Blog Tour – The Last Day by Claire Dyer #TheLastDay @ClaireDyer1 @emily_glenister @DomePress


The Last Day Blog tour

I’m delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for Claire Dyer and her wonderful new book – The Last Day. I have a Q&A for you and a short review. Thank you to Claire and Emily Glenister for asking me to take part in the tour.


So, Claire, a few questions for you.

Firstly, can you tell us a little bit about The Last Day?

The Last Day is about three people: Boyd, his ex-wife Vita and his new, much-younger girlfriend Honey. It’s told from their three viewpoints from the moment when, because he finds himself in financial trouble, Boyd asks Vita if he and Honey can move into the house he and Vita used to share. Of course Vita says yes, because she is totally over Boyd.

However, what none of them predict is how living together will change them. They all have secrets, they all have pasts which have the annoying habit of wrong-footing them and, without giving too much away, they finish up in a completely different configuration at the end of the book!


In The Last Day, you have three different viewpoints. How easy/difficult was that to do? (I normally write with a single viewpoint so I’m in awe of anyone who writes with multiple characters).

It was actually not too bad! I wrote the chapters so they followed on from one another. I find this easier than writing each POV separately and then weaving them together because, by doing it the former way, I find actions and plotlines can chime and evolve.

The tricky bit was deciding which POV should be in first person and which in third. Originally, Honey’s story was told in the first person but on the second rewrite, Vita started shouting at me in only the way she can and so I changed her from third to first and Honey from first to third: it was a real labour of love, every pronoun and every verb! I was boggle-eyed by the end! But I think it was worth it. Vita’s voice is now the central one and that is how it should be.


Where did the inspiration for The Last Day come from?

The idea came to me when I thought about how, if someone painted a portrait of the same person over the course of a year, it could show that person changing in some way, and also, having worked on some ekphrastic poetry (which is poetry in response to works of art), I’m fascinated by the relationship between artist and sitter and so I wanted to explore that too.

The story has changed somewhat since its early inspiration but what remains the same is how Vita and Honey’s relationship develops over the course of the book.


Do you have a writing routine?

I wish I did! What I tend to do if I’m writing a novel is to plan my week so that I have at least a couple of mornings to write, or I take myself off to a writing retreat if I can. Other than that, I just try and write when time allows.

We all know that writing is like holding a butterfly in our hands: if we hold it too tight, we’ll suffocate it; if we open our hands too much, it’s at risk of flying away. Therefore, sometimes being in the right place at the right time when the story is there in my head is a bit like aligning the planets (sorry for the mixed metaphor)! However, I do seem to manage but it’s certainly not a structured or thought-through thing!


You’re a multi-talented writer with lots of strings to your bow – novelist, poet, writing teacher, writing mentor, radio panellist on BBC Berkshire and you run a book club! Do you have a favourite?

Oh gosh, thank you! I’ve never been called multi-talented before! I tend to think of myself as a bit of a jack of all trades! However, I do love everything I do and consider myself very lucky that I can spend my time doing such a wide variety of different things.

I don’t have a favourite as such, to me all the things I do are part of the whole but I guess if you were to put me on the spot, I’d say that the best bit is when it’s just me and the screen and the writing is flowing, my characters are saying and doing interesting things, I’m making good word choices and when I press Save I know I’ve created something that wasn’t there before: making imaginary worlds (whether in fiction or poetry) real is an absolute treat!

Thank you so much for inviting me to take part in this Q&A. It’s been a huge pleasure.

And thank you for taking the time to answer my questions, Claire.

Now, the book!


The Blurb

The Last Day

They say three’s a crowd but when Boyd moves back in to the family home with his now amicably-estranged wife, Vita, accompanied by his impossibly beautiful twenty seven-year-old girlfriend, Honey, it seems the perfect solution: Boyd can get his finances back on track while he deals with his difficult, ailing mother; Honey can keep herself safe from her secret, troubled past; and Vita can carry on painting portraits of the pets she dislikes and telling herself she no longer minds her marriage is over.

But the house in Albert Terrace is small and full of memories, and living together is unsettling.

For Vita, Boyd and Honey love proves to be a surprising, dangerous thing and, one year on, their lives are changed forever.


My review

When I read this book, it reminded me of a verse from the Bible (and I’m completely taking this out of context) – ‘A cord of three strands is not quickly broken’. Without meaning to do so, Honey is the third strand that weaves Boyd and Vita back into each other’s lives again. There’s naturally some chaffing as this takes place but despite herself, Vita ends up liking Honey. But secrets and lies threaten the strength of the cord, and as the strands weaken, someone is going to snap.

It’s Claire Dyer’s strength as a writer that allows this book to be wholly believable. Creating one authentic character is hard enough but to create three is remarkable. Each voice was clear and distinct and I felt I knew them all really well by the end of the book.

The writing in The Last Day is sublime. Not just the stunning descriptions that place you in the setting but also the acute observations made by the characters, Vita in particular –

‘Isn’t it strange how you never know you’ve lived the last day of one kind of life until you realise that kind of life is over, and you’re looking back at it and can pinpoint the exact day that everything changed?’

There are quite a few themes running through this book but the strongest for me was grief. Claire Dyer explores this in various forms. Grief is a tightrope walk between sanity and insanity and Claire handles this with complete sensitivity and empathy.

The Last Day is a more gentle read than other psychological thrillers but it’s no less compelling. A stunning novel.



You can buy the book here



The author

Claire Dyer

Claire Dyer’s novels, The Moment and The Perfect Affair and her short story, Falling for Gatsby are published by Quercus.

Her poetry collections, Interference Effects and Eleven Rooms, are published by Two Rivers Press.

She has an MA in Creative Writing from Royal Holloway, University of London and teaches creative writing for Bracknell & Wokingham College. She also runs Fresh Eyes, an editorial and critiquing service.

