Capital Crime 2022 @CapitalCrime1@FMcMAssociates @Rhi_Morris98 #CapitalCrime2022

It’s so lovely to be back at book events! I couldn’t make the whole weekend due to other commitments (that were then cancelled – typical!) but I was determined to get to the Saturday events, despite the train strike. After a pretty tough September, I decided that I just wanted to sit and listen to the panels rather than write illegible notes. So, I have a few photos (not particularly good ones) and some anecdotes that hopefully I’ve remembered correctly!

As there was a train strike, I had to come by bus which took more than double the time by train. So, I was quite late to see Lady Hale which was a shame. The little bit I caught at the end suggested it was an excellent talk.

The next panel I saw was with T.M. Logan, Heidi Perks and Claire Douglas chatting to Ayo Onatade. They were talking about writing novels with contemporary settings but the thing that struck me most was that their books are often about toxic relationships within families or friendship groups. And having children made them more aware of dangers in society.

The next panel was Titans of the Terrifying, looking at thrillers with David Fennell, Nadine Matheson, Lars Kepler, and standing in last minute to moderate, Rod Reynolds. I think this was my favourite panel (no disrespect to anyone else). I didn’t know that Lars Kepler is a husband and wife writing team. Discovering that they act out the fight scenes from their WIP was probably the best thing I heard all day. I think we could all picture Alexandra picking up a very blunt knife to attempt to stab Alexander. Alexandra’s only complaint is that she is always the villain which means Alexander always wins the fight! We learned that despite the gruesome scenes she writes, Nadine Matheson is actually very squeamish and can’t cope with watching Casualty (I’m with you on that one, Nadine!).

After this, I sat in the bar area for a while and chatted. It was so lovely to catch up with people I hadn’t seen for ages and this really was the best part of the day for me. Watching panels is great but at the end of the day, the crime writing community is what it’s all about.

But I did go to two more sessions. Louise Candlish, Sarah Vaughan and Paula Hawkins chatted to Sarah Shaffi about various things, including what it was like to have their books adapted for TV or film. I particularly liked what Sarah said about the TV reviews for Anatomy of a Scandal not being particularly good but then the viewing figures came in. I thought it was fabulous and I think a lot of viewers would agree.

The final event for Capital Crime was Richard Osman in conversation with Bella Mackie. Having heard Richard talk at Harrogate last year, I knew it would be entertaining but it was also lovely to hear Bella speak too. There was some discussion about the legalities of the phrase, ‘Queen of Crime’ and Bella suggested Richard could be ‘King of Crime’. He declined saying it was more appropriate for Mark Billingham or Ian Rankin. The answer was obvious to me. ‘Stephen King,’ I called out. It was agreed. It’s there in his name after all. There was also some teasing about casting for the film of The Thursday Murder Club. I won’t repeat any names here but I think we were all a bit surprised about one possible name. My lips are sealed!

Capital Crime will be back next year at Battersea Park 28th-30th September 2023.

#TheLastParty by @claremackint0sh @LittleBrownUK @BooksSphere

Happy publication day to Clare Mackintosh for The Last Party! Thanks to Little, Brown for allowing me to read an ARC via NetGalley. Before I give you my review, here’s the blurb.

The Blurb

On New Year’s Eve, Rhys Lloyd has a house full of guests.

His lakeside holiday homes are a success, and he’s generously invited the village to drink champagne with their wealthy new neighbours. This will be the party to end all parties.

But not everyone is there to celebrate. By midnight, Rhys will be floating dead in the freezing waters of the lake.

On New Year’s Day, DC Ffion Morgan has a village full of suspects.

The tiny community is her home, so the suspects are her neighbours, friends and family – and Ffion has her own secrets to protect.

With a lie uncovered at every turn, soon the question isn’t who wanted Rhys dead…but who finally killed him.

In a village with this many secrets, a murder is just the beginning.

The Review

I’ve loved all of Clare’s crime books and ‘I Let You Go’ has always been my favourite. Until now. DC Ffion Morgan has pushed poor Jenna aside! ‘The Last Party’ is absolutely brilliant!

Annoyingly, I couldn’t work out who was responsible. Although, one hunch I had proved to be right. Clare Mackintosh has given us a whole heap of plausible suspects for us to consider. But the stars of the book are DC Ffion Morgan and DC Leo Brady. Each have their own dilemmas but they dovetail so well together. I know this is the start of a series for Ffion Morgan, so I hope that Leo Brady will be back too.

