Out with the Old… – New Year’s Eve on shift with a Paramedic

New Year’s Eve 2016 falls on the third of my four weekend night shifts, which means I wander onto station in a pleasant haze of sleeplessness, with a nonexistent short-term memory. Festive cheer has bedecked the main table with assorted foodstuffs, while the generally inedible company-issue sandwich packs (for morale!) have been rammed into the fridge. I’m working with K, my best mate, who recently qualified as a paramedic. We stock up on essentials – chocolate, crisps, more chocolate – and, since the only other option in the garage is a shitty Fiat, we bagsy the Mercedes. Signing on takes place amidst a frantic frenzy of provision stowing – “Where can the dips go?!” – and the day shift controller wishes us luck before sending us straight out to a fall in a residential home.


Pre-sign on. The only chance we got to put our feet up!

Our octogenarian patient has fallen from standing, sustaining a small nick to her head that won’t require further treatment. It’s a standard call from residential homes, where the staff are duty bound to phone 999 for even the most minor of injuries. Our patient is happily demented, and we sit and share a tray of chocolates and a brew with her while we complete our paperwork. She’s deemed safe to stay at home, so we leave her in the care of the staff and clear on scene.

We’re immediately sent to a “Red back up” – a two-year-old female fitting. There’s a rapid response paramedic already at the address, requesting urgent assistance. The job is out of our area, so I put my foot down, hoping it’s a febrile convulsion, something simple and easy to remedy.

We walk in to a pale, unresponsive child with a fixed gaze and no muscle tone on her left side. Her seizure has lasted for at least twenty minutes and she’s not running a temperature. Her young parents are understandably distraught, and we try to reassure them while we attempt to figure out what’s going on with their baby. Certain that she’s still fitting, we administer diazepam on the ambulance and put the hospital on a red standby. I’m driving, and the Mercs are nippy little beasts, but New Year’s Eve traffic means speeding taxis and drunk drivers, and although all the other cars stop for me at the first red light I come to, a white van bombs through the junction. I let him go, wondering whether he can lip read, and apologise for any harsh language that may have filtered into the back. The hospital has a full paediatric team waiting for us. The baby is more responsive upon our arrival but she still isn’t moving her left side properly. We later find out that the doctor was querying encephalitis, but beyond that we never get to learn her prognosis.

The rear of the ambulance looks like a bomb’s hit it, so we take a few minutes to tidy up and decompress, then it’s straight back out for a bread-and-butter weekend night job: a thirty year old female, domestic assault with a head injury. The police are on scene and the patient is drunk with a wound that’ll need sutures. She’s hard work: refusing treatment, refusing to go to A&E, and repeatedly begging the police not to arrest her boyfriend. She eventually consents to travel and spends another twenty minutes getting dressed and finding her keys. While we’re waiting, the police tell us there’s been a fatal hit-and-run in our area; one young girl has died at the scene and a second is critically injured. Our patient apologises profusely for wasting our time and then buggers off back into her bedroom because she doesn’t have the right shoes on.

As usual, K and I are swapping driving/attending duties around, so she gets to attend to the ninety-three-year-old septic chap who’s hypotensive and erring on the side of unresponsive. We start IV fluids and pop him off to A&E on an amber pre-alert. Sepsis is the current NHS phrase that pays, with a massive campaign to improve early recognition of the condition so that it might stop costing the service a fortune save lives by preventing multi-organ failure and subsequent ITU admissions. We all carry cards listing discriminators, dutifully follow flow charts and go through bags of saline at a rate of knots. We’re taking bets on what the next big thing will be. The smart money is on AKI: Acute Kidney Injury…

It’s ticking on towards eleven p.m. and K has started to trip over her words: “I can’t even speak proper!” she wails. Strangely, though, I understand everything she’s saying in spite of the mangled grammar.

