First Monday Crime Interview with @SarahPinborough @1stMondayCrime

As I write this, it’s been pouring down all day with yet another thunderstorm. Great weather for half-term but on the plus side, I’ve managed to sneak away from my children and finish reading Cross Her Heart, the new book from Sarah Pinborough. I have a little review for you but before then, the wonderful people at First Monday Crime arranged for me to ask Sarah a few questions.


Your new book, Cross Her Heart is due out in May. What, if anything, can you tell us about it?

God it’s tricky! I seem to specialise these days in writing books that are really hard to talk about without giving spoilers away. It’s quite a heart-breaking book in places, but I’m hoping also uplifting. It’s about female friendships, the dangers of social media, and secrets that explode. I really need to learn to talk about my book better! It’s very twisty and absolutely nothing and no one are what they seem. I’m going to make a crib sheet from reviews so I can answer this question better…;-)


After the success of Behind Her Eyes is the pressure on for Cross Her Heart to do as well?

Yes! Although honestly, I can’t go through all those nerves again. I’m hoping it does well obviously but Behind Her Eyes was such a ‘moment’ and what I want for Cross Her Heart is that it’s a solid follow up and doesn’t have that ‘disappointing second book’ moment. I actually think it’s a much better book though. We were very lucky to get the number one (twice!) with BHE but I CHH has a tougher publication week. I’m more about getting good sales and reviews this time than hitting chart positions. Although they would also be nice!


I saw you at Killer Women last year on the Genre Splice panel and you mentioned that you’ve written over 20 books in various genres. When you write, do you have a genre in mind or is it just about the story?

I definitely do now as I’d be in trouble if I handed in a fantasy while contracted for psychological thrillers, BUT aside from that I at least know what the dominant genre is going to be. So The Dog-Faced Gods has elements of Sci-Fi/Fantasy, but for me is predominantly a crime series. The same goes for Mayhem and Murder. When you’re planning the story, whether it’s horror, fairy tales, YA fantasy or whatever, you get a pretty good idea of the genre. And you tend to know the genre from the first kernel of the idea.


As well as writing novels, you’ve also written for the screen. Are the significant differences between the two? Do you prefer one over the other?

When I did New Tricks the producer there told me screenwriting was much harder than writing a novel and I was INCENCED. However, I think, looking back and knowing much more than I did then, that he was right. You can waffle in a book. It can be flabby in places (not that we want that!) and of course you have internal monologue. In a script every word counts and structure is everything. And of course, the cost is massive if it gets made, and it’s far more collaborative than novel writing because everyone has a say. It’s taught me a lot about structure though, and dialogue. I love both, and scripts are more immediately immersive, but I love books best. A book is entirely yours, a screenplay, even before it reaches being made (if you’re lucky), is a compromise on your original idea.


Now, having looked at your Twitter feed (I haven’t been stalking, really!), I noticed there’s a special little man in your life. Can you tell us a bit about Ted please?

Oh you noticed? I barely mention Ted! Ha! Ted is my little buddy. He’s a Romanian Rescue and when I first got him he used to bark and growl at everyone (not me) and hide from anyone who tried to touch him, and wouldn’t leave the house because he was so scared of the cars. When I first got him out (only walking five yards in the alley behind the house to start with) and we would try to go to the park, every time a car went by he’d lay down and wouldn’t get up. Slowly he got better and little old ladies would come out of their houses and say ‘He’s doing better isn’t he? Not laying down so much. I’ve got him a biscuit!’ It was very sweet. He’s a really gentle soul at heart and is the king of the park. Every dog thinks Ted is their best friend because he loves to play. He’s getting over his traumas now, and I’m so proud of him. He’s like me though – cocky on the surface, a nervous over-thinker underneath. He likes his little routines.


On a scale of 1-10, how excited are you about coming to First Monday Crime?

Very! Especially after a mess up last year when my old American publicist booked a flight on the wrong day so I had to cancel. I’d say I’m an 11.


Thanks so much for answering my questions, Sarah.


So, what is Cross Her Heart all about then? Let’s look at the blurb before my short review.


The Blurb


Is it Lisa?
Haunted by a tragic past, all Lisa wants is a quiet life with her daughter, Ava. And when she meets a new man, things seem to be falling into place. But Lisa is hiding a secret so momentous it could shatter her entire world…

Is it Ava?
When sixteen-year-old Ava saves a young boy’s life, she becomes a local hero. But never in a million years could she have anticipated the fallout of her actions…

Is it Marilyn?
Marilyn has the perfect life. Her husband, her job, her house—she seems to have it all. But she could never admit to her best friend Lisa the lies she tells herself to get through the day…

One moment will change these three women’s lives forever. And the secrets they’ve been keeping could destroy them all.

Cross Her Heart

My Review

I don’t often get the chance to write my review so quickly after I’ve read a book but I’ve nabbed five minutes before cooking tea for my kids! It’s half-term so I’m lucky to have finished the book at all. But this was a book I couldn’t put down. I have to be honest and say I haven’t read Behind Her Eyes but I think this is a good thing. As Sarah said in her answers, she’s hoping Cross Her Heart isn’t a tricky second book (in terms of psychological thrillers). For me though, it’s the first and I have nothing to compare it with.

Written in first person, present tense, for the three main narrators – Lisa, Ava and Marilyn – there’s an immediacy with the story that draws you quickly into their lives. Each has a secret that cannot be shared despite the fact that Lisa and Marilyn have been best friends for ten years and Ava is Lisa’s daughter. The story is divided into three parts. The first section is at a slightly slower pace as we learn about the three women. However, the tension is still there as the story builds to an event that should be a cause for celebration but instead brings all of their lives crashing down. The second part deals with the immediate after-effects while the third twists the story yet again.

I daren’t tell you anymore as I don’t want to give any spoilers away but this book is like a maze of mirrors. You think you can see the way forward but distortions prevent you from seeing the true picture. I absolutely loved this book! And now I have to go and cook tea before my children start screaming at me.


You can buy Cross Her Heart here or better still, come along to First Monday Crime on 4th June (details below) and buy a copy and get it signed by Sarah Pinborough.




