All Is Not Forgotten by Wendy Walker

Published by HQ on February 23, 2017

Erasing Violent Crime – Is It Really That Simple?
Wendy Walker

In my recent thriller, All Is Not Forgotten, a teenage girl’s memory of a violent sexual assault is medically erased. Before you start to think this is science fiction, consider the fact that researchers are already altering some components of trauma memories using drugs. Many believe it is only a matter of time before we will be able to target and erase unpleasant memories entirely. From car accidents to shootings to sexual assault – imagine being able to zap those memories forever.

But for survivors of violent crimes, is this really as good as it sounds? Can we really erase a violent crime by erasing the memory?

Part of my research for All Is Not Forgotten involved reading the accounts of rape survivors describing their attacks, and the emotional suffering that followed. While each account was unique, one thing was the same in virtually every piece that I read. The factual memory of the rape was only part of the emotional pain. But we already know this from survivors who have no factual memory due to date rape drugs, alcohol, and other substances that rendered the survivor unconscious or unable to retain memories during the attack. The mere knowledge that they were assaulted, as they describe it - violated, rendered powerless, their will and their bodily integrity eviscerated – these things cause pain even in the absence of any memory of the attack itself. That pain is severe and enduring.

The following conclusion emerged. We are not machines. We are not only the product of our factual memories. As human beings, we have powerful feelings from things that are purely conceptual, spiritual, and not at all necessary or even related to our survival. Pride, integrity, honor, to name but a few. The simple knowledge that the crime occurred is what wounds these things, and they cannot be healed by erasing a memory.

While memory altering drugs and treatments can serve to mitigate PTSD and other physical manifestations of emotional pain, I think it is dangerous to think we can erase a crime simply by erasing the memory. As memory science marches forward, this will surely be one of the most intriguing issues that we will have to face.

believed, or worse, that they will be blamed. Every generation has witnessed newsworthy accounts of rape prosecutions where the woman’s story is torn apart by her behavior, her appearance, or her “poor judgment.” And we have heard the argument that “boys will be boys” in many forms and contexts. How we perceive these cases is inextricably tied to how we perceive the rights of women and men and the power that they should be afforded. And those perceptions are now at risk of change.

Regardless of our individual views on various economic and social policies, regardless of our political affiliations, women have taken to the streets, in part, to make one thing very clear. The anger that underlies the political climate cannot result in an increase of sexual violence against women, or a decrease in prosecutions and sentencing for those crimes.

So what more can be done now that the marches have ended and the urgency of the situation has faded? The best arguments I have read call for zero tolerance of any degradation of women and any exertion of power over women through the use of sex. That means zero tolerance of sexual harassment. Zero tolerance of unwanted touching and “grabbing.” Zero tolerance of unwanted explicit text messaging. Zero tolerance for sexual assault of any kind. We already have laws against these things. What we need now is for women to use those laws, use their voices, and use the power they do have within their work, their schools, their families and their personal lives to continue to send the message of zero tolerance. The appropriate venue for the anger driving today’s political climate is in the political arena, and not through an exertion of power through physical oppression and violence.

Before the Rains by Dinah Jefferies

Published by Viking on February 23, 2017

Before the Rains is not only an intricate and beguiling tale of forbidden love but also an emotionally layered depiction of the contrast between the rich and poverty stricken in India and another mesmerising tale by a strong voice in historical fiction. I always look forward to a new Dinah Jefferies book and none of them ever disappoint. This one drew me in straight away and I have to say it resulted in the quickest time I’ve ever finished one of Dinah’s books. Normally with historical fiction I like to read slowly and savour every word, but I was so absorbed in this book I just couldn’t bring myself to put it down.

Before the Rains is rich in detail and description and I absolutely loved how Dinah could bring every scene to life with the vivid way she built up India, the appearance, the sense of time and place, the traditions and the characters within. There is nothing better than when an author transports you into the midst of their novel where every sight and smell, every twist and turn in the tale is real because you are there with the characters, seeing everything unfold right in front of you. The storytelling in this book is beautifully atmospheric and full of colour. I was completely enthralled by the India inside Before the Rains.

