Blog Tour – The Last Thing to Burn by Will Dean @willrdean @HodderBooks #TheLastThingToBurn

Will Dean Blog Tour Banner

Happy publication day to Will Dean for the incredible The Last Thing to Burn! Thank you to Jenny Platt and Hodder & Stoughton for allowing me to read a proof copy via NetGalley and for joining the tour. Before I give you my thoughts here’s the blurb.

The Blurb

He is her husband. She is his captive.

Her husband calls her Jane. That is not her name.

She lives in a small farm cottage, surrounded by vast, open fields. Everywhere she looks, there is space. But she is trapped. No one knows how she got to the UK: no one knows she is there. Visitors rarely come to the farm; if they do, she is never seen.

Her husband records her every movement during the day. If he doesn’t like what he sees, she is punished.

For a long time, escape seemed impossible. But now, something has changed. She has a reason to live and a reason to fight. Now, she is watching him, and waiting …

The Last Thing to Burn

My Review

Where to begin? I haven’t read a book this devastating and claustrophobic since Room. As much as I wanted to keep on reading there were times when I had to stop and put the book down. I was so affected by the narrative and Jane’s (not her real name) terrible plight. Will Dean captures her voice beautifully. A woman desperately trying to hang onto herself and her sense of worth whilst systematically stripped of her few possessions and her humanity. A woman forced to slave for a man who claims to be her husband, watched by cameras when he’s out. A woman physically, sexually and mentally abused. A woman whose life seemed incredibly real to me. But in this dark, dark place there is a spark of joy for ‘Jane’. I’m not going to say any more about it but it’s this spark that lights a beacon of hope and points to a way forward.

I know Will Dean does a lot of research for all his books and aims to make them as accurate as possible. I’m sure he’s done the same here. As I’ve already said, this story was all too real for me. My hope is that people don’t just read this and wax lyrical about how wonderful it is (which it is) but will be spurred into action too. And that’s the whole point. This may be fiction but it’s a fact for so many people trapped in modern day slavery. The Last Thing to Burn highlights this so clearly and setting it in the Fens in the UK makes it our problem, something that can’t be ignored.

But there is one problem that I have. It’s only the beginning of the year and I’ve already read another truly magnificent book that should have been published in 2020 but was pushed back to April 21. My dilemma? There may be a tie for my top read of 2021. Does it matter? I guess not. So it may only be the first week in January but I’m going to say it – The Last Thing To Burn is truly extraordinary.

You can buy The Last Thing To Burn here.

Or check out your local bookshop or

If you want to know more about modern day slavery and how you can help then check out these charities to find out more.


Hope For Justice

The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants

The Author

Will Dean

Will Dean grew up in the East Midlands, living in nine different villages before the age of eighteen. After studying law at the LSE, and working many varied jobs in London, he settled in rural Sweden with his wife. He built a wooden house in a boggy forest clearing and it’s from this base that he compulsively reads and writes.

Top Ten Reads for 2020 @william1shaw @ameranwar @Rod_WR @crimethrillgirl @richardosman @willrdean @MandaJJennings @AnyaLipska @WhittyAuthor @elisabeth04liz

Oh boy, what a year! There’s been more trauma and action in this year than in a crime novel! The one thing that’s helped me get through is reading. I haven’t done as many blog tours this year and next year it will be even fewer. Two of my own novels will be published in 2021 and I hope to bring you details about my debut soon. But I will continue to read! I’ve read some wonderful books that were first published last year so I can’t include them in my top ten. First up is Leonard and Hungry Paul by Ronan Hession. This is such a wonderful book and if you’re looking for a heart-warming read this Christmas then this is perfect. You can read my review here. If you can cope with a more traumatic story then The Beekeeper of Aleppo by Christy Lefteri is superb. You can read my review here. Intensity and passion run through Mine by Clare Empson and you can read my review here.

Moving onto published books from 2020! It’s been another great year for novels but also frustrating. Some books have been pushed back until 2021 while others have made it out into the world but not with the fanfare they deserve. Cancellation of book launches and literary festivals has been hard for the party-loving Crime writers and bloggers. So giving an online shout-out is more important than ever. It’s been a difficult choice, as ever, but here are the first seven of my top ten reads in no particular order.

Grave’s End by William Shaw

William Shaw has been a steadfast feature in my top ten reads over a few years now. The problem is that he writes such fabulous books with my favourite female police detective – DS Alex Cupidi. In Grave’s End though she is upstaged by a very unusual narrator. You’ll need to read my review to find out more.


The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman

The Thursday Murder Club achieved something that no other crime book has done this year – it made me laugh, a lot! It’s a wondrous cosy crime mystery and more are planned! Here’s my review.  


The Storm by Amanda Jennings.

This brooding and intense novel deals with the theme of coercive control against the backdrop of Cornwall and is sensitively written. Read my review here.


Black River by Will Dean

We move north to Sweden for my next top ten read but thankfully it’s summer in Black River. Will Dean has brought Tuva Moodyson back to Gavrik to find her best friend, Tammy, who’s gone missing. Here’s my review.