About the author

Sarah Pinborough

Sunday Times No.1 bestseller SARAH PINBOROUGH is the critically acclaimed and award-winning, adult and YA author. Her previous novel, Behind Her Eyes, has sold in 25 territories, been shortlisted for the Crime and Thriller Book of the Year at the British Book Awards and was a Sunday Times No.1 bestseller in hardback and paperback. She is also a screenwriter who has written for the BBC and has several original television projects in development.
You can follow her on Twitter @sarahpinborough


Sarah is just one of the fabulous authors lined up for June’s First Monday Crime. Appearing with her will be Lisa Hall, Harry Brett (aka Henry Sutton) and Martyn Waites. Jake Kerridge will be asking the questions. It will be the last First Monday Crime before the break for the summer so don’t miss out! Click here to book your free ticket!











Review – #TheCliffHouse by Amanda Jennings @MandaJJennings

The Cliff House is Amanda Jennings’ fourth novel and is published today by HQ Stories. My review copy came from NetGalley.


The Blurb

Some friendships are made to be broken

Cornwall, summer of 1986.

The Davenports, with their fast cars and glamorous clothes, living the dream in a breathtaking house overlooking the sea.

If only… thinks sixteen-year-old Tamsyn, her binoculars trained on the perfect family in their perfect home.

If only her life was as perfect as theirs.

If only Edie Davenport would be her friend.

If only she lived at The Cliff House…


The Cliff House

My Review

Although this is Amanda Jennings’ fourth book, it’s her second novel set in Cornwall, In Her Wake being the first. You can tell that Amanda Jennings loves Cornwall by her evocative descriptions of the county. At the same time, she contrasts that beauty with the brutality of economic downturn.

Set in 1986, the tin mines, the greatest source of revenue, have been closed. Many communities are hit by the closures, not least Tamsyn’s family. Her brother struggles to find employment and her grandfather is ill with a lung disease caused by a lifetime of working in the mines. Her father died a few years before so her mother has two jobs – working in a fish and chip shop and cleaning at The Cliff House, owned by the Davenports.

This is another issue that Amanda Jennings weaves into the book – second homes in Cornwall owned by the wealthy. Tamsyn’s bedroom is tiny and her mother doesn’t have a bedroom at all, giving it up for her ill father-in-law. So The Cliff House has great allure for Tamsyn. When it had been empty, she and her father had visited it and swum in the pool. Now there’s a family living there for the whole summer. When she tries to sneak in and swim, she’d discovered by Edie Davenport. Instead of telling on her, Edie and Tamsyn become friends and have the whole summer ahead of them. But it’s a summer that’s destined to change their lives forever.

From the offset there’s unease in the story and Amanda Jennings uses this to great effect. Crows are used as omens and there’s always a sense that the Davenports are too good to be true. It’s hard to know where to place this novel in genre terms. Although there is a psychological thriller element, it also reminded me of a great family saga with two families twisted into knots that can’t easily be undone. Obsession and claustrophobia go hand in hand and hover like storm clouds throughout the novel. Although there are a few twists and turns throughout the book, it’s really a story that builds with a crescendo.

People often want to have a perfect summer. I’m not sure why but I suspect it has more to do with memories than the moment in time. If you’re looking for a perfect read for your perfect summer holiday, then look no further. The Cliff House is beautifully written with its contrasting elements of beauty and brutality, love and obsession, loss and perfection.

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


About the Author

Amanda Jennings

Amanda Jennings writes psychological suspense and is the author of Sworn Secret, which was published in the UK, US and Italy. It was an Amazon kindle Top 5 bestseller in the UK, a Top 100 bestseller in the US, and reached the number 1 spot in Italy. Her second book, The Judas Scar, was published in 2014 and optioned shortly after by a UK film and television production company. In Her Wake, is her most recently published book. It’s set in Cornwall, where her mother’s side of the family is from, and where she spent long and very happy childhood summers. Amanda is a regular guest on BBC Berkshire’s weekly Book Club and enjoys meeting readers at libraries, book clubs and literary festivals. She writes a blog and is active on Twitter. She lives just outside Henley-on-Thames with her husband, three daughters and an unruly menagerie of pets.




Book review – #ItWasHer by @markhillwriter


Last year I wrote a review for Two O’clock Boy by Mark Hill (you can read it here). It was the first book in the DI Ray Drake series and was full of twists and turns. It’s just be reissued under the new title His First Lie. Mark’s second book It Was Her is published today and the two books have matching His n’ Her covers. Before I give you my review, here’s the blurb.

The Blurb

Twenty years ago, Tatia was adopted into a well-off home where she seemed happy, settled. Then the youngest boy in the family dies in an accident, and she gets the blame.

Did she do it?

Tatia is cast out, away from her remaining adopted siblings Joel and Poppy. Now she yearns for a home to call her own. So when she see families going on holiday, leaving their beautiful homes empty, there seems no harm in living their lives while they are gone. But somehow, people keep ending up dead.

Did she kill them?

As bodies start to appear in supposedly safe neighbourhoods, DI Ray Drake and DS Flick Crowley race to find the thinnest of links between the victims. But Drake’s secret past is threatening to destroy everything.




My Review

Sometimes with a series you can get away with starting at book 2 but in my opinion, you really need to read book 1 (Two O’clock Boy/ His First Lie) first in order for It Was Her to make sense. And seeing that Two O’clock Boy made it into my top ten reads of last year, it’s a corker of a book. So, how does It Was Her measure up to its older book sibling?

I’ve deliberately used the term ‘sibling’, as at the heart of this novel, is a story about siblings – Poppy, Will, Joel and Sarah – a merry band of brothers and sisters. Or are they? With my own three children, I regularly hear, ‘I hate you!’, ‘Idiot!’ and my personal favourite, ‘Bum face!’. But when sibling rivalry turns nasty, anything can happen.