In 2016, Claire penned and performed a poem for National Poetry Day, called The Oracle, for BBC Radio Berkshire.

Claire’s new book, The Last Day, will be published by The Dome Press in February 2018.




First Monday Crime interview with Sarah Vaughan #AnatomyOfAScandal @1stMondayCrime @SVaughanAuthor

We’re more than half-way through February now. If you haven’t yet booked your seat for First Monday Crime in March then what are you waiting for? Click here right this instant! Because it would be criminal to miss out on seeing Elly Griffiths (back for her second appearance at First Monday Crime – that’s how much we love her), Stav Sherez, Matthew Blakstad and Sarah Vaughan. Jake Kerridge will be asking the questions on the night.

In the meantime, I’ve had a chance to ask Sarah Vaughan some of my own questions about her new book Anatomy of a Scandal.


Hi Sarah. I’ve been hearing great things about Anatomy of a Scandal. What’s it all about?
Anatomy of a Scandal explores what happens when a charismatic Tory minister is accused of raping a parliamentary researcher with whom he’s been having an affair in a House of Commons lift. Part courtroom drama, part portrait of a marriage, part exploration of how our demons still haunt us, it is eerily timely since it explores power, privilege, entitlement, perceptions of truth and consent. There’s also a past story, set in Oxford 24 years earlier and involving a Bullingdon-style drinking club called The Libertines. The novel’s told from the first person perspective of Kate, the prosecuting barrister, and the third person perspective of Sophie, the minister’s wife; James, the minister; and a couple of other characters.


Where did the inspiration for the novel come from?
I actually dreamed the plot after being unsettled by coverage of a footballer who wanted to appeal against his rape conviction. It was the comments made about the young woman involved that got me thinking about how horrific it would be to allege rape, and then to be ripped apart when you gave evidence in a trial. I must have been preoccupied with male entitlement and MPs’ willingness to be economical with the truth, as well, and by the intense self-confidence of some of the young men I’d observed as a student at Oxford, and as a political correspondent on The Guardian. The main skeleton of the plot came to me fully formed.


I’ve seen some great photos of your launch day. How much fun did you have?
It was incredible and I know it was a one-off. I’m never going to have a taxi branded with my book cover again (though I’ve asked for a helicopter next time. ;)) It really did feel like a celebration, particularly as so many friends and members of my family turned up to the Foyle’s launch. Whenever I have one of my frequent moments of self doubt I remember how crazy that day was, as well as the excitement of a recent trip to Barcelona and Madrid to promote the Spanish and Catalan versions.


Anatomy of a Scandal isn’t your first book. You’ve written two others, The Art of Baking Blind and The Farm at the Edge of the World. These seem to be quite different styles. How difficult was it to change genres?

Obviously they are different but I’d argue that there’s a flick of darkness in my first novel, which touches on sexual abuse and explores recurrent miscarriages, an eating disorder, and psychological abuse at the heart of a marriage; and that this darkness becomes more explicit in the second novel, which I wrote after rereading a lot of Daphne du Maurier and which has a chilling scene set on Bodmin moor. I wanted to write what became Anatomy after The Art of Baking Blind but it was, unsurprisingly, thought too big a leap between the novels. My previous novels were dubbed women’s fiction for the reading group market, and this is a psychological drama: part courtroom drama, part dark women’s fiction that hopefully grips like a psych thriller. (It’s been called a MeToo marriage thriller.) So I’d see it as progression or continuation of what I’d been exploring earlier, though I consciously tried to make it more compelling. I didn’t find it difficult at all.


What’s next for you?

My new novel, which should be published next January, all being well. I’m just editing it now. It’s not a courtroom drama but it is in a similar vein. It features a paediatrician, written in the first person, and a family under suspicion, and it explores motherhood, responsibility and the judgements we make about others.


On the scale of 1-10, how excited are you to be on the panel at First Monday Crime?

I’m hopeless at grading things but I’m very much looking forward to it. So much of my life as a writer is solitary and I miss the banter and buzz of chatting to people, as I did as a journalist, so, although I get nervous, I love doing events. And I’m very much looking forward to meeting other fellow writers, two of whom I’ve already heard before, at Killer Women, and very much rated. I still feel new to writing about crime so it’s great to get further inspiration.

Thanks for answering my questions, Sarah!

Do you want to know a bit more about Anatomy of a Scandal? Here’s the blurb.


The Blurb

Anatomy of a Scandal cover

A high-profile marriage thrust into the spotlight. A wife, determined to keep her family safe, must face a prosecutor who believes justice has been a long time coming. A scandal that will rock Westminster. And the women caught at the heart of it.

Anatomy of a Scandal centres on a high-profile marriage that begins to unravel when the husband is accused of a terrible crime. Sophie is sure her husband, James, is innocent and desperately hopes to protect her precious family from the lies which might ruin them. Kate is the barrister who will prosecute the case – she is equally certain that James is guilty and determined he will pay for his crimes.


You can buy a copy of the book here or you can get a copy signed at First Monday courtesy of Big Green Bookshop.


The Author


Anatomy of a Scandal combines Sarah Vaughan’s experiences as a news reporter and political correspondent on the Guardian with her time as a student reading English at Brasenose College, Oxford, in the Nineties. Published in the UK, US, Australia, NZ, Canada and South Africa, it will be translated into 17 languages throughout 2018 and 2019.
Anatomy of a Scandal is her third novel, her first courtroom drama/psychological thriller and her first book for Simon & Schuster. Married with two children, she lives just outside Cambridge and is currently finishing her fourth novel.


I’m very much looking forward to seeing all the panellists on Monday 5th March, back in our previous room at City. Hope to see lots of you there! But if you can’t make it, I will have my trusty notebook and pen with me.


