There’s Been a Murder Interview with Val Penny

Val Penny is an American author living in SW Scotland. She has two adult daughters of whom she is justly proud and lives with her husband and two cats. She has a Law degree from Edinburgh University and her MSc from Napier University. She has had many jobs including hairdresser, waitress, lawyer, banker, azalea farmer and lecturer. However she has not yet achieved either of her childhood dreams of being a ballerina or owning a candy store. Until those dreams come true, she has turned her hand to writing poetry, short stories and novels. Her crime novels, ‘Hunter’s Chase’ Hunter’s Revenge and Hunter’s Force are set in Edinburgh, Scotland, published by Crooked Cat Books. The fourth book in the series, Hunter’s Blood, follows shortly.


1. How did you get started writing?

I have always enjoyed telling stories, reading and writing. However, I started writing my first novel when I was recovering from cancer. I found chemotherapy and radiotherapy debilitating and could not undertake many of the activities I enjoy. I could not travel, as I had to stay close to the hospital treating me. I could not swim due to risk of infection at the pool and I could not go for walks because the fatigue I suffered was extreme. What was left? Watching day-time television, which gets old very fast or reading. I have always read voraciously, and luckily, I was still able to do that. As I became a little better, I started my blog to review the books I read.


2. What drew you to write a novel

Happily my recovery continued. I was still too poorly to do much but felt good enough to get bored. It was then that Handsome Hubby said in exasperation, “If you know so much about what makes a good book, Why don’t you write one!” Thus Hunter’s Chase was born.


3. Which writers past or present have influenced your style of writing?

I write police procedurals and chose to write that genre because it is the type of story I most enjoy reading. Authors writing this type of novel include Ian Rankin, Val McDermott and Mark Billingham. I do think it is important for writers to read widely within and outwith their own genre. I believe everything you read improves style, vocabulary and pace. I have been very lucky to have had support from gifted and successful mentors within the writing industry including Peter Robinson who writes the DCI Banks series; Erin Kelly who write psychological thrillers and Michael Jecks who writes the historical Templar series.


4. When you first started writing did you find it hard to get publisher interest?

I knew very little about the publishing industry before I completed my first novel. The one thing I did know was that there was no point sending my manuscript of a crime novel to publishers or agents who were closed to submissions or only interested in romances, sci-fi or historical novels. So I checked out independent publishers who would accept a manuscript direct from the author, open to submissions and interested in my genre. I also made sure that I followed the guidelines they required. This maximised my chances of the publisher expressing interest.


5. There are many interesting characters in your Novel, do you have a particular favourite one?

I like Hunter; I can trust him. However, I think my favourite character is Jamie Thomson. He is a bad boy with a good heart and is always getting into trouble. I like his cheeky sense of humour too.


6. What kind of research have you have to undertake for your Novel?

The main research I have to do is looking into drug trafficking and how to commit murder. I hope nobody every looks at my internet history!


7. Are the characters in your books based on any real life?

I think everyone is influenced by everybody they meet and each experience they have. So while I may have encountered the some of the types of people who inhabit my novels, each of the characters is fictional and definitely not based on real life.


8. Do you have a particular favourite scene in the book and why.

I have favourite scenes in each book, but in my most recent book, Hunter’s Force, I do like the scenes where Hunter has to fight for his life when he is caught and bundled into a car.


9. Do you see any of your characters personality in yourself and vice versa?

I have heard that each author must struggle to create their characters and ensure each one acts as theywould act and not as the writer themselves would act. I write full biographies for each of my characters to try to ensure that I avoid this trap.


10. If you can, would you give us a sneaky peak into any future novels you might planned.

I have recently finished the fourth novel in The Edinburgh Crime Mystery Series: it will be Hunter’s Blood and centres around mysterious deaths in an Edinburgh Hospital. My website is to be found at


11. If you had the opportunity to write a novel with any writer alive or dead, who would it be and why

I do not think I would like to co-write a novel with anybody! I think I am too possessive about my work. I know that there are very successful writing duos like Nicci French and more recently Ambrose Parry. Both of these are husband and wife teams – however, I do not think I could cope with the restrictions of writing with somebody else, especially Handsome Hubby!


