First Monday Crime is back for September!@1stMondayCrime @claremackint0sh @bethklewis @lucyatkins @VickyNewham @Rod_WR

It’s been a long summer holiday for First Monday Crime as the last session was in June. Since then we’ve had a heatwave and Autumn appears to be coming early with blackberries ripening and leaves falling down. September will soon be here and we need to prepare for First Monday Crime! And it’s a superb panel of fabulous female Crime authors with Clare Mackintosh, Beth Lewis, Lucy Atkins and Vicky Newham. Rod Reynolds is the token male for the night as chair.

Normally I would have an interview with one of the authors for you but as it’s the holidays it’s a bit tricky to get that sorted out. However, earlier this year, I read Let Me Lie by Clare Mackintosh. I thought I’d reviewed it already but it turns out that I haven’t.

The Blurb

The police say it was suicide.

Anna says it was murder.

They’re both wrong.

One year ago, Caroline Johnson chose to end her life brutally: a shocking suicide planned to match that of her husband just months before. Their daughter, Anna, has struggled to come to terms with their loss ever since.

Now with a baby of her own, Anna misses her mother more than ever and starts to question her parents’ deaths. But by digging up their past, she’ll put her future in danger. Sometimes it’s safer to let things lie…

Let Me Lie

My Review

I think it’s fair to say that Clare Mackintosh is Queen of the Twist. She’s held this title ever since her debut novel I Let You Go was published. Let Me Lie continues in this great tradition. We’re plunged into Anna’s grief from the very beginning. To quote Oscar Wilde – ‘To lose one parent may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness’. But this is not carelessness on Anna’ part but a terrible tragedy with both her parents’ committing suicide. How is she supposed to recover from this, especially with a new baby of her own and when she lives in her parents’ house, their memories scattered everywhere? On the anniversary of her mother’s death, a few cards arrive, offering condolence a year on. One of them though is a gaudy anniversary card with a typed message inside – Suicide? Think again. From that moment on, Anna sets out to seek the truth about her parents.

Plot wise, I’m not going to tell you anything else because I don’t want to give any spoilers. There are of course the trademark twists that completely fooled me but it was the character of Anna who intrigued me the most. Not only is she grieving but when she does suspect foul play, everyone arounds her assumes she’s losing the plot – a combination of postnatal depression and grief. Somehow she has to battle against others’ assumptions about her to find the truth. Only one person takes her seriously – recently retired police officer, Murray Mackenzie. He’s not really supposed to investigate but the lure of just one more case proves too much to ignore. As Clare Mackintosh is a former officer, her police characters have that air of authenticity. It’s never just about the procedure as their personal lives reflect their work. For Murray, his wife suffers from mental health issues and keeping her on an even keel is a daily task.

Like her other two books, Let Me Lie gripped me from the beginning and it was always with great reluctance I would put it down to feed my children or do the school run. To sum this story up, I’m going to repeat the quote that Clare Mackintosh uses at the beginning of her novel – Three may keep a secret if two of them are dead (Benjamin Franklin). Brilliant.

The Author

Clare Mackintosh

Clare Mackintosh is the author of the debut novel I Let You Go, which has sold more than a million copies worldwide. It was selected for the Richard and Judy Book Club and won the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year award in 2016. Clare’s second novel, I See You, was a number one Sunday Times bestseller and was also selected for the Richard and Judy Book Club. Both books were voted readers’ favourite, and together they have been translated into over thirty-five languages. Let Me Lie is Clare’s third novel.

Clare is patron of the Silver Star Society, a charity based at the John Radcliffe hospital in Oxford, which supports parents experiencing high-risk or difficult pregnancies. She lives in North Wales with her husband and their three children.


If you want to join us on Monday 3rd September then please click here to reserve your free seat!



Summer Reads Part 1 #TheGirlWhoGotRevenge @Marnie_Riches #DarkPines @willrdean #Him @ClareEmpson2

As I’m writing this it’s tipping down with rain. I think the heatwave is definitely over. But I’ve had the chance to read some fantastic books over the last few weeks of sunshine and need to write reviews before I forget to do so. First up, my favourite kick-ass heroine.

The Girl Who Got Revenge by Marnie Riches

The Blurb

Revenge is a dish best served deadly…

A twelve-year-old girl is found dead at Amsterdam’s port. An old man dies mysteriously in a doctor’s waiting room. Two seemingly unconnected cases, but Inspector Van den Bergen doesn’t think so…

Criminologist George Mackenzie is called in to help crack the case before it’s too late. But the truth is far more deadly than anyone can imagine… Can George get justice for the dead before she ends up six-feet under too?

