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blog tour: book review and a whole lot more about Tell No Lies and its author, Lisa Hartley



So. Here I am as promised, though a bit later than usual — blame it please on the horrible migraine that’s been plaguing me for three straight whole days now.

Migraine-stricken or not, however, I could not fail to be here to introduce you to a lovely and talented young writer, Lisa Hartley, whose second book on the Detective Caelan Small series has just been published. Moreover, it is a thrill for me to participate in another of Canelo’s blog tours, courtesy of no less lovely Ellie Pilcher’s kind invite.

The book I’m talking about is Tell No Lies, a sequel to Ask No Questions, a series about an intrepid undercover detective and her trials and tribulations as she tries to go about her job. Just like Ask No Questions, Tell No Lies was published by the fab folks at Canelo, branded as a Crime / Thriller / Detective Fiction novel, and it came out 19th February last.

Here’s Tell No Lies cover image:

And here’s the book blurb:

Now they’re coming after Caelan’s team…

A tortured body is found in a basement. Drug dealing and people smuggling is on the rise. Then police start going missing.

There seems to be no connection between the crimes, but Detective Caelan Small senses something isn’t right.

Plunged into a new investigation, lives are on the line. And in the web of gangs, brothels and nerve-shattering undercover work, Caelan must get to the truth – or be killed trying.

And then there’s Nicky…

Utterly gripping, written with searing tension and remarkable dexterity, Tell No Lies is a blistering crime novel for fans of Angela Marsons, Rebecca Bradley and Faith Martin.

Here’s where to find the book:

Amazon (UK)

Kobo (UK)

Google Books (UK)

Apple Books (UK)

And here’s Lisa, then:

Lisa Hartley lives with her partner, son, two dogs and several cats. She graduated with a BA (Hons) in English Studies, then had a variety of jobs but kept writing in her spare time.

She is currently working on the next DS Catherine Bishop novel, as well as a new series with Canelo.

You can find Lisa on Twitter under her very original handle of @rainedonparade

Here’s the promised excerpt of Tell No Lies:


Enfield police station reminded Caelan of a model a child had made by sticking cardboard boxes together. One shoebox on the bottom with two more piled on top. The small car park in front of the building was almost full, and she had to make several attempts at manoeuvring into a space. As she slammed her door, another vehicle entered the car park, reversing neatly into the last available parking spot. Caelan paused as she recognised the vehicle.

‘Hello, stranger,’ she called as the driver emerged. Tim Achebe was a few years older than Caelan – she guessed mid-thirties. There weren’t many black police officers in the country who held a rank above that of inspector, but Achebe had risen to DCI in record time, and was widely tipped as a future Commissioner. She had first met him a few days ago, though with all that had happened, it felt longer.

Achebe grinned at her. ‘Morning. We meet again.’ He pointed to her battered face, wincing. ‘Looks nasty. How are you feeling?’

‘I’ve been better.’

‘But you’re here.’

‘No point sitting around feeling sorry for myself.’ She didn’t add that she had nowhere to go except a hotel, even if she had wanted to take some time off to recuperate.

‘No one could blame you, not after Nasenby, and…’ He paused. ‘You know.’

After she had discovered that Nicky, her colleague and former lover, whom she’d believed she’d seen killed, was still alive and had been hiding in a safe house. Caelan didn’t trust herself to reply, and was thankful when Achebe didn’t push for a response.

As they crossed the car park together, Caelan said, ‘I wasn’t sure who would be here.’

‘One of my DIs has been involved, but she’s off sick – had a car accident on her way home last night.’

‘Shit. Is she okay?’

He held the door of the station open for her. ‘Yes, thankfully. I spoke to her husband. Cuts and bruises.’

Caelan nodded, hesitating just inside the door. ‘Who are we here to see?’

Achebe glanced around, lowered his voice. ‘This is an Organised Crime Partnership operation.’

‘We’re working with the NCA?’

