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I love how much this Friday feature has grown and the support that it’s had out there from bloggers, authors, publishers and readers has been amazing, and it’s a huge honour to be able to shine a spotlight on some wonderful books and the authors behind them.

Today I am thrilled to shine the spotlight on Claire MacLeary, author of the Harcus and Laird series. The series includes Burnout, Cross Purpose and Runaway, links to the reviews of these can be found here.


Author Feature:

Glasgow-born Claire MacLeary worked in advertising, HR, and later as a training consultant in Edinburgh and London before her husband’s job entailed a move to Aberdeen. There she became an antiques dealer and entrepreneur. Back in Fife, she ran a number of successful businesses before studying for a MLitt degree in Creative Writing at the University of Dundee.

Her debut novel, Cross Purpose, was shortlisted for Harrogate New Blood and longlisted for the 2017 McIlvanney Prize. A sequel, Burnout, was longlisted for The 2018 Hearst Big Book Awards. Runaway, third in the Harcus & Laird series was published in March 2019.

Claire now lives in Glasgow and St Andrews.

When my first novel launched at Aberdeen’s 2017 Granite Noir, little did I think, a scant two years on, I’d have brought three books into the world and embarked on a fourth. The road to publication has been bumpy – jobs, kids and travel getting in the way. As my children grew, I enrolled in one evening class after another, tried my hand at short stories, had the minor thrill of seeing some in print. But it wasn’t until 2010 I set about writing seriously. A window of opportunity allowed me to study, full-time, for a year.

My first writing folio comprised a short story and an extract from a crime novel. Until that date, I hadn’t read much crime, but the genre seemed to suit my spare prose. That extract was to become the first scene of Cross Purpose, which I developed – with many re-drafts – in between business and family commitments over the next few years.

I submitted the finished manuscript direct to a couple of publishers, and was fortunate to receive an offer from Sara Hunt of Saraband Books, who was looking to expand her Contraband crime imprint.  What sold the book to her? I’d done extensive research, and decided there was a gap in the market which my protagonists – two non-professional women ‘of a certain age’ – might fill. Ordinary women, juggling homes and jobs and childcare. Women to whom readers could relate. I’d met many such women: resilient, resourceful, with reserves to draw on in a crisis. I wanted to give these unsung women a voice.

Happily, readers took Maggie and ‘Big’ Wilma, my unlikely duo of private investigators, to their hearts. But don’t be deceived, the series isn’t ‘cosy crime’. My books are dark and gritty, espousing big social issues.

I now write full-time, not necessarily every day. I have a dedicated study and write best in the morning, drawing inspiration from writers like Alice Munro, who describes beautifully the minutiae of domestic life. One of my favourite books on motherhood is Carol Shields’ The Stone Diaries.

Driven as I am, I don’t have down-time. If I’m not tapping away at my computer, I’m jotting ideas in black ink on a reporter’s notebook. When I’m ‘in the zone’ I often wake in the night with dialogue running through my head. Then, I might shrug on a sweater and go to my desk or put some lines down on an iPad to be copied and pasted next morning.

I thought nothing could eclipse standing on stage at the McIlvanney Prize award with some of crime’s most celebrated authors, but the very best bit about being an author is when a reader tells you they enjoyed your book. It’s heartening to think your story has captured someone’s imagination and your characters come to life for them.

The worst aspect is the blank page. Without grind, you can’t produce a first draft, which your editor will then proceed to slash and burn! For one as impatient as I, the whole process is tortuously slow. That said, I’m currently working on Book 4, which should launch early next year.

I wouldn’t be so presumptuous as to think readers need my advice. However, having described myself as having “a full life to draw on”, I’d say my motto is, Do It Now!

To aspiring writers who opt to go down the traditional publishing route, success is 95% attributable to hard work and 5% to luck, so be persistent, keep chipping away.

The theme of my latest book, Runaway – another page-turner with the, by now, well-loved cast of characters – is homelessness.

