Today I’m delighted to feature author MJ Lee. M J is a writer of contemporary crime, historical and genealogical mystery novels. His latest in the DI Ridpath series, When the Evil Waits has just been released. He also writes pure historical fiction under his real name Martin Lee.
Martin has spent most of his adult life writing in one form or another. As a University researcher in history, he wrote pages of notes on reams of obscure topics. As a social worker with Vietnamese refugees, he wrote memoranda. And, as the creative director of an advertising agency, he has written print and press ads, tv commercials, short films and innumerable backs of cornflake packets and hotel websites.
He has spent 25 years of his life working outside the North of England. In London, Hong Kong, Taipei, Singapore, Bangkok and Shanghai, winning awards from Cannes, One Show, D&AD, New York and London Festivals, and the United Nations.
When he’s not writing, he splits his time between the UK and Asia, taking pleasure in playing with his daughter, researching his family history, practicing downhill ironing, single-handedly solving the problem of the French wine lake and wishing he were George Clooney.
Over to Martin:
Which piece of music/song would you include in the soundtrack to your life and why?
Hi Jill, love the idea of five on Friday. Here are my five songs to form my soundtrack. All of them mean something to me and often where the background to an important part of my life.
David Bowie: Ziggy Stardust. On my first job, this song played incessantly in the background. I always think of painting eau-de-nil walls when I hear it.
Mott the Hoople: All the young dudes. I was hitchhiking to Italy and got picked up by a New Zealand couple in the South of France. This is the only cassette they had. Not surprisingly we ended up in Morocco.
Bob Marley: No woman, no cry. The one record that always gets me up on the dance floor strutting my dad moves.
Vaughan Williams: The lark ascending. I love walking and this always reminds me of the Peak District and Kinder Scout.
Ewen McColl: The Joy of Living. A meditation on the beauty of life and saying goodbye to all that at the close of the day. The song I’d play at my funeral.
What (apart from family and friends) would you find it hard to live without.
Coffee: I’m brain-dead until I’ve had my first cup in the morning. After that, I’m only semi-brain dead.
Wine: How the humble grape can produce such variation and pleasure in a single glass always amazes me. Cheers.
Walking: There’s a point in each long walk when I’m tired and then the ideas flood in. Plot problems? No worry, go for a long walk, the answers soon appear.
The Countryside: Its beauty, even on the darkest day, makes my heart soar. It’s the point of living.
Cheese: Wensleydale, Cheshire and Goats are my favourites. Toasted cheese sarnies are a treat to savour (as my waistline expands). Borough Market used to do an amazing cheese toastie…my mouth still waters.
Can you offer a piece of advice for your younger self?
Be more aware of others – the teens tend to be a selfish time. I was so self absorbed as to be up my own bum.
Be more aware of possibilities – growing up working class in Manchester, there was a poverty of expectation. It was impossible to achieve anything if you didn’t even know the possibility existed. For me, it’s the great failing of the English education system.
Be Kind – too often in my youth I was more concerned with being right than being kind. It took me a long while to realise that I could achieve more by helping others rather than being right.
Be able to say sorry – For a long time, I took it as a sign of weakness. It’s not, it’s a strength.
Be more interested in Family – I had a grandmother who lived to be 103 and a mother who lived to 93. I wish I had talked to them more about their lives.
Tell us something that most people don’t know about you
I used to dub Chinese Kung Fu movies into English. I was one of the voices that was always out of sync on Chinese movies shown in English cinemas. I specialised in fight sounds.
I once hitch hiked to Italy and ended up in Morocco.
I went to school in Toulouse for a short while as an exchange student. I’d only been there a week and the whole school went on strike. For a lad from Manchester, it was an eye-opener. The same school had 1800 girls and only 300 boys. Coming from an all-boys English grammar school, it was lying being transported to heaven. And then some….
I was a member of the team that won University Challenge in 1980. Bamber Gascoigne was the quiz master and we received three David Hockney Prints from the painter as the prize for the University from Granada. They are probably worth a fortune now…
I used to work in advertising. At that time, the ads were often more enjoyable than the programmes or films. Not any more, I’m afraid. The accountants took over the industry. So it goes
Tell us something you’d still like to do or achieve.
Still so many things;
I’d like to see Ridpath as a TV series.
