When Sarah sent around an email saying there would be a huge tour in the run-up to the Morecambe and Vice festival I thought it would be exciting to sign up and take part. The exciting part, I thought, is that we would be randomly paired up with authors! I mean who knew who you would get, so when I got an email to say I was paired with none other than Chris Merritt, I think I squealed with delight! I had read book 2 and 3 in the Zac Boateng series and I had bought book 1 but had not had the chance to go back to the beginning of this epic series, and now this is my chance! Being dubbed the ‘dream team’ I need to make sure I live up to the expectation!
This is a longish post so I do hope you stick around to read my review and Chris’ Q&A!
So, to share my love for this series and for Zac, the main man and of course Chris, I am sharing both a review of Bring Her Back and we have a fab Q&A that I did with Chris plus we will take a look at the other books in the series, just in case you find yourself short of something to read. For me, Chris is a go-to author for me, I don’t even read the blurb now I just know I have to read it…. #justsaying
So as I am reading and reviewing book 1 later, let us take a look at book 2 instead first, nothing like mixing it up a bit lol.Last Witness by Chris Merritt
Also by this author: Last Witness, Life or Death
Series: Detective Zac Boateng #2
Published by Bookouture on July 23, 2018
Buy on Amazon UK
Add to Goodreads
What if you made one mistake and it came back to kill you?
When Met Police Detective Troy McEwen, is found dead in his home. The official verdict is suicide. But his friend and fellow detective, Zac, believes it was murder. And he thinks he might be next on the killer’s list.
If Troy didn’t take his own life, then who did? As he investigates, Zac discovers a link to an incident from decades earlier. Mistakes were made that day. Lives were lost and secrets kept. Until now…
As more people who were there on that fateful day are found dead, Zac knows that the killer is closing in on him…
A tense crime thriller for fans of Lee Child, Mark Billingham and Mark Dawson. Last Witness is a gripping, fast-paced thriller that will have you hooked from the first page.
Interested yet? Well before we check out Book 3 and my review, here are some of the Q&A just for you!
If you could spend time with a character from your book whom would it be? And what would you do during that day?
I wouldn’t mind sitting in the office of Lewisham’s Major Investigation Team with Zac Boateng and Kat Jones while they ran a murder investigation. I’d love to see them breaking a suspect down in interviews, too. But for pure fascination, it’d have to be a trip to the greyhound track to place some bets with psychopathic maths genius Darian Wallace.
Out of all your books, what was the hardest chapter to finish and why?
Maybe the first chapter of my first book, Bring Her Back, because I knew it had the potential to get me a publishing contract. I wanted it to be perfect which, of course, isn’t possible, but I still edited it about a dozen times. In my third book, Life or Death, I found it really tough to write scenes involving cruelty towards a child, particularly from the child’s perspective. I realised there was a problem when I found myself procrastinating over starting those scenes, which is quite unusual. But I tried to use it as a chance to be out of my comfort zone a bit, and I kept in mind Val McDermid’s advice about carefully considering how much violence is necessary to tell the story, and when it might be slipping into voyeurism. That can be a fine line.
(I cried reading the first chapter of Bring Her Back! It was powerful and it ripped me apart!!)
Are your characters based on real people or did they all come entirely from your imagination?
I tend to start off by taking inspiration from real people I know, but my final characters are usually an amalgam of two or three individuals plus some imagination. That way, they fit the plot better and have the potential to be even more interesting than their real-life counterparts. I like to visualise the characters as I write, and hear them speak their lines of dialogue, so having a real person in mind helps make them authentic and believable. I’ve been fortunate to meet a very wide range of people through my life, working in different jobs and travelling a lot, so the bank of character influences I draw on is pretty broad!
Wow loving the answer so far! Check out more after this short break where we take a look at Book 3!Life or Death by Chris Merritt
Also by this author: Last Witness, Life or Death
Series: Detective Zac Boateng #3
Published by Bookouture on January 23 2019
Buy on Amazon UK
Add to Goodreads
Never forget. Never forgive.
As a detective in the Metropolitan police, Zac is no stranger to murder cases, but this one is different. This is his daughter’s murder.
Years after Amelia died, Zac is still trying to trace the police officer involved in his daughter’s death.
And whilst Zac is prepared to break every rule to find the man responsible, his young and ambitious deputy, Kat, is working on a high-profile case of her own. But she knows Zac is keeping secrets from his team so she’s following his every move.
When one of Zac’s informants is killed, he knows he’s close to catching his man, but before he can act, he receives a call about his son which blows his world apart… And this time, he knows he’ll stop at nothing to save his family.
A gripping and addictive crime thriller for fans of Lee Child, Mark Billingham and Mark Dawson. Life or Death is a unputdownable thriller that will have you reading into the night.
This book is a winner for me! I adored it, and now that I get to go back to the beginning is a real treat for me! So more Q&A!!!