The novel tells us the story of Eliza. We meet her in India where she witnesses the tragic death of her father, who falls victim to a bombing. Eliza then returns to England. Years later, as a keen photographer and now a widow herself after the death of her husband, Eliza is offered the prestigious opportunity to return to India and photograph the royal family. I enjoyed seeing Eliza return to India especially after the sadness she had endured when she left. It was fascinating to see how she would take to life in India again. Swiftly upon her return she meets Jay, the Prince’s brother. Though things don’t run smoothly for them straight away, there is a connection there, which leads to the book’s engaging and heartstrings-tugging forbidden love story.

I love an against-the-odds romance tale. But an against-the-odds romance written by Dinah Jefferies? So much better.

I could do nothing but root for Eliza and Jay. I truly loved them both. They were both incredibly interesting characters. The characterisation throughout, but for me especially with Eliza and Jay, was stunning and really helped me connect with the story. The disapproval that society, and the people closest to them, showed towards their growing feelings for each other only made me root for them more. Eliza was such a strong character though, so she could definitely stand up for herself. I liked how determined she was and how much she cared – she was very upset at the suffering other people had to endure – and I felt sadness along with Eliza at some of the tragedies she encounters.

I too was sad to come to the end of Before the Rains. Dinah Jefferies delivered a wonderful, spellbinding escape for me as the reader, whilst also leaving me with a story that will be difficult, if not impossible, to forget.

The Breakdown by B A Paris

Published by HQ on February 9, 2017

Thank you for joining me for an interview on my blog. Can you tell us one thing we would be surprised to learn about you?

Thank you for inviting me! I would love to say that I free-fall out of aeroplanes or something equally exciting but there’s nothing I can really tell you. I’d love to open a tea-room one day. Second to writing, I love making cakes.

Did anything in particular inspire the story of The Breakdown?

I was travelling home one afternoon through some woods when the sky suddenly became dark, the skies opened and I found myself in the middle of a huge storm, complete with flash-flooding. It was quite scary and I began to wonder what I would do if it was the middle of the night and I saw someone who had broken down at the side of the road. Would I stop and help them? Or afraid for my own safety, would I drive on? I thought it was an interesting dilemma and The Breakdown was born.

Cass is plagued with guilt that she didn’t stop to help the person in the parked up car. In Cass’s shoes, would you have done more to help?

Like Cass, I’m not sure I would have got out of my car. But I would definitely have phoned the local police to tell them about her. Or I would have asked someone to go back with me to check on her.

How did the experience of writing The Breakdown differ from writing Behind Closed Doors?

It was a very different experience. I wrote Behind Closed Doors for myself, with no particular reader in mind. I wrote The Breakdown with the readers of Behind Closed Doors in mind, which made it more difficult. With Behind Closed Doors, there was no pressure to deliver anything particular. With The Breakdown, I was conscious of having to deliver the same kind of reader experience. I felt a loyalty to those who had loved Behind Closed Doors and I didn’t want to let them down.

Given the success of Behind Closed Doors, as publication day for The Breakdown approaches have you found there’s added pressure for it to receive as good a reception as your debut?

Yes, definitely. I think a large part of the success of Behind Closed Doors was that it was different from anything that was out there at the time. It’s difficult to come up with something original, to write a story with an angle that nobody has thought of before, especially in the genre of psychological thrillers. I know there will be comparisons with Behind Closed Doors and I’m prepared for people to say that they didn’t enjoy it as much. But there are some readers who have enjoyed it more, which is very encouraging!

If you could choose one book published during the past year that you would recommend we read, what book would that be?

The Light Between The Oceans by ML Steadman, because it’s a beautiful and moving story - and not a psychological thriller!

