Interview with SAMMY HK SMITH

Let’s start with an introduction: Who is Sammy H.K. Smith?

Well, right now I think I’m a human but the lack of decent sleep or coffee is blurring my reality a bit…

I’m a mother, writer, publisher (owner of Grimbold Books), and police detective specialising in domestic abuse and sexual offences. I dabble with all sorts of genres but SF&F (and speculative dark fiction sub-genres) gather my interest the most.

I live and work in Oxfordshire next to the Cotswolds and Warwickshire border, which is an utterly beautiful part of the country.

Your new novel, Anna, is due out in May via Solaris. How would you introduce it to a potential reader?

ANNA is a story of one woman’s survival in a cruel world where might is right and regardless of gender, if you display any weakness, you’re fair game to those that want to control both the lands and the people.

We follow Anna’s story and emotional fallout of dealing with sexual abuse and PTSD in a dystopic future not far from our own reality and timeline. Her strength comes from within and she shows us that whilst physically she appears weak, she’s so much more inside. Continue reading

Upcoming: THE DISAPPEARING ACT by Catherine Steadman (Ballantine/Simon & Schuster)

SteadmanC-DisappearingActUSA little while ago, I spotted The Disappearing Act in a catalogue: the latest novel by best-selling author and actress Catherine Steadman, it’s about a British actress who heads to Los Angeles to try to find her big break. But, of course, things go quite wrong after a chance encounter. Given my fondness for novels (especially crime/mystery) set in Los Angeles, this one caught my attention. Here’s the synopsis:

A British actress discovers the dark side of Hollywood when she is the only witness to the sudden disappearance of a woman she meets at an audition…

Once a year, actors from across the globe descend on the smog and sunshine of Los Angeles for pilot season. Every cable network and studio looking to fill the rosters of their new shows enticing a fresh batch of young hopefuls, anxious, desperate and willing to do whatever it takes to make it. Careers will be made, dreams will be realized, stars will be born. And some will be snuffed out.

SteadmanC-DisappearingActUKBritish star Mia Eliot has landed leading roles in costume dramas in her native country, but now it’s time for Hollywood to take her to the next level. Mia flies across the Atlantic to join the hoard of talent scrambling for their big breaks. She’s a fish out of water in the ruthlessly competitive and faceless world of back-to-back auditioning. Then one day she meets Emily, another actress from out of town and a kindred spirit. Emily is friendly and genuine and reassuringly doesn’t seem to be taking any of it too seriously. She stands out in a conveyor-belt world of fellow auditionees. But a simple favor turns dark when Emily disappears and Mia realizes she was the last person to see her, and the woman who knocks on Mia’s door the following day claiming to be her new friend isn’t the woman Mia remembers at all.

All Mia has to go on is the memory of a girl she met only once… and the suffocating feeling that something terrible has happened. Worse still, the police don’t believe her when she claims the real Emily has gone missing. So Mia is forced to risk the role of a lifetime to try to uncover the truth about Emily, a gamble that will force her to question her own sanity as the truth goes beyond anything she could ever have imagined.

The Disappearing Act is due to be published by Ballantine in North America (June 8th) and Simon & Schuster in the UK (June 24th). Really looking forward to reading this.

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Upcoming: THE MAIDENS by Alex Michaelides (Celadon/W&N)

MichaelidesA-MaidensUSThe Maidens by Alex Michaelides has been getting a fair amount of pre-publication buzz. It’s the author’s second novel (his debut was The Silent Patient). The synopsis suggests an intriguing campus thriller, and certainly piqued my interest:

Edward Fosca is a murderer. Of this Mariana is certain. But Fosca is untouchable. A handsome and charismatic Greek tragedy professor at Cambridge University, Fosca is adored by staff and students alike-particularly by the members of a secret society of female students known as The Maidens.

Mariana Andros is a brilliant but troubled group therapist who becomes fixated on The Maidens when one member, a friend of Mariana’s niece Zoe, is found murdered in Cambridge.

MichaelidesA-MaidensUKMariana, who was once herself a student at the university, quickly suspects that behind the idyllic beauty of the spires and turrets, and beneath the ancient traditions, lies something sinister. And she becomes convinced that, despite his alibi, Edward Fosca is guilty of the murder. But why would the professor target one of his students? And why does he keep returning to the rites of Persephone, the maiden, and her journey to the underworld?

When another body is found, Mariana’s obsession with proving Fosca’s guilt spirals out of control, threatening to destroy her credibility as well as her closest relationships. But Mariana is determined to stop this killer, even if it costs her everything-including her own life.

Alex Michaelides’s The Maidens is due to be published by Celadon Books in North America (June 15th) and W&N in the UK (June 10th). Looking forward to reading this.