‘Yeah. They’ve been sniffing around in Edmonton for a while, but haven’t got very far.’

‘Edmonton?’ Caelan ran through the possibilities, didn’t like any of them. Though she wasn’t an expert, she knew of several gangs in the area, and anything linked to their activities could be dangerous. What was she walking into here?

‘We’re meeting with a couple of NCA officers, and… I understand you’ve been told about Nicky Sturgess?’ Achebe glanced at her, then averted his gaze.

Caelan stepped closer to him. ‘Did you know?’

Achebe raised his head. ‘That she was alive, in hiding? No. I had no idea.’

She nodded, believing him. ‘Who’s questioning Michael?’

‘Nasenby? I don’t know. Still can’t believe he was behind it all, to be honest.’

Caelan managed a short laugh, but it was an effort. ‘You can’t have been as surprised as I was. I thought I knew him.’

‘Did he do that to your face?’ Achebe touched his own cheek with a fingertip.

‘Yeah. He didn’t take kindly to being accused of murder. Several murders.’

‘Including that of a ten-year-old child.’ Achebe’s face was blank, his voice little more than a whisper. Caelan touched his arm.

‘We couldn’t have known, Tim.’

Achebe rubbed his eyes. ‘Just makes me sick to think of him sitting there, watching us run around trying to figure out what had happened, all the time knowing he’d done it. Enjoying watching us struggle.’

‘You think that’s what he was doing?’

‘Fuck, I don’t know. He was so… smooth, you know? Self-assured. But he had to know the truth would come out eventually.’

‘I don’t think he did. I think he believed he’d get away with it, even while I was listing all the evidence we had.’

‘Arrogant prick.’

Caelan laughed. ‘I think that’s what he thought of you.’

Achebe’s eyes opened wide. ‘Bloody cheek.’

‘Detective Small, DCI Achebe?’

The voice came from behind them. Caelan turned, looked at the man who had spoken. Stepping forward, he held out his hand, smiling at her. ‘I’m Spencer Reid, NCA. It’s good to meet you. I’ve heard… Well, I’ve heard about you.’

Caelan shook his hand, stepped away as he turned to greet Achebe. She hadn’t worked with the National Crime Agency before, though she had been involved in a couple of joint operations with the organisation it had replaced. The NCA existed to bring to justice serious and organised criminals, including those involved in drug trafficking, the sexual abuse and exploitation of children, and money laundering. Its representatives worked in partnership with other organisations in the UK and internationally. Caelan wondered what they wanted with her.

Reid gestured towards the door he had emerged from. ‘We’re through there.’



So… what do you think? Curious enough…? Here’s what I thought of Lisa Hartley’s Tell No Lies, then:

the review:

Now — I’ll try to steer away from any big spoilers in this review, seeing that you have the blurb and the extract up above, telling you most of what you need to know about this book. Therefore, I’m diving straight into my impressions and enjoyment of it.

I liked that the book, even though it is a sequel, stood very well on its own: you definitely do not need to have read the first instalment to understand and enjoy this book’s action and the characters. I happen to have read Tell No Lies before I read Ask No Questions, and I found it fully-formed and perfectly standing on its own. Though there are a few details that you will not be in possession of unless you’ve read Ask No Questions first, they are not however of any great amount, and your not knowing them does not interfere with the story or your understanding thereof.  Of course, I do recommend reading both books in the series, and in the right order, as it makes it a much more immersive and complete experience of the storyline, of the characters and of what’s at stake.

Notwithstanding, in this sequel we find that the characters are fully fleshed out, with Caelan Small coming across as the larger than [the] life [of the book’s plot] character. She is a bit of a loner, a bit of an introvert, a bit bristly, set in her ways, with a very strong north to her personal compass, and therefore at odds with the establishment that she is both a part of and apart from.

