Cover Reveal for Brothers in Blood by @ameranwar @dialoguebooks #BrothersInBlood

Cover Reveal

I don’t often get the chance to do a cover reveal so I’m thrilled to be doing this one, especially as I’ve already read the book. You may remember last year that I got a tad excited about a novel called Western Fringes by Amer Anwar. The story behind the publication is very interesting and maybe I’ll be able to persuade Amer to tell us more about it in September. Western Fringes has a new publisher in the form of Dialogue Books and it’s being republished on 6th September as Brothers in Blood. Before I show you the cover, here’s the blurb.

The Blurb


Winner of the CWA Debut Dagger

A Sikh girl on the run.
A Muslim ex-con who has to find her.
A whole heap of trouble.

Southall, West London. After being released from prison, Zaq Khan is lucky to land a dead-end job at a builders’ yard. All he wants to do is keep his head down and put the past behind him.
But when Zaq is forced to search for his boss’s runaway daughter, he quickly finds himself caught up in a deadly web of deception, murder and revenge.
With time running out and pressure mounting, can Zaq find the missing girl before it’s too late? And if he does, can he keep her – and himself – alive long enough to deal with the people who want them both dead?

“An engaging hero, a cunning plot, and a fascinating journey into Southall’s underworld. We’ll be hearing a lot more from Amer Anwar.”
– Mick Herron

“A fine debut novel. With his engaging characters and skilful plotting, Anwar brings a fresh and exciting new voice to the genre.”
– Ann Cleeves


Sounds great, doesn’t it? And I can assure you that it’s a fast and frantic read. So, I think it might be time to reveal that cover… or maybe I should tell you about Amer Anwar.


About the Author


Amer Anwar grew up in West London. After leaving college he had a variety of jobs, including; warehouse assistant, comic book lettering artist, a driver for emergency doctors and chalet rep in the French Alps. He eventually landed a job as a creative artworker/graphic designer and spent the next decade and a half producing artwork, mainly for the home entertainment industry. He has an MA in Creative Writing from Birkbeck, University of London and is a winner of the Crime Writers’ Association Debut Dagger Award. Western Fringes is his first novel. For everything else, he has an alibi. It wasn’t him. He was never there.


Oh, all right, I’ve teased you enough now! Time for the cover reveal!


The Cover Reveal



I love this cover! The picture ties in very well with the story. So, remember the date – 6th September. If like me you tend to forget these things, you can pre order the book here.


Blog tour – Cold Desert Sky by Rod Reynolds @Rod_WR @FaberBooks #ColdDesertSky


I’m thrilled to be taking part in the blog tour for Cold Desert Sky by Rod Reynolds, which was published yesterday by Faber. Thank you to Lauren Nicoll for inviting me and for a copy of the book. I’m spoiling you today with a review and an interview with Rod! But first, let’s give you the blurb for the third Charlie Yates book.

The Blurb

No one wanted to say it to me, that the girls were dead. But I knew.

Late 1946 and Charlie Yates and his wife Lizzie have returned to Los Angeles, trying to stay anonymous in the city of angels.

But when Yates, back in his old job at the Pacific Journal, becomes obsessed by the disappearance of two aspiring Hollywood starlets, Nancy Hill and Julie Desjardins, he finds it leads him right back to his worst fear: legendary Mob boss Benjamin ‘Bugsy’ Siegel, a man he once crossed, and whose shadow he can’t shake.

As events move from LA to the burgeoning Palace of Sin in the desert, Las Vegas – where Siegel is preparing to open his new Hotel Casino, The Flamingo – Rod Reynolds once again shows his skill at evoking time and place. With Charlie caught between the FBI and the mob, can he possibly see who is playing who, and find out what really happened to the two girls?

Cold Desert Sky

My Review

If ever there was a man who was ‘cruisin’ for a bruisin’’, it’s Charlie Yates, reporter. He just can’t leave things alone. Haunted by other girls he couldn’t save, Charlie agrees to look for two young starlets who have disappeared in Los Angeles. But he can’t make too much fuss about it as he doesn’t want to attract the attention of mob chief, Bugsy Steigel. He’s none too happy about Charlie’s last escapade in Hot Springs which affected his business badly. Very badly. It’s not long before Charlie is in deep and his poor wife, Lizzie, gets dragged into the whole mess as well. How far will Charlie go to find the girls?

