Today I’m thrilled to be the next stop on the Unforgivable by Mike Thomas blog tour. Not only do I get to share my review for this thrilling book, but I also have a fabulous guest post from the author about the places that inspired the locations in Unforgivable. Interestingly enough my son and his wife had their wedding photographs taken in Roath Park one of the settings the author mentions.
My Cardiff: the places that inspired locations in ‘Unforgivable’
It’s safe to say I know Cardiff like the back of my hand.
The nice regions and the dodgy areas, the best route to take to avoid rush hour traffic, the lanes and parks and alleys where gangs from rival estates used to meet for a rumble on a Friday night (Birdies Lane, if you must know). Where you can get stolen electrical equipment for a very low price. Where you can get a good kicking just for walking into the wrong pub.
I worked the city for twenty years, first as a uniformed officer then with stints on CID before moving on to drugs teams and other plain clothes work where I’d follow heroin dealers to Bristol and not see my own bed for three days. Finally – when my first novel was published and I knew I was on my way out of The Job and the hierarchy didn’t really know what to do with me – I found myself in the Operations Room working as an – haha – Intelligence Officer.
If you want a guided tour – warts and all – of the Welsh capital, I’m your man. And that knowledge was one of the reasons I decided to set the MacReady novels in the city. Also, London has its fair share of fictional cops and I felt Cardiff, bar a few novels, wasn’t really getting a look in. I wanted to redress the balance a little.
So what are the locations that appear in ‘Unforgivable’?
St. David’s – huge, sprawling and full of Shiny Things You Will Want, this shopping centre – or mall, if you must – has grown and been added to and modified extensively over the decades, and has become a colossal ode to commerce. Everything you want – and quite a lot you don’t – can be found under its roofs, and its food court is where things take a sudden, nasty turn in the book. I used to work here as a late-teenager at John Menzies (remember those stores?) where I would lump myself behind the counter of the music section, rolling my eyes at customers’ terrible purchases – Duran Duran, heaven forfend! – and making sure Depeche Mode’s output was at the forefront of every display. They are the greatest band in the world, after all.
Fairwater – tucked just west of the city centre is this sprawling, leafy suburb where MacReady and the team carry out a property search after they’ve arrested their bad guy. In real life I worked in the building adjacent to the police station – that aforementioned Intel Officer role – until I quit for good. A busy ‘nick’, Fairwater Police Station is also uglier than ugly, and I describe it in the novel as ‘a mixed orange-brick and prefab square lump that resembled a hideous layer cake, and which MacReady assumed had cut the value of the surrounding properties by at least half when it was built.’ This is entirely correct and I refuse to describe it otherwise. So there.
Park Place – when I were a lad, and when Cardiff’ had pretty limited places to go of an evening, Park Place just off the main pedestrianised shopping drag was the epicentre of all the fun for a few good years. ‘Brannigans’ bar (now ‘Jongleurs’ comedy club), and around the corner the superclub ‘Zeus’ attracted thousands of punters from all around South Wales, where we revelled in this new-fangled tunesmithery of ‘Britpop’ (and, of course, ‘Cool Cymru’). ‘Zeus’ is replicated in ‘Unforgivable’ for an important scene, and it was lovely to dredge up all those memories. Apart from the time I accidentally set fire to a girl’s leggings while I was trying to impress her with my cigarette lighter-wielding skills. Turns out polyester is really flammable. Who knew?
City Hall – the heart of the capital’s bureaucratic and judicial area, a place of ornate gardens and Portland Stone edifices and the imposing Crown Court, and a prime choice for weddings and University graduation ceremonies. It’s also the scene of several foot chases in my career, one of which ended up with me falling in a very nice pond. My protagonist, MacReady, has a similar chase at one point in ‘Unforgivable’ but manages to avoid the watery mishap…
Roath Park – locally famous, this pretty sliver of water and greenery just north of the city centre has a boating lake, clock tower, enormo-conservatory and ornamental gardens, and is something of a rite of passage for children who descend here en masse in school holidays to slide down its notoriously bumpy slide and get chased by irate swans. It features briefly in ‘Unforgivable’ during a vehicle pursuit. It is also where, as a five year old bored of her whining, I threw my infant sister into the water while we were out in a rowing boat. Fun times!
The UHW – the University Hospital of Wales, or ‘The Heath’ to Cardiffians. As a copper you spend an inordinate amount of time in hospitals – sitting with injured prisoners, dealing with sudden deaths, removing brawling drunks from A&E – and the UHW was my home from home at certain points in my career. MacReady and his colleagues have to deal with the terrible aftermath of the bombings at the market and mosque in The Heath – but it is a nameless, injured young woman who leads him to discover there is more going on in the city than the police first realised. Woo, excitement!
