All posts by Sam Blake

The Story Behind In Deep Water…

In March 1993 I had been in Ireland for six months when a report aired on the lunchtime news  about an American student who had vanished from a place less than ten minutes from where I was sitting in Bray, County Wicklow. She was American, I am English. She was 26, I was 23. We were both foreigners around the same age. I felt an immediate connection with her.

What on earth had happened?

It was cold that March, it has been a grim grey winter and by mid-afternoon the days were starting to draw in. I was glued to the news to see how the investigation was progressing.  The search was exhaustive including a hand search through hundreds of acres of woodland, particularly in Crone wood, three miles south of Enniskerry.

A couple of weeks after the televised, print and radio appeals began, a doorman at Johnnie Fox’s pub, 8km from Enniskerry, reported seeing Annie on the night she disappeared – she appeared to be scanning the room as if she was looking for someone. The doorman stopped her to tell her there was a cover charge in this part of the bar. A man in his twenties wearing a waxed jacket, who was standing behind her in the queue, paid the charge for both of them. Johnny Fox’s was packed that night, a company party was taking place (which a friend of my husband’s was attending). Annie was a tall girl – 5ft 8 – and with her striking looks and American accent I always thought she would have stood out, but from the reports at the time, the two doormen appear to be the only people who remember seeing her. Was she intending on meeting someone there?

Originally from Long Island, New York,  Annie had travelled back and forth to Ireland since 1987, finally moving here in January 1993 to study at St. Patrick’s Training College in Drumcondra. Her flatmates Jill last saw her sitting knitting on her bed before she left for work.

Later that morning Annie was captured on CCTV at the AIB in Sandymount, she did some shopping in Quinnsworth (her receipt was issued at 11.02am) and used the phone box outside the bank. She called her friend Anne to see if she’d like to go for a walk in the mountains. It’s a four minute walk to Annie’s apartment from the Bank, did she go straight home, or did she go somewhere else first and meet someone, or call them, on the way?  It’s thought she left her apartment again around 2.30 or 3pm – what was she doing in that time?  She left her shopping in the supermarket bags on the table, not unpacking, as if perhaps, she was in a hurry.

It was pretty cold and damp that March, although 25th and 26th were dry and bright. I always wondered why Annie had taken two buses to get to Enniskerry when she had the whole of Sandymount strand to walk, so much closer by. I felt she must have a reason for going there.  If walking was her plan, by the time she got to the village and was seen visiting the post office, the best of the day would have been over. The clocks went forward  two days later on Sunday 28th March,, sunset on 26th was at 6.48pm.

I’ve always felt that Annie was meeting someone that day. There is time apparently unaccounted for in her morning and three to four hours between her arriving in the village and being seen in Johnny Fox’s remain unaccounted for. I don’t think anyone in their right mind would walk that road up to Johnny Fox’s in the winter at the end of the day, so I’ve always wondered if she met someone in the village, perhaps went for a drive in the mountains and then stopped in Johnny Fox’s on the way back down.  It’s pure speculation and could be my writer’s mind working overtime, but I know if I was going to catch two buses anywhere, there would need to be a good reason. And walking around a village on my own in the dark in March wouldn’t have been enough.

I had Annie’s story at the back of my mind as I was plotting In Deep Water – as a writer you hear stories that you can’t forget, stories that nudge at you. Part of In Deep Water is set in Enniskerry and the story involves an American student going missing. Set in 2016 though, Detective Garda Cat Connolly has a huge range of resources available to her that weren’t available to the Gardai in 1993, and she uncovers information that leads her into the Dublin underworld of organised crime. Did Annie meet a career criminal who told her too much and had to murder her to protect himself? One theory is that she met a member of the IRA who was lying low, but who revealed too much trying to impress her.

There may never be answers to what happened to Annie, but  I sincerely hope there will be one day. And I hope that her story, like the stories of all the missing women, are kept alive so that perhaps someone will remember something that will make a difference. And that one day, their families may have the resolution that’s available to us in fiction, but tragically can prove more elusive in real life.

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Join Me in Waterstones Piccadilly 1st March

In London on 1st March? Join me and incredible crime writers Jane Casey and Claire McGowan in Waterstones Piccadilly, Europe’s biggest bookstore, for The Deadly Opening Chapter: How to Slay a Literary Agent, we’ll have top tips on what makes a brilliant opening chapter plus info on what the market, and agents, are looking for at the moment.
It’s a free event but you can register here to be sure of a seat!

Join me for a drink in the bar afterwards, there will be lots of authors hanging out!

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In Deep Water Out Now…

I’m delighted to say that book two in the Cat Connolly series was released in Ireland in April 2017, and will be coming to the UK in February 2018!

So what’s it about?

Here’s the blurb!

For fans of TENNISON and MISSING PRESUMED, comes the gripping follow-up to the number 1 bestseller, LITTLE BONES.

Good intentions can be deadly . . .