DI Ray Drake and DS Flick Crowley are back at work after the shared trauma of their last case. It should have brought them closer together but instead there’s tension between them. There are things that Flick now knows, things she has seen that she can’t un-see. Her knowledge makes Ray nervous. With one word she could destroy both their careers. But there are more important events that need their attention – the Goldilocks Killings. Homeowners are being brutally murdered in their own homes. This murderer wants more than just porridge.

Like its older sibling, there are twists and turns galore in this book too. Past events illuminate the present for the reader while Ray and Flick struggle to make sense of the clues before them. But they must find the answer and quickly. Goldilocks hasn’t finished yet – there are plenty more homes to visit.

So, has It Was Her measured up to His First Lie? Honestly, I think it’s better. From the opening scenes, the descriptions are sumptuous, the characters believable and the tension palpable. I was gripped throughout. When I first got the book, I read the opening five chapters on the train and nearly missed my stop. I then had to put it away to finish another novel but I was itching to get back to this one. It didn’t even feel as though I’d had a break from it. If you love police procedural books and haven’t read any Mark Hill novels yet, then I strongly suggest you start. If Two O’clock Boy/His First Lie announced the arrival of Mark Hill in the Crime genre, then It Was Her establishes him as a leading name here to stay. No pressure for book 3.

You can buy Mark Hill’s books here.


About The Author

Hill Mark (c) Tom Watkins (1)

Mark Hill is a London-based full-time writer of novels and scripts. Formerly he was a journalist and a producer at BBC Radio 2 across a range of major daytime shows and projects. He has won two Sony Gold Awards.




Blog Tour #DeadBlind by @RebeccaJBradley

A couple of months ago I took part in a blog tour for Fighting Monsters by Rebecca Bradley, the third book in her DI Hannah Robbins series.  I’m delighted to welcome Rebecca back for her latest release Dead Blind, featuring DI Ray Patrick. It’s a fascinating story and I have the opening extract for you. But first, the blurb.


The Blurb

How do you identify a ruthless killer when you can’t even recognise your own face in mirror?

Returning to work following an accident, Detective Inspector Ray Patrick refuses to disclose he now lives with face blindness – an inability to recognise faces. 

As Ray deceives his team, he is pulled into a police operation that targets an international trade in human organs. And when he attempts to bring the organisation down, Ray is witness to a savage murder.

But it’s a killer he will never remember.

The pressure mounts as Ray attempts to keep his secret and solve the case alone. With only his ex-wife as a confidant, he feels progressively isolated.

Can he escape with his career and his life intact?


The Extract


St Andrew’s Church, climbing out of the ground towards the oppressive granite sky overhead, passed by on his left much faster than DI Ray Patrick would have liked.

Rain lashed down, slamming into the windshield, the wipers working hard to clear the way. Visibility close to non-existent.

The orange needle of the speedometer nosed around the clock and touched close to double the legal speed limit for the road.

‘This bastard is crazy,’ said DS Elaine Hart from the passenger seat.

‘You didn’t pick that up from behind the locked door?’ Ray asked.

‘Well …’ She laughed.

The glow from the street lights turned the evening darkness into a sepia-toned jumble of shapes which were fractured by the blue strobes emitted from the grille of the unmarked police car.

The road wasn’t particularly wide, and though it was late a trickle of traffic still crawled through the barrage of rain, as it always did, no matter what borough of London you were in, and Stoke Newington was no different. There were few pedestrians about, umbrellas pushed up against the onslaught, heads pulled down as far into collars as they’d go, but they stopped and stared as the two cars flew past them.

Ray needed all his senses about him. He was glad to have Elaine with him to update the control room and provide the running commentary. They could hear the location of their backup through their radios, so they knew an intercept was on the cards.

The Fabia they were following swerved and completed a wide overtake of the driver in front of him, who panicked as he heard the two-tone siren and saw the blues flash in his rear-view mirror. He stopped dead in the middle of the road. Ray swore. It was an all too common response. The sound and lights crashed into a driver’s brain, causing them to freeze up.

But Ray was ready; he pulled around the stationary car and kept his forward momentum.

‘Left left left onto West Bank,’ commentated Elaine as the blue Fabia skidded hard in that direction, its tyres squealing as the driver made the manoeuvre. She braced herself, one hand on the dashboard, for what she knew would come.

Ray slowed as much as he could and took the turn, feeling the back end of the car give from under them slightly. The late-summer day had ended in a massive downpour and conditions were poor for the sharp turn.

‘Shit.’ Elaine pushed her glasses back up the bridge of her nose. West Bank was filled with cars parked on both sides, and it was so narrow that it was only possible for one car to drive down at once. Terraced houses lined the left-hand side of the street and thick evergreen shrubs and trees lined the right.

The problem was the parked cars. A bead of sweat slid down Ray’s spine, pricking at his skin as it did so.

They’d been after this guy for the last six months and he’d finally slipped up. After he’d murdered his third victim it appeared that he might have got sloppy, or overconfident, or overexcited. A partial print had been found on the latest woman’s belt buckle. It wasn’t enough for a conviction as it could reasonably have belonged to someone she’d met before her murder. He could have had a plausible explanation, but the fact that they were now in a high-speed chase with him gave Ray reason enough to believe they had their man. All they needed to do was prove it once they had him locked up. As they chased him down, Ray knew the full forensic team was tearing his house apart, and he was confident they would find evidence of the crimes.

But, fucking hell, he drove like a bastard. He wanted him locked up and answering for what he’d done, not wrapped around a lamp-post or tree.

You would never have guessed there was a problem when he answered the door. You would have considered him the lover – but really, what does a killer look like? This guy looked like a stereotypical teacher. Late twenties, thick bouncy hair, dark-framed glasses and a V-neck Argyle jumper with open-neck shirt underneath. He looked smart, together in himself. He’d invited them in and put the kettle on. They were only there for a chat, after all. But before Ray knew it, the guy was out of the front door, having locked it behind him, and was away in his car.

They’d been locked in the flat. Inside! Now that was a new one. One he and Elaine would never live down. The rest of the team would give them hell about it. They’d had to break down a door – to get out.

Son of a bitch.

