Eighteen months ago, Gwen Meredith left the job she loved and came back to Pembrokeshire to help support her irritable and increasingly confused grandmother. But someone is pursuing a vendetta against her.
As the attacks become more malicious, her old anxieties begin to build. She’s attracted to her new neighbour who is keen to help…but can she trust him?
When those closest to her are threatened, her desperation mounts. Who can she trust?
Gwen has a dark secret of her own. Can she even trust herself?
Means to Deceive is what I always call a gripping psychological read. As with this author’s style, it’s a slow- burner; but well worth the wait; the tension slowly but surely racks up the terror for the protagonist,Gwen. The plot twists and turns, keeping the reader guessing, and feeling every emotion Gwen feels: trepidation, unease, her suspicions of those around her. There are two obvious antagonists, but there are also two people in her life she has always loved and trusted, her grandmother, and her brother, even though her lifelong emotional relationship with each of them is completely different. Yet it’s only when, having come back to live in Pembrokeshire to care for her grandmother, her brother visits to help her, and she meetsthe new neighbour Ben, that her life begins to unravel.
Initially I wanted the protagonist to be stronger, more assertive, but the more I read, the more I realised how consumed by guilt and grief she is by something that happened in the past – (not giving away spoilers here). And these two emotions are the silent antagonists, revealed through a recurring section in the book, each time uncovering a little more memory, explaining why the layer of vulnerability in Gwen. Fascinating!
All the characters in the book are well rounded, multi layered. I found myself liking the way they are portrayed, and both loving and disliking some to their actions – to me, this is a sign of a well told story. Certainly I was kept guessing who was really trying to destroy Gwen’s life.
And I like being able to tell who’s speaking in a story, even without dialogue tags, Alex Craigie certainly gives each character their voice in all her books.
I’ve read this author’s works before and one of the talents she has is to bring settings to life by the small details in her descriptions, so the village where Gwen lives: Dernant, the rooms of her home, the garden, the outside spaces, the houses of the other characters are instantly envisaged and give a great sense of place.
As I say, I don’t give spoilers in my review, and here, in the book description, the reader is given enough to know the plot. All I will say, and I hope that has come across in my words, is that I enjoyed Means to Deceive and thoroughly recommend to any reader who enjoys a well written psychological drama
Trish was ten when her first play was performed at school. It was in rhyming couplets and written in pencil in a book with imperial weights and measures printed on the back.
When her children were young, she wrote short stories for magazines before returning to the teaching job that she loved.
Trish has had three books published under the pen name of Alex Craigie. The first two books cross genre boundaries and feature elements of romance, thriller and suspense against a backdrop of social issues. Someone Close to Home highlights the problems affecting care homes while Acts of Convenience has issues concerning the health service at its heart. Her third book. Means to Deceive, is a psychological thriller.
Someone Close to Home has won a Chill with a Book award and a Chill with the Book of the Month award. In 2019 it was one of the top ten bestsellers in its category on Amazon.
Book lovers are welcome to contact her on firstname.lastname@example.org
On Saturday 16th January 2021 we had our first Showboat Literary Online. We had a great line up of writers, lots of fun – and lots of interviewing glitches ( for the editing team at Showboat to sort out in order to showcase the event in the next months. But, most importantly, it was interesting to listen to all those who appeared to give us the lowdown on their writing and latest books.
Thorne Moore and I shared the interviewing chair. This is what Thorne had to say about the day, “:I expect everyone is saying it, but it was so good, after a year under siege, to be able to meet up with other authors again and talk about books, writing and the joys or otherwise of publishing, just to remind ourselves that the world will be back on its axis one day.”
And, just to remind everyone, these are two of Thorne’s books, published by Honno.
I was very pleased to take part in Showboat TV’s first Virtual LitFest. As always, I worried about being in the limelight but interviewer Judith put us at ease straight away. It gave me an opportunity to promote my two novels published during lockdown and reading an extract from my debut was a highlight. Afterwards we went into breakout rooms with other authors to chat about our books and our writing. I enjoyed ‘meeting in person’, albeit virtually, writers I follow on social media as well as catching up with others I haven’t seen for some time. A successful day, I think. Thank you, everybody.
I was thrilled to be invited to join in the Showboat TV event on 16th January, especially as Judith Barrow, who I’ve known for some years, was my interviewer. One of the joys of Zoom events is that sometimes you suddenly come face to face with people you haven’t seen for ages, even if it is via cyberspace and not in a café. I also liked how we were reassured our presence in the waiting room was noted. Also, there was a relaxed atmosphere and plenty of laughs so hopefully viewers will enjoy visiting these interviews.
I just wanted to thank Judith Barrow for helping us to showcase our work at yesterday’s LitFest and to send my gratitude to Showboat TV for their time and effort in organizing it and making it happen. I had a really enjoyable time. Judith was the perfect host – friendly, reassuring and generous with her questions. Any apprehensions were quickly dispelled and the meeting up with people afterwards was a genuine pleasure. Showboat TV managed my tech ignorance without making me feel like an idiot and I’d definitely sign up to another one!
