Today it is my absolute pleasure to bring you a guest post from author Rachel Amphlett. Rachel writes two of my favourite series, the Dan Taylor action thrillers and the Kay Hunter crime thrillers so any time I hear there is a new book on the horizon I am filled with joy. I’ll be sharing Rachel’s post with you, and my thoughts on her new release, Call To Arms which is out today, just as soon as we’ve seen what the book is all about.
About the Book
Loyalty has a price.
Kay Hunter has survived a vicious attack at the hands of one of the country’s most evil serial killers.
Returning to work after an enforced absence to recover, she discovers she wasn’t the only victim of that investigation. DI Devon Sharp remains suspended from duties, and the team is in turmoil.
Determined to prove herself once more and clear his name, Kay undertakes to solve a cold case that links Sharp to his accuser.
But as she gets closer to the truth, she realises her enquiries could do more harm than good.
Torn between protecting her mentor and finding out the truth, the consequences of Kay’s enquiries will reach far beyond her new role…
Call to Arms is a gripping police procedural, and the fifth in the Detective Kay Hunter series:
1. SCARED TO DEATH
2. WILL TO LIVE
3. ONE TO WATCH
4. HELL TO PAY
5. CALL TO ARMS
Over to Rachel to tell us about how she sets about researching her crime novels.
How Do I Research a Crime Novel?
by Rachel Amphlett
As with any book based upon real-life vocations, getting the police procedural side of writing a crime novel is imperative.
I think crime fiction readers are more likely to find fault with any detective mystery that doesn’t adhere to conventional techniques, more so than those who watch crime television shows.
When I set out to write the Kay Hunter series of crime thrillers, part of the appeal to do so was driven by the desire to ensure that I got my facts right as well as providing an entertaining read. It takes a lot of upfront work to prepare a new story before I even begin to tap out words on my keyboard, so I thought I’d take you behind the scenes to share some of the things I get up to…
Chatting with police officers
Luckily, with both a retired Detective Constable (Nottinghamshire Police) and a serving Police Sergeant (Thames Valley Police) as friends, I already had people I could email with regard to procedural matters, and both are a fantastic help in the continued development of the series. It’s such a great thing as a writer, to be able to send a quick message to someone who has first-hand experience of policing regulations and processes.
However, every police force in the UK has a slightly different way of doing things, and so although I could ask questions from my contacts, I still had to then go and find out how Kent Police do things in their neck of the woods!
Reading about forensics
Although I don’t go into too much technical detail in the Kay Hunter books, I do have to sound like I know what I’m talking about when it comes to forensics, and so I’m building up quite a library of books on the subject!
In addition to reading about it, I’ve also completed a short course in Forensic Investigations through the University of Strathclyde. It’s part of a series of courses offered for free through FutureLearn, and available online. The course took students through a murder investigation and each week provided new insights into how the forensics provided input into the inquiry.
I was also recommended another book specifically about UK-based crime scene investigators, entitled The Real CSI by Kate Bendelow and this has provided invaluable insights into the British methods of investigation utilised today.
When it comes to witness Interviews and specific interviewing techniques, I completed a second course through FutureLearn, this time via the Open University and entitled “Forensic Psychology”. This course looked at how to interview witnesses of an incident, and also how people could be influenced by those around them inasmuch as differing viewpoints and self-doubt about events.
Finally, each Kay Hunter book is read by a serving police officer with Thames Valley Police before going to my editor, and this is my chance to be told what works and what doesn’t as far as proper procedure within the story goes.
As you can see, there is a lot of information that I need to check before I can safely call a book “finished”.
My job is to take all that information and present it in such a way that a reader keeps turning the pages, eager to find out if Kay Hunter can catch the killer.
My goal, at the end of the day, is to write an entertaining crime thriller that a police officer could read without throwing the book across the room in disgust because I’ve messed it up procedurally!
Thanks Rachel. I honestly don’t know how you manage to juggle all of that and keep us constantly entertained with the books as regularly as you do. My hat is off to you. Definitely some food for thought there.
