Great Thrillers Club Monthly Newsletter

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Read reviews and recommendations for some of the best thrillers from a wide variety of thriller writers, get free prize draws, see titbits from the world of books and technology, and news from thriller writer Ian Coates.

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Great Thrillers Club Newsletter Archive

July 2022: Tim Weaver, Adrian McKinty, & more...

We bring you reviews of two “woman in jeopardy” thrillers this month. Both have strong-minded heroines who have to fight against the odds. One’s from Tim Weaver, the other from Adrian McKinty. While it’s swelteringly hot here, I visit China in my head as I write my next thriller, and look back at Independent Book Week. This month’s peak at a blog asks why the size of genre fiction paperbacks has changed so dramatically over the last decade, and we look at the possible future for supersonic passenger flights as NASA works to minimise sonic booms.

First of This Month’s Thrillers: Missing Pieces by Tim Weaver

When Bek Murphy accompanies her brother on a trip to a remote island off the American coast where he is to interview an archaeologist, she could never have guessed how her life was about to be turned upside-down.

The novel is very suspenseful almost all the way through – the tension is visceral on virtually every page. It opens with Bek on her own on the island, and we soon realise the place is only inhabited during the summer and she has missed the last ferry of the season. Worse, someone is trying to murder her and she has been separated from her brother. One question that hangs over the whole story is what has happened to him and why.

Totally isolated and knowing the killer is getting ready to come for her, she must prepare while she can. She knows the saying that “attack is the best form of defence”, and Bek is a determined and resourceful woman, but even that doesn’t seem enough to keep her alive when the killers arrive.

It’s a cleverly structured thriller, cutting repeatedly between events happening now on the island and what happened when they first arrived, slowly revealing the dire situation she is in and raising more questions about who is involved and why she has been targeted.

Although the end is possibly a little flat in comparison to the rest of the story, it does satisfactorily answer all the questions and nicely ties up all the loose ends. Overall, this story is very tense and page-turning, and definitely recommended. A great standalone thriller.

This Month’s Second Thriller: The Chain by Adrian McKinty

A clever and intriguing plot about unwilling kidnappers. Unfortunately, there were quite a few places where I thought, “That wouldn’t happen,” which did spoil it somewhat. However, the story was tense, and I found myself keen to know what happened next, which was more than enough to keep me reading despite my disbelief.

The tale is told in two halves. The first part starts when Rachel O’Neill’s daughter is kidnapped. The release demand is not solely money – the hostage will only be released once she has also kidnapped another child and passed on the same demand to their parents. It’s called “The Chain”, and the female kidnapper tells Rachel that her own child was taken and will only be released once Rachel has done what’s needed.

Frantic, Rachel complies and, with the help of her brother-in-law, targets another family. Having prepared the basement of a nearby unoccupied holiday home, she kidnaps a young girl and keeps her locked up. True to their word, the woman who had been forced to kidnap Rachel’s daughter now releases her.

But the story is far from over. Having been released, Rachel’s daughter is clearly suffering PTSD. Rachel, too, has been affected psychologically and is continually watching over her shoulder. Eventually, she decides she can live like that no longer and realises the only way to get her life back is to find out who is behind The Chain and to prevent them from continuing.

She starts by using the Tor anonymous browser and creates a blog asking for anyone with info about The Chain to contact her. The one answer she gets sets her on a dangerous trail that eventually brings her face-to-face to those behind the crimes.

It’s definitely exciting and well worth the read provided you’re happy to set aside the occasional “that wouldn’t happen!” I discussed it briefly with someone else who had also read the book, and they made exactly the same comment; like me, though, they were also happy to recommend it as a good book to read.

Peak at a Blog: Crazy Paperback Book Size Changes

Have you noticed how mass market paperbacks have become larger over the last 10 years? I’m talking genre fiction here rather than “literary” stuff. Have you ever wondered why? Certainly, if I look at my bookshelves, my collection of thrillers from the seventies and eighties are all exactly the same small size, whereas more recent ones have a variety of larger sizes.

This month’s blog digs into why the change has come about and what standards exist for paperback book sizes.

Take a peak of this month’s blog. You can find it at iancoatesthrillers.wordpress

From a Writer’s Desk

While I’m sweltering as my office hits 28oC indoors, my work has moved to China. No, I’ve not headed to The Orient in person, but the protagonist in my work-in-progress thriller has just flown there via Hong Kong on the trail of criminals making counterfeit medicines. I was in China myself on business for a short period a few years ago while I worked in electronic product design, and I took copious notes in a tiny notebook. I’m mining those as I create the scenes, but I now wish I had made even more observations – as I write, I’m finding bits I didn’t record. More photos would have been useful, too. I think I’m going to have to supplement my notes with some good travel guides.

