The Damsel Fly by SJI Holliday

Katie Taylor is a bright schoolgirl destined for university. When she wins £5k on a scratch card, it seems that the world is her oyster until she’s found dead in an apparent suicide. Why would she kill herself?  She didn’t. She was murdered.

Detective Sergeant Davie Grey has moved across to CID. Police cuts mean that the old station in Banktoun is no longer properly staffed. As Davie starts a new life in Edinburgh, he finds himself pulled back to Banktoun to investigate Katie’s murder.

But someone thinks they know who killed Katie. And is going to use a private Facebook group to do something about it.

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This is the third novel in SJI Holliday’s Banktoun trilogy, a fictional small town in Scotland. The kind of place that breeds secrets. In Willow Walk, Susi looked at illegal highs and this time she’s exploring the power of social media. What starts off as a private Facebook group, quickly turns into a angry vigilante mob. And there’s also a mysterious blog page with an increasingly  vicious tone. My key word for Willow Walk was ‘creepy’ but I think for The Damsel Fly it’s ‘anger’. It’s like a slow, flickering flame that starts with the spark of Katie’s death and gradually builds into a roaring bonfire. But who’s the effigy on top? You’ll have to read the book to find out.

Although you could read The Damsel Fly as a standalone, it makes more sense to read the other two books – Black Wood and Willow Walk – first. SJI Holliday has created a whole cast of characters and she gives most of them their 15 minutes of fame.  Although Davie Grey is probably the character readers remember best, he wasn’t meant to be a main protagonist. Instead, he sits alongside the other cast members, only coming into the scenes that require him. The main narrators this time are Polly – the school counsellor, DC Louise Jennings and Neil, Katie’s boyfriend.

And so the trilogy ends. Or does it? I’m not going to give away the ending but there are still a few loose ends. I, for one, would be very happy to see another Banktoun novel. Pretty, pretty please?


I’d like to thank Black & White Publishing and the author for a free copy. I wasn’t asked for a review but I’m happy to give one. The Damsel Fly is published on 2nd February.


If you’d like to find out more about SJI Holliday and her books then please click  here.



Spirits in Noir Fiction – Milroy’s in Soho



As a non-whisky drinker, I’ve never come across Milroy’s before. It’s a whisky bar and shop in Soho, with a hidden secret. At the end of the shop is a hidden bookcase panel that leads to The Vault, a candlelit basement (I apologise now for my not very good photos – I’m blaming the light!). This was the venue for Spirits in Noir Fiction with Steph Broadribb, Rod Reynolds, Michael Grothaus and Daniel Pembrey, chaired by Barry Forshaw. Somehow, in the semi-darkness, I managed to write some notes. As per usual, I’ll give you the highlights.

Barry first asked the authors to say a little bit about their books and their research.


Steph Broadribb’s book, Deep Down Dead, was published earlier this month and tells the story of Lori Anderson, a bounty hunter based in Florida. With medical bills mounting high for her daughter, Dakota, Lori has to take on a high risk bond. As her normal babysitter is away, she has no choice but to take her daughter with her. Steph took her research so seriously, that she went to California to train as a bounty hunter. She knows how to shoot and is planning to go back to the States to do taser training. As well as learning how to taser, Steph will have to be tasered herself. Quite extreme research!



Michael Grothaus’ Epiphany Jones, is set in the murky world of sex trafficking to the Hollywood elite and porn addiction. Having worked in the film industry and witnessed a few suspicious things, it was only when Michael became a journalist that he looked deeper into the subject. Barry Forshaw described Epiphany Jones as a book ‘not to give to your maiden aunt’. Michael said it was a mixture of a thriller and dark comedy.


The Harbour Master by Daniel Pembrey was published last October and is set in Amsterdam. Daniel lived there for a while and realised that there wasn’t much Amsterdam Noir. So he decided to write his own with Henk van der Pol as his Dutch police officer. He considers Rebus and Wallander as influences as Henk is an older officer, nearing retirement. For research, Daniel was invited to join the Dutch Crime Squad on a raid in the Red Light District. Although this was originally for an article, it soon became the basis for The Harbour Master. The next instalment,  Night Market, is out in e-book on the 26th January, with the paperback following in late April.


