When The Dead Come Calling by Helen Sedgwick

Today I am delighted to be host for When The Dead Come Calling by Helen Sedgwick as part of the Random Things Blog Tour.

Synopsis

A murder investigation unearths the brutal history of a village where long buried secrets threaten a small community

When psychotherapist Alexis Cosse is found murdered in the playground of the sleepy northern village of Burrowhead, the local police force set out to investigate. It’s not long before they uncover a maelstrom of racism, misogyny and homophobia.

But there’s worse to come. Shaken by the revelations and beginning to doubt her relationship with her husband Fergus, DI Georgie Strachan soon realizes that something very bad is lurking just below the surface. Meanwhile someone – or something – is hiding in the strange, haunted cave beneath the cliffs.

When The Dead Come Calling is a tense, atmospheric thriller which grips to the very last page.

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My thoughts

This is one of those novels that is just a joy to read. Yes, the subject matter is dark and at times unnerving but before I go into that can I just say how much I loved Helen’s writing. She writes absolutely beautifully, visually building location, story and characters so skilfully that you actually feel you are there, watching over the shoulder as the terrifying events unfold.

When discussing writing When The Dead Come Calling, Helen talks about false memory syndrome and I admit that I find it an intriguing subject. In this novel we discover a village paralysed by the past; an evil that has been lurking beneath the surface but refuses to be forgotten. Memories play a vital part of the plot and there are some things that just can’t be forgotten but, how real are the things we think happened, or does our memory play tricks on us?

Georgie Strachan is such a unique character. She has backstory and we do gradually learn much about her as the story progresses. I liked her very much. She was very, very human and to see such a caring, kind individual amongst such a dark story line was refreshing and created an amazing contrast, that I believe made this novel stand out. This is a great technique and really highlighted the atmosphere.

This novel captures everything that I love about stories. I felt completely immersed into the story and couldn’t wait to get back to it whenever ‘real life’ pulled me away. It made me feel so many emotions: fear, sadness, empathy and the joy of entering a different world for just a few hours. That along with the writing – it is the kind of writing that makes you slow down just to enjoy the sentence structure, the descriptions as events unfold, leading you by the hand to the very heart of the story. I absolutely adore her writing style and will definitely seek out her previous titles. I was sad to finish When The Dead Come Calling, it had me gripped throughout and I believe that there is room for many more tales featuring Georgie Strachan. Questions have been left unanswered and that, after reading such an engaging tale, is only a good thing, as it tells me there is definitely more to come. This is certain to be one of my top reads of 2020.

Thank you so much to Anne Cater for inviting me to take part in this blog tour and for introducing me to yet another fantastic author. Thank you also to Point Blank and Helen Sedgwick for sending me an early copy.

When The Dead Come Calling by Helen Sedgwick was published by Point Blank on January 9th 2020 in hardback. It is also available on eBook and Audiobook (I imagine this is wonderful to listen to!)

About the author

img_0181HELEN SEDGWICK is the author of The Comet Seekers, selected as a best book of 2016 by the Herald, and The Growing Season, shortlisted for the Saltire Society Fiction Book of the Year in 2018. She has an MLitt in Creative Writing from Glasgow University and won a Scottish Book Trust New Writers Award. Before she became an author, she was a research physicist with a PhD in Physics from Edinburgh University. She now lives and writes in the Scottish Highlands.

 

Find out more about Helen by visiting her website here.

You can follow Helen on Twitter at @helensedgwick

You can follow Point Blank Books on Twitter @PtBlankBks

And a little extra treat…

Helen Sedgwick on the writing of WHEN THE DEAD COME CALLING

‘When the Dead Come Calling was inspired by a visit to St Ninian’s Cave in the Scottish borders – it’s a cave on a wild beach that became a place of pilgrimage in the Middle Ages. Even today, the cave is filled with crosses made out of twigs and ribbons, prayers scratched onto stones and offerings left in the crevices of the rock. It’s a creepy place.

I also wanted to write about rural life, having recently moved from Glasgow to the Highlands. It is a very different world. I absolutely love living in the country (a bit like Georgie loves it in the book) but that doesn’t mean I can’t see there are some pretty big issues. The lack of diversity, lack of opportunities, and the isolation are very real problems. And you do come across casual racism and homophobia, and often it has been left unchallenged because of the limits of the community itself and the lack of new experiences. So, I wanted to write about how people in small rural communities turn a blind eye to these problems, about the urban/rural class divide that leads to people in the city dismissing those in the country, and how history and inaction make us all complicit… But at the same time I wanted to write about how people in small communities can be exceptionally kind and warm and how living in a remote place can make you feel more connected to the past and to the landscape. It’s easy for people to judge the country without having lived there, but there’s a lot more to it than people think.

I’ve also had an interest in false memory syndrome for years. I wrote two unpublished novels before writing my debut The Comet Seekers, and one of them was a literary thriller about false memory syndrome. The book remains unpublished for a reason (I was still learning to write and it wasn’t good enough!) but the research I did all those years ago fed into the plot for When the Dead Come Calling. Memory is fascinating and also poorly understood, and I keep being drawn back to how our minds create and recreate ‘memories’ that can end up being very different to the lived experience that they relate to. Our brains actually rewrite our own memories over time. That idea kept calling to me, wanting to be written about.

It was at a crime writing event at Wigtown Book Festival that I got the idea for the main character of Georgie Strachan. There was a discussion about how fictional detectives always need to be broken or damaged in some way, and I wanted to turn that on its head. Is it possible to write a crime book in which the detective is just a good person who wants to see the best in everyone, despite evidence to the contrary? I started thinking about what would happen to a good, almost naive detective working in a broken world, and that world became Burrowhead.’

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