A Crime in My Stockings #6: Margot Kinberg

downfallThe next contributor to my little Christmas quiz is queen of crime Margot Kinberg. Not of committing it, I hasten to add, but of reading, reviewing, writing and just generally knowing about crime fiction. You can find Margot’s latest book, ‘Downfall’, on Kindle here. And here’s the book she picked:

“There are so many good crime novels out there that it’s very hard to choose just one. But, let’s not get greedy; any crime fiction fan knows where greed tends to lead… If I could have just one crime novel this holiday season, I think I would choose J.M. Green’s Good Money.

There are a few reasons I’d want that one in particular. One is that it features an interesting protagonist. Stella Hardy is a middle-aged social worker – one of ‘the rest of us.’ She has her own past, but that doesn’t stop her wanting justice when one of her clients is murdered. Her character has some depth, and I like that in a protagonist. Another reason is the setting. The story takes place in Melbourne, which I’ve always wanted to visit (I will get there someday), and where a lot of other great crime novels take place. The final reason I want to read this is that it was recommended to me by a friend who’s since passed. She never steered me wrong, and I only wish I’d read this while she was alive, so we could talk about it. I’d like to remember her by reading it now.

So there you have it: my ‘wish list’ novel. Thanks again for including me in this very special feature!

Black, white or shades of grey?

Fellow crime writer and aficionado Margot Kinberg read my review of Brotherhood at Punk Noir magazine the other day and it set her thinking. In particular, the bit where I mention my theory that US drama tends to be morally ‘cut and dried’, whereas the British equivalent is more ambivalent.

I’m the first to admit that the statement is a. only my opinion and b. a shocking generalisation! It’s also probably more appropriate to film and TV than to books, which tend to have more space to develop their characters and plot lines. But Margot has brought her encyclopaedic knowledge of crime writing to bear on the subject, and come up with an excellently-researched blog post of her own, liberally illustrated with examples.

It makes for fascinating reading, and is much more well argued than my original blog post ever was. So do go and see what she has to say on the whole subject, and whether she agrees with me or not (I’m taking the fifth on that one, but it seems to have generated some healthy debate). I’m delighted that my wafflings sparked her, er, little grey cells into action.

Crime Fiction News Break

mikrofonTo my shame, I’ve only just discovered that Margot Kinberg puts out regular monthly crime fiction news podcasts on her own YouTube channel. For those of you who don’t know her, Margot is something of a specialist in crime fiction with an impressive, even encyclopaedic knowledge of the genre – and she also writes murder mystery books in her spare time.

The latest installment of Crime Fiction News Break includes details of recent winners of the well known Golden Dagger awards, information about Scandi Noir, and a nice ‘plug’ for my own forthcoming book, ‘Gravy Train’. I’m honoured to have been mentioned in such great company.

To hear Margot’s November podcast for yourselves, head to YouTube. And don’t forget to check out her previous broadcasts which are full of interesting nuggets about the world of crime fiction.


Where the heck Wednesday: Margot Kinberg

Welcome to another instalment of Where the Heck Wednesday, this time courtesy of crime writer (and fount of all knowledge when it comes to crime fiction!) Margot Kinberg.  Over to you, Margot!

Book Title: Past Tense

Setting: Pennsylvania, USA

Author: Margot Kinberg

http://margotkinberg.wordpress.com / Facebook / Twitter


Thanks so much, Tess, for hosting me. A novel’s setting is an important part of what makes it work, so I really like the idea of a feature that’s devoted to settings. And I appreciate the chance to talk about the setting I chose for Past Tense.

Where’s the Book Set?

Past Tense takes place mostly on the quiet campus of (fictional) Tilton University, located in the US state of Pennsylvania. What’s interesting about that state is that it’s actually got several regions with different weather patterns and kinds of geography. So, to be more specific, the novel’s set in the (equally fictional) small town of Tilton, about two hours from Philadelphia. It’s not far from the rich farm country of the south-central part of the state, but Tilton itself isn’t a farming community.

Why That Location?

I’ve always liked college and university campuses. For one thing, they tend to be visually appealing. Many of them have beautiful groves of trees, gardens, lawns and so on. The older campuses also tend to have interesting, and sometimes quite lovely, buildings. And there are always stories associated with those buildings. I wanted a setting that would offer a blend of history, beauty and the opportunity to bring disparate people together. Nothing does that quite like a university campus.

Many US colleges and universities are located in small ‘college towns,’ and that’s the sort of place Tilton is. I wanted that atmosphere, because it allows for a lot of mixing of university and town, and that’s important in Past Tense. In fact, a few local characters are alumni of Tilton, and that plays a role in the novel. Small-town settings allow for that blend.

What Did it Entail?

Tilton University doesn’t exist. So in the sense of preparing, it was more a matter of creating a credible place than researching to get streets and so on right. But bits of it are based on my own experiences on university campuses, including the one I attended for my undergraduate degree. It’s been really interesting to check recent images of that campus to see how it’s evolved since I was a student. That particular campus has a beautiful open area with a grove of old oak trees, benches, paths, and so on. It’s really one of the hubs of the campus. The local squirrels know this, and are quite bold, even following unsuspecting people until they sit down and open up that sandwich or snack. The squirrels reconnoiter, plot their ambush strategies, and then clamber up the benches until they’re right next to anyone who sits there long enough with anything to eat. Then they use their ‘I’m so adorable you can’t possibly ignore me’ facial expressions until they’re fed. Woe betide the person who feeds them, though. The Pied Piper of Hamelin had nothing on a person who walks through that grove of trees after having fed even one squirrel. I may have to include marauding squirrels in my next mystery…


Margot Kinberg is a mystery novelist (she writes the Joel Williams series) and Associate Professor. She has also been blogging about crime fiction since 2009. She has written three Joel Williams novels (Publish or Perish, B – Very Flat, and Past Tense) and is currently revising the fourth. She is also the editor of the charity anthology In a Word: Murder.  Margot blogs at Confessions of a Mystery Novelist.

Connect with Margot on Twitter

…or Facebook.

Past Tense is available 1 November at Amazon.

Good stories, good cause

Want an anthology stuffed with crime stories, and to know you’re helping a good cause while you’re at it? Then look no further than In a Word: Murder, a collection of crime stories set in the world of writing, editing, reviewing and blogging.

In a Word: Murder

Although I’m not in this collection, I can think of a few murder plots inspired by bad reviews and the like. I’m sure my fellow crime writers had ample source material to come up with some entertaining stories.

The book is available from Amazon right now, and all proceeds will go to the Princess Alice Hospice. Further details from the writer who organised the anthology, Margot Kinberg.