Our last patient of 2016 is a tiny little boy with a life-limiting genetic condition. He’s had a high temp and diarrhoea since noon, and he’s poorly, with a feeble cry and poor respiratory effort. His parents have already lost a child to the same condition and they seem to know that their son is unlikely to make it out of the hospital this time. I sit with him on the stretcher, cooing at him and stroking his cheek as K flies us in on our second red paeds standby of the night. I hand over the baby and reams of paperwork, including end-of-life care wishes, to the waiting team, and stagger out of Resus, adrenaline fading fast.

“Right, drunk people only from now on,” I say, back in the cab and through a mouthful of chocolate. “Drunk people being smacked in the head.”

“But not puking.”

No. Absolutely no puking.”

2017 is ushered in with cocktail sausages and plastic cups of Cherry Coke. K plays Auld Lang Syne on her phone and we wander into A&E to hug nurses and other crews. Midnight means we’ve gone out of the system for our meal, so we trundle off to station for a half-hour break, eschewing the manky sarnies for handfuls of crisps and homemade sausage rolls.


Dead on thirty minutes, our radios go off in synch. Apparently keen to give the start of 2017 an international flavour, Control send us off to the south (the south of our area, that is – we didn’t get to go to London or anything!) on a transfer. Our transferee is pissed, and he’s also pissed off at travelling fifteen miles for plastic surgery, but he fell onto a glass whilst drunk, so it’s hardly the fault of the NHS. At gone one a.m., the receiving hospital resembles a war zone, crammed with staggering, intoxicated minor injuries. A half-naked man wearing blood like tribal paint is booking himself in at the desk, as ambulances queue with stretchers full of skimpily-clad, insensible patients. In a nutshell, New Year’s Eve is much like any other night shift, except that it comes with dips and crudités, and the midpoint of the shift is marked by a few rubbish fireworks.

Our two-thirty a.m. city centre job is my favourite of the night. A twenty-eight-year-old chap has taken a shed-load of ecstasy at a house party. His “friends” have watched him roll around in mud for ninety minutes, punching the grass and attempting to scratch off his own skin, before they finally phoned for help. The rapid response para has been there a further hour, waiting for us to trot along and scrape the patient up. She’s breathed in so much passive cannabis smoke that she has the munchies, and the patient is hypothermic and quite shamefaced, between episodes of MDMA-induced gurning and lip smacking. He’s also been doubly incontinent and he’s covered head-to-toe in mud, which makes the trip to A&E a bit of an eye-waterer.

After disposing of him and spraying copious amounts of air freshener, we spend the next two hours chasing shadows. Persistent drizzle and a prolonged wait for an ambulance is a surprisingly effective cure-all; our “abdo pain” outside a kebab shop and our “short of breath” at a bus stop have both given up and gone home.

Trying to time a finish, we volunteer for a final job, backing up a St John’s crew who’ve arrived on scene at a fall to find two patients, one of whom is complaining of chest pain. The elderly couple are living in poor conditions with little social support, and the husband is struggling to cope with his demented wife. He’s the one with the chest infection and pleuritic pain, so we bundle them both up and take them to A&E. Phoning through a safeguarding referral brings us to our twenty-minute break and the end of our shift. It’s still raining and the roads are quiet, with fewer taxis whizzing about, just us and the odd police car. It’s been a weird night, busy but not manic, and we realise that this has become the norm, that we so regularly deal with this level of calls that New Year’s Eve has passed by without seeming extraordinary.

Back on station, we hug the day crews and chuck our keys and radios at them. I’ll spend New Year’s Day sleeping and its night back on shift. Out with the old, in with the old. It never changes, and it never stops.

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Winners of the A Quiet Death Giveaway

Right-oh! 176 (give or take) names later and a couple of go arounds with a random number generator and I have winners for the A Quiet Death giveaway. Congrats to Cam Seus over on Facebook, and to Luce who entered at the Mostly LesFic Goodreads group.