The Girl Who Got Revenge

My Review

love The Girl Who series by Marnie Riches. This is the fifth novel and it’s important to point out that time moves on with each book. It’s now ten years since George was an undergraduate student on an international placement in Amsterdam. But her love affair with the city hasn’t dwindled although her love affair with Inspector Paul Van den Bergen isn’t exactly rosy. Her work in Cambridge isn’t looking great either so when a trafficking case turns up in Amsterdam, George is more than happy to act as consultant. Paul is pleased too but he appears to be juggling his police work with his new role as a grandfather, trying to make up for his failure as a father. Naturally this puts a strain on his relationship with George.

But there’s plenty of police work to keep them occupied. Once again, Marnie Riches brings two disparate storylines and deftly ties them together. What on earth does a dead twelve-year-old Syrian girl have to do with a dead old Dutch man? On the surface, nothing. But as George and Paul pull away the layers, there is a connection.

The pace of this book is fast and the turbulence that George faces comes across well in the writing. George may be more mature but her temperament hasn’t mellowed. She’s just as feisty as ever. I don’t want to give away any spoilers but the ending is interesting. I don’t know if Marnie has plans for any more The Girl Who books but it’s left open-ended. And if this is the end, then I feel that George has been left in the right place. My lips are sealed.

You can buy The Girl Who Gets Revenge here and it’s now available in paperback along with the rest of the series.

The Author

Marnie Riches

Marnie Riches grew up on a rough estate in Manchester, within sight of the dreaming spires of Strangeways prison. Able to speak five different languages, she gained a Master’s degree in Modern and Medieval Dutch and German from Cambridge University. She has been a punk, a trainee rock star, a pretend artist and professional fundraiser. In her spare time, she likes to run, mainly to offset the wine and fine food she consumes with great enthusiasm.

Having authored the first six books of Harper Collins Children’s Time-Hunters series, she now writes crime thrillers for adults.


Dark Pines by Will Dean

The Blurb


Eyes missing, two bodies lie deep in the forest near a small Swedish town.


Tuva Moodyson, a deaf reporter on a small-time local paper, is looking for the story that could make her career.


A web of secrets. And an unsolved murder from twenty years ago. Can Tuva overcome her fears and track down the killer before she is hunted down?

Dark Pines

My Review

When I started reading this book, it was particularly hot. So a book that transported me to a cold, damp Swedish forest was very welcome! But it wasn’t just the setting that chilled me. A huntsman shot dead is bad enough but the removal of his eyes is particularly creepy. And it’s this information that sends shockwaves around the small town of Gavrik. They’ve been here before – the Medusa killer is back after a twenty year break. For Tuva Moodyson though, a reporter and newcomer to Gavrik, this is the most amazing story of her career.

There is huge attention to detail in this novel and rather than putting me off, I found it drew me into the story more. Tuva is deaf and it was great to see the world through her eyes and hear, or not hear, through her ears. It’s clear that Will Dean has done his research on this and although we are always aware of Tuva’s disability, it’s not one that holds her back. Despite her fears, Tuva pushes on to find the truth. The tension at the end was almost unbearable and I had to actually put the book down for a bit as I was so tense reading it!

This is a stunning debut and rightly deserves its place on the shortlist for Not The Booker prize. It also featured in Zoe Ball’s Book Club. This is the start of a series and Tuva Moodyson will be back next year in Red Snow.

You can buy Dark Pines here.

The Author

Will Dean

Will Dean grew up in the Midlands, living in nine different villages before the age of 18. He was a bookish, daydreaming kid who found comfort in stories and nature (and he still does). After studying at LSE and working in London, he settled in rural Sweden. He built a wooden house in a boggy clearing at the centre of a vast elk forest, and it’s from this base that he compulsively reads and writes.


Him by Clare Empson

The Blurb

It all started with… H I M.

Catherine has become mute. She has witnessed something so disturbing that she simply can’t speak – not to her husband, her children or her friends. The doctors say the only way forward is to look into her past. Catherine needs to start with Him. Lucian.

Catherine met the love of her life at university and was drawn into his elite circle of privileged, hedonistic  friends. But one night it all falls apart and she leaves him, shattering his love forever.

Still, fifteen years later, Lucian haunts every one of Catherine’s quiet moments, and when they are unexpectedly reunited, their love reignites with explosive force.