What is your writing Kryptonite?
Without question, sports videos on YouTube. It takes an awful lot of willpower to keep writing when I could be watching a clip featuring one of my favourite climbers or basketball players… Also, staring out of the window into my garden watching the local animals scampering about (although that can be described as ‘thinking’, if anyone asks).
Oh, ok! Our little secret 😉…oh hang on wait……
What’s your schedule like as a writer?
I tend to start early, if possible, often while I’m still eating my breakfast and wearing my dressing gown! The first thing I do is read the last chapter I’ve written to get my mind back into the story, editing as I go. Then I’ll usually write in sections of around 250-500 words, depending on whether I need to do any more research. If I need a change of scenery, I go out to a café, put my headphones on with some drum & bass to shut out the distractions, and write for an hour. I normally take a longish break in the middle of the day, where I’ll do something completely different like run errands or go climbing at the local bouldering gym. Then I’ll come back and write again from mid-afternoon to early evening. On a good day I’ll get 1000-1500 words done, but I try not to put pressure on myself to hit a certain target, because I want to keep the quality as high as possible. I do this about three days a week, and if I’m lucky I’ll squeeze in some extra sessions at the weekend or around my part-time job. Slowly but surely, the book builds up and before I know it, I’ve got 90,000 words or more!
Is there a subject you would never write about? Why?
I’d like to think there was no topic that couldn’t be tackled sensitively while somehow being relevant to the plot of a crime thriller. But since I started writing five years ago, I’ve become much more aware of the debate around ‘ownership’ of an issue – if you’re writing about something very controversial or sensitive, or which affects a minority group of which you’re not a member, do you have a right to tell that story? On the other hand, I think that if writers were limited only to writing about what they know from personal experience, then literature would be seriously impoverished. An example of this is Will Dean’s Dark Pines, where the main character is deaf. Will Dean isn’t deaf, but he researched thoroughly and corresponded with deaf people on their experiences of the disability. The result is that readers will have a better understanding of deafness and its impact on a person’s life by the time they finish the book. To me, that’s part of what writing is about: putting ourselves in someone else’s shoes and broadening our perspectives.
And now the last, but the first book in the series and my review. Be sure to check out after my review the final part of the Q&A, where I have more fun
grilling, asking Chris my questions!
Also by this author: Last Witness, Life or Death
Series: Detective Zac Boateng #1
Published by Bookouture on March 19, 2018
Buy on Amazon UK
Add to Goodreads
As he watches his daughter turn the corner and out of sight, he hears the shots. He’d know that sound anywhere. He shouts her name. Silence. All he can do is run.
It’s been five years since Zac’s daughter was murdered. Her killer was never found. Now he’s back working as a detective for the Metropolitan Police, and he’s more determined than ever to bring the city’s killers to justice.
When a man is found brutally murdered in a rundown south London shop, all fingers point to the highly intelligent and manipulative Darian Wallace. He’s just been released, and two years ago the victim helped send him to prison.
Still grieving, Zac knows it will take everything he’s got to catch this dangerously clever killer. But just as he feels he’s getting closer, he realises all is not quite as it seems and makes a devastating personal discovery.
Zac has a choice to make – risk letting this killer escape or watch his daughter’s murderer get away again…
An absolutely gripping thriller for fans of Mark Billingham, Peter James and Lee Child. Bring Her Back is one fast-paced thriller you won’t be able to put down.
This book was previously published as The Murder List
✮ My Review ✮
I have now finally read the first book in the series and it was amazing! Although I have one small complaint; because I knew what was going to happen in the book as I have read book two and three; I did not expect that in the opening chapter of the book to be bawling like a baby! Jeez! I was a wreck, I mean the blow had been softened as I knew what was coming but I still not expect that, my heart is broken completely. It is such a powerful way to open the book and it is a sucker punch in the gut but it gets you hooked straight away to Zac and his life.
I thought I had seen Zac at his lowest, however, this is the start of his low point. The scenes with Etta and Kofi made me smile, the home life is the strong point for Zac and the love for his family, his roots, all power us through. The only downside to Zac, well he goes a bit off the books and keeps his team in the dark. Zac is crippled with guilt and the feeling of letting everyone down. The depression is crushing and sometimes it the grief is so overwhelming you wonder how Zac is going to function, he has a new lease of life following a lead to close down his past. It leads him in the darker world of gangs, recognising he is getting too deep but unable to escape until it is too late.
It was fab to meet Darian Wallace in this book and this man has an amazing brain, I must admit it is a brain I am slightly jealous of! The man not so much! Watching him on a mission to reclaim the stolen years as he is on release from prison. He is cold and calculating and I was intrigued to see how everything would end especially as I have read the later books.