Deep Dark Night by Steph Broadribb

Lori Anderson is back and reunited with JT. They’re coerced into doing a job for the FBI and what ensues is one of the best locked room mysteries I’ve ever read. Here are my thoughts.


Back to the UK for the next two and in particular, London.

Blood Red City by Rod Reynolds

I absolutely loved Rod Reynolds’ Charlie Yates series set in 1940s USA. But in Blood Red City, Rod has moved into the 21st century and London. His characters Lydia Wright and Michael Stringer make full use of public transport as they investigate a possible murder. To find out more, here’s my review.


Stone Cold Trouble by Amer Anwar


Zaq and Jags are back and it’s not long before trouble finds them again in Southall, this time in the form of a stolen necklace. This is a fast paced book and no one writes fight scenes as well as Amer. Read my review here.

So now we’ve reached the top three. Coming in third is…


Body Language by AK Turner

Cassie Raven is the new girl on the block in forensic crime novels but what a character! As a mortuary technician, she deals with what appear to be mundane cases. However, Cassie has a unique gift that reveals to her how someone may have died. It’s brilliantly written and I hope we hear more of Cassie in the future. Here’s my review.


In second place…


The Lost Lights of St. Kilda by Elisabeth Gifford

I don’t always read crime and my favourite non-crime novel this year is The Lost Lights of St. Kilda. It’s historical and romantic with a touch of thriller. It’s beautifully written with exquisite descriptions of the setting and the way of life for the inhabitants of St. Kilda. It is simply glorious. Here are more of my thoughts.


And so to my top read of 2020. There’s no surprise here really as I’ve been shouting about my love for this book for months now.


We Begin at the End by Chris Whitaker

A sweeping, American saga with the best teenage character you will ever read. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you won’t want it to end. It is extraordinary. Here’s my full review.

There you go, that’s my top ten reads of 2020. If you want to buy any of them then, if possible, please consider using as they’re helping to raise funds for independent bookshops. But of course, other options are available.

All I have left to say is that I really hope you’re able to have a good Christmas and I wish you a Happy New Year!

December First Monday Crime – The Open House by Sam Carrington @sam_carrington1 @1stMondayCrime @AvonBooksUK @SJIHolliday @AnyaLipska @deborah_masson

The fourth author on our December panel is Sam Carrington. Sam will be joining us from her home in Devon. The Open House is Sam’s sixth book and will be published on the 10th December. Before I give you my review, here’s the blurb.

The Blurb

Everyone’s welcome. But not everyone leaves…

Nick and Amber Miller are splitting up and selling their Devon family home. But despite the desirable location, the house isn’t moving. Not a single viewing so far.
When their estate agent suggests an open house event, Amber agrees, even as she worries about their gossiping neighbours attending and snooping around their home.
But Amber has more to worry about than nosy neighbours. Because thirteen people enter her house that afternoon, and only twelve leave.
Someone doesn’t want the house to sell, and is willing to do anything to stop it…

The Open House

My Review

Moving house is supposed to be one of the most challenging and stressful tasks you can undertake. But before you even move, you may have a property to sell. After splitting from her husband, Amber Miller is facing that problem and it appears no one wants to buy her house despite the best efforts of her estate agent. In desperation she agrees to hold an open house where several prospective buyers wander round the property. Watching on her smart doorbell app, she counts thirteen people in but only twelve out. At least she thinks so. As strange things start to happen in the house, Amber wonders if maybe she hadn’t miscounted after all. As much as she wants to sell her home, Amber’s not going to be forced out of it and begins to investigate.

Sam Carrington has done what she does best and takes an ordinary situation to a whole new dimension. Having strangers look at your house is bad enough but thinking they might still be there is beyond weird. I was starting to feel as creeped out and paranoid as Amber was.

The story is told by three people – Amber, her mother-in-law, Barb and a mystery narrator. As much as Amber wants to leave, Barb is doing her best to make sure Amber and the grandchildren stay in what had previously been her house. And the mystery narrator? Well that person is seeking the truth, regardless of the cost.

There are plenty of twists and turns in this book and the tension steadily builds. As I was reading I had a few ideas about it all and one of them was partially right. The ending still took me by surprise though.

Overall this is another fantastic psychological thriller by Sam Carrington.

You can pre order The Open House here. Or buy from your local bookshop from the 10th December.

Don’t forget to join us on Monday 7th December at 7.30pm GMT on our Facebook page when I’ll be chatting to Sam Carrington, Deborah Masson, Susi Holliday and A.K. Turner.


The Author

Sam Carrington

Sam Carrington lives in Devon with her husband, two border terriers and a cat. She has three adult children and a new grandson! She worked for the NHS for fifteen years, during which time she qualified as a nurse. Following the completion of a psychology degree she went to work for the prison service as an Offending Behaviour Programme Facilitator. Her experiences within this field inspired her writing. She left the service to spend time with her family and to follow her dream of being a novelist.