The setting in North Wales is divine and I like the way that Clare looked at how the local Welsh people felt when the rich English moved in. It’s not so much looking at Welsh nationalism but more the importance on preserving Welsh heritage. The sense of local community is strong and in that way, it reminded me of ‘Keeping Faith’ with everyone knowing each other’s business. In fact, this would make an excellent TV series.

‘The Last Party’ has earned itself a place in my top ten reads of 2022.

Click here to buy or head down to your local bookseller.

The Author

Clare Mackintosh is the multi-award-winning author of five Sunday Times bestselling novels. Translated into forty languages, her books have sold more than two million copies worldwide, have been New York Times and international bestsellers and have spent a combined total of 64 weeks in the Sunday Times bestseller chart. Clare lives in North Wales with her husband and their three children.

For more information visit Clare’s website http://www.claremackintosh.com or find her at http://www.facebook.com/ClareMackWrites or on Twitter @ClareMackint0sh

Blog Tour for #DeathInBlitzCity by @djy_writer @ZaffreBooks @Tr4cyF3nt0n

I have been a huge fan of David Young’s books and absolutely loved his Karin Müller series. I interviewed David back in May 2019 and he mentioned then that he would be starting a new series set in WW2 Hull. So I jumped at the chance of reading and reviewing. Before I give you my thoughts, here’s the blurb.

The Blurb

1942. Hull, East Yorkshire – It is the most heavily-bombed city outside of London – but for the sake of national morale the Hull Blitz is kept top secret. Only the politicians in Whitehall and Hull’s citizens themselves know of the true chaos.

Newly-posted Inspector Ambrose Swift cannot believe the devastation he finds. But for Swift and his two deputies – part-time bare-knuckle boxer Jim ‘Little’ Weighton and Dales farmer’s daughter Kathleen Carver – it’s murder, not the war, that’s at the forefront of their minds.

When a series of sadistic killings is wrongly blamed on locally-stationed black American GIs, Swift, a one-armed former WW1 cavalryman who tours the rubble-strewn city on a white horse, soon discovers these are no ordinary murders. The fetid stench of racism, corruption and perversion go to the very top. And for Swift, Weighton and Carver, finding the real killers means putting their own lives at risk – because powerful forces in the US and Britain cannot let the war effort be undermined. Not even by the truth.

My Review

I enjoy reading historical crime and love WW2 books. A lot of these deal with the actual war, particularly agents abroad. David Young has taken a different tack and given us a new police procedural series set in wartime Hull. Hull was bombed heavily during the war, a fact not mentioned very much. But this novel is less about the wartime effort and more about crime. The ruins of a bombed out house is the perfect place to hide a body.

It often takes a while to settle into a new series but David Young has set up the team beautifully. Detective Inspector Ambrose Swift is ably assisted by Detective Sergeant Jim Weighton, a Hull man whose bulk and local knowledge prove invaluable to his senior officer. In 1942, women in the police force had menial tasks such as typing, filing and making cups of tea. Swift though, appears to be a progressive man, as he can see the potential in Auxiliary Constable Kathleen Carver and encourages her to take a full part in the investigation. Swift is the most intriguing character of all. A former WW1 soldier who lost his arm in action, he’s keen to discover the truth, no matter what the consequences. There’s also a mysterious past from his time in London and I’m looking forward to seeing how that plays out in future stories.

As with his Karin Müller series, David Young has weaved in another historical thread. The full picture doesn’t become clear until near the end. I genuinely wasn’t sure how it was all going to work out. The subtle clues are there but I hadn’t spotted them all. It certainly made for a very interesting story and I’m looking forward to reading more about Detective Inspector Swift and his team.

You can buy Death in Blitz City here or check out your local bookshop.

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. You can follow him on Twitter @djy_writer

The Redeemer by @VictoriaGoldma2 @3CPublishingUK

A very happy publication day to Victoria Goldman for The Redeemer. I’ve known about this book for quite a long time and it’s been a tough journey to publication. So I’m thrilled for Victoria that it’s now out to buy and read. Before I share an extract and a short review with you, here’s the blurb.

The Blurb

‘REPENT BEFORE YOU DIE … OR MAY YOU NEVER R.I.P.’

