Tuesday, October 27, 2015

River of Souls by Kate Rhodes, author of The Girl in the River



Title: The Girl in the River
Author: Kate Rhodes
Release Date: October 20, 2015
Publisher: Witness Impulse
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
Format: Ebook/Paperback

Praise for the Alice Quentin series:

“A fast-moving, entertaining mix of sex, suspense and serial killings.” –Washington Post

“Alice is a vividly realized protagonist whose complex and harrowing history rivals the central crime storyline.” –New York Times bestselling author Sophie Hannah

Jude Shelley, daughter of a prominent cabinet minister, had her whole life ahead of her until she was attacked and left to drown in the Thames. Miraculously, she survived. A year later, her family is now asking psychologist Alice Quentin to re-examine the case. But then a body is found: an elderly priest, attacked in Battersea, washed up at Westminster Pier. An ancient glass bead is tied to his wrist. Alice is certain that Jude and her family are hiding something, but unless she can persuade them to share what they know, more victims will come. Because the Thames has always been a site of sacrifice and death. And Alice is about to learn that some people still believe in it…    

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      RIVER OF SOULS, by Kate Rhodes

When I was growing up in London, my father used to take me on long Sunday morning walks beside the river Thames. Our journeys often began at Blackfriars Bridge, ambling east through Wapping, ending up at the Prospect of Whitby pub for a late lunch. My father explained that the building’s structure came from the carcasses of ships, including its pewter-topped bar, masts and barrels buried in the walls. It was easy to imagine pirates and vagabonds drinking ale and gambling at the narrow tables, when it was still called The Devil’s Tavern, back in 1520. I would stand on the small terrace, staring down at the wide sweep of water, and Execution Dock, with its yardarm still intact, imagining the countless victims who had died there for trivial crimes.
My obsession with the Thames continued as a teenager. Standing on its muddy banks gave me a sense of its power and history. Its smell lingered in my memory: boat diesel, effluent, and the sweetness of rotting fruit. My walks led me to deserted docks and piers, unused for decades. It struck me that these places could serve a macabre purpose: a killer could drown his victims there, without ever being seen or heard.
I was walking by the Thames again two years ago, when the idea for THE GIRL IN THE RIVER came to me. What if a modern day killer became so obsessed by the river’s dark history, he started to hear its voice calling to him, begging for souls? By now I understood why the historian Peter Ackroyd had described the Thames as the river of the dead. The waterway has been an execution site for centuries, killers drowning victims there long before the days of Jack the Ripper.
The Museum of London turned out to be a fantastic resource, full of objects dredged from the river, including Bronze Age daggers, thousand year old glassware, and Roman jewellery. Although the river was a life source for early Londoners, it had also been a terrifying threat. Twice during the early days of settlement it had burst its banks, storm surges washing away the entire city. Hundreds of skulls had been dredged from the river at Vauxhall Cross, proving that Bronze Age warriors had cast their victims into the water there. The Romans too made sacrifices, to honour their dead: gold and silver jewellery, ancient coins and valuable weapons. Since the earliest days of settlement people had believed that the vengeful power of the Thames must be pacified. Like ancient Londoners I wanted the killer in my book to believe that his safety would only continue if he made human sacrifices to the city’s vast waterway.
I discovered that the 213 mile long waterway remains a popular place for the disposal of victims today. On average one body per week is found in the river, victims of violence or suicide. Vicious currents and freezing cold temperatures mean that anyone unlucky enough to fall in will only survive for two minutes in winter time. Countless victims’ remains have been found in the Thames, from the Kray brothers’ gangland executions to the present day. I wanted my killer to have an ambivalent attitude towards his actions. Unlike many psychopathic murderers, he is riven with guilt, believing that the river is his master, too powerful and vengeful to be disobeyed.
My father would have been thrilled that the river he loved so much has wound its way through my book. But I realized that to write about it with conviction I needed to wade into the water myself. So on a chilly March day in 2013 I slipped off my boots, rolled up my jeans and stepped into the water at low tide, below Blackfriar’s Bridge. The silt slipped under my feet, the water breathtakingly cold. Even at that depth the currents tugged at me, as if the river was longing to claim me for its own. Fascinated as I am by the river’s complex history, I’ve never been happier to scramble back onto dry land.

I was born in South London, the second daughter of two teachers. I went to the University of Essex and completed a doctorate on the playwright Tennessee Williams. As soon as I left university I began work as an English teacher and have taught at universities in Britain and the United States. I am lucky enough to write full-time now, and live in Cambridge with my husband Dave Pescod, also a writer. My study has a great view of cows grazing on Stourbridge Common down to the river Cam, perfect for daydreaming. I am very fond of my three step-sons, Jack, Matt and Frank, and have recently become step-granny to Freddie. My first books were two collections of poetry, Reversal and The Alice Trap. I was awarded English Speaking Union and Hawthornden Fellowships for poetry, and shortlisted the Bridport and Forward Prizes.. CROSSBONES YARD was my first novel and the first in the Alice Quentin series, followed by A Killing of Angels. Both of these books take place in my birthplace London, and I love going back there to research and get ideas.  

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