A new book from Landing Author Louise Phillips: Last Kiss

Regular readers of The Landing Book Shelves will know that Louise Phillips was a guest here after the publication of her last book The Doll’s House in 2013. She’s back with her latest novel which has been very well reviewed, with the Independent critic saying that “Louise Phillips goes from strength to strength…. Last Kiss is superior and takes her writing to another, more intense level.”  This all means that I’ve become distracted from whatever I was supposed to be reading from the Landing TBR Pile to get stuck into Louise’s novel. Many thanks to Louise and her publishers Hachette for my copy of Last Kiss; it’s always nice to answer the door to a postman bearing a parcel that looks as though it contains a book.

I admit that I did put this aside for a while before reading it as I was involved in school holiday activities and travel plans. Unfortunately I missed the launch of Last Kiss as I was away visiting my family. When I finally settled down to read my book, I became totally caught up in it to the extent of a couple of late nights when I didn’t want to stop reading. The only reason that it was over two late nights and not one, was that I didn’t want to do what I have done so many times before and crashed on reading, only to spoil the book by reading it too fast.

Last Kiss

Darkness awaits you…

Louise Phillips’ thriller Last Kiss is Dr Kate Pearson’s third outing as a criminal profiler with the Dublin police. When we meet Kate again, she is in the process of deciding (or more accurately delaying deciding) whether she and her husband Declan have a future together. They are separated and juggling childcare for their son Charlie, who misses his dad. Kate’s emotional struggle is complicated by the return to the force of DI Adam O’Connor to help in the hunt for the perpetrator of the ritualised knife murder of an art dealer in a Dublin hotel room.

The story begins with an eerie flashback to 1982 when a young girl called Ellen hides away in woodland to give birth to her child. The girl doesn’t feel as if she is quite alone as she labours in the chill of early morning but she sees nobody. The episode raises intriguing questions about what relevance Ellen and her baby will have to the events that will follow and it gives a chilling tone to the novel:

“The child wailed, scrunching its face like a piece of shrivelled rotten fruit, a primal instinct kicking in, telling it that something wasn’t right.”

The elements and motives of the murder case prove to be difficult to unravel and Kate’s work on the criminal’s profile suggests that the murder probably wasn’t the first one to be committed by this person. Will some research into cold cases reveal a similar crime that could provide a lead? Kate is intrigued by the ritual elements of the crime that indicate that the killer is using Tarot cards. But for what purpose? Revenge perhaps? I was fascinated by the details about the Tarot card readings as it’s not something I know anything about.

In her structuring of the novel, Louise Phillips takes the risk of presenting the murderers’ point of view, in alternating chapters:

“I have reasons for doing what I do. You may not know them yet, because I haven’t told you, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. It’s too early for judgement calls, far too early for that… I kill people. I could dress it up, say all kinds of stuff about it, but for now, all you need to know is that I do.”

I said risk, because for an author to try to create a murderer with whom a reader might feel some sympathy/empathy is a tricky manoeuvre to pull off. I think however, that Louise Phillips does so. I wanted to learn more about the killer and to understand the whys and wherefores of the elaborate crime. Why did the murderer feel driven to kill? Is the killer evil or perhaps terribly damaged? This plot device also successfully adds to the twists and tension of the action while building up the history of the murderer and a set of motives.

At the same time as Kate Pearson and Adam are working to solve this case, Sandra Regan becomes increasingly disturbed by a strange presence in her life. She has become convinced that her husband Edgar is having an affair and that the other woman is stalking her and moving objects around in her home, though her friends don’t believe her. The reader must figure out what connects Sandra Regan to the murder under investigation. Is this mysterious ‘other woman’ the Tarot killer?

I don’t want to say too  much more for fear of giving away vital clues. I’ll leave you to read the book and work it out for yourselves. I often feel a sense of dissatisfaction after reading thrillers, a sense of ‘so that’s it then’ when all the twists are over. However, I didn’t get that familiar feeling from the denouement of Last Kiss. The ending was a satisfying conclusion to the case and I have to say that I didn’t guess the killer’s identity before the plot revealed it to me.

As I mentioned above, I was lucky enough to receive a copy of Last Kiss from the publishers, so thanks again for that. If anyone out there would like to have my copy (I’m not a heavy handed reader so it’s still as good as new) then drop me a line in the comment box. Deadline is midnight Sunday and then I’ll put names in a hat on Monday morning and pick  out a winner. Good luck!

Finally, if you want to read more on Louise Phillips, here’s a link to a re-blog from Rebecca Bradley on the question of first drafts that I posted recently

What’s Your First Draft Like? – Louise Phillips

I’m re-blogging this piece from Rebecca Bradley’s crime blog since I’ve recently finished Louise Phillips’ Last Kiss. You might remember that Louise was a guest on The Landing last year after the publication of The Dolls’ House. Last Kiss is another griping read featuring Dr Kate Pearson, who is helping the police to find a killer before she (Kate is convinced that the killer is female) strikes again. Lots of unease, darkness and twists and turns, but also compassion and empathy in the story. More on this book to follow…

Rebecca Bradley

lou_p (2)Today’s First Draft Guest is crime writer Louise Phillips.

Red Ribbons, the bestselling debut novel by Dublin-born crime author Louise Phillips, was nominated for the Ireland AM Crime Fiction Book of the Year award at the BGE Irish Book Awards in 2012. Louise won the award in 2013 for her second novel The Doll’s House. Louise returned to writing in 2006, after raising her family. In addition to her three published novels, Louise’s work has been published as part of various anthologies and literary journals. She has won the Jonathan Swift Award, was a winner in the Irish Writers’ Centre Lonely Voice platform, and her writing has been shortlisted for prizes such as the Molly Keane Memorial Award and Bridport UK.Last Kiss is her third novel and she is currently working on her fourth.