What do you enjoy the most about being an author?

Being able to do what I love. I used to have a heavy teaching schedule but I’ve given up most of it to be able to concentrate on writing. It’s a luxury to be able to do that.

What does your typical writing day look like?

I get all the mundane things out of the way first – housework, washing, ironing - because I can’t concentrate if I know there are things to be done. And then I sit down at my computer, usually in the kitchen but if I’m cold, I’ll get under the quilt and write in bed. I don’t see the time passing when I’m writing so sometimes I don’t have lunch until 3pm. If I get stuck, I have a break, catch up on emails, go for a walk. And then I write again until the evening.

What do you do when you aren’t writing?

On the days that I don’t teach, I’ll have lunch with a friend, maybe go shopping. And I try to make inroads into my huge TBR pile. I enjoy going to the cinema because I’m more likely to concentrate on the story than if I watch a film on television. I’m always writing in my head so I never really switch off, which means I lose the plot very quickly!

In both Behind Closed Doors and The Breakdown, I have loved the level of suspense and the twists and turns throughout. I wonder how much about your story you know before you begin writing it, or if sometimes you discover those surprises in the plot just like the reader does?

I know the beginning and endings of my stories but the part in-between is often a wonderful voyage of discovery. Sometimes a twist just happens, all on its own, and it’s a lovely surprise. It’s just happened with Book 3!

Finally, if you could pick the dream cast for The Breakdown, who would star in the movie?

Dan Stevens for Matthew, Emma Stone for Cass and Jennifer Lawrence for Rachel.

Under the Harrow by Flynn Berry

Published by W&N on February 9, 2017

Under the Harrow was one of those books that had me refusing to sleep until I found out who, and why. The mystery was hugely compelling and the author writes intrigue and suspense so beautifully that I couldn’t wait to delve deeper into the dark layers of her novel. This book had me hooked from page one as I was drawn into the haunting, atmospheric writing and eager to discover the story of Nora and her now murdered sister.

Nora is paying her sister a visit but as she gets to her home, she discovers she has been brutally stabbed eleven times and murdered. Of course, she’s not content with the police investigation as to Rachel’s murder and so she attempts to uncover the culprit herself. The only clue Nora has to begin with is that many years ago, her sister was attacked. But as the story develops, there are many more clues and red herrings along the way as Nora discovers that the sister she had was not entirely the sister she knew.

From the beginning, I loved this book. I loved how the story was narrated and I loved following Nora’s thought processes throughout as she attempts to solve the mystery of her sister’s death. That’s not to say Nora was an easy character to understand though, and at times I was a bit confused by her. I couldn’t always work out where she was at or what or who she was thinking about. In the middle section of the book especially, things would quickly change from the present day to Nora recalling another Rachel memory and so it did take a little bit of work to keep up with.

This style of writing had my suspicions all over the place, as I thought I had Rachel’s murderer picked out early on but then I couldn’t stop changing my mind. I was suspicious of almost everybody at some point and didn’t guess anywhere near correctly the true extent of what had happened. For me, Under the Harrow definitely had a great shock factor without it appearing forced or contrived. I’d find myself so settled into the story I was convinced I knew where things were going and then a twist weaved its way into the plot and completely changed everything I thought I knew. I loved this aspect to the book as it had me really engrossed in the story and paying attention to all the little details to see if I could work out who had really murdered Rachel.

Under the Harrow is a book about secrets and obsession. It’s fascinating to read and extremely atmospheric in its prose. Nora’s narration is very gripping, as is the change in her character. From the moment she discovers Rachel is dead, her thoughts turn to solving the mystery until it is all she can think about. She becomes obsessive and fixated on certain people in particular, veering on the edge of stalking and harassing them. I was always wondering what lengths she would go to, and how she would handle things, and I couldn’t wait to see what was to come next. I found Under the Harrow to be a haunting and chilling book with a great ending that really did the story justice.

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