Review – The Collector by Fiona Cummins #TheCollector @FionaAnnCummins @panmacmillan

Happy publication day to Fiona Cummins for her brilliant book, The Collector. I’d like to thank Fiona for sending me a copy to read.

If you haven’t read Rattle, Fiona Cummins’ debut novel from last year, then you might want to stop reading this review. The Collector is the sequel to Rattle and so I may, inadvertently, give away spoilers from Rattle. Sometimes you can read a sequel without reading the first book but I would highly recommend that you don’t in this instance. If you’re not able to buy it then pop down to your local library and see if they have it. If not you can always request it. And don’t feel bad about borrowing from the library. Authors get paid a small amount for each book loaned out. So the author still benefits.


The blurb

Jakey escaped with his life and moved to a new town.
His rescue was a miracle but his parents know that the Collector is still out there, watching, waiting . . .

Clara, the girl he left behind, dreams of being found.
Her mother is falling apart but she will not give up hope.

The Collector has found an apprentice to take over his family’s legacy.
But he can’t forget the one who got away and the detective who destroyed his dreams.

DS Etta Fitzroy must hunt him down before his obsession destroys them all.


My review


Right, now I’m assuming that if you’re still reading then either you’ve read Rattle or you don’t care about spoilers. Rattle was my second favourite read of 2017, pipped at the post by that cheeky Chris Whitaker with All The Wicked Girls. Rattle introduced us to the very creepy Bone Collector (aka Mr Silver in The Collector). His predilection for deformed bones drove him to seek out live specimens and abduct them. In particular, he preyed on children. It’s a book packed full of tension and drama and it gripped me from beginning to end. So is The Collector as good? Well, I have great news. Not only is it as good as its predecessor, I think it’s even better.

Mr Silver isn’t getting any younger. Just as he was his father’s apprentice, he needs someone to take on his mantle. But without children of his own, he needs to find a  suitable person. Another collector, young enough to be impressionable but mature enough to handle the responsibility.

Saul doesn’t have the best home life. Dad left and his mum is an alcoholic. The only thing  16-year-old Saul likes is his collection of dead insects. He and Mr Silver are made for each other.

It’s been a 100 days since Clara Foyle’s abduction. Jakey Frith still thinks of the girl he spoke to through the vent in the wall. Jakey was saved. Clara was not.

DS Etta Fitzroy hasn’t given up hope of finding The Bone Collector. He haunts her as much as Clara.

The action has moved from London to the Essex coast. Fiona Cummins uses her settings like an extra character, particularly the way the weather, or season, or time of day can change a place. The happiness and brightness of a summer beach becomes desolate in winter; a fairground becomes sinister in the dark. Fiona Cummins uses these changes to great effect, adding tension and atmosphere. She could teach a masterclass on this and I, for one, would book a ticket.

Like Rattle, The Bone Collector is written with multiple viewpoints. Some of the same voices are there from book 1 but more are added. To write such diverse characters (16-year-old boy, a police officer, a father, an abducted child to name just a few) takes great skill. I also love the fact that Fiona Cummins gives some of her characters fantastic names that really stand out – Erdman and Jakey Frith, DS Etta Fitzroy, Saul Anguish. But the Bone Collector aka Mr Silver is really Brian Howley – a non-descript name that has allowed him to slip through life fairly anonymously.

There is so much more I could say about this book but I think I’ve given you reason enough to want to read it and I don’t want to give too much away. Just like Rattle didn’t read like a debut, The Collector doesn’t read like a second book. Once more, Fiona Cummins has set the bar very high indeed for Crime fiction this year.


You can find out more about Fiona and buy her books here.


About the author


Fiona Cummins is an award-winning former Daily Mirror Showbiz journalist and a graduate of the Faber Academy. Fiona sold her house and gave up her job to fulfil her ambition to become an author. A month before her two year deadline, Fiona found herself with a publishing deal with film rights optioned. The Collector is her second novel, following Rattle. Fiona lives in Essex with her family.



Blog tour – Fighting Monsters by Rebecca Bradley #FightingMonsters @RebeccaJBradley

Today I’m thrilled to have an extract from Fighting Monsters on my blog. This is the third book in the DI Hannah Robbins series by Rebecca Bradley, Shallow Waters and Made to be Broken being the first two. As a former detective, Rebecca writes with great authority and authenticity.


The blurb

24 hours after he walked away from court a free man, cop killer and gang leader Simon Talbot is found murdered. In his possession; the name of a protected witness from his trial.  For DI Hannah Robbins, it’s a race against time to find Talbot’s killer, and locate the bystander before it’s too late.

But as Hannah delves deeper into the past, she begins to question the integrity of the whole operation.  Where do you turn when you can’t trust the police?

Fighting Monsters

The extract


Lee felt suffocated as the usher pulled the doors to, as the thick wood closed with a gentle whoosh. The courtroom was filled with a hushed expectation.

All seats were taken. The public gallery had been rammed since the trial had started. Family of the defendant. Multiple reporters from local and national papers, as many members of the public that could be accommodated and the family of the deceased, PC Ken Blake, shot in the line of duty nine months ago at the address of the defendant, Simon Talbot.

Not only was interest high because this was the murder of a police officer, but, it was at the hands of Talbot, the head of the most powerful crime family in Nottingham. They ran drugs and guns and girls through the city. No one moved unless they said they could. Unless they paid Talbot to do so. Talbot in prison was big news. People were fascinated. If Talbot went down then there would be a massive power struggle for the area of the city that the Talbots controlled.

Whether the family could maintain that control with Simon on the inside, while the rival Buckhurst crew pushed at them in his absence was under question because no one knew if Nathan Talbot, Simon’s brother, was strong enough to keep competition at bay and run the family operation.

There was a buzz of excitement as everyone waited for the court session to start again. Three and a half weeks of trial and now after only two and a half hours of jury deliberations they were about to come back and the expected verdict was guilty.