Once more, Rod Reynolds transports us back to late 1940s America and setting is key to the story. After the claustrophobic small town atmosphere of Texarkana in The Dark Inside and Hot Springs in Black Night Falling, the action moves to Hollywood, Los Angeles – the place where everyone wants to be. But the bright lights are a façade. Huge and impersonal, no one seems to blink when someone gets killed or disappears. There’s a beautiful paragraph where even Charlie doubts whether he should be looking for the girls –

‘I’d built a picture of the two girls as innocents, but whatever the truth of what happened to them, talk of reefer-rovers and private casting calls was a reminder they were strangers to me. It was unsettling, making me question the assumptions I’d made about their disappearance. Wonder whether I’d built a castle in the sand for my own ends – one that’d already washed away, and I was the only one who couldn’t see it.’

A lead takes Charlie and Lizzie to Las Vegas, a town built for the workers on the Hoover Dam. Small compared to LA but not afraid to punch above its own weight –

‘The route to the Clark County Sheriff’s Department carried us through downtown Las Vegas – a small grid of streets packed solid with drinking clubs, hotels and gambling halls – often all in the same building. Neon signs danced in a blitz of colour, lit even in the daytime. If I’d expected a western version of Hot Springs, I was off; this was bigger and bolder – Broadway without class, pried out of Manhattan and laid down in the desert.’

There is such fluidity to Rod Reynolds’ style. There’s nothing false or forced. If you didn’t know better you’d think he was American. And even then, it takes great skill to accurately portray 1940s America. As with the other two books, there’s a thread of truth running through the story adding to the authenticity. Bugsy Steigel really was a mobster who built a casino in Las Vegas. But don’t look him up just yet. Read Cold Desert Sky first for Rod Reynolds’ take on him.

Character wise, Charlie is still Charlie. He’s still not afraid to ask the wrong questions to the wrong people at the wrong time, usually resulting in a beating. Having said that, he is slightly more tempered and cautious in this book due to the presence of his wife, Lizzie. Personally, I would have liked to have seen her developed more as I think she has a lot more to give.

I don’t know what plans Rod has for Charlie Yates but the way this has been left, I reckon there could be another story for Charlie to chase down. Although whether Lizzie will let him is another matter.


The Interview

Welcome! Rod, for those who haven’t read your other books, The Dark Inside and Black Night Falling, can you tell us a bit about them?

Hi Joy, thanks so much for having me on your blog!

My first book, The Dark Inside, is based on a real life serial killer case from 1946, known as the Texarkana Moonlight Murders. In the book, broken down journalist Charlie Yates is sent from NYC to Texarkana, a small town on the Texas-Arkansas border, to cover the story of a killer who’s been targeting young couples late at night. Charlie’s been sent there as a punishment, so he’s got a chip on his shoulder and, initially, no interest in the case. But when the murders keep happening, and the police are powerless to stop it, Charlie finds himself caught in a nightmare – and it very quickly becomes the only story that matters to him.

In the second book, Black Night Falling, Charlie travels back to Arkansas at the request of an acquaintance he considered an enemy. Charlie’s been rebuilding his life in California, trying to put the events of Texarkana behind him – but when his acquaintance tells him the murders never really finished, he finds he can’t let it go. Plunged into a mob town, where everyone’s on the take, Charlie’s acquaintance turns up dead and more people are dying. And now the things he knows make Charlie a target – and his only way out is to catch the killer.


Where did the character of Charlie Yates come from and why did you make him a reporter?

The idea for the character came from something I read researching the facts of the real life case, that the Times (of London) had sent someone to Texarkana to cover the story in 1946. I liked the idea of how out of place he would have felt, how alien Texarkana would have been to him at that time. Eventually I decided not to make my character English, so I figured sending him from NYC would be almost the same thing – they were totally different worlds.

In terms of why a reporter – I needed a character who could go around sticking his nose in and who would have a reason to get involved in trying to catch the killer, but I didn’t want to make him a cop, because he’d have to be local (which would ruin some of the ‘stranger in a strange town’ vibe) and also because I’m wasn’t really interested in trying to get police procedure authentically correct. I also didn’t want to make him a private detective because that’s a bit of a cliché, and I didn’t think that credible for the time/place. So a reporter fitted the bill nicely – particularly because it meant he wasn’t going to be constrained by police regs or anything like that.

I like the idea of a journalist snooping around and Charlie has integrity which, for me, makes him really stand out.

I’m glad that comes across. Charlie’s imperfect – by design – and he’s angrier and more disappointed with himself than anyone else could ever be (and he makes rash or foolish decisions because of it), but the one thing he clings to is his moral code.


I’ve been looking back at our last Q&A and it was August 2016! Now, I know that the publishing world moves slowly but did this book take longer to write?

This book took me about the same time to write as the first two, it’s was just a case of my publisher finding the right slot for it in their schedule. I actually completed the book in March 2017!


I have to admit that the little I know about Las Vegas I’ve learnt from the TV programme CSI but since reading Cold Desert Sky, I’ve looked a bit more at the history of the place and it’s really fascinating – a town built initially for the workers on the Hoover Dam. What drew you to Las Vegas as a setting?

I’ve been going to Las Vegas on and off for 20 years, and I’ve always found it an interesting place with an – ahem – colourful history, so I’d been thinking vaguely about setting a book during the city’s early days for years.

I’ve stayed at the Flamingo Hotel a few times, and I knew Bugsy Siegel was involved in its construction, but when I found out it was built right around the time the first two books were set, I realised I could quite easily take the Charlie Yates series there – especially as Siegel had strong connections with Hot Springs, where Black Night Falling is set.

I’d encourage anyone to go check it out. I wasn’t interested in gambling (and wasn’t old enough to buy a beer!) the first few times I went there, and I still found it fascinating. There’s something about the scale – you just can’t help walking around gawping.

I bet! I’ve been to LA (well, more like Disneyland than LA itself) but not Las Vegas. The fact that it’s not even 100 years old makes it intriguing.


Now. Lizzie. I think having her around really changed the dynamic of the story. Charlie isn’t so free to go charging off because he’s always got her to think about. Was this a deliberate ploy? If you write another Charlie Yates, I would love to see her developed further. I think she could be quite kickass.

Lizzie is really fun, but also probably the hardest, character to write. She’s smart beyond her years, strong willed and takes no rubbish from anyone. She’s also the voice of reason and common sense that Charlie needs to hear at times.

It was definitely a conscious decision to have her feature more in the story – partly because readers had been asking for more Lizzie, and partly because it gives me more scope to pile on the peril. At the same time, it is a bit of a balancing act, in that I’m conscious of not having Lizzie do things that simply wouldn’t be credible for a young woman in that period, but part of that is perception; the most revered and tenacious crime reporter in LA in the first half of the 20th century was a woman. So there’s definitely scope to have her feature more in future…

Yes, balancing the historical period with today’s ideas must be difficult.


There are factual elements in your novels with mentions of real-life murders and gangsters. Do you think this helps with the authenticity?

To some extent, yes, but it’s not a magic bullet. If I’m going to include real-life characters, I want to be as true to them as I can, and that presents its own challenges. The same with factual elements – I don’t think you can take too many liberties with the facts, so that can constrain your plotting somewhat. But when you get it right, it definitely adds an extra layer of realism to the book.

I agree. You’re not doing a retelling or even a reimagining but weaving fact with fiction.

Yes, exactly that.


You help to run First Monday Crime. How important is it to you as an author to take part in panels and meet your readers?

I think panels and events are really important. Some authors find them nerve-wracking, and I understand why, but generally I really enjoy doing them. When you spend 9-12 months locked away with your computer writing a book, it’s a pleasure to be able to spend some time talking about it, to an engaged audience. Panels can help expand your readership, but more than that, I think they’re a good way to give something back to readers who are already fans. I’m always happy to chat to people who’ve gone to the trouble of coming to see me talk about my work – I think it’s a privilege to have people show an interest like that.
I love going to panels and book festivals. And I really enjoy hearing authors speak about how their books came to be.


What’s next? Will there be another Charlie Yates?

Before I answer that, I think it’s now tradition for me to turn this around and ask you a question. So – re. panels, do you find them useful, in terms of tips or inspiration for your own writing? Or are they just for entertainment (or, at least, hopefully…)?

Darn, you remembered! It’s a mixture. I guess it all depends on what questions are asked. First Monday Crime is generally more entertainment. Often at festivals there are specific themes so then it might be more pertinent to what I’m writing. For example, at Killer Women last year there was a panel on publishing which gave lots of great tips and the opportunity to ask an agent a question.

Of course I remembered!

I think some of the specific panels on publishing are really useful – I wish I’d known about them, or had the access to them, the first time I tried submitting a book. I made every mistake under the sun (although that’s not the only reason that book never saw the light of day…!)

As for what’s next for me… In my mind, Cold Desert Sky is the end of a loose trilogy, and that was always my plan. But I do want Charlie to continue and there is a synopsis for book 4 – but if and when that gets written is still TBC.

In the meantime, I’ve written something entirely different, which I’ve been thinking about for a couple of years. It was really weird to write something new – it’s been five years since I wrote anything not featuring Charlie – but also a lot of fun. I’m working on that now with my agent, so watch this space…

Thanks again for having me on, and for the great questions. Look forward to doing it again!
Thanks for answering! I look forward to hearing more about this intriguing new book.

You can find out more about Rod, his books and order Cold Desert Sky here.


The Author

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Rod Reynolds was born in London and, after a successful career in advertising, working as a media buyer, he completed City University’s Crime Writing Masters degree; the rights to his debut novel, THE DARK INSIDE, were acquired by Faber even before he graduated. The sequel, BLACK NIGHT FALLING, is out now, and the third book in the Charlie Yates series, COLD DESERT SKY, publishes in July 2018. Rod lives in London with his wife and two daughters




Book Review – After He’s Gone by @JaneIsaacAuthor #AfterHesGone

Happy publication day to Jane Isaac for her new book After He’s Gone. This is a new series for Jane featuring Family Liaison Officer DC Beth Chamberlain. But before I tell you my thoughts, here’s the blurb.


The Blurb

A refreshing female protagonist with guts and a heart…I was gripped.’- Ruth Dugdall

‘The safety catch on the Glock snapped as it was released. Her stomach curdled as she watched the face of death stretch and curve. Listened to the words drip from his mouth, ‘Right. Let’s begin, shall we?’

You think you know him. Until he’s dead. When Cameron Swift is gunned down outside his family home, DC Beth Chamberlain is appointed Family Liaison Officer: a dual role that requires her to support the family, and also investigate them. As the case unfolds and the body count climbs, Beth discovers that nothing is quite as it appears and everyone, it seems, has secrets. Even the dead…

After He's Gone

The Review

I’ve had the privilege of meeting Jane Isaac quite a few times now and I can honestly say, she’s one of the loveliest Crime writers (I mean, they’re all lovely) that I’ve met. She’s kind, friendly and very encouraging to wannabe writers like myself. But now that I’ve read the Prologue for After He’s Gone, I’m wondering if I got Jane all wrong. It’s one of the scariest and gripping prologues I’ve ever read. The wonderful phrase from the blurb above is from the prologue – ‘Her stomach curdled as she watched the face of death stretch and curve’ – stunning.

Jane has written two other police procedural series – DCI Helen Lavery and DI Will Jackman. I enjoyed both of those, especially DI Jackman. Has Jane managed to produce another great fictional cop? In a nutshell, yes. I loved DC Beth Chamberlain. She’s new to being a FLO and clearly has a lot to learn still. She’s got plenty of enthusiasm and throws herself into her work – quite literally on several occasions. She has an interesting back story with her sister and niece and then there’s her relationship with DS Nick Geary that she needs to keep quiet. Lots to build on in the future.