SAVING SOPHIE, her debut psychological thriller, published in September 2016. It became a Kindle eBook bestseller, with the paperback hitting The Bookseller Heatseeker chart at #8. Sam was named an Amazon Rising Star of 2016. Her second psychological thriller, BAD SISTER, published in 2017 followed by ONE LITTLE LIE in July 2018. THE MISSING WIFE published in June 2019 and her fifth, I DARE YOU published on 12th December. Sam’s sixth psychological thriller THE OPEN HOUSE will be publishing in December 2020.

You can find out about Sam’s novels, upcoming events and book news at

December First Monday Crime – Out for Blood by Deborah Masson @deborah_masson @1stMondayCrime @TransworldBooks @SJIHolliday @sam_carrington1 @AnyaLipska

As much as I miss our live First Monday Crime panels, being online does offer one advantage. Our authors don’t have to travel to London which makes it easier for those further afield. So we’re very excited to have award-winning author, Deborah Masson, join us from her home in Aberdeen. Deborah won the Bloody Scotland Scottish Crime Debut of the Year 2020 for Hold Your Tongue, featuring DI Eve Hunter. Out for Blood is the next book in the series. Before I share my review, here’s the blurb.

The Blurb

A young man, the son of an influential businessman, is discovered dead in his central Aberdeen apartment.

Hours later, a teenaged girl with no identification is found hanged in a suspected suicide.

As DI Eve Hunter and her team investigate the two cases, they find themselves in a tug-of-war between privilege and poverty; between the elite and those on the fringes of society.

Then an unexpected breakthrough leads them to the shocking conclusion: that those in power have been at the top for too long – and now, someone is going to desperate lengths to bring them down…

Can they stop someone who is dead set on revenge, no matter the cost?

Out for Blood

My Review

I absolutely loved Deborah’s debut, Hold Your Tongue. DI Eve Hunter is back with her team (DS Mark Cooper, DC Scott Ferguson and DC Jo Mearns) in Out for Blood, investigating two incidents in Aberdeen. One is the murder of a young man, the other an apparent suicide of a young woman. It isn’t long though before the pathologist discovers that the young woman was actually murdered.

Masson explores the horrific nature of the sex trafficking trade. She does so with a keen sense of justice. Born as a consequence of rape, DI Eve Hunter is the perfect police officer to take this on board. She’s a powerful voice for female victims of crime.

The young man comes from a wealthy family but Eve and her team treat all victims the same. It doesn’t matter how much power and wealth is put in her way, she’s willing to knock it down and ruffle feathers to get to the truth.

Having read the first book I settled into this story quickly. There’s great camaraderie between Hunter and her officers and they’re a more cohesive team this time round. The viewpoint switches between them which is useful with two cases to investigate. There are other intriguing characters that we hear from but I’m not going to say too much about them. The plot moves at a fast pace and there’s great energy throughout the story. Not once did it sag.

The location of Aberdeen is put to good use once more as Eve and her team move from the highest of society to the lowest of the low. Although who is ‘high’ and who is ‘low’ isn’t always easy to tell.

I don’t know if this was a ‘tricky’ second book for Deborah Masson to write but it was an absolute delight to read. I can see this series running for quite some time as we’re beginning to discover more about the officers. And I’m really hoping that a TV company will option this brilliant series soon.

You can buy the e-book and pre order the paperback (out on the 10th Dec) here. Or support your local bookshop and buy from them.

Deborah will be telling us more about DI Eve Hunter on Monday 7th December on our Facebook page at 7.30pm GMT. All you have to do to join us is like our page and then tune in. Susi Holliday, Sam Carrington and A.K. Turner will be with us too.

The Author

Deborah Masson

Deborah Masson was born and bred in Aberdeen, Scotland. Always restless and fighting against being a responsible adult, she worked in several jobs including secretarial, marketing, reporting for the city’s freebie newspaper and a stint as a postie – to name but a few.

Through it all, she always read crime fiction and, when motherhood finally settled her into being an adult (maybe even a responsible one) she turned her hand to writing what she loved. Deborah started with short stories and flash fiction whilst her daughter napped and, when she later welcomed her son into the world, she decided to challenge her writing further through online courses with Professional Writing Academy and Faber Academy. Her debut novel, Hold Your Tongue, is the result of those courses.


December First Monday Crime – The Last Resort by Susi Holliday @SJIHolliday @1stMondayCrime @AnyaLipska @sam_carrington1 @deborah_masson

We’re thrilled that Susi Holliday will be joining us for our December panel on Monday 7th December at 7.30pm GMT along with A.K. Turner, Sam Carrington and Deborah Masson. We’ll be live streaming to our Facebook page. Before I share my review, here’s the blurb.

The Blurb

Seven strangers. Seven secrets. One perfect crime.

When Amelia is invited to an all-expenses-paid retreat on a private island, the mysterious offer is too good to refuse. Along with six other strangers, she’s told they’re here to test a brand-new product for Timeo Technologies. But the guests’ excitement soon turns to terror when the real reason for their summons becomes clear.

Each guest has a guilty secret. And when they’re all forced to wear a memory-tracking device that reveals their dark and shameful deeds to their fellow guests, there’s no hiding from the past. This is no luxury retreat—it’s a trap they can’t get out of.