Can you ever have a second chance at first love?


My Review

I was one of the lucky ones to pick up a proof of this book at Harrogate and I’m so glad I did. I’m still finding it hard to believe that it’s a debut – it’s so accomplished. We start with Now and Catherine is mute due to psychological trauma. The story then moves on to two more different time periods – Fifteen years earlier and Four months before – with both Catherine and Lucian telling the story. This may sound complicated but it really isn’t. The narration slips easily between them all. And what a story! I think this has to be one of the most obsessive and claustrophobic love stories I’ve ever read. I don’t know if Wuthering Heights was an inspiration for Clare Empson or not, but for me, there are definite similarities.

Catherine and Lucian meet at Bristol University. She’s from a middle class family, an only child loved and adored by her parents. Lucian’s family has money and he’s the heir to a country estate (through his uncle). But his father is dead and his mother hates him. In some respects they have nothing in common but they fall desperately in love until something happens and Catherine leaves him. Fifteen years later, their paths cross again.

This book reminded me of the drawings you make with a spirograph – circling in and out of the story, creating an image that doesn’t become completely clear until the end, the intricacies then displayed for all to see. We quickly fall into the characters’ lives. I thought I wouldn’t like Lucian and his crowd of friends but Clare Empson paints a vivid image, warts and all. There’s a sense of despair that comes across well throughout the book. Obviously there are secrets waiting to be unveiled but there was one twist that I found devastating and completely threw me.

Just as the love in this book is obsessive, I found this to be an obsessive read. I really resented have to put it down. It captured me entirely. I can’t wait to see what Clare Empson writes next.

This novel is published on August 23rd and you can pre order Him here.

The Author

Clare Empson

Clare Empson is a journalist with a background in national newspapers – small business editor, finance correspondent and fashion at the Mail on Sunday and The Daily Express, freelance for The Sunday Telegraph, The Sunday Times, the Evening Standard and Tatler amongst others. She currently works as editor/founder of experiential lifestyle website


I’ve just started to read Come and Find Me by Sarah Hilary so I’ll write some more reviews at the end of the holidays. In the meantime, I hope you have a fantastic summer!





Blog Tour – The Language of Secrets by @AusmaZehanat @noexitpress @annecater

language of secrets

Today I’m taking part in the blog tour for The Language of Secrets by Ausma Zehanat Khan, published by No Exit Press. This is the second book in her Khattak/Getty series set in Canada. Thanks to Katherine Sunderland from No Exit Press and Anne Cater for inviting me to take part. First up, the blurb and then an extract to whet your appetite.


The Blurb

An undercover agent has been murdered… but whose side was he on?

Toronto: A local terrorist cell is planning an attack on New Year’s Day. For months, Mohsin Dar has been undercover, feeding information back to Canada’s national security team. Now he’s dead.

Detective Esa Khattak, compromised by his friendship with the murdered agent, sends his partner Rachel Getty into the unsuspecting cell. As Rachel delves deeper into the unfamiliar world of Islam and the group’s circle of trust, she discovers Mohsin’s murder may not have been politically motivated after all. And now she’s the only one who can stop the most devastating attack the country has ever faced.

Language of secrets new cover


The Extract

Chapter 5
On his way out of the INSET offices, Khattak paused to have a word with Gavin Chan, a former colleague. Chan had been a junior member of the team two years ago, especially gifted in telecommunications. If anyone would know about the intercepts, it would be Gavin Chan.

Chan walked him to the elevator, a compact individual with a head of spiky hair and a ferocious sense of attention to duty.

‘You can’t tell me anything, I know. But if you’re part of the operation, you’ll have heard about my sister. I need to know if she’s in immediate danger. Is there any way I could have a look at transcripts of the intercepts?’

Chan stared at the wall, dropping his voice.

‘It won’t help you. There’s thousands of them; you won’t have enough time.’ He stretched his arms behind his back with an impressive display of flexibility. ‘I think I need a coffee. You wouldn’t believe the things that cross my desk.’ He wandered away to the stairs, tipping his head at a side door as he passed. ‘Be careful,’ he mouthed.

Khattak understood at once. Two agents walked off the elevator, nodding as they recognized him. He waited for the passage to clear, then pressed the button to send the elevator back to the ground floor. He crossed to the door Chan had indicated and slipped inside.