If you can recommend any books that give a real feel for the smells, sights, and sounds of China, please drop me an email (just hit reply).

In the meantime, I’m wondering how to get the temperature down a bit in here. I’ve got the router, my PC and monitor, a RAID system (hard drives that give some protection against disk failures), desk light, and other IT stuff all generating heat around me. Moving everything on to a laptop and sitting outside in the shade is tempting, but it’s even hotter out there. I’ll just have to keep up the ice cubes down by shirt back.

News from the Book World: Indie Bookshop Week

Last month contained Independent Bookshop Week. Its aim is to facilitate a series of nationwide events that celebrate the role indies play in the community. Did you get to any? A lot of author talks and signings took place around the country, some of which tried to be different by including demonstrations or activities. Two that stood out for me were one in Bristol where the author ran a demonstration of fermentation, and another in Cardiff that included a workshop on how to sew recycled bouncy-castle fabric into a book bag.

Techie Snips: Supersonic Flights

I was fascinated to read this month how NASA is working on producing supersonic aircraft designs that reduce the loudness of the sonic booms as they cross the sound barrier. Do anyone of you remember Concord? I used to live in Reading and it would regularly fly overhead as it left Heathrow. I never got to hear its sonic boom because it only ever went supersonic over sea, but it was noisy enough as it was. Beautiful to see if flying, though.

What NASA is doing is working on the wing shapes. They believe they can reduce the boom to no louder than a slamming door by getting the shape right. If successful, do you think this might reintroduce supersonic passenger flights?

Freebies & Competitions

Dead Good Books is holding a draw this month for a paperback of Cameron Ward’s A Stranger on Board, a novel they describe as “a twisty thriller”. It’s open until July 23rd, so you’ll need to get over to their website sharpish to be in with a chance for that.

June 2022: Simon Kernick, Peter May, & more...

Murder, kidnap, and extortion fill the thrillers in this month’s reviews. We’ve got an exciting standalone novel from Simon Kernick and a great mystery thriller from Peter May in his Enzo McLeod series.

As the annual Dagger Awards approach at the end of the month, crime reading gets celebrated this June in Crime Reading Month. Learn more about it below, as well as seeing a colour-changing car, learning how publishers are turning green, and entering this month’s competition.

As always, we’d love to hear your recommendations for authors and thrillers to add to our review list, and any comments or suggestions for topics to cover in the newsletter. Just hit reply to send us an email. We read every one we receive.

Happy summer reading!

First of This Month’s Thrillers: We Can See You by Simon Kernick

Kernick makes life for his protagonist Brook Connor more painful with virtually every chapter. Her problems start when her daughter, Paige, is kidnapped – terrifying enough in itself, but her life continues to unravel further as she battles to stay firm and recover her child. Eventually, she’s arrested for multiple murders.

The book cleverly cuts between her interview at the police station and the earlier events surrounding her hunt for her daughter. When Paige was snatched, Brook and her husband got a phone call from the kidnappers, but they won’t talk to Brook, only to her husband. He is acting strangely, and she begins to suspect he is somehow involved. Her mind is in turmoil as they drive to the handover, but things don’t go as planned and life for Brook starts to worsen.

Soon, she wonders if there’s anyone she can trust. All she knows is she has to stay alive and out of a prison cell long enough to find Paige.

I found it strange at first that Kernick had set this book in America. I thought this might have been his publisher’s doing, wanting to make the novel more attractive to that market, but then I decided it was probably because handguns play a key part in the story and it would have been difficult to keep the plot realistic in the UK, where firearms are not readily available. In the end, I concluded it was probably both reasons – the somewhat annoying use of American-English (for a Brit) did suggest that Arrow was aiming this thriller at the US market.

We can See You is a great thriller – palpable tension, situations getting worse when you didn’t think it was possible, plenty of action and emotion... One of the best books I’ve read for a long time with a brilliantly tense and unexpected ending.

This Month’s Second Thriller: The Night Gate by Peter May

What links a recently unearthed World War II corpse and a modern day stabbing? Enzo McLeod, a forensic investigator, is looking into the ancient death but, while visiting the site, he notices the police at a nearby house where a man has just been stabbed to death. The detective in charge recognises McLeod and persuades him to consult on the murder.