Now he was leading them a merry dance, and Ray didn’t like it. He didn’t like it one bit. His driving was reckless for the time of day and conditions. The rain was coming down in sheets, the windscreen wipers sliding at full speed. Ray lifted his foot off the gas slightly, gave him some room. ‘We’re not going to kill this guy tonight,’ he said to Elaine as the headlights splintered in the water through his windshield.

The car in front weaved through tight spots, cars parked too close together on opposite sides of the road. A wing mirror flew off, rose upwards before it crashed to the road.

‘Sounds good to me. Too much paperwork involved in that.’ She held on to the edge of her seat with one hand as she updated the control room as to their whereabouts and speed on a continual basis with the other.

The Fabia was pulling away, picking up speed. It started to swerve on the narrow road.

‘What the hell’s he trying to do?’

‘I don’t think he wants to talk to us,’ she answered.

‘Really? But we’re such nice people. I don’t see his problem.’ Ray dropped his speed again, 35 mph – the conditions were getting worse. Elaine updated control. Other cars were close by and would intercept shortly, all Ray had to do was keep his eyes on him.

Where the road became Holmdale Terrace the parked cars diminished and the road widened. The Fabia weaved about even more.

‘You think he watches too much television and thinks we’re going to ram him?’ asked Elaine.

‘What, 1970s television?’

‘Well, he’d get further if he stayed in a straight line.’

He was on the wrong side of the road again and a sharp left-hand bend was approaching.

‘Shit, is he going to pull back across?’ Ray dropped his speed a little more while the driver in front stayed on the wrong side of the road as he travelled the bend.

There was a burst of horns.

A squeal of tyres.

Metal scraped against metal.

Rain continued to slash down.

Then, directly in front of them, on the bend, another car, another driver, head turned to look at the lunatic he’d managed to avoid, the crazy driver who’d made this other guy correct to the wrong side of the road to avoid a head-on collision – and this second car was headed straight for them.

There was no time. Ray saw the hint of anger and frustration on the driver’s face, the relief that he wasn’t dead, as Elaine’s scream perforated his brain. The word brake flashed into his head with the scream.

But; time.

Time was both stretched and over. Ray didn’t have the time to get the brake signal from his brain to his leg. The other driver barely had time to turn back and look in the direction his car was moving, moving on the wrong side of the road after it had swerved and missed one collision.

Elaine didn’t have the time to think of her children, but the image was seared into her pupils.

The sound of smashing, crushing, twisting metal could be heard through the driving rain by the approaching officers who were there to back up Ray and Elaine.


My Review

Well, what an opening! It’s obvious from the extract that DI Ray Patrick and DS Elaine Hart are involved in a terrible car accident. Now, I don’t think it’s a spoiler to tell you  they both survive but are left with injuries that keep them off work for a while. Elaine has an obvious scar on her face but Ray has a brain injury that he keeps quiet. He no longer recognises people’s faces. And not just people he’s only met a few times but also the people he loves the most in the world – his children. He only feels able to tell his ex-wife about his condition. Scared he would lose his job, Ray doesn’t tell his colleagues. But how can he lead a team if he doesn’t even know them?

This is such an intriguing premise. I only found out about Prosopagnosia (face blindness) recently. My youngest child saw a programme about it on CBBC with a girl taking part in a study at Bournemouth University. I’d heard about super recognisers who never forget a face and the research at the University also looks at this. So how do people with face blindness identify others? Although we are most recognisable by our faces, we have other identifiers as well.

This is used to great effect in the book. DI Ray Patrick has to find other identifiers for his team – hairstyle, accent and in Elaine’s case, the scar on her face caused by the accident. Caused by him. The guilt he feels permeates his life. And the guilt is compounded when Ray witnesses a murder. Knowing he won’t be able to identify the killer, Ray is determined to find the necessary evidence, no matter the consequences. Rebecca Bradley skilfully writes the dilemmas that Ray faces and creates an almost claustrophobic atmosphere as Ray becomes more and more isolated from his team.

DI Ray Patrick is a uniquely flawed detective. I’m not sure if Rebecca has written this as a standalone or whether she plans a series but I for one would like to read more about DI Ray Patrick. Can he survive in the police force with this disability? You’ll have to read Dead Blind to find out.

Click here to buy Dead Blind.


About 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.










The Good Doctor of Warsaw Q&A with Elisabeth Gifford @elisabeth04liz @CorvusBooks

Earlier this year, I was captivated by The Good Doctor of Warsaw by Elisabeth Gifford. You can read my review here. I’ve had the chance to ask Elisabeth a few questions about her novel and the amazing true stories behind it.

The Good Doctor of Warsaw

Is it fair to say that this book has been a labour of love for you?

It has indeed. I came across some quotes by Korczak, a sort of Polish Dr Barnardo, at a teaching conference and they changed the way I parented and taught, concentrating less on doing everything correctly – as I perceived it – and spending more time trying to see things from a child’s point of view, getting to know who they were and what they needed. That never stops of course in any relationship. A more slow and mindful approach to childhood in the midst of all today’s pressure leads to happier children and parents. We agonise over things like to work or not to work as a mother, when to be honest the child isn’t going to mind either way so long as you know them and they feel listened to and safe and able to grow into who they are meant to be. Also the history of the people in the Warsaw ghetto was new to me and with a Polish Jewish great grandmother in the family, I felt it was important to share that history with the next generation.


What kind of research did you do?

I read everything I could about Korczak and then I came across Roman, the son of two teachers who worked in the Warsaw ghetto in Korczak’s orphanage. Misha and Sophia were among the 1% out of a million to survive the ghetto. Over about 10 years we worked on Roman’s stories of his parents and I haunted libraries such as the British Library for background research.


Although I knew that Dr Korczak was a real man, I didn’t realise initially that Misha and Sophia were real too. At that point, the emotional pull of this book went up several notches for me. With lots of factual elements to adhere to, how easy or difficult was it to write this book?

It was a responsibility to try and get things right. Roman was very strict and there was a lot of correcting and rewriting as needed. At times there were things we just didn’t know such as what people said or did on a certain day so I had to extrapolate from research – such as how they first met. The publisher and Roman gave their blessing for me to do this otherwise the bare lists of facts make the story difficult to read. So it is a true story but told as historical fiction. I did not change any facts however.