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Rod Reynold’s first book, The Dark Inside, was loosely based on the true life crime of The Moonlight Murderer in America in the 1940s. Once he heard the story, Rod stopped the novel he was working on and immediately began to research and write his own version, having a journalist, Charlie Yates, as his protagonist. He even went to Texarkana in the US, to get a feel for the place. Black Night Falling, his second book, follows Charlie Yates once more. Asked if it was hard to write a book set in America, Rod answered that he probably had the ‘right balance of being naïve and stupid’.


As the panel was titled ‘Spirits in Noir Fiction’ and we were in a whisky bar, the subject of alcohol had to be discussed. Looking back at past great writers, quite a few were alcoholics including Raymond Chandler, Ernest Hemmingway and Ian Fleming and often, alcohol featured in their stories. Is it possible to imagine Philip Marlowe without his whisky or Bond without his Martini? So what’s our authors’ favourite tipple? For Rod it’s rum; gin, preferably Bombay Sapphire for Steph. Daniel likes the spirit that his character Henk drinks – genever or jenever – often known as Dutch courage. (In fact, Daniel has a competition on Steph’s blog on January 26th to celebrate the e-book release of Night Market. Click  here on the 26th to find out how you can win a bottle of genever). Michael is the only one destined to live until 100 as he doesn’t drink.

And just as some of those great authors in the past needed alcohol to write and ‘unblock’, what do our authors need/do when they get stuck with their stories?

Michael – walking

Daniel – good sleep

Steph – coffee (although she did experiment writing semi-drunk but found it didn’t work)

Rod – running

What a healthy lot they all are!


To find out more about the authors and their books:

Steph Broadribb – click here and click here for my review of Deep Down Dead.

Rod Reynolds – click here and click here for my review of Black Night Falling.

Michael Grothaus – click here and click here for my review of my top read of 2016 – Epiphany Jones.

Daniel Pembrey – click here and click here for my review of The Harbour Master.

And if you read my birthday blog last week then you’ll know that I was giving away a signed copy of Epiphany Jones by Michael Grothaus. Orenda books has very kindly donated a copy and Alison Belsham is the winner.





Happy Blog Birthday!


A year ago today I wrote my first post and my blog was born! I started off not having a clue as to what I was doing or letting myself in for. A year on, I’m still not very tech savvy but I’ve learnt a lot in other ways. For example, I’ve learnt that when I go to book events I need to take notes – my memory is not what it used to be. Also, it doesn’t matter how many times I read my posts through before publishing, there’s often a mistake!



I’ve had the chance to read some incredible books and connect with authors. I still don’t think of myself as a proper book blogger because I read quite slowly, so review a much smaller number of books than most. I’ve been to lots of literary festivals, panels and book launches. First Monday Crime has been my mainstay since April and I’d like to thank the team behind it for gathering such an array of talent and for giving me the opportunity to review books and interview authors.


I’d also like to thank Karen Sullivan at Orenda Books and Lucy Chamberlain at Legend Press for inviting me to take part in blog tours. It’s been great to feel a part of something bigger.


Without doing the blog, I’m not so sure I would have had the chance to meet so many authors and bloggers, many of whom have become firm friends. I would start naming you all but I’m worried that I might leave someone out by accident! But if we regularly have conversations on Twitter that involve cake or mud wrestling ferrets or recasting Top Gun with authors or #tastethetaser, then know that it’s you and I’m blessed by our friendship. There is one author I want to mention though and that’s Clare Mackintosh. I went to a workshop that she did a year ago and it’s because of that talk and her encouragement that I set up this blog. Thank you Clare!

And there’s someone else I need to thank… now, who was that? Oh yes, it’s…



A massive thank you to each and every one of you who have read any of my posts over the last year! Whether you’ve found my blog through Twitter or Facebook or a blog tour, I’m grateful for your likes, follows and comments. So to show my appreciation, I’m going to give away a copy of my top read of 2016 – Epiphany Jones by Michael Grothaus. It’s a tough book to read because of the topics it covers – sex trafficking and porn addiction – but as I keep saying, it is the most extraordinary book I’ve ever read. I’m going to an event next week at Milroy’s in Soho and Michael will be there, along with Rod Reynolds, Steph Broadribb and Daniel Pembrey. (There are a few tickets left. Click here to book and see below for full details). So not only will the winner get the book, I’ll make sure that it’s personally signed by Michael too. How do you enter? Easy. There are three ways. Either comment on this post saying you would like to enter or retweet my pinned post on Twitter (which will be for this post) or share this post on Facebook from my page Joy Kluver Author. Competition ends on Monday 23rd January 7pm. Sadly, I can only accept entries from the UK. Good luck!