Though the weapon had never been found the prosecution had two witnesses to the offence. Both of whom had been present, in the room, at the time PC Blake had been killed.

Nathan Talbot sat bolt upright next to his mother, Karen. He was silent. His jaw set. Karen was dressed in black as though at a funeral, and many said she was. This was the end of Simon. They didn’t believe Nathan had what it took to keep the family together.

Behind them, Ken Blake’s widow, Lisa, sat with her head bowed, her hand held by her friend.

The door behind the public gallery opened and Simon was brought into the defendant’s box and his handcuffs taken off. He looked out at the courtroom. His best suit on, but unshaven. He didn’t need to make an impression, time for impressions was past.

Blake’s widow kept her head down.

‘All rise for Her Honour Judge Clay.’ The courtroom shuffled to its feet and Margaret Clay walked in and eyed her court, for she knew that there would be outbursts today. She requested the jury be brought in and the twelve men and women of the jury who had listened to the evidence against Talbot over the length of the trial filed in. Their heads bowed, hands clasped in front of them. Their eyes firmly on the floor where they walked. With a final shuffle of clothes, they sat, in the positions they’d assumed for the duration of the trial.

Margaret Clay addressed the court, ‘If anyone should disturb my courtroom this afternoon, they will be removed without prior warning. I will not tolerate disorder. I understand you have waited a long time for today but you are here to view these proceedings in silence.’ And with that she nodded to the court usher.

‘In the case of the Crown versus Talbot for the murder of PC Kenneth Blake do you find Simon Talbot guilty or not guilty?’

The foreperson, a woman on the end of the jury line looked along at her peers, bit her lower lip and rose from her chair. She was a rotund woman with hair that curled around her face. This afternoon that face was flushed, her eyes dark and small in her face. Her mouth a set line, so pale you had to look hard to see it. Her hands shook but were clasped tight in front of her.

‘We find—’ her voice cracked, she tried again, ‘We find him not guilty.’


Well, there’s a gripping start to a book – a suspected cop killer released! So what did I think about the rest of the story?


My review

The DI Hannah Robbins series is set in Nottinghamshire. It’s great to see police procedurals set outside of London. I don’t know Nottingham that well but there are some places and things that I can picture. The book starts with a murder suspect being found not guilty of killing a police officer. The verdict hits the Force hard, not least the officer’s former partner, Lee. Less than 24 hours after being released, the suspect is murdered. DI Hannah Robbins and her team are tasked with the job of finding the suspect’s killer. Not an easy job at the best of times but made harder by the fact that they have to consider the possibility that another police officer may be responsible.

As a former DC, Rebecca Bradley writes with authority. She manages to balance giving the reader enough authentic police procedure without detracting from the plot. This is a complex story and what starts with a murder of a suspect, soon escalates into something else. There are some new characters in the team and I particularly liked Pasha, the new DC. I’m looking forward to seeing how she develops in the future. I was also pleased to see that Rebecca Bradley has a character with Asperger’s – DS Aaron Stone. In my opinion (and I have personal family experience), his characterisation has been handled well and he hasn’t been stereotyped.

There are various viewpoints in this novel and that helps to keep the tension and the pace going. Although I had some ideas about who was responsible, I was kept guessing until near the end to find out the complete truth. And we’ve been left with an absolute cliff-hanger. There’s going to have to be another book!


You can buy the book by clicking here.


The author

Rebecca Bradley

Rebecca Bradley is a retired police detective and lives in Nottinghamshire with her family and her two cockapoo’s Alfie and Lola, who keep her company while she writes. Rebecca needs to drink copious amounts of tea to function throughout the day, and if she could she would survive on a diet of tea and cake.

You can find out more about Rebecca on her website, Twitter and Facebook by clicking on the links below.









Blog tour – Killed by Thomas Enger

Killed blog tour banner

I’m delighted to share an extract of Killed with you today….


The blurb

Crime reporter Henning Juul thought his life was over when his young son was murdered. But that was only the beginning…

Determined to find his son’s killer, Henning doggedly follows an increasingly dangerous trail, where dark hands from the past emerge to threaten everything. His ex-wife Nora is pregnant with another man’s child, his sister Trine is implicated in the fire that killed his son and, with everyone he thought he could trust seemingly hiding something, Henning has nothing to lose … except his own life.

Packed with tension and unexpected twists, Killed is the long-awaited finale of one of the darkest, most chilling and emotive series you may ever read. Someone will be killed. But who?

Killed book cover

The extract – Chapter 4

There was nothing to beat this feeling, Iver Gundersen thought. Knowing he was about to make a breakthrough, that he, and no one else, had managed to find a way into the case.

And it wasn’t just any old case, either.

That was why he’d left as soon as he’d woken up in Nora’s flat. He was itching to discuss his findings with Henning, and had sent him a text message to see if he was up, asking if he could come to his flat as soon as possible. Iver even offered to pick him up.

The answer pinged in moments later.

On my way to the airport. Later today?

Airport? Iver thought. What was he doing there?

He replied OK, but he was disappointed.

Not long after, there was another ping.

What’s new?

Iver thought about what to answer.

Too long to explain by text. Tell you later.

Henning said OK.

In the meantime, thought Iver, he could go through it all again and try to be his own devil’s advocate – a demanding, but necessary procedure for anyone who wanted to blow the lid on something. He had to be 100 per cent certain.

Iver pulled out behind a bus and noticed that he needed petrol. Not surprising really, he’d practically been living in his car recently.

He tried to slow his breathing. He thought about Henning, and about Nora.

It had been an odd few months.

He’d never meant to fall in love with her, but her vulnerability after Jonas’s death had made Nora irresistibly beautiful, and he’d almost felt it was his mission to make her smile again.

