The Black Hand, vol.4

Dangerous Victorian Hatpins

Here’s a delightful tidbit for you: in the late 1800s, independent women used to dissuade men caught annoying them on public transport by jabbing them with ladies’ hatpins.  There was frequent mention of it in the newspapers of the time – ‘Hatpin-Wielding Gentlewoman Stabs Attacker On Fifth Avenue Coach’ and so on.

Even in the days when public transport was brand new, there was a subcategory of males (isn’t there always) called ‘mashers’ who used to press themselves against ladies on coaches and trains and in crowded waiting areas (yes – the PT Nuisance Man has been around as long as PT). In the same era, women’s hairstyles tended toward the voluminous, so hats became larger and needed to be held on with long, wickedly sharp and pointy hatpins. When a man tried to ‘mash’ you, you’d grab your trusty hatpin and get jabbing! Heh – maybe we could bring this back into fashion. If you’d like to know more, this amusing article in Racing Nellie Bly has the lowdown, and some incredible pictures.

ARLINGTON HALL announcement!

If you’re not connected to me on social media, (you should be! I’m right here on Twitter and Insta and FB) you might have missed the announcement – I’m releasing a new book!

ARLINGTON HALL is coming out in 2022 through LBYR in the States, and Allen & Unwin in Australia/NZ, and I’m incredibly excited to be sharing it with you!

Yes, this is the book I’ve had to keep quiet about, and I’m completely stoked that I can finally spill the beans. It has codebreaking ladies, World War II, gruesome murder, mysteries and lies, loads of gorgeous 1940s clothes, jitterbug clubs, secret government work in an old schoolhouse mansion, a heart-stopping romance, and so much more… I hope you love it!

Celebratory Giveaway!

To celebrate the ARLINGTON HALL news – argh! I’m so damn excited about this book I’m using too many exclamation marks! – I’m doing a giveaway.

Prize #1: a signed, personalised hardcover US copy of NONE SHALL SLEEP, with a full set of colour character art stickers

Prize #2: a signed, personalised hardcover US copy of NONE SHALL SLEEP, plus a signed, personalised paperback copy of my hard-hitting, swoony, NA outback thriller NO LIMITS.

Prize #3: a signed, personalised hardcover US copy of NONE SHALL SLEEP, plus a signed, personalised paperback copy of my very first book, my YA contemporary-teen-Sherlock-and-his-girl-Watson murder mystery EVERY BREATH.

To win one of the prizes, please email me at and tell me which prize you’d prefer. That’s it. I will accept emails until 16 June, and the giveaway is open international.


Currently reading

The Stranger Beside Me by Ann Rule is such a wild book. I mean, the first time I heard about it, I was like ‘how on earth could you not realise you were working at the same table as Ted Bundy??’ and I figured that Ann Rule must’ve been either really unobservant, or just not very bright.  I mean, here’s someone who is a true crime reporter, and a former cop – yet, she didn’t twig that the good-looking guy called ‘Ted’ who drove a tan Volkswagon Beetle and worked the late shift on a suicide hotline with her, and the good-looking guy called ‘Ted’ who drove a tan Volkswagon Beetle and was one of the FBI’s Most Wanted for murdering young women, were one and the same guy.

But reading the book, you figure out it’s more weird and poignant than that. Bundy’s friendship with Rule was genuine – he communicated with her through letters and phone calls for years, up to and long after he was sentenced for multiple homicide. To Rule, Ted was a friend with whom she had a long history. They’d shared vulnerable stories, and personal highs and lows. Yes, she did give his name to the police during the investigation, but even while – in her heart – she realised he was responsible for so much terror and pain and grief, she still always hoped that it wasn’t Ted who’d done all these things. For Rule, it was like figuring out that your sibling or your BFF is actually a soulless monster: it took a while to come to terms with. Ted Bundy was a monster, but Ted Bundy was her friend.

Bundy was a true sociopath. He had an ability to compartmentalise, so his friendship with Ann Rule could co-exist with his homicidal attacks on women. He was good at hiding his real face – Rule never saw the evil side of him while they worked together. But while I was reading, I found myself pinpointing all the clues: Bundy’s close relationships were all with women, he was a good manipulator, he was largely ego-driven, he liked to control situations and people, he had a history as a consummate liar… All this starts to add up, and eventually, to her great sadness and horror, it all adds up for Rule, too.

The Stranger Beside Me is an absorbing book – Rule has a straightforward, journalistic writing style – and I don’t know why I never read this before now, as it’s a true crime classic. Anyway I recommend it, so if it’s something you’re intrigued by, go grab it.

Forward this email to your friends

This is the fourth edition of The Black Hand, and I’m really enjoying it. Are you enjoying it? I hope so. If you are enjoying it, I’d really appreciate it if you could spread the word to other people. My aim is to keep this newsletter fresh and fun (and most importantly, FREE), with some oddspot crime-related articles and book recs, and the occasional bit of hot book gossip, plus some insights into my writing process and a few giveaways, and things like that.

If you’d like to spread the love around, this link is shareable, and will direct people to try the newsletter before they sign up. Thank you!

First lines

Let me tell you about how writing first lines is hard – it’s hard, okay? (And let’s not get into how, quite often, the glorious first line you laboured over gets chopped during edits)

This article in the Atlantic is about the process of creating good first lines, and it includes an interview with Stephen King about how he writes them himself. If you’re trying to figure out how it’s done, learn from the master.


It’s June 2021, and for our winter read, we’re catching up with Gabrielle Tozer’s latest book, Can’t Say It Went To Plan. If you’d like to read along and join the fun, jump aboard here.

I hate you and everyone else

I’m coming to you LIVE from Victoria, Australia, where the entire state was recently in full covid lockdown (can’t go beyond a 5km radius around your house, only leave home for groceries & medical & essential exercise etc, masks inside & outside…yadda yadda, you know the drill). As I live in country Victoria, I’m no longer in full lockdown – but all my friends in Melbourne still are (love to you, my friends).

But in lockdown, there are no social obligations. Maybe it’s just me being a reclusive writer-type, but…I kinda don’t mind? I mean, don’t get me wrong, I like seeing people. But there are certainly times when I’ve said yes to a social situation I would probably have preferred to decline (I’m very attached to the idea of staying in, and reading a book by the fire with a nice glass of wine).

Well, if you’ve ever wanted to decline a social obligation, this article by Shaun Usher is for you: it’s a series of knock-back letters by people of note. As Shaun says, ‘Some [of the knock-backs] are tactful and eloquent; others are entirely free of both. All are admirable.’

I’m not quite so misanthropic yet, but I am looking forward to the day when I can reply to an invitation with ‘A dinner! How horrible!’ like George Bernard Shaw.

And that’s it for this month! It’s raining outside my house right now, and the fire is roaring (hello to my summer friends in the norther hemisphere!) and I’m drinking hot tea. I hope you’re doing okay, wherever you are, and that life is treating you well. Until next time, happy reading and stay frosty :)