As the clock counts down to the lavish end-of-day party they’ve been promised, injuries and in-fighting split the group. But with no escape from the island—or the other guests’ most shocking secrets—Amelia begins to suspect that her only hope for survival is to be the last one standing. Can she confront her own dark past to uncover the truth—before it’s too late to get out?

The Last Resort

My Review

There are many reality TV programmes now featuring people (famous and non-famous) going to islands for challenges, adventures and if they’re lucky, a bit of luxury. So if you were to receive an invitation saying you’d be chosen to scout out a new resort with a twist, it might seem plausible, especially if the invite plays to your skillset, your job or just your ego.

Amelia is a caring and compassionate young woman. She’s an aid worker and has dedicated her life to helping others. She’s not entirely sure why she’s been invited to try out this new resort but suspects it may have something to do with having a cool head in the middle of a crisis. The others on the trip seem more likely candidates to Amelia. Brenda is a hedge fund manager, Lucy a journalist, Scott a health advisor, James a photographer, Giles a gamer and his girlfriend Tiggy, a social media influencer. A very unlikely bunch of people but they all have skills and influence that would benefit the resort. But if they’re going to survive they’ll have to work together. Because this isn’t a luxury resort but a place of fear.

I’ve read all of Susi Holliday’s books and what impresses me most is her versatility. She’s gone from a police detective to ghost stories to a killer train journey. In The Last Resort, she focuses on technology. If this book had been written thirty years ago it might have been considered sci-fi. Technology has moved on so fast now that this story feels like the very near future. It’s a tense read as the tech does it’s best to split the group as they endure the terrors of the island.

As well as the fascinating insight into technology, we find out more about the guests, their greatest fears and the secrets they’re hiding. I’m not going to say what those things are but it’s interesting to see how Susi’s characters justify their actions to assuage their own guilt.

The Last Resort takes place in one day. It’s an intense, dramatic countdown to the evening where the participants will receive their just deserts for taking part. And I don’t mean eclairs. I was gripped from the beginning and had literally no idea how it was going to end. I wasn’t disappointed. So if you’re invited to attend a luxury resort that involves testing some new technology, unless it’s The Gadget Show, run for the hills!

You can buy The Last Resort here.


The Author

Susi Holliday 2

Susi (S.J.I.) Holliday grew up in East Lothian, Scotland. A life-long fan of crime and horror, her short stories have been published in various places, and she was shortlisted for the inaugural CWA Margery Allingham prize. She lives in London (except when she’s in Edinburgh) and she loves to travel the world.

Her serial killer thriller “The Deaths of December”, featuring Detective Sergeant Eddie Carmine and Detective Constable Becky Greene was a festive hit in 2017.

Her next two releases, “The Last Resort” and “Substitute” are due out from Thomas & Mercer late 2020 and summer 2021 – both of these books are suspense thrillers with a technological element (a blend of Black Mirror, Tales of the Unexpected and The Twilight Zone).

Writing as SJI Holliday, she also has three crime novels set in the fictional Scottish town of Banktoun, which are a mix of police procedural and psychological thriller. They are: “Black Wood”, “Willow Walk” and “The Damselfly” – all featuring the much loved character, Sergeant Davie Gray.

Also as SJI Holliday, her spooky mystery “The Lingering” was released in September 2018, followed by “Violet” – a psychological thriller set on the Trans-Siberian Express – in September 2019. “Violet” has been optioned for film.

You can find out more at her website: and on Facebook and Twitter @SJIHolliday. Sign-up for updates and giveaways here:

Blog tour – Body Language by A.K. Turner @AnyaLipska @ZaffreBooks @Tr4cyF3nt0n @1stMondayCrime #BodyLanguage

Body Language 17.11

I’m thrilled to be taking part in the blog tour for Body Language by A.K. Turner. As soon as I read the blurb I knew I had to take part. Thank you to Tracy Fenton and Zaffre Books for inviting me to join the tour. Before I give you my thoughts, here’s the blurb.

The Blurb


People think being a mortuary technician is a seriously weird job. They can’t understand why I choose to cut up dead bodies for a living. But they don’t know what I know:

The dead want to tell us what happened to them.

I’ve eviscerated thousands of bodies, but never someone I know before – someone who meant a lot to me; someone I loved.

The pathologist says that her death was an accident.

Her body is telling me differently.

Body Language

My Review

Forensics are now part and parcel of crime investigations both in real life and fiction. They can make or break cases in court, especially as some jury members think they understand all the forensic details having watched a few episodes of CSI. Authors nowadays have to be on top of the forensics, to be sure that what’s being written is realistic. It’s clear that A.K. Turner has very much done her research.

Novels set in mortuaries have been around for quite a while but there’s a new girl in town and her name is Cassie Raven. With dyed black hair, piercings and tattoos, she’s not your average mortuary technician. And thank goodness for that. A.K. Turner has breathed fresh life into a setting that has to remain within the rules of science. Cassie is a wonderful character with a fascinating backstory. She’s intelligent enough to become a pathologist but being a technician allows us far more insight. Not everyone needs a full forensic post mortem so Cassie mostly deals with unexplained deaths. As well as bringing her expertise to the table, Cassie also has another skill – the dead talk to her. Cassie’s supernatural talent allows her to look at the evidence in a new way. The problem comes though when the dead person talking to her is a dear friend.