Chan preferred to work in a closed cubicle with the pleasant scent of a vanilla candle.
His computer was encrypted, connected to a series of monitors, all of which were dark. To one side of his desk was a copier, a printer, and a security-coded shredder. The desk was a study in organized chaos, dozens of file folders stacked in an order that made sense only to Chan. Placed on top of these was a timecoded memorandum.

The memo from Martine Killiam was addressed to Ciprian Coale, disclosing the name of the agents who were responsible for delivery of the fertilizer to a man named Rahman Aziz.

Khattak frowned. He took it as a personal affront when members of a terrorist cell ascribed the names of God to themselves. Rahman meant the ‘Most Compassionate,’ Aziz the ‘Most Honorable’.

Neither was a fitting choice for a would-be bomb-maker.

He scanned the rest of the memo. The delivery date of the materials was unspecified, a fact that set him on edge. He knew the INSET team was highly competent. It didn’t stop him from worrying that Hassan Ashkouri had discovered a way of moving ahead with his plans.

He heard voices in the corridor outside. The ping of the elevator, a whoosh of doors. Footsteps came closer, then the voices moved away.

He sorted quickly through the folders, scanning dates, times, locations for anything connected to Ruksh. Gavin had been right. It was too much raw data, and he had no means of prioritizing the information he sought. But one folder at the bottom of the
pile caught his attention. It was a dossier on Ashkouri.

Amid the papers and photographs was a biography appended to Ashkouri’s immigration file. A senior construction engineer, Ashkouri had been accepted as a skilled worker into Canada, where he’d rapidly found employment before branching off to form his own consultancy. At his thriving engineering firm, he’d hired three of the congregants at the mosque. Rahman Aziz’s name was also on the list as one of Ashkouri’s employees.

There was no information about Ashkouri’s abandoned course of studies as an Islamic scholar, where he had planned to study, or whether he’d been denied entry or exit visas that would have allowed him to follow his chosen course.

The Ashkouri family was from Baqouba, northeast of Baghdad. They had moved to Baghdad to flee the fighting between American and Iraqi forces. In 2013, they had returned to Baqouba to face additional tragedy with the bombing of the al-Sariya mosque.

Khattak felt the shock of memory. The attack on Sunni worshippers had followed the bombing of Shia neighborhoods and sites of worship, in a cycle of sectarian violence that had spread throughout the country.

His fingers held up a document. Ashkouri’s parents and brothers had been killed in the al-Sariya attack. He had never been married, he had no children. Immediately after the attack, his immigration to Canada had been approved.

But there was nothing that connected Ashkouri to Ruksh. Frustrated, he tried Gavin’s desk drawer, convinced that his ex-colleague had walked him to the elevator for a reason.

On the top of a pile was a blue folder similar to the one Martine Killiam had given Khattak. He flicked it open.

It was the same collection of photographs that were in the file in his possession.

Members of the training camp were cross-referenced with congregants at the mosque.

He was about to close the folder when he noticed a discrepancy.

He paged through the numbered photographs again.

Buried at the back were two additional photographs.

One was of himself. The other was a photograph of his sister.

Paper-clipped to the back of the folder was a typed list of names associated with the numbered photos. And beside the names a provisional status: Cell 1, Cell 2.

The space beside Khattak’s name was blank.

But under his name was his sister’s.

Rukshanda Khattak: Cell 1.

He closed the door to Gavin Chan’s cubicle, heading for the stairs.

Laine Stoicheva was at the elevator as he turned.

She looked from Esa to Gavin’s door, her eyebrows drawn together. The elevator doors opened and Gavin stepped out, holding a cup of coffee.

There was no time for Esa to warn him.

None of the three moved.

Then Laine stepped into the elevator, turning her face away.

The doors closed on anything Khattak might have said.


Wow! Imagine being a police officer and finding out that your sister may be linked to a terrorist cell! If you want to read more you can buy the book here.


The Author


Ausma Zehnant Khan holds a PhD in International Human Rights Law with a specialisation in military intervention and war crimes in the Balkans. She has practised immigration law and taught human rights law at Northwestern University and York University. Formerly, she served as Editor in Chief of Muslim Girl magazine. The first magazine to address a target audience of young Muslim women, Muslim Girl re-shaped the conversation about Muslim women in North America. She is a long-time community activist and writer. Born in Britain, Ausma lived in Canada for many years before recently becoming an American citizen. She lives in Colorado with her husband. The Language of Secrets is the second Esa Khattak and Rachel Getty mystery following The Unquiet Dead. it will be followed by Among the Ruins.