Threatening plaques, vigilante killings, a Jewish community in an English town – what’s the link? The clock is ticking to the next murder.

After witnessing a racist incident in a small Hertfordshire town, journalist Shanna Regan uncovers a series of threatening fake commemorative plaques. Each plaque highlights someone’s misdemeanour rather than a good deed.

Delving deeper, Shanna discovers these plaques are linked to vigilante killings spanning several decades, with ties to the local Jewish community.

As her search for the truth becomes personal, Shanna puts her own life in danger. Can she stop the next murder in time?

The Redeemer is a compelling, thought-provoking murder mystery debut, featuring themes of prejudice, identity and heritage, revenge and redemption, and secrets from the past.

The Extract

From the end of chapter three

Twenty-five Campton Avenue is also a bungalow, but it couldn’t be more different from Valerie and Harry’s well-manicured home.

This one looks like it’s been neglected for years, with its frontage exposed to the elements, battered by wind and rain, and a faded blue door with paint scraped off around its edges. The front garden is overgrown, with grass stems up to my knees and prickly weeds growing through the crazy-paving cracks. Remnants of yesterday’s downpour linger: small shimmering puddles in the stony earth of the bare flower beds.

I walk up the gravel path to the door, loose stones crunching under my feet. Inspecting every inch of the façade, I feel my heart sinking. Maybe Valerie’s wrong – I can’t see a plaque.

There’s a small faded wooden box on the door frame, two-thirds up and not much longer than a matchbox. Maybe it once housed the doorbell as I can’t see one of those either, just a large black metal cross beside the front door.

As I wander down the side of the house, a glint of red glaze catches my eye, hidden behind the foliage of a large overgrown bramble bush. I walk over and push the thorny branches away to reveal a black square plaque edged in red and smeared with mud.

I reach into my bag, pull out a white tissue and a bottle of mineral water.

Always be prepared. My grandad’s words ring in my ears.

I unscrew the bottle and pour water onto the thin paper. Wipe the plaque gently but firmly, not wanting to damage it but desperate to see what lies beneath the dirt and grime. It feels like rubbing a lottery scratch card with a coin, though I don’t expect to win any jackpot.

Gradually I reveal the plaque. Deep scratches run across it as if someone has tried to obliterate the red words in rage. Once I’ve read them, I turn away. Blink, then look back. Maybe my eyes have deceived me. But no, the words are still there.

Not much fazes me. Over the years I’ve seen things I wish I could unsee. Lifeless blood-smeared bodies on a Brussels street. Lost teddy bears swept away by Japanese tsunami floods.

But something about these words chills me to the bone.

Maybe I’ve won the jackpot after all.

My Review

The Redeemer is a story of murder and revenge in a quiet Jewish community. Shanna Regan, a journalist, sets out to find the truth about the murders but finds herself on a very personal journey. Can she piece everything together to stop another death? Entertaining and informative, this novel tackles antisemitism in a unique way. A must read.

If you like what you’ve read then you can order The Redeemer here.

The Author

Victoria Goldman MSc. is a freelance journalist and editor. She is a book & stationery addict, crochet novice and nature lover (especially the local wild parakeets). She lives in Hertfordshire and is married with two sons.

Victoria Goldman was given an honourable mention for The Redeemer in the Capital Crime/DHH Literary Agency New Voices Award 2019.

Twitter: @VictoriaGoldma2

Readers’ Club: https://vgoldmanbooks.com/join-my-readers-club/

And the nominees are… @Bookouture @DeadGoodBooks

I think we all like a good awards ceremony – I know I do. Whether it’s the BAFTAs or the Oscars or the NTAs, I love seeing who’s been singled out for their brilliant performance. Of course, with the BRITs, I spend most of my time thinking I don’t know who any of the nominees are and suddenly feel very old.

The publishing industry has its own awards with the Nibbies, and then, there are the book awards. The Booker and Costa (sadly ending) are probably the most well known ones but different genres have their own too. Being a crime novelist, these are the ones I know the best. Last week, the Crime Writers’ Association (CWA) gave out their Dagger awards to authors such as Janice Hallett, M.W. Craven and C.J. Sansom. Shortly, six authors will be battling it out to win the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year up at Harrogate. The very worthy nominees are Laura Shepherd-Robinson, Elly Griffiths, Mick Herron, Joseph Knox, Vaseem Khan and Will Dean. I think this will be very close this year as all are worthy winners. You can vote here.