 

When you decide to write something new, what is the first thing…

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Landing Author: Louise Phillips

Red Ribbons & The Doll's House

A Brace of Thrillers

Here as promised is Louise Phillips to add a touch of darkness to The Landing as she answers a couple of my questions about delving into loss and deeply buried emotions. I also couldn’t resist asking a question about Louise’s experience with her promotional video and if you click on the link below you can enjoy a chill down your spine.

I met Louise perhaps not surprisingly, through my job as a bookseller but I have dear old Twitter to thank for enabling us to keep in touch, thus paving the way for this opportunity to have Louise as a guest. Many thanks to the future ‘Grande Dame’ of crime for including me in her Blog Tour and for the thoughtful answers to my questions.

Now, on with the Q & A:

CM: In both of your novels you’ve dealt with the themes of lost children/childhood. Can I ask you what drew you to examine this kind of emotional and physical loss?

LP: I think the ‘who’ of ourselves is found in childhood. I had a challenging one, and it’s made me very aware of beginnings and how the past forms us. With Red Ribbons, I dealt with the loss of a child, and as a mother, this was particularly difficult for me to write. However, just because something is difficult, doesn’t mean you should back away from it. Being a mother certainly helped the writing, and many of the reviews focused on how the narrative dealt with the emotional bond between a mother and her child. I must have done something right, seeing as how it was shortlisted for Best Crime Novel of 2012 in the Irish Book Awards, and despite the difficult nature of the story, it was a story worth telling.

The Doll’s House is very different, and is a story which questions the notion that the past cannot harm you because it has already happened. In The Doll’s House, the main protagonist, Clodagh Hamilton delves deeply into the area of hypnosis and regression. The child and the adult Clodagh Hamilton get to meet via her fragmented recall of memory whilst under hypnotic regression – this was a fascinating concept to me as the writer, the idea that the child self and the adult self could meet. By and large, stories pick you, and it’s not surprising to me that I use a character’s childhood as the backdrop to the ‘who’ of themselves, and also, why they do the things they do. But a great question, and one I will reflect more on.

CM: Psychological thriller novels such as your own work can be very unsettling to read, leaving the reader somewhat less sure of his/her own world. How does the writing process affect you, as you are so involved in the material?

The Doll's House

Dare you enter…?

LP: In many ways, the fictional world is totally real to me when I’m writing it. It has to be, because if it doesn’t feel real to you, it won’t feel real to the reader either. Without wanting to sound over the top about it, I’m drawn to stories and emotions that force me to question and examine things. It nearly always starts with a question ‘why?’ and then ‘how?’, until I become utterly gripped. In some strange way, there are times when it feels like someone else is writing the novel. Despite being close to the material, I also have to separate myself from it. Readers want a great story that is well written, it’s not my opinion that counts, or what I feel about an individual character or what they’ve done. Maybe that protects me in a way, it certainly doesn’t frighten me. The only thing that frightens me about the writing, is first drafts – they are scary, but thankfully a long way from the finished story!

CM: Moving on to a different aspect of writing: You’ve been involved in producing a publicity video for The Doll’s House and I was just wondering whether you enjoy being a part of the promotional aspect of being a writer.

LP: It’s very different from the writing side of things, and I certainly can’t do any major promotional work while I’m writing. Do I enjoy it? Yes, in the main, but it can be hard work too. You have to put yourself out there, and that means taking risks. I was petrified the first time I was on radio, and then on television. When I did my first newspaper interview, it was the same. Now, I’d still be apprehensive, but I don’t let the apprehension stop me, and once I don’t make a mess of it, I’m happy enough. Things like making a book trailer or looking at other imaginative ways of promoting the novel are great fun. I write, so I love coming up with new ideas. The bottom line is that in today’s world it’s very difficult for a new author to get noticed, and the reason you look to be noticed, is that you want readers to read your book. If they do, hopefully, they will return for more. The recession has hit the book industry in a very dramatic way and readers when making their purchase will usually buy a novel by a writer they are familiar with and trust, namely the well-established names. As a new player in the field, it’s an uphill struggle, and anything you can do to encourage others to read your work, is a positive thing, even if it means asking your son-in-law to pretend to be a dead body in the canal!!

And here is that video….be warned…it’s rather creepy!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Louise Phillips

Louise Phillips

Born in Dublin, Louise Phillips returned to writing in 2006, after raising her family. That year, she was selected by Dermot Bolger as an emerging talent. Her work has been published as part of many anthologies, including County Lines from New Island, and various literary journals. In 2009, she won the Jonathan Swift Award for her short story Last Kiss, and in 2011 she was a winner in the Irish Writers’ Centre Lonely Voice platform. She has also been short-listed for the Molly Keane Memorial Award, Bridport UK, and long-listed twice for the RTE Guide/Penguin Short Story Competition. Her bestselling debut novel, Red Ribbons, was shortlisted for Best Irish Crime Novel of the Year (2012) in the Irish Book Awards. The Doll’s House is her second novel.

If you would like to contact Louise Phillips:

http://www.louise-phillips.com

@LouiseMPhillips

http://www.facebook.com/LouisePhillips

Both Red Ribbons and The Doll’s House can be ordered by clicking: http://www.louise-phillips.com/index.php/books/order  or just pop into your local Easons (3 for 2 offer on at the moment) or Dubray branch, or indeed (as the saying goes) any good bookshop.

Thanks again to Louise for taking the time to answer my questions. If you want to join in the conversation, drop a note in the box below.

Credits: promotional material and images supplied by the author with thanks.