The fact the stabbing occurred only a few days after the World War II corpse was discovered is no coincidence, and McLeod slowly unearths the connection, eventually discovering both killers’ identities. We are rapidly taken into the art world and the German theft of masterpieces from France during the occupation.

I found the way the novel constantly switches between three different time periods a little confusing at several places in the novel. One storyline follows McLeod’s current day investigation, the second comes in the form of an elderly woman recounting events in France during the war that her mother had told her about, and the third jumps back to a few days before the current-day murder, following the main suspect in the time leading up to the crime.

As the three stories unfold in parallel, we see an intriguing story from the Nazi’s occupation of France and how it led to the modern day crime.

It’s a clever story, and the desire to solve the mystery is what keeps the reader glued to the pages. However, because I found the jumps in time somewhat confusing, I hesitate to give it the full five stars. Nonetheless, I certainly found it an excellent read with a believable and ingenious storyline. If you’re happy with books that chop between multiple timelines, then this is a great mystery for you. If not, approach with a little caution, but once you get used to the jumps, you’ll probably love it.

From a Writer’s Desk

I heard from my publisher recently that COVID has delayed their publishing schedule, but the edits on my latest thriller should be back with me by the end of July. That gives me about eight weeks before I need to knuckle down with intensive work on the manuscript. I’ve made the most of the unpressured period waiting for the edits by doing some techie updates to my website. They seem to have come out well and have made it more mobile-friendly as well as much easier to maintain, although they took me a lot longer than expected. It does mean work on the first of a thriller series has slowed embarrassingly, and I really need to get back to completing the first draft. Alas, it won’t be finished by the time edits arrive on my desk, which is a disappointment.

But as the sun starts to shine here in England’s Worcestershire, I’ll be getting straight back to writing the new book just as soon as I’ve signed off here.

News from the Book World: Crime Reading Month

Did you know June is National Crime Reading Month, organised by the Crime Writers’ Association? The festival celebrates crime reading through events and activities in bookshops, libraries, museums, and theatres across the UK and Ireland, as well as online events, culminating in the CWA Daggers ceremony at the end of the month.

To discover the crime reading events near you, go to their website at and select your region from a pull-down menu.

Techie Snips

Has BMW taken the next big step towards James Bond’s invisible car (from Die Another Day)? The heavy-hitting car manufacturer recent demonstrated a concept car that it called the iX Flow. One of its coolest features has to be that it’s wrapped in an e-ink display – that’s similar to the display used in many e-readers, which looks like paper in sunlight and only takes power when it’s changing colour. The designers say it’s designed so that drivers can better reflect their personality but, in a nod to the environmentalists, they also point out that it allows the body to be changed to white when it’s sunny, which reduces how much the car’s interior heats up and leads to less air conditioning use.

So far, it seems to be one colour at a time for the whole body, but it’s built from a series of precisely laser cut panels to fit the car’s contours, so one can imagine the next step being the ability to set each segment to a different colour. If that can ever get to the stage of displaying an image that’s captured real-time by a camera, the car could camouflage itself against the background.

Who knows if concepts from the iX Flow will ever see it into car production, but the opportunities are certainly exciting.

Peak at a Blog

Nowadays, there’s a lot of focus on the environment and, not surprisingly, publishers have started to look at the impact of publishing books. This month’s blog considers what can be done to reduce CO2 emissions in publishing. Is it better to use recycled paper than fresh? Is an e-reader going to be better than buying a paperback? (The answer to that is not as obvious as you might think!) What role does FSC certification play on the choice of paper? What parts of a book’s complete beginning-to-end lifecycle cause the most emissions?

Take a peak of this month’s blog. You can find it at iancoatesthrillers.wordpress

It’s the time of year when we need to plan blog topics for the rest of the year. We’ve got a growing list of possible titles, but would love to get a load more so we can pick the best ones for July – December. If you’ve got any suggestions, please reply to this email and let us have them; if you have a social media profile, we’ll be happy to include that in a credit when we publish a blog on a topic you suggest.

Freebies & Competitions

This month, you have an opportunity to win a signed first-edition paperback of Eavesdrop, Ian’s fast-paced thriller. Unfortunately, we can only open this one to those of you with a UK postal address because of shipping charges – sorry! Just reply to this email with “Competition” in the subject title to enter the draw, which will take place at the end of July.

Aug 2022

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