More Fast Facts – The Killing Of The Cherrywood MP

More Fast Facts – The Killing Of The Cherrywood MP

The Return Of The Isis Bride

Up until March 2019, when it lost its final piece of territory, ISIS had recruited thousands of young people from the West. A high proportion of the recruits were women.

Today Europe is facing a new threat. Radicalised individuals once committed to ISIS ideology return. There’s little armed conflict in the region which was once the “caliphate” in Syria and Iraq. But reports claim thousands of sleeper agents in the West remain a potential threat.

What happens when former brides or ISIS fighters are repatriated?

Many serve jail sentences. Last month, Belgium took back six former Isis brides and 10 children from prison camp in Syria. Some who renounce their former faith move on to work on counter-terrorism

What’s the public perspective?

Divided. Some see the women as victims who need another chance.Their lives are at risk in Syria. Shamima Begun, now aged 22, could face execution if she faces trial there for joining ISIS.

Sympathisers express concern the children born to former Isis brides are more at risk of radicalisation in the camps. Others regard the former Jihadi female recruits should never return to their former countries. They argue they deserve to stay where they are and consider them a future potential risk to the West.

No one wants them.

Is ISIS Defeated?

On January 20, 2022, insurgents affiliated with the Islamic State (ISIS), attacked Al-Sina prison in Al-Hasakah in Syria’s far northeast. The attack sent a message that the organization still has significant military, financial, and media abilities.The post-caliphate strategy for insurgencies is not necessarily contingent on territorial control.


How do former Isis brides feature in The Killing of the Cherrywood MP?

“Taut, hard-boiled, detailed and funny.” THE KILLING OF THE CHERRYWOOD MP covers the search for a neo-Fascist extremist with a vendetta against former ISIS brides.

In this HOUSE OF CARDS style grassroots thriller, an off-the-wall Private Investigator goes rogue to save her own skin and foils a deadly terrorist plot.

Do the press follow them?

Some repatriated Isis brides lead future lives in obscurity. Others change their image dramatically and hit the headlines again for different reasons, such as British born Texan resident Tania Joya who had a nine-month affair with a married Congressman Van Taylor.

7 Must-Read Books on Isis Brides

7 Must-Read Books on Isis Brides

Jihadi Fiction. Terrorism Thrillers for our times.

What makes books about Jihadi brides so intriguing are the characters and their motivations, their expectations and disappointments. What makes a teenage girl change her way of life so completely? And will the society they rejected ever accept them back? People are unforgiving, as we have seen this week, with Shamima Begum’s case being kicked out of court.

My novel The Missing Activist features a British-born Muslim convert Zinah al-Rashid who recruits brides to send to the Islamic State.

The sequel The Killing of the Cherrywood MP picks up on the collapse of the Caliphate. Girls want to return to their countries of birth, but public opinion is against it. And for those who have either slipped back and have put their past behind them, there are always those who resent them deeply and exact revenge. When a sharia-supporting MP is murdered, it seems as if there is a connection.

The killer questions

What fascinates me is the sharp contrast between the stable, egalitarian, comfortable Western lifestyles and that of the ISIS’ misogynistic society. Why have so many European women left behind the freedom and privilege of a peaceful, wealthy existence to join a brutal regime addicted to fighting? Are they radicalised?  Or seeking adventure?  Has feminism a part to play in driving them away? What meaning to their lives were they craving? And how did they find it? Or do they view their adventure as escapism rather like a macabre reality show?

Who’s writing?

Some authors of the excellent books which feature Jihadi women are writing from personal experience, others as a result of research work into the subject. Many of these narratives explore just those killer questions.

Operation Jihadi Bride by John Carney Clifford Thurlow

 Hearing terrifying stories first-hand from naïve young girls tricked, abused and enslaved by ISIS, an ex-British Army soldier set up a high-risk operation to rescue as many as he could. Soldier Magazine’s book of the month, this true story with AK-47s and 9mm Glocks reads like a military thriller


Bride of ISIS: One Young Woman’s Path into Homegrown Terrorism by Anne Speckhard

Written by a counter-terrorism expert and Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Security Studies at Georgetown University, she based this book on the true story of Shannon Conley, an American teen from Denver, Colorado seduced on the net, converted to Islam, took the niqab, and who ultimately ended up in the clutches of ISIS.