The event was great idea. The time slot for each interview was spot on – long enough to introduce the work and answer a few questions. The chat room was great for catching up with old friends and making new ones. I found I was torn between watching the interviews and meeting up with fellow authors! All credit to everyone, it was an enjoyable event and can hopefully be repeated
I was very excited to take part in Showboat TV’s Online Lit Fest. It was the first opportunity I’d had to talk publicly about my new novel, Emmet and Me, and it felt absolutely wonderful to discuss books and writing again – a rare delight for me during the pandemic!
On the whole a rewarding day. I enjoyed my interview and the opportunity to talk about my book, and meeting other writers, so rare in these strange times. As an expat living in Kent, it was good to connect with Welsh writers, and heartening to see that the grand tradition of Welsh volubility is alive and flourishing. I’m most impressed by so much creativity and dedication . Once I realised that the tech gremlins weren’t conspiring against me I relaxed and enjoyed it. Diolch yn fawr.
Fabulous opportunity to have a literary festival online and thanks to www.showboat.tv for making it happen. Sincere thanks also to Judith Barrow and Thorne Moore for their sensitive interviews, making everyone feel at ease. I hope there will be another one, when perhaps the public could join in an open forum too, helping us to reach out to readers old and new. I really enjoyed getting together with other local authors again and learning more about their work.
Showboat’s Lit Fest was the first online one I had done. From the very beginning I was made to feel comfortable. I popped into room 2 before my interview and networked with a few authors, then I went on to be interviewed by Thorne Moore. It went well and I did a reading, then I was back in Room 2. I found myself discussing everything from being BAME to illustrating. It was a wonderful day and I enjoyed myself. Goodness it flew past fast. I loved every minute. I would jump at the chance again.
The event was great to be honest. The short slots for each interview was just right. Having the chat room was a good idea to catch up with old friends. The only thing I would say is if there was more notice for the audience, then maybe there may be more chance of questions. Other than that… an enjoyable LitFest.
I thought the online Litfest was a great success and I was so grateful to be included. I was a little nervous at first but you and Thorne did a great job creating a relaxing atmosphere during the interviews. It was lovely to catch up and see all the authors. Writing can be a lonely business and we’ve all missed out on the social gatherings at the book fairs.
I thought it was really well done overall. the interviews and break out sections worked fine. The only thing I found was that when I was looking for it, I went on the showboat.tv site, but I couldn’t find a link to the event, so I had to go hunt a direct link, and that was okay because I had them to hand, but for other viewers, it might have been a bit more difficult. Generally though, a great day. Well done and thanks for the opportunity.
Helen May Williams I really enjoyed the event; especially chatting with Thorne about my writing. There’s so much to talk about, since I write in different genres. Besides a lifetime’s worth of academic writing, I’ve published post-romantic poetry in The Princess of Vix and linked haiku in Catstrawe. In Before SilenceI translated haiku by Michel Onfray, a popular but controversial French philosopher and now I’ve published a biographical novel, June. All my writing starts with an idea but then involves a lot of research before creating the finished text. I could have talked for hours!
And that was our line up for Showboat’s Literary Online 2021.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading the writers’ thoughts on how the day went. Please feel free to follow them on social media and check out all their brilliant books.
Some of you may know, as well as holding private creative writing workshops, I also tutor creative writing for the local council. Tutoring adults can be rewarding (discovering wonderful writers), chaotic (my lesson plans are rarely followed – someone will inevitably take things off at a tangent) hilarious (the undiscovered comedian/ the completely unaware comedian) and thought-provoking (especially with memoir writing) Every now and then I like to share some of their work. Here is a piece written by Trish Power (you may remember her as one of my students whose previous work, Enigma, I posted here
This is what she wrote…
AND THIS IS THE ROOM WHERE IT HAPPENED
We study the expansive hall, wood buffed to a mirrored finish reflecting the framed dignitaries set at precise intervals around the walls. At the start of the tour we had chatted and laughed in between our guide’s flawless documentary. But a hush has fallen over us now as we take in the enormity of the events leading to this point. Joleen assesses us. Practised as she is in her art, she is attuned to our mood and knows when to intervene.
‘Ladies and gentlemen, shall we move on?’
She walks ahead towards the end of the hall, stopping at one of the wall panels. When everyone is assembled and she has our attention she reaches out an immaculately manicured finger and pushes on a piece of the gold scrolling.
There’s a collective intake of breath as that section of the wall swings silently inwards exposing a carpeted stairwell lit by bright, rectangular lights recessed into the edge of the ceiling.
‘Please hold on to the rail; the treads are quite steep.’
She takes a step back and ushers us ahead with a sweep of her arm.
We arrive at an area where the lighting is dimmer. Six doors lead off from a central square. There is a shuffling as we make way for Joleen to move through us to the middle door on the right. This is what we’ve been waiting for.
We enter in total silence.
In front of us is a large, rectangular table surrounded by leather chairs. In front of each chair is a file of what appears to be documents. Behind us is a huge, wall-mounted screen.
At the head of the table is a taller chair with a studded back and embellished on top with a golden eagle. There are four phones in different colours set in an arc around a rectangular metal box containing a keypad and a large, red button.