Deep down, Iver had kind of hoped that Henning wouldn’t come back to work, but then he did, one day in late spring, and Iver wasn’t sure which one of them felt most uncomfortable. The first case – the stoning of a film student, Henriette Hagerup, in a tent at Ekebergsletta – had not helped much either, as Henning had worked out who the killer was and then given Iver all his information.

Iver couldn’t understand why, to begin with, but gradually it dawned on him that Henning was actually protecting himself; he’d known that it was a scoop and would lead to a lot of media attention. And Henning wasn’t interested in that, not then and not ever.

At first, Iver had loved the furore, but it didn’t take long before he felt pretty ambivalent about it all. Every time Henriette Hagerup’s name was mentioned, Iver thought about who actually deserved all the praise. The fact that Henning was the only person who knew didn’t make it any easier. Which is why Iver had tried to return the favour. He had thrown himself into Henning’s own mystery and the puzzle of Jonas’s death, with the goal of finding the vital detail, the piece that made everything fit together.

Now he thought he might have done just that.

Iver parked the car a couple of blocks away from his own building, then hurried back to the flat. It was just gone half past nine when he opened the door and threw the keys down on the hat shelf.

There was something odd about the flat. And it took a few moments before he realised what it was.

It was completely dark.

He never closed the curtains, not completely.

And then he heard sounds from the living room. The TV was on. Had he forgotten to turn it off before he went to Nora’s late last night?

Iver went into the kitchen and then into the living room, where the TV screen flickered, washing the ceiling and walls with colour. The curtains were drawn in there too. What the…? He suddenly got the feeling that something was very wrong.

And then the living room light was switched on.

Iver stopped in his tracks.

There was a man sitting in the chair.

‘And here he is,’ the man said, in Swedish.

Iver stood as though glued to the floor, his mouth half open. He quickly looked around. There was a man sitting on the sofa. He had a gun on his lap.

‘Who…?’ Iver started. The words got stuck in his parched throat. ‘Who are you?’ he managed to say, and coughed. ‘What are you doing here?’

‘You took your time,’ the man in the Stressless said. ‘We were getting bored of waiting, weren’t we, Jeton?’

The man who was talking to Iver looked at the screen for a few seconds before turning off the TV and slamming the remote control down on the table. Iver started at the sudden loud noise. It was then he saw that the man was wearing gloves. That there was a rope on the table. That the table had been cleared of all paper.

Iver swallowed. Considered whether he should try turning on his heel and legging it, but the man’s gun and the way he was holding it made him stay put.

‘What do you want?’

The two men got up at the same time.

‘We want to know how much you know and who you’ve told.’

The man who was talking took a step closer. He was small, with thin, unkempt hair on his head, but all the more on his chest, which was bursting over the neckline of his black hoodie. He was compact, strong; Iver could see the muscles on his chest rippling. And he wondered why neither of them had bothered to hide their faces. How they had got in? What they were going to do with the rope?

‘What are you talking about?’

Iver tried to be nonchalant, but could hear that he wasn’t doing it very well, that his voice was trembling. He looked over at the windows. Were any of them open? Could he throw himself out? It was a long way down and the ground was covered in asphalt.

The second man grabbed the rope on the table.

‘Do you see what I’ve done in here?’ the first man asked, and looked up at the ceiling. Iver followed his eyes. At first glance he didn’t notice anything unusual.

Then he spotted it.

The hook.

The man produced a knife.

‘I saw this once, in a film,’ he explained. ‘I like films. Do you like films, Gundersen?’

He looked questioningly at Iver, who wasn’t able to answer.

‘I’ve never tried it myself, but do you know what happens if you start to bleed, from the neck, for example, when you’re hanging upside down?’

The man put the blade of the knife to his own neck.

Iver swallowed again. Thought about how he could get out.

‘It depends on the wound, of course, how deep the cut is, but if you cut the main artery here…’

He pointed to one of the two arteries on his neck.

‘…just enough to start bleeding…’

He paused again.

‘…it takes about half an hour to die.’

Iver noticed that the man talking also had a gun in his jacket pocket. You’re going to have to be smart here, he said to himself, or it’s not going to be good.

‘I don’t understand what it is that you want,’ he stammered. ‘I don’t know anything, I haven’t…’

‘Shh,’ the man interrupted. ‘Enough.’

He shook his head and took a step closer.

‘We’ll find out what you know, whether you want us to or not. It’s only a matter of time.’

Then he smiled – a flashing, Machiavellian smile – and shook a watch free from under his sleeve. He looked at his friend again, and said, ‘What do you reckon, Jeton – do you think it will take more than half an hour?’


Oh my! Is Iver going to be OK? There’s only one way to find out. You can buy Killed here. 

I’d like to thank Orenda Books and Anne Cater for inviting me to be part of the tour.


The Author

Granite Noir Fest 2017
Granite Noir fest 2017. Thomas Enger.

Thomas Enger (b. 1973) is a former journalist. He made his debut with the crime novel Burned (Skinndød) in 2010, which became an international sensation before publication. Burned is the first in a series of 5 books about the journalist Henning Juul, which delves into the depths of Oslo’s underbelly, skewering the corridors of dirty politics and nailing the fast-moving world of 24-hour news. Rights to the series have been sold to 26 countries to date. In 2013 Enger published his first book for young adults, a dark fantasy thriller called The Evil Legacy, for which he won the U-prize (best book Young Adult). Enger also composes music, and he lives in Oslo.




The Killing of Butterfly Joe by Rhidian Brook

I’m thrilled to have a review today for The Killing of Butterfly Joe. This book is published  on Thursday March 8th by Picador. I’d like to thank them and Rhidian for sending me a copy.

Let’s find out about the book.

The blurb

‘I killed Joe once, in a manner of speaking. But not twice. Not in the way you mean.’