So, I’ve never tried to hide the fact that I’m a fan of Rachel’s work (I may have mentioned it in my opening paragraph 😉 ). I find the books offer me just the right combination of entertainment and thrills, with brilliant characters. I have even put off reading the last Dan Taylor book as I don’t want the magic to end just yet. But what about Call To Arms? Did that hit the spot and give me my happy Kay Hunter fill?
You know what? It absolutely did. From the very first book I have been invested in Kay’s story and keen to see what would befall our protagonist and never once in the previous four books has Rachel Amphlett disappointed. We have been given tension, some great characters we can both love and loathe, various pets to be found lying (or slithering) around Kay’s kitchen and a back story involving Kay’s past and a blot on her career that provided an arc across all four books. Now I won’t go into that here, but as anyone who read the last book will know, that story has been brought to an end but Rachel still left us on a bit of a cliffhanger with Kay thrown into a temporary promotion and her boss, DI Devon Sharp, being placed on leave while a Professional Standards investigation takes place. Now it is this story which is carried into the book, with Kay and her team determined to prove Sharp’s innocence and get him back to work.
Now the pacing of this book feels slower perhaps than its predecessors, mainly because the team are working on a cold case, the death of a motorcyclist in a potential hit and run some ten years previously. At least this is what Sharp suspected, but noone would listen to him. Kay and the gang need to get to the bottom of this case and fast. They are under pressure, not just to clear Sharp, but also from DCI Larch, for once for all the right reasons. Kay and Larch haven’t always see eye to eye, but I really felt for the old guy in this book, for reasons that will be apparent when you read.
Don’t be fooled into thinking the shocks and thrills won’t be there because it is a cold case, and something which hardly sits at the lossy serial killer end of the spectrum. Rachel Amphlett still manages to keep readers on tenterhooks, introducing any number of suspects and potential reasons for the man’s death, some of which, including the conclusion, will completely surprise you.
What I love about this series it the way in which it seamlessly blends the police investigation with the very human aspects of Kay’s life. We are treated to a glimpse of her relationship with her husband Adam, one which gives us moments of both humour and sadness, and I must admit to more than a moment of pouty bottom lip over their latest guest. Sad times. Kay is also a brilliant character, so perfectly pitched as to be completely in tune with her team and able to relate to those around her, and yet strong and even headstrong enough to drive on until a problem is solved, no matter the personal price.
I was intrigued to see where this series would go given that Kay has been thrust into a promotion she wasn’t entirely prepared for and, allowing for the fact the previous arc has been resolved, it was hard to know where the intensity or the mystery would come from. I was intrigued, yes, but I was never worried as I know I can trust the author to keep me entertained, engaged and enthralled time and time again. Was it break neck action or always edge of the seat tension? No, and if you are looking for that you may be disappointed as the stakes aren’t always quite as high as they have been in the past, But it is a bloody good book and a fabulous addition to the series.
And so, a bit like Kay Hunter before the cast came off her arm, I’m itching to see book six and where Rachel Amphlett takes us next. I’m sure it’s going to be a doozy.
My thanks to author Rachel Amphlett for providing an advance copy of Call To Arms for review. It is available now from the following retailers:
About the Author
Before turning to writing, Rachel Amphlett 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.
She now wields a pen instead of a plectrum and writes crime fiction and spy novels, including the Dan Taylor espionage novels and the Detective Kay Hunter series.
Originally from the UK and currently based in Brisbane, Australia, Rachel cites her writing influences as Michael Connelly, Lee Child, and Robert Ludlum. She’s also a huge fan of Peter James, Val McDermid, Robert Crais, Stuart MacBride, and many more.
She’s a member of International Thriller Writers and the Crime Writers Association, with the Italian foreign rights for her debut novel, White Gold sold to Fanucci Editore’s TIMECrime imprint, and the first four books in the Dan Taylor espionage series contracted to Germany’s Luzifer Verlag.