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.

There must be a huge sense of responsibility when you write about the Holocaust. How did you cope with that?

It was quite a heavy thought but it wasn’t my story so the writing was always at the service of bringing the story of those who had lived through those years. Above all it seemed important to pass on their history and I realised that if I didn’t tell Sophia, Misha and Korczak’s story in that way then it would be lost – so I just did my very best.


And how did you cope with the traumatic nature of the story?

I concentrated on showing how such a shocking thing could come about so quickly and in such a civilized part of the world. In a decade the world changed. However I found I couldn’t describe some things such as what actually happened at Treblinka in any detail and I cut back on repeating some things. Also, the Nazi regime is history now, whereas Korczak’s message of empathy, justice and respect for others only gets stronger. Telling his story was part of the hope that remains in spite of such a terrible tragedy. Most of the children’s stories were lost at Treblinka and so this book was a way to bring their voices back. I still cry when a read an account of the day the ghetto was cleared of 4,000 children and how Korczak refused to leave them and take his chance of freedom.


What’s next for you?

I’m returning to the Scottish islands to write about St Kilda and then a book based around the whalers that came into early contact with Inuit peoples. We are planning to make a trip to St Kilda, the most remote island in the British Isles, 50 miles beyond the Hebrides. Can’t wait.


Thank you so much for answering my questions.

You can buy The Good Doctor of Warsaw here.


About the author

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.

#SaltLane blog tour @william1shaw @riverrunbooks @hannah_robbo @annecater

Salt Lake Blog Tour Poster

My turn today on the blog tour for Salt Lane by William Shaw. A big thank you to Hannah at Riverrun books and Anne Cater for inviting me to be part of the tour. And to William Shaw who indulged my ‘pick me, pick me’ message on social media.


The blurb

No-one knew their names, the bodies found in the water. There are people here, in plain sight, that no-one ever notices at all.

DS Alexandra Cupidi has done it again. She should have learnt to keep her big mouth shut, after the scandal that sent her packing – resentful teenager in tow – from the London Met to the lonely Kent coastline. Even murder looks different in this landscape of fens, ditches and stark beaches, shadowed by the towers of Dungeness power station. Murder looks a lot less pretty.

The man drowned in the slurry pit had been herded there like an animal. He was North African, like many of the fruit pickers that work the fields. The more Cupidi discovers, the more she wants to ask – but these people are suspicious of questions.

It will take an understanding of this strange place – its old ways and new crimes – to uncover the dark conspiracy behind the murder. Cupidi is not afraid to travel that road. But she should be. She should, by now, have learnt.

Salt Lane is the first in the new DS Alexandra Cupidi series. With his trademark characterisation and flair for social commentary, William Shaw has crafted a crime novel for our time that grips you, mind and heart.

salt lane cover

My review

You may remember back in 2016 when I raved about a book called The Birdwatcher. You can read my review here. The story was set in Dungeness and was about police officer William South. He was asked to help a new CID officer, DS Alexandra Cupidi, with her murder case. In Salt Lane, DS Cupidi takes centre stage, no longer a minor character, and she proves to be quite the star turn.

I’m not sure where to begin in telling you how much I love this book. OK, firstly, I’m a slow reader normally. I started this book Friday afternoon and I finished it Saturday afternoon. All 450 pages. I hardly ever do this. So what gripped me?

Plot. In the Acknowledgements, William Shaw admits that the premise of the book came from misreading someone else’s story. How could a woman be both dead and alive at the same time? It’s a puzzle for DS Cupidi and her team but it’s not the only murder on their patch. A North African man is drowned in a slurry pit on a local farm. Salt Lane handles immigration and the exploitation of immigrants in a sensitive fashion but without shying away from the horror. There are lots of threads in this novel and it’s testament to William Shaw’s skill as a storyteller that everything dovetails together.

Character. DS Alexandra Cupidi is ace! She’s not sleek or particularly PC. She’s very tall and often has food stains on her clothes. She tends to speak without thinking and her reason for leaving the Met and dragging her teenage daughter to a desolate part of Kent is revealed in quite a dramatic way. But I also love DC Jill Ferriter. If Barbie was dressed as a police detective, she’d probably look a lot like Jill. Based on first impressions, Cupidi doesn’t think much of her young DC but Ferriter soon proves her worth. Dealing with her colleagues is one thing but Alexandra also has to cope with her unhappy daughter. Work keeps getting in the way so she turns to her own mother, Helen, for help. Theirs isn’t the easiest mother/daughter relationship so Cupidi finds herself stretched all round.

Setting. I remember in my review for The Birdwatcher saying how much I loved the desolate setting of Dungeness. Salt Lane broadens out more to include the local farmland and surrounding countryside. But it also takes Cupidi back to London in an attempt to solve the riddle of one of the murders and even to Hertfordshire.

Although I’ve separated out these three things, they don’t stick out separately in the book. Everything flows together just beautifully. As I said before, it has to be a pretty special book for me to read it so quickly. Now I’m wondering if I read it too fast. Maybe I should have slowed down a little to appreciate its brilliance more. I just loved it. And Salt Lane has booked itself a place in my Top Ten Reads for 2018.


To find out more about William Shaw and buy his books, click here.


About the author

William Shaw Author Pic

William Shaw was born in Newton Abbot, Devon, grew up in Nigeria and lived for sixteen years in Hackney. He has been shortlisted for the CWA Historical Dagger, longlisted for the Theakstons Crime Novel of the Year and nominated for a Barry Award. A regular at festivals, he organises panel talks and CWA events across the south east. A regular at festivals, he organises panel talks and CWA events across the south east.

He is the author of the Breen & Tozer crime series set in sixties London: A Song from Dead Lips, A House of Knives and A Book of Scars; and the standalone The Birdwatcher. For over twenty years he has written on popular culture and sub-culture for various publications including the Observer and the New York Times. He lives in Brighton.

