Today I am absolutely delighted to take part in the blog tour for the first instalment in Rachel Amphlett’s new Detective Kay Hunter series, ‘Scared to Death‘.
Having seen Rachel speak on a panel at CrimeFest earlier in the year, I was really inspired by her journey as an indie author, and keen to read some of her work. I loved the Dan Taylor series, so I was thrilled to be asked to be a part of this tour and couldn’t wait to tuck into the book. And what a treat it was. Twisty, tense and with a brilliant new heroine, my review can be found at the bottom of this post, but first of all, Rachel kindly took time to answer a few questions for me.
First up, a few quick fire ice breaker questions.
Favourite childhood book?
Any of the Famous Five books (yes, I cheated!).
Favourite/most influential author?
Raiders of the Lost Ark
What is your guilty pleasure?
Cheese on toast
Best compliment you’ve had for your work?
Someone recently likened one of my standalone thrillers, Look Closer, to Robert Goddard’s novels. That was pretty cool.
One star. Haven’t read it yet.
Coffee or tea?
Tea. Really strong tea.
Plotter or pantser?
Handwritten notes or typed?
Both. Typed to start off with; handwritten once I start the editing process and begin to fill in the gaps in the narrative – and I’m doing a lot of the first draft by dictation these days, too.
Favourite place to write? Alone or in public?
I write best on the train into work morning and night, although I’ve started doing regular writing sprints with an author buddy of mine in the evenings. It works out well, because she’s in the UK so I start when I get home from work, and she’s having her first coffee of the morning!
Do you have a soundtrack for your writing? If so what is it?
I haven’t for Scared to Death – I think it’s because the subject matter was a bit too dark. If anyone wants to suggest something music-wise in the comments for me, feel free.
For my Dan Taylor novels, I find trance music works really well – something like Chicane or OceanLab for instance.
I can’t listen to any of my favourite rock music because I used to play guitar in bands, and I find myself trying to work out the chords or jumping around playing air guitar instead of writing…
Jaffa Cake: Cake or biscuit?
Tell us one thing about you that surprises people.
I once beat 450 other female lead guitarists for an audition for a new all-girl group at Air Studios in London. I didn’t get the job – at six foot tall, I towered over the rest of the line-up and the producers said the photos would look weird!
Now on to what we really want to know – the book stuff.
‘Scared to Death’ is a fantastic book, congratulations. The twists in this story were superb and I loved the tension you’ve created, which was something you did brilliantly in your Dan Taylor series too. It feels like a bit of a change in direction though with your other books being out and out thrillers. What inspired you to write a police procedural this time around?
Thank you for the kind words.
I was forced to by the story, in all honesty. I was travelling over May and June this year and in between flights, I went through some notes I’d jotted down back in April – the idea had never really left me alone, and as I developed it, I realised the original idea would work better as the fourth book in a series of stand-alone crime thrillers with a common thread running through each. Because I had a crime, I needed a police detective, and the character of Kay Hunter came to life, starting with Scared to Death.
Kay Hunter is a brilliant new lead detective. I loved the balance you found with her; not particularly flawed herself but haunted by a professional standards investigation which impacted her career and had a devastating effect on her personal life. She has, for police novels, an unusually great relationship with her husband, and seems to have the full respect of her team. Was there any person or character who was the inspiration for you behind Kay?
She’s an amalgamation of people I’ve met or read about in articles over the years – there might be someone with a tic, or a particular way of doing things, and it all goes into the melting pot of ideas.
I did set out to make her different to a lot of other fictional detectives though, in that I didn’t want her to have a broken home life – she has enough to deal with on a day-to-day basis as it is. It’s why she’s a bit OCD about her album collection – it’s just about the only thing she can keep in order!
You are a really well established Indie Author and I loved seeing you on the panel at CrimeFest earlier this year. It was completely inspiring seeing what you’ve achieved. I see you are really active on twitter all the time in terms of promotion of your new and current books. What made you choose this route over traditional publication methods and what do you think are the pros and cons?
Thank you – I enjoyed listening to the other indie authors on the panel as well. It’s amazing how we’d all had different journeys to get to where we were at that point. I really enjoyed the whole weekend, too as being so far away from everyone, it gave me an opportunity to soak up being around people who love the genre as much as I do.
I ended up self-publishing because there wasn’t a market for my first book when I started pitching it to agents and publishers – I was hankering to start writing the second one and felt that I had to let go of the first novel before starting it, and so when I heard about self-publishing, I thought I’d give it a go.
Any advice for authors wanting to follow this route themselves? Best tips for writing, editing or marketing their work.
Yeah, don’t do what I did when I started out, which was – nothing! I really didn’t have a clue when I first published – it’s actually quite embarrassing looking back, haha.
I overhauled my whole approach to indie publishing at the end of 2014 and I haven’t looked back since. There’s a lot of bad advice out there, so briefly I’d say write the best book you can, pay for a professional edit, and pay for a professional cover. Keep writing, keep publishing – the more books in your back catalogue, the more you’ve got to market with. And don’t be afraid to ask for help. Consider joining the Alliance of Independent Authors. They’ve got a fantastic support network for indie authors, and it’s a very friendly association to be in.
British born, you now live in Australia (not jealous, honest Gov), but the Dan Taylor series and ‘Scared to Death’ are both based around English characters with the latest book set exclusively in England. Clearly things are constantly changing here at home, but the book still had a real feeling of authenticity about it. How do you go about researching places, people or procedure when you can’t just get in a car and go for a drive to see what is changing in the areas you are writing about?