 The Last Girl: My Story of Captivity and My Fight Against the Islamic State by Nadia Murad and Jenna Krajeski

Written by a human rights activist and recipient of the Vaclav Havel Human Rights Prize and the Sakharov Prize, this inspiring memoir covers the life of a 23-year-old Yazidi woman from her peaceful childhood in a remote village in Iraq to being captured and enslaved by Isis.

 Undercover Jihadi Bride: Inside Islamic State’s Recruitment Networks by Anna Erelle

Written by an undercover journalist who creates an online identity called Melodie to investigate the recruitment of brides over the internet, this is a harrowing tale. She meets an ISIS brigade leader on Facebook. In 48 hours he has ‘fallen in love’ with her, calls her every hour, urges her to marry him, join him in Syria in a life of paradise and join his jihad.


Guest House for Young Widows by Azadeh Moaveni

The work of a journalist and academic, Azadeh Moaveni book takes us into the school hallways of London, kitchen tables in Germany, the coffee shops in Tunis, the caliphate’s ‘Guest House for Young Widows’ where wives of the fallen waited for remarriage. A nuanced and sometimes compassionate take on the complexity of the subject.

Jihadi Bride by Alastair Luft

A graduate of the Royal Military College of Canada, and a 20-year veteran of the Canadian Armed Forces, Luft’s work is a plot-driven family drama. A father’s carefully controlled world working for an organisation that prevents radicalised individuals from joining extremist groups is upended when his daughter, Arielle, leaves university to join the Islamic Caliphate.

The Good Sister by Morgan Jones

 The story of a 17-year-old Muslim girl from London who goes to Syria to join ISIS, and her Christian father’s dangerous attempt to ‘rescue’ her. Written by a former investigator and writer of spy thrillers, this is a raw insight into the horrors of war in Syria and an examination of the insidious grip of radicalisation.


Any missed?  Get in touch.

Book categories, thriller genres, and the Karen Andersen series

Book categories, thriller genres, and the Karen Andersen series

Why you need book categories

The purpose of identifying a book category for a work of fiction, whether it’s a children’s adventure story or a political thriller like The Missing Activist, is to help book shops know exactly where to place them in their shops or online stores. If someone’s hooked on fast-paced suspense stories with a twist, they don’t want to wade through a pile of Enid Blyton books to find them.

The three categories

The book industry classifies novels as either literary fiction (highbrow, character-driven, no rules), genre fiction (easy-read, plot driven, several rules), and mainstream fiction (the blockbuster book from either of the other two that everyone reads).


The main genres are crime, fantasy, romance, science fiction, Western, inspirational, historical fiction, and horror. However, there are  22 add-on genres or sub-genres with new ones added to keep up with contemporary tastes. Examples of recent new classifications include Tartan Noir, allegedly coined by Ian Rankin.

Add to this a myriad of terms like “hard-boiled” as this article from Crime Reads explain, tags such as “spy” and job specs such as private investigator (as opposed to police procedural) and you get a sense of the breadth of the indexing system. Consider also whether the crime is an act of terrorism (which has its own genre) involves a conspiracy, and whether there is a political element to it (potential warfare, government overthrow or corrupt politician).

What are the rules of thriller fiction?

The broad “thriller” category in writing has certain conventions.

Firstly, there needs to be a crime at the centre, at the very least. If not, the threat of a serious crime. Such as in Gone Girl, when Nick comes home from the bar to find that his wife, Amy, has gone missing. 

Of course, there’s the victim. (either a missing person, a dead body or a hostage) Or several victims. There is usually over one life at stake.