Deep Down Dead Book Launch -10th January 2017

Orenda Books Roadshow


In May 2016, Orenda Books had a roadshow at Waterstones Piccadilly for some of their authors, including a new debut writer – Steph Broadribb. She gave a short reading of her upcoming book – Deep Down Dead. Even back then, you could tell that there was something special about this novel.




Fast forward to January 2017 and a packed room, again at Waterstones Piccadilly, for the launch of Deep Down Dead. Author Martyn Waites asked Steph lots of questions about her book, her blogger alter ego – Crime Thriller Girl and how far she was prepared to go in her research for her debut novel.

First couple of questions from Martyn – how did you start writing and where did Lori (female lead character from Deep Down Dead) come from?

Despite being dyslexic, Steph loved to read and made up stories as a child, including some tales about a dragon called Percy. When she was 8 she ‘borrowed’ a copy of Sherlock Holmes and the Hound of the Baskervilles. It scared her but she loved it. Later she read Michael Crichton and fell in love with action thrillers.

Lori Anderson appeared as a voice in Steph’s head during a road trip in the US. Steph was driving from West Virginia to Florida and she had a tail light out. In the States this is a big deal and Steph was warned that she could be pulled over by a State Trooper. She wondered what would happen if she was stopped and what she would say. And then she started to think, ‘What if there was knocking from the trunk because someone had been shut in there?’ And Lori was created.

Martyn pointed out that he first got to know Steph as Crime Thriller Girl when she started blogging reviews. Was blogging a stop on the way to writing?

In a way, yes. Steph had signed up to do the MA in Crime and Thriller Writing at City University and part of the preparation was a massive reading list. She thought the best way to get through it was to blog her thoughts on the books and it continued on from there. Blogging has also allowed her to read widely within the genre, not just action thrillers. It was also a good way to talk to authors and get to know them.


Having read and thoroughly enjoyed Deep Down Dead, I know that Lori Anderson is a bounty hunter and there is huge attention to detail about the job and what it involves. Martyn asked Steph how she researched for the book.

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Steph went out to California to train to be a bounty hunter and trained with a guy called Rex. She learnt how to plan, track a fugitive and be safety conscious. The latter was the most important as she heard about a couple of bounty hunters who had been shot in the head and killed. At this point, Martyn then mentioned that Lori is an ex-stripper…  No, was Steph’s answer, she’s not an ex-stripper but she has trained as a pole dancer! #tastethetaser is a trend you may have seen on Twitter, started by Steph’s friend, Alex Caan. As yet, Steph hasn’t actually trained to use a taser but is planning on going back to visit Rex in California to do so. Rod Reynolds had better watch out!

To cap off the evening, there was some traditional American food and drink including corn bread, Hershey’s Kisses, chocolate cookies with Reese’s peanut butter chips and shots of  Jack Daniels. And, as ever, the most wondrous cake made by Karen Sullivan, complete with edible handcuffs!



If you haven’t read Deep Down Dead yet then you can read my review here. With front cover quotes from Ian Rankin, Lee Childs and Mark Billingham and movie interest, this is not a book to be missed!

Lori Anderson is as tough as they come. A Florida bounty hunter, and mother to a sick nine-year-old. When the medical bills rack up, she has no choice but to take on a job that will make a fast buck. And that’s when things go wrong…

You can buy Deep Down Dead here.





Steph Broadribb was born in Birmingham and grew up in Buckinghamshire. Most of her
working life has been spent between the UK and USA. As her alter ego – Crime Thriller Girl – she indulges her love of all things crime fiction by blogging at, where she interviews authors and reviews the latest releases. Steph is an alumni of the MA in Creative Writing (Crime Fiction) at City University London, and she trained as a bounty hunter in California. She lives in Buckinghamshire surrounded by horses, cows and chickens. Deep Down Dead is her debut novel. Watch out for Deep Blue Trouble in 2018!