Caelan remains, somehow, a bit of a dark horse, a bit of a mystery, with all around her finding her difficult to get to know and befriend. A specialist undercover agent, she’s the best at what she does. She’s so good at changing identities and assuming her new personas that even her colleagues, the people she intimately works with day in day out, have a hard time to distinguish where Caelan begins and ends. But we, the readers, know better than that, because we’re privy to everyone’s actions and even thoughts. I dare say, we get to know Caelan better than most everybody else. And we get to like her, just as she is, a bit damaged, and bit interrupted, and all too human.

Caelan is therefore the unquestionable hero of the whole story, however else others might want to paint her, the person who’s the best at her game and who can be relied upon to save the day; but she’s also a bit of an anti-hero, as she clashes for the second time in Tell No Lies with the half-disembodied, extremely callous machinery of her crime unit, where power games are played, at the higher levels, irrespective of their dire consequences, including (or quite particularly) the welfare and safety of officers on the frontline.

Part of this frontline are, of course, undercover detectives Caelan, and her former crime unit and life partner, Nicky Sturgess, who was supposedly dead and now suddenly reappears, very much alive and seemingly already back on the job, to Caela’s complete shock and bewilderment. There is also Richard Adamson, another undercover detective who’s worked extensively with Caelan and trusts and respects her and her work.

We start this book with the special crime team being rebuilt, after the debacle of the last operation, and what transpired afterwards. In short thrift, we are reintroduced to Assistant Commissioner of Specialist Crime and Operations, Elizabeth Beckett, who seems to rule the roost of special crime operations with a rather heavy iron hand, but without either knowing or caring much about what the correct procedure and safety might be, or what the experienced, in-the-field officers like Caela think would be a more suitable strategy.

Then comes the turn of DCI Tim Achebe, an ambitious but honest officer, with an unflinching sense of right and wrong, who intuitively likes Caelan and welcomes working with her. He is a new school and a ‘restructured man’, aware and sensitive and politically correct, savvy and almost as straight as the proverbial arrow.  Even though his moral compass is as straight north as Caelan’s, he is a man who, unlike Caelan, knows how to navigate the corridors of power with all its plots and coups, and play the power game. He made the grade younger than most, and is tipped to fly even higher and become the next Assistant Commissioner, maybe even a Commissioner.

This time they are working with the National Crime Agency, trying to find who is responsible for the torture and savage death of two men, one of them a low-grade constable with no ties to the area where the crimes were committed, its precinct or any of their ongoing investigations. From the beginning, Caelan and Adam —  and Tim — are not impressed with the NCA officers they are set to work alongside, just as Caelan hadn’t been impressed with the way Elizabeth Beckett had handled her, Nicky, or the whole issue of her fake death. They have a bad feeling about the operation — almost as much as we the readers do! — but they do not have any choice over the matter. They have, after all, to follow orders.

the verdict:

I love the way these Detective Caelan stories are structured and told. They start with an introduction that is quite punchy and leaves you feeling breathless, as well as a bit shocked and adrift. From there, Lisa Hartley spins her yarn in such a way that she keeps us hanging on, both interested in the story and entertained by it.

I love how much ‘contemporary noir’ these novels feel. Like so many contemporary crime novels, these Detective Caelan stories, and Tell No Lies in particular, deal with the darkest side of human nature, with gruesome crimes that are hard to fathom or to stomach, by those in charge of investigating them in real life, by our fictional characters, and by the readers of such novels themselves. They tend to reflect life as it is, no frills, no rose tinted glasses, no happy ever afters. Moreover, they also tend to raise moral questions, especially about such issues as how power structures are working within such institutions as the police forces and crime agencies, about personal integrity and honesty and about fair play, and about how much or how often it is that an officer all too willing to break the rules can be found — and the broader consequences of it all, both in personal and social terms.