DS Phyllida Flyte, the other narrator in Body Language, is the polar opposite of Cassie – uptight, judgemental and pedantic when it comes to upholding the law. She’s also new to London after leaving Winchester so she’s struggling to fit in. The two women clash from the outset but if they’re going to find the truth, they’ll have to learn to trust each other.

I don’t want to say too much about the plot, not least because it’s quite involved and I don’t want to give anything away. But what I will say is that A.K. Turner looks at death and grief in an incredibly sensitive way. There’s one very poignant moment (you’ll know when you get to it) that brought tears to my eyes.

Overall this is a fantastic book that is crying out to be made into a TV series. Cassie Raven is highly original and I look forward to reading more. Her partnership with DS Flyte is set to run and run.

You can buy Body Language here.

Or check out your local bookshop.

I’m also very excited to tell you that A.K. Turner will be joining us at our December First Monday Crime panel on Monday 7th December, along with Susi Holliday, Deborah Masson and Sam Carrington. Join us on our Facebook page at 7.30pm GMT.

The Author


A.K. Turner‘s first foray into crime fiction was a detective thriller trilogy, written under the pen name Anya Lipska, following the adventures of Janusz Kiszka, a fixer to London’s Polish community. All three books won critical acclaim and were twice optioned as a possible TV series. In her other life as a TV producer and writer, A.K. makes documentaries and drama-docs on subjects as diverse as the Mutiny on the Bounty, the sex lives of Neanderthals, and Monty Don’s Italian Gardens.

November First Monday Crime – Review of The Stasi Game by David Young @djy_writer @ZaffreBooks @1stMondayCrime @vbradleywriter @crmcgeorge @kinkstah @inkstainclaire

As promised in yesterday’s post, I have a review of The Stasi Game by David Young for you today. David will be joining us on Monday 2nd November at 7.30pm on our Facebook page along with Vicki Bradley, S.W. Kane and Chris McGeorge with Claire McGowan asking the questions. Before I give you my review, here’s the blurb.

The Blurb

Dresden, East Germany, 1980 – A man’s body is found buried in concrete at a building site in the new town district. When People’s Police homicide captain Karin Müller arrives at the scene, she discovers that all of the body’s identifiable features have been removed – including its fingertips.

The deeper Müller digs, the more the Stasi begin to hamper her investigations. She soon realises that this crime is just one part of a clandestine battle between two secret services – the Stasi of East Germany and Britain’s MI6 – to control the truth behind one of the deadliest events of World War II.

The Stasi Game brilliantly fictionalises the true story of how Britain’s wartime leaders justified the fire-bombing of German city of Dresden, which many have since condemned as a war crime.

The Stasi Game

My Review

I’m a little sad writing this review. It’s likely this is the last book in the Karin Müller series. I have absolutely loved these novels and The Stasi Game is no exception. David Young has provided great insight into life in East Germany. His research is second to none. It’s fair to say David has made Karin go through a lot over the years. Demoted after her last escapade, she finds herself in Dresden rather than Berlin. She’s with her trusted (?) colleagues Werner Tilsner and Jonas Schmidt. A body’s been found in concrete on a building site. A few suspicious looking builders suggests the Stasi are looking at this from a distance but making Karin and her team do all the hard work. So Karin is back playing cat and mouse with the Stasi but it isn’t long before she realises there’s more than one cat in this game.

As always, there’s a historical angle to this story. David has looked at a number of events in his past books but this is possibly the most controversial, even today. The heavy bombing of Dresden in February 1945 caused a firestorm that killed at least 25,000 people. Oxygen was sucked out of the air and German citizens died either of asphyxiation or were burnt to death. Was Dresden, the Florence of the Elbe, a legitimate target and therefore bombing was a justifiable act or was it a city of culture obliterated in a war crime? These things are looked at in a very interesting way and certainly made me think.

Apart from the serious nature of this novel, there was one bit that made me laugh out loud. I won’t tell you what it is but David Young obviously had some foresight when he wrote The Stasi Game. All I will say is that the favouritism and practice of rewarding deeds in 1980s East Germany is very much alive and well in this country today. You’ll know what I mean when you read that section!

Of course, the other star in this book is East Germany itself. Across the series David Young has taken us on a tour from East Berlin to Rügen (East Germany’s largest island) to Dresden to name just a few. It’s a country of ruins and new concrete housing blocks. Young really plays on the disparity of the two as East Germany seeks to obliterate the past in favour of an egalitarian future. Except of course, Karin knows that not all are equal in her home country.

So is this really the last book in the Karin Müller series? The ending suggests it could be.  The acknowledgements hint maybe it’s not quite the end of the road. Personally I would love to see one more book. This novel is set in the early 1980s. There is clearly one more recent historical event that needs to be looked at. Karin Müller needs to be there when the Berlin Wall falls. And given the ending of The Stasi Game, I really think she ought to be.