12. Do you have words of advice you can share with anyone who is interested in writing a novel.

Persevere! Writing a novel is a marathon, not a sprint and many people get stuck at around 20-25,000 words. But if you plan your story in advance, know your characters well and just keep writing – you too can write a novel.

Hunter by name – Hunter by nature: DI Hunter Wilson will not rest until Edinburgh is safe.

Detective Inspector Hunter Wilson knows there is a new supply of cocaine flooding his city, and he needs to find the source, but his attention is transferred to murder when a corpse is discovered in the grounds of a golf course.

Shortly after the post-mortem, Hunter witnesses a second murder, but that is not the end of the slaughter. With a young woman’s life also hanging in the balance, the last thing Hunter needs is a new man on his team: Detective Constable Tim Myerscough, the son of his nemesis, the former Chief Constable Sir Peter Myerscough.

Hunter’s perseverance and patience are put to the test time after time in this first novel in The Edinburgh Crime Mysteries series


Hunter by name – Hunter by nature: DI Hunter Wilson will not rest until his friend’s death is avenged.

DI Hunter Wilson is called to the scene of a murder. He is shocked to find the victim is his friend and colleague, George Reinbold.

Who would want to harm the quiet, old man? Why was a book worth £23,000 delivered to him that morning? Why is the security in George’s home so intense?

Hunter must investigate his friend’s past as well as the present to identify George’s killer.

When a new supply of cocaine from Peru floods HMP Edinburgh and the city, the courier leads Hunter to a criminal gang, but Hunter requires the help of his nemesis, the former Chief Constable, Sir Peter Myerscough, and local gangster, Ian Thomson, to make his case.

Hunter’s perseverance and patience are put to the test time after time in this taut crime thriller.

Hunter’s Revenge is the second in Val Penny’s gripping crime series featuring DI Hunter Wilson.

Hunter by name – Hunter by nature.

Can DI Hunter Wilson keep Edinburgh safe when he is the hunted?

Detective Inspector Hunter Wilson is woken in the early hours of the morning by a call from his son. Cameron’s flatmate was murdered. Why would anybody want to kill a young woman recently arrived in the city?

Hunter must call in the new Major Incident Team (MIT) to lead the investigation due to the reorganisation of police services. Hunter’s ability to be involved, however, is put in severe doubt when someone from his past decides to take revenge on him. He goes missing, and his team have no idea where to look for him. Who would want to stop Hunter in his tracks?

Meanwhile, Hunter’s team must work closely with the MIT, with or without him, to solve the murder in this taut crime thriller.


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Bloody Scotland Blog Tour 2019 – Broken Ground by Val McDermid

Val McDermid is a number one bestseller whose novels have been translated into more than thirty languages, and have sold over sixteen million copies. She has won many awards internationally, including the CWA Gold Dagger for best crime novel of the year and the LA Times Book of the Year Award. She was inducted into the ITV3 Crime Thriller Awards Hall of Fame in 2009, was the recipient of the CWA Cartier Diamond Dagger in 2010 and received the Lambda Literary Foundation Pioneer Award in 2011. In 2016, Val received the Outstanding Contribution to Crime Fiction Award at the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival and in 2017 received the DIVA Literary Prize for Crime, and was elected a Fellow of both the Royal Society of Literature and the Royal Society of Edinburgh. Val has served as a judge for the Women’s Prize for Fiction and the Man Booker Prize, and was Chair of the Wellcome Book Prize in 2017. She is the recipient of six honorary doctorates and is an Honorary Fellow of St Hilda’s College, Oxford. She writes full-time and divides her time between Edinburgh and East Neuk of Fife.

Reviews for Broken Ground

There is nothing more gratifying than watching a master craftswoman at work, and she is on fine form here’ – The Observer

‘Another stellar read from McDermid, and further evidence that her “Queen of Crime” status will not be challenged’ – The Scotsman

‘The masterly handling of the pace and plot, blended with brilliant characterisation, show why best-selling writer Val McDermid retains her title of new Queen of Crime’ – People

‘McDermid’s deceptively languid style, sly black humour and metronomic sense of pacing delivers a compulsively readable tale’ – The Irish Times

‘Her trademark combination of macabre suspense and a light touch keep you reading gratefully’ – The Sunday Express

Somebody has been here before us. And he’s still here . . .’

