Quiet Acts of Violence by Cath Staincliffe

I always know I’m in good hands when I pick up a Cath Staincliffe novel. She combines excellent writing with a clear-eyed view of contemporary issues and I love her Manchester setting. Quiet Acts of Violence begins with the death of a baby, Rosa named after the street on which she’s found inside an industrial-sized bin. Detectives DI Donna Bell and DC Jade Bradshaw begin the search for the mother, questioning residents and business owners on the busy street.

This is an environment of Super Saver shops and greasy Chuckie Chicken takeaways. Staincliffe sensitively portrays the raft of characters who live in the area from Colette the homeless woman shunted around the B and Bs of Manchester who discovers the child, to the Romanian car wash attendants working subsistence level jobs who are reluctant to involve themselves in a police investigation.

The book is a follow-up to The Girl in the Green Dress and I can see why Staincliffe’s readers wanted more of Donna and Jade. Donna with five children and a husband, Jim, who is recovering from injury is a strong protagonist juggling responsibility both at home and at work.  The story of Jim facing the inquest into the death of a man he accidentally killed while driving is a moving sub-plot. Jade with her fractured background is independent and suspicious of family ties although she finds them hard to shake off. Together the two women make an impressive team and show how meticulous policing and insights into the life of Manchester residents can provide the solution to the case.

I’ve already recommended the book to my creative writing students as I love how the police procedural aspect of the novel is combined with a portrayal of lives under pressure to create a compelling crime narrative. If you haven’t read Staincliffe’s books yet, here’s the place to start.

Crime Fiction Round-Up

November is proving to be an interesting month for crime fiction and it would be a shame not share some of the events with readers of this blog. Sometimes, living in Derbyshire, it feels like all the interesting things take place in other parts of the country, particularly London. However, if you keep your eyes open and take advantage of the internet, you discover plenty of interest.

James Ellroy

The the self-styled demon dog of American crime fiction came to The Dancehouse,Perfidia-by-James-Ellroy Manchester in early November. The event was organised by Waterstones on Deansgate and was very well attended. For my money I would have preferred a more structured interview. It was left to Ellroy to read from his latest book, Perfidia, and then field questions from a very knowledgable audience. Manchester has plenty of fine journalists more than capable of facilitating a more structured event and I think we might have got some greater insights from Ellroy from more in-depth probing. He was, however, great to see and we were treated at the end to his recital of Dylan Thomas’s ‘In my Craft or Gentle Art’.

The Murder Squad.

The Murder SquadLast week, six of the best northern crime writers gathered at Linghams bookshop in Heswall for an evening of crime fiction talk. Cath Staincliffe, Ann Cleeves, Margaret Murphy, Martin Edwards, Kate Ellis and Chris Simms talked about their books and characters in an event of interest to both readers and writers of the genre. Again the evening had a fantastic turnout and is evidence of what a vibrant local bookshop can do to promote writers. The passion that these authors still have for their books is an inspiration and I particularly liked the discussion on which character from another author they’d most like to write about. A white haired old lady from St Mary Mead was a popular choice. Thanks to Dave Mack (via Margaret Murphy) for the photo.


Those on Twitter will notice the amount of chat taking place about a podcast coming out from the States. Serial is a week by week investigation into the culpability of Adnan Syed who was convicted of murdering, in 1999, his girlfriend, Hae Min Lee, in Baltimore, US. I’m not a huge fan of real life crime and certainly tend to avoid reading about it. But these podcasts are excellent and compulsive listening. The host, Sarah Koenig, has an impressive grasp of the minutiae of the case but it is the human element of the broadcasts that make them so fascinating. She oscillates between trusting and disbelieving Adnan’s innocence and we, as listeners, are right there with her. I don’t normally review books until I have finished them but for Serial, it is the real time unfolding of the drama that is one of its attractions. Highly recommended.

Iceland Noir

Next Thursday, Iceland Noir begins. I’ll give a full update in my return as there is a intensive programme ofIcelandnoirlogoSm events and panels. Those who want to follow the event can see live tweeting from @NordicNoirBuzz with the #IcelandNoir hashtag. Last year’s conference was a huge success and it’s fast becoming a ‘must attend’ event for readers, writers and fans of Scandinavian crime fiction. Watch this space.

While I’m in Iceland I’m hoping to catch up on my backlog of reading. If you’ve sent me a book for review, I will get there, I promise. I hope you’re all having a good reading month.