So, why am I telling you this? Well, I have news… some very unexpected news! There’s another awards ceremony at Harrogate called the Dead Good Reader Awards and I’ve been nominated! I’m still in shock, and you’ll see why when I tell you the other nominees. I’m up for the Best New Kid on the Block for Best New Series with my DI Bernadette (Bernie) Noel books. As the awards suggest, the books are all nominated by readers and somehow, I’ve ended up in the top six along with Neil Lancaster, C.K. McDonnell, Glenda Young, Val McDermid and Richard Osman. Yes, you have just read those last two names correctly! Hence the shock! I think it’s fair to say I’m the underdog here. If you’d like to see the other award nominees and maybe vote then go to Dead Good Books . I’d love it if you voted for me but obviously, vote for the authors you want to win. Voting closes on Monday 18th July and the winners will be announced on Friday 22nd July at Harrogate. I’ll be there, doing my best ‘I haven’t won but I’ll smile anyway’ face and applauding the winner. 

 

 

Book Review – #NoSafePlace by Bekhal Mahmod @AdLibPublishers

Happy publication day to Bekhal Mahmod for No Safe Place, although in some ways, it feels a bit strange to say happy. This is a traumatic story but one that has to be told. Thank you to Mel for giving me the opportunity to read an early version. Before I give you my thoughts, here’s the blurb.

The Blurb

“My life will always be in danger. My beautiful sister Banaz Mahmod was murdered in an ‘honour killing’ ordered by our father and uncle. If those evil men find me, they will kill me too.”

Bekhal Mahmod was one of six siblings from a Sunni Muslim family in Iraqi Kurdistan who sought a new life as asylum seekers and arrived in London in 1998.

When Bekhal’s father tried to force her into an arranged marriage at 15, she ran away. This caused her father to ‘lose respect’ within the Kurdish community and Bekhal became the target of an honour killing and her younger sisters Banaz and Payzee were quickly married off to restore the family’s reputation.

When Banaz left her husband, claiming he’d beaten and raped her, Mahmod decided this ‘shame’ to the family meant Banaz must die. Within weeks, she had vanished.

Her body was finally discovered, crammed into a suitcase and buried in a garden in Birmingham. Banaz, age 20, had been raped and killed in a sickening plot orchestrated by her father and uncle.

Still fearing for her own life, Bekhal bravely faced her father and uncle in court – making her the first female in British legal history to give evidence against family members in an honour killing trial – and won justice for her beloved sister Banaz.

Bekhal now has a new identity after entering the police witness protection programme. She lives in terror of her father’s release from jail.

This is her story.

My Review

We already know the end of this story – the horrific rape and murder of Banaz Mahmod. Her older sister, Bekhal, tells us the beginning. Bekhal was just six years old the first time she was beaten. It was the start of a violent childhood which only ended when Bekhal finally left her parents’ house.

The family came to the UK when Bekhal was a teenager. Her early years were spent in Iraq and then Iran. The chapters focusing on those times really gave me a sense of what it was like to live in poverty in Iraq in their mud house, and then with her grandparents in a ‘proper’ home in Iran. What comes across so clearly is how much Bekhal loved her parents as a child, especially her father. By the time she left home, the love had been beaten out of her.

I don’t often give trigger warnings for books but it’s fair to say that Bekhal does not shy away from the truth. The attacks are clearly described. There were a couple of times that I had to put the book down, take a breath, steady my heart and my rage, before reading again. But don’t let that put you off from reading. This is a story that must be told.

I don’t want to tell you much more as this is Bekhal’s story. But what I will say is this – I was incredibly moved by this book. It’s heart-breaking but compelling reading. I even dreamt about some of the things described – it’s that immersive. I wept. I raged. I cried out for justice for Banaz.  It’s so easy to feel utter despair over what happened to her. However, there is a justice of sorts. A new law, banning marriage under 18, is coming into force in the UK. Another sister, Payzee, who was also forced into a child marriage, has campaigned for this law. You can see her remarkable TEDx Talk here.

These two incredible sisters have lifted the veil on violence and coercion on girls and young women in their community and I applaud their bravery. No Safe Place is going to stay with me for a long time and has definitely earned its slot in my top ten reads of 2022.

