Night Market Blog Tour

night market blog tour poster

I’m honoured to be hosting for the Night Market blog tour. I have written a review, which is below, but also thought it would be fun to hear from the author himself, Daniel Pembrey. Rather than telling us about his writing, I suggested to Daniel that maybe he could tell us a bit more about Amsterdam, in particular, shopping! So if you’re likely to visit Amsterdam, here are a few places that Daniel thinks you should check out.


Seven shops in Amsterdam – all very central!


  1. Bloemenstal ‘t Lievertje

Who can resist beautiful, fresh bouquets of flowers? And you’re pretty much at the source here. (A large share of the cut flowers sold in Britain comes from Holland.) Spui 7, 1012 WX Amsterdam +31 20 627 9062


  1. ABC

The American Book Center claims to be the largest independent source of English language books in mainland Europe; certainly it has an English crime fiction section second-to-none on the Continent, in which you might just find a certain Amsterdam detective series … Spui 12, 1012 XA Amsterdam: +31 20 625 5537


  1. Droog

No one does design quite like the Dutch, and the home products here have been specially designed to enhance daily life. There are limited edition pieces, each with a story to tell, as well as fashion, books, music and more. Staalstraat 7B, 1011 JJ Amsterdam 31 20 217 0100


  1. The Maritime Museum shop

Here you’ll find an array of maritime-themed gifts. You don’t need a museum ticket to get in, though you may want to check out the museum itself; its glass ceiling rivals the British Museum’s. Kattenburgerplein 1, 1018 KK Amsterdam 31 20 523 2222


  1. C&A

Yes, you can still find C&A here in Amsterdam – in fact you can find several. The flagship is at Damrak 70, 1012 LM Amsterdam. It recently reopened after extensive refurbishment, and is evidently quite the crowd pleaser …


  1. De Bijenkorf

‘The Beehive’ dates back to the nineteenth century, but is now owned by the company behind Selfridges. Still an Amsterdam institution, in Dam Square, it offers a distinctly Dutch experience. Go see … Dam 1, 1012 JS Amsterdam 31 800 0818


7. In de Olofspoort

Now this is as much a bar as a shop, but you can buy bottles of gin here, and if you’ve made it this far, you deserve a drink. Nieuwebrugsteeg 13, 1012 AG Amsterdam, 31 20 624 3918



Thank you, Daniel, especially for checking if C&A still exists. Takes me back to my ‘yoof’.


But what about the book, I hear you cry? Well, ok then…

Night Market

Night Market

The blurb

When Henk van der Pol is asked by the Justice Minister to infiltrate a team investigating an online child exploitation network, he can hardly say no – he’s at the mercy of prominent government figures in The Hague. But he soon realises the case is far more complex than he was led to believe… Picking up from where The Harbour Master ended, this new investigation sees Detective Van der Pol once again put his life on the line as he wades the murky waters between right and wrong in his search for justice.

Sometimes, to catch the bad guys, you have to think like one. . .



My review

At the end of The Harbour Master, Henk van der Pol was in limbo. Going back to his old police job didn’t look likely but there was an offer of a new undefined role. In Night Market, we find out that role.

Night Market is a very intriguing title. I assumed that maybe there was an actual night market in Amsterdam. Maybe there is but this title refers to a much more sinister and selective market found on the Dark Web – child exploitation. Although Henk has covered many different crimes in his career, he had avoided child abuse. But this time, he isn’t joining a team to investigate the suspects but to investigate the investigators. And in order to do so, he has to move to Driebergen. Pembrey’s description of the small town surrounded by forest, is less fairy tale and more claustrophobic. Finding himself shut out of the new team by suspicious officers, Henk does what he always does best and goes rogue. Switching between Norway, the Netherlands and London, van der Pol discovers a tangled web of lies. And in amongst it all, there’s something niggling Henk, something that he can’t quite remember.

There is a general sense of unease and underlying tension for Henk in the first part of the book. Not only is he stuck in a place he dislikes, spying on fellow officers, his marriage is also suffering. Without Petra at his side, Henk flounders and takes more risks than normal. When he returns to Amsterdam, it feels as though we are all back on solid ground. Of course, it doesn’t stay that way for long with new lines of enquiry to follow and ghosts turning up unexpectedly. Add to that, van der Pol gives up smoking and we have one very jittery police officer.