Cat Connolly is back at work after the explosion that left her on life support. Struggling to adjust to the physical and mental scars, her workload once again becomes personal when her best friend Sarah Jane Hansen, daughter of a Pulitzer-winning American war correspondent, goes missing.

Sarah Jane is a journalism student who was allegedly working on a story that even her father thought was too dangerous.

With Sarah Jane’s father uncontactable, Cat struggles to find a connection between Sarah Jane’s work and her disappearance. But Sarah Jane is not the only one in deep water when Cat comes face to face with a professional killer . . .

In the world of missing persons every second counts, but with the clock ticking, can Cathy find Sarah Jane before it’s too late?

Pre-order on Amazon here!

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Read An Extract…

Little Bones

Chapter 1

The door to the back bedroom hung open.

Pausing at the top of the narrow wooden stairs, Garda Cathy Connolly could just see inside, could see what looked like the entire contents of the wardrobe flung over the polished floorboards, underwear scattered across the room like litter. The sun, winter weak, played through a window opposite the door, its light falling on something cream, illuminating it bright against the dark denim and jewel colours of the tumbled clothes on the floor.

Cathy’s stomach turned again and she closed her eyes, willing the sickness to pass. There was a riot of smells up here, beeswax, ghostly layers of stale perfume, something musty. She put her gloved hand to her mouth and the smell of the latex, like nails on a blackboard, set her teeth on edge.

Until thirty-six hours ago Cathy had been persuading herself that her incredibly heightened sense of smell and queasiness were the start of a bug. Some bug. But right now her problems were something she didn’t have the headspace to deal with. She had a job to do. Later, when she was on her own in the gym, when it was just her and a punchbag, that was when she’d be able to think. And boy did she have a lot to think about.

Pulling her hand away from her mouth, Cathy impatiently pushed a dark corkscrew curl that had escaped from her ponytail back behind her ear. Too thick to dry quickly, her hair was still damp from her early-morning training session in the pool, but that was the least of her worries. She folded her arms tightly across her chest and breathed deeply, slowly fighting her nausea. Inside her head, images of the bedroom whirled, slightly out of focus, blurred at the edges.

When the neighbour had called the station this morning, this had presented as a straightforward forced entry. That was until the lads had entered the address into the system and PULSE had thrown up a report from the same property made only the previous night. The householder, Zoë Grant, had seen a man lurking in the garden. Watching her. Cathy would put money on him doing a bit more than just watching. One of the Dún Laoghaire patrol cars had been close by, had arrived in minutes, blue strobes illuminating the lane. But the man had vanished. More than likely up the footpath that ran through the woods from the dead end of the cul-de-sac to the top of Killiney Hill.

And now someone had broken in.

It was just as well Zoë Grant hadn’t been at home.

Cathy thrust her hands into the pockets of her combats and fought to focus. Christ, she was so sick of feeling sick. The one thing that Niall McIntyre, her coach – ‘The Boss’ – drilled into her at every single training session was that winning was about staying in control. Staying in control of her training; her fitness; her diet.

Staying in control of her breakfast.

And she’d got to be the Women’s National Full-Contact Kickboxing champion three times in a row by following his advice.

Below in the hallway, Cathy could hear Thirsty, the scenes-ofcrime officer, bringing in his box of tricks, its steel shell reverberating off the black and white tiles as he called up to her.

‘If this one is Quinn, O’Rourke will be delighted. Have a look at her shoes; he’s got a thing about bloody shoes. Lines them up and does his thing . . .’ The disgust was loud in his voice.

Trying to steady herself, Cathy took a deep breath. DI Dawson O’Rourke might be dying to nail ‘Nifty’ Quinn, but she knew he wouldn’t be at all impressed if he could see her now. Dún Laoghaire was a new patch for him, but they went way back. And . . . Christ, this wasn’t the time to throw up.

Shoes. Look for the shoes.

‘The place is upside down, there’s . . .’ Her voice sounded hollow. But what could she say, there’s a bad smell? No question that would bring guffaws of laughter from Thirsty. And she was quite sure no one else would be able to smell it; it was like the kitchen back at her shared house. If Decko, their landlord, or one of the other lads she rented with had left the fridge open or the lid off the bin, she couldn’t even get in the door. Thank God they hadn’t noticed. Yet. Decko fancied himself as an impersonator and there was no way she was ready to be the butt of his jokes.

Taking a deep breath, Cathy edged through the door, the heels on her boots echoing on the wooden floorboards. Downstairs she heard another voice. The neighbour this time, calling from outside the front door.

‘How are you getting on?’

‘Grand, thanks. A member of the detective unit is examining upstairs.’ Cathy could tell from his response that Thirsty had his public smile in place. ‘Any sign of Miss Grant?’

‘Zoë? Not yet. I’ll try her again in a minute. It’s going to be an awful shock. He didn’t take that big painting, did he? The old one of the harbour? I’ve always loved that.’ The neighbor paused, then before Thirsty could comment continued: ‘Is there anything I can do? Can I get you a cup of tea?’

