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What Got You Hooked on a Life of Crime, Cleo Bannister?

Me

It’s a little embarrassing to admit that I can’t remember how I ‘met’ Cleo Bannister online: it just feels like she’s always been there, sharing her thoughts and passion for books (especially crime fiction) on her excellent blog and via Twitter @cleo_bannister. This self-confessed bookaholic lives in the beautiful Channel Islands, thus representing a half-way house between my former and current homes.

How did you get hooked on crime fiction?

If you go back far enough, Enid Blyton and the Mystery of… series (my favourite was The Mystery of the Pantomime Cat) was my first introduction, with the clues always seemingly  hinging on cigarette butts! As an adult, my crime fiction addiction was properly launched by Ruth Rendell’s books. I then progressed to her writing as Barbara Vine and my love for crime fiction with a psychological twist was firmly in place.

Are there any particular types of crime fiction or subgenres that you prefer to read and why?

I read quite widely in the overall genre of crime, but my favourite is Psychological Thrillers.  I think this is because I love people watching, and why someone behaves the way they do is fascinating.  There also tends to be less overt violence in this subgenre which, although I’m not particularly squeamish, I’m also not particularly interested in reading page after page of torture. My real interest lies in the thoughts of both victims and perpetrators.

What is the most memorable book you’ve read recently?

A hard question as this year has had me reading more top rated crime fiction than ever before, so I’m going to highlight three of my favourites from different sub-genres. If anyone wants more recommendations please let me know as this was a really hard choice.

Someone Else’s Skin, the debut novel by Sarah Hilary brought real depth of characters and plot to the police procedural. Another debut that deserves a special mention is Unravelling Oliver by Liz Nugent, whose sociopath protagonist Oliver Ryan is unwrapped chapter by chapter to reveal what made him. Finally, Tom Vowler has written one of those books which you can’t forget with That Dark Remembered Day. Although it features a crime, it is actually about the damage war does, with the Falklands War as the background to the plot.

If you had to choose only one series or only one author to take with you to a deserted island, whom would you choose?

That is a really mean question (these questions are tough!).  Crime fiction doesn’t easily lend itself to re-reading because you already know the answers once you’ve read the book, which is half of the fun of reading it. On reflection I would choose Agatha Christie who was so prolific she would keep me going until I was rescued. If it was going to be a short stay though, my choice would be the Lewis Trilogy by Peter May for the fantastic characters and clever plots.

Whole BookshelfWhat are you looking forward to reading in the near future?

I am looking forward to reading Peter James’ latest book in the Roy Grace series, ‘Want You Dead’.  This is the tenth in a series set in Brighton and as a bonus Roy Grace has a relationship with a woman called Cleo!  I have read every one of this series and for me it marks the start of June.  I’m also looking forward to the latest Jane Casey and Sharon Bolton books: both are guaranteed to be excellent reads.

Outside your criminal reading pursuits, what author/series/book/genre do you find yourself regularly recommending to your friends?

When I am not up to my eyes in dastardly deeds or unreliable narrators, I enjoy reading Lisa Jewell whose latest books, although marketed at women, are not by any means a light fluffy read.  Another author I love for her perceptive writing is Jojo Moyes and both these authors have written one historical based fiction book, a genre I enjoy as long as it properly researched.  Lisa Jewell wrote Before I Met You which is dual time novel split between the present day and the London in the 1920’s and Jojo Moyes wrote the amazing The Girl You Left Behind set partly in wartime France, which I’ve repeatedly recommended to friends and family (and anyone else who vaguely indicates that they would like a good book to read).

Thank you very much for sharing your reading passions with us, Cleo. I’ve been taking notes! I look forward to chatting to other great readers and reviewers about their criminally good reads over the next few weeks. In the past month I have featured Margot Kinberg and Rebecca Bradley in this series. 

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17 thoughts on “What Got You Hooked on a Life of Crime, Cleo Bannister?

  1. I loved Someone Else’s Skin by Sarah Hilary. It’s a series I will definitely be following.

    • Yes, I thought it was really good too. I was going to say I ‘enjoyed’ it, but am not sure that’s the right word, given the rather hard-hitting subject matter.

  2. Marina Sofia – Thanks for hosting Cleo.

    Cleo – I agree; it isn’t fair to limit any bibliophile to one book or series! ;-) I agree that Peter James’ Roy Grace novels are terrific. Oh, and I really do want to read the Sarah Hilary. Thanks for the recommendation!

  3. Thank you so much for featuring me, my blog and one of my bookshelves. I’m truly honoured to have been chosen for your feature :-)

  4. Great interview; I must give the Sarah Hilary a try. One cavil: it’s “Rendell”!

  5. Aha! Good to see you’ve managed to capture one of my favourite villains! The woman who is single-handledly responsible for turning my TBR from a bad dream into a full-blown nightmare!

    Great interview – nice to see how Cleo’s tastes developed over the years. And, Cleo, you’re right – the cigarette butt will be sadly missed in future crime fiction…

    • Ha, I know what you mean! Same here – which is why I could not resist putting her under the bright lights of the interrogation room.

    • Thank you FictionFan, I was obsessed with looking at cigarette butts as a child which infuriated my mother who would hiss ‘dirty’ without moving her lips, I was a misunderstood child so it is no wonder I grow up to be a villain! ;-)

  6. Pingback: Free Panel on Writing Fiction Using Psychology in Studio City | J. C. Conway

  7. I do love Cleo’s v reliable reviews, and as a recent addition to the crime fiction blogosphere her kind comments have made me feel SO welcome!

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