As each part of the book was originally a novella, there’s plenty of plot and the pace is fast throughout. The atmosphere is aided and abetted by Pembrey’s rich descriptions (I loved ‘jelly-pink’ sky). As much as I love Henk van der Pol as a character, Petra is the real unsung hero for me. Maybe she could have a little spin-off?

Although Henk finds some of the answers he was looking for, the story is by no means complete by the end. Van der Pol will return. But will it be Henk or Petra?

Night Market is already available as an e-book and it comes out in paperback tomorrow. Please click here to buy/pre-order.

Daniel Pembrey author photo_new


About the author

Daniel Pembrey grew up in Nottinghamshire beside Sherwood Forest. He studied history at Edinburgh University and received an MBA from INSEAD business school in France. Daniel then spent over a decade working in America and more recently Luxembourg, coming to rest in Amsterdam and London — dividing his time now between these two great maritime cities.
He is the author of the Henk van der Pol detective series and several short thriller stories, and he contributes articles to publications including The Financial Times, The Times and The Field. In order to write The Harbour Master, he spent several months living in the docklands area of East Amsterdam, counting De Druif bar as his local.




Review – Tall Oaks by Chris Whitaker

Tall Oaks


When three-year-old Harry goes missing, the whole of America turns its attention to one small town.

Everyone is eager to help. Everyone is a suspect.

Desperate mother Jess, whose grief is driving her to extreme measures.

Teenage Manny, whose absent father has left him with strange ideas of how to make his mark.

Photographer Jerry, who’s determined to break away from his controlling mother once and for all.

And investigating them all, a police chief with a hidden obsession of his own…


My review

I think Michael Grothaus would be glad that I didn’t read Tall Oaks last year when it was published. Chris Whitaker’s debut would definitely have given Epiphany Jones a run for its money. Tall Oaks didn’t make me cry though so Epiphany Jones still would have been my number 1. But Tall Oaks made me laugh like no other crime book.

Crime is obviously not funny. And the abduction of a 3 year old is every family’s worst nightmare. Add to that an abductor who wears a clown mask and you’re toppling into horror. Yet, Chris Whitaker manages to write a bitter sweet novel, with a cast worthy of Charles Dickens.

The main plot line is weaved in and out of the colourful characters, their lives interlinking in the American small town of Tall Oaks. There are many suspects and many secrets to discover before we find out the truth. Harry Monroe, the missing 3 year old, is always there at the back of our minds, but it’s the characters whose lives continue that capture our imagination. Jerry, a gentle giant with a voice that never broke, who works in a photo shop. Jared, the car salesman who never stays too long in one place. Elena, a single mum who works with French John – a cake maker of extraordinary skill. Elena has two children – Thalia (aged 3 and friend of Harry) and Manny (18). When I read other reviews of this book, Manny’s name was repeated over and over again. And now that I’ve read it, I understand why. Do you remember Shia LaBeouf’s character, Louis Stevens from Even Stevens? The kid that was always getting into trouble? Imagine him with a lot of swearing and you have Manny. An 18 year old who’s still a kid trying to please his dad, even though his dad had left a couple of years before. Sometimes a writer creates a character that is just genius. Manny is that character in Tall Oaks.

This novel was a delight to read and I found it difficult to put it down. But equally, I didn’t want to finish it. I wanted Tall Oaks to continue. This is a book just begging to be made into a television series.

So what do I do? Am I allowed to put a book published last year into my top ten reads at the end of 2017? Of course I am. My list, my rules.


To buy Tall Oaks, click here.

Two O’Clock Boy Blog Tour

Rearview man in coat walking along urban subway from above

In case you missed it, Mark Hill’s debut novel Two O’Clock Boy was published last week. It’s a fabulous read. I got in there early and read it last autumn when it was released as an e-book. If you missed my review then I’ve put it at the end of this post. Talking to lots of authors, especially debut novelists, you quickly discover that publishing a book is a team effort. Apart from the author, there’s an agent, an editor and a publicist that are all involved too. As fab as Mark is, I thought it would be good to hear from someone else on that team. Ella Bowman, Mark’s publicist, has kindly written a piece about what it was like to work on Two O’Clock Boy. Over to you, Ella!


