It was great to be asked to be part of the Blog Tour for Angela Marsons new book Play Dead.
I’ve followed The DCI Kim Stones books since they were first published, is that really only just over a year ago.
Four Books in a year and every one of them a great read.
The first section of this blog is my initial review of the book, below that is a few questions Angela was kind enough to respond to, and a few of my thoughts on what makes her one of today’s stand out authors in Crime Fiction.
The Review of Play Dead
This book firmly places Angela Marsons right at the top of the Police Crime Thriller writers.
Detective Chief Inspector Kim Stone and her team are back in another Black Country crime thriller, and just like the 3 previous books this one is stunning.
Having just broken up a paedophile ring Stone and her team are sent to Westerly, a new research facility in Wall Heath. Its location and purpose have been kept a secret from the public for good reason. The West Midlands has a Body Farm.
The trip to the Body Farm is going well until Stone manages to find a body that should not be there. A woman has been killed in a horrific manner and left amongst the other corpses.
As Stones team start to investigate the murder another victim is found at the farm but this one has miraculously survived.
What links the victims and why are they being dumped at the Body Farm.
As the investigations continue one of Kate’s nemesis, the local reporter Tracy Frost, approaches Stone in an attempt to solve a cold case, a murder that has happened a few years before in the neighbouring area of Brierley Hill. The fingerless dead man recovered from a local reservoir has never been identified, nor has his murder been solved.
Why should Stone get involved in a case that’s not her own, why would she help Frost with anything at all, and why is Frost so interested in it. However; the case gets under Stones skin and as she concentrates on the murders at the farm she also looks into the murdered man in the reservoir.
When Stone cannot contact Frost she begins to worry. Is Frost deliberately avoiding her or has she become a victim.
Play Dead is a brilliant book. Once I started reading it I literally could not put it down.
Angela Marsons creates characters that are so real you cannot help but engage with them.
Each character in this book is there for a reason and has a some bearing on the story, although not as obvious as you might first think.
I have a feeling that Marsons has a file for each character and if we could ever read them we’d find a whole story for each.
The recurring characters of her team fit in excellently with Stones personality. The occasional characters which appear in more than one book are just as good. It seems right that a SIO should have a local reporter that is always trying to get one jump ahead and in Tracy Frost Marsons depicts this brilliantly.
Stones past is no secret. She was in the never ending circle of Social Service Children’s Homes and Foster parents. The story of her past is slowly being revealed in each book, but it doesn’t distract from the story, in fact it adds to it.
Another occasional character in the books makes a return in this one. Dr Daniel Bate is a Forensic Osteo-archeologist. He makes no bones, sorry no pun intended, of the fact he likes Stone. The awkwardness of her reaction is so realistic it almost made me blush.
Another recurring character is Dr A. This woman needs her own books. I don’t know if I’m supposed to chuckle every time she opens her mouth but I do.
One of the big stars is The Black Country. I live there. Stones Police Station is about a mile from my house. The way Angela Marsons describes the locations she uses in these books is so good I know exactly where she is talking about.
So I’m off to Find Westerley-The Body Farm, it has to be there Angela Marsons wrote about it.
I don’t do a 5 star ranking system but if I did this book would get 6.
My Conversation with Angela Marsons
Ok, conversations a bit of a stretch, I submitted the questions through her publishers Bookouture and I have to say thank you to Kim for being the messenger. Having said that I have to say I have spoken to Angela several times via social media and she does seem like one of the nicest authors I’ve spoken to.
So what did I learn.
Q. You describe places around the Black Country very accurately. Accurate enough to be recognised by those of us that live here. But what comes first, the idea or the place. Do you think of the situation and then go and find somewhere to set it, or do you find somewhere and think that’s a great place to set the scenario?
A. The idea comes first. In my head I know the type of area I’m thinking of. For the site of Westerley I wanted it based on the outskirts of the Black Country in a semi-rural area that bordered another Police Force so I chose Wall Heath. In Evil Games I knew the type of area that I wanted to base the final confrontation so chose an area of the canal that is close to where I live.
Q. Is there any likelihood Dr Alex Throne will make an appearance in future books. A great character and she got inside Kim Stones Head.
A. Yes, Dr Alex Thorne returns in book 5. She was such an interesting character that I had to bring her back. The scenes between Kim and Alex were some of my favourite ones to write.
Q. The care home in Rowley Regis in the first book. Was Angela aware of the home and the fire, if so what made her base her story around it.
A. Yes, I was aware of the care home. It was very close to where I went to school but there was an air of mystery that surrounded the kids that were there. There seemed to be a general opinion they were there because they’d been bad in some way and I just didn’t believe that and it just stayed with me.
Q. You mentioned that you were aware of the care home and the rumours surrounding it. Have any local crimes influenced any of your stories if so which ones. If they haven’t would you ever research some and use the scenario for a modern investigation
A. Excellent question. I’ve not been influenced by local crimes although I have referred to some (notably Lesley Whittle). I would like to base a book on historic crimes in the Black Country but I would probably not use recent cases to avoid causing any distress to family members.
Q. On a personal level how have you managed the transition from being employed elsewhere to becoming a full time author, and has the fact that you are now contracted to write future books put more pressure on you or taken any of the fun out of writing
A. The transition has been overwhelming and exciting. I still pinch myself every day and appreciate the fact that I now get to do something I love as my work. Except it never feels like work because I used to do it every spare minute around a full time job anyway. And the fun is definitely still there. Once an idea bites my house could fall down and I wouldn’t notice and that feeling never goes away.
What do I really think of these books
I grew up in Birmingham but moved to the Black Country about 25 years ago. I live right in the middle of where Angela bases her books; in fact, Halesowen Police Station, Kim Stones base, is my local nick. If you have ever read my biography on this site you’ll know I am a Forensic Specialist and have worked with the Police on hundreds of cases and, I’m proud to say, my daughter now works with the Police in a specialist role.
I mention this, not to big myself up, but to add a bit of credence to what I say next.
These books are about as accurate as you can get in the fictional world.
The characters portrayed in the books; their professional and person relationships, their lifestyles and their interaction with each other, whether it be Police-Criminal, Police-Victim, Police-other professions, or visa-versa is very realistic.
She catches the mood of an investigation nicely. I love the way she includes the frustrations of working within guidelines, but also how DCI Stone always manages to have a foot either side of the line to get a result without a wild jump into fantasy.
I love the way that she uses real places to set her crimes, and I wouldn’t mind betting she bases her characters on people she knows or has met.
As you can see from one of the questions she used a notorious Children’s Home in Rowley Regis to set her first book. Everybody who lives by me has a story about that place, but nobody else has had the imagination to build a whole book storyline around it.
The introduction of Dr Alex Cross has given the storyline across the series an edge. Stone is not infallible, she has weaknesses and Cross is one person who can exploit them. I’m glad she’s coming back.
I think the best answer to my questions was the final one.
Angela’s obviously had a passion for her writing. I can only imagine the frustration she had writing all of these stories and having no one read them. I think I read in another blog that she used to write them and put them away in a draw. That in itself is criminal.
Somebody once told me that, “if you find a job that really interests you, you will never work another day in your life. Somebody will pay you to do your hobby” I’ve been lucky enough to experience that. Now it looks like Angela Marsons is too. Long may it last and may we have many more books to look forward to.
Just before I finish this happened this morning.
I was driving along the Grange Road in Halesowen when a large motorbike overtook me, it turned onto the Queensway and then into Laurel Lane. The driver was a young lady. It couldn’t have been, could it???????
Just in case you haven’t read them I’ve put links to my reviews of the previous books below