A huge thank you to everyone who put their names in the hat, left festive pictures of critters, and chatted Angel Delight flavours. Your enthusiasm is, as ever, a thing of beauty

For those who didn’t win, the book will be released January 1st via the BSB site, and the e-book is now available to pre-order at amazon UK/US where it will be on general release January 17th.

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‘A Quiet Death’ Giveaway!



Eeep! Christmas just came early 🙂

Which, obviously, means it’s giveaway time. I’ve got two lovely paperbacks of A Quiet Death (the third in the Dark Peak series, due for official release on January 1st) to send out along with a delicious packet of Angel Delight (winners can choose their flavour!)

Just pass on some seasonal cheer in the comments section (or head to my Facebook page and “like” or comment on the thread there) and I’ll pop your name in the hat. Deadline for entries is Thursday (22nd December) 12 pm (GMT). Best of British to you all!

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‘Cold to the Touch’ Wins a Rainbow Award

Cold to the Touch smallerShift work does funny things to your brain, so it was a genuine surprise to turn my phone on first thing Thursday morning and find out that Cold to the Touch had snagged the 2016 Rainbow Award for Best Lesbian Thriller/Mystery. The surprise was twofold, 1) because I’d got the dates mixed up and hadn’t expected the results for another 24 hours, and 2) because the book was up against some damn stiff competition in its category. Cold also placed third in Lesbian Fiction overall, which is bloody good going for a crime sequel running against every other lesbian book submitted (there were a lot!) 🙂

Prior to the awards themselves, the Honourable Mentions (scored 36/40 or more by an individual judge) were handed out, with Cold scooping four of those little buggers:

1) Cold to the Touch was a seamless narrative blending criminal mystery and romance. Hunter’s style is so elegant that I feel like I experienced the story, not just read it.

2) A gripping story with well-developed characters and a pace that, at times, leaves you on the edge of your seat. Very clean writing style that managed to move the plot along without bogging down the reader in trivial details as sometimes occurs in crime procedurals. Overall, very nicely done.

3) Talk about cold! Cari Hunter writes winter so that you feel the snow creep down your collar or the wind whistle through the rip in your pants. She makes you feel the ache of fatigue from three nights in a row of too little sleep, and the terror of thinking you’re losing your job, your career, your best friend, and your chance at love. I cared about Sanne from the start. Meg took a little more getting used to, but she grew on me. The crimes were bloody–very, very bloody-but realistically so, and not in an offensive way. The story is more police procedural than mystery, so don’t expect to solve who dunnit from clues. If the clues had been there, I’m pretty sure Sanne would have figured them out.

4) A long story for its genre but excellent – no wasted words, no padding, and a very satisfying conclusion to the romantic story arc from other books. I marked plot down a couple of points because the backstory could have been explained more clearly. Good characterization even in minor roles; these people are individuals, not stereotypes. Since the series protagonist has had her ups and downs I wasn’t sure if she’d be able to overcome the hurdles set up but – EXCELLENT storytelling and a real nail-biter denouement. Brava!

My thanks, as ever, to Elisa Rolle who works tirelessly to pull the awards together (and raised over $14,000 for charity), and to everyone else who helps her to keep things ticking over.




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One Last Huzzah

A Quiet Death finalI’ll be celebrating the arrival of 2017 for two reasons: first and foremost because it will be an absolute joy to kick 2016 in the arse and consign it to the rubbish heap, and secondly because January 2017 sees the publication of A Quiet Death, the third and probably final adventure for Detective Sanne Jensen and her BFF Dr. Meg Fielding.

At the moment I’m basking in that wonderful post-editing, post-proofing glow, where the story is done and dusted, and I’ve approved the cover, written the blurby bits and sent everything back to Bold Strokes. Between shifts, I’m sitting with my feet up, dunking HobNobs and waiting for the postie to knock on with my shiny box of freebies. The only thing that’s left for me to do is convince people to read it…

So, how to go about that?

