Book Review – Stone Cold Trouble by Amer Anwar @ameranwar @dialoguebooks @LittleBrownUK #StoneColdTrouble

Happy publication day to Amer Anwar for Stone Cold Trouble! I’ve so been looking forward to reading this. Thank you to Dialogue Books and Little, Brown for letting me read an advance copy through NetGalley. Before I give you my review, here’s the blurb.

The Blurb

Trying – and failing – to keep his head down and to stay out of trouble, ex-con Zaq Khan agrees to help his best friend, Jags, recover a family heirloom, currently in the possession of a wealthy businessman. But when Zaq’s brother is viciously assaulted, Zaq is left wondering whether someone from his own past is out to get revenge.

Wanting answers and retribution, Zaq and Jags set out to track down those responsible. Meanwhile, their dealings with the businessman take a turn for the worse and Zaq and Jags find themselves suspected of murder.

It’ll take both brains and brawn to get themselves out of trouble and, no matter what happens, the results will likely be deadly. The only question is, whether it will prove deadly for them, or for someone else . . . ?
Stone Cold Trouble

My Review

Trouble seems to find Zaq and this time it’s in the form of a necklace – hence Stone Cold Trouble. Jags’ Uncle Lucky (or not so lucky) has lost his wife’s favourite necklace in a gambling bet. He needs the two young men to get it back for him. But before he can get too involved, Zaq finds out his brother’s been beaten up and left for dead. Somehow Zaq has to juggle the two situations.

The pace is relentless as Zaq and Jags do their best to keep up with the ever evolving problems they find themselves in. Just as they manage to deal with one thing, another pops up taking them by surprise. As Zaq is spending his nights at the hospital with his brother, he’s sleeping during the day and often wakes up to unexpected and unwelcome news.

When Zaq stormed into my life in Brothers in Blood, I knew he was a pretty special character. Pair him with Jags and we have a double act better than Ant and Dec. One of the things I loved about Brothers in Blood was the location of Southall and Hounslow as I know these areas quite well. This time Amer Anwar has headed down the other way on the Uxbridge Road out to Hillingdon, Slough and Iver. I don’t know these places as much but I love how Amer puts in the little details to show he’s done his research. This usually means pubs. I’m not entirely sure I want to frequent these places but it adds authenticity to the story.

Amer Anwar has created some great villains but I don’t want to give the game away by telling you their names! Of course this leads to some pretty big fights. I don’t think I’ve read anyone better for fight scenes and I often wonder how Zaq is still standing by the end of the book!

The only thing I would have liked to have seen more of are the two young women, Rita and Nina. They had crucial roles in Brothers in Blood but as Zaq and Jags don’t want to involve them, they’re side-lined a bit. If there’s a third Zaq and Jags (fingers crossed) then I’d like to them to be a bit more present.

Overall I loved this fast-paced thriller where friendship and family are key. I can’t wait for another Zaq and Jags adventure.

NB. I don’t normally put trigger warnings in reviews but if you’ve already read Brothers in Blood then I must warn you that lemon and chilli appear again. Perhaps not as you expect but there all the same!

To buy Stone Cold Trouble click here.

Or support your local independent bookshop.

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 a decade and a half producing artwork, mainly for the home entertainment industry. He holds an MA in Creative Writing from Birkbeck, University of London and is a winner of the Crime Writers’ Association Debut Dagger Award.

And you can hear more about Stone Cold Trouble when Amer joins First Monday Crime on Monday 5th October. Follow First Monday Crime on Facebook and watch the livestream.

Blog tour – City of Spies by Mara Timon @MaraTimon @ZaffreBooks @Tr4cyF3nt0n #CityofSpies

City Of Spies 26.06

I’m thrilled to be taking part in the blog tour of City of Spies. Thank you to Tracy Fenton and Zaffre Books for inviting me to take part. Before I share my thoughts, here’s the blurb.

The Blurb

LISBON, 1943: When her cover is blown, SOE agent Elisabeth de Mornay flees Paris. Pursued by the Gestapo, she makes her way to neutral Lisbon, where Europe’s elite rub shoulders with diplomats, businessmen, smugglers, and spies. There she receives new orders – and a new identity.

Posing as wealthy French widow Solange Verin, Elisabeth must infiltrate a German espionage ring targeting Allied ships, before more British servicemen are killed.

The closer Elisabeth comes to discovering the truth, the greater the risk grows. With a German officer watching her every step, it will take all of Elisabeth’s resourcefulness and determination to complete her mission.

But in a city where no one is who they claim to be, who can she trust?

City of Spies Cover

My Review

With the 75th anniversary of the end of WW2, many stories have started to emerge about the women who took part in the war effort. For decades we’ve known about the WRENs, the Women’s Land Army and those who went to work in munitions factories. However it’s only in recent years, and particularly around the anniversary, that others have spoken about their more secret jobs. Women weren’t just typists at Bletchley but code breakers too. My favourite story is about the 13 year old girl who helped her father design the Spitfire. However, the women who really risked their lives were part of the SOE – Special Operations Executive – female spies who were parachuted behind enemy lines. They were highly trained in various ways and their contribution to the war effort was huge. Mara Timon plays tribute to these women with her debut novel City of Spies.

We hit the ground running in this thrilling novel. Elisabeth de Mornay, a SOE agent, has to flee Paris when someone informs on her. The journey back to Britain is fraught with danger both from the Germans and the Resistance. Trust is a long-lost virtue in wartime. Surviving is a day-to-day occurrence. When she finally makes it to Lisbon, supposedly neutral, Elisabeth is given a new task and a new alias as Solange Verin, a wealthy French widow. Instead of evading the Germans, she has to get up close and personal, something which will take nerves of steel.

It’s abundantly clear that Mara Timon has done her research. There’s a cast of characters provided at the beginning which is a mixture of fictional characters and real people. Often the real people are only name-checked but it provides authenticity. Likewise part of the plot is based on true events that happened in Portugal but I don’t want to give any spoilers away!

This is a fast-paced story. Solange may appear to be living it up in neutral Lisbon but the spy is constantly on the look-out and discovers the Germans aren’t her only enemies. The threats weave in and out of each other. Surviving with a smile on her face doesn’t prove easy. As well as being fast-paced, the tension is constantly there. Will Solange get the information she needs? Will her cover be blown? Will she survive and make it back to Britain? Of course I can’t tell you what happens, you’ll have to read it for yourself.

I’m not normally a fan of spy fiction but I enjoyed this hugely, not least because the ending suggests a sequel. I really hope it does. Elisabeth de Mornay is too good a character to restrict to one book and the war isn’t over yet.

You can buy City of Spies here.

Or buy a copy from your local independent bookshop.

About the Author

Raised in New York Mara Timon moved to the UK almost 20 years ago; and fell in love with London and the way it melds the old and the new. Growing up with one parent fascinated with literature and the other with history, she started writing from an early age, although it wasn’t until a programme on the BBC caught her interest, and one ‘what if’ led to another, and another, that her first book began to take shape.

City of Spies is her debut novel.

And you can hear more about City of Spies when Mara joins First Monday Crime on Monday 5th October. Follow First Monday Crime on Facebook and watch the livestream.

Book Review – The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman @richardosman @VikingBooksUK #TheThursdayMurderClub

Happy publication day to Richard Osman for The Thursday Murder Club! Thank you to Viking for allowing me to read a proof e-book via NetGalley. Before I give you my thoughts, here’s the blurb.


The Blurb

In a peaceful retirement village, four unlikely friends meet up once a week to investigate unsolved murders.

But when a brutal killing takes place on their very doorstep, the Thursday Murder Club find themselves in the middle of their first live case.

Elizabeth, Joyce, Ibrahim and Ron might be pushing eighty but they still have a few tricks up their sleeves.

Can our unorthodox but brilliant gang catch the killer before it’s too late?


The Thursday Murder Club

My Review

In The Thursday Murder Club, we have Elizabeth and Joyce, Ibrahim and Ron. Although they may be pensioners living in a retirement village and acutely aware their days are numbered, they don’t plan on wasting any of those days sitting around doing nothing.

Joyce has been asked to join after former and co-founding member, Penny, became too ill to take part. Penny, a retired police officer, was still haunted by past unsolved crimes so she started the club with Elizabeth. Each bring their own special set of skills. Ibrahim was a psychologist and a bit of a number-cruncher. Ron’s a former trade union leader and is able to make himself heard, loud and clear. He also has huge compassion that we see in rare moments. Joyce is a retired nurse and so brings some medical expertise. Elizabeth… well, we never know exactly what she used to do but there are enough hints to suggest a secretive and slightly murky past. Although they’re used to looking at cold cases, it isn’t long before a real murder happens and The Thursday Murder Club get the chance to try and solve it. And maybe more besides that.

I absolutely loved this the book. I giggled a lot and often read out parts to my husband which he didn’t fully appreciate as he was trying to go to sleep. There’s a cast of many characters and the viewpoint switches quite a lot which took a while to get used to.  As well as being humorous with an interesting plot, it’s also acutely observational. Richard Osman highlights perfectly the need that older people have to remain useful. Coopers Chase Retirement Village may be fictional but in the acknowledgements Richard Osman mentions a retirement village that he actually visited. It’s refreshing to know that such places exist.

I wish I could comment more on the plot but I don’t want to reveal any spoilers. Suffice to say things are not at all as they seem.

Overall, this book sums up the best in cosy crime – wonderfully eccentric characters, enough red herrings to eat for breakfast for a week and a quirky police duo trying (and failing) to keep one step ahead of the pensioners. I do hope there’s a second book planned. These characters are too good to be used only once.


You can buy The Thursday Murder Club here.

Or visit your local independent bookshop.


The Author

Richard Osman

Richard Osman is an author, producer and television presenter. The Thursday Murder Club is his first novel. He is well known for TV shows including Pointless and Richard Osman’s House of Games. As the creative director of Endemol UK, Richard has worked as an executive producer on numerous shows including Deal Or No Deal and 8 Out of 10 Cats. He is also a regular on panel and game shows such as Have I Got News For You, Would I Lie To You and Taskmaster.

First Monday Crime is back! @1stMondayCrime @kate_bradley @erskine_fiona @hecallaghan @sophieglorita

We’re back! Well, sort of. Obviously we can’t all meet together at City University so we’re moving online and will live stream our events to our Facebook page for the time being. So just like and follow the page and then join us on Monday 7th September at 7.30pm. Our guests will be Kate Bradley, Helen Callaghan and Fiona Erskine. Our very own Sophie Goodfellow will be asking the questions. To give you some idea of what to expect, here are the blurbs for the authors’ books.


To Keep Her Safe by Kate Bradley

To Keep You Safe

 How far would you go to save a child that isn’t yours?

You don’t know who they are. You don’t know why they’re hunting her. But you know she’s in danger.

What do you do?

When teacher Jenni Wales sees 15-year-old Destiny’s black eye, she’s immediately worried. Destiny isn’t your average student: she’s smart, genius IQ smart, and she’s in care. But concern turns to fear when Jenni witnesses an attempt to abduct Jenni from school.

Who are these men and what can Destiny know to make them hunt her?

With those around her not taking the threat seriously, Jenni does the only thing she can think of to keep Destiny safe: she takes her.

To buy click here.


Night Falls, Still Missing by Helen Callaghan

Night Falls, Still Missing

On a cold, windswept night, Fiona arrives on a tiny, isolated island in Orkney.

She accepted her old friend’s invitation with some trepidation – her relationship with Madison has never been plain sailing.

But when she approaches Madison’s cottage, the windows are dark. The place has been stripped bare. No one knows where Madison has gone.

As Fiona tries to find out where Madison has vanished to, she begins to unravel a web of lies.

Madison didn’t live the life she claimed to.

And now Fiona’s own life is in danger . . .

To buy click here.


The Chemical Reaction by Fiona Erskine

The Chemical Reaction

As Jaq is pulled further into a murky underworld of deceit and corruption, things take an explosive turn…

After escaping almost certain death amidst the ruins of Chernobyl, Jaq finds herself in even hotter water. Deep in debt, she decides to take on a risky contract in China. But when her former student and the chemical factory she was meant to be investigating both mysteriously disappear, she realises nothing is as it seems.

From fraudulent art auctions in London to a troupe of male strippers in Shanghai, the mystery of the vanishing factory begins to look ever more complicated as the days pass. Can Jaq work out what happened – and whether it has anything to do with her nemesis Frank Good – before time runs out?

To buy click here.


Such great books! Come along and join us on Monday 7th September at 7.30pm on the First Monday Crime Facebook page. And keep Monday 5th October free in your diaries! The panel for October will be confirmed soon.


Summer Reviews – #NormalPeople by Sally Rooney, #Containment by @vandasymon @orendabooks, #HerHusbandsSecrets by @LouiseMangos

Thankfully during lockdown, I’ve not lost my appetite for reading. If anything it’s increased. As well as doing a few blog tours, I’ve been free to catch up on my TBR pile as well as some new purchases. So here are three reviews for books I’ve read over the last couple of months.

Normal People by Sally Rooney

The Blurb

Connell and Marianne grow up in the same small town in the west of Ireland, but the similarities end there. In school, Connell is popular and well-liked, while Marianne is a loner. But when the two strike up a conversation – awkward but electrifying – something life-changing begins.

Normal People is a story of mutual fascination, friendship and love. It takes us from that first conversation to the years beyond, in the company of two people who try to stay apart but find they can’t.

Normal People

My Review

Having loved the TV series, I wondered if there was much point in reading the book. Thankfully, the lovely Mairead Hearne over at Swirl and Thread told me I must read it. And how right she was. I watched the TV series on my phone with headphones in and just as well with some of the scenes! Doing that gave it a ‘fly on a wall’ feeling as though I was intruding. I was worried the book wouldn’t be the same but I was so wrong. Reading Normal People allowed me to relive the intricate and desperate love story between Connell and Marianne. I’m impressed as to how faithful the TV production was to the book. It really pays to have the author involved.

It probably also helped that I already knew about Sally Rooney’s style of writing for this book. The speech marks are missing and while that was strange initially, I soon adjusted to it. In fact it allowed the story to flow more easily without interruption. Whilst I wouldn’t write this way, I can see the freedom in it.

Surprisingly, it’s a short book. I was tempted to race through it – binge-read like I had binge-watched the TV series. But I took my time and revelled in the beauty of the writing. It’s so much more than just a love story. Connell and Marianne are damaged people and their vulnerability is laid bare for all to see. It’s incredibly observational and insightful. It was a joy to read as much as the TV series was to watch. As there are rumours of a second series, I wonder if there’ll be a second book. I think a second series would work but not sure about a sequel to the book. Authors end their stories where they want to. And as much as I’d love to read more, sometimes we’re just meant to have a snapshot of a character’s life. I think we’ll have to trust Sally Rooney’s judgement on this. Connell and Marianne belong to her after all. We just get to borrow them for a while.



Containment by Vanda Symon

The Blurb

Chaos reigns in the sleepy village of Aramoana on the New Zealand coast, when a series of shipping containers wash up on the beach and looting begins.

Detective Constable Sam Shephard experiences the desperation of the scavengers first-hand, and ends up in an ambulance, nursing her wounds and puzzling over an assault that left her assailant for dead.

What appears to be a clear-cut case of a cargo ship running aground soon takes a more sinister turn when a skull is found in the sand, and the body of a diver is pulled from the sea … a diver who didn’t die of drowning…

As first officer at the scene, Sam is handed the case, much to the displeasure of her superiors, and she must put together an increasingly confusing series of clues to get to the bottom of a mystery that may still have more victims…


My Review

This is the third book in the Sam Shepherd series. A container ship has run aground off the coast of New Zealand, spilling its cargo out over the beach. Sensing free goods, the locals go a bit frenzied and start to grab as much as they can. Sam’s in the area – house and dog-sitting – but a cop is never off duty. She’s still as feisty as ever and Sam takes a blow to the head as she attempts to arrest one of the scavengers. A chain of events is set in motion.

I absolutely love Sam Shepherd. Having said that, there are also times I want to tell her off! As well as dealing with a complex investigation, Sam’s commitment phobia is put to the test when her long-distance boyfriend tells her he’s moving to Dunedin and joining her police department. Sam is freaked out by this but thankfully her flatmate Maggie is there to sort her out. A family bombshell adds to Sam’s vulnerability and it’ll be interesting to see how everything works out in book four. (Please tell me there’s a book four, Vanda!).

Of course, the other star of the Sam Shepherd series is the setting. Not only do we get a sense of the landscape but more importantly we get a slice of New Zealand life. Toffee Pops are particularly important to Sam, and having now tasted some, I can see why (thanks Vanda).

So all in all, a great setting, an intriguing plot and a feisty female detective. What’s not to love?


Her Husband’s Secrets by Louise Mangos

The Blurb

Art college dropout Lucie arrives in a Swiss ski resort looking for work – but instead finds love in the form of the handsome and charismatic Mathieu.

Matt seems like perfect husband material – especially when Lucie discovers he’s from a wealthy family. But Matt’s dark side soon emerges. Manipulative, controlling and abusive, he is anything but perfect and will tear the life she has built for herself and their six-year-old son JP apart.

Then, one fateful night, things come to a head in the most shocking way . . .

Wrongly accused of her husband’s murder and left fighting for her freedom in a foreign prison, Lucie is starting to lose her grip on reality. Now, she must summon all her strength to uncover the truth about Matt’s death and be reunited with her son – before it’s too late.

The clock is ticking . . . but who can she trust?

Her Husband's Secrets

My Review

I have a huge apology to make to Louise Mangos. She gave me a proof of Her Husband’s Secrets to read last September and I’ve only just had the chance to read it now. Sorry Louise!

Like her first novel, Strangers on a Bridge, the main character, Lucie, is a British woman living in Switzerland. I have to say I’ve learnt more about Switzerland and its justice system through Louise Mangos books than through any newspaper articles. We learn pretty quickly that Lucie is in prison having been convicted of her husband’s murder. But is it a wrongful conviction?

Through flashbacks we find out about Lucie and Matt and their turbulent relationship. I really enjoyed these sections and the tension gradually grew. The prison scenes were quite different and ironically, despite being imprisoned, Lucie is at her freest. No longer confined by her marriage and determined to prove her innocence, she really comes into her own and she appears older than 26. It is a slow burn but the wheels of justice do not move quickly, not even in efficient Switzerland, so it works well with the plot. It allows us to feel Lucie’s frustrations more.

As at least half the book is set in a prison we get less of the beautiful Swiss scenery. However, I suppose that’s the point. Convicts don’t get a room with a view.

There are some interesting twists in this story. The book was previously published as The Art of Deception.  Without giving too much away there’s a play on words in that title which I think suits the storyline much better. A deceptive and fascinating read.


If you’d like to buy any of the books then click on the links below. Or alternatively, look up or visit your nearest independent bookshop.

Normal People


Her Husband’s Secrets



Book Review – The Storm by Amanda Jennings @MandaJJennings @HQstories #TheStorm

Happy publication day to Amanda Jennings for The Storm! A big thank you to HQ Stories for letting me read a proof through NetGalley. Before I give you my thoughts, here’s the blurb.


The Blurb

To the outside world Hannah married the perfect man. Behind the closed doors of their imposing home it’s a very different story. Nathan controls everything Hannah does. He chooses her clothes, checks her receipts, and keeps her passport locked away. But why does she let him?

Years before, in the midst of a relentless storm, the tragic events of one night changed everything. And Hannah has been living with the consequences ever since. Keeping Nathan happy. Doing as she’s told.

But the past is about to catch up with them.

Set against the unforgiving backdrop of a Cornish fishing port in the ‘90s, this is a devastating exploration of the power of coercive control in a marriage where nothing is quite as it seems…


The Storm

My Review

I’ve read almost all of Amanda Jennings’ books and I can honestly say this is the best one yet. Quite frankly, it has everything you need for a fantastic story.

Hannah and Nathan seem the perfect couple. He’s a successful lawyer and she takes care of their large, imposing house and their fifteen-year-old son, Alex. Yet the house is more prison than home and Alex is pushing the boundaries Hannah has had to create to keep themselves safe from Nathan. But there’s only so long a house built on sand can survive.

There is so much more to this than just domestic noir. Not only is there a chilling and very realistic storyline of coercive control, there’s also a mystery to solve going back fifteen years. Using three viewpoints – Hannah, Nathan and Cameron – the story unfolds but not as you’d expect. I could feel Hannah’s trepidation whenever she had to confront Nathan and it was clear she had to choose her battles wisely. Nathan is twistier than a corkscrew. His chapters were very interesting as the reader gets to discover what lies behind Nathan’s hateful ways. Although I regularly wanted to scream at Hannah to get out of the marriage, she had her own reasons for staying. This is certainly not a glib look at coercive control but an insightful, authentic and heart-breaking story.

But as I wrote, there is also a mystery to solve and it’s in this part that Cornwall has the main role. Amanda Jennings’ excels in making the location of Cornwall an integral part of the book, as she has done with her past novels – The Cliff House and In Her Wake. It’s the life source of the sea that powers these chapters both with the living it provides to the fishermen and their families and the devastation it can cause. The sea takes as much as it gives. Although the title, The Storm, has more than one meaning here, there’s an actual storm that happens. These chapters were fantastic and I felt as though I was there, facing the storm, the tension rising with the waves.

I wish I could say more about the ending but I’m not going to give any spoilers away. I’ll just say that Amanda Jennings has been very clever and leave it at that. An outstanding book and one that will definitely be in my top ten reads of 2020.


You can buy The Storm here.

Or consider buying or ordering it from an independent bookshop. Maybe one in Cornwall!


The Author

Amanda Jennings

Amanda Jennings writes psychological suspense and is the author of Sworn SecretThe Judas Scar, In Her Wake, The Cliff House and now, The Storm. 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.

Review – The Shadow Friend by Alex North @writer_north @BooksJoel @PenguinUKBooks #TheShadowFriend #NetGalley

Happy publication day to Alex North for The Shadow Friend! Thank you to Penguin for letting me read a proof copy through NetGalley. Before I give you my thoughts, here’s the blurb.


The Blurb

The victim was his friend. So was the murderer.

Twenty-five years ago, troubled teenager Charlie Crabtree committed a shocking and unprovoked murder.

For Paul Adams, it’s a day he’ll never forget. He’s never forgiven himself for his part in what happened to his friend and classmate. He’s never gone back home.

But when his elderly mother has a fall, it’s finally time to stop running.

It’s not long before things start to go wrong. A copycat killer has struck, bringing back painful memories. Paul’s mother insists there’s something in the house.

And someone is following him.

Which reminds him of the most unsettling thing about that awful day twenty-five years ago.

It wasn’t just the murder.

It was the fact that afterwards, Charlie Crabtree was never seen again . . .

The Shadow Friend 2


My Review

Dreams have always mystified us. Whether it’s from Joseph interpreting Pharaoh’s dreams in the Bible to Leonardo DiCaprio starring as the dream-maker in Inception, our sleep-induced thoughts affect us. Lucid dreams are the premise of The Shadow Friend, the second book featuring DI Amanda Beck.

Paul Adams has returned to his home, Gritten Village, after being away for many years. He would have stayed away for longer but his mother is dying. Once back, he finds he can’t escape the secrets from the past. DI Amanda Beck is investigating the terrible murder of a teenager killed by two friends. What’s more horrific is that she discovers similar cases, starting with one in Gritten Village, twenty-five years before.

I could tell you more about the plot and the characters but I don’t want to give too much away.  Especially in relation to the lucid dreams – that’s something you need to experience yourself! But the thing that makes this book stand out for me is the emotional content. Alex North made me cry with The Whisper Man and he’s done it again with The Shadow Friend. He looks at grief once more but not just in terms of the loss of a loved one. He also considers grief over decisions made and the sacrifices a mother makes for her child. There were so many beautiful phrases that connected with me personally. I’m welling up again just thinking about it!

I thought The Whisper Man was pretty creepy but Alex North has turned up the tension  and chill factor significantly. In hindsight, reading this just before I went to bed might not have been the best plan! I had some pretty restless nights. But The Shadow Friend is utterly compelling and despite wondering if my nerves could take it, I had to keep reading. An outstanding book and one that is definitely going into my top ten reads of 2020.


You can buy The Shadow Friend here.

Or now that bookshops are open again, why not buy a copy from your nearest one, particularly if it’s an independent shop.


The Author

Steve Mosby

Alex North 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.



Blog Tour – Dead and Gone by Sherryl Clark @sherrylwriter @Verve_Books #DeadandGone

Dead and Gone Blog Tour Poster

It’s my turn today on the blog tour for Dead and Gone by Sherryl Clark. It’s the sequel to Trust Me, I’m Dead. Thank you to Clare Quinlivan at No Exit Press and Verve Books for inviting me to take part. I have a guest post from Sherryl Clark but before you read that, let’s find out a bit more about the book.


The Blurb

There’s nothing more dangerous than revenge.

Judi Westerholme has been through it. Brave and strong-willed, she’s just about coping in her new role as foster parent to her orphaned niece, taking a job at the local pub to help make ends meet. Then the pub’s landlord and Judi’s friend, army veteran Pete ‘Macca’ Maccasfield, is murdered, and her world is suddenly turned upside down.

Despite warnings from the city police to keep out of it, Judi can’t help but get involved in the search for Macca’s killer. But she soon becomes deeply entangled with some ruthlessly dangerous men. She must act fast and think smart to work out what they want – before anyone else gets hurt…

Dead and Gone_Sherryl Clark cover

Guest Post

Crime writing is not my only job

Despite what readers might think, writers come from all kinds of backgrounds and have done dozens of different jobs on their way to writing (and many keep working to support their writing). It’s fascinating to see what people did before their novels sold well enough to earn them a living!

Ann Cleeves studied English at college but dropped out and had a number of different jobs such as cook, auxiliary coastguard, childcare officer, library outreach worker and probation officer. All of these have given her plenty of ideas for characters and crime situations. Her husband was an ornithologist so she includes lots of detailed bird references.

Val McDermid grew up in Kirkcaldy, Scotland, and studied English at Oxford University. She trained as a journalist and worked on various national newspapers for 14 years before becoming a fiction writer. After her first novel was rejected many times, an actor friend read it and encouraged her to make it into a play, which was then performed at the Plymouth Theatre Company. However, Val has never been a psychologist or a police detective!

Before becoming a full-time novelist, Ian Rankin worked as a grape picker, swineherd, taxman, alcohol researcher, hi-fi journalist, college secretary and punk musician in a band called the Dancing Pigs. He’s also taught at university.

Michael Robotham began as a journalism cadet in Sydney, Australia. He spent many years as a journalist, mostly in the UK where he eventually became Deputy Features Editor of the Mail on Sunday. After resigning he freelanced for a while and then began ghostwriting. He’s written the life stories of fifteen different people, including many celebrities. After he returned to Australia in 1996, he started writing fiction and his first crime novel was accepted for publication in 2002.

Like some of these writers, I’ve done quite a few different jobs over the years. I initially trained as a librarian – the best way to get my hands on lots of new books to read. I’ve also worked in lots of pubs and restaurants over the years, including one in London where I was doing 60-hour weeks for about 16 pounds! I’ve also been a secretary, a hospital cleaner (the only job I’ve been fired from, I think), a teacher and a community arts worker.

It’s funny how many little bits of these jobs creep into my stories. In Trust Me, I’m Dead and Dead and Gone, my character Judi has owned and worked in a pub and ends up working in the one in Candlebark. My waitressing days included good and bad experiences with chefs, some of whom threw tantrums almost as bad as Gordon Ramsay, so I’ve created a chef who’s just a little temperamental.

As I grew up on a farm, and lived in a very small place, I often use that sense of ‘everyone knows your business’ in my novels set in the country. There’s nothing like gossip and the country shop or pub as the centre of the community to make sure all the inhabitants are involved – and are potential suspects, too.


Thank you Sherryl for telling us a bit about how your life experiences have influenced your writing.


The paperback will come out end of August but the e-book is available to buy now. Click here.


The Author

Sherryl Clark photo

Sherryl Clark has had 40 children’s and YA books published in Australia, and several in the US and UK, plus collections of poetry and four verse novels. She has taught writing at
Holmesglen TAFE and Victoria University. She recently completed a Master of Fine Arts
program at Hamline University, Minnesota, and is now studying for a PhD in creative writing. Sherryl’s debut novel, Trust Me, I’m Dead, was shortlisted for the CWA Debut Dagger. It is the first novel in the Judi Westerholme series, followed by Dead and Gone.

West Barnes Library Author Event Coming Up Soon! @GJMinett @TMLoganAuthor @WhittyAuthor @ZaffreBooks @MertonLibraries #SummerReading #WestBarnesLibrary

Summer Reading event

In just under two weeks on Tuesday 14th July, we’ll be having our next author event in conjunction with the Friends of West Barnes Library. Of course, current circumstances mean that we can’t meet as normal so we’re moving online to Facebook Live. It’s very simple to join in although you do have to be on Facebook. Just like the Friends of West Barnes Library page and then watch us on Tuesday 14th July at 7.30pm. Joining us will be TM Logan, GJ Minett and Chris Whitaker. To give you a flavour of their books, I have some reviews for you.


The Catch by TM Logan

The Blurb

She says he’s perfect. I know he’s lying . . .

He caught me watching, and our eyes met. That was when it hit me.
There was something not quite right about my daughter’s new boyfriend . . .

The doting father

Ed finally meets his daughter’s boyfriend for the first time. Smart, successful and handsome, Ryan appears to be a real catch. Then Abbie announces their plan to get married.

The perfect fiancé

There’s just one problem. Ed thinks Ryan is lying to them.

Who would you believe?

All of Ed’s instincts tell him his daughter is in terrible danger – but no-one else can see it. With the wedding date approaching fast, Ed sets out to uncover Ryan’s secrets, before it’s too late . . .


My Review

I have to confess this is only the second book I’ve read by TM Logan. I read The Holiday last summer and was instantly hooked by his writing. I’m happy to report that The Catch is just as gripping!

The Catch probably comes under the psychological thriller genre but I think it could easily fit into the sub-genre of domestic noir. It’s rare for a man to write in this area, even rarer to have a male protagonist. And rarest of all, it works brilliantly. Ed’s a typical father – over-protective of his daughter, Abbie. It’s going to take a remarkable man to win Ed’s approval as a son-in-law. Abbie thinks she’s found that in Ryan. Ed’s not so sure. And so the story begins.

I thought I knew how this book would go but I was so wrong. I was genuinely surprised by the twists and turns and even shocked at one point. I heard TM Logan say that he loosely based Abbie on his own daughter so those fatherly concerns feel very real. I’m not sure if that reassures his daughter or not!

I liked the setting of Nottingham and the Peak District. Having visited the latter a couple of times for holidays, I could tell that TM Logan has done his research. The wild expanse added to the tension of the story and I could easily imagine those scenes.

The Catch is very different to The Holiday and shows TM Logan’s versatility as a writer. I look forward to seeing what he comes up with next!


The Syndicate by GJ Minett

The Blurb


Twenty years ago, Jon Kavanagh worked for a crime syndicate.
Then one night he made a mistake.
He left a witness at a crime scene. Alive.

Now, he is haunted by the memories of that young girl. Her face a constant reminder of the life he chose to leave behind. Time has passed and now he wants answers: What ever happened to her?

Anna Hill is an aspiring singer, but the bars and clubs she works in are far from exciting. When she is given the opportunity to work in Portugal, she takes it. This is her chance to finally kick-start her career.

But the job offer comes at a price; one that will endanger the lives of those she knows, and those she doesn’t. Becoming involved with the Syndicate is risky, and Anna will need her instincts to work out who to trust – and who not to . . .


My Review

The Syndicate tells the story of Jon Kavanagh, former hitman. He’s unique. He’s managed to escape the Syndicate and has been out of their clutches for twenty years now. Or so he thinks. But his last job still haunts him and time is running out for him to make amends.

On the face of it, I’m not sure this would be my normal read but I was drawn into it. Rather than chapters there are sections with different points of view, places and timeframes. It took me a while to get used to this. It was a bit like taking the layers off a pass the parcel, not knowing if a treat or a forfeit was waiting for you. And for Jon, there are definitely more forfeits than treats.

Hitmen aren’t always particularly likeable let alone loveable (except maybe Jason Bourne) but there’s something about Jon Kavanagh that makes you warm to him. Maybe it’s the remorse he shows for his final job for the Syndicate. Maybe it’s his traumatic childhood. Maybe it’s the injuries he sustained as a soldier. GJ Minett has pulled off the feat of making what should be a reprehensible character as someone you’d want fighting your corner.

I don’t want to say too much but the ending was not what I expected. But like so often with pass the parcels, that final layer doesn’t always reveal what you want.


We Begin At The End by Chris Whitaker

The Blurb

Thirty years ago, Vincent King became a killer.

Now, he’s been released from prison and is back in his hometown of Cape Haven, California. Not everyone is pleased to see him. Like Star Radley, his ex-girlfriend, and sister of the girl he killed.

Duchess Radley, Star’s thirteen-year-old daughter, is part-carer, part-protector to her younger brother, Robin – and to her deeply troubled mother. But in trying to protect Star, Duchess inadvertently sets off a chain of events that will have tragic consequences not only for her family, but also the whole town.

Murder, revenge, retribution.

‘You can’t save someone that doesn’t want to be saved . . .’


My Review

I never find it particularly easy to find the right words for reviews. It becomes even harder when the book shines with such brilliance. Tall Oaks showed us that Chris Whitaker can write a darkly comedic Crime story. All the Wicked Girls had the humour stripped away revealing a beautifully written tragic tale. I didn’t think it was possible for Chris Whitaker to step it up but he has in We Begin At The End. I read it slowly, desperate to eek it out, longing for it not to end.