Llew Jones wanted to see the States and write about the experience. Then he met Joe Bosco, a butterfly salesman as charismatic as he is infuriating, and they were soon hurtling across 1980s America together, caught up in an adventure that got way, way out of control. Now Llew is in jail, his friend is gone, and he has to give his side of the story if he’s ever going to get free . . .

Part existential road trip, part neo-gothic thriller, part morality tale, The Killing of Butterfly Joe by Rhidian Brook is a dazzling and propulsive novel full of characters you’ll never forget. An epic story of friendship, desire, and participating in the Great American Dream – ‘the one that leads from rags to riches via pitches’ – whatever the consequences.

Country Road Against Sky


The review

When I was about five, we had new neighbours move next door. They were the first Asian family to live in our road. They invited us round for drinks and something to eat. They had three older teenage children – one boy and two girls. I remember that the snacks were a bit spicy and the girls and their mother were dressed beautifully. But there was something else that caught my eye; something hung on a wall that I didn’t expect to see – butterflies in a framed glass case. I asked one of my parents if they were real and I was a bit shocked to find out that they were. Even at such a young age, I thought butterflies should be flying free, not pinned down in a case on the wall.

Joe Bosco would disagree with me on that. Set in America in the 1980s, The Killing of Butterfly Joe tells the story of the Bosco family, as witnessed by Llew Jones. Llew is minding his own business, half-reading/ half-sleeping by the Kaaterskill Falls in the Catskill Mountains in New York State, when he first encounters Joe and his sister, Mary. Like a moth to the light, Llew is drawn to the brother and sister. Joe and his family sell butterflies in cases and his dream is for every house in America to have one. He thinks that Llew and his lovely accent (he’s Welsh) and his way with words (Llew claims to be a writer), will help achieve that goal. Butterflies may look beautiful but their lives are brutal. It isn’t until it’s too late that Llew discovers that the Bosco family may be the same.

Spirituality plays quite a big part in this novel. The 1980s saw the rise of TV evangelists and preaching of a prosperity gospel. Joe attacks this with the zeal of an Old Testament prophet – Elijah springs to mind. He’s not afraid to walk into churches and challenge the minister and the congregation on their commitment to God and the poor. Their answer often comes in the form of a beating or a trip to the police station. But nothing puts Joe off.

The Killing of Butterfly Joe is a great title but equally it could be called The Ballad of Butterfly Joe. There is a lyrical quality to Brook’s writing and he has some poetry at the start of each section. Each chapter starts with a little line saying what is going to happen which helps to set the scene. Joe, as a character, is huge but Brook has been careful to not create a caricature but a genuine, larger-than-life, man. Just like a butterfly, Joe barely settles before moving on and takes Llew on the road to sell his wares. But for every sell, there is a loss. Llew may not see it to begin with, dazzled by the beauty of the butterflies and Joe, yet we, the readers, know. We knew when we picked up the book and read the title – The Killing of Butterfly Joe. It’s there, like a distant rhythm, slowing increasing in intensity, until it can’t be ignored any longer. Something devastating is going to happen.

It’s hard to define The Killing of Butterfly Joe in terms of genre. It’s a mixture of a thriller and a great family saga, told in a rich literary style. A bit like having all the cakes and eating them. If I had to condense my thoughts into one word then it would be – epic.


Now you might be thinking that the name Rhidian Brook sounds familiar. If you listen to the Today programme on Radio 4, then you’ve probably heard his dulcet tones on ‘Thought for the Day’.  As well as writing novels (The Killing of Butterfly Joe is his fourth book), Rhidian also writes for TV and film. His film The Aftermath, based on his novel by the same name, is due for release at some point this year. It stars Keira Knightley, Jason Clarke and Alexander Skarsgård. At the moment, I’ve just given you a little taster of the book but on publication day – March 8th – I’m going to have a Q&A with Rhidian. You can pre-order The Killing of Butterfly Joe here.


The author

Rhidian Brook

Rhidian Brook is an award-winning writer of fiction. His first novel, The Testimony of Taliesin Jones, won several prizes including the Somerset Maugham Award. His third, The Aftermath, was an international bestseller and has been translated into twenty-five languages; it has also been made inti a major motion picture. He has written for television and the screen and is a regular contributor to BBC Radio 4’s ‘Thought for the Day’. He once had a job selling butterflies in glass cases.







A Darker State by David Young

Happy publication day to David Young for A Darker State! This is the third in the Karin Müller series. I’d like to thank Bonnier Zaffre for sending me a review copy to read. It’s an apt week for this book to be published. I saw a tweet on Twitter last weekend that said the Berlin wall had stood for 10316 days and that on Monday 5th February 2018, it had been 10316 days since it had gone. Apt indeed.


The blurb

For the Stasi, it’s not just the truth that gets buried…

The body of a teenage boy is found weighted down in a lake. Karin Müller, newly appointed Major of the People’s Police, is called to investigate. But her power will only stretch so far, when every move she makes is under the watchful eye of the Stasi.

Then, when the son of Müller’s team member goes missing, it quickly becomes clear that there is a terrifying conspiracy at the heart of this case, one that could fast lead Müller and her young family into real danger.

Can she navigate this complex political web and find the missing boy, before it’s too late?

aDarkerState (1)

My review

I have to apologise to David Young. I read both Stasi Child and Stasi Wolf last year and I didn’t get the chance to review them. They’re fantastic books and are the first two novels in the Karen Müller series, set in East Germany in the 1970s. Karen is an officer with the People’s Police. In Stasi Child she investigates the murder of a teenage girl, and in Stasi Wolf, babies are going missing.

A Darker State finds Karen with a young family and newly promoted. She’s enjoying motherhood to a certain extent but the lure of promotion and with it, a bigger apartment, is enough to entice her back to the job. I don’t want to say too much more about the plot as it would be all too easy to give away a spoiler.