Blog Tour – Death of an Actress by Antony M Brown @ccjury @theMirrorBooks #DeathOfAnActress


Last year, you may remember that I took part in the tour for Antony M Brown’s first book, The Green Bicycle Mystery. It was the first in the Cold Case Jury series of looking at old cases that are particularly mysterious. Death of an Actress examines the disappearance of Eileen ‘Gay’ Gibson, a young actress who goes missing from a luxury liner off the coast of Africa. I have an extract for you plus a short review. But first, the blurb.


The Blurb

In October 1947, a luxury liner steams across the equator off the coast of Africa. A beautiful actress disappears from her first-class cabin and a dashing deck steward is accused of her murder. The evidence against him appears damning, and although he protests his innocence, he is found guilty and sentenced to death.

Using recently discovered police files, the full story is told for the first time – with new evidence, including the original detective reports and statements from witnesses not called to trial.

Was it murder? Or was the steward telling the truth?

Take your seat on the Cold Case Jury…


The Extract

The following extract is from Chapter 6 of Death of an Actress. It reconstructs the moment James Camb confessed to being inside Gay’s cabin when she died. His words are taken verbatim from his signed police statement.


The room sank into a deathly quiet. The detectives looked impassively at the deck steward, who cast his eyes down at the desk. Each minute dragged and seemed like ten. The tension mounted, but still not a word was said. The silence was shattered when Camb scraped his chair across the floor towards the table and stubbed out his cigarette. “Can you take this down in shorthand? I will make a quick statement.”

Without showing any emotion, Quinlan nodded, but his pulse quickened. Was this a confession or would Camb merely repeat his story? “We will take it down just as quickly on the typewriter,” Plumley responded. He took a large Imperial typewriter from the table at the back of the room and wound a clean sheet of paper around its platen.


“James Camb,” the detective sergeant announced, “you are not obliged to say anything unless you wish to, but anything you say will be written down and may be used in evidence. Do you understand?”

Camb affirmed he did, and to the slow tapping of keys dictated his statement. “I went to Miss Gibson’s cabin at about 11 o’clock on Friday 17 October 1947, and during the course of the conversation with her I made an appointment to meet her that night. I knocked at the door after I had finished work at about one o’clock, but there was no answer.”

Camb waited for Plumley to catch up, before continuing. “I opened the door of her cabin and found it was empty. I then went forward to the Well Deck, where I sat for about half an hour smoking. I then returned to Miss Gibson’s cabin at about two o’clock and found her there.”

Camb was changing his story. Quinlan knew the suspect was about to reveal more information, but how much more? He listened, the anticipation rising with every sentence.

“After a short conversation I got into bed, with her consent. Intimacy took place. Whilst in the act of sexual intercourse she clutched at me, foaming at the mouth. I immediately ceased the act, but she was very still. I felt for her heartbeats, but could not find any. She was at that time very still, and I cannot offer any explanation as to how the bells came to be rung, as I most definitely did not touch them myself. Thinking she had fainted, I tried artificial respiration on her. Whilst doing this the nightwatchman knocked at the door and attempted to open it. I shut the door again, saying it was all right.

“Then I panicked, as I thought he had gone to the bridge to report to the officer of the watch, as I did not want to be found in such a compromising position. I bolted the door, and again tried artificial respiration. After a few minutes I could not find a sign of life.”

The patter of typewriter keys stopped as Camb hesitated. He did not know whether revealing everything was the correct course of action, but having been up for a straight 24 hours, he only wanted to get this over and sleep. What he said next would shock the world and bring the noose to within an inch of his neck.



Death of an actress - court 3

My Review

As I wrote last time for this series, I haven’t been on a jury. When reading  this novel, I felt keenly the responsibility of making the right decision in this case. Antony M Brown sets out the book using true police and court records and photos from the court case (see above), as well as fictionalising some of the events.

And they are very strange events. Eileen ‘Gay’ Gibson was a young aspiring actress. She was returning to the UK after starring in a play in South Africa. She had letters of introduction for theatres so it appeared that she had ambitious plans for her acting career. However, there were also rumours she was pregnant. Was she going back to the UK to seek a termination or give birth away from the prying eyes of her strict parents? We’ll never know because Gay Gibson disappeared. James Camb was the last person to see her alive. It all appears fairly straightforward. But as Antony M Brown shows, this case is anything but straightforward.

I so much want to tell you more about the evidence but like a good member of any jury, I can’t discuss the case. Antony M Brown outlines all the evidence and then asks us, the readers, to make our own decision. This is a truly fascinating crime and a recent BBC TV programme, The Porthole Mystery, explored the trial of James Camb. Did he murder Gay Gibson? Or was it manslaughter or misadventure? You’ll have to read Death of an Actress to examine the evidence for yourself before making your own verdict.

When you read crime fiction, you’re always thinking about the whodunit – who’s responsible for the crime. But with Antony M Brown’s books, a suspect is already in place. The question then is whether he or she really did do it. And after reading the evidence you can go to to give your verdict. There are more books planned for the Cold Case Jury and I’m looking forward to seeing what other past crimes Antony M Brown is going to illuminate for us.



To find out more about Antony M Brown and buy his books click here or  here.


I’d like to thank Melanie Sambells of Mirror Books for asking me to take part in the tour.


About the author


Antony M. Brown is an award-winning essayist, former magazine editor-in-chief and member of the Crime Writers’ Association. He published several Cold Case Jury e-books – true crime mysteries in which the reader is invited to deliver the verdict on what they believe might have happened – before signing a four book deal with Mirror Books in January 2017.






Blog tour – Fault Lines by Doug Johnstone #FaultLines @doug_johnstone @orendabooks @annecater


FINAL Fault Lines blog poster 2018

I’m delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for Fault Lines by Doug Johnstone. I’d like to thank Orenda Books and Anne Cater for inviting me to take part. Feel free to check out my blog buddy for today The Book Trail. I have an extract for you but first, the blurb.