As well as seeing the story from Beth’s viewpoint, there are two other women who are connected to the murder victim – Monika and Sara. The story twists between the three women as secrets are revealed.

As I said, I’ve always enjoyed Jane Isaac’s novels but this one is a little bit different somehow. I’m still trying to put my finger on it but it feels as though Jane has stepped up a gear with this book. Maybe it’s because Beth is a DC and they tend to see more of the action and less of budget spreadsheets than a DI or a DCI. I do hope that Jane has more stories for Beth (and also for Will Jackman – perhaps they could meet?). A fantastic start to a new series.

You can buy After He’s Gone here.


About the author


Jane Isaac is married to a serving detective (very helpful for research!). They live in rural Northamptonshire, UK with their daughter, and dog, Bollo. Jane’s debut novel, An Unfamiliar Murder, introduces DCI Helen Lavery and was nominated as best mystery in the ‘eFestival of Words Best of the Independent eBook awards 2013.’

The Truth Will Out, the second in the DCI Helen Lavery series, was nominated as ‘Thriller of the Month – April 2014’ by and winner of ‘Noveltunity book club selection – May 2014′.

Jane’ s sixth novel, After He’s Gone, features Family Liaison Officer, DC Beth Chamberlain and will be released in June 2018. The second Beth Chamberlain novel will follow later in 2018.

Jane loves to hear from readers and writers. You can reach her via her website at


Blog tour – First to Die by @alexcaanwriter @BonnierZaffre #FirstToDie


First to Die blog tour 2

It’s my turn today on the blog tour for First to Die by Alex Caan! Alex’s debut novel, Cut to the Bone, was in my top reads of 2016 so I was very excited to read his next book featuring DCI Kate Riley and DS Zain Harris. So what’s it all about?


The Blurb



Bonfire Night and St James’s Park is filled with thousands of Anonymous protesters in a stand-off with the police. When a cloaked, Guido Fawkes mask-wearing body is discovered the following morning, Kate Riley and Zain Harris from the Police Crime Commissioner’s office are called in.

The corpse has been eaten away by a potentially lethal and highly contagious virus. The autopsy reveals the victim was a senior civil servant, whose work in international development involved saving lives. Why would anyone want him dead?


As the research team looking into the origins of the deadly virus scramble to discover an antidote, first one, then another pharmacist goes missing. Meanwhile, a dark truth starts to emerge about the murder victim: he was an aggressive man, whose bullying behaviour resulted in the suicide attempt of one of his former staff members.


With thirty lives potentially at stake, Kate and Zain have their work cut out for them. Can they find the two missing pharmacists in time, or will they too end up dead?

First to Die

My review

Wow! This is a book that hits the ground running from the very first chapter. DS Zain Harris is in the middle of an Anonymous protest, attempting to blend in while finding potential trouble makers. However trouble has a habit of finding Zain and he’s near a car that is firebombed and explodes. Chaos ensues. The next morning, a body is found nearby in St James’ Park and DCI Kate Riley quickly realises that something is terribly wrong. This isn’t a straightforward murder.

If you’ve read Cut to the Bone then you’ll know that Alex Caan is a master at twists and turns. First to Die is no different and is a rollercoaster of a read. Just when you think you’ve got a handle on the story, it flips around and nothing is as it seems. As well as the main narrative, the back stories of DCI Kate Riley and DS Zain Harris continue and the ominous ‘Watcher’ is introduced. Both officers are deeply affected by their pasts and without giving too much away, both are left in a slightly perilous state at the end. I do hope there’ll be a third novel as they can’t be left this way!

I like the fact that Alex Caan also pays attention to his supporting cast of characters. Fellow officers, Stevie, Rob and Michelle get a look-in on the action as well as a new DS – Joy Goldman. I have no idea where Alex gets the inspiration for his characters’ names!

When Sainsbury’s had a book website, I had the opportunity a couple of years ago to highlight my top summer read. I chose Cut to the Bone. I have no qualms in recommending First to Die as another great summer read. If you like your police procedurals to be fast and furious with plenty of twists then this is the book to read.

You can buy First to Die here.


About the author

Alex Caan

Alex Caan has spent over a decade working in information systems security for a number of government organisations, and is currently specialising in terrorism studies. A lifetime passion for writing was sparked by the encouraging words of an English teacher in school, and eventually led to Alex successfully completing an MA in Creative Writing and writing his debut novel Cut to the Bone.


First Monday Crime – June 2018 @1stMondayCrime @SarahPinborough @hesutton @LisaHallAuthor @MartynWaites @JakeKerridge

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Well, we’ve finally reached blooming June or bloomin’ June as the weather’s not exactly summery. But that didn’t stop us turning up for the last First Monday Crime for the season or academic year. It was a cracker of a panel with Martyn Waites, Sarah Pinborough, Lisa Hall and Harry Brett aka Henry Sutton. Jake Kerridge asked the questions.

First up, those all important books.

Sarah Pinborough’s latest book is Cross Her Heart. Sarah doesn’t particularly like talking about her books so she condensed it down to – three women, all have secrets, stuff happens, people die, very twisty. I think that sums it up pretty well! (You can read my review here.)

Martyn Waites’ new novel is The Old Religion. His one-line pitch was ‘Brexit Noir meets The Wicker Man‘. Martyn moved to the West Country a few years ago after being in London, and for him it felt as though he was in witness protection, the contrast was so different. So the protagonist in The Old Religion is in witness protection. Martyn wanted to explore a closed community and how easy it would be to take it over with a malevolent spirit and hijack it. As the character is in WP, his real name is hidden. After writing many years under the name of Tania Carver, Martyn has had to find his own voice again for this book.

Lisa Hall must be one of the kindest Crime writers as she hasn’t killed anyone in her books (and not in real life either!). Her main character in The  Party is Rachel who wakes up bruised and hurt after a party the night before. She can’t remember anything so tries to find out what happened from her friends. However, she gets different accounts from different people – who’s telling the truth?

Henry Sutton feels as though he’s finally found his true crime voice writing under the name Harry Brett. Red Hot Front is the second book in The Goodwins series following the story of Tatiana Goodwin who takes over her husband’s criminal empire after his death. Ian Rankin has described it as ‘The Godfather in Great Yarmouth’. Having grown up in a strong matriarchal household, Harry found it easy to write a strong female character. There aren’t many books that are told from a criminal viewpoint, especially women, and Harry was keen to convey this. Two main criticisms of his books are – why is the weather always bad in Great Yarmouth and why is there so much swearing? His answer – have you been to Great Yarmouth and have you ever met a criminal who doesn’t swear?

FM June 18.1

Jake Kerridge asked the panel about the Staunch Prize which is still proving to be a hot potato’ in the Crime genre world. What did the panel think?

Martyn Waites didn’t think it was a good idea. It’s been set up by people who haven’t had much to do with Crime writing and books need to reflect real life.

Harry Brett agreed. We can’t ignore the real-life trend of violence against women. However, we can look to see who has the power in a novel. His example was Gone Girl.

Sarah Pinborough had more issue with the £20 entry fee. She thought it was well-intentioned but handled badly.

Lisa Hall thought the same. Good on paper but not well-executed. If you don’t like it, don’t read it!

Fm June 18.2

A question from the audience – one thing you enjoy about writing?

Lisa Hall – the community! All the panel agreed this was a good thing. Harry thought it was great to be able to chat to other authors. Sarah and Martyn both said alcohol! Crime writers are great to party with as they get all their hateful urges out on the page!

Sarah Pinborough likes the idea of wearing comfy joggers all day. Martyn agreed with that too.

Martyn Waites – the actual day-to-day job of making up stuff is hard so he loves it when he gets a good day that then becomes brilliant.

Harry Brett had something similar – hitting that phrase or sentence that keeps you going.


Well, the June First Monday Crime will have to keep us going until the autumn when it returns in September! You can the books at Big Green Bookshop or click on the authors’ names below.

Martyn Waites

Sarah Pinborough

Lisa Hall

Harry Brett

And make sure you keep an eye on First Monday Crime  for news for the autumn.


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.