However, in thrillers it’s the villain who features high, sometimes in equal measure, with the protagonist or hero. These baddies are clever and powerful. Sometimes ordinary people acting out of revenge or malice (as in domestic thrillers), but other times the evil character is a master criminal or terrorist intent on annihilation of the entire human race. Whoever they are, thriller villains always pose a huge threat. Without the Machiavellian star, the story simply wouldn’t hang together.

Often there is the ‘wolf in sheep’s clothing’. This is the character who says one thing and does the opposite (trying to put the hero off the scent).

Readers enjoy trying to outsmart and top the villain (and so help the hero) by solving the clues and red herrings.  

And then, when everything seems dusted and done, there’s usually one last twist.

Why are thrillers popular?

If you combine the mystery elements of a detective novel (whodunnit) with adventure, conflict, conspiracy, and a fast motorbike, you get drama with a capital D. Everything’s happening at once, and it’s all ahead. Because the hero is the only one to stop the villain before he or she carries out their heinous crime, you’re carried along for the ride.



Reality Shows, Political Thrillers and the Shamima Begum Conundrum

Reality Shows, Political Thrillers and the Shamima Begum Conundrum

So many young women seek instant fame, the type they might find by being a contestant on a reality TV show. Was that what drew Shamima Begun to Syria? Was the appeal of ISIS the same?

An extract from The Killing of the Cherrywood MP: In Bronzefield Women’s Prison, Ashford, Tammy Bishop was conveying her good news to her psychiatrist Ali al-Sayed. It was late Friday afternoon, 12 April. She’d been baring her soul to him for months.

He travelled all the way from Cherrywood on a fortnightly basis to listen. And followed everything about her past, picked up on everything instantaneously. Her work for ISIS. What went on with the prisoners. The bullying and backstabbing. He’d absorbed every minor detail. They’d even become rather buddy-buddy. And he wore well-tailored suits, très hot.

She knew the moment she saw his face drop, he’d not taken the announcement of her early release well. So why had she told him in the first place? Because she thought he was an ally, that’s why. Hadn’t he helped to get her freed?

The officers advised the inmates not to let on to anyone if the system gave them an early release. Prisoners had a nose for news which travelled to the wrong people quick as a flash. But she’d never thought that would apply to Ali al-Sayed. His reaction to what she told him had been unexpected. He was being a bloody pain.

Now her stomach was in knots. There was a clattering and a jangling of keys from outside the room . But inside all was silent. She hated that.

‘I want you to tell me exactly what you will do with yourself when you leave here.’ There was a tightness in his eyes.

‘I’m bursting to talk about it. I’ve got loads and loads of ideas.’

The above is an excerpt from my political thriller and those ideas Tammy Bishop was referring to included her fantasy of becoming a reality TV star. But it could easily be the story of Shamima Begum, who left Britain to join the terror group in February 2015 and could shortly be back in the UK. 

Shamima Begum

Ms Begum lived under Islamic State rule for over three years before she was found, nine months pregnant, at the al-Hol refugee camp in Syria in February last year. Three of her babies had died. She told reporters she didn’t regret joining ISIS, but still begged to be rescued and brought back to the UK. 

Those in favour of her return say that she was a child when she left the country to join ISIS; that she has renounced her support for Isis, and that she is not in any way a security risk.

Those against believe she is a genuine threat to national security; that she is unlikely to face prosecution in the British courts if she is allowed to return, and that she will become a pin-up for Islamist extremism if this happens. A conundrum indeed.

Five Fast Facts about The Killing of the Cherrywood MP.


Check out the trailer to The Killing of the Cherrywood MP

Five Fast Facts: The Killing of the Cherrywood MP

Five Fast Facts: The Killing of the Cherrywood MP

The Killing of the Cherrywood MP is the second novel in the thriller series featuring London Private Investigator Karen Andersen. It’s 2019 and MI5 is set to release the reformed female Jihadi terrorist Zinah al-Rashid from prison.

The Killing of the Cherrywood MP tackles Far-Right politics which have existed in the UK since the 1930s. From the 1980s, the term has mainly been used to describe groups such as the fictional English Concern Group featured in the book. Their ideology revolves around the wish to preserve what they perceive to be British culture.