When I read Stasi Child last year, I was at CrimeFest in Bristol. I was staying in a budget hotel while the festival was taking place at the Marriott. The analogy wasn’t lost on me. My hotel was akin to East Germany. It was clean and basic but had everything I needed. In contrast, the Marriott (like West Germany and West Berlin) had everything I wanted. The Communist mantra of ‘From each according to his ability, to each according to his need’ echoes throughout David Young’s writing as he seeks to explain Karen and the Deutsche Demokratische Republik (DDR). As much as Karin dislikes the Stasi, she’s still proud of her country and what’s been achieved – full employment, more equality for women and homes for everyone. With each book though, Karin suspicions are growing and it’s becoming increasingly difficult for her to find people she can trust. Whichever way she turns, the menace of the Stasi is always prevalent.

It’s obvious that David Young has done huge amounts of research for his novels. Each one is based on factual elements that are woven into the storyline. It’s often Russia or the USSR that’s the focus for Communist crime stories, so it’s refreshing to see a new take on this by exploring East Germany. The Cold War, the tearing down of the Berlin Wall or the Anti-Fascist Protection Barrier as it was known in the DDR, and then the reunification of Germany is all very recent history for me. So when you read a Karin Müller novel, you don’t just get a cracking storyline with interesting and complex characters, you also get a fascinating history lesson.

Although A Darker State can be read on its own, I personally think it’s better to read the books in order. Just as there are factual elements in the stories, there are personal threads about Karin that run through them, adding to the intricacies of the plot. This latest instalment has twisted those intricacies more and for me, is the best novel of the series so far. There are rumours though that book 4 is even better. I can’t wait.

For more about David and to buy his books, then click here.


The author


David Young was a journalist for more than 25 years with the BBC World radio and TV. Now a full-time author, his debut novel Stasi Child, reached the Top 20 of the Bookseller’s Fiction chart and was a top five e-book bestseller. The novel won the 2016 CWA Endeavour Historical Dagger and was longlisted for the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year award.

First Monday Crime – February 2018

After an extended Christmas break, First Monday Crime was back last night with a belter of a panel. We had Chris Carter, C.J. Tudor, Craig Robertson and Tammy Cohen. Joe Haddow from BBC Radio 2 chaired.


FM Feb 18.2


First up to answer Joe’s questions was international bestseller author, Chris Carter. Chris was born and raised in Brazil before moving to the US. He’s currently living in London so he’s definitely international! His latest Robert Hunter (criminal psychologist turned detective) book is Gallery of the Dead and is published this Thursday. Joe asked Chris why he set the series in LA. As a former criminal psychologist himself, Chris knows the US police procedure much better than the UK or anywhere else. LA also has great extremes. You can go from superstar homes to gang territory within a matter of miles so it allows you to write anything. More bank robberies take place in LA than anywhere else in the US. In his time as a criminal psychologist, Chris has seen and heard some terrible things. He’s spoken with criminals to look for patterns of behaviour to then help prevent crime. His latest Robert Hunter book starts with the gruesome murder of a model. When writing fiction, the crime has to make sense to the reader. Real life doesn’t work that way as Chris has discovered. He explained the difference between a serial killer and a mass murderer. A serial killer has to kill three or more people in three or more settings. A mass murderer kills three or more people in one setting. Chris then told us about a man who had an argument with another man in a bar. The first man followed the other home and killed him. But he didn’t stop there. He killed the wife, children and the family dog. When Chris asked him why he murdered everyone else, he answered, “They were in.” Real life really doesn’t make sense.


C.J. Tudor’s former jobs have been a little bit more mundane and she was actually a dog walker when she wrote The Chalk Man. Set in 1986 and 2016, the story starts in 1986 with 12 year old Eddie and his gang of friends hanging out, just doing normal things when they discover a body in the woods. C.J. wanted to explore her childhood days when there were no mobile phones or internet and if you wanted to speak to a friend you had to go and knock on their door. As a child, she moved from Enid Blyton to Agatha Christie to Stephen King so it’s easy to see where the creepiness of The Chalk Man comes from. C.J. had written 3 or 4 other books first and had an agent for a brief time but things just weren’t working. The Chalk Man isn’t a traditional crime book but more of a mystery and a coming of age story. She didn’t show it to anyone else (not even her partner) before she got a new agent.


FM Feb 18.1
Panel L-R: Joe Haddow, Tammy Cohen, Craig Robertson, C.J. Tudor and Chris Carter


Craig Robertson’s latest book is The Photographer. Unusually for a crime book, there is no murder. Instead, DI Rachel Narey is investigating a serial rapist. She finds shoeboxes of photos in the suspect’s home. The photos are of women who don’t appear to know that they’re being photographed. The photos are ruled inadmissible in court and the suspect goes free. Given the current climate, Craig knew he had to tread carefully with a difficult subject. He said that it was a bit like walking through a minefield wearing clown shoes. So he made sure that he sought advice when writing and spoke to rape counsellors. Craig’s series is set in Glasgow and like Chris, the setting is almost a character in itself. As Craig said, Glasgow is a great place to set a crime series because the clichés are true!


They All Fall Down is Tammy Cohen’s latest book. The Meadows is a private psychiatric clinic for women who are at high risk of self-harm. Hannah is a patient there. Two residents have died and Hannah doesn’t believe the official reason given – suicide. But how can Hannah find out who the murderer is when everyone is a suspect? Like Craig, Tammy felt a real responsibility to get this book right. She didn’t want to trivialise mental health in any way. It can happen to anyone at anytime. Tammy also writes historical crime under the name of Rachel Rhys. She wanted a break from contemporary psych thrillers and despite what Amanda Jennings has suggested, she doesn’t dress differently when she writes as Rachel Rhys. But she does keep the two styles very separate and doesn’t write a Rachel Rhys book while editing a Tammy Cohen one.


