Blog tour – Blood Song by Johana Gustawsson @JoGustawsson @OrendaBooks @annecater #BloodSong

Blood Song Blog Tour

I’m thrilled to be taking part in the blog tour for Blood Song by Johana Gustawsson. Thank you to Anne Cater for inviting me to take part and to Karen Sullivan for a copy of the book.

The Blurb

Spain, 1938: The country is wracked by civil war, and as Valencia falls to Franco’s brutal dictatorship, Republican Therese witnesses the murders of her family. Captured and sent to the notorious Las Ventas women’s prison, Therese gives birth to a daughter who is forcibly taken from her.

Falkenberg, Sweden, 2016: A wealthy family is found savagely murdered in their luxurious home. Discovering that her parents have been slaughtered, Aliénor Lindbergh, a new recruit to the UK’s Scotland Yard, rushes back to Sweden and finds her hometown rocked by the massacre.

Profiler Emily Roy joins forces with Aliénor and soon finds herself on the trail of a monstrous and prolific killer. Little does she realise that this killer is about to change the life of her colleague, true-crime writer Alexis Castells. Joining forces once again, Roy and Castells’ investigation takes them from the Swedish fertility clinics of the present day back to the terror of Franco’s rule, and the horrifying events that took place in Spanish orphanages under its rule.

Terrifying, vivid and recounted at breakneck speed, Blood Song is not only a riveting thriller and an examination of corruption in the fertility industry, but a shocking reminder of the atrocities of Spain’s dictatorship, in the latest, stunning instalment in the award-winning Roy & Castells series.

Blood Song Final Jacket

My Review

I had the great pleasure of reading the first in the Emily Roy and Alexis Castells series, Block 46, but I’ve not yet had the chance to read Keeper, even though it’s on my Kindle. So I’ve jumped ahead to the third book. There were obviously a few things that happened in book 2 as Alexis is about to get married! However, if you’ve not read any of Johana’s books yet this can be read as a standalone.

The Lindberghs, Goran and Kerstin, are found murdered in their house, along with their daughter, Louise. It’s particularly horrific as their tongues have been cut out. Trying to find the motive for the murder is tricky and Emily Roy and Alexis Castells have their work cut out for them.

The most chilling bit of Block 46 for me was the historical narrative and it’s the same for Blood Song. Looking back at the terrors of the Spanish Civil War and the years of dictatorship that followed, Johana Gustawsson has drawn a vivid and disturbing picture of what happened to Republican women and children. I studied a bit of the Spanish Civil War for A-level History but didn’t know about the camps and orphanages. It’s an incredibly moving account not least because of the personal connection that Johana has with that period in Spain’s history.

The personal connection continues with the IVF storyline. The Lindberghs owned a fertility clinic. Could the motive for their murders lay there? I don’t think I’ve ever read such a powerful story about infertility. I know couples who’ve had to go the IVF route and I don’t think I’d fully appreciated just how much they had to go through. This comes across so well in the novel and I certainly have a new appreciation of what people have to deal with.

I’m always intrigued as to how Johana weaves the past with the present and I really didn’t know where she was going with this story. But it all comes together in an incredibly emotive way. And I can honestly say I didn’t guess who the murderer was.

Overall, this book moved me in so many ways. Johana’s writing is always sublime and translated wonderfully by David Warriner. Her real strength is the way she handles such difficult topics. She doesn’t shy away from the horror but she manages to write these storylines in such a delicate way, especially the Spanish Civil War narrative. By revealing this tragedy, I think maybe Johana is also seeking to remove the shame that many of those women and girls must have felt. In a way, it’s a #MeToo moment for the Spanish women affected. A fabulous book that entertains and educates in equal measure.

To buy Blood Song click here.


The Author

Johana Gustawsson

Born in Marseille, France, and with a degree in Political Science, Johana Gustawsson
has worked as a journalist for the French and Spanish press and television. Her
critically acclaimed Roy & Castells series has won the Plume d’Argent, Balai de la
découverte, Balai d’Or and Prix Marseillais du Polar awards, and is now published
in nineteen countries. A TV adaptation is currently underway in a French, Swedish
and UK co-production. Johana lives in London with her Swedish husband and
their three sons.

First Monday Crime Book Review – Tightrope by @Marnie_Riches @1stMondayCrime @TrapezeBooks #Tightrope

This is your two week warning – First Monday Crime returns on Monday 7th October! And, as always, we have a fantastic panel for you. Claire McGowan will be chatting to Nicci French (aka Nicci Gerrard and Sean French), Peter Robinson and Marnie Riches. I’ve just finished reading Marnie’s latest book, Tightrope. But before I give you my thoughts, here’s the blurb.