I’d like to see my daughter grow up healthy and happy, in a world that doesn’t put impossible expectations or barriers in the way of women becoming exactly what they want to become.
I’d like to write a series I’ve been planning for ten years. It’s one of those I keep putting off. One day…
I’d love to see a cure for internet stupidity.
I’d like to walk the Camino to Santiago de Compostela. Not because I’m religious but because I think everybody should make a pilgrimage to themselves at least once in their lives.
Thanks so much for joining me today Martin, it’s been a delight. I love your music choices as a teenager in the 70’s, the first 2 certainly resonated with me. I love the piece by Ewan McColl too – the lyrics are so heartfelt and moving, it also encompasses your love of walking and the countryside – a fitting tribute to your Joy of Living. I think being kind and able to say your sorry is something we all often learn too late, but better late than never. Well done on your University Challenge win, that’s a great achievement – I watch it now and get excited if I can remember any answers! I’m sure we’re all intrigued as well to discover how your Italian trip ended up in Morocco. I really hope you get to achieve the items on your list. I was delighted to see El Camino appear on your list, a very happy coincidence in view of my earlier post this week. Whatever life has in store for you, Buen Camino!
DI Ridpath Crime Thrillers
Where the Truth Lies (Book 1)
The case was closed. Until people started dying…
DI Thomas Ridpath was on the up in the Manchester CID: a promising detective who captured a notorious serial killer. But ten years later he’s recovering from a serious illness and on the brink of being forced out of the police. Then the murders began, in an uncanny echo of his first case.
As the death count grows, old records, and bodies, go missing. Caught in a turf war between the police and the coroner’s office, Ridpath is in a race against time. A race to save his career, his marriage, and innocent lives.
When a detective disappears everything is on the line. Can Ridpath save his colleague?
Where the Dead Fall (Book 2)
One chance encounter, one murder, will change everything.
DI Thomas Ridpath is in the process of getting his life back together when everything goes wrong. Caught in a gruesome motorway incident, one question remains: why did nobody else see what happened?
Ridpath’s investigations soon pulls the police force itself into question, and hints at something even more sinister.
With Manchester on the brink of violence unlike anything seen in decades, Ridpath must battle this unprecedented conflict alongside his own demons…
Where the Silence Calls (Book 3)
Play with fire, and you’re going to get burned. The unputdownable new Ridpath crime thriller
In Manchester, a block of flats is burning. The only victim is a middle-aged man, sat watching TV. Are the fire and the man’s death an accident or is something more frightening at work?
Meanwhile, DI Ridpath is back with his wife and enjoying work at the Coroner’s Office, his myeloma still in remission. But the quiet life is soon shattered by a new threat.
More corpses start appearing; charred, burnt, silent bodies, strewn in the streets and lodged in buildings. Next to each one is a chilling message sprayed in orange ink.
Fighting on all fronts, Ridpath will be drawn into the dark past of his city and the youth football clubs of the 1990s. He must find the link before any more people die. Before the flames come close to home…
Where the Innocent Die (Book 4)
Nowhere is safe. No one can be trusted.
A bloodied body is found in a Manchester Immigrant Removal Centre. The investigating officer and the pathologist seem certain: a suicide. But for DI Ridpath something doesn’t add up.
As the evidence starts to unravel, and with few leads, the pressure is on to find answers before the Inquest is closed. Caught between the police, the coroner and a system that doesn’t care, Ridpath isn’t making any friends.
And at the centre of the case Ridpath will find a heart of darkness. Innocent people are suffering. How many more will die before Ridpath discovers the truth?
When the Past Kills (Book 5)
The past is never over. It’s just waiting for an opportunity to return…
When the notorious serial killer the Beast of Manchester was captured, the streets should have been safe. Except the police got the wrong man. An innocent person was convicted, and only later was the culprit put away.
Now, those connected to the case are being targeted. Someone wants revenge. DI Thomas Ridpath has to relive the horrors all over again. As the bodies stack up once more, Ridpath knows the answers lie in the mistakes made the first time round.
But as he is searching for clues from years ago, fresh terror awaits. While Ridpath seeks to save lives, he risks overlooking the greatest danger of all – and losing more than he can stand.