I’m lucky with the Kay Hunter series, in that I ended up basing it in and around the last place I lived in before emigrating – Maidstone, in Kent. I used to live in Weavering, which started off as a village outside the town, but has now become joined up to it over time. After CrimeFest in Bristol earlier this year, we visited friends and family in that area before coming back to Australia so I was able to reacquaint myself with the town and see what had changed since I left 11 years before.
Thanks to family and friends, I was able to email them with questions about the area when I couldn’t find the answers via Google Earth or Maps and I think that’s what helps to make it sound so real.
I’ll be back to Maidstone every two years now, as the plan is to go to CrimeFest every other year, so I’ll be able to take lots of photos and walk around each time I return to make sure I keep the series fresh and up to date.
When we left Kay she had made a decision regarding her past and ultimately her future and it’s clear that things remain very tense between her and DCI Larch. I know you are working on book 2 (very pleased to hear that) so can you give us any clues about what may be next for Kay and the team?
I don’t want to give away too much at this point, but I will say that Kay’s investigation into her past will upset some very powerful people who will stop at nothing to try and dissuade her…
And finally … My Review:
Returning home from holiday, Tony and Yvonne Richards receive a terrifying phone call. Their daughter Melanie has been taken, the kidnappers only willing to reveal her whereabouts on the payment of a ransom. Keeping the kidnapping from the police, their only focus is to bring their daughter back safe and sound.
When their search turns to tragedy, Detective Sergeant Kay Hunter and Detective Constable Ian Barnes are called to the scene. Fighting back from a difficult turn in her career, Hunter is relieved to be appointed Deputy Senior Investigating Officer, at least until she reaches the scene. The facts of the case soon become clear but what initially looks like a kidnapping gone wrong begins to irk Kay. Something about it just doesn’t ring true and the post mortem soon confirms some of her worst fears.
When their search leads them to a local courier company, and a young man with links to the company is found dead with the ransom money still in his flat, it looks like the case is all wrapped up. But everything still seems just a little too neat for Kay, despite her DCI’s conviction that the case is closed. When a second girl is taken, the killer begins to taunt the police. Kay and the team soon face an uphill battle to piece together all of the evidence and track down the girl before she becomes another victim of a sadistic and unremorseful monster.
From the very first chapter, this book grabbed my attention and didn’t let it go. With ‘Scared to Death’ Rachel Amphlett has created a high stakes, fast paced thriller in which motives are hidden and the perverse nature of the perpetrator is almost as twisted as the plot lines. The sense of jeopardy, of panic, which hit me in the opening pages, was absolutely brilliant and much like the Dan Taylor series, another fine example of Rachel Amphlett’s skill in creating a tense story line.
I won’t say too much more about the plot as you really need to read it for yourself. Needless to say, the bad guys are very, very bad, and the heroes, for once, likeable and not overly flawed. Kay Hunter is a cop with a troubled past, as all good crime genre Detectives typically are. But far from being responsible for the current state of her reputation, Hunter is a victim herself, set up for something she didn’t do. The nature of her secret is not revealed until part way through the book, keeping the reader guessing, but it is the source of one of her greatest conflicts, her DCI Angus Larch who was the person responsible for the internal investigation against her. With DI Devon Sharp on her side, she is not entirely alone, but you know that Larch will never fully trust her, and this alone will force Hunter to stay one step ahead of the game.
The characters in the book are very well developed which is no less than I would expect from this particular author. Kay is a very likeable character, as is DI Sharp. Kay’s relationship with her husband is also refreshing. Far from the conflict you normally see in fictional police marriages, this one seems extremely strong. This is despite the internal investigation and a rather upsetting personal tragedy which would in other stories have ended the marriage. Kay’s husband Adam provides an almost humorous interlude at times, particularly when considering his animal clientele – including one very slippery customer. I really liked the dynamic between the couple and look forward to seeing more of it in future books. The police team are also well rounded, and I found myself engaged by Devon Sharp and his working relationship with Kay.
As I said before, the plot line in this book it seriously twisted. The motives of the perpetrator are nothing short of psychotic, and even though we know who was responsible for the kidnapping very early on in the story, you can rest assured that nothing is as straightforward or simple as it may seem. There are hidden sides to all the characters, making me as a reader feel an element of empathy for people I wouldn’t have expected, and pushing me to question the innocence of others who should ordinarily garner sympathy. Ultimately the killer is just that. A killer. But what is it that has driven them to kill, and can it ever be forgiven?
I absolutely loved this book. Full of nail biting moments, I was fully engaged and invested in the lives of the victims and the heroine from the off. From the action packed opening, the pace steadies as the investigation gets underway. But as the story nears conclusion, it begins to ratchet up again and storms to a dramatic and somewhat unexpected conclusion. I raced through this book so quickly, it was such an enthralling read. With Kay, with Adam’s support, determined to set right the damage which was done to her career, there are plenty of questions still to be answered as the series progresses, and I for one am very hungry to read more.
A brilliantly twisted, tension filled 5 stars.
I reviewed an advance copy of ‘Scared to Death’ provided by the author.
Be sure to check out some of the other fab bloggers taking part in the tour:
About the Author
Before moving to Australia in 2005, Rachel lived in the UK and helped run a pub, played guitar in bands, worked as a TV and film extra, dabbled in radio as a presenter and freelance producer for the BBC, and worked in publishing as a sub-editor and editorial assistant. Not necessarily in that order.
‘Scared to Death’ is released today, 6th December, and is available to buy here.