The Blurb

What happens when a private investigator ends up being the one uncovered?

Having lost everything after a failed marriage, Beverley Saunders now lodges in the basement flat of a house owned by her best friend Sophie and her husband, Tim. With Bev’s former glittering marketing career in the gutter, she begins to do investigative work for other wronged women, gathering dirt on philanderers, bosses and exes.

But when Beverley takes on the case of Sophie’s friend Angela, who is seeking to uncover grounds for divorce from her controlling husband, Jerry, the shadow Science Minister, she soon discovers that she isn’t the only one doing the investigating…

Beverley has a secret history she doesn’t want coming out – but will she manage to stay hidden long enough to give Angela the freedom she deserves?


My Review

I’ve long been a fan of Marnie Riches. Her protagonist, George McKenzie, from The Girl Who series, is one of my favourite characters ever. So it’s always a bit daunting to start reading (and I guessing writing too) a new series. It took me a little while to get used to Bev Saunders but in some ways that’s not surprising. The Bev we meet at the beginning of the book is different to the one at the end. It reminded me of Pass the Parcel. There was a very shiny piece of paper at the beginning but as we went on, the paper changed and became tabloid newspaper. Instead of prizes, secrets about Bev were revealed. Thankfully though, the gift at the end is a heart of gold. No matter what we find out about Bev, you can’t help but root for her. Which is just as well as she has a hard task on her hands.

Angie is a battered wife but not the sort normally portrayed. Her husband is an MP, a minister in the Shadow Cabinet – a powerful man with powerful contacts. Angie is desperate to leave but how can Bev help her go against such a man?

Bev has help in the form of Doc, a young man from her Addiction group. He may have a degree from Oxford but he’s also first class in computing hacking. There’s nothing he can’t do. Together they make a formidable but slightly comedic team.

Tightrope is a fast-paced twisty thriller that also made me laugh out loud. There was always humour in Marnie’s previous books but it feels as though she’s been given permission to take that ‘lol’ moment further. Some scenes are almost farcical but Marnie manages to pull them off so that the severity of the crimes aren’t forgotten. In fact, victims are always at the forefront of Marnie’s writing, especially those who don’t have a voice. And when Bev speaks up for those victims, she doesn’t just shout for them, she uses a megaphone. In fact, Bev is willing to put them before her own happiness. Her methods may be dubious and her flaws extreme but Bev Saunders has the makings of a great PI. And Marnie Riches has the beginnings of another hit series on her hands.


You can buy Tightrope here or better still, come to First Monday Crime, buy the book and get it signed. If you haven’t reserved your free seat yet then click here immediately! We look forward to seeing you in Room A130, College Building, City University, 276 St John’s Street EC1V 4PW at 6.30pm. Then afterwards we’ll be heading to The Sekforde Arms, our new pub set in a road with a Dickensian (posh not workhouse) feel to it.


The Author

Marnie Riches

Marnie Riches grew up on a rough estate in north Manchester. Exchanging the spires of nearby Strangeways prison for those of Cambridge University, she gained a Masters in German & Dutch. She has been a punk, a trainee rock star, a pretend artist and professional fundraiser.

Her best-selling, award-winning George McKenzie crime thrillers, tackling the subject of trans-national trafficking, were inspired by her own time spent in The Netherlands. Dubbed the Martina Cole of the North, she is also the author of Born Bad and The Cover-Up – the critically acclaimed hit series about Manchester’s notorious gangland.

Tightrope is the start of a brand new series, set mainly in the famous footballer-belt of Hale, Cheshire, and introducing flawed but fearless northern PI, Bev Saunders who risks everything to fight the corner of her vulnerable client. A second Bev Saunders novel will follow in early 2020. So far, Marnie has sold an impressive 250,000 books and counting…

When she isn’t writing gritty, twisty crime-thrillers, Marnie also regularly appears on BBC Radio Manchester, commenting about social media trends and discussing the world of crime-fiction.

Summer reads with @writer_north @TMLoganAuthor @william1shaw #TheWhisperMan #TheHoliday #Deadland

Judging by the weather outside, Autumn is definitely starting to kick in. I took a bit of a blogging break in the Summer but I certainly didn’t stop reading. Some books I can’t tell you about yet because they’re not out until later this year or even next year. But there are three fabulous novels I want to tell you about whether you’re now home for the Autumn or about to go away to catch some last sunshine.