Aberdeen housewife Debbie Milne abruptly vanishes, leaving behind a frantic husband and two young children, and Maggie and Wilma become embroiled in a covert investigation. But when a woman’s disfigured body is found in a skip, the PIs are dragged into a deeper mystery involving people-trafficking, gambling and prostitution – and they’re in deadly danger. With the police struggling for leads and the clock ticking, the race is on for Harcus & Laird to find answers.

If you’re already a fan of Maggie and ‘Big’ Wilma or new to the series, you can purchase a copy at your local bookshop, direct from Saraband Books saraband.net or via this link: clairemacleary.com/buy-runaway

A huge thank you to Claire for joining me today and having a chat, I am a huge fan of her writing so I have to admit to being a little start-struck when she agreed to take part.

To find out more about Claire and her books, check out her website or social media!

Website: clairemacleary.com

Twitter: @clairemacleary

Facebook: www.facebook.com/clairemacleary

Goodreads: clairemacleary.com/goodreads

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Today’s Celebrating Indie Publishing joins up with the blog tour for Claire MacLeary’s third book in the series featuring PIs Maggie Laird and Wilma Harcus in Aberdeen. Having read and loved the previous books, I was very excited to be involved with the buzz for the new book, Runaway. Claire MacLeary is a name you want to remember her books are fantastic!

  • Title: Runaway
  • Author: Claire MacLeary
  • Publisher: Contraband
  • Publication Date: 14th March 2019

Early copy received from publisher for review purposes.

Description:

When Aberdeen housewife Debbie Milne abruptly vanishes, her husband is frantic with worry and turns to local PIs Maggie Laird and Big Wilma Harcus.

Maggie is reluctant to take on a misper case, but Wilma cajoles her into a covert operation trawling women s refuges and homeless squats in search of a lead. But when a woman’s body is discovered in a skip, the unlikely investigators are dragged into a deeper mystery involving people-trafficking, gambling and prostitution and they’re in deadly danger.

With the police struggling to make headway and the clock ticking, the race is on for Harcus and Laird to find answers, further straining their already fraying relationship.

With Runaway, Claire MacLeary delivers the goods again creating a surprising, gritty, fast-paced tale with the warmth and wit of women of a certain age.

My Thoughts:

Where to start … well if you’re unfamiliar with this series, I would highly recommend checking out the previous books, Cross Purpose and Burnout and getting to know the force of nature that is ‘Big Wilma’ and her business partner Maggie, they are by far some of the best characters I’ve ever met in a book.

In Runaway, the reader is faced with a frantic man searching for his wife who seems to have vanished, his phone call to the emergency services starts the book with bang. Who is the missing woman, what has happened to her, where has she gone, is there more to her disappearance than meets the eye … so many questions based on an opening chapter!
As the police investigation develops and the frantic husband, Scott begins to lose faith with the detectives and hires Harcus and Laird to look into the disappearance of his wife Debbie. Unbeknownst to Scott, the police investigation has picked up some speed and with information from another branch of Police Scotland, the case is soon escalated to CID which should mean that Harcus and Laird step back and allow the police to do their work. Big Wilma firmly has the bit between her teeth with this case and is adamant she will not give this case up. After the previous case that the agency worked on, the women are keen not to make the same mistakes again, and Maggie especially is wary of taking things at face value, and tries to push back on Wilma every time her dogged determination tries to take over or push her.

With two such strong characters it’s hard for readers not to connect with them. Billed as ‘women of a certain age’, they certainly don’t feel outdated or difficult to like, they are what I would think of as “normal” women, trying to make a living doing something they are actually good at whilst juggling running a household, family, life … admirable really. The thing I found most appealing about these characters is the way that they secretly want to be a little more like the other. Wilma, always impressed at the vocabulary that Maggie possesses, seems to want to expand on her knowledge, wants to use the intelligence she clearly already has and it’s wonderful to see this develop through the book. Maggie often seems as though she wishes she had Wilma’s confidence and sure-footedness in many situations and slowly begins to take chances with it.
Underneath their often heated exchanges, is a genuine care for each other, these women may not have started out at best friends, but there’s a strong friendship between them which has grown with each new book in the series, I’ve loved seeing how these two vastly different women have not only formed a lasting friendship but become the emotional support that the other needed.