Whitaker immerses us in the lives of Duchess Day Radley and her younger brother, Robin. Aged 13 and 5 respectively at the beginning of the story, their lot in life is pretty bad. Their mum, Star, is in a bad way and so Duchess looks after her little brother. They get by – just. Until one night when a beaten-up Star returns from her bartending job at a local club. Duchess makes a decision which leads to a chain of catastrophic events for her family and her home town of Cape Haven. Chief Walker, known as Walk, is the other main narrator who has to battle his childhood loyalties with justice and his failing body. I don’t want to tell you too much more about the plot as I don’t want to spoil it for anyone.

I found myself totally wrapped up in these characters’ lives. I didn’t want it to end. It was like having a slice of the best chocolate cake in the world and choosing not to gobble it down in one go but eating just a small amount each time. And when I did finally finish reading it at bedtime, my husband looked at me and said, “Well, you won’t be going to sleep just yet.” My emotion was clear and if he hadn’t been there, I probably would have sobbed.

But it’s not just the characters and the plot that make this book so special. It’s the actual writing. All of Chris’ books have been set in small town America so his words have that lilting American tone. There were times when I just stopped reading because of the beauty of the words. As I’ve read a proof I’m not really allowed to quote but this sentence is so incredible and it doesn’t give any spoilers (and I checked with Chris’ editor).

‘At Caroga Plain a man with a guitar got on and asked the few if they minded and they all shook their heads so he sang about golden slumbers, his voice rough but something in it stripping the roof from the old bus and letting the stars fall in.’

See what I mean? How am I supposed to write a review that does this book justice? The truth is, I can’t. There is only one word I can give it – extraordinary. But more than that, Chris Whitaker is an extraordinary writer.


So as you can see, we have three very special books to discuss with our authors. Normally we have the books available to buy on the night but of course we can’t do that. Here are the Amazon links but maybe check out your newly-opened independent bookshops as well.

TM Logan – The Catch

GJ Minett – pre order for 9th July The Syndicate

Chris Whitaker – We Begin At The End

Hope you can join us on the 14th July at 7.30pm (BST) on Facebook Live. Apologies, especially to the authors, that I can’t give you all cookies!

Blog tour – Monstrous Souls by Rebecca Kelly @RKellyAuthor1 @AgoraBooksLdn #MonstrousSouls

Monstrous Soul Blog Tour Image

Today it’s my turn to share Monstrous Souls with you. Many thanks to Peyton Stableford at Agora Books for inviting me to take part. I was instantly intrigued by the premise for Rebecca Kelly’s debut novel. Before I give you my review, here’s the blurb.


The Blurb

What if you knew the truth but couldn’t remember?
Over a decade ago, Heidi was the victim of a brutal attack that left her hospitalised, her younger sister missing, and her best friend dead. But Heidi doesn’t remember any of that. She’s lived her life since then with little memory of her friends and family and no recollection of the crime.

Now, it’s all starting to come back.

As Heidi begins retracing the events that lead to the assault, she is forced to confront the pain and guilt she’s long kept buried. But Heidi isn’t the only one digging up the past, and the closer she gets to remembering the truth, the more danger she’s in.

When the truth is worse than fiction, is the past worth reliving?

An addictive thriller about a case gone cold and the dangers lurking on our doorsteps, Monstrous Souls will have you gripped to the very end.

Monstrous Souls eBook Cover

My Review

Imagine waking up after a terrible incident and finding you have no memory of what happened and little more of your life. Surely that must be one of your worst nightmares. For Heidi though, the nightmare begins when she starts to remember.

Monstrous Souls is told with three different points of view and in two timeframes – 2001 and 2016. Cleverly, Rebecca Kelly often shows us the actual events in 2001 and then we see how Heidi remembers and handles the memories in 2016. Heidi would prefer to push the rising images away but she knows she has to find justice for her friend Nina and discover what happened to her younger sister, Anna.

One thing I liked in particular in this story was the contrast between the hot summer of 2001 and the cold early winter of 2016. The heat gave the sense of brewing tensions until they reached boiling point. The cold created a chilling atmosphere where a stranger plays ‘cat and mouse’ with Heidi, ever creeping nearer.

This wasn’t always an easy read. As the title suggests, we’re dealing with some awful people here. However, Rebecca Kelly has written this with great sensitivity. I had to read on to discover the truth with Heidi. A compelling debut novel.



The Author

Rebecca Kelly Author Photo

Rebecca Kelly was brought up with books but denied the pleasure of a television. Although she hated this at the time, she now considers it to have contributed to a life-long passion for reading and writing.
After a misspent education, Rebecca had a variety of jobs. She’s spent the last years raising her children but has lately returned to her first love – writing.
Rebecca lives in the UK with her husband and youngest son and an over-enthusiastic black Labrador, who gives her writing tips.