A celebration of some of the best crime writers in Manchester and the North. Including panel discussions and a Murder Mystery Night!

Wednesday 16th March 6.30pm

Karen Woods, Cath Staincliffe, Joseph Knox and Rob Parker.

Thursday 17th March 6.30pm

Alex Caan, Mandasue Heller, Chris Simms and Rob Parker

Friday 18th March 7pm

‘An Invitation to Murder’ Murder Mystery Night



Hosted by the brilliant author Rob Parker.

Rob Parker lives near Warrington, UK. The author of the Ben Bracken thrillers and the standalone post-Brexit country-noir Crook’s Hollow.

​Rob writes full time, as well as organising and attending various author events across the UK. Passionate about inspiring a love of the written word in young people, he spends a lot of time in schools across the North West, encouraging literacy, storytelling and creative-writing. ​He is also a co-host of the For Your Reconsideration film podcast, and a regular voice on the Blood Brothers crime book podcast.

Wednesday 16th March Author Panel with Cath Staincliffe, Joseph Knox and Karen Woods.


Cath Staincliffe

Cath was brought up in Bradford then moved to work as a community artist in Manchester where she now lives with her family.

Looking for Trouble, published in 1994, launched private eye Sal, a single parent struggling to juggle work and home, onto Manchester’s mean streets. Cath has published a further seven Sal Kilkenny mysteries.

Cath is also a scriptwriter, creator of ITV’s hit police drama, Blue Murder, she was also commissioned to write the Scott & Bailey books and writes for Danny Brocklehurst’s Stone detective drama.

She is now writing a series of stand-alone novels where ordinary families find themselves caught up in extraordinary events. Cath is a founder member of Murder Squad, a virtual collective of northern crime writers.

Joseph Knox

Joseph Knox was born and raised in and around Stoke-On-Trent and Manchester, where he worked in bars and bookshops before moving to London. He runs, writes and reads compulsively.

Sirens, his debut novel, was a Sunday Times bestseller, and his work has now been translated into 18 languages.

His latest novel ‘True Crime Story’ was published in 2021. The Times described it as ‘Scandalously entertaining…Knox is a fantastic writer. His ambitious fourth novel satirises and celebrates the true-crime genre with glee … by turns horrific and hilarious’ – Mark Sanderson.

Karen Woods

Karen was born and raised in the City Of Manchester and is proud to be a Mancunian! Being raised within an inner city area inspired Karen to take an unorthodox and very well received approach within her writing. 

Karen left school without any formal qualifications and obtained her inspiration from attending an adult literacy course which was offered by her former employers.

Karen writes from the heart and always keeps it real to life, and she writes about subjects we can all relate too. Having lived a colourful life she uses her own experiences to write her books. Her fan base is growing every day and soon everyone will know the name Karen Woods.

Karen believes that everyone has the power to to change their lives around with self belief and determination. “Life doesn’t give. We have to take what we can.” .

Thursday 17th March Author Panel with Mandasue Heller, Alex Caan and Chris Simms.


After moving to Manchester in the early 80’s, Mandasue immersed herself in the underground music scene. Forced by illness to temporarily quit singing in the 90’s, she turned her hand to writing, using the notorious Hulme Crescents, where she had spent her first 10 years in Manchester, as the backdrop.

Her first written piece concerned a real-life incident, when a man had broken into her house in the early hours and attacked her with a claw-hammer, fracturing her skull. But it was the psychological after-effects that affected her most deeply, and she hoped that writing about it would exorcise the hold it still had over her. The finished piece was too personal for anybody else to read, but she had enjoyed the process of writing, so decided to try her hand at fiction instead – and her first book, The Front, was snapped up by Hodder & Stoughton. She has written 13 books since then, and is currently working on the 14th.

Mother to 3 grown children, and grandmother of 3, Mandasue still lives in Manchester, and spends her time between books and family commitments locked away in the studio, writing and recording music albums.

Alex Caan has spent over a decade working in Information Systems Security for a number of government organisations, and is currently specialising in Terrorism Studies. A lifetime passion for writing was sparked by the encouraging words of an English Teacher in school, and eventually led to Alex successfully completing an MA in Creative Writing, and write Cut to the Bone.

Cut to the Bone has been a Kindle Number 1 bestseller, was picked as a WH Smith ‘Everyone’s Talking About’ book of the week, chosen as Sainsbury’s best of summer reads and was Angela Marson’s pick for crime novel recommendation of the year. Alex Caan was also a rising star on Amazon in 2016.

First To Die, the shocking sequel to Cut to the Bone, was released June 14th 2018.

His latest novel The Unbroken is out now.

Chris Simms has worked in airports, nightclubs, post offices and telesales centres. Along with nominations for Crime Writers’ Association Daggers and the Theakston’s Crime Novel of the Year award for his novels and short stories, Chris was selected by Waterstones as one of their ’25 Authors for the Future’.

The idea for his debut novel, Outside the White Lines, came to him in the early hours of the morning while broken down on the hard shoulder of the M40.

His series of DI Spicer novels – psychological thrillers set very firmly in Manchester – follow the police detective’s fortunes as he pursues mad, bad and deadly individuals through the city’s ever-evolving landscape.

In October 2012, Scratch Deeper was launched – a new series featuring Detective Constable Iona Khan of Manchester Police’s Counter Terrorism Unit. This was followed-up by another DC Khan novel, A Price To Pay.

Dark Angel, the 9th DI Spicer novel was published in January 2021.

Friday 18th March Murder Mystery Night


After Dark Entertainment present: An Invitation to Murder

Will you find a body in the library?

When famous golden age detectives are invited to a remote mansion by a reclusive author they get more than they bargained for as he reveals that one of them is the mysterious thief ‘The Falcon’. Before he can reveal which one of them it is, he ends up dead.

Can you play detective and uncover the truth before it’s too late. Questions the suspects and discover which of these super sleuths is really a super villain?