The Stasi Game is available in e-book and audio from the 12th November and out in paperback on 31st December. You can pre-order here.

The Author


East Yorkshire-born David Young began his East German-set crime series on a creative writing MA at London’s City University when Stasi Child – his debut – won the course prize. The novel went on to win the 2016 CWA Historical Dagger, and both it and the 2017 follow-up, Stasi Wolf, were longlisted for the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year. His novels have been sold in eleven territories round the world. Before becoming a full-time author, David was a senior journalist with the BBC’s international radio and TV newsrooms for more than 25 years. He writes in his Twickenham garden shed and in a caravan on the Isle of Wight. The Stasi Game, his sixth novel, is available to pre-order now. You can follow him on Twitter @djy_writer

November First Monday Crime @1stMondayCrime @crmcgeorge @AlainnaGeorgiou @orionbooks @vbradleywriter @djy_writer @kinkstah @inkstainsclaire

With so many of our favourite things being cancelled this Autumn, it’s good to know that First Monday Crime is still here albeit online. You’ll find us live streaming to our Facebook page on Monday 2nd November at 7.30pm. Just like the page and you’ll be able to watch. We’ve got a great line-up for you in November with Vicki Bradley, S.W. Kane, David Young and Chris McGeorge. All four of our authors are graduates of the City Crime and Thriller MA and Claire McGowan, one of the lecturers, will be interviewing them to find out how their careers have progressed since finishing. Jacob Collins over at Hooked From Page One shared his reviews for Before I Say I Do by Vicki Bradley and The Bone Jar by S.W. Kane on Monday. Tomorrow I’ll be sharing my review for The Stasi Game by David Young. Today though I have an extract for you to read from Chris McGeorge’s new book Inside Out which is published today. Happy publication day Chris! Thanks to Alainna Hadjigeorgiou at Orion for sending the extract. Let’s find out what it’s all about.

The Blurb

Cara Lockhart has just commenced a life sentence in HMP North Fern – the newest maximum security women’s prison in the country. She was convicted of a crime she is adamant she didn’t commit.

One morning she wakes up to find her cellmate murdered – shot in the head with a gun that is missing. The door was locked all night, which makes Cara the only suspect.

Cara needs to clear her name, unravelling an impossible case, with an investigation governed by a prison timetable.
But as Cara starts to learn more about North Fern and the predicament she is in, she finds connections between the past and present that she never could have imagined.

Indeed it seems that her conviction and her current situation might be linked in very strange ways…

Inside Out

The Extract

A ringing. Loud. Too early for the alarm. Must be his phone.

            He opened his eyes and reached over in the dark. A 12-44. Couldn’t be real. But he had to check.

He got up, got dressed, turned the window on for a moment. There was an avalanche outside. Lovely. He turned it off again.

            He left his bedroom, slipping his Cuff on as he went down the corridor into the control room.

            Continell was at the desk, watching all the monitors, a half-drunk cup of coffee forgotten next to her.

            ‘Harper,’ Continell said, as he leant on the desk. She sounded worried. ‘One of the Cuffs just went off. No life signs.’

            ‘Which one?’ Harper said.

            ‘FE773 Barnard.’

            ‘That’s Lockhart’s cell? You got VA on it?’

            Continell didn’t even need to press any buttons. She already had it up on the screen. An overhead of a cell, two beds with two women sleeping. Then the cameras went to static.

            ‘VA is lost for 12.3 seconds,’ Continell said, ‘and then…’

            A sound. Loud. Like a roar ripping through the static. Gone as soon as it hit his ears. And the camera clicked back on. One of the women was still sleeping as before. The other was draped over the bed, head falling to the floor. Some kind of substance was flowing onto the floor from her forehead. Harper was glad the camera was black and white.

            ‘What—?’ He couldn’t say anything. ‘What happened?’

            ‘That sound,’ Continell said. ‘I heard it. Not on the cameras. I actually heard it. From two floors away. I think it was a gunshot.’

            ‘You checked the records on the door?’

            ‘No one went in or out. No prisoner. No guard. Lock wasn’t disengaged. Records are one hundred per cent, no one can change them.’

            ‘One hundred per cent?’

            ‘One hundred per cent.’

            Harper picked up Continell’s coffee without asking and downed the rest of the contents. ‘Wake ’em up. Tell them to suit up. 12-44.’ He started out of the room.

            ‘Who am I waking up?’

            Harper paused at the door. ‘All of them.’

            Ten minutes later, they were all at the lifts. All in their armour. All carrying their service weapons.

            They got in the lift. Went down two floors.

            Harper paused them all at the entrance to the Unit. ‘This is the first time we’ve dealt with something like this. Krotes has signed off on the weapon usage, but no one is firing unless absolutely necessary. Let’s not be trigger-happy.’

            ‘Don’t need to tell me twice, Chief.’ Anderson smiled, cocking his shotgun. Why the hell had they given him a shotgun?