If strong characterisation wasn’t enough to make this book a winner, then it has to be said that the writing itself is a thing of beauty! Hailing from the Granite City, I know a lot of the landmarks and settlements mentioned within the book and Claire MacLeary distills their essence perfectly. Even down to the little details such as the railings inside the Dutch Mill hotel and pub. She brings the people and the places of Aberdeen alive and shows that no matter the city, there is always a side to things you may not be aware of. And as Maggie and Wilma work their way through their investigation, their paths crisscross through some dark and dangerous streets, MacLeary ensures that readers can ‘feel’ the danger that lurks in the shadows ahead, she makes sure they can ‘sense’ the dread and anticipation, but most of all she takes some truly difficult themes and makes them understandable, writing them in a way that does not simplify or remove any of the severity surrounding them.

A gripping, dark and gritty read that is the perfect addition to the series and I truly cannot wait to see what Claire MacLeary writes next! If you ever get the chance to see Claire talking at a book festival, or even just see her in the crowd, do say hello. She is one of the loveliest people, and genuinely wonderful to speak to!

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It’s with great delight that I welcome you to today’s “Celebrating Indie Publishing” post, today I am opening the wonderful Claire MacLeary’s blog tour for her latest mystery thriller.  I had the privilege of reading Claire’s first novel to feature Maggie and Big Wilma in Aberdeen and utterly loved it, so when offered the chance to read the second book I jumped at it!

Burnout is published by Contraband, which is part of Saraband and is available to pre order now, publication date is 29th March.

 


Book Feature:

Description:

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My husband is trying to kill me : a new client gets straight to the point.

This is a whole new ball game for Maggie Laird, who is trying to rebuild her late husband s detective agency and clear his name.

Her partner, Big Wilma, sees the case as a non-starter, but Maggie is drawn in. With her client’s life on the line, Maggie must get to the ugly truth that lies behind Aberdeen’s closed doors.

But who knows what really goes on between husbands and wives?
And will the agency’s reputation and Maggie and Wilma’s friendship remain intact?

 

 

My Thoughts & Review:

I have to admit, when a book is set in the city I grew up in I feel some pull towards it.  I love discovering Aberdeen through the eyes of others, through the characters and their writers and so seeing how Claire MacLeary brings it alive with her wonderful writing is a must read for me.

Burnout sees the return of Maggie Laird and Wilma Harcus, two women in Aberdeen brought together through less than brilliant circumstances but nonetheless, a wonderful friendship blossomed between the two and since their adventures in Cross Purpose, the women have successfully kept their private investigation business going and even thriving on the cases they have brought in.

Having met Claire recently at Granite Noir, I can confirm that she is absolutely lovely and so to think that she can write these incredibly gritty and compelling books is mind boggling.
She has a wonderful way with words, and can set the scene so vividly, her characters come to life from the pages so realistically that the menace and danger that pose seems to escape from the pages.  I do particular love the way that she’s given a true authenticity to the dialogue in places with the use of Doric phrases.  For those not familiar with Doric, it’s the dialect spoken in Aberdeen (and Shire), and if you do find it hard to fathom then there is the helpful “Doric Dictionary” that can help translate for you.

The characters in this are so complex and three dimensional, the personalities of Maggie and Wilma leap off the pages at you whilst reading and it’s hard not to take these two women into your heart.  If you’ve read Cross Purpose which was Claire’s previous novel, then it’s almost like catching up with old friends when you read about them.  Equally, the supporting characters are so multifaceted and complex, trying to work out their motivations keeps the reader on their toes.

Just when I thought the book couldn’t get any better, Claire MacLeary sneaks some absolutely superb writing in right under my nose and catches me off guard entirely!  I hate when people state “I didn’t see that twist coming” or “that ending was so unexpected” but in this case, for fear of giving anything away, I shall have to use a a non committal phrase and say that this book was bloody brilliant and I NEEEEEEED another one to find out what happens next for Maggie and Wilma!!!