Bombs detonate in a busy souk, causing massive devastation.
An explosion rips apart a mosque, killing and injuring those inside.
But this isn’t the Middle East – this is Cardiff . . .
In a city where tensions are already running high, DC Will MacReady and his colleagues begin the desperate hunt for the attacker. If they knew the ‘why’, then surely they can find the ‘who’? But that isn’t so easy, and time is fast running out . . .
MacReady is still trying to prove himself after the horrific events of the previous year, which left his sergeant injured and his job in jeopardy, so he feels sidelined when he’s asked to investigate a vicious knife attack on a young woman.
But all is not as it seems with his new case, and soon MacReady must put everything on the line in order to do what is right.
I didn’t realise Unforgettable was the second book in the MacReady series, if I’m honest I’m not one for jumping ahead in a series as I fear I might have missed something, and although it’s obvious that DC Will MacReady has issues that pertain to the previous book I still think Unforgettable made for an extremely gripping standalone. It’s pretty standard to have a detective in a crime thriller with issues and MacReady is no different, his personal life is one huge disaster but I still found him to be an interesting character. The commaradie amongst his fellow work colleagues added just the right amount of “gallows” humour to add.
Unforgettable begins with a “bang” literally when a bomb detonated in a busy Souk in the middle of Cardiff causes massive devastation as you can well imagine. We only have to pick up a newspaper or turn on the news to see events like this are very sadly part of our times, so the opening chapters were terrifyingly credible and shocking. What at first appears to be a racially motivated attack soon becomes something much more complex and Unforgettable made for a gritty fast paced read.
There are numerous strands to Unforgettable the bombings, a vicious knife attack, a group of Asians on trial for the vicious assault and murder of a young white male, all these events appear to be unrelated but are they? Well here’s where the author deftly leads the reader through the police investigation, revealing clues and red herrings aplenty.
Mike Thomas own career as a policeman adds authenticity to Unforgettable, the investigation, the dynamics within the team all give the reader insight into the workers of an investigation. You can help but feel the same frustrations that MacReady and his team have to endure on a daily basis. Fast paced and fraught with tension I found Unforgivable to be a “white knuckle” read, covering a very frighteningly credible topic. Action packed and filled with intrigue Unforgivable combines police procedure with a powerful and thrilling plot making for a throughly gripping read.
Publisher: Zaffre (27 July 2017)
Mike Thomas was born in 1971 in the Welsh town of Caerphilly, famed for being the birthplace of comedian Tommy Cooper, its ‘deliciously’ salty cheese, and its castle with a tower which allegedly leans at a sharper angle than the more celebrated one in Pisa.
His teenage years were spent breakdancing, spraying graffiti around the town’s walls and office blocks and just about staying on the right side of the law, until his early twenties when, inexplicably, he joined the local constabulary and began locking people up for spraying graffiti around the town’s walls and office blocks.
“…inexplicably, he joined the local constabulary and began locking people up for spraying graffiti around the town’s walls and office blocks…”
While working as a plod in Wales’ capital city of Cardiff, Thomas continued with his childhood passion: writing. As a freelance he produced articles for local newspapers, various websites and national travel magazines, while in 2007 he was one of the winners in the annual Rhys Davies Short Story Competition organised by Literature Wales. After completing a Master’s degree in Creative Writing at the University of Wales between 2007 and 2009, Thomas published his debut novel, Pocket Notebook, in 2010 with William Heinemann/Penguin Random House.
The author was on the prestigious list of Waterstones’ ‘New Voices’ for that year, while Pocket Notebook was longlisted for the Wales Book of the Year and optioned for television by Carnival Films, the producers of Downton Abbey. His second novel, Ugly Bus, was released by Heinemann in 2014 and is currently in development as a six part television series with the BBC. Both novels deal with the uglier side of policing.
“…He currently lives in the wilds of Portugal with his wife and children…”
Thomas left the police in the spring of 2015 and grew his hair and a pathetic attempt at a beard. He currently lives in the wilds of Portugal with his wife and children. Alongside chopping wood, cementing crumbling house walls and trying to find somewhere that sells his beloved Marmite, he continues to write articles and web pieces for a variety of sites and publications, and is contracted to London’s Bonnier Publishing for three new novels, the first of which – Ash and Bones – was released August 2016. The second in the series, Unforgivable, is due for publication in the summer of 2017.
Follow the Unforgivable blog tour ………..