It is so hard to discuss the book without ruining the plot, and that is something I do not do! We have two different storylines running parallel throughout and when you see Zac mixed up in the fold, well the world may as have collapsed around me with the shocks and turns. I did have an inkling to where either of the stories might go and it really did not disappoint me.
I kept forgetting that this is a debut as I have read them in the wrong order, so it was awesome to see how the story all began. I wish I had read them in order but I think I am glad I read them in the order I did. I had the chance to truly appreciate how far his writing has come and to see how far the characters have come too. I have always loved Zac and this has just made him a firm favourite character of mine, I need another book in this series!!
Bring Her Back, formerly The Murder List, is one intense rollercoaster of a ride. I did find I was enthralled by what was going on with Darian and Zac. Zac’s homelife was at the forefront a lot, the innocence of Kofi all of which just amplified the intensity of the murders and the hunt for the killer. We meet Kat Jones who is also in the next two books and this is her introduction to Zac and the team and to us. She is tenacious and she wants to do what is right and to support Zac and her new team, and what an introduction it is!!
Chris has written characters that you care about, you hold your breath, you champion them on to the end and you might shout a little bit with all the secrets that are kept. However, when it comes to Zac and his family it seems that he always keeps secrets, as it seems the same behaviour can be seen in Life or Death, I do hope he learns soon that Kat and Etta can be trusted.
The book is at times can be dark and intense, brutal murders and so many times you will find your heart in your throat but I loved it!! It kept me on my toes and if I had not been moving house I would have devoured this book a lot quicker than I did. All I wanted to do was get back to the book, it was on my mind, I had to know who was acting out the murders? Would Zac be ok? How is Kat going to fit in the team? Don’t worry all is revealed in the book! Phew!!
This series shows us a Detective in the rawest form, his home life is prominent and he is a Detective with passion, tenacity and a lot of flaws! I love this series and I do not want it to end…please don’t let it end!
And after that whirlwind! Here is the last part of the Q&A with Chris!
If you had to write yourself, would you be a hero or would you be villainous? What would you be like and what would you name yourself?
Jack Reacher fantasies aside, I’d probably write myself as a hero who does some villainous things because he has to. While there’s something very reassuring about a black-and-white hero/villain divide, I think the most interesting characters are ambiguous in terms of their motivations and actions. Bad with a streak of good, or good with a streak of bad. I believe that even good people (among which I’d count myself!) have the capacity to do bad things for good reasons, or when left with no choice. I like exploring these ideas in my books. A great example of the bad hero / good villain ambiguity is in the Netflix series Godless, where the hero is a wanted criminal, and the villain is a protector of orphaned children.
What question have you always wanted to be asked in an interview? How would you answer it?
One that comes to mind is: which crime thriller plot did I wish I’d come up with, and why? There are several candidates, but I think my answer would be Headhunters by Jo Nesbo – it’s a brilliant standalone novel and a fantastic film. The plot is really original, relatively simple and yet sustains tension throughout. It manages to be sinister and funny at the same time, while remaining plausible. I think there’s a lot of pressure on writers to come up with ideas that have series potential, but a standalone that’s completely wrapped up at the end allows for a lot of creativity, and you don’t have to worry about killing off the main characters! In terms of a TV series, I wish I’d come up with Save Me. Lennie James did an incredible job devising and writing it, and like Headhunters it’s a story that manages to offset the darkness of its crimes with humour while being totally gripping.
And I promise, final question!! What are you working on now?
I’m writing a new series of psychological serial-killer thrillers, featuring Met police Detective Inspector Dan Lockhart and American clinical psychologist Dr Lexi Green. Val McDermid’s brilliant Carol Jordan and Tony Hill series was an inspiration for this, as well as my own experiences as a clinical psychologist in the NHS. Book one is in the process of being edited, and I’ve just started plotting book two. I spend a lot of time plotting a novel – sometimes up to two months getting the story plan exactly how I want it – before starting to write. For me, the plotting phase is one of the best bits. It’s a chance to come up with plenty of ideas and see what I think will work. Book one is published in March 2020 with Bookouture, so keep an eye out for it! I’m also developing some concepts for TV with the input of a production company, which involves drawing up short concept notes for thrillers and pitching them to see if the producers think they’d work for a TV audience. This is great because I can be a bit more experimental with the storylines, since TV tends to emphasise originality while publishers prefer tried-and-tested stuff. Eventually, I’d love to try writing a screenplay.
I now know what I am going to be waiting for – is it March 2020 yet??????
Thank you so much, Chris, for answering my questions today! I hope I have done the Dream Team proud!
Until next time xxx
Check out a snippet here of Bring her Back by Chris Merritt
Be sure to check out more about this epic festival here and to buy tickets. Also check out Sarah’s post here to know about the festival and a Q&A with the organisers Tom Fisher and Ben Cooper-Muir! It makes for fab reading!
Reading this book contributed to these challenges: