No Turning Back

The Story Behind No Turning Back

With the new GDPR legislation and recent events in the political sphere there’s been an explosion in the debate around how much data companies hold on you, and how that all connects online. By aggregating data, companies can learn more about you than your nearest and dearest know, and you can then be targeted for all sorts of reasons – whether it’s to influence your vote or to persuade you to buy chocolate. It’s fascinating and frightening and the perfect background for a crime novel – there are so many aspects to it that you could write a whole series (now there’s an idea). My eldest child is very techie (studying Aerospace engineering), and is a font of fascinating information about what’s happening on the web – and very conscious of online footprints. They first told me about websites that aggregate hacked webcam footage – they’d read about it on Reddit. Certain sections on Reddit are populated by engineers, programmers and rocket scientists, who reveal the most interesting stories.

When it came to start plotting No Turning Back I started thinking about the consequences of a stranger breaking into your world and what damage they could do. I read a brilliant book by Jamie Bartlett called The Dark Net which was all about the start of the internet and how the deep web and the dark web came to be. I found articles about the Silk Road website and Dread Pirate Roberts, as its founder Ross Ulbricht was known. Ulbricht set up the site in 2011 initially to sell magic mushrooms but it literally mushroomed and it became a shop front for suppliers of everything from hard drugs to AK47s.  Ulbricht was arrested in 2013 and convicted of money launderingcomputer hacking, conspiracy to traffic fraudulent identity documents, and conspiracy to traffic narcotics in February 2015. He is currently serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole.

But there are many more individuals keen to fill his place – Silk Road made millions of dollars.

The web is obviously a brilliant source for research on itself, but chatting to professional in an area is absolutely invaluable. In the course of a conversation they can say something that sparks a whole new idea. I’m blessed with a fabulous friend Alex Caan who is also a writer (Cut to the Bone/ First to Die  – watch the video for Cut to the Bone here, it’s awesome, but I might be biased as my daughter made it)

Alex is in information systems security for a number of government organisations, and is currently specialising in Terrorism Studies. There is little he doesn’t know! Having a trusted source who you can ask stupid questions is incredibly useful, and one who writes as well? I can’t thank him enough for his help – all while he was doing a PhD and writing his incredible second book First to Die.

Researching worms and viruses online I discovered even more terrifying and interesting things, including the background to the Stuxnet worm that was barely reported when it happened – a cyber-attack on Iran’s nuclear power plants it showed just how powerful cyber weapons could be. At the same time that I was reading about this, the WannaCry virus was attacking the NHS in the UK. It was all becoming very real.

I’ve always been interested in secrets and in what goes on behind closed doors. With all my internet research on hand I wanted to write a book with multiple secrets at it’s core, where events had a domino effect, an effect that created moral crises for those involved.

No Turning Back has many twists and turns and it brings Cat Connolly to a very unexpected place…

No Tunring Back is getting incredible reviews on Goodreads and Amazon, one Amazon reviewer said:

“A superb well crafted tale, which should encourage any reader to get the other books by the Irish Author, Sam Blake. Detective Garda Cathy Connolly, a feisty, intelligent Dublin officer, is faced with a complex and disturbing case involving a hit and run on a young wealthy student and the apparent suicide of another student from the same year and same course, both deaths occurring very close to each other and nearer enough on the same night. Were these deaths connected? Much to our detective’s consternation this takes her into the depths of the Dark Web, a much unexplored arena of illegality, depravity and a market place for anything the displaced of society wants. I found this book enthralling, enticing me back time after time. It’s frightening, pacey and really excellent example of the modern police procedural thriller.”

Pick up your copy here!

Now Out in Audio!

I’m thrilled that Little Bones. In Deep Water and No Turning Back are now ALL available in audio in MP3 and CD formats (click here to order directly from Bolinda or download from Audible here ) – and in libraries, including libraries in Australia – do ask if you can’t find it!