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Quick Review: POSSESSION by Katie Lowe (St. Martin’s Press)

LoweK-PossessionUSA true-crime podcast inches perilously close to the truth for Hannah…

The past haunts her. The present hunts her.

Ten years ago, Hannah’s husband was brutally murdered in their home, and she (conveniently) doesn’t remember a thing about that night. But the police charged someone else—a stranger—and put him away for life. And Hannah packed up her six-year-old daughter and left London behind.

But now her hard-won countryside peace is threatened. Conviction, a viral true crime podcast known for getting cases reopened and old verdicts overturned, has turned its attention to Hannah’s husband’s murder for its new season. They say police framed the man who was found guilty, and that Hannah has more suspicious secrets than just her memory loss: a history of volatility; citations at the clinic where she worked as a psychiatrist; dependencies on alcohol and pills; and a familicidal grandmother, locked away in a Gothic insane asylum until her death. As Hannah loses the trust of everyone she loves, the only person she feels she can confide in is a former colleague, Darcy, who’s come back into her life—but who may have motives of her own. But Hannah can’t tell even Darcy her deepest secret: that she’s still tormented by the memory of her husband and the crater he carved through her life.

Possession is the new novel by the author of the much-buzzed-about The Furies. I thought it looked interesting, and I’ve been seeing a fair number of suspense/crime novels that feature a true-crime podcast at its centre. While I haven’t listened to many, my partner loves My Favorite Murder and a couple of others, so I thought it might be interesting to see how Lowe incorporates that cultural phenomenon into the novel. Turns out, the author does it very well. I enjoyed this. Continue reading

Excerpt: THE PACKAGE by Sebastian Fitzek (Head of Zeus)

FitzekS-PackageUKNext week (February 4th), Head of Zeus are due to publish the latest novel from Sebastian Fitzek in the UK: The Package.

Fitzek is one of Germany’s most successful and popular thriller/suspense novelists, with a growing fanbase around the world. This latest novel, translated by Jamie Bulloch, sounds particularly interesting and chilling. Here’s the synopsis:

All you’ve done is taken in a parcel for a neighbour. You have no idea what you’ve let into your home.

Emma’s the one that got away.

The only survivor of a killer known in the tabloids as ‘the barber’ – because of the trophies he takes from his victims.

Or she thinks she was.

The police aren’t convinced. Nor is her husband. She never even saw her tormentor properly, but now she recognises him in every man.

Questioning her sanity, she gives up her job as a doctor in the local hospital and retreats from the world. It is better to stay at home. Quiet. Anonymous. Safe. He won’t find her here.

And all she did was take a parcel for a neighbour.

She has no idea what she’s let into her home.

The Package is due to be published by Head of Zeus on February 4th in the UK. The excerpt begins after the jump.

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter

Continue reading

Upcoming: WHILE JUSTICE SLEEPS by Stacey Abrams (Doubleday/Harper Collins UK)

AbramsS-WhileJusticeSleepsUSBest known as one of the most charismatic, capable, and compelling American politicians of the day, Stacey Abrams is also an author of fiction, and has been for quite some time. I haven’t had a chance to read any of her novels, yet, but While Justice Sleeps — due out later this year — looks very interesting. I’m really looking forward to reading this one:

Avery Keene, a brilliant young law clerk for the legendary Justice Howard Wynn, is doing her best to hold her life together — excelling in an arduous job with the court while also dealing with a troubled family. When the shocking news breaks that Justice Wynn — the cantankerous swing vote on many current high-profile cases — has slipped into a coma, Avery’s life turns upside down. She is immediately notified that Justice Wynn has left instructions for her to serve as his legal guardian and power of attorney. Plunged into an explosive role she never anticipated, Avery finds that Justice Wynn had been secretly researching one of the most controversial cases before the court — a proposed merger between an American biotech company and an Indian genetics firm, which promises to unleash breathtaking results in the medical field. She also discovers that Wynn suspected a dangerously related conspiracy that infiltrates the highest power corridors of Washington.

AbramsS-WhileJusticeSleepsUKAs political wrangling ensues in Washington to potentially replace the ailing judge whose life and survival Avery controls, she begins to unravel a carefully constructed, chesslike sequence of clues left behind by Wynn. She comes to see that Wynn had a much more personal stake in the controversial case and realizes his complex puzzle will lead her directly into harm’s way in order to find the truth. While Justice Sleeps is a cunningly crafted, sophisticated novel, layered with myriad twists and a vibrant cast of characters. Drawing on her astute inside knowledge of the court and political landscape, Stacey Abrams shows herself to be not only a force for good in politics and voter fairness but also a major new talent in suspense fiction.