I’ve got lots more scribbled notes in my little notebook but I’ll leave you with a question from the audience. Author Daniel Pembrey asked the panel what was the most unusual thing they had done for research.

C.J. said that she hadn’t done anything particularly special as most of her research for The Chalk Man involved chatting with her childhood friends in a pub.

Tammy took it up a notch and told us a story from her journalist days. She once had to go to a night club in Ipswich, dressed in an inflatable sumo wrestling suit.

In some ways Chris doesn’t have to do much research as he has his past work memories to fall back on but he uses the internet if he needs to look something up.

Craig wins the prize for his answer. His previous book Murderabilia, looked at people who collected items connected with murder. So Craig thought he should buy some things, including a lock of Charles Manson’s hair.




After the book signings and photographs, we all headed over to The Old Ivy House (but a new pub for us) where we all seemed to be served remarkably quickly. Next month is looking fabulous again and First Monday will soon reveal the panel. Don’t forget to reserve your seat here.


To find out more about the authors and buy their books –

For Chris Carter click here

For C.J. Tudor click here

For Craig Robertson click here

For Tammy Cohen click here

The Good Doctor of Warsaw by Elisabeth Gifford

Today The Good Doctor of Warsaw is published so happy publication day to Elisabeth Gifford. A big thank you to her and Corvus for sending me this truly wonderful book to review.


The Blurb

You do not leave a sick child alone to face the dark and you do not leave a child at a time like this.’

Deeply in love and about to marry, students Misha and Sophia flee a Warsaw under Nazi occupation for a chance at freedom. Forced to return to the Warsaw ghetto, they help Misha’s mentor, Dr Korczak, care for two hundred children in his orphanage. As Korczak struggles to uphold the rights of even the smallest child in the face of unimaginable conditions, he becomes a beacon of hope for the thousands who live behind the walls.

As the noose tightens around the ghetto Misha and Sophia are torn from one another, forcing them to face their worst fears alone. They can only hope to find each other again one day…

Meanwhile, refusing to leave the children unprotected, Korczak must confront a terrible darkness.

The Good Doctor of Warsaw

The Review

A couple of weeks ago I was at the Imperial War Museum in London. Although I’ve been a few times before, I hadn’t visited the Holocaust exhibition, so I did this time. There’s an age limit on the exhibition and it’s easy to see why. It’s traumatic to say the least and so it should be. We should never stop being shocked by the horror of the Holocaust.

Although there is plenty of evidence for the Holocaust in terms of photos and documents, fiction has the ability to take the facts and make them alive again for us today. Elisabeth Gifford has done just that in The Good Doctor of Warsaw. It’s not easy to recreate a setting that’s so evocative of the period. Kate Atkinson did this extremely well with her Blitz scenes in Life After Life and A God In Ruins. Similarly, William Ryan told the story of the SS Rest Hut in A Constant Soldier and brought original photos to life. Often, the Eastern Front of WW2 is forgotten and the unprecedented destruction of Warsaw is not remembered. I think The Good Doctor of Warsaw will rectify that.

The novel is based on the true story of Dr Janusz Korcsak, a Polish Jew and the founder of a large orphanage in Warsaw. He was also a well-known paediatrician and wrote many books on raising children. He even had his own radio show until anti-Semitic pressure forced him off the airwaves. Misha and Sophia were volunteers at the orphanage and very much in love. The novel tells their amazing story as well as Korcsak.

The book starts before the war when life was still fairly idyllic. Korcsak used to take the children to summer camp and the last one of 1939 is brought vividly to life, not least because Misha and Sophia become engaged.  Despite the gathering storm clouds of war, hope is at the heart of this novel. I was worried that this would be a heavy story, given the subject matter, but Elisabeth Gifford has written this with a remarkable lightness of touch. There are several points of view, including some of the children, and they weave in and out of each other creating the pattern of the story. Written in the present tense, there is an immediacy to the novel.

I read this during Holocaust Memorial Day and I can’t think of a more apt book. Some of the people that I read about at the Imperial War Museum were in the story. Adam Czeriakow was the head of the Jewish Council that was supposedly in charge of the ghetto. He was a friend of Korcsak’s and did what he could for him and the orphans but in the long run, it wasn’t enough.

Despite the hope, the harrowing parts are there as well. Elisabeth Gifford hasn’t shied away from this and there were times when I stopped reading and just sobbed. There were approximately half a million Jews in the Warsaw ghetto. Less than 1% survived. They were taken to Treblinka. The SS had told Czeriakow that it was a work camp. It wasn’t. By the time Czeriakow realised, it was far too late.

We’re supposed to learn from history but genocides around the world since WW2 prove otherwise. There were two passages that stood out for me when considering this.

So many years to build bridges of understanding between two cultures. Moments to tear it down.’

A conversation between Korcsak and Czeriakow, starting with Korcsak.

‘ “...But now here’s a puzzle. What are all these sections of wall for? Yet more madness?”

All I know about them is that the Jewish Council has had to pay for them and supply the labour.” ‘

The very best historical fiction illuminates the past to help makes sense of the present. The Good Doctor of Warsaw is such a book. Heartbreak and hope entwined together.


You can buy The Good Doctor of Warsaw and find other books by Elisabeth Gifford here.


About the author

Elisabeth Gifford by Warsaw ghetto wall
Elisabeth Gifford by a fragment of the ghetto wall, close to where the last orphanage in the ghetto stood.

Elisabeth Gifford grew up in a vicarage in the industrial Midlands. She studied French literature and world religions at Leeds University. She has written articles for The Times and the Independent and has a Diploma in Creative Writing from Oxford OUDCE and an MA in Creative Writing from Royal Holloway College. She is married with three children and lives in Kingston upon Thames.