First up, The Whisper Man by Alex North. Here’s the blurb and my review.

The Blurb

If you leave a door half-open, soon you’ll hear the whispers spoken . . .

Still devastated after the loss of his wife, Tom Kennedy and his young son Jake move to the sleepy village of Featherbank, looking for a much-needed fresh start.

But Featherbank has a dark past. Fifteen years ago, a twisted serial killer abducted and murdered five young boys.

Until he was finally caught, the killer was known as ‘The Whisper Man’.

Of course, an old crime need not trouble Tom and Jake as they try to settle in to their new home.

Except that now another boy has gone missing. And then Jake begins acting strangely.

He says he hears a whispering at his window . . .

The Whisper Man

My Review

Much has been made of The Chain (and rightly so) but the other book highlight of the summer for me has been The Whisper Man. In some ways they are similar – an abducted child and a struggling parent who will do anything to get their child back – but the pace is very different. The Chain is fast and furious while The Whisper Man beats out a slightly more even tone as the drama is spread out over months rather than weeks.

The main storyline concerns the abduction of a young boy but so many more threads are weaved in through the lives of the main protagonists – Tom Kennedy and his son, Jake, and the two police officers charged with solving the abduction. Tom Kennedy is mourning the loss of his wife after her sudden death and is struggling to raise his son, Jake. I don’t think I’ve ever read grief portrayed so well in a Crime novel before. Alex North has balanced reality with sensitivity and my heart went out to Tom. There’s a wonderful line ‘grief is a stew with a thousand ingredients, and not all of them are palatable.’ Just as Tom is struggling, so is Jake. He turns to imaginary friends to help him get through the school day and life in general. DI Pete Willis has to fight the lure of alcohol on a daily basis. And with a child missing, the craving is stronger than ever.

There are some wonderful twists in this book. Some I saw coming, some I didn’t. Creepiness hangs over the whole story like early morning mist. I don’t want to give too much away but there’s a section towards the end that made me cry. It’s exquisitely written and trust me, you’ll know it when you get there.

Apart from the traditional elements of a crime thriller – tension, discomfort and a mysterious plot – this book is also infused with regret and hope. It’s one of the most moving Crime books I’ve ever read.

You can buy The Whisper Man here.


The Author

Steve Mosby

Alex North (aka Steve Mosby) was born in Leeds, where he now lives with his wife and son. He studied Philosophy at Leeds University, and prior to becoming a writer he worked there in their sociology department


Next up is The Holiday by T.M. Logan.

The Blurb

Seven days. Three families. One killer.

It was supposed to be the perfect holiday, dreamed up by Kate as the ideal way to turn 40: four best friends and their husbands and children in a luxurious villa under the blazing sunshine of Provence.

But there is trouble in paradise. Kate suspects that her husband is having an affair, and that the other woman is one of her best friends.

One of these women is willing to sacrifice years of friendship and destroy her family. But which one? As Kate closes in on the truth in the stifling Mediterranean heat, she realises too late that the stakes are far higher than she ever imagined.

Because someone in the villa is prepared to kill to keep their secret hidden.

The Holiday

My Review

We’ve been on holiday with some friends a couple of times. Two families away together. First time was great. Second time tested us a bit with car problems, stomach bugs (only one bathroom) and enough rain for us to consider building an ark. Kate though has considerably more problems than that.

Along with her husband, Sean, and her children, Lucy and Daniel, Kate is heading off to France to meet up with her university friends and their respective families. Kate, Rowan, Jennifer and Izzy were a tight bunch of friends twenty years before but children and careers have taken their toll. This holiday is meant to bring them together again. And with a stunning villa and scorching hot weather, what could possibly go wrong?

Kate is the main protagonist although we do get to hear from the others as well. She appears to be Little Miss Perfect but there are cracks in her marriage and things from her past that she’s not proud of. T.M. Logan skilfully draws out these secrets and the paranoia Kate feels about her husband is all too real. Added into the mix is business woman Rowan about to do the biggest deal of her life. Then there’s Jennifer, a neurotic mother who guards her teenage sons like a swan. She might look graceful but she’ll go for you if you criticise her boys. Only Izzy appears content, back from travelling and seemingly happy with her life.

We get to hear from the children too and I really enjoyed these parts. I particularly loved Daniel, Kate’s nine year old son. I have a son of similar age and there were lots of elements I recognised, especially his relationship with his sister, Lucy.