The Blurb

A little lie … a seismic secret … and the cracks are beginning to show…

In a reimagined contemporary Edinburgh, where a tectonic fault has opened up to produce a new volcano in the Firth of Forth, and where tremors are an everyday occurrence, volcanologist Surtsey makes a shocking discovery.
On a clandestine trip to new volcanic island The Inch, to meet Tom, her lover and her boss, she finds his lifeless body, and makes the fatal decision to keep their affair, and her discovery, a secret. Desperate to know how he died, but also terrified she’ll be exposed, Surtsey’s life quickly spirals into a nightmare when someone makes contact – someone who claims to know what she’s done…

Faultlines final Cover aw_preview (1)

The Extract

Chapter 1

The moment she set foot on the Inch she felt something was wrong. She tied the three-seater RIB to a mooring post on the jetty and turned. The island looked the same, black sand shimmering in the low summer light, the sun’s rays bouncing down the Forth and hitting the island in a low-slung blaze. Beyond the beach hardened lava flows billowed down from the volcanic vents that dominated the island. Scraps of moss and sea grass cut green through the black and grey of the rocky terrain, over the years they’d brought life to the newborn land and clung on.

It was too quiet, Surtsey realised, that was the problem. Where were the gulls and crows? Scientists had been coming to the island since it emerged in a giant plume of volcanic ash twenty-five years ago. The birds knew that humans meant possible food and usually greeted their arrival with a flurry of squawks and shrieks. But she was alone, just the low ruffle of waves on the beach, the hollow thud of her rigid-hull boat bobbing against the jetty.

And where was Tom’s boat? He didn’t always moor at the jetty, sometimes he landed round the coast, paranoid about them being seen together even out here in the middle of the firth. But that was such a hassle and he’d been relaxed about it recently, so Surtsey was surprised not to see it tied up.

She did a slow three-sixty, the salty bite of the sea air in her nose, and wondered what she was missing. Inchkeith to the northwest, its light house and derelict battlements silhouetted against the setting sun. Behind it Burntisland and the three bridges, a mess of struts and cables, supports and towers. Round to Granton and Leith harbour, the beaches of Portobello and Joppa hidden by the island’s peaks from this side. It was deliberate that they met on the north side, in case of prying eyes with strong binoculars. Surtsey looked up at the twin volcanic peaks, brooding in the dusk. Surtsey had been up those slopes, explored every scrap of the Inch over many visits since she began her studies. So lucky to be a volcanologist and have this on her doorstep, the best laboratory in the world with Edinburgh University leading research.

She looked to the east, the flat expanse of East Lothian. She got a flutter of unease at the missing Cockenzie power station chimneys. They’d been a landmark of her childhood in Joppa, and their recent demolition left a flicker of longing in her heart. Further east was Berwick Law then open sea, tankers drifting out there, wash glittering in the light.

Where was he?

She checked her phone. No new message, just the text from earlier:

Fancy a picnic tonight? Usual time and place. Tx

‘Picnic’ was a stupid euphemism, Tom trying to be careful. Unnecessary, since it was from the phone he only used for her, the phone his wife didn’t know about.

It had been going on for six months. The first time was after a drinks thing at uni, celebrating a new grant award for the research group, money that would keep everyone coming back to the Inch for years. After cheap Prosecco in the Grant Institute at King’s Buildings a handful of them moved on to beers at The Old Bell. Surtsey was drunk enough to flirt with him and to be flattered by his attention. He was twenty years older and married, but he was sharp, had authority and a certain charm, still handsome and trim. And he was ridiculously grateful, one reason she kept it going, the look in his eyes when she undressed in front of him. He was getting to fuck a firm twenty-five year old for the first time since his wife had been that age, and he was like an excitable puppy. It was so different to sex with Brendan, ages with her, cute and skinny, innocent and uncomplicated.

She hit reply on her phone:

I’m here. Where r u? x

She walked off the jetty and jumped onto the beach. Even though she knew the geological processes that made it she was still amazed by the black sand, glistening like oil where it was wet, more like iron filings above high tide. She lifted a handful and let it run through her fingers, then brushed her hand on her dress. She wasn’t really a summer dress kind of person, vest tops and jeans usually, but she like to play the young ingénue with Tom, actually enjoyed the stereotype. They both realised the cliché of the situation, older academic having an affair with young PhD student. Surtsey imagined she was in a Richard Curtis film or a corny novel by some middle-aged Oxbridge guy.

There were no footprints in the sand. That didn’t necessarily mean anything, Tom could’ve landed round the coast and come over the ridge. But something about the blankness of the sand unnerved her. And the birds, where were the birds?

She walked up the beach onto the patchy grass and called him. She wasn’t supposed to do that even though he kept it on silent, but something didn’t feel right.

Maybe he got caught up with Alice and the kids at home, unable to make excuses. That went with the territory, of course. He wouldn’t have just forgotten, that wasn’t like him. One of the things Surtsey liked about their set-up was that she was at the forefront of his mind throughout the day. She liked that compared to Brendan, who occasionally treated her like an afterthought.

The phone went to voicemail. She didn’t leave a message.

She walked round the coast towards the scientific hut, its white walls and blue corrugated roof stark against the black landscape. The hut was little more than a bothy with a bed, some basic lab and storage equipment, and a stove in the corner. He wasn’t likely to be there, they never used it, scared of leaving a trace that other department members would find. They always chose somewhere outdoors but sheltered, on their own little island paradise only a couple of miles from Edinburgh. That was part of this whole thing, their shared love of the Inch, the violence of its creation, its settling and erosion, the spread of life across it. An Eden for them to share.

Surtsey had been obsessed with the place her whole life. Just as the Inch was being spewed from the bowels of the earth, a new volcanic island created from an unknown fault line in the Firth of Forth, Surtsey’s mum was in the back of a taxi on the way to the old Royal to give birth to her. Hence the weird name, Louise naming her daughter after another new island born from the sea, the Icelandic island she’d visited as a young volcanologist herself.

Surtsey was at the hut now. She hesitated with her hand at the door then swallowed and pushed it open.

Empty. A blanket stretched across the bed, the stove cold, equipment untouched.