You can buy a copy of Burnout via:

Amazon UK
Wordery
Book Depository

 

About the Author:

Claire MacLeary lived for many years in Aberdeen and St Andrews, but describes herself as “a feisty Glaswegian with a full life to draw on”. Following a career in business, she gained an MLitt with Distinction from the University of Dundee and her short stories have been published in various magazines and anthologies. She has appeared at Granite Noir, Noir at the Bar and other literary events. Claire’s debut novel, Cross Purpose, has been longlisted for the prestigious McIlvanney Prize, Scottish Crime Book of the Year Award 2017. She is now working on Burnout, the sequel to Cross Purpose.

 

BuO_Blog_tour(1)

 

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Hello and welcome to the first Celebrating Indie Publishing post of 2018!  Yes, it is the first post for this as I took some time out in January to scale the mountainous reading pile before it toppled over and have only posted a few scheduled shares here and there.

Today I am delighted to share a review of a book I stumbled upon last year by chance, it’s one that was previously published by Freight Books and has been picked up by the mighty and amazing Saraband who are publishing some pretty fantastic books this year.  Anyway, enough of my wittering, lets get on to the book….

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** My thanks to Sara at Saraband Books for my copy of this book **

 

Description:

Ian McEwan’s Atonement meets Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth in this extraordinary debut.

A novel set between the past and present with magical realist elements. Goblin is an outcast girl growing up in London during World War 2. After witnessing a shocking event she increasingly takes refuge in a self-constructed but magical imaginary world. Having been rejected by her mother, she leads a feral life amidst the craters of London’s Blitz, and takes comfort in her family of animals, abandoned pets she’s rescued from London’s streets.

In 2011, a chance meeting and an unwanted phone call compels an elderly Goblin to return to London amidst the riots and face the ghosts of her past. Will she discover the truth buried deep in her fractured memory or retreat to the safety of near madness? In Goblin, debut novelist Dundas has constructed an utterly beguiling historical tale with an unforgettable female protagonist at its centre.

My Thoughts & Review:

From the moment that I heard about Goblin I was intrigued, it sounded like a very different read and one very unlike anything I’ve read before and I wasn’t wrong!  The storyline moves between different times and locations, but always follows our protagonist Goblin who grew began her days in London.

At the beginning of the book there is a scene that will make many readers chuckle, some will screech in horror, but mostly I think they will appreciate the wit of Ben eating his way through Ulysses, and will not give in until he has finished the book.  ‘Old Lady’ affectionately named by Ben, is Mrs G Bradfield, the Reader in Residence in the Edinburgh library who tries to dissuade Ben from his quest to rid the library of the James Joyce book before realising that this is simply something that he must do.  Her acceptance of this is the first instance readers will get of there being more to this character than first meets the eye.
As the time line flicks between 2011 Edinburgh and 1941 London a link between Mrs G Bradfield and Goblin becomes apparent, and I will admit, in the beginning I wasn’t quite sure how these two were connected but soon it becomes apparent that they are the same person.

Goblin, as we get to know the character doesn’t have a name as such, or at least we don’t ever see her being addressed as anything other than Goblin by her family and friends.  Having been rejected by her mother at a young age, she has formed a bond with her dear dog Devil, who she sees as her best friend and confidant.  There is a respectful silence between Goblin and her father, him allowing her to watch as he repaired various electrical items such as radios when she was younger so that as she grew she was able to help him.  But the human who holds the dearest space in her heart is her brother, he is the one that offers her the relationship that she misses out on with their mother.  His care and compassion towards his younger sister is touching and endearing to see, whilst it is true that younger siblings can be testing at times, and the pair do squabble or fall out, they also have a wonderful bond.