When a body is discovered in the remote depths of the Highlands, DCI Karen Pirie finds herself in the right place at the right time. Unearthed with someone’s long-buried inheritance, the victim seems to belong to the distant past – until new evidence suggests otherwise, and Karen is called in to unravel a case where nothing is as it seems.

It’s not long before an overheard conversation draws Karen into the heart of a different case, however – a shocking crime she thought she’d already prevented. As she inches closer to the twisted truths at the centre of these murders, it becomes clear that she’s dealing with a version of justice terrifyingly different to her own . . .

Excerpt from Broken Ground (Little Brown) By Val McDermid

Dr River Wilde had clicked on her last PowerPoint

slide when she felt her phone vibrate against her hip.

Whoever it was would have to wait until she’d finished

running through the week’s reading list for her secondyear

forensic anthropology students. The undergraduates

could find the details of the required texts at the end of

her online lecture notes, but River always liked to end

the lecture with a quick run- through. That way nobody

could claim they didn’t know what they were supposed

to have covered before their next session in the dissection



She zipped through the list at top speed then gathered

her scant notes and turned her back on the exiting

students to check her phone. As she suspected, the

missed call was from a withheld number. But there was

a voicemail. River would have put money on it being

from a police officer. Colleagues would know she was

lecturing; friends rang in the evenings when she was less

likely to be up to her elbows in cadavers; and because her

partner was a senior cop, they generally texted first to

arrange their calls.


Aware that a handful of students were still hanging

around near the podium, River tucked her phone back

into the pocket of her jeans and faced them. ‘Was there

something?’ she asked. Polite, but brisk enough to discourage

the trivial questions that one or two students

seemed impelled to put to her at the end of every lecture.


She fielded a couple of inquiries about dates by which

assessments were due, refraining from pointing out that

they were easily discoverable on the course website,

then disengaged, taking the stairs at a jog. When the

police called her, it was always a matter of life and death.

Literally, not metaphorically. For a forensic anthropologist

like River, the death was invariably in the past, the

life something to be teased from what the corruption of

the expedient grave had left behind. So while she didn’t

like to keep the police waiting, she’d never felt the need

for the performance of urgency and self- aggrandisement

that she’d witnessed in some of her colleagues. You didn’t

serve the dead by being self- serving.


The nearest private space was the mortuary. River used

her keycard to enter the secure corridor then turned into

the cool space where the cadavers were prepared for dissection.

Visitors were always surprised when they walked

through the doors. They expected to see bodies on slabs

being pumped with embalming fluids. But here there

was nothing visible to show that this was a place where

bodies were stored. The main part of the room was occupied

by large stainless steel tanks. Each was about the

size of an American- style fridge freezer lying on its back,

and the tanks were stacked two deep. Each had a serial

number slotted into a holder. It could have been some

arcane industrial food processing plant – a hydroponic

system, or a vessel for growing mycoprotein. The reality

was at once more extraordinary and more mundane.

Each tank held a preservative solution and a body. Over

a period of months, the bodies would effectively be cured

by the salts in the solution. By the end, they would still

be soft and flexible so that student anthropologists, dentists

and surgeons could learn their trade on something

that closely approximated a live body. River’s technicians

had even worked out how to simulate blood flow in the

cadavers. In her dissecting room, when a trainee surgeon

nicked a blood vessel, there was no hiding place.

That afternoon, there was nothing visible to even hint

at what went on there. River leaned against the nearest

tank and pulled out her phone, summoning her voicemail.

A man’s voice spoke clearly and decisively. ‘Dr

Wilde? This is Inspector Walter Wilson from N Division,

based at Ullapool. We’ve got a matter we need to consult

you on. I’d appreciate it if you could call me back as soon

as you get this. Thank you.’ He finished with a mobile

phone number. River scrambled in her lecture folder for

a pen and played the message again so she could catch

the number.