When the Evil Waits (Book 6)
A child’s body in an unmarked grave. A killer waiting to strike again.
A young boy’s body is found in a meadow beside the River Mersey. No DNA. No witnesses. No clues. It brings back painful memories of the Moors Murderers.
After two weeks, the police have made no progress finding the killer. The one thing they do know; he will kill again. It is a race against time – and they are losing.
DI Thomas Ridpath has just returned to work. Diagnosed with PTSD and undergoing supervised psychological therapy, he is dragged into the case against his better judgement. When another child is kidnapped, Ridpath must confront his own demons to stop a killer before he strikes again.
Jayne Sinclair Genealogical Mysteries
The Irish Inheritance (Book 1)
Sometimes, digging up the past reveals more than secrets…
Former police detective, Jayne Sinclair, now working as a genealogical investigator, is commissioned by an adopted American billionaire to discover the identity of his real father.
She has only three clues to help her: a photocopied birth certificate, a stolen book and an old photograph. She soon realises somebody else is on the trail of the mystery. A killer who will stop at nothing to prevent Jayne discovering the secret hidden in the past
The Irish Inheritance takes us through the Easter Rising of 1916 and the Irish War of Independence, combining a search for the truth of the past with all the tension of a modern-day thriller.
The Somme Legacy (Book 2)
“A thrilling saga of love, war, greed and revenge.”
When Jayne Sinclair, genealogical investigator, is commissioned to research the family history of a young teacher, the only clues are a medal with purple, green and white ribbons, and a drawing of a young woman. Her quest leads to a secret buried in the trenches of WW1 for over one hundred years.
Who was the real heir to the Lappiter millions?
The American Candidate (Book 3)
In her most dangerous case yet, Jayne Sinclair investigates the family history of a candidate to be President of the United States of America.
When the politician who commissioned the genealogical research is shot dead, Jayne is forced to flee for her life. Why was he killed? And who is trying to stop the Candidate’s past from being revealed?
Jayne Sinclair is caught in a deadly race against time to discover the truth, armed only with her own wits and the ability to discover secrets hidden in the past.
The Vanished Child (Book 4)
What would you do if you discovered you had a brother you never knew existed?
On her deathbed, Freda Duckworth confesses to giving birth to an illegitimate child in 1944 and temporarily placing him in a children’s home. She returned later but he had vanished.
What happened to the child? Why did he disappear? Where did he go?
Jayne Sinclair, genealogical investigator, is faced with lies, secrets, and one of the most shameful episodes in recent history as she attempts to uncover the truth.
Can she find the vanished child?
The Silent Christmas (Book 5)
In a time of war, they discovered peace.
When David Wright finds a label, a silver button and a lump of old leather in a chest in the attic, it opens up a window onto the true of joy of Christmas.
Jayne Sinclair, genealogical investigator, has just a few days to unravel the mystery and discover the truth of what happened on December 25, 1914.
Why did her client’s great grandfather keep these objects hidden for so long? What did they mean to him? And will they help bring the joy of Christmas to a young boy stuck in hospital?
The Sinclair Betrayal (Book 6)
In the middle of a war, the first casualty is truth.
For years, Jayne has avoided researching her own family history. There are just too many secrets hidden in the past. Then she is forced to face up to the biggest secret of all; her father is still alive. Even worse, he is in prison for the cold-blooded killing of an old civil servant. A killing supposedly motivated by the betrayal and death of his mother decades before.
Was he guilty or innocent?
Was her grandmother really a spy?
And who betrayed her to the Germans?
Jayne uses all her genealogical and police skills to investigate the world of the SOE, and of secrets concealed in the dark days of World War 2.
A world that leads her into a battle with herself, her conscience and her own family.
The Merchant’s Daughter (Book 7)
After a DNA test, Rachel Marlowe, an actress from an aristocratic family, learns she has an African ancestor.
She has always been told her family had been in England since 1066, the time of William the Conqueror, and they have a family tree showing an unbroken line of male descendants.
Unable to discover the truth herself, she turns to Jayne Sinclair to research her past.
Which one of her forbears is Rachel’s African ancestor? And, who is desperate to stop Jayne Sinclair uncovering the truth?
Jayne digs deep into the secrets of the family, buried in the slave trade and the great sugar estates of the Caribbean.
Can she discover the truth hidden in time?
