mystery · suspense · thriller

*CONTENT POST* Perfect Bones – A.J. Waines.

About the book; Is the killer on the loose…or standing right beside you?

When art student, Aiden Blake, witnesses a gruesome attack on a London towpath, the police need him to identify the assailant without delay. But there’s a problem: refusing to leave his canal boat and traumatised by the shock, Aiden is rendered mute by the horror of the event and can’t speak to anyone.

In a desperate bid to gain vital information before Aiden’s memories fade, The Met call in Clinical Psychologist and trauma expert, Dr Samantha Willerby, giving her only seven days to get a result. When Aiden finally starts to communicate through his art, however, the images he produces are not what anyone expects and before Sam can make sense of them, another murder takes place.

With her professional skills stretched to the limit and the clock ticking, Sam strives to track down a killer who is as clever as she is – someone who always manages to stay one step ahead.Is the killer on the loose…or standing right beside you?

When art student, Aiden Blake, witnesses a gruesome attack on a London towpath, the police need him to identify the assailant without delay. But there’s a problem: refusing to leave his canal boat and traumatised by the shock, Aiden is rendered mute by the horror of the event and can’t speak to anyone.

In a desperate bid to gain vital information before Aiden’s memories fade, The Met call in Clinical Psychologist and trauma expert, Dr Samantha Willerby, giving her only seven days to get a result. When Aiden finally starts to communicate through his art, however, the images he produces are not what anyone expects and before Sam can make sense of them, another murder takes place.

With her professional skills stretched to the limit and the clock ticking, Sam strives to track down a killer who is as clever as she is – someone who always manages to stay one step ahead.

How working in a Safe-House influenced my Writing;

When I was practising as a psychotherapist in London, (before I became a full-time author), I worked in a safe-house for ex-convicts from high-security institutions. I largely met young women aiming to re-integrate back into society after a period of time in prison. These women had been put away for arson, stabbings, suffocating and all manner of fatal attacks. They’d grown up with stabbings, shootings and muggings; they knew no other kind of life.

They all had mental health problems (hence serving a sentence in a psychiatric hospital as opposed to prison), often stemming from dysfunctional backgrounds. Most had a fragile personality-type, were easily led and got involved with criminal activity because their brothers/sister/mothers lived that life too. Often anti-establishment, they were seeking leadership, gang-culture, excitement, risk-taking. More often than not, however, they were simply looking for a sense of ‘family’ and belonging.

The location and confidentiality was very strict, as you can imagine. I was there to offer a listening ear for personal problems and fears of going back ‘outside’. One woman set fire to her room during the time I was working there and others self-harmed, as cooking knives and personal property was available as part of the rehabilitation process. Most residents were on antipsychotic medication or drugs for anxiety and depression.

Having written a book on self-esteem and run courses for women on that subject, my chief role was to offer support and tips for self-love, self-awareness and as many ways I could think of to help the women feel empowered without crime. Most of them knew the answers, but putting them into practice ‘out there’ was the hard part. Surprisingly, I invariably came away feeling more sad, than disturbed by my encounters.

My writing has certainly been influenced by my experiences with ex-convicts at the safe-house. I’m fascinated by the differences between law-abiding citizens and those who cross the line into serious crime. I write about killers and serial killers, but more often than not they aren’t thugs or callous maniacs. Since my experiences in the safe-house, I’m also inclined to cast women rather than men, as the culprits in my books, but they’re never ‘monsters’. The killers in my psychological thrillers harbour grudges, pain, hurt and suffering from their pasts which drives them towards extreme forms of self-preservation, revenge or retribution.

One of the techniques I used in the safe-house was art therapy. It’s great for people who find words difficult, who can’t express themselves well or for those who find it hard to talk to someone who is eyeballing them head on. When you focus on a drawing in front of you, it takes the pressure off ‘communicating’. It’s also good for people who hide behind words, the ones who can talk themselves out of a paper bag, but rarely let themselves really be seen!

In Perfect Bones, the sole witness to a gruesome attack – an artist living on a narrowboat – is rendered mute by the horror of the event and can’t speak to anyone. My gutsy protagonist, psychologist Samantha Willerby, uses art therapy an in attempt to coax details of the killer from him. She’s been given only seven days by The Met, but time runs out and another murder is committed…

Many years after my visits to the safe-house, I still wonder what happened to the women I met. Perhaps that’s why characters with fragile personalities seeking family, excitement, risk and belonging all feature in my stories, sometimes as the main characters, other times as the perpetrators. Also, readers say there’s an undercurrent of humanity in my stories. There’s very little violence and gore and far more about harrowing mind-games and dark, driven motives for the radical acts involved. I like to pose the question ‘how would you react in this situation?’ to my readers, just as, when I think of those women, I wonder how I would have turned out if I’d had their dysfunctional backgrounds, violent environment and deprivation to cope with.