Book to watch for in 2017 – Rattle by Fiona Cummins

A couple of weeks before Christmas, I came home to find a note from the postman to say that he’d tried to deliver a parcel. Most of the gifts I’d ordered had already been delivered so I couldn’t think what it was. The only thing I could think of was that Fiona Cummins had very kindly said that she would send me a copy of Rattle. But the postman always manages to get the books through the letterbox, I had thought, it can’t be that. I was so wrong. Coming in at just under 500 pages, Rattle is a whopper of a book! I had set aside Christmas to read it but was now slightly worried that it would run into New Year. (I read like I eat – slowly!) But I needn’t have worried. Rattle gripped me from the beginning. It’s rare that I say a book is unputdownable but it felt like a sacrifice every time I had to stop reading it to cook or be with my family (it was Christmas after all!).


Here’s the opening line to whet your appetite – ‘On still nights, when the curve of a winter moon is smudged in the flow of the River Quaggy, the dead clamour for him.’

The Bone Collector is coming. But he’s not your normal grave snatcher. His tastes are a little more specialized and when he finds them, he has to have them, regardless of whether the person is dead or alive.

When five year old Clara Foyle disappears, it’s up to DS Etta Fitzroy to find her. If she has a fault, it’s that Etta cares too much. Her failure to find another missing girl, Grace Rodriguez, still haunts her and she is determined to not let Clara and her family down. However, Etta has no idea who she’s up against.

Rattle is written with multiple viewpoints but each voice is distinct. Short, punchy chapters kept me turning the pages late at night, desperate to know what was going to happen next. Having spoken to Fiona about Rattle, I know how long this book took to write and all the effort that went into it. Even so, this still doesn’t read like a debut. This is an incredibly accomplished novel and you could easily think it was her fourth or fifth book. It’s astonishing to think that this really is a debut. I’m always a bit dubious about book hype but in this case – believe it. If Val McDermid says it’s ‘A terrific read’, then it must be true.

It’s only the start of 2017 but I can tell you now that Rattle will feature in my top reads at the end of this year, very likely in the top three. Fiona Cummins has set the bar high.

I’d like to thank Fiona for sending me Rattle. She did so without any expectation of a review but it would be a crime to not share it with you.

To pre-order Rattle click here.


Fiona Cummins is an award-winning former Daily Mirror showbusiness journalist and a graduate of the Faber Academy Writing a Novel course. RATTLE is her first novel. It will be published in several foreign territories and has been optioned for a TV series.
She lives in Essex with her family.



A New Year, a new book review – The Girl Who Had No Fear

The decorations are still up but the house is finally quiet. Everyone is back at work/school which means I can start writing again! I’d like to say that I’m fully refreshed but I have a stinky cold and a cotton wool brain. I hope then that I can do justice in this book review for The Girl Who Had No Fear by Marnie Riches.


It’s no secret that George McKenzie is my new favourite heroine (the third book, The Girl Who Walked In The Shadows was in my top 12 of 2016. See here for brief review). In fact, if she was real, I’m sure someone would be suggesting that she play the first female, mixed race, Bond. Despite the title, George does show some fear in the fourth book of the series but she faces it head on. In Amsterdam, young men are being pulled out of the canals but the cause of death is a very dodgy batch of crystal meth. Paul Van den Bergen and his team investigate and he asks George to help. But George has other things on her mind. Her mother, Letitia, is still missing and there are random emails from her estranged Spanish father. The clues to Letitia’s whereabouts appear to be dead ends (quite literally), so it’s the paternal pull on George’s heart strings that lead her to search for her father. Encompassing Amsterdam, the Czech Republic and South America, George and Paul follow their entwined leads.

As per the previous books in the series, The Girl Who Had No Fear is a high octane thriller of a read. I know that Marnie Riches really pushes herself when she writes and that fast pace comes across through the story, but it’s never to the detriment of the plot or the characters. Although this could be read as a standalone there is a nod back to book one, so to me, it would make sense to read the whole series. However, they’re only available as e-books and I’m still making it my mission to see this brilliant series published – come on Avon! I’m hoping there is another George book in the pipeline as Marnie has a new series coming out in the spring, set in Manchester.

If you want to find out more about Marnie Riches and her books then click here.