The themes they deal with are very contemporary, very up-to-the-minute problems, such as modern-day slavery, human trafficking, child trafficking, and prostitution rings, and their potential relationship with drug lords and drug trafficking and pushing networks. These are all problems that are not just confounding and eluding our fictional detectives and crime heroes, but many police forces and crime agencies throughout the world.

Lisa Hartley’s books are written in a fluent and unfussy, though still quite punchy, hard-hitting and fast-paced narrative style, which does not shy away from the, erm odd, “idiom”, but makes these novels light to read without detracting in any way from the story or the seriousness of its themes, or from its actors and their characterization.

All in all, I found them extremely pleasant and entertaining, and just the kind of book I like to pack in my handbag to keep me company on a train or aeroplane journey. I can’t wait for Lisa’s next offering, knowing it’s going to be at least as good as any of these.

Genre pegging: Crime / Thriller / Detective Fiction 
Verdict: A very interesting, punchy enough read
Rating: ♥♥♥♥
Shelves: c
rime; thrillers


Now, last but by no means least, here’s my interview with Lisa:

  • Before we start, Lisa, I would like to welcome you to my blog, and to thank you profusely for taking the time to answer my many questions. So, to begin with, could I ask you about your reading habits? Would you say you too are infected with the reading virus and, if so, how old were you when it first struck?

  • Thank you for the welcome, and the chance to appear on your blog! I’d say I was quite young when I was “infected” – around seven or eight? I’ve loved books for as long as I can remember.

  • Which is the first book you remember reading, and how old were you?

  • Probably an Enid Blyton. I can’t remember exactly when though

  • How much, and what, do you read? What are your favourite genre(s)/authors/books?

  • I read a lot of crime books, and I also enjoy historical fiction (and historical crime fiction!) I have loads of authors whose work I love, and one of my favourite things is discovering a new author, then finding out they’ve written several books in a series, and having them all to look forward to.

  • Do you have any books that you return to over and over again? If so, which are they?

  • Not as such, no. I do return to books years later sometimes.

  • How do you read? Do you read as a reader, for the pleasure and entertainment of it? Or do you read like a writer, dissecting scenes, plot, character, action, pace, language, everything…?

  • I think I read as a reader, just allowing myself to be caught up in the story. Then again, as a writer and also someone who studied English at university, I do find myself dissecting a book sometimes too. Perhaps it depends on how much I’ve been drawn into the story.

  • I recently read a book that left me breathless and wishing I had written it myself, and feeling that nothing I will ever write can ever be as good as that. Have you ever felt like that with a book you read, and which is the book you wish you had written?

  • I have, many times. The sort of book where you glance up from the pages and are surprised to find yourself in your own living room rather than wherever the book is set, because it’s been so real to you. I can’t think of a specific title, but there have also been books where the final twist has been so clever I’ve shaken my head in awe.

  • Which kinds of fictional villains do you love to hate the most? Who are your favourite fictional villain and villainess?

  • Hannibal Lecter comes to mind. I think often in crime fiction the motivations and personality of the villain are explored, and that makes them a more rounded person, rather than just a character you know you’re supposed to hate. Lecter is clearly incredibly evil, but he’s also fascinating, and the relationship he has with Clarice Starling shows his humanity, such as it is. It’s a strange, tense, terrifying relationship, but it’s a relationship nevertheless.

  • What about heroes, what type of hero/heroine is your favourite? Who are your favourite fictional hero and heroine, then?

  • In many of the books I read, the heroes are ordinary people – the police officers working around the clock to solve the crime, the victim or witness rebuilding their lives. I don’t think I really have favourites, though there are lots of fictional characters I would like to meet.

  • If you were a fictional character, what sort of character would you like to be, and what genre would you hope to be written into? And who by?

  • Tricky one! I’d say crime, but then I’m not very brave and don’t have a particularly strong stomach… Maybe a book set years ago, in Elizabethan times perhaps. As for who by – Hilary Mantel? I loved Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies.