In my trauma work as a therapist, I found drawing particularly useful for victims. Little did I know, at the time, that I’d be basing a whole mystery-thriller on it, one day!

Perfect Bones by AJ Waines is published by Bloodhound Books and was released on 8 November.

Content posts

*CONTENT POST* Inside the Whispers – A.J. Waines

Blurb; The most dangerous place is inside your own head…
Dr Samantha Willerby, a specialist in Post Traumatic Stress, has never seen anything like this before. Following a fire on the London Underground, three survivors seek her help – but although unmistakably traumatised, their stories don’t match the facts. Are they ‘faking it’? Sam’s confusion turns to horror when one by one, instead of recovering, they are driven to suicide.
When her lover, Conrad, begins to suffer the same terrifying flashbacks, Sam is desperate to find out what’s causing them. As a mysterious and chilling conspiracy begins to unravel the nightmares begin for Sam…

About the Author; AJ Waines is a number one bestselling author, topping the entire UK and Australian Kindle Charts in two consecutive years, with Girl on a Train, Following fifteen years as a psychotherapist, the author is now a full-time novelist with publishing deals in UK, France, Germany, Norway, Hungary and Canada (audio books).

Her fourth psychological thriller, No Longer Safe, sold over 30,000 copies in the first month, in thirteen countries. AJ Waines has been featured in The Wall Street Journal and The Times and has been ranked a Top 10 UK author on Amazon KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing).

Her next thriller, Lost in the Lake, will be re-released by Bloodhound Books on 24 October 2018.

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Inside the Whispers – AJ Waines
Research for the Book:

‘If there’s one thing A.J Waines does perfectly it’s intrigue and suspense: 5 stars’
(Holly Kilminster, Bookaholic Confessions)

Inside the Whispers is based on chilling events at a London Hospital and introduces my series character, the gutsy Clinical Psychologist, Dr Samantha Willerby. Sam starts a new job treating patients with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, one of the conditions I came across when I worked as a Psychotherapist myself, in London.

At the start of Inside the Whispers, Sam has one-to-one consultations with survivors of a fire on the London Underground and I hope my own experiences working in this field help to bring authenticity to these scenes. Unlike in my own practice, however, Sam soon realises something is badly awry when her trauma patients recount their nightmares. Their stories don’t match the facts and Sam is swept into a mysterious and deadly game of Chinese whispers.

Background Research:

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is intense. It can involve flashbacks, nightmares, anxiety and panic-attacks. It can lead individuals to feel jumpy, helpless, hopeless and even to consider taking their own lives. Listening to patients relive their stories and trying to imagine what that must have been like for them, can be an overwhelming job for a therapist. I found myself drained and often very upset after such sessions. In fact, there is a condition known as secondary trauma, where those who ‘listen to’ or work with those affected become traumatised themselves.

As a writer, I wanted to capture the essence of PTSD without using material that was too distressing! Inside the Whispers has been described as ‘tense and unsettling’, but never gory or violent – so no readers need to worry about that. Most of the drama in the book comes from the mystery and intrigue as Sam discovers there’s a malevolent conspiracy driving the unfolding of events. When her partner, Conrad, begins to suffer the same terrifying flashbacks, Sam is desperate to find out what’s causing them and before she can get to the bottom of it, she’s suffering the nightmares herself…

The River Thames:

When I first started sketching notes for Inside the Whispers, I’d already left London. It was largely a financial decision to go; my husband and I wanted to buy our own place with a garden, but the cost of a property – even in the areas of London where we didn’t want to live – was beyond us! With a heavy heart, we moved further along the south coast to Southampton. More recently, we’ve moved to a beautiful village, five minutes’ walk from the water’s edge, in Hampshire. Nevertheless, London is still my favourite city in the world. To me, it means glamour and dynamism – I feel the buzz the instant I step off the train at Waterloo. I feel like I become my ‘best self’ when I’m in London, as though anything is possible.

To keep my experiences of London alive, I decided to start a new series of psychological thrillers set there, with the first, Inside the Whispers, based around a fictitious hospital, St Luke’s at London Bridge, beside the Thames. The fast flowing river, with its distinctive bridges and high and low tides, also plays a big part in my debut novel, The Evil Beneath. In Lost in the Lake, the second book in the Dr Sam Willerby series, the action takes place partly in the Lake District and partly back in London and the next book in the Dr Sam series, Perfect Bones (to be published in November 2018, with Bloodhound Books), is set on a canal boat on Regent’s Canal in Camden. I realise now that waterways have become quite an obsession in my books I can’t seem to write about London without involving them!

The sea makes an appearance in one of my stand alone books, the domestic-noir thriller, Don’t you Dare. These days, I’m lucky enough to be able to see The Solent from my study window every day, so I think my obsession with water is set to continue!