Dancing On The Grave by Zoë Sharp #BookReview #GuestPost #BlogTour

A sniper with a mission… a young cop with nothing to lose… a CSI with everything to prove… a teenage girl with a terrifying obsession…
In one of the most beautiful corners of England, something very ugly is about to take place.
There’s a killer on the loose in the Lake District hills, and the calm of an English summer is shattered.  For newly qualified Crime Scene Investigator, Grace McColl,  it’s both the start of a nightmare and the chance to prove herself after a mistake that cost a life.
For Detective Constable Nick Weston, recently transferred from London, it’s an opportunity to recover his nerve after a disastrous undercover operation left him for dead.
And for a lonely, loveless girl, Edith, it’s the beginning of a twisted fantasy—one she never dreamed might come true.

It's my pleasure to be hosting the blog tour for Dancing On The Grave by Zoë Sharp today, many thanks to the author and Ayo Onatade for inviting me and for my ecopy of the novel. Zoë has very kindly written a guest post about why she chose to set Dancing On The Grave in the Lake District and included some beautiful photographs which I'll share after my review.
I loved Fox Hunter when I read it last year despite not having read any of the other books in Zoë Sharp's Charlie Fox series and so I was intrigued to read her latest standalone thriller, Dancing On The Grave. The book opens with a sniper about to take a shot; seconds later his intended victim has been killed - but he didn't pull the trigger. This quiet corner of England is about to be shattered by a murderous rampage but first Crime Scene Investigator, Grace McColl has been called to examine the scene of what at first appears to be a straightforward case when a German Shepherd Dog is shot after  massacring a field of sheep. Farmers are well within their rights to shoot dogs which are worrying their animals but the owner of this flock claims it wasn't him and the evidence backs him up. Detective Constable Nick Weston is dispatched to the scene of the crime - and as the new face in the office, his colleagues omit to mention that the victim has four legs and a tail. This first meeting between Grace and Nick doesn't have an auspicious start; she is cool and detached, he is hungover and angry. However, the pair quickly grow to respect one another, they are both outsiders and though he relies on instinct while she prefers physical evidence, they are both determined characters with pasts which mean they have something to prove as others wait for them to slip up.
The clever plot is intricately woven with the narrative told from multiple points of view and each character brings something important to the proceedings, particularly the aforementioned McColl and Weston. Grace is methodical and resolute in a male dominated profession and Nick's integrity is never in doubt despite his traumatic past and current personal and professional problems. They becomes steadfast allies to one another and the sparks that fly between the two are almost palpable. The other most important characters are the sniper whose true target remains ambiguous for much of the book as he exacts a deadly revenge in the beautiful Lake District, and perhaps most poignantly Edith, who is hard to like but desperately needs to be loved. Some characters are easy to dislike; Nick's boss, Mercer is an arrogant case in point as is Grace's fellow CSI, the misogynistic Blenkinship, and Edith's father, Jim is a truly despicable individual who I desperately hoped would get his comeuppance. The sniper and Edith are both damaged by their pasts and though I was chilled to the bone by their inner voices as much as their actions, I felt some sympathy for them despite everything that happens.
Zoë Sharp considers some important themes as she examines the devastating impact of trauma on vulnerable individuals - how we can expect those who are trained to become ruthless killers to ever return to society and at a time when that society is perhaps more celebrity obsessed than ever, is it any wonder that those who are most dispossessed will do anything to feel loved? The atmospheric Lake District setting and the references to the mass killings in Hungerford, Dunblane and Cumbria is a poignant reminder that it's often been the small towns and communities which have suffered the paralysing fear of a shooter in their midst, their sense of peace violently shattered.
Dancing On The Grave is everything I'm looking for in an action thriller - the exhilarating pace is driven by the changing narrative perspectives with each voice clearly defined, the drama is compelling, characterisation superb and the perplexing mystery sits well alongside a thoughtful exploration into what drives people to commit such terrible acts. Zoë Sharp is now firmly on my list of must-read authors, I'd love it if this standalone becomes a series but I'll be devouring whatever she writes next.