‘A matter’ meant human remains. Not a warm body,

never that. Those were for the pathologists. When they

called for River, it was because they needed someone

who could find answers in teeth and bones, hair and

nails. Unpicking a life – and often a death – from what

was left was her stock in trade. The university website

cut straight to the heart of it: Forensic Anthropology

is best described as the analysis of human remains for the

medicolegal purposes of establishing identity, investigating

suspicious deaths and identifying victims of mass disasters. It

is a specialised area of forensic science that requires detailed

anatomical and osteological training. Being able to assign

a name to the deceased is critical to the successful outcome

of all legal investigations. The squeamish thought there

was something creepy about her work. Not River.


Bringing the dead home. That was how she thought

of her trade.

River tapped in Inspector Walter Wilson’s number. He

answered on the second ring. ‘This is Dr River Wilde,’ she

said. All these years in the job and still, every time she

spoke to a cop for the first time, she inwardly cursed her

hippie parents. ‘You left a message for me.’

‘Thanks for getting back to me, Doc.’ His voice was

deep and gravelly, the Aberdeen accent still clear in

spite of having had the corners knocked off by time and

seniority. ‘We’ve got a body we need your input on.

It turned up in a peat bog in Wester Ross earlier this

afternoon. Based on the information we’ve got from the

witnesses, we think it likely dates back to 1944.’

‘And you want me to confirm that?’

‘Ideally, aye. We could use your help in trying for an

ID as well.’

‘When would you like me on site?’

‘Well, we’ve got it taped and tented, so it’s reasonably

protected. If you could get here for tomorrow morning,

that would be good.’

‘Where exactly are you?’

‘A wee place called Clashstronach. It’s about an hour

north of Ullapool, just this side of the boundary with


River thought for a moment. It was a long drive, but

she could set off within a couple of hours. She was due

to take a class in the dissection room in the morning but

one of her post- docs could handle it. Cecile had specialised

in the spinal work they’d be doing; she’d enjoy the

opportunity to strut her stuff. ‘Can you book me a hotel

room for tonight?’

‘No bother,’ Wilson said. ‘I’ll get you something sorted

in Ullapool, that’s handy for our office and there’s a

couple of decent places to stay. I’ll send you a text, will I?’

Two hours later, she was on the road. Four hours should

do it, she reckoned. Dundee to Perth, then there would be

clots of traffic as she left the city and struck out up the A9,

with its average speed cameras and long stretches where

overtaking was damn near impossible. But this wasn’t

summer, and there would be few tourists and no caravans

so once she’d passed Pitlochry it would be an easy run to

Inverness, then a final hour or so with added twists and

turns as the road snaked across the Highlands to the west

coast. She plugged her phone into the car’s sound system

and let rip with her driving music, an eclectic mix that

spanned the past thirty years of female rockers. It was one

of the few things that she and her partner disagreed about.

Detective Chief Inspector Ewan Rigston liked torch singers

who delivered big ballads – Adele, Emeli Sandé, Ren

Harvieu. Once she’d even caught him listening to Shirley

Bassey. River reckoned that was all the blackmail capital

she’d ever need with his CID team.

Amy Winehouse finished belting out her version of

‘Valerie’ somewhere north of Dalwhinnie and River

decided she needed some conversation. She cut the music

and rang the number of her best friend. She thought it

was going to shunt straight to voicemail, but at the last

second, Karen Pirie’s voice filled the car. ‘Hey, River,

how’s tricks?’ It sounded like they were doing the same

thing – driving on a fast road at speed.

‘I’m good. I’m heading up the A9.’

Karen laughed. ‘You’re kidding?’

‘I wish I was. This is—’

Karen interrupted with a bad Chris Rea impersonation:

‘—the road to hell.’ Both women laughed. ‘Funny

thing is, so am I.’

‘Really? Where are you headed?’

‘Elgin. I need to interview a woman who owned a red

Rover 214 in 1986.’

River snorted. ‘Has that been reclassified as a crime?’

‘Only when Jeremy Clarkson rules the world. No,

we’ve got a lead on a car that might be implicated in a

series of brutal rapes from the eighties. I’m checking out

the possibilities.’


‘Is that not what you’ve got Jason for?’