            At least the others appeared more apprehensive. ‘OK,’ Harper said, ‘me and Abrams take point. Truchforth and Anderson take the rear.’

            They went through the double doors into the Unit, and down into the Pit. Prisoners were waking up, shouting questions through their cell doors. They ignored them. Got to the cell.

            Harper took a long breath, nodded to Abrams and the others behind him. Then held up his Cuff. The light on it went green. And so did the light above the cell door.

            They rushed into the dark. Abrams had a torch and she found Lockhart’s face. The young woman was still asleep, or doing a damn good job at pretending. And then the torch went down to the puddle of blood on the floor, and then to Barnard’s face. A hole in the middle of her head. Her eyes open, forever.

            ‘Jesus,’ Harper said.

Then the lights clicked on. And they all saw.

Harper found himself frozen. As Anderson and Abrams rushed to Lockhart, woke her up, got her in cuffs. She was gibbering about not knowing what was going on. And then she saw Barnard, and was gibbering about how she didn’t do it.

Something was wrong.

Truchforth was scanning the cell, searching for the gun. He completed the quick search. ‘There’s no gun in here.’

Just a brief look-round. He could be wrong.

Lockhart was getting dragged out of the cell. All three of them were restraining her, taking her off to the Hole. But Harper couldn’t move. All he could do was stand there, looking and thinking. About something…

‘Harper.’ Continell, in his ear. ‘I’ve been looking over the footage.’

He looked up at the camera.

‘12.3 seconds the camera was down,’ Continell said. ‘I layered over the before and after images, on either side of that cut.’

‘What about it?’

Continell paused a little before speaking. ‘Lockhart doesn’t move. She doesn’t move even a millimetre. The images are identical.’

‘What are you saying?’ Harper asked.

But she didn’t need to answer. Because Harper was thinking it as well.

Was there a possibility that Lockhart didn’t do it?


Wow! Inside Out sounds like the ultimate locked room mystery!

You can buy Inside Out at your local bookshop or click here.

The Author 

Chris McGeorge

Chris McGeorge lives in Durham and is a recent graduate of the Creative Writing (Crime/Thriller) MA at City University. He loves film and acting in an amateur theatre group and can be found on Twitter at @crmcgeorge.

Blog tour – This Green and Pleasant Land by Ayisha Malik @Ayisha_Malik @ZaffreBooks @Tr4cyF3nt0n #ThisGreenAndPleasantLand

Ayisha Malik 26 06

I’m thrilled to be taking part in the blog tour for This Green and Pleasant Land by Ayisha Malik. Thank you to Tracy Fenton for inviting me to take part and to Zaffre Books for an e-copy to read via NetGalley. Before I give you my thoughts, here’s the blurb.

The Blurb

In the sleepy village of Babbel’s End, trouble is brewing.

Bilal Hasham is having a mid-life crisis. His mother has just died, and he finds peace lying in a grave he’s dug in the garden. His elderly Auntie Rukhsana has come to live with him, and forged an unlikely friendship with village busybody, Shelley Hawking. His wife Mariam is distant and distracted, and his stepson Haaris is spending more time with his real father.

Bilal’s mother’s dying wish was to build a mosque in Babbel’s End, but when Shelley gets wind of this scheme, she unleashes the forces of hell. Will Bilal’s mosque project bring his family and his beloved village together again, or drive them apart?

Warm, wise and laugh-out-loud funny, This Green and Pleasant Land is a life-affirming look at love, faith and the meaning of home.

This Green and Pleasant Land

My Review

The death of a parent is always hard, especially if he or she makes a deathbed request. How can you refuse? Bilal agrees to his mother’s request but it’s an impossible task – to build a mosque near his home in the village of Babbel’s End. If the village was in a Muslim country then it wouldn’t be such a big problem but Babbel’s End is in rural England. Bilal knows he has a fight on his hands and pretty soon, the village is torn in two.

This is a very timely book. It’s fair to say that tensions are running high in the UK and politics is becoming increasingly polarised. This novel reflects this but in a wise and observant way. Using multiple voices we get to hear from people on opposing sides. There’s Shelley, the leader of the ‘No to the mosque’ camp. At first she appears to be a NIMBY but it becomes clear that her motivation to control things stems from not being heard at home by her apathetic husband. There’s Bilal and his wife Mariam. His dedication to carry out his mother’s request rocks his marriage as well as the village. The vicar, Richard, is trying to hold the two sides of the village together as well as battle his love for one of his parishioners, Anne, a grieving mother. But my favourite character by far is Bilal’s Auntie Rukhsana. Bilal was raised by his mother and his auntie and so when his auntie becomes unwell, she comes to stay in Babbel’s End. She was widowed young and was sheltered by her older sister and the surrounding Muslim community. Removed from that safety net, she begins to grow in Babbel’s End. She speaks little English but it doesn’t stop her from finding friendship with Shelley. Despite being on opposing sides, Auntie Rukhsana’s generous spirit and perseverance wins Shelley over.