She left and looked around again. Further west was a rise in the rock, dipping down to a small cove. A seagull came out of the darkening sky, a bluster of wings, then landed out of sight behind the mound.

Surtsey walked towards it, her stomach tight. She checked her phone again, no message. She picked her way over the cracked surface, careful in her Converse. She liked the way the trainers looked with the dress, made her feel less prim.

As she approached the edge of the lava flow two crows burst up from behind it, cawing and flapping, a flurry of black feathers. They descended behind the bank, out of sight again.

Surtsey reached the edge of the outcrop. Thirty yards below, on the sand of the cove, a dozen gulls and crows were gathered on a single low rock, a blur of squawking activity, pecking at each other. Surtsey watched for a few moments trying to make sense of it. Gradually she realised they weren’t pecking each other, they were pecking at the rock beneath them.

Then she got it.

It wasn’t a rock it was a body, and they were feasting on it.


Now, that’s what you call an opening chapter! If that’s whetted your appetite, then you can buy Fault Lines here for the e-book or pre order the paperback.


About the author


Doug Johnstone is an author, journalist and musician based in Edinburgh. He’s had eight novels published, most recently Crash Land. His previous novel, The Jump, was a finalist for the McIlvanney Prize for Scottish Crime Novel of the Year. Doug is also a Royal Literary Fund Consultant Fellow. He’s worked as an RLF Fellow at Queen Margaret University, taught creative writing at Strathclyde University and been Writer in Residence at Strathclyde University and William Purves Funeral Directors. He mentors and assesses manuscripts for The Literary Consultancy and regularly tutors at Moniack Mhor writing retreat. Doug has released seven albums in various bands, reviews books for the Big Issue, is player-manager for Scotland Writers Football Club, plays drums for the Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers band, and has a PhD in nuclear physics.

First Monday Crime – Maypril 2018 @1stMondayCrime @ohneKlippo @GJMinett @RobertGoddardUK

FM Maypril 18.2
L-R Simone Buchholz, Robert Goddard, Cathi Unsworth and G.J. Minett


Well, like the ambassador in a certain chocolate advert, I’m going to be ‘really spoiling’ you with blog posts this week, starting with last night’s First Monday Crime. The panellists were Robert Goddard, Cathi Unsworth , Simone Buchholz and G.J. Minett , with Joe Haddow chairing. First up , those all important books.

Anything For Her cover

Anything For Her is G.J. Minett’s 3rd book. Set in Rye, it tells the story of Billy Orr, in his late 20s, who has returned to his home town to visit his ill sister. While there, he meets up with an old girlfriend, Aimi. She’s in an abusive relationship and wants Billy to help her. But is Aimi still the same as she used to be? And more importantly, is Billy?

That Old Black Magic - Cathi Unsworth

Cathi Unsworth has weaved real life events from WW2 into her new novel That Old Black Magic. She looks at Helen Duncan, the last woman to be prosecuted for witchcraft in the UK. This might seem a bit odd but Helen was a medium who appeared to know state secrets about the sinking of the Royal battleship HMS Barham.  She claimed she got the information from contacting dead sailors. Also during WW2, some boys found a body inside a tree in Hagley Woods. Ross Spooner, Unsworth’s fictional police officer, investigates.

Panic Room - Robert Goddard

Panic Room is Robert Goddard’s 27th novel. I think we should probably have given him a standing ovation for that accolade. Panic rooms are normally reserved for those who can really afford them. They may be in city dwellings but often they’re in isolated houses where you might have to wait longer for the police to turn up in the event of a problem. In a panic room, you will normally find food and drink and there’ll be a CCTV system that allows the occupant(s) to see what’s happening in the rest of the house. The door is locked from the inside. Robert’s book is set in West Cornwall and a young woman called Blake is housesitting a large mansion. While staying there, an estate agent comes round to measure up the house and finds a panic room – locked. Who’s in there? Very cleverly, the chapter numbers provide a countdown to the conclusion.

Blue Night - Simone Buchholz

Simone Buchholz’s Blue Night is her first book published in English but the 6th book in her German series about Chastity Riley, a state prosecutor in Hamburg. Fathered by an American soldier based in Germany, Chastity finds herself looking at an organised crime gang who’s dealing in synthetic drugs.  Simone said that her books are more like Westerns than a crime novel. That suggests a showdown!

Joe said that readers are getting more savvy these days. Do the authors feel the pressure?

G.J. Minett said no as he has such great editors. They pick up on things that don’t work and persuade him to change it.

Cathi Unsworth thinks that storytellers are a bit like magicians using sleight of hand. (I think that means staying one step ahead of the reader!)

It might be his 27th novel but Robert Goddard still feels the pressure. Although the technical side of writing is easier, he still has to come up with the ideas.

Simone Buchholz has the issue of dealing with translators as well. Her English translator will often send her emails to clarify exact phrases or ask questions. Simone has even changed her own German version after seeing something from the translator’s perspective.

A member of the audience asked – one thing you like being a full-time writer?

G.J. Minett – not teaching!

Cathi Unsworth – not being a sub-editor on a magazine.

Robert Goddard – the freedom to indulge his imagination. And it’s the only thing he’s good at. Although he did once model for a hardware catalogue.

Simone Buchholz – not only can she raise her voice about issues but she can be heard through her writing.


I have more scribbled notes that are a bit hard to decipher but hopefully that’s enough to give you a flavour of the evening. Now after all this bank holiday nonsense, we’re back to normal next month! So put Monday 4th June in your diaries and book your seat here.  Details for next month’s panel will soon be released so keep an eye on @1stMondayCrime to find out more (*whispers: But I can tell you now, you won’t want to miss it!*).


Now, I don’t normally do more than a couple of blogs a week at most but I have three more coming up this week in the form of blog tours. Tomorrow, I have extracts for Fault Lines by Doug Johnstone and Death of an Actress by Antony M. Brown (plus a short review). Then on Friday I have a review for Salt Lane by William Shaw. After this, I’m going to be slowing down and only doing a few tours and posts as I concentrate on my own writing. But don’t worry, I’ll still be blogging for First Monday Crime.