‘There’s quite a few possibilities and I’ve nothing else

pressing. Plus . . . ’ She paused. ‘Ann Markie has landed

me with another body. A Weegie refugee from the MIT

through in the west.’

‘MIT? Whose toes did he stamp on to end up with

HCU? Not that I see that as a demotion, obviously.’

‘That’s because you get it. The work we do, what it

means. Jimmy Hutton’s doing some digging to see what

he can find out. I wonder whether it’s as simple as the

Dog Biscuit trying to keep me in line.’

‘The Dog Biscuit?’ River knew there would be an


‘Markies are apparently a kind of dog treat. According

to Jimmy. Anyway, I think what she really wants is a

spy to see what rules I’m breaking. Like Leonard Cohen

says, “The rich have got their channels in the bedrooms

of the poor.”’

‘I thought you’d given up listening to that miserable

old man? Are you slipping back into the depths? Phil so

wouldn’t approve.’

Karen chuckled. ‘Field Commander Cohen was wise as

well as miserable. Anyway, enough of me. What’s dragging

you up the A9?’

‘Inspector Walter Wilson. You ever come across him?’

‘No, is he with Highland?’

‘Yes. Specifically, Ullapool. He’s got a bog body for me.’

‘Ooh. Anything for me?’

River chuckled. ‘You’re a glutton for punishment. But

no, not this time. Inspector Wilson’s information is that

it probably dates back to 1944. So even if we’re looking

at foul play, it’s well outside your seventy- year limit. No

reprieve from the red Rovers for you.’

‘So it goes. Good luck with it anyway. I look forward to

hearing all about it.’

‘Always interesting, a bog body. Up there in Wester

Ross, there should be a high level of preservation, given

the levels of sphagnum moss in the peat. We might even

get fingerprints.’


‘Aye, but what are the chances of meaningful fingerprints

from 1944? We didn’t even fingerprint the army

back then in case it put people off joining up.’

‘I know. But I still enjoy the challenge.’

‘I know what you mean. Like me and my red Rovers.

Anyway, if you can squeeze your bog body under the

seventy- year rule, I’ll only be a couple of hours away in

the morning.’

‘I’ll bear that in mind. But don’t hold your breath.’

Longlisted for The McIlvanney Prize 2019.

Winner to be announced at the Bloody Scotland opening night reception on Friday 20 September.

For festival tickets and information


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Lin Anderson @ The Edinburgh International Book Festival with Steve, Blaze and Laoch

Lin Anderson was born in Greenock of Scottish and Irish parents. A graduate of both Glasgow and Edinburgh Universities, she has lived in many different parts of Scotland and also spent five years working in the African bush. A teacher of Mathematics and Computing, she began her writing career four years ago. Her first film, Small Love, which was broadcast on STV, was nominated for TAPS writer of the year award 2001. Her African short stories have been published in the 10th Anniversary Macallan collection and broadcast on BBC Radio Four. Lin Anderson is best known as the creator of the forensic scientist Rhona MacLeod series of crime thriller novels, and for her part in founding the annual ‘Bloody Scotland’ crime writing festival.

Time for the Dead is a gripping crime novel by Lin Anderson and sees forensic scientist Rhona MacLeod discover that a terrifying war is unfolding on Scotland’s Isle of Skye.

When forensic scientist Rhona MacLeod returns to her roots on Scotland’s Isle of Skye, a chance encounter in the woods behind a nearby activities centre leads her to what seems to be a crime scene, but without a victim. Could this be linked to a group of army medics, who visited the centre while on leave from Afghanistan and can no longer be located on the island?

Enlisting the help of local tracker dog Blaze, Rhona starts searching for a connection.

Two days later a body is found at the base of the famous cliff known as Kilt Rock, face and identity obliterated by the fall, which leads Rhona to suspect the missing medics may be on the island for reasons other than relaxation. Furthermore, elements of the case suggests a link with an ongoing operation in Glasgow, which draws DS Michael McNab into the investigation.

As the island’s unforgiving conditions close in, Rhona must find out what really happened to the group in Afghanistan, as the consequences may be being played out in brutal killings on Skye . . .

Rhona MacLeod

Patrick De Courvoisier Mystery

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