Happy Monday everyone!! I am honoured to be welcoming the fabulous Abi Silver to A Knight’s Reads today. I’ve been a big fan of Abi’s books since 2017 when I read her debut The Pinocchio Brief. I’ve followed the development of the relationship between Constance Lamb and Judith Burton over the past six books and I’m addicted!
I’ll be reviewing The Ambrosia Project later in the week once I’ve gathered my thoughts on this latest courtroom thriller. It’s out on Thursday so you can preorder your copy now from your local bookshop, your usual e-book retailer or directly from Eye Books!
My thanks to Abi for taking the time to answer my questions!
A tragic accident? Or is there a poisoner on the loose?
In the sixth of Abi Silver’s nail-biting games of court-room cat-and-mouse, Judith Barton and Constance Lamb defend a caterer accused of killing a food magnate by negligence. Is something darker afoot?
When food magnate Brett Ingram collapses and dies at a public event, his seafood allergy is blamed and the caterer, Nick Demetriou, charged with manslaughter.
Nick hires legal duo Judith Burton and Constance Lamb to defend him. They scrutinise the colourful panellists at the event – a food blogger, a beef farmer, a food scientist, a TV chef and a radio host – who all seem to be holding something back.
There’s something fishy about the allergy story. Did one of the speakers have a hand in the businessman’s death? And what of the nasty incidents that keep befalling them? Should the net be cast wider to include opponents of Brett’s mysterious Ambrosia initiative?
In another of Abi Silver’s nail-biting games of courtroom cat-and-mouse, Judith and Constance must find the truth among a smorgasbord of lies and deception.
Describe The Ambrosia Project in 10 words or less
Sherlock Holmes meets MasterChef
What sort of research did you do for The Ambrosia Project?
Lots and lots. I discussed poisons and poisoning, death by food poisoning and causes and signs of anaphylactic shock with a forensic pathologist (Judith picks up on some funny anecdotes I unearthed early on in the book – including death by pinto beans). Then I asked another pathology specialist some tricky post-mortem questions to feed (excuse the pun) the cross examination of my fictional expert.
Next was learning about sentient plants – communities of trees which nurture each other – courtesy of New Scientist. Fascinating stuff but bad news for vegetarians. Then I moved on to meat-only diets, sustainable beef farming, genetically modified food and ultra-processed junk food. Whilst ‘whodunnit’ is what readers will want to know, my ‘old versus new’ theme running through all my books is satisfied, this time, by considering what we should all be eating and why. And it’s scary stuff.
What can you tell us about your current work in progress? Please tell me it’s another Burton and Lamb legal thriller!!
I’ve just finished the first draft of the next book in the series (book 7). This time a politician is arrested in possession of a Class A drug and accused of intending to use it to overpower a young colleague. It will cover another hot topic, but I can’t divulge it quite yet.
How do you balance writing with your legal work and your family life?
I’m incredibly lucky to have joined the ever-growing band of legal consultants, working for fixed periods of time on specific contracts. Although that provides much less job security than being employed, it gives me flexibility and means that, in between, I can write full time. Juggling family commitments is always a challenge, but as my boys grow up, it’s easier to manage. And they help a lot by contributing things Constance might say or be interested in, as she’s closer to their age.
Who are your go-to authors to read?
First up is the wonderful Kate Atkinson, particularly her Jackson Brodie stories (with the added bonus of Leeds, my home town, playing a starring role from time to time).
I’m also going through a real love affair with historical crime fiction at the moment (because there are so many good authors out there and I like to learn things when I’m reading, as well as being entertained). I would highly recommend each of Laura Shepherd-Robinson, Abir Mukherjee, Vaseem Khan, Adam Macqueen and Antonia Hodgson, but there are so many more.
For legal thrillers (for which I have a huge soft spot -obviously) I only recently discovered Scott Turow but wow, he’s so good! And this side of the pond, I love Imran Mahmood’s work. For sweeping crime dramas with dramatic US landscapes, you have to read Chris Whitaker. For high octane, look no further than Antony Johnston or Tony Kent. And I have just begun Sean Cosby’s pacey, poignant Razorblade Tears which I know already will deliver.
The Ambrosia Project has a food theme – what would your food heaven be and who would you like to cook it for you?
Ooh – so my favourite meat is lamb and I love mango. In fact, mango features in this book quite heavily at the start. I think a combination of the two would be wonderful – maybe a lamb and mango curry.
As for the chef, farmer Mark Sumner mentions Marco Pierre White in my story. But, in real life it would be Jamie Oliver and he would be required to say ‘lovely jubbly’ at least once (even though he doesn’t really like saying it anymore).
Just for fun – what would your Mastermind specialist subject be?
Sadly, the subject I probably still know most about is 1980s Pop Music. I think my teenage years was when my brain retained most information without any effort, mostly by osmosis. Nowadays, it seems to be much harder to make anything stick (Judith talks about the pitfalls of menopausal women as witnesses, in my latest story). But I’d also really like to know more about Greek mythology, so I’d be willing to gen up on that, if required. It’s not something I covered at school and so many of those old stories underpin the language we use and things we say or do today – Ambrosia is a good example.
Who Is Abi Silver?
Abi Silver grew up in Leeds in a traditional Jewish family.
Watching Granada TV’s Crown Court in between lessons inspired her to study Law at Girton College, Cambridge. She worked for international law firms in London before spending five years in Israel, where her husband Daniel was posted. During her time there, as well as raising three sons, she completed an MBA by distance learning, learned Hebrew and pottery on the wheel and began to write fiction, usually late at night.
Her first courtroom drama featuring the legal duo Judith Burton and Constance Lamb, The Pinocchio Brief, was published by Lightning Books in 2017 and was shortlisted for the Waverton Good Read Award. Since then she has published five more in the acclaimed series – The Aladdin Trial, The Cinderella Plan, The Rapunzel Act, The Midas Gameand The Ambrosia Project. Several have been Sunday Times Crime Club picks.
Based in Hertfordshire, she continues to work part-time as a legal consultant.
Read more about Abi and her work at www.abisilver.co.uk.