  • Do you tend to read more eBooks or printed ones? And what do you read the most, traditional publishing house, independent publisher, small press, self-published?

  • A mixture of both. I love ebooks if I’m travelling – before them I would use up most of my luggage allowance on books rather than clothes! But I still buy paperbacks, and sometimes hardbacks of the latest books from my favourite authors.

  • What title(s) do you have on your bedside table (and on your fireside one, and your desk, and in your handbag) right now?

  • The Photographer’ by Craig Robertson. ‘Kingdom Come’ by Toby Clements. And loads more on my Kindle, too many to list.

  • Do you have a favourite quote about reading, and would you share it with us?

  • “Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend. Inside of a dog it’s too dark to read,” always makes me smile. (Groucho Marx)

  • Let’s talk about the “writing bug”, then. How old were you when you started writing? Did you always know you would become a writer? If not, when did you decide you’d become one?

  • I started writing when I was at primary school. When I was around eight years old, I wrote a short book about a woman and her pet cats, when I should have been doing maths or something. I wrote short comics and magazines with my brother. I always wanted to be a writer, but never believed it would actually happen, if that makes sense.

  • Where do you write? Do you have a dedicated or favourite place (a desk, a study, a garden chair, maybe?) and could you describe it for us?

  • I have a desk in the corner of the living room. I used to write in our spare room, but we have three dogs now, and me working upstairs while they rampaged around downstairs didn’t really work. I used to write on a laptop, but I found I was getting aches and pains from hunching over it. Now I have a desktop with a large monitor, which helps.

  • Do you journal/keep a diary? What about a notebook, do you have one that you take everywhere you go? What do you write in it?

  • No, I don’t keep a diary or have a notebook or anything like that.

  • So, how do you go about constructing your book’s reality? Are you a thorough planner, before you start writing our book? Or are you a “pantser”? Perhaps even a bit of both? Does it ever happen to you that one of your characters just suddenly decides to do their own thing?

  • I usually have a rough idea where a book is going to go, but I don’t often write anything down. It’s just how I’ve always worked. And yes, often a character will surprise me!

  • How do you create your characters? Are there real life doubles for them?

  • No, and they usually just wander into my head and then I try to flesh them out a little.

  • If there was to be a movie made of your book, and you were to have a say in it, who would you like to see being cast as your main characters?

  • I’ve honestly no idea. I love Maxine Peake’s acting, but I don’t really see her as my main character. I’d definitely like her to appear somewhere though!

  • Where did the idea for your book come from? Was any of it based on a true event, a piece of news maybe, a film, a book you read?

  • TELL NO LIES is a sequel, and so there were threads from the previous book I needed to pick up. Most of the story seemed to flow from there.

  • How much is there of you in your main character?

  • Not much, I don’t think. I couldn’t do Caelan’s job, not for a minute. Maybe there are some similarities on a personal level.

  • How much research did you do for this book, and what kind, where, how? How easy, or how difficult, was it?

  • A little. I read articles, spoke to my partner who grew up in one of the areas in the book, and used the Transport for London website quite often!

  • How easy or how difficult was it for you to write about your book’s themes?

  • One of the themes in particular wasn’t easy, and neither was the reading I did around it. But then I don’t think it should be, not when the situation you’re writing about is a reality for some people. That’s partly why I think it’s important certain things are written about. Anything that can help raise awareness, and possibly lead to people understanding or recognising someone they know or have seen needs help.

  • Do you think the author knows everything there is to know about her/his characters and their life? How much do you know about your characters?

  • I think characters always have the capacity to surprise you. Especially when you’re writing a series of books, because the characters grow and develop as they go through different experiences, as real people do. In that way, it would be impossible to know everything about them.

  • Which of your fictional heroes/villains did you enjoy writing the most, and why? Are those your two favourite characters in your own fiction?

  • I love writing about Caelan Small – I love marching around London with her. I also really enjoy writing about her boss, Ian Penrith. I’m not sure about villains. I think they’re all fun to write about in a way.

