Tuesday 28 May, 2019 00:00
It’s finally here! Today sees the launch of my second novel, CRUEL SUMMER — sequel to last year’s highly-praised IN THE SILENCE and the second instalment in a project trilogy of mystery thrillers set in Glasgow. eBook editions are now available to download from Amazon, Apple Books and directly from myself via Gumroad, and paperbacks are available from Amazon as well if you’d prefer a physical copy to hold in your hands. Signed paperbacks will hopefully be available via Gumroad within the next week or so; stay tuned for further details.
When I finished writing In the Silence, I knew I’d lobbed a grenade slap bang into the middle of my characters’ lives and that things would never be the same for them again. In most mystery series, the individual books are self-contained, with the detective protagonist moving onto the next case, the events of the previous novel only referenced fleetingly, if at all. But I knew I wanted to do things differently. I wanted to explore the aftermath. What does being at the centre of a murder spree do to a person? How do you pick up the pieces and carry on after such a life-changing experience?
Fairly quickly, I realised that the person most profoundly affected by the after-effects of In the Silence was not that novel’s protagonist, Anna Scavolini, but rather her larger-than-life best friend, Zoe Callahan. I’ll choose my words carefully to avoid spoilers, but suffice it to say that Anna, in theory, would be able to move on, and was even able to achieve some form of catharsis through solving the mystery and facing down the killer. But for Zoe, the events that unfolded in the bell-tower at the end of In the Silence were not a climax but rather an inciting incident which completely turned her life on its head.
With Zoe, I wanted to capture the conflicted emotions she feels as a result of the revelations at the end of In the Silence, coupled with a sense of the general malaise and purposelessness of the generation to which she belongs; a generation for which many of the certainties enjoyed by the previous one — stable employment, a home, the social contract as a whole — are a distant dream. So I wrote Cruel Summer as the story of someone searching for both a purpose and an identity. Here is someone in her early thirties who is very much a member of the precariat — underemployed and drifting from one unfulfilling job to another, armed with a degree that has failed to equip her for the current market — while simultaneously struggling with both a sexual identity she doesn’t fully understand and a gnawing feeling that she bears some responsibility for the atrocities of In the Silence. As a result, when she inadvertently becomes mixed up in a case which echoes that of the previous novel while still being very different, she latches onto it as a way of giving her life meaning, turning detective like Anna before her but approaching the investigation in her own, uniquely Zoe fashion.
In the Silence was very consciously constructed as a murder-mystery in the classic whodunit tradition, but Cruel Summer is a different beast altogether. While there’s violence a-plenty and I can promise at least one corpse before the book is over, I’ve written this one more in the vein of a crime thriller with political overtones than a body count mystery. The main villain this time round is known from the start: Dominic Ryland, a charismatic politician who has emerged as the favourite to lead his party, accused of assaulting a prostitute — Zoe’s neighbour Jasmine. But there’s more to Ryland than meets the eye, and, when Jasmine is leant on to drop her accusation, it becomes clear that someone with powerful connections is pulling Ryland’s strings… and pulling out all the stops to ensure that he wins the coveted leadership. Armed with little more than a burning desire to see justice done, Zoe sets out on a one-woman crusade to bring Ryland down, little realising the trouble she’s creating for herself — and the people she cares about.
Writing Cruel Summer was a very rewarding experience, giving me an opportunity to delve deeper into Zoe’s psyche and make a character who was painted in fairly broad strokes in the previous novel more three-dimensional. It’s certainly provided me with an opportunity to put some familiar characters into unfamiliar situations, and I think people who enjoyed In the Silence will be excited to see some of their old favourites in a different context, while those who haven’t read the previous instalment have an opportunity to come in fresh with a very different protagonist. To use a hoary old cliché, I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. Once you’ve read it, be sure to let me know what you think!
A massive thanks to everyone who has reviewed Cruel Summer so far and lavished such praise on it. I’ll be collating reviews as they continue to appear. For now, though, here’s a selection of the ones that are out there in the wild:
A fast-moving thriller … every bit as accomplished as its predecessor. … If Mackenzie can only bring off the third part of the trilogy with the panache of the first two, this will be a particularly memorable sequence of books — and hopefully will bring a talented novelist the recognition he deserves.
— Barry Forshaw, Crime Time
In the Silence was a fine addition to the Tartan Noir genre. Cruel Summer sees [Mackenzie] ahead of the field.
— Mark Cunliffe, The Geek Show
Cruel Summer takes no prisoners in its examination of the social and political implications of crime and justice, but it does so in a manner that it is rich in humour, character observations and location detail and totally compelling as a crime thriller. ★★★★
— Noel Megahey, The Digital Fix
Skilfully crafted and beautifully written, this is a gripping read full of suspense and tension. ★★★★★
I’m interested to see where the story goes from here and will definitely be looking out for the next books in the series. If this book is any indication, it’s only going to get better and better! ★★★★★
— Ashley Gillan, (e)Book Nerd
If you’ve read and enjoyed Cruel Summer, why not leave a review on Amazon, Apple Books and/or Goodreads? Doing so helps me immensely as it raises the book’s profile, allowing more people to discover it and bringing some much-appreciated cash my way, allowing me to continue to do this writing thing.
Help spread the word
Cruel Summer doesn’t have the weight of a major publisher behind it, so I’m going to need your help to get the word out. Yes, you! That means you. Here’s how you can help:
Buy a copy
Goes without saying! Every copy sold helps increase the book’s visibility on the online stores where it’s available, and in so doing helps it reach a bigger audience. And, naturally, the money that comes to me will help ensure that I can keep writing more books.
Write a review
If you enjoy Cruel Summer, a positive review on your site of choice will be tremendously helpful — especially if it’s on one of the online stores that sells it. Even just a sentence or a few words saying you liked it is a big help.
Tweet about Cruel Summer! Blog about it! Post on Facebook about it! Tell your friends about it! Spread the word about its existence far and wide!