Stacey Abrams’s While Justice Sleeps is due to be published by Doubleday in the US and Canada (May 11th), and Harper Collins in the UK (May 27th).

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Upcoming: NOTHING BUT BLACKENED TEETH by Cassandra Khaw (Tor Nightfire)

Nothing But Blackened 4c.inddCassandra Khaw is going to have a pretty busy 2021, it seems. In addition to the print/eBook edition of Walk Among Us, and The All-Consuming World, the author’s creepy-looking Nothing But Blackened Teeth will also arrive just in time for Halloween. The awesome cover was unveiled earlier today, and it certainly looks like the perfect novel to read (with the lights on):

A gorgeously creepy haunted house tale, steeped in Japanese folklore and full of devastating twists

A Heian-era mansion stands abandoned, its foundations resting on the bones of a bride and its walls packed with the remains of the girls sacrificed to keep her company.

It’s the perfect wedding venue for a group of thrill-seeking friends.

But a night of food, drinks, and games quickly spirals into a nightmare. For lurking in the shadows is the ghost bride with a black smile and a hungry heart.

And she gets lonely down there in the dirt.

Cassandra Khaw’s Nothing But Blackened Teeth is due to be published by Tor Nightfire in North America and in the UK, on October 19th, 2021.

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Guest Post: “What I Ripped Off From My Life And Used In My Book” by Sharon Doering

DoeringS-SheLiesCloseWhen I was writing She Lies Close, my debut psychological thriller, I was feeling desperate for the first time as a writer. I hadn’t felt it before in my twenty years of writing (countless short stories, a horror novel, a romance, a PI novel, and three tech thrillers). Out of nowhere, a terrifying thought hit me. Wait. Wait. What if I never get published?

That desperation I was experiencing in my writing career? I gave that to my main character, Grace Wright. Grace wasn’t worried about her writing career, but she was worried about, well, pretty much everything.

My desperation didn’t just work its way into Grace’s psyche, it weaved into the novel’s plot. I threw the kitchen sink into this novel. I wanted She Lies Close to be a car crash where you (and first, an editor) couldn’t look away. Grace is running; she’s crying; there’s an attack. Put her on stimulants. She can’t sleep. Her neighbor might be violent. She’s sleepwalking. What about the missing girl? Oh my god, who just ran across the lawn? Did her menacing neighbor give her three-year-old candy? Continue reading

Upcoming: THE ECHO WIFE by Sarah Gailey (Tor Books)

GaileyS-EchoWifeUSSarah Gailey is already well-known for their interesting genre-mash-ups: the weird-west novellas published by Tor.com (the American Hippo duology and Upright Women Wanted), and the urban fantasy-noir-mystery novel Magic for Liars. Populated with interesting and engaging characters, intriguing twists on genre staples, and well-written, I’ve enjoyed everything of theirs that I’ve read so far (although, I’ve fallen a bit behind on my reviews…).

In February, Tor Books is due to publish the author’s next genre-straddling novel, The Echo Wife. This novel, which is pitched as “perfect for fans of Big Little Lies and Killing Eve” has a little bit of sci-fi thrown in as well, and I think it sounds fascinating:

Evelyn Caldwell’s husband Nathan has been having an affair — with Evelyn Caldwell.

Or, to be exact, with Martine, a genetically cloned replica made from Evelyn’s own award-winning research.

But that wasn’t even the worst part.

When they said all happy families are alike, I don’t think this is what they meant…

Really looking forward to reading this! The Echo Wife is due to be published by Tor Books in North America and in the UK, on February 16th, 2021.

Also on CR: Interview with Sarah Gailey (2017); Review of River of Teeth

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Quick Review: INVOCATIONS by Various (Black Library)

WarhammerHorror-InvocationsReturn to the dark places of the worlds of Warhammer for a new anthology of sinister stories that dive into the arcane, the unexpected and the downright terrifying.

An Imperial Priest extracts a monstrous confession; a widower embarks on a doomed pilgrimage; a witch hunter returns to the place of his nightmares… Invocations is Black Library’s second Warhammer Horror anthology, featuring more short stories set in the chilling hellscape of the 41st Millennium and the arcane gloom of the Mortal Realms. From the whispering corridors of an abandoned medicae facility to the shrieking dungeons of ghostly castles, this collection of sinister stories further explores the unspeakable evil haunting in the worlds of Warhammer.

An interesting, engaging collection of horror and suspense fiction, set in the Warhammer science fiction and fantasy worlds. Atmospheric, creepy, and featuring varied protagonists, this is a solid anthology. I enjoyed it. Continue reading