About the authors

Bekhal Mahmod is admired for giving prosecution evidence against her father, uncle and male cousins for the honour killing of her sister, Banaz Mahmod. Her relatives were all convicted of murder or related crimes. She is the first female sibling in the UK to do so. Bekhal also faced threats and attempts to kill her after she left home as a teenager due to abuse and pressures to have a child marriage. She is now on a witness protection scheme, but still in fear of her life. Bekhal has given numerous media interviews, including in an Emmy award-winning documentary, Banaz, A Love Story. She was also depicted in the popular ITV drama Honour, which starred Keeley Hawes. Bekhal is campaigning to introduce a Banaz’s Law to prevent cultural excuses for murder or honour violence. In 2011, Bekhal was nominated for the True Honour Award for her courage in court and campaigning.

Dr Hannana Siddiqui is an award-winning author, expert and activist on violence against black and ethnic minority women and girls. She has been a leading member of the renowned black feminist organisation Southall Black Sisters, for thirty-six years. Hannana has supported over 10,000 women and girls facing domestic and sexual abuse, forced marriage, honour violence, immigration, poverty and destitution, and suicide and self-harm problems. She has successfully campaigned to make major legal and policy reform as well as change conservative cultural and religious attitudes and practices which discriminate against women and girls within minority communities. Hannana has supported Bekhal Mahmod since 2006 to achieve justice for her sister, Banaz, and to end honour violence. She formulated Banaz’s Law and is currently campaigning with Bekhal to introduce this new law to re-frame cultural defences to honour crimes as aggravating offences and acts of dishonour.

Cover Reveal for #TheRedeemer by @VictoriaGoldma2 @3CPublishingUK

 

I’m very excited to share the cover for The Redeemer, the debut novel by Victoria Goldman. I loved this book so much I read it twice! And the cover is amazing. But before I share it, here’s a bit about the book.

 

The Blurb

‘REPENT BEFORE YOU DIE … OR MAY YOU NEVER R.I.P.’

Threatening plaques, vigilante killings, a Jewish community in an English town – what’s the link? The clock is ticking to the next murder.

After witnessing a racist incident in a small Hertfordshire town, journalist Shanna Regan uncovers a series of threatening fake commemorative plaques. Each plaque highlights someone’s misdemeanour rather than a good deed.

Delving deeper, Shanna discovers these plaques are linked to vigilante killings spanning several decades, with ties to the local Jewish community.

As her search for the truth becomes personal, Shanna puts her own life in danger. Can she stop the next murder in time?

 

The Redeemer is a compelling, thought-provoking murder-mystery debut from journalist Victoria Goldman. It features themes of racism and prejudice, heritage and identity, revenge and redemption, and secrets from the past.

 

Sounds good, right? And here’s the wonderful cover that goes with it:

Sounds good and looks good too! I’ve seen the back cover and it links wonderfully with the front. The Redeemer will be published on Tuesday 12th July but you can pre order now on  Amazon and Waterstones.

The Author

VICTORIA GOLDMAN is a freelance journalist, editor and proofreader. She was given an honourable mention for The Redeemer in the Capital Crime/DHH Literary Agency New Voices Award 2019. Victoria lives in Hertfordshire with her husband and two sons. The Redeemer is her first novel.
You can find Victoria:
on Twitter @VictoriaGoldma2
on Facebook – http://www.facebook.com/VictoriaGoldmanBooks
on her website – https://vgoldmanbooks.com

 

Book Review – #UpCloseAndFatal by @fergusmcneill

Huge thanks to Fergus McNeill for sending me a copy of his latest book, Up Close And Fatal. I loved his last novel, Ashes Of America, so didn’t hesitate at the chance to read his new one. Before I give you my thoughts, here’s the blurb.

 

The Blurb

On the road. With a serial killer.

It begins with a list of names – past and future victims. When struggling reporter Tom Pritchard receives it in the mail, he’s scared, though he knows this could be the story he needs to save his career.

Especially if he can help the police to catch the killer.

But this isn’t a typical murderer. This is someone patient and ruthless, someone who’s been planning for years. Soon, the tables are turned and Tom finds himself trapped on a terrifying road trip across the US, racing from victim to victim. His only hope of saving his family is to understand the killer but, to do that, he’ll need to be close. And although he doesn’t know it yet, that’s exactly where the killer wants him to be. 