A Plot Leads To a Plot—why I chose the Lake District setting for Dancing On The Grave: a standalone crime thriller
by Zoë Sharp

I ended up living in the Lake District more by chance than anything else. We’d been looking for land to build our own house, and when a plot came up in Mallerstang, part of the Eden Valley bordering the Yorkshire Dales National Park on the eastern side of the Lakes, I couldn’t believe our luck.

Previously, we’d lived in Kendal and whilst building rented a flat in Appleby-in-Westmorland, so I spent quite a bit of time in the surrounding towns and villages. The more time I spent there, the more I really wanted to set a book in that lesser-known area of the Lakes.

After the Washington Sniper attacks took place in the States in 2002, I’d been mulling over the plot involving a similar incident in a rural location in the UK. The wild areas of Orton Scar (which is how it’s known locally—officially it’s the Great Asby Scar National Nature Reserve) and Orton village itself with its distinctive white-towered church, seemed to cry out for dramatisation.

Dancing On The Grave developed slowly over a number of years while I was writing the Charlie Fox series. Many of the locations mentioned in the standalone are real places, or a mix of real with a twist. The grand house just outside Orton village belonging to the Inglises is imaginary, as is the nearby cottage I gave to one of my protagonists, CSI Grace McColl. But the old Organ Works in Kendal where DC Nick Weston has a flat is real, as is the farm entrance on the road between Grayrigg and Kendal that I borrowed for Ian Hogg’s Retreat, where Patrick Bardwell is living. Everything beyond that entranceway, I hasten to add, is entirely made up.

And the locations for the more dramatic aspects of the book, shall we say, are all real. The field alongside the road to the north of Orton village, bordered by dry stone walls, is there, as is the commanding view of the village with that white church tower, from the top of Orton Scar.

The flat open area where the Mallerstang agricultural show takes place is certainly there, running alongside the straight stretch of road leading from the motorway at Tebay past Raisbeck and Ravenstonedale to Kirkby Stephen.

The barn on the road down to Outhgill is one I passed regularly during my time in the Lakes. In fact, the position of the barn and that curved stand of trees behind it, dictated the scene that took place there.

I drove the road between Kirkby Stephen and Warcop, looking for an ideal spot for a particular scene, and found it in a ninety-degree turn leading onto a narrow bridge. Another case where the geography half-wrote the story for me.

All I had to do then was write the other half.

A field in Orton where the opening scene takes place 

 Orton Church - scene of a funeral in the book

Raisbeck Showfield  - the Mallerstang Agricultural Show takes place here

Outhgill barn - the inspiration for one of the dramatic scenes in the book

Warcop Bridge - where another dramatic scene takes place

The beautiful scenery surrounding Orton as seen from Orton Scar with the white church tower visible.

Thank you so much for taking the time to write this post, Zoë and for the stunning photographs - it's fascinating to see the inspiration behind some of the scenes in the book (Warcop Bridge is just how I imagined it!).

Dancing On The Grave is published by Zace and can be purchased here. Don't forget to check out the other stops on the blog tour, details are below.

About the Author
Zoë Sharp was born in Nottinghamshire and grew up living aboard a catamaran on the northwest coast of England. She opted out of mainstream education at the age of twelve and wrote her first novel at fifteen. When not building houses, crewing other people’s yachts, or improvising weapons out of everyday objects, she spends her time scribbling and international pet-sitting. Find out more at www.ZoeSharp.com 
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  1. Thanks so much for inviting me onto the blog today, Karen, and for such a great review of DANCING ON THE GRAVE. It's been a privilege.

  2. What a great review Karen. I posted my interview with Zoe yesterday on my blog https://growingyoungereachday.wordpress.com/. and tomorrow I shall post my review on my other blog - https://booksandmorebooks2017.wordpress.com/. I shall try to give as good a review as you have.

    1. Thank you so much, Judith. I really enjoyed reading your Q&A with Zoe and look forward to your review.


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