Deadland | William Shaw | Review & Q&A

“The thing about growing up is learning who you care for”





The two boys never fitted in.

Seventeen, the worst age, nothing to do but smoke weed; at least they have each other. The day they speed off on a moped with a stolen mobile, they’re ready to celebrate their luck at last. Until their victim comes looking for what’s his – and ready to kill for it.


On the other side of Kent’s wealth divide, DS Alexandra Cupidi faces the strangest murder investigation of her career. A severed limb, hidden inside a modern sculpture in Margate’s Turner Contemporary. No one takes it seriously – not even the artwork’s owners, celebrity dealers who act like they’re above the law.


But as Cupidi’s case becomes ever more sinister, as she wrangles with police politics and personal dilemmas, she can’t help worrying about those runaway boys. Seventeen, the same age as her own headstrong daughter. Alone, on the marshes, they’re pawns in someone else’s game. Two worlds are about to collide.


Welcome to my stop on the Deadland blog tour. I was kindly sent this book to review by Quercus Books and given this wonderful opportunity, thank you so much guys.

Deadland is the first William Shaw book that I have read, when I was asked to partake in this blog tour I was apprehensive as this is the second book in the series. I was reassured by the publisher that it would not matter and this book could be read as a stand-alone, I am so glad that I listened as this was such a fantastic book. Deadland is so unique compared to other crime related books that I have read in many different ways; ways in which I will discuss in this review.

This crime mystery, instead of being fast-paced was a slow burn for me. However, I feel like this was a really positive aspect of the plot. It had me hooked, I was slowly drip fed information to which I could build theories (none of which were right, might I add) gradually. In between this I was able to really get to know the characters. William does fantastically when it comes to developing characters, I felt a real connection to many of them throughout the book and it could be seen that a lot of time and care was put into them. My particular favourites were Sloth and Tap, I loved watching their friendship grow and learning about the under-class social backgrounds that they have derived from. I found it really interesting and was really eye opening to how the under priviledged lived. Never have I felt such strong emotions towards a criminal character, however these guys really pulled at my heartstrings and I absolutely loved that some of the story was told from their POV.

I also loved Ferriter as a character. A really important theme of consent in relation to sexual intercourse was explored with her character. A theme that I believe is slightly blurred within society; a big part of my work is dealing with this kind of theme and therefore I was very interested and pleased with how William portrayed this through the eyes of one of his characters. I really liked watching her develop, blaming herself to the realisation  that what happened was wrong and in no way is she to blame. She was another character that I really felt for, I really enjoyed getting to know her and also eventually getting to know her background. What a strong independent female character, this really was the cherry on top of an already fantastic book. Other important themes that were touched upon within this book were critical incidents such as Grenfell and also same sex relationships. All of which I feel are very important and was humbled to see that they had a part in this story.

If all of the above is not already good enough, William Shaw is most definitely a Harry Potter fan. Throughout reading Deadland I noticed the subtle Harry Potter references. I happen to know that William is also a Hufflepuff (the best house ever), check out my Q&A at the bottom of this post for more information.

Honestly, I would really recommend that all who read this review should pick this book up. It was such a good read, something to really get your teeth into. There is so much going on and so many fantastic qualities, so much so that I am confident you will not regret picking it up. Since reading this book I have already picked up the other two books in this world so that I can dive straight back in. This book was published yesterday (02/05/2019) and you can find out how to purchase this book here.

Q&A with William Shaw


1. When did you first realise you wanted to be a writer?

I do remember sitting in front of a light blue Olivetti typewriter at about the age of ten, writing “Scene 1”, and then wondering what to put next.


2. How long does it generally take you to write a book?

Conveniently, as I write a book a year, it takes me about a year. But the first draft, which is where the hard work goes on, takes me around five months.  Some people seem to write a really clean draft in that period, but I usually find I’ve written something that won’t make any sense until I have stern words with it in the second draft.


3. What inspired you to start writing the DS Alexandra Cupidi series?

She did, really. Or rather, Zoë, her daughter did. I was writing The Birdwatcher about a character called William South, and they both appeared pretty much from nowhere. I liked Zoë so much as a character I wanted to do something else with them and with the location of Dungeness, which I love.  Luckily, when I proposed it to my editor, he didn’t think I was mad. 


4. What do you do to research the detective and criminal investigation role?

It’s such an interesting question because procedurals are a kind of accepted fiction anyway. Most murders would be solved by a much larger team than writers portray, and in much fewer than 400 pages. Most murders are much sadder and more prosaic than the ones we invent. 

With police procedure, I try to write first then research later, and then try to make the story “work”. One of the things thats fascinating about the police is that, because of the nature of their work, they have to improvise. The focus is always on their duty to preserve life. There are often not the resources to do things in the “proper” way. Things that shouldn’t happen, still can, if you know what I mean. 

But I do want to make it credible, so when I’ve finished, I usually book some time with a wonderful man called Graham Bartlett. He rose up through the ranks to become Chief Super here in Brighton so he’s pretty well versed in all aspects of policing, including firearms. He’s also got a great sense of story. He then tears my book apart. For example, when writing Salt Lane I originally included a gun siege and he shook his head and tutted a lot when he read that. “You don’t want to do that, William. Gun sieges are really boring in real life and none of your characters would be able to speak to each other.’ He made me dial the weaponry down and the result was, paradoxically, much more dramatic. 

The strand about sexual assault in Deadland came through talking to the wonderful writer Lisa Cutts, who is with Kent Serious Crime. It was a chance to chat about what would happen if one officer hinted that they had been sexually abused by another. The more she talked, the more I became fascinated with the dilemmas officers face when dealing with that issue, and the paradox that whatever they say, in practice, police are often forced not to be on the victim’s side. 

But even with excellent advice, I still reserve the right to make outrageous procedural mistakes of my own. 


5. I noticed the subtle Harry Potter references, are you a fan? If so, what house are you in? 

Oh yes. Just as a whole generation of children from a certain era are fans, so are they parents. Many hours reading them aloud. Probably Hufflepuff, which is the boring house. But it does have a badger on the coat of arms, and my next book features badgers heavily. 


6. If you could give one bit of advice for aspiring writers, what would it be? 


Which is better, a half-completed work of genius, or a finished, half-good manuscript? The latter you can always make better. The former sits unloved in a drawer. 

Again, I just want to thank Quercus books for not only giving me the opportunity to review this book for a space on the blog tour, but also allowing me to run a Q&A with the author. Also, William Shaw, thank you for being so kind, I really enjoyed reading your response to my questions. I can’t wait for your next book, I love badgers, I am intrigued.

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