My Review

 

I’m wondering where to start with this review. First off, Fergus McNeill must have done a lot of research for this story. The serial killer takes Tom on a journey, both literally and metaphorically, and we, as readers, go with them. They cross states, change cars and number plates, stay in motels. Like Tom, I was impressed by the meticulous planning done by the serial killer. It made me wonder how Fergus McNeill knows all this!

There are murders in the book. Some we see ‘up close and fatal’ along with Tom; others happen in the background. McNeill hasn’t shied away from this and it is somewhat disturbing. But it should be, as Tom discovers. He’s in the impossible situation of his son’s life being threatened if he tries to stop the killer in any way. It’s a trope that’s used often but I’ve never seen it used like this before. Tom’s moral dilemma comes across clearly.

It’s a long book but utterly compelling. I didn’t rush it though. Just as Tom’s journey took time, I took time to read and really absorb the story. It reminded me a bit of Epiphany Jones by Michael Grothaus, in that there’s an epic journey to discover the truth and the killer. In this case, the killer is with Tom all along.

Other than one tiny suspicion about something, I couldn’t work out how it would all end. It’s not the easiest book to read in terms of some of the content, but it’s one hell of a read. In fact, I’d go as far as to say… it’s extraordinary. (If you’ve been following my blog for the last few years, then you’ll know what that means.)

The other amazing thing about this book is that it’s self-published. As such, you’ll need to go to a certain retailer to buy it and you can do so here. 

 

About the Author

As well as writing crime novels, Fergus McNeill has been creating computer games since the early eighties, writing his first interactive fiction titles while still at school. Over the years he has designed, directed and illustrated all sorts of games, spoken at the Cannes Film Festival, and failed to excel at any sport whatsoever. He wishes he could cook.

Fergus lives in Hampshire with his wife and their enormous cat. He is the author of the Detective Harland series (EYE CONTACT, KNIFE EDGE and CUT OUT, plus the short novella BROKEN FALL) and the historical thriller ASHES OF AMERICA.

You can read his blog at http://www.fergusmcneill.co.uk, like his Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/fergusmcneillauthor or follow him on Twitter @fergusmcneill

First Monday Crime Review – The Belladonna Maze by @SCrowleyAuthor @1stMondayCrime @AriaFiction

Almost time for the last First Monday Crime event before the summer break. And it’s a corker of a panel! Literary royalty suitable for the Queen herself! Sarah Vaughan, Will Carver, Victoria Selman and Sinead Crowley will be joining Jake Kerridge on Monday 6th June on our Facebook page at 7.30pm BST. Thank you to Ayo Okojie at Aria for letting me read The Belladonna Maze by Sinead Crowley. Before I give you my review, here’s the blurb.

The Blurb

An old house can hold many secrets. Hollowpark in the west of Ireland certainly does. At the heart of the gardens is an intricate maze, named after a deadly poison, Belladonna. If you know the way through, it’s magical, a hiding place and playground like no other. If you don’t, it’s a place of fear and sinister riddles, where a young girl once went missing and was never seen again.

Grace comes to Hollowpark as a nanny for young Skye FitzMahon. Soon the mysterious past of Hollowpark has seduced her. Who is the woman she sometimes glimpses in an upstairs window? Or the apparition who keeps showing up unexpectedly, pleading, ‘Find me’. And how can she fight her growing attraction to Skye’s father?

My Review

The Belladonna Maze has everything you want in a country house murder mystery book – an old house being restored by a determined family, a deadly maze, a dual timeline which has a real Bronte feel about it and a plucky heroine who knows she has to stay until the bitter end. Oh, and ghosts. Definitely some of them around!

I loved this book and thought the dual timeline worked well as the two stories interweaved. Grace is a nanny in the modern section, working for Patrick & Isla, looking after their daughter, Skye. Having first met them in Greece, Grace is a little unsure about returning to her native Ireland but once she sees Hollowpark Hall, she falls in love with the place. Deidre FitzMahon was resident at Hollowpark in the 1800s. Her story is an interesting one but I don’t want to give anything away. Suffice to say, I loved the historical aspect and could easily have read more about Deidre.