The Christmas Carol (Book 8)
Discovering a Christmas Past to deliver a Christmas Present.
When an antique dealer asks Jayne Sinclair, genealogical investigator, to discover the provenance of a first edition of Charles Dickens’, A Christmas Carol, she is faced with one of the most difficult challenges of her career.
How does she find the family of the mysterious man in the hand-written dedication, when all she has is a name, a place, Victorian Manchester, and a date, December 19, 1843?
She has just three days to uncover the truth before the auction. Even worse, she faces spending her own Christmas alone; her family having decided to visit relatives in Scotland.
Jayne is in a race against time to find the family of the man and the reason why Dickens wrote the dedication. Even more, she has to dig deep within herself to find the true joy of Christmas. A secret discovered by Charles Dickens many years ago.
Can she find the truth behind a Christmas past to deliver a Christmas present?
Inspector Dhanilov Historical Thrillers
Death In Shanghai (Book 1)
Shanghai, 1928. The body of a blonde is washed up on the Beach of Dead Babies, in the heart of the smog-filled city. Seemingly a suicide, a closer inspection reveals a darker motive: the corpse has been weighed down, it’s lower half mutilated…and the Chinese character for ‘justice’ carved into the chest.
The moment Inspector Danilov lays eyes on the dismembered body, he realises that he has an exceptional case on his hands. And when the first body is followed by another, and another, each displaying a new, bloody message, he has no option but face the truth. He is dealing with the worst kind of criminal; someone determined, twisted…and vengeful.
Someone who must be caught….whatever the cost.
City of Shadows (Book 2)
A family has been found murdered in the heart of 1920s Shanghai. But what could have compelled them to open the door to their killer?
Inspector Danilov has always taken a unique approach to solving his cases. So, when he’s asked to investigate the violent death of a fellow police officer, killed in action, he doesn’t think twice about turning his attention to a different case altogether: the brutal murder of the Lee family, found massacred in their own home.
How could the deaths of an ordinary family account for a shooting halfway across the city? And what clues lie with the letter found clasped in the dead girl’s hand? Inspector Danilov’s instincts tell him he’s close. But when the investigation reveals deep corruption at Shanghai’s core, Danilov faces a choice: probe further, and expose the evil underbelly of the city? Or shy from duty…and keep the few people he loves safe?
The Murder Game (Book 3)
A woman appears on the streets of Shanghai. She has thousands of cuts – and is screaming for Inspector Danilov…
Days later, the woman is dead. But another body is left waiting for the Inspector. Someone is playing with Danilov… someone prepared to kill, just to get their message across.
At first, the victims seem unconnected. But with each body bringing a new message for Danilov, he knows this is a riddle especially designed for him.
As more bodies start appearing, time is running out to solve the deadly puzzle…
The Killing Time (Book 4)
As tensions simmer in Shanghai, children go missing…
Shanghai 1932: Inspector Danilov hasn’t recovered from the death of his child… but across a Shanghai riven with communal tensions, children are going missing.
Missing, and then murdered. Who is responsible? Why have the children’s bodies been exhibited for all to see?
Just as Danilov thinks the stakes couldn’t be higher there is a new dimension, Japan, a rising power flexing its muscles. In fractious Shanghai, an explosion is long overdue. With the clock ticking can Danilov and his assistant Strachan solve the case? The fate of Shanghai may be at stake. So is Danilov’s job… And his sanity.
Samuel Pepys and the Stolen Diary (standalone)
Samuel Pepys has been keeping a diary for ten years; a diary that tells of his life at the court of Charles II. And of his own marital indiscretions.
Now it has been stolen, along with his wife’s favourite locket. Samuel must get it back, or he might lose his head in the Tower. He will certainly lose his wife, who thinks he’s given her locket to his latest mistress.
Together with his best friend, Will Hewer, he embarks on a quest to recover
the lost items, leading him to the dark heart of a treacherous and corrupt Restoration London.
Samuel Pepys and the Stolen Diary is a laugh out loud romp through the filthy streets of London, where hackney drivers boast of having the best seats for a hangin’ and the poet laureate Dryden rewrites his plays for the highest bidder. Filled with historical colour and clever plot turns, you’ll be cheering for Samuel and Will well after the last page is turned.