I suppose I could offer bribes, but I work for the NHS and I haven’t had a pay rise in the past eight years. Also I have bloody hedgehogs to feed now, as well as two perpetually starving cats, which leaves money a bit on the tight side. To be honest I’m hoping that some of you will be pushovers, given that this is book three and that a bunch of happy feedback for the first two instalments suggests I’m not the only one who’s fond of this ragtag rabble of northerners. Complacency is a dangerous thing, however, so for the waverers, the undecideds or those who may be considering starting the series from scratch, I thought I’d make a handy list of attractive attributes to shimmy things along.

Ten Reasons You Absolutely Should Read A Quiet Death

1. Sanne and Meg are finally finding their feet as a “proper” couple, in their own inimitable style (includes scenes of gambolling in meadows and sliding across the kitchen floor in bed socks**)

2. Meg treats a patient with a tail.

3. Sanne gets to chase someone out of a window (and she has a Taser).

4. Eleanor gets a bit drunk.

5. We learn Meg’s recipe for “homemade” soup.

6. We find out the name of Keeley’s new baby.

7. We learn the importance of navigating by the stars.

8. Fred cracks the filthiest of filthy jokes.

9. Teresa has lots of lovely scenes.

10. Nelson reveals his superpower.

** One of these is a fib.

In all seriousness, A Quiet Death was a tough one to write. I had the bare bones of the story rattling around in my head before I’d finished Cold to the Touch, but they made me nervous. Issues of racism, multiculturalism, xenophobia and religion formed the main components of the skeleton, and while I didn’t want to tiptoe gently around those topics, I didn’t want to fuck anything up and offend people. On the other hand, I’d chosen to set my series around Sheffield, and not acknowledging the city’s diversity and the difficulties of policing within an ever-evolving multicultural melting pot seemed disingenuous.

During the year I spent working on the novel, the Black Lives Matter movement has gone from strength to strength, the issue of immigration has rarely left the headlines, and tensions between police and minority communities have been under the spotlight here in the UK as well as over the pond. For the first time in this series I’ve given Sanne’s boss, Eleanor, a point of view, which has allowed me to develop her character, but also to explore the difficulties inherent in running a thorough police investigation whilst trying not to tread on anyone’s toes. When I started planning A Quiet Death, I never imagined that Trump would be sending politics in the US back to the Dark Ages, nor that the UK would be slinking out of the EU, but the themes touched upon in the novel seem more pertinent now than ever.

As you may have guessed, I can’t promise people an easy read. The book is dark and unsettling in places, but it’s a twisty, intricate story that’s shot through with humour and warmth, and at its heart are two women who love each other completely. Of the three Dark Peak books it’s probably my favourite, with a plot that challenged me and tied me in knots, and characters who now feel like my best mates. Months after I finished writing, I still miss those characters, and I do hope you’ll join them for this one last huzzah.

~ ~ ~

A Quiet Death will be released on January 1st via Bold Strokes Books – you can pre-order it and read the first three chapters here. It will be on wider sale January 17th. The kindle version should be available to pre-order later this month.

Mam Nick in the Peak District – one of the roads I had in mind when I wrote ‘A Quiet Death’.




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Shiny Things…

This little lovely finally arrived today after a brief stint of being held to ransom by the UK customs 🙂


Cheers to the good people at GCLS, and to Nell Stark for doing such a sterling job with my acceptance speech. For the record, if I’d had to pick between the first two Dark Peak books, I’d have picked this one 🙂


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‘It’s a Mystery’ Podcast – Misty Moors, Queers, and Frogs…


A couple of weeks back, I had a lovely chat with fellow author, Alexandra Amor, for her It’s a Mystery podcast. We talked about the Dark Peak books, genre, the (in)visibility of queer characters in mainstream crime, and, um…frogs 🙂

The interview has now been posted here at her blog, where you can listen to it or download it, and there’s also a video of the recording over on YouTube.

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