Hollowpark Hall is a character in itself and I could visualise the ruined house being brought back to life. The Belladonna (Deadly Nightshade) maze has an atmosphere all of its own and is splendidly creepy. I wish I could visit it in real life. In fact, the more books I read by Irish authors, the more I want to visit Ireland.

This isn’t a fast-paced book but it’s not meant to be. A slightly slower pace allows the story to unwrap, atmosphere build and tension heighten. It’s a glorious read.

You can buy The Belladonna Maze here or better still, check out your local bookshop.

About the Author

With ghosts, a disappearance, a face at the window and a hint of romance, The Belladonna Maze is a Big House mystery set in the west of Ireland. This is my first stand-alone novel, I’ve also written three books in the DS Claire Boyle series which were all shortlisted for the Crime Book of the Year awards at the Irish Book Awards.

By day I’m Arts and Media correspondent with RTE News in Dublin, and when I’m not reporting or writing I spend far too much time on twitter @SCrowleyAuthor, and I can be found on Facebook too!

Blog tour – First Born by Will Dean @willrdean @JennyPlatt90 #FirstBorn

Huge thanks to Jenny Platt for inviting me to take part in the blog tour for First Born by Will Dean. I’m not doing many tours these days due to writing commitments but this was one book I could not pass on. Before I give you my review, here’s the blurb.

The Blurb

THE LAST THING A TWIN EXPECTS IS TO BE ALONE …

Molly
 lives a quiet, contained life in London. Naturally risk averse, she gains comfort from security and structure. Every day the same.

Her identical twin Katie is her exact opposite: gregarious and spontaneous. They used to be inseparable, until Katie moved to New York a year ago. Molly still speaks to her daily without fail.

But when Molly learns that Katie has died suddenly in New York, she is thrown into unfamiliar territory. Katie is part of her DNA. As terrifying as it is, she must go there and find out what happened. As she tracks her twin’s last movements, cracks begin to emerge. Nothing is what it seems. And a web of deceit is closing around her.

My Review

I was quite surprised when two proof copies of First Born turned up – one with a red cover for Katie, and a black one for Molly. ‘Are the books exactly the same?’ was my first thought. ‘Does the black cover start with Molly’s story and the red with Katie’s?’ Then I thought the printers would probably have a meltdown over that. Thankfully, I soon discovered that one was to keep and one to give away. So I gave the red copy to a friend who’s a huge fan of Will Dean’s.

Molly is the quieter of the twin sisters. Cautious, health and safety conscious, risk adverse. A planner who goes beyond normal detail. Katie is the adventurous one, spreading her wings by moving to New York. Or rather, she was. When Molly hears of her sister’s death, she flies out to the US to join her parents.

This is quite a departure from Dean as he moves away from the forests of Sweden and the Fens of England into the urban landscape of New York City. I’ve never been to New York but I felt I could use this book like a Baedeker to guide me through the streets and blocks. It’s the little details like the brass plaques sunk into the paving stones outside New York Public Library that add authenticity. As we see the city through Molly’s eyes, it moves from an unknown scary place, to one she learns to inhabit as she seeks the truth about her sister’s death.

It’s not just the landscape that’s changed though. Dean still has first person female point of view (something he does ridiculously well as a male writer) but the style is different. We’re in Highsmith territory here and I was never quite sure where the story was going. I liked this as it kept me on my toes, wondering what was going to happen. Some things I guessed, others I didn’t. And the reveals aren’t always big and showy, but a simple sentence embedded in a paragraph that makes you stop and re-read to make sure you got it right.

First Born is a claustrophobic, intense novel which I thoroughly enjoyed. It’ll be interesting to see where Will Dean goes from here.

About the Author

Will Dean grew up in the East Midlands and had lived in nine different villages before the age of eighteen. After studying Law at the LSE and working in London, he settled in rural Sweden where he built a house in a boggy clearing at the centre of a vast elk forest, and it’s from this base that he compulsively reads and writes. His debut novel, Dark Pines, was selected for Zoe Ball’s Book Club, shortlisted for the Guardian Not the Booker prize and named a Daily Telegraph Book of the Year. Red Snow was published in January 2019 and won Best Independent Voice at the Amazon Publishing Readers’ Awards, 2019. Black River was shortlisted for the Theakstons Old Peculier Award in 2021. The Last Thing to Burn was released to widespread acclaim in January 2021.