The series is narrated by Aoife McMahon, a fabulous actress who has also narrated Marian Keyes, Cecilia Aherne, Louise O’Neill’s Asking For It and Carmel Harrington’s The Woman and 72 Derry Lane plus Jess Kidd’s The Hoarder and many of Jo Spain’s nail-biting thrillers.

Aoife attended The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) and has appeared in  many TV series including Doctors, Broken, Partners in Crime and The Royals as well as A Touch of Frost and Bad Girls.  A well known face on the BBC and ITV she also has an extensive stage career.

Listen to an excerpt from Little Bones here on sound cloud:

And here’s a bit of No Turning Back

Get the Books!

Coming Soon: The Dark Room

Available now to pre-order from Easons or Dubray Books, The Dark Room is coming January 2021, be the first to read it! Preorder from Easons or Dubray NOW!

The Dark Room

Hare’s Landing, West Cork. A house full of mystery…

Rachel Lambert leaves London afraid for her personal safety and in search of the true identity of a murdered homeless man with links to a country house hotel called Hare’s Landing.

New York based crime reporter Caroline Kelly’s career is threatened by a lawsuit and she needs some thinking space away from her job. But almost as soon as she arrives, Hare’s Landing begins to reveal its own stories – a 30-year-old missing person’s case and the mysterious death of the hotel’s former owner.

As Rachel and Caroline join forces, it becomes clear that their investigations are intertwined and that there is nothing more dangerous than the truth…

Keep Your Eyes on Me: Out Now!

Pick up your copy at your local bookshop or ask them to order. Available in print, digital and audio!

Strangers on a Train meets Dial M for Murder

When Vittoria Devine and Lily Power find themselves sitting next to each other on a flight to New York, they discover they both have men in their lives whose impact has been devastating. Lily’s family life is in turmoil, her brother cheated out of his business and left on the brink of ruin. Vittoria’s philandering husband’s mistress is pregnant.

By the time they land, Vittoria and Lily have realised that they can help each other right the balance.

Exactly how far is each woman willing to go to make these men pay?

Out now! Pick up your copy online here!

The Cat Connolly series: Little Bones, In Deep Water and No Turning Back ….

LITTLE BONES: Number ONE bestseller; Shortlisted for Irish Crime Novel of the Year 2016

Here’s the blurb!

For fans of Alex Barclay and Niamh O’Connor, Little Bones introduces Cathy Connolly, a bright young heroine set to take the world of crime fiction by storm.

Attending what seems to be a routine break-in, troubled Detective Garda Cathy Connolly makes a grisly discovery: an old wedding dress – and, concealed in its hem, a baby’s bones.

And then the dress’s original owner, Lavinia Grant, is found dead in a Dublin suburb.

Searching for answers, Cathy is drawn deep into a complex web of secrets and lies spun by three generations of women.

Meanwhile, a fugitive killer has already left two dead in execution style killings across the Atlantic – and now he’s in Dublin with old scores to settle. Will the team track him down before he kills again?

Struggling with her own secrets, Cathy doesn’t know dangerous – and personal – this case is about to become…

Order on Amazon here!

IN DEEP WATER, Top Ten Irish bestseller: 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?

Order on Amazon here!

No Turning BackNO TURNING BACK, Top Ten Irish bestseller: Here’s the blurb!

Even perfect families have secrets . . .

Orla and Conor Quinn are the perfect power couple: smart, successful and glamorous. But then the unthinkable happens. Their only son, Tom, is the victim of a deliberate hit-and-run.

Detective Garda Cathy Connolly has just left Tom’s parents when she is called to the discovery of another body, this time in Dillon’s Park, not far from where Tom Quinn was found. What led shy student Lauren O’Reilly to apparently take her own life? She was a friend of Tom’s and they both died on the same night – are their deaths connected and if so, how?

As Cathy delves deeper, she uncovers links to the Dark Web and a catalogue of cold cases, realising that those involved each have their own reasons for hiding things from the police. But events are about to get a lot more frightening . . .

Order on Amazon here!

And No Turning Back is out in paperback with a brand new cover!


Find all books in order at

In Deep Water

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.

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!

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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