The exclusive Ritz Club, London’s most famous gambling casino is at 150 Piccadilly and is open 24 hours a day. It features several times in The Killing of the Cherrywood MP.

UK Jihadi brides returning to the UK following the fall of the Islamic State is one of topics explored in The Killing of the Cherrywood MP. Britain has by far the highest rate of repatriated former ISIS brides in Europe. Hundreds of Britons travelled to Syria and Iraq amid the rise of ISIL. Nearly half have been able to return safely. Only a few have been prosecuted in British courts. The country with the next highest proportion was Germany.

St. Tropez is a fishing port in the South of France. It’s home to ome to some of the most prestigious yachts on the planet. An unexplained death at sea is a subplot of The Killing of the Cherrywood MP.  There are 360,000 deaths by drowning worldwide every year.

Conspiracy Thrillers, Page-Turners and Political Fiction

Conspiracy Thrillers, Page-Turners and Political Fiction

Conspiracy thrillers are books which centre on the conflict between the lead character and the source of the conspiracy. The story starts off with either a meaningless crime. The person investigating notices something out of kilter and digs deeper. There’s difficulty ascertaining the truth because of the rumours, lies and group intimidation built up around the incident.  Fast paced and gripping these page-turners are full of twists and turns.

There’s a healthy dose of conspiracy in spy and political fiction. All reasons they make for good TV programmes like the Bodyguard, House of Cards, Homeland, Scandal. Against the backdrop of a glamorous environment, the dirty tricks and bullying traits of the powerful is usually in sharp contrast to their simpler personal personas.

It’s the human side, the motivation behind their behaviour and complexity of character we’re gripped by, as much as the secretive worlds they take us into. The more it resembles normal life, the closer we’re drawn in.

In my book The Missing Activist, a loyal if somewhat naïve young man is being bullied by a member of his own political party and fears it will damage his reputation and career. When he suddenly disappears it seems a bit storm in a teacup until an investigator finds there’s been a coverup and is determined to learn why. If there’s one thing the secretive world of politics can’t stand, it’s people threatening the party with negative exposure. Which is a cover-up for other misdemeanours.  Here are some others:

House of Cards, by Michael Dobbs

The book that inspired the British TV show that inspired the huge Netflix’ hit. The story is of Francis Urquhart, Chief Whip, a cynical, manipulative politician determined to become Prime Minister. He’s willing to use every secret he knows, every pressure point he can find, and every dirty trick in the book to secure his own rise to power—and in the process confirms just about every dark and terrible thing you thought you knew about politics. Written by someone who knew behind-the-scenes.

The Constant Gardener, by John le Carré

In The Constant Gardener, an unremarkable man with a remarkable wife is jolted out of a mediocre political career when his spouse is killed, and he determines to find out why she was murdered, and by whom. For the first time in his life he’s willing to take chances—and if there’s one thing the secretive world of politics can’t stand, it’s people who have nothing to lose. The end result is a pitch-perfect thriller.

The Ghost Writer, by Robert Harris

Former British Prime Minister Adam Lang is very late in turning his memoir in to his publisher—in part because his long-time collaborator and assistant has died in a terrible accident. To get the book back on schedule, they hire a professional ghostwriter to complete the manuscript. The ghostwriter struggles to figure out what’s true and what’s not so true in Lang’s notes, and then stumbles on evidence that implies the dead collaborator was murdered. Lang is charged with war crimes, and the ghostwriter is himself ensnared in the dirty world of power and politics.

The Manchurian Candidate by Richard Condon

Condon’s 1959 novel is about soldiers captured during the Korean War, tortured and brainwashed. One character, Shaw, is programmed to fall into a hypnotic state when he sees his trigger—the Queen of Diamonds during a game of solitaire. He’s programmed to forget his orders once he regains consciousness. This makes him the perfect hidden assassin, who can pass any interrogation or test. His own ruthless, power-hungry mother is his KGB handler, who relays orders to assassinate the president in order to secure the office for the vice president.