As the plot moves on we see that Goblin has invented a world of make believe around herself, trying to find adventure in her surroundings and living in a world of Martians, Nazis and the Lizard People.  Her imagination is powerful, and part of me wonders if this inventiveness was merely a coping mechanism, seeking a bond with something to fill the parental void.  Whilst most children would have outgrown this imaginary world, Goblin instead fully immerses herself in it, regaling those around her of magical tales of the Underworld and the Lizard People, this make believe world forming a shell, a protective bubble around herself to shield her of the horrifying realities of the world around her.

Ever Dundas has recently won the Saltire First Book Award 2017 for Goblin and it is very clear why, this is an incredibly well written novel that is beautifully poignant, and the juxtaposition of abandonment and neglect with humour makes this such a compelling read and the believable characters bring it all to life.
The only negative thing that I have about this book was that it was initially a little confusing when reading, the way that the plot jumps back and forth between the different times did take a little getting used to, and once I’d grasped the style of writing I found it worked so well with the story, it almost felt like the jumps back were perhaps tangents of Goblin’s aged mind lost in thought and reminiscing.  A stunning debut that I would heartily recommend!

‘Mon Team Corporal Pig!!

 You can buy a copy of Goblin via:

Amazon UK
Wordery
Book Depository

 

 

 

 

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** My thanks to Robbie at Saraband for my copy of this book **

 

Description:

Fifty-something Shona is a proud former pupil of the Marcia Blaine School for Girls, but has a deep loathing for The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, which she thinks gives her alma mater a bad name.

Impeccably educated and an accomplished martial artist, linguist and musician, Shona is thrilled when selected by Marcia Blaine herself to travel back in time for a one-week mission in 19th-century Moscow: to pair up the beautiful, shy, orphaned heiress Lidia Ivanovna with Sasha, a gorgeous young man of unexplained origins.

But, despite all her accomplishments and good intentions, Shona might well have got the wrong end of the stick about her mission. As the body count rises, will she discover in time just who the real villain is?

My Thoughts & Review:

First and foremost, would you take a look at that cover?!  It’s lovely isn’t it?  So eye catching and enchanting!  I am a sucker for a nice book cover, I make no apology for that, I’m merely proving the art departments right when they design a book cover to wow readers.

Anyway, moving on to the book itself, when I first heard about this one it was put to me as “sort of cosy crime, really witty and not really a crime title, although it involves some murders”, well that was enough to grab my attention and I’m really glad I did read it.

We first meet Shona in 19th Century Russia as she attempts to gain an audience with Madame Potapova, a member of the Russian high society when a tragedy occurs.  Through Shona’s narration the reader learns how she came to find herself in 19th Century Russia, a series of interspersed recollections scattered throughout give a interesting insight into this character.
Shona has been tasked with a delicate mission, one that she cannot fail and it all hinges on the fate of a shy heiress who is appearing in Society for the first time since childhood.  Taking to her mission with gusto, Shona dives straight in at the deep end and soon has Russian aristocrats jigging away to the Dashing White Sergeant in an attempt to save the failing atmosphere at the party thrown by Lidia Ivanovna.

There is cosy crime feel to this novel, it has dead bodies and mystery that require someone to puzzle the pieces together for the final “Ah-ha!” moment when the cunning reveal is made.  The way that the plot is structured means that readers can enjoy the mystery as it unfolds, will Shona succeed on her mission, what secrets are being kept by various characters, what are the events that no one must speak of, these are all things that keep the story moving along at a comfortable pace.
The richness of the descriptions used throughout mean that readers get a good feel for the settings and the scenes in this book, the way that Nanny is described did give me a chuckle, got to love a fellow knitter!  But even down to the small details of the parquet flooring, the outfits worn and the highly decorated samovars, it all evokes a great sense of atmosphere and did make me feel like I had been transported.

I did find the style of writing took a little getting used to, it is an intelligently written book that is an enjoyable read.  I especially enjoyed comedy and wit that was liberally dotted around, Shona’s sense of humour and use of Scottish phrases made her a very endearing character.