  • Is there a sequel in the works? If not, what else is in the forge? And how far are you into writing your new title, and when can we expect it to hit the shelves?

  • Hopefully yes, there will be more Detective Caelan Small novels. I’m also working on the next book in my other series, which features Detective Sergeant Catherine Bishop.

  • Of all your titles so far, which is your favourite one? Which was the one that gave you more pleasure, and the one you found the hardest to write?

  • When writing the first draft, I’ve loved working on them all. When editing, I’ve been sick of seeing them! Then when they’re published, it’s out of your hands. They’re out there for people to enjoy (or not!)

  • For the benefit of any learning writers among us, could you describe your creative process? (how you pick an idea, develop it, draw your characters, plot the action, etc.?)

  • I just make sure I keep writing, keep moving forward. My rule has always been if you keep writing, even if you only write a couple of hundred words a day, eventually you’ll have a book. I don’t really have a process.

  • If one of your characters were to become a writer, what advice would you have for them?

  • Again, keep sitting down and writing something. I used to dream a lot about being a writer, without actually doing much writing at all.

  • Finally, what’s your favourite quote about writing?

  • I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by. (Douglas Adams)

  • Here are the quintessential questions, then — first one: why do you write?

  • I’m not sure. It’s something I do, like some people draw or sing, or play a musical instrument.

  • How long have you been writing?

  • For as long as I can remember.

  • What was the very first thing you wrote which made you stop and look at it, and think: “wow, yes, this could be something”?

  • A piece of descriptive writing about a place in Derbyshire while at secondary school. I was already dreaming of being a writer, but I had no idea if I was any good at it. My teacher loved this particular piece, and it gave me confidence. It wasn’t that I thought the piece of writing could be developed into an article or something, more than I saw the reaction and it made me believe in myself (a tiny bit – it took many more years before I had any kind of confidence in my work, and to a point, I still don’t!)

  • So, how did you come to writing? Did you take the academic path, or is it just something you discovered you were good at, and decided to pursue?

  • Both. I studied English at A level and then at university, and creative writing was a part of that.

  • What kind of thing do you prefer to write, and how did you come to choose your genre(s)?

  • I love writing within the crime genre because there’s so much scope, and I think you find elements of most of the other genres within it anyway. Many crime books have a little romance, a little humour, and so on.

  • Do you write full time? What’s your usual writing routine?

  • I have a son and so I work around his school day and holidays. I usually write when he’s at school, though I often work in the evening too. It depends where I am with a book – if I don’t want to lose my thread, I’ll carry on when he’s in bed.

  • The “writing life”, as it is — is that something you recommend? Which aspects of the writer’s life do you enjoy the most (apart from writing, of course!), and which are you not so keen on?

  • I would definitely recommend it. The aspects I enjoy are the flexibility, which is vital for me. My son has various disabilities, and I can’t think of another job that would allow me to be around as much. I enjoy interacting with like-minded people, and have met some amazing friends because of writing (and reading). That said, being a writer can mean you feel isolated. You work alone, and spend most of your time with made-up people.

  • Who are you signed with (or not)? Why did you choose the traditional path to publication? And if you didn’t… why not?

  • My Detective Caelan Small series is published by the wonderful people at Canelo, and I self-publish my Detective Sergeant Catherine Bishop series. It’s just the way things have worked out.

  • Ninth “quintessential” question, now: where do you see yourself as a writer, in the long term?

  • I’d like to carry on writing for as long as possible, or for as long as people want to read my books!

  • And last but by no means least, which of these do you prefer?

    • Coffee, or tea? Tea.
    • Cheesecake, or blueberry muffins? Blueberry muffins.
    • Turquoise, or aqua green? Aqua green.
    • Violets, or jonquils? Violets.
    • Mountain, or the sea? Mountain.
    • Music, or theatre? Theatre.


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