There are other things in the room but for now our focus is on that button. The red button.
‘As you all are aware, ladies and gentlemen, this is where the Secretary of Defense and a united cohort of military advisors attempted to dissuade him from his plan of action. They pointed out the likely consequences for the world but were silenced by his declaration that he was Commander-in-Chief and outranked them all. He wasn’t going to stand by and let someone say things like that about him, even if they were an ally.
‘The video cameras were checked to make sure that they were still running as he insisted on the codes being tapped into the keypad.
‘Again, he was urged not to carry on.
‘But, like a child determined on having his way, he gave a triumphant grin and stabbed a stubby finger down on that button.
‘There were sighs of resignation but the way forward was clear now. He had failed their test and proven himself to be a danger to the free world. The Secretary of Defense gave a nod and two men approached, one of them carrying something rolled-up under his arm. They slipped behind the still-smirking president, reached forwards and slipped his arms into the straightjacket.
‘And so, ladies and gentlemen, the president of the most powerful country in the world was taken into protective custody in order to safeguard our planet – and this is the room where it happened.’
It’s been quite a while since I read a book in one go but I couldn’t put this one down. Someone Close to Home sent me through a whole range of emotions; delight, sadness, anger, joy, frustration. And this is a debut novel! The writing style of Alex Craigie is sophisticated, emotive and empathetic.
The start of the story grabbed me straightaway: the image of the protagonist, Megan, watching “each minuscule judder of the hand (of the clock)”, her immobility and her thoughts on her childhood, especially of her selfish and destructive mother who Megan loathed – still loathes, is compulsive reading. There is one sentence that foreshadows all that happens as the story continues: ‘This is all down to my mother… she’s been dead for over thirty years now and still she’s poisoning my life.”
This is a story of two halves: the time that Megan is in the badly-run care home, which lasts around six months and is told in present tense, mainly through the internal dialogue of the protagonist, and the whole of her childhood and younger life.told in past tense as flashbacks. The latter leads the reader inexorably to the point where Megan is lying helpless after suffering a stroke. She is at the mercy of mostly inattentive carers, poorly paid and resentful. Their actions, the way they carry out their tasks on Megan is described simply by her; they are tasks done to her, sometimes carefully, sometimes without heed. And then there is the carer, Annie… I’ll say no more.
The description of of the protagonist’s days evoke the dreariness. The word, “waiting” is repeated so many times that I, as the reader, also waited with Megan, knowing, with some dread, that something awful will happen.
The main characters: Gideon (childhood friend and later the man she loves. Claire, her true friend in later life, Jordan, Megan’s husband, egotistical actor and a cruel man, Theo and Camilla, her greedy and selfish children), are many layered and well portrayed; their dialogue identifies them immediately. And, although there are many flat characters,, in the guise of the carers and the owner of the care home, the author also gives them distinguishable voices.
The descriptions of the settings give a good sense of place. The room Megan is lying in is told in meticulous but confined detail. We see the limited view she has, and only that. (it did give me a sense of claustrophobia, I must admit.). There is “the sturdy chest of drawers topped with shapes that will become a television and some framed photographs”as “the heavy grey light” “pushes into the room” after a long sleepless night”. We hear “the rattle of trolleys” that she knows is “laden with clean and soiled bedding”, the “insistent buzzing” of room bells, the “moans, shouts and cussing from room nearby punctuated by the chivying of staff”. We feel her pain through the roughness of the care, the threat of bed sores. And the details of the places in her childhood, the houses she lived in, countries she visited as a professional pianist, are full of evocative imagery.
It’s a plot that moves at an even pace but, ultimately, it’s also one that took me by surprise. Even closely following the actions of the characters in the story still didn’t prepare me for the ending.
Someone Close to Home by Alex Craigie is a book I thoroughly recommend to any reader.
Talented pianist Megan Youngblood has it all – fame, fortune and Gideon.
But Gideon isn’t good enough for Megan’s ambitious, manipulative mother, whose meddling has devastating repercussions for Megan and for those close to her.
Now, trapped inside her own body, she is unable to communicate her needs or fears as she faces institutional neglect in an inadequate care home.
And she faces Annie. Sadistic Annie who has reason to hate her. Damaged Annie who shouldn’t work with vulnerable people.
Just how far will Annie go?
Born in Sunderland, in the north of England, Alex has wended her way south via Eccles, Bramhall, Histon, Cambridge, Leicester and Market Harborough before finally coming to rest thirty years ago in a peaceful village in Wales. She lives in an old, draughty house with stone walls 2’ thick that make any DIY a real challenge and she knows she’s really lucky to have all her children and grandchildren living close by. It’s often chaotic and noisy but these are her most treasured moments and she savours them – even if she’s reduced to an immovable heap after they’ve gone. When not writing, reading or simply enjoying the rural life, she’s in the garden waging a war of attrition against the brambles that she encourages in the hedges for birds to nest in, vicious nettles that support a variety of butterflies, and bindweed that looks lovely but doesn’t share nicely with the other plants.