The setting sounds idyllic. A luxury villa in the Languedoc region, basking in the hot summer sun. Extreme heat doesn’t help at the best of times though and it definitely fuels frayed tempers. Paradise rapidly turns into hell as old grievances and new suspicions are aired. I really hadn’t seen the twist coming so it was interesting to see how T.M Logan weaved the different narratives together.

The Holiday is the perfect beach book but it’s also a great read for Autumn if you want to relive the hot, tense days of Summer.

If you’d like to buy The Holiday then click here.

The Author

T.M. Logan

Bestselling author TM Logan was a national newspaper journalist before turning to novel-writing full time. His debut thriller LIES was one of Amazon UK’s biggest ebooks of 2017, selling 350,000 copies and gathering more than 1,400 5-star reviews.

Together with his second standalone thriller, 29 Seconds (2018), his books are now published in 14 countries around the world including the USA, South Korea, Italy, Spain, Portugal, France, Poland, Hungary, Serbia, Romania and the Netherlands.

His latest thriller, The Holiday, is a Richard & Judy Book Club pick for summer 2019. It takes place over a sweltering summer week in the south of France, as four best friends see the holiday of a lifetime turn into a nightmare of suspicion, betrayal and murder…

Tim lives in Nottinghamshire with his wife and two children, and writes in a cabin at the bottom of his garden.

For exclusive writing, new releases and a FREE deleted scene from Tim, sign up to the Readers’ Club: You can also follow him on Twitter @TMLoganAuthor, find him on Facebook at /TMLoganAuthor or on his website at


And my third choice is Deadland by William Shaw.

The Blurb


The two boys never fitted in. Seventeen, the worst age, nothing to do but smoke weed; at least they have each other. The day they speed off on a moped with a stolen mobile, they’re ready to celebrate their luck at last. Until their victim comes looking for what’s his – and ready to kill for it.


On the other side of Kent’s wealth divide, DS Alexandra Cupidi faces the strangest murder investigation of her career. A severed limb, hidden inside a modern sculpture in Margate’s Turner Contemporary. No one takes it seriously – not even the artwork’s owners, celebrity dealers who act like they’re above the law.


But as Cupidi’s case becomes ever more sinister, as she wrangles with police politics and personal dilemmas, she can’t help worrying about those runaway boys. Seventeen, the same age as her own headstrong daughter. Alone, on the marshes, they’re pawns in someone else’s game. Two worlds are about to collide.

Kent and its social divisions are brilliantly captured in Deadland, a crime thriller that’s as ingeniously unguessable as it is moving and powerful.

Dead Land cover

My Review

For the last two years, William Shaw has made it into my top ten reads for the year, firstly with The Birdwatcher and then Salt Lane. The Birdwatcher featured William South, a police officer with a very guilty secret. DS Alex Cupidi also appeared in a supporting role but she was upgraded to the main protagonist in Salt Lane. She’s back in Deadland and so is William South. I have to say I got very excited when I read that part!

As the number of police officers have declined nationally, trying to cover all of Kent isn’t an easy job for Alex and her fellow detectives. Especially when there’s so much petty crime such as teenagers on mopeds nicking mobile phones. But a severed arm found in a modern sculpture in Margate’s Turner Contemporary gallery? Well, that’s a bit more unusual. For some of her colleagues it’s a bit of a joke case but Alex, along with DC Jill Ferriter, take it more seriously. There are two options for Alex. Either the owner of the severed arm is alive and in desperate need of medical attention or the victim is dead. And that’s a possible murder case.

Sloth and Tap are two teenagers with too much time on their hands and not enough cash. Nicking phones is easy. Until you nick the wrong one. I absolutely loved these two characters. All too often teenage criminals are portrayed in the press as thugs – hoodlums in hoodies. They start off that way in Deadland but William Shaw pulls off a marvellous trick. Rather than despising them, I found myself warming to them and by the end, cheering them on. Their crimes start off motivated by boredom but end up being committed through fear. The adult world is more frightening than they had first thought.

Amongst all of this, DS Alex Cupidi is worrying – about her daughter, her neighbour (William South) and her colleague, DC Jill Ferriter. I love how real she feels. She’s tangible in all her roles as a police detective, a mother and a friend.

Although a lot of the action takes place in Margate, Dungeness continues to be a focal point, the desolate landscape contrasting with Dreamland and the shiny new Turner Contemporary gallery. And that sort of sums up Deadland in a way. There’s enormous wealth vs poverty and traditional vs new. Kent (and the rest of the UK) is changing fast and everything feels on the edge. William Shaw has the knack of weaving social issues into his stories without ever preaching. Certainly Sloth and Tap are going to stay with me for a long time.