Listening to Thirsty making small talk, Cathy focused back on the room. She needed to pull herself together and get on with this. They couldn’t hold Nifty Quinn for ever. She could hear O’Rourke’s voice in her head.

What had he been looking for? Cash? Jewellery? Or some sort of trophy? This didn’t feel like a Nifty job to Cathy, and she’d seen enough that were. Whatever about him being picked up in the area this morning acting suspiciously, and his thing for single women, this felt different, more personal. But only Zoë Grant would know for sure if anything was missing. A lipstick? A pair of knickers?

Cathy had seen worse, but standing here in the ransacked bedroom, her six years on the force didn’t help make her feel any less unclean. How would the woman who lived here feel when she got home? Someone had been in her bedroom . . .

Cathy scanned the tumble of fabrics on the floor. The cream silk was a misfit with the blacks, purples and embroidered blue denim. The colour of sour milk, it looked like a . . . wedding dress?

Bobbing down on her haunches, Cathy let the folds of milky fabric play through her fingers. The disturbance released more of the ancient perfume, the scent jangling like a set of keys. The silk had torn where it had caught on a nail in the wardrobe door, minute stitches unravelling along the hem, opening a deep cleft in the fabric. Tugging gently, Cathy tried to lift it from the pin. The seam widened and she caught a glimpse of something dark inside.

What the feck was that?

Whatever it was had fallen in deeper as she moved the silk. Leaning forward, Cathy teased the two edges apart with her fingertips, trying to get a better look.

She needed more light.

‘Thirsty, have you got a torch down there?’ Cathy’s voice was too loud in the stillness of the room. Then she heard Thirsty’s footsteps on the stairs and a moment later his greying head appeared in the doorway, a heavy rubber torch in his hand.

‘Got something?’

‘Not sure.’ Frowning, she stood up to take the torch. ‘There’s –’ A voice calling from downstairs interrupted her.

Thirsty rolled his eyes. ‘Jesus, it’s the bloody neighbour back. Call me if you need me.’

Cathy flashed him a grin and, crouching down again beside the pile of clothes, played the torch over them, double-checking before she went back to the dress. Looking for what? She wasn’t sure. Fibres? Blood? She shook her head half to herself.

This was something different. She could feel it in the pit of her stomach, could feel the hairs rising on the back of her neck.

What was she expecting to find? Had the guy who had been here left some sort of gift? Like Nifty? Christ, she hoped not. Normally she could take all of that in her stride, but today she wasn’t so sure.

Cathy suddenly realised she was feeling nervous – which was stupid. What could possibly be in an old dress, in a room like this, that was making her heart pound? She’d been in the force too long, had seen too much for this to spook her. But for some reason it was, and spooking her badly. Cathy could feel her palms sweating, absorbing the talc on the inside of her blue latex gloves. Were her hormones making her supersensitive? This was crazy.

Clearing her throat, she swung the beam of the torch onto the gap she had made in the creamy silk. There was definitely something there. Cathy eased back the seam, opening the fabric to the torchlight.

Pale grey shards. Hidden deep within the folds.

Shards of what? Something old. The rhyme took off like a kite inside her head. Something old, something new . . . Shaking it away, she lifted the weight of the silk and, holding the torch up, slipped her fingers into the seam, prising it apart. The stitches were minute, little more than a whisper along the hemmed edge.

Then she saw them. More shards. Tiny, twig-like, tumbling as the fabric moved. And in a moment of absolute clarity she realised what they were.

And the nausea came like a tidal wave.

Bones. Tiny bones. The unmistakable slant of a jaw, the curve of a rib.

‘Thirsty, I need you up here now!’

This was going to make O’Rourke’s day. First the FBI – and now this…

Pick up your copy online here!

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Writing Crime

In her day job Sam Blake works with authors across all genres, so why does she write crime?

She explains: “I’m fascinated by what makes people tick, by how they interact and react, and by the thin, sometimes blurred line between good and evil. What makes someone kill? Is it nature or nurture, passion, anger – or revenge?

Writing crime fiction is like creating a crossword puzzle. Characters intersect, their actions causing events that become as entangled as the black and white squares on the page. An idea starts with a headline, or an overheard snatch of conversation, an ‘ooh, now that’s interesting’ moment, and a lightbulb goes on in your head. Joining the lightbulb moments together, giving the characters time to reveal themselves and their part in the drama is the most exciting part of the process. Like looking at the empty squares in the crossword and slowly filling  in the blanks.

Why crime? Perhaps because I’m naturally curious, perhaps because I’m interested more by what is going on inside someone’s head than by their outward appearence, perhaps because I’m married to a ex-cop….recently retired from An Garda Síochána.

Are criminals any different from you and me? Every day ordinary citizens break the law – use their mobile phone in the car, drive that little bit too fast to get to a meeting – are they criminals? Could they go one step further?

I think so. I think we all have a tipping point.

What would make you kill….?”

 

Huge thanks to Cross Pens for the beautiful Botanica Red Hummingbird Vine pen photographed here – I use it every day! Check out the whole collection here.

For additional logos and branding resources, check out Logojoy.

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