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The Eureka Moment: The Last Winter of Dani Lancing

Ever wonder about the journey a book goes on from author to reader? What it is about one particular book that makes an editor miss their bus stop home? That eureka moment, when they know they MUST BUY THIS BOOK. For Publishing Director Gillian Green that book was The Last Winter of Dani Lancing by debut author P.D. Viner.

Gillian explains why the Ebury Team liked the book so much they ended up pre-empting it at the Frankfurt Bookfair last year.

Over to Gillian:

The Last Winter of Dani Lancing by P.D. Viner came into us in late September last year under a whole different guise. It was called A Half Remembered Death and literary agent Simon Trewin’s opening lines of his email to me were sufficient to pique my interest:

‘Phil Viner came to me via the recommendation of Sophie Hannah. The last novel I had via her was subject to a huge auction and was sold in multiple countries within a fortnight. She obviously has good taste…’

I started reading the book – as I often do with intriguing submissions – on my bus journey home to South London. However, I couldn’t stop reading long after I’d traversed the badlands of Peckham for home. And the next morning I couldn’t help but pass on my enthusiasm – along with the material – to my publisher and our fiction team at large.

Such was the passion for Phil’s novel that we ended up making an offer within days of receiving the submission and, outside of an indifferent Starbucks in Frankfurt, the day before the bookfair opened, Simon Trewin and I hammered out a two-book deal.

A story about the aftermath of a murder is familiar ground for crime fiction but what made Phil’s novel stand out for us was not just his dark, hauntingly beautiful writing but a multi-layered plot that plays with narrators, time and structure to keep the reader guessing the question:

What exactly happened to Dani Lancing?

Dani’s story is told from four viewpoints: there is her best-friend Tom, who now heads up a serious crimes unit and is obsessively drawn to cases that echo Dani’s own. There is Patty, her mother, a hardened journalist driven to increasingly extreme lengths to find her daughter’s killer. There’s Jim, a man whose life and marriage have been destroyed by his daughter’s death.

And then there is Dani, herself. Is she a ghost? A figment of Jim’s grief-stricken mind? It’s not entirely clear at first but it is Dani’s presence that makes this book far more than just a gripping thriller. Phil’s debut will inevitably draw comparisons to writers like Gillian Flynn and S J Watson but also Alice Sebold as well. Mark Billingham said of the book that it’s:

‘Not just a great thriller but a hugely moving portrayal of grief… A hugely impressive debut’

Or as our publisher, Jake Lingwood, memorably told everyone at our sales conference this year: ‘reading P.D. Viner is like getting on the luge at the winter Olympics. You start relatively slowly, picking up speed with each corner; you hang on tight with both hands – getting off isn’t an option. Eventually the pace quickens faster and faster until you’re left gasping with adrenalin at the end.’

And, rest assured, all of Ebury is in agreement: Sophie Hannah does have the most excellent taste.”

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