NTN: Women to watch in 2013

The female of the species is far deadlier than the male, they say, and this could indeed be the case when it comes to crime authors. Every year you’ll find a plethora of strong debuts by women writers in the genre, and for New Talent November we decided to pinpoint five new female who are definitely on the up…

Tanya Byrne: The Heart-Shaped Bruise
Loosely classed as young adult fiction, this psychological thriller is the first-person account of Emily Koll, daughter of one of London’s most ruthless gangsters, inmate of the psychiatric unit of Archway Young Offenders Institution. Incarcerated after taking revenge on another girl, 18-year-old Emily tells us how and why she did it. Unapologetic, intent on setting the record straight, the voice of the young girl is captured impeccably by Byrne. The author describes an unbearably bleak world of despair, self-harm, suicide and mental health problems. It’s similar to Girl, Interrupted partly because these self-destructive tendencies are so prevalent among female prisoners. A haunting and disturbing read, this novel was shortlisted for the CWA New Blood Dagger. A powerful first novel by a new talent surely destined for great things.
Buy now on Amazon

Sara J Henry: Learning to Swim
Sara J Henry’s first foray into crime fiction has been showered with awards in the US, winning both the Anthony and Agatha awards for best first novel in 2012 and a finalist in for three other gongs. While standing on the deck of a ferry bound for Vermont, freelance writer Troy Chance sees a small boy tossed over the side. Without thinking, she jumps to his rescue and discovers that the child speaks only French and no-one has reported him missing. She becomes fiercely protective of the boy and is determined to get to the bottom of things, setting off a chain of events that will embroil her in a kidnapping plot spanning fromVermont all the way up to Canada. This is a well-told mystery of a lost child and a mature woman’s journey of self-discovery, successfully straddling multiple genres.  The second Troy Chance novel, A Cold and Lonely Place is out in February 2013.
Buy now on Amazon

Attica Locke: The Cutting Season
Screenwriter Atticka Locke’s debut, the political crime thriller Black Water Rising, was shortlisted for the Orange Prize in 2010. However The Cutting Season fits much more neatly into the crime genre, but is also about coming to terms with history and the black legacy in the Southern United States. It is much crisper, better-paced and more readable than the first novel. At the former plantation of Belle Vie in Louisiana, present day descendants of slaves participate in a re-enactment of the land’s dark history. Manager Caren Gray is a calm, competent black woman whose mother used to work in the big house when it was still the family home of the owners. When she discovers a woman’s body in a shallow grave on the property’s boundary her life is turned upside down. The victim was a migrant worker for the cane-cutting operation on the other side of the fence. Determined to have the woman’s death taken seriously, she is digging up the past both literally and figuratively. And it’s a past perfectly rendered in this outstanding, thought-provoking novel.
Buy now on Amazon

Louise Millar: The Playdate
Millar’s debut taps into the primal fear a mother can experience when leaving her child in someone else’s care. But what choice does Londoner Callie Roberts have? She relies heavily on her American neighbour and good friend Suzy, who has a large and happy family. Yet Suzy’s marriage is disintegrating, and when secretive Debs moves into their affluent street things come to a head. The Playdate is a chilling evocation of the superficial relationships and underlying loneliness of modern urban life. It starts off like a chick lit novel but the domesticity soon gives way to something far more menacing and unsettling, as layers of secrets and pretence are stripped bare. Millar writes in a very readable style which will appeal even to readers less partial to the crime genre. Her next standalone thriller, Accidents Happen, comes out in 2013.
Buy now on Amazon

Kate Rhodes: Crossbones Yard
Having signed a three book deal with Mulholland, Kate Rhoades can now afford to be a full-time writer and Crossbones Yard is the first novel in a series featuring Alice Quentin, a psychologist and occasional police profiler in London. One night Alice finds a girl’s body at Crossbones Yard, a graveyard for prostitutes in Victorian London. As she starts to profile the killer, she notices similarities to a previous, notorious case. Seven years earlier, Ray and Marie Benson  killed 13 women before they were caught. Reluctant to get involved, Alice visits Marie in a secure psychiatric unit to find out if there might be a copycat killer out there. However, her drug-addict brother Will is somehow involved with both the case and she soon finds herself threatened from all sides. Rhodes atmospherically recreates the streets of London, and Alice is a strong, self-sufficient heroine, though she’s haunted by a violent past. A thrilling page-turner and a promising start for a complex heroine.
Buy now on Amazon

Read last year’s NTN article on the best new female authors here.

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