This wise and sensitive novel doesn’t shy away from the UK’s colonial past though. It’s not done in a ‘bashed over the head’ way but a subtle pointing out that the British brought their own culture, including churches, to a country it occupied i.e. India. That wisdom and sensitivity is extended to other topics, particularly grief in all its facets. From the loss of Bilal’s mother to the loss of Anne’s son and the effect that had on the village as a whole. There’s also Mariam’s grief of being abandoned by her first husband – the father of her son – and the temptation he brings when he comes back into her life.

So the main premise of this book may be the attempt to build a mosque in a village but there’s a lot more depth to it. Sometimes hilarious, sometimes poignant, this is a story with wonderful characters that will live on long after you finish reading it.

You can buy This Green and Pleasant Land here

Or alternatively pop down to your local bookstore!


About the Author

Ayisha Malik - photo

Ayisha Malik is a British Muslim, lifelong Londoner, and lover of books. She read English Literature and went on to complete an MA in Creative Writing. She has spent various spells photocopying, volunteering, being a publicist at Random House, and managing editor at Cornerstones Literary Consultancy. Her novels include, Sofia Khan is Not Obliged and The Other Half of Happiness. She is also the ghost writer for GBBO winner, Nadiya Hussain and has contributed to the anthology, A Change is Gonna Come.

Ayisha was one of WH Smith’s Fresh Talent picks, Winter 2016. This Green and Pleasant Land is her latest novel.

Book Review – Stone Cold Trouble by Amer Anwar @ameranwar @dialoguebooks @LittleBrownUK #StoneColdTrouble

Happy publication day to Amer Anwar for Stone Cold Trouble! I’ve so been looking forward to reading this. Thank you to Dialogue Books and Little, Brown for letting me read an advance copy through NetGalley. Before I give you my review, here’s the blurb.

The Blurb

Trying – and failing – to keep his head down and to stay out of trouble, ex-con Zaq Khan agrees to help his best friend, Jags, recover a family heirloom, currently in the possession of a wealthy businessman. But when Zaq’s brother is viciously assaulted, Zaq is left wondering whether someone from his own past is out to get revenge.

Wanting answers and retribution, Zaq and Jags set out to track down those responsible. Meanwhile, their dealings with the businessman take a turn for the worse and Zaq and Jags find themselves suspected of murder.

It’ll take both brains and brawn to get themselves out of trouble and, no matter what happens, the results will likely be deadly. The only question is, whether it will prove deadly for them, or for someone else . . . ?
Stone Cold Trouble

My Review

Trouble seems to find Zaq and this time it’s in the form of a necklace – hence Stone Cold Trouble. Jags’ Uncle Lucky (or not so lucky) has lost his wife’s favourite necklace in a gambling bet. He needs the two young men to get it back for him. But before he can get too involved, Zaq finds out his brother’s been beaten up and left for dead. Somehow Zaq has to juggle the two situations.

The pace is relentless as Zaq and Jags do their best to keep up with the ever evolving problems they find themselves in. Just as they manage to deal with one thing, another pops up taking them by surprise. As Zaq is spending his nights at the hospital with his brother, he’s sleeping during the day and often wakes up to unexpected and unwelcome news.

When Zaq stormed into my life in Brothers in Blood, I knew he was a pretty special character. Pair him with Jags and we have a double act better than Ant and Dec. One of the things I loved about Brothers in Blood was the location of Southall and Hounslow as I know these areas quite well. This time Amer Anwar has headed down the other way on the Uxbridge Road out to Hillingdon, Slough and Iver. I don’t know these places as much but I love how Amer puts in the little details to show he’s done his research. This usually means pubs. I’m not entirely sure I want to frequent these places but it adds authenticity to the story.

Amer Anwar has created some great villains but I don’t want to give the game away by telling you their names! Of course this leads to some pretty big fights. I don’t think I’ve read anyone better for fight scenes and I often wonder how Zaq is still standing by the end of the book!

The only thing I would have liked to have seen more of are the two young women, Rita and Nina. They had crucial roles in Brothers in Blood but as Zaq and Jags don’t want to involve them, they’re side-lined a bit. If there’s a third Zaq and Jags (fingers crossed) then I’d like to them to be a bit more present.

Overall I loved this fast-paced thriller where friendship and family are key. I can’t wait for another Zaq and Jags adventure.

NB. I don’t normally put trigger warnings in reviews but if you’ve already read Brothers in Blood then I must warn you that lemon and chilli appear again. Perhaps not as you expect but there all the same!

To buy Stone Cold Trouble click here.

Or support your local independent bookshop.

The Author


Amer Anwar grew up in West London. After leaving college he had a variety of jobs, including warehouse assistant, comic book lettering artist, a driver for emergency doctors and chalet rep in the French Alps. He eventually landed a job as a creative artworker/graphic designer and spent a decade and a half producing artwork, mainly for the home entertainment industry. He holds an MA in Creative Writing from Birkbeck, University of London and is a winner of the Crime Writers’ Association Debut Dagger Award.

And you can hear more about Stone Cold Trouble when Amer joins First Monday Crime on Monday 5th October. Follow First Monday Crime on Facebook and watch the livestream.