‘Great to be contributing to a stop on the blog tour for Two O’Clock Boy. This book occupies a space in my heart (no kidding!), and here’s why:

When I was interviewing for this job over a year ago, I was sent a pdf of a book for which I had to plan a publicity campaign for discussion. This was that book. My set text. And the pressure to enjoy it? Great. You want to be enthused for obvious reasons; to think your career hinges on the feigned excitement for a book, well that doesn’t seem right and good, does it? No it don’t! (Note, publicists: never be nervous of this – every book has its merits, and sometimes the most rewarding projects are the more unlikely ones, anyway)

Way back in 2011 (or 2012 was it? Those bygone days when Barclaycard sponsored Boris bikes – you’re too young to remember!) I was emailing Mark about a spy thriller I was working on, and he mentioned he was writing a book. I’m always impressed by the dedication it takes to try to write more than an email’s worth (a blog post! Not something I’ll get into the habit of doing)… let alone to do it successfully. Still, little more was said than ‘good one, Mark. Hope it goes well’ etc. and our relationship as grateful publicist to fondly-regarded and dedicated crime blogger cemented over the years and I thought little more of Mark’s plans for his literary career.

And so it was that I was finally given the manuscript for one Mr Mark Hill’s Two O’Clock Boy and? And I loved it, thankfully. I peeled each page off the pile with exclamations of delight and awe; both for the book’s structure and characterisation, but also because each scene evoked the totally new. There was no failed innovation here; nothing of the ‘I would have liked to have heard more from…’; ‘it didn’t quite explain…’; ‘I wasn’t convinced’: it was all so confidently executed, so fresh and compelling and yet familiar. I love a police procedural, I love the teasing out of facts before the ‘no bloody way!’ denouement. Sure, it’s not just about the whodunit?, part of the art of crime is the getting there – the journey, not the destination (!) – so then it seems ludicrous to me that Mark is able to write this likewise brilliantly. It’s like he fell into an Obelisk-type cauldron of penmanship when he was young.

And then working on it has been a consistent joy, too, where readers have been responding so warmly to DCI Ray Drake and the dark investigation of which he’s part; asking me for it before my morning alarm; bleeding us dry of proofs before we’ve made plans for them, that sort of thing.

It’s great that it’s finally out there, because DAMN it’s a corker of a book, and I hope it does marvellously. I’m happy to report that Mark’s not going away any time soon, which is absolutely the correct order of things. Start reading him now, and be an early champion of a future great.

On that correct order of things, it’s time I signed off.

Time you bought a copy of Two O’Clock Boy.

Tick tock.’


Thank you Ella!


So what did I think of Two O’Clock Boy? Well…

High res TTOCB

Recently promoted, DS Flick Crowley is feeling slightly nervous. Her immediate boss, DI Ray Drake, has promised that she’ll be in charge of the next murder investigation that comes in. And when it comes, it’s a big job – the murder of three family members. Not only does Flick have to prove herself to the team, she has to deal with DI Drake who seems intent on steering her in the wrong direction. Sifting through the lies and secrets, others are destined to die before Flick finally finds the answer.


Set in two time periods with multiple viewpoints, this is a devilishly good debut. Just when you think you’ve worked out what’s going on, Hill swings it round in another direction. In the end, you don’t know which way is up and, more importantly, who you can trust. His characterization of the two main police officers – DI Ray Drake and DS Flick Crowley – is excellent, with their home life reflecting their unravelling. There are plenty of characters in this novel but they all have a part to play. In fact, it’s almost like an elaborate game of Guess Who? as people are eliminated until we have the key players left at the end. But of those who are still standing, who is the murderer? You’ll have to read it to find out.

Rumour has it that Mark Hill is working on a second DI Ray Drake book so there’s more of Drake and Crowley to come.

Hill Mark (c) Tom Watkins (1)


To find out more about Mark, click here and to buy Two O’Clock Boy click here.










The Cutaway Blog Tour

As part of The Cutaway Blog Tour, I’m thrilled to have Christina Kovac on my blog today.