You can buy a copy of Miss Blaine’s Prefect & The Golden Samovar via:

Amazon UK
Wordery
Book Depository

 

Don’t forget to check out the other stops on the blog tour:

MBP blog tour

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Published: 23 February 2017

 

Description:

Longlisted for the McIlvanney Prize, Scottish Crime Book of the Year 2017

When Maggie Laird’s disgraced ex-cop husband suddenly dies, her humdrum suburban life is turned upside down. With the bills mounting, she takes on his struggling detective agency, enlisting the help of neighbour ‘Big Wilma’. And so an unlikely partnership is born.

But the discovery of a crudely mutilated body soon raises the stakes… and Maggie and Wilma are drawn into an unknown world of Aberdeen’s sink estates, clandestine childminding and dodgy dealers.

Cross Purpose is surprising, gritty, sometimes darkly humorous – a tale combining police corruption, gangs and murder with a paean to friendship, loyalty and how ‘women of a certain age’ can beat the odds.

 

My Thoughts & Review:

When I saw that this crime thriller was set in my home town of Aberdeen I knew I had to read it, there’s something about books being set in a place that you know that immediately makes them jump out.  Equally, when a respected blogger recommends a book to you then you know you’re on to a winner, and I can honestly say that it was worth listening to Gordon on this one!

Maggie Laird’s life is thrown into turmoil when her husband suddenly dies, she seeks out the help of her nextdoor neighbour to get to the mortuary to identify the body of her husband not realising that this simple act of kindness would lead to a great friendship and business relationship between the two.
George Laird was a police officer, who was “forced” into early retirement because of disgrace, investigation was what he knew best so he set up his own detective agency, and following his death, Maggie decides to take a gamble on running the business with the help of Wilma to try and pay the bills that are mounting up.  But Maggie also has an ulterior motive for running the detective agency, she wants to exonerate George’s good name.

Maggie then walks a tightrope of increasing danger when she becomes entangled with some of the Granite City’s finest (or perhaps most dastardly) criminals.  Keen to show no weakness, Maggie puts up a strong facade and comes across perfectly businesslike when she needs to, but underneath it all she is fragile and trying to balance her grief whilst keeping things together for the sake of her grown children.
Her sidekick in all of this, “Big Wilma” on the other hand is as fearless as they come.  She definitely reminds me of many an Aberdonian woman in her ways.  She’s down to earth, no airs and graces but would loan you her last fiver if she thought it would help you out.  Both  Maggie and Wilma bring something different to the partnership, and it’s true about opposites attracting, where Maggie is reserved and quiet, Wilma is sharp tongued and spirited.  The dialogue between the two is fantastic, many of their exchanges felt absolutely authentic to the point I could hear the accents of the parts of town they were from (even with doric, we like to mix things up so folk fae Kincorth spik diff’rint frae ‘he folk fae Northfield).  And I have to say that the geography of the book felt pretty authentic to me, even down to the mentions of the layout at Castlegate with the Mercat Cross and the shops.

The development of the characters in this was well done, it was nice to see focus was shared between more than just the female sleuths, seeing the story from the perspective of the police detectives and being able to share their frustrations that they could not move their investigation added depth.  Some characters in this will definitely make you feel a bit uncomfortable and that is down to the skill of the author.  It takes great skill to create a character that makes the skin crawl and that’s exactly what Claire MacCleary does here.  For a debut novel I was very impressed, it felt that a lot of work had gone into laying the foundations for a solid plot that could be expanded upon throughout the book as well as leaving ample opportunity for future books.

Wee word of caution for those not familiar with doric, a handy link to help you translate any words you might get stuck with is The Doric Dictionary – it’ll save you getting crabbit fan yeh cannae understan’ fit ‘he quine is spikin aboot!

My thanks to Gordon McGhie and Sara Hunt at Saraband/Contraband for the opportunity to read and review Cross Purpose and for inviting me to take part in the blog tour.

You can buy a copy of Cross Purpose via:

Amazon
Wordery
The Book Depository

 

Follow the blog tour:

CP-blog-tour

 

 

 

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