Saturday Series Spotlight: Mary-Jane Riley

Hi everyone,

Today, I am thrilled to have the lovely Mary-Jane Riley joining me on the blog to take part in my series feature. I haven’t read Mary-Jane’s books YET, but I have them both to calling out to be read on my kindle!

About Mary-Jane Riley:

Mary-Jane wrote her first story on her newly acquired blue Petite typewriter. She was eight. It was about a gang of children who had adventures on mysterious islands, but she soon realised Enid Blyton had cornered that particular market. So she wrote about the Wild West instead. When she grew up she had to earn a living, and became a BBC radio talk show presenter and journalist. She has covered many life-affirming stories, but also some of the darkest events of the past two decades. AFTER SHE FELL is her second crime thriller. Her first, THE BAD THINGS, was an Amazon Kindle top 40 seller in the UK and US.

mary-jane riley copy

About the books:

The Bad Things

Alex Devlin’s life changed forever fifteen years ago when her sister Sasha’s two small children were snatched in broad daylight. Little Harry’s body was found a few days later, but Millie’s remains were never discovered.

Now Jackie Wood, jailed as an accessory to the twins’ murder, has been released, her conviction quashed by the Appeal Court. Convinced Jackie can reveal where Millie is buried, Alex goes to meet her.

But the unexpected information Wood reveals shocks Alex to the core and threatens to uncover the dark secret she has managed to keep under wraps for the past fifteen years. Because in the end, can we ever really know what is in the hearts of those closest to us?

Buy The Bad Things by clicking here.

After She Fell

There are so many ways to fall…

Catriona needs help. Her seventeen-year-old daughter Elena was found dead at the bottom of a cliff near her boarding school. The death has been ruled a suicide, but Catriona isn’t convinced.

When her old friend, journalist Alex Devlin, arrives in Hallow’s Edge to investigate, she quickly finds that life at private boarding school The Drift isn’t as idyllic as the bucolic setting might suggest.

Amidst a culture of drug-taking, bullying and tension between school and village, no one is quite who they seem to be, and there are several people who might have wanted Elena to fall…

Buy After She Fell by clicking here.

Read on for Mary-Jane’s fab guest post…


‘Oh no,’ says The Fearsome One (aka my agent), ‘you have absolutely got to write another Alex Devlin novel. She’s a series character.’

‘She is?’ I say, thinking of the outline and several thousand words I had written about a woman who   – well, it doesn’t matter now.

‘Yes. We haven’t come this far for you to throw her out,’ she says, firmly.

‘Right. A series character.’

‘Send me your outline.’


I scurry away to write something, anything.


And I suppose this was the first time I had realised I was writing a series. Really.


Let me take you back…


I was a journalist who used to write stories for BBC News Online, and a lot of them were fairly grim – murders, mercy killings, serial killers – but I knew I could draw on my experience for a novel. One day I thought: what if I had to interview someone who had torn my family apart years before? What if I needed to ask that person what had really happened that day fifteen years ago? What if? What if? And Alex Devlin, my journalist protagonist was born. She is, I hope, a mix of vulnerability and steel as she goes about investigating what had happened the day her sister’s two children were snatched from her garden. Oh, yes, she carries a lot of guilt! Mix into that an undercover police officer she falls for, a son who has the potential to go off the rails and a sister who is flaky to say the least, and THE BAD THINGS, set in my beloved East Anglia, was born. It went to auction in Germany and Harper Collins bought it and then –


‘I hope you’re writing the next,’ The Fearsome One says.

‘Er…yes…’ I say. ‘Of course…’

I scurry away to write something, anything.


I went away and pondered (looked out of the window a lot). I liked Alex – I had lived with her for quite a while – and I thought her story wasn’t finished. I wanted to send her somewhere else, a boarding school, perhaps (I always fancied going to boarding school with its stories of midnight feasts and giggling friends, though the one I have invented is nothing like that!). I wanted her undercover police officer to make another appearance and I wanted her son to have a bit of a story…. So I wrote AFTER SHE FELL where Alex looks into the circumstances surrounding the death of a student from a boarding school. (And in case that sounds as though it just appeared on the page with little effort, can I say a lot of blood, sweat and tears went into it. Many was the time I moaned to friends that the only thing my characters were doing was drinking wine at home, coffee in the cafe or wine in the pub. But it did come together, honestly…)


And before the ink was dry on the contract with Harper Collins for that one came the conversation with The Fearsome One, and the realisation that yes, I was writing a series….so I set to scribbling notes for the next.


So you see, I didn’t plan it as a series, I didn’t plan an overriding character arc (isn’t that what the books tell you to do?), but Alex still has plenty more to say – and plenty more to do to try and assuage that ever-present guilt. And I want to see where her relationship with the undercover police officer takes her.


And now, I can’t see why I didn’t think I was writing a series, after all, what is better than returning to favourite characters, see how they’re messing up their lives and what they’re beating themselves up about now?


When I think back, so many of my favourite authors wrote series. I can remember my Dad reading Enid Blyton’s The Twins at St Clare’s to me night after night as I lay recovering from a severe bout of measles. I devoured all of Enid Blyton’s series’ – Mallory Towers, Famous Five, The Faraway Tree, The Secret Seven and all the ones I can’t remember. As I grew up, I adored PD James’ detective Adam Dalgleish (particularly as he wrote poetry – that was catnip to my troubled teenage soul!), Inspector Wexford from Ruth Rendell, Inspector Maigret from Georges Simenon. There were Louis L’Amour westerns – the Sackett series for starters (I read anything I could get hold of from my local library) and science fiction series’ from the great Robert Heinlein.


These days I look out for new ones from Kate Rhodes (forensic psychologist Alice Quentin) and VM Giambanco (Seattle detective Alice Madison). Then there is David Raker who looks for missing people from author Tim Weaver, David Mark’s Hector McAvoy, a family man who just wants to be a decent cop…. Ben Hope the troubled SAS man from Scott Mariani…I’m just beginning to read Fred Vargas and her Commissaire Adamsberg books – what a treat…And that’s just for starters.





The one I always go for is Lee Child’s Jack Reacher. Ever since I bought The Killing Floor in Waterstone’s for 99p (it was on offer as ‘a new author to try’!) I have read every single one as they have come out. I am, like many, a little in love with Jack Reacher…. (As an aside, if you haven’t read Reacher Said Nothing: Lee Child and The Making of  Make Me by Andy Martin, about Child’s writing process then go get it now!!) And the new Lee Child usually comes out just before I go on holiday in September, and to misquote another (film) series character … It makes my day!


All the important links and details again:


The Bad Things UK

The Bad Things US


After She Fell UK

After She Fell US After She Fell


Social media:


Twitter: @mrsmjriley

Instagram: maryjanerileyauthor

Huge thanks to Mary-Jane for joining me today, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this post! 🙂

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