To buy Deadland click here.

The Author

William Shaw

The Sun hails William Shaw as “a master of modern crime”. His latest novel Salt Lane takes a character from his hugely praised standalone novel The Birdwatcher, to start a new series set in Dungeness. Val McDermid called it “Taut, terrifying and timely.” He’s also the author of the acclaimed Breen and Tozer series set in London in 1968-69. The Sun called The Birdwatcher, a crime novel set in Kent, a contender for crime book of 2016. Peter May says: “William Shaw is, quite simply, an outstanding storyteller.”

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He’s also the author of several non-fiction books including Westsiders: Stories of the Boys in the Hood, about a year spent with the young men of South Central Los Angeles, and A Superhero For Hire, a compilation of columns in the Observer Magazine.

Starting out as assistant editor of the post-punk magazine ZigZag, he has been a journalist for The Observer, The New York Times, Wired, Arena and The Face and was Amazon UK Music Journalist of the Year in 2003.

The Event

You can come and here William Shaw talking about Deadland at West Barnes Library in South West London on Tuesday 1st October, along with Mark Hill. See the poster for details.

Murder on the Beach poster


Book Review – The Bad Place by M.K. Hill @markhillwriter @HoZ_Books

Happy publication day, Mark Hill! The Bad Place is out today and it’s the start of a new series. I’ll give you my thoughts in a minute but here’s the blurb.

The Blurb

The newspapers called it The Bad Place. A remote farm out on the Thames estuary, where six children were held captive for two weeks. Five of them got out alive.

That was twenty years ago. Now adults, they meet up annually to hold a candlelit vigil for their friend who died. The only rule is that no-one can talk about what happened the night they escaped. But at this year’s event, one of them witnesses a kidnapping. A young girl, Sammi, is bundled into a van in front of their eyes.

Is history repeating itself? Is one of them responsible? Or is someone sending them a twisted message?

DI Sasha Dawson, of Essex Police, is certain that the key to finding Sammi lies in finding out the truth about The Bad Place. But she also knows that with every second she spends trying to unlock the past, the clock ticks down for the missing girl…

The Bad Place cover

My Review

After his very dark series with DI Ray Drake, Mark Hill (writing as M.K. Hill) has burst back onto the crime scene with a tale of sun, sea and suspicion. Well, it couldn’t all be good news – that’s not how Crime works. Enter DI Sasha Dawson based in Southend. So that’s the sun and sea covered. Now for the suspicion. A teenage girl is abducted. Could it be connected to 6 children who were abducted 20 years previously?

On the face of it, DI Sasha Dawson is a much sunnier person than DI Ray Drake. She’s married and has children. Her parents live nearby. She’s in her 40s but has prematurely white hair. Mark Hill doesn’t allude to it but I wonder if it’s linked to a trauma she experienced a few years before. The shiny veneer on Sasha’s family life is paper-thin. I think Mark has got the balance correct in writing a female character. He shows how Sasha juggles her work and family life and regularly drops the balls.

There are multiple viewpoints in the story and it switches between the past and the present. Mark has used this style before and it works well. Like a jigsaw, Sasha’s storyline is the outside edges and corners. But the middle is the 6 children and what happened to them. The middle is dark and murky and Baden Place (the property where the children were kept) is aptly named ‘The Bad Place’. I liked the slow reveal of what happened at ‘The Bad Place’ and the story kept me guessing until nearly the end.

Beach settings have become popular on TV for police dramas and Southend fits neatly into that category. Mark Hill is always hugely descriptive in his writing and I love how he describes the seaside town – ‘Some of the men already had their tops off, revealing angry red shoulders and brown bellies that poured over the elastic of their shorts like tarmac from a tipper… The air was thick with the sweet smell of burned sugar… The arcades were already open and the din of music and electronic sounds, the rings and whooshes and whistles of hundreds of machines, rolled across the street.’ I’ve never been to Southend but those sights, sounds and smells sum up most British seaside towns and I could picture it.

This is a fantastic start to a new series. It seems that there are plenty of secrets in Southend and I can’t wait for DI Sasha Dawson and her team to uncover more.


The Author

Mark Hill

M.K. Hill was a journalist and an award-winning music radio producer before becoming a full-time writer. As Mark Hill, he’s the author of His First Lie and It Was Her. He lives in London.


The Event

Murder on the Beach poster

I have the opportunity to ask Mark some questions about The Bad Place on Tuesday 1st October along with William Shaw. See the poster for details. Would love to see you there!