Christina worked for seventeen years managing Washington, DC newsrooms and producing crime and political stories in the District. Her career as television journalist began with Fox Five’s Ten O’Clock News, and after that, the ABC affiliate in Washington. For the last nine years, she worked at NBC News, where she worked for Tim Russert and provided news coverage for Meet the Press, the Today show, Nightly News, and others. Christina lives with her family outside of Washington, DC. The Cutaway is her first novel.

She has kindly written an article for my blog about her favourite authors and how they’ve inspired her. Over to you, Christina.


‘Megan Abbott, Tana French, Laura Lippman. They’re my favorite thriller writers, my trinity, the three who always get it done. 2016 was particularly delightful—for reading, if nothing else. The Big Three wrote some of their best books yet, I think. You Will Know Me created a fascinating mother-daughter dynamic in Abbott’s story of a child prodigy with a dark edge. Lippman’s Wilde Lake expanded possibilities of the female character (as she always does) in a setting near my home with characters that seemed so real to me I thought I could reach out and touch them through the pages. And I nearly swooned over Tana French’s portrayal of tough-as-nails, brave and bold Antoinette Conway—a woman of color in a white dude’s world who refused to tolerate lies (or crap) from anyone, despite the danger to herself.

Donna Tartt’s Henry Winter of The Secret History is still the literary thriller character I think of now and again. His dark complexity and genius, his amorality strangely at ease with his passionate love for Camilla—it all fascinates me. Isn’t human character the biggest mystery, after all? What we need? Why we yearn? How that yearning leads us to do what we do? And the ending of The Secret History: perfect.

Still, Scott Turow’s Presumed Innocent meant the most to me as a writer. Not that I recognized it when I first read it in college. But later, when I re-read it and considered writing fiction, Turow gave me the idea: like lawyering, the work I did as a TV journalist was dramatic, life and death stuff, and people misunderstood what we did, and needed to understand it, fact versus lies, fake news versus real news, the importance of the Fourth Estate to creating a rational world that made sense.

So I put that old hardcover of Presumed Innocent with its dog-eared pages at the edge of my desk, where it sat through years of writing The Cutaway, willing it to whisper to me: turn the day job into something fascinating. Turow did it. Maybe you can too.’


Thank you Christina. It’s always fascinating to find out which authors inspire other authors.

But I need to tell you about The Cutaway.

The Cutaway


The Blurb

When brilliant TV news producer Virginia Knightly receives a disturbing “MISSING” notice on her desk related to the disappearance of a beautiful young attorney, she becomes obsessed with uncovering what happened. Knightly suspects this ambitious young lawyer may be at the heart of something far more sinister, especially since she was last seen leaving an upscale restaurant after a domestic dispute. Risking her career, her life, and perhaps even her own sanity, Knightly dives deep into the dark underbelly of Washington, DC business and politics in an investigation that will drag her mercilessly through the inextricable webs of corruption that bind the press, the police, and politics in the US capital.


My review

I’m not sure if the timing of this book could be any more perfect. I expect that when Christina Kovac wrote this story, she had no idea how the American media would be portrayed at this time. In the era of ‘fake news’, The Cutaway stands for what is right with the media – tenacity, an unquenchable thirst for the truth and integrity. Perhaps not words we would normally associate with all journalists, but they’re certainly true of Virginia Knightly.

When Virginia hears about the missing woman, Evelyn Carney, she’s instantly hooked. Maybe it was a journalistic hunch, but she can’t leave the story alone. Something bothers her, something familiar. When Virginia’s boss effectively demotes her in a ‘reshuffle’ of the office, she’s free to investigate the story herself with the help of anchor newsreader, Ben Pearce. And it isn’t long before she discovers that her former lover, Commander Michael Ledger, is in charge of the investigation. Cue some awkward moments.

I really enjoyed The Cutaway.  Christina’s experience as a news journalist came through clearly in her writing to create an authentic experience. And just as there isn’t time for preamble on TV news, so this book hits the ground running and we’re quickly into the story. Although Virginia comes across as a strong woman, we learn about her vulnerabilities too, particularly her difficult childhood. I really hope there’s a sequel. Virginia Knightly is too good to confine to one book.


I’d like to thank Christina for appearing on my blog and for Serpent’s Press for the free copy of the novel. If you’d like to buy the book then please click here. And feel free to check out the other dates on the tour.

Cutaway blogtour_dates