young girls were not vulnerable to predators. Policing has shown me this happening close-up and in forensic detail. I’ve also witnessed how devastating it is for the victims and for families and friends when the worst things happen. That must influence my subject matter and how I write about it.

Q) I know how incredibly tough it is working for the Major Investigation Team. The long hours, sacrifice and gruelling work! There has been many a time, when I am trying to get hold of my best friend. Only to have her call back several hours later, to say she was at a murder scene! This usually happens after she has completed a 12-16hr work day. Is this difficult to fully get across in a novel? Are there some aspects of police work that are difficult to fully describe to the civvy crime fiction fan?

A) This is a difficult question for me to answer.

Firstly I’ve been surprised when I’ve been on panels for literary festivals how sympathetic and interested the public generally is in the real experience of the police. I’ve found this encouraging because I am still passionate about policing. It’s an incredibly challenging and important job that is often misunderstood, simplified and misrepresented. Policing is also an easy target for opinion pieces and the occasional drama that lives or dies by how incendiary the writing is. It’s hard for me as an ex police officer not to react to some of that.

However, your question is complicated.

As a novelist it’s not my job to write on behalf of the police. In fact that’s an impulse I have to resist. Ali Smith in an article in the Times says that the self is something to get rid of. “It’s just something else that’s in the way.”

My job is to tell stories and that process is mysterious.

I’m lucky to have a reservoir of real experience to draw on that helps bring the writing alive. The reality of an investigation would in places be quite a dull read: all those leads that go nowhere, all those negative statements that are taken to make sure everything is covered. On the other hand a character experiencing the frustration of those things might be part of the story. When I talk about DS Sarah Collins sleeping in the office on a camp bed it’s not because I want to tell people how hard policing is but rather because that’s what Sarah does when she’s working such long hours that she can’t get home. It’s in this way, I hope, that something authentic lingers in the way that I write about policing.

Q) Having previously worked for the Met police service. You must have a wealth of experience, which must generate so many themes for characters and plots. Are we allowed any snippets of information about possible future themes?

A) Book three will start with violence – this time between young men. This is a subject close to my heart and I’m hoping that I can make it a gripping and moving read. Avoiding spoilers I can say that some of the main characters will be back too, trying to make sense of it all and of their own lives.

Q) The crime fiction genre has some fantastic authors and I am a huge fan of so many authors and series. What are your recommended reads? Favourite authors?

A) So many! There’s some fantastic TV writing: The Wire of course but I also admire the English TV series Happy Valley. Breaking Bad is fabulous crime that is larger than life but still has something real to say. Favourite novelists include Dennis Lehane, Elmore Leonard, Philip Marlowe, Patricia Highsmith, P D James. I’ve recently enjoyed William Shaw’s Birdwatcher. Not strictly crime I know but I’m also a fan of Le Carré. I’m thrilled he’s written another Smiley book after all this time and I’ll be one of the first people in the bookshop for A Legacy Of Spies.

Q) What is your writing process, do you have a set routine to your week?

A) Oh, it’s a mess and my ‘routine’ changes every time. When I started writing the first book I had no plan at all, just started writing. I was still in the police and wasn’t even thinking very clearly about publication. I just couldn’t stop writing because the world was so compelling and the characters came alive.

Now that I am lucky to be a full time writer I’m starting most days with a swim outside early in the morning to clear my head. In principle I try to average about a thousand words a day but that doesn’t really work because so much time is spent plotting, thinking and so on. If I find a scene isn’t writing well then I take that as a sign that something’s wrong so I need to stop and think about it rather than soldiering on. I hope I’m getting better at recognising this and not wasting time disappearing up a blind alley.

Q) What has been your favourite moment of being a published author?

A) There are many moments to choose from but I’ll choose the moment my first copy of my first book, Post Mortem, arrived in the post. I was alone writing and there it was on my doormat in a jiffy envelope. I wanted to run out and show it to people.

Follow Kate Lomdon
Web Pgae: https://www.facebook.com/KateLondonAuthor/
Twitter:
@kate_katelondon

*Huge Thanks to Kate London for agreeing to this Q&A. I wish you every success with the launch and publication of Death Message

Thank you. What a coincidence that you are best friends with someone I worked with. Send her my love.

author pic
Credit: Time Flach

Kate London graduated from Cambridge University and moved to Paris where she trained in theatre. In 2006 Kate joined the Metropolitan Police Service. She finished her career working as part of a Major Investigation Team on SC&O1 – the Metropolitan Police Service’s Homicide Command.  She resigned from the MPS in August 2014. Her debut novel Post Mortem was published by Corvus in 2015.

 

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