First Monday Crime Interview – Vaseem Khan

First Monday Crime is back a week today on the 6th November with Stuart McBride, Elodie Harper, Simon Booker and Vaseem Khan. The lovely people over at FM asked if I would like to do a little Q&A with one of the authors. Since I have heard so much about one of these authors in particular, I asked if I could interview Vaseem Khan. Thankfully, he said yes!

Vaseem Khan has had three books published so far – The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra, The Perplexing Theft of the Jewel in the Crown and The Strange Disappearance of a Bollywood Star. All three books are part of the Baby Ganesh Agency series. They can be bought here.

Vaseem Khan's books

Q1. I’ve only just started to read book 1. Could you tell me a little bit about your protagonist, Inspector Chopra?

Inspector Ashwin Chopra is a rarity – an incorruptible police officer in the Mumbai police service. We meet him in The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra where, on his last day in office (he is forced into retirement in his late forties), he is confronted by the body of a local boy. Chopra quickly realises that his seniors do not wish the boy’s death to be investigated – but when the boy’s mother suggests that he is letting the death slide because they are poor it rankles. Chopra is a man who cares deeply about the social ills in his country, the vast inequalities, the grinding poverty. He is nostalgic about ‘old India’, but understands that new, globalised India has its own problems. He is a man whose actions are guided always by a desire to see justice done in an often unequal society.


Q2. I love your opening line of The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra – ‘On the day that he was due to retire, Inspector Ashwin Chopra discovered that he had inherited an elephant.’ Why an elephant?

You could say the idea of the elephant was born on my first day in India back in 1997 when I arrived in Mumbai to work as a management consultant. I was in a taxi and we had stopped at a set of traffic lights. As I looked out into the passing traffic of rickshaws, trucks, bikes, cows, goats and dogs, I saw, lumbering through the chaos, an enormous grey Indian elephant – not something you see in East London where I was born! This surreal sight stuck with me and eventually led to an elephant being cast alongside Chopra in the novel I wrote when I returned to England ten years later. On a purely practical level elephants possess all the qualities of the best detectives. They’re highly intelligent, and have those amazing memories – yes, that’s not a myth. They also have a great range of emotions, which is important because part of the charm of my books is the dynamic between Chopra and the baby elephant he is forced to adopt.


Q3. You were born in London and grew up there but you’ve spent ten years in Mumbai. Two major cities. What differences did you find between the two? I particularly liked your description of the high rises in Mumbai resembling ‘a giant pin cushion’.

Mumbai is a non-stop assault on the senses. I’ve tried to encapsulate this in my book, to give readers an idea of what the city looks like, feels like, sounds like, smells like, and even tastes like. However, once I’d spent some time there I began to see that there were aspects of this amazing place that required me to take a closer look. My first trip to the Daravi slum, for instance, left me open-mouthed. Extreme poverty, poor sanitation, limited medical facilities, terrible transport infrastructure, all the things we take for granted in the West. There is a massive gap between rich and poor, and although social change is taking place, there are still prejudices ingrained in people’s thinking (such as the caste system). In this respect Mumbai is not so different from London, which also suffers from inequality, though not on the same scale – the recent Grenfell disaster brought this sharply into focus.


Q4. You have just won an award for your second book, The Perplexing Theft of the Jewel in the Crown. Could you explain a bit more?

The Perplexing Theft of the Jewel in the Crown has just won the 2017 SHAMUS AWARD for the Best Original Private Investigator Paperback. The Shamus Awards are one of the world’s most prestigious crime awards, awarded by the Private Eye Writers of America. Previous Shamus winners include the likes of Harlan Coben and Dennis Lehane, one of my favourite writers, which makes this honour particularly pleasing. The book sees Chopra on the trail of the world’s most famous diamond, the Kohinoor, first mined in India during the Raj, ‘appropriated’ by the British, and ever since installed in the Crown Jewels. The Kohinoor is brought to India for a special exhibition, and stolen in a daring heist. Chopra is soon tasked to recover the great diamond.


Q5. I’ve heard others compare you to Alexander McCall Smith. Who are the crime writers that you admire?

I freely admit that Alexander McCall Smith’s No.1 Ladies Detective Agency has been an inspiration for me. I only hope my books do justice to the comparison. (My favourite such comparison is by Jake Kerridge of the Sunday Express: “There have been many insipid imitators of the Alexander McCall Smith formula … but Khan has the quirkiness and hint of grit to make his portrayal of modern Mumbai memorable.”)

I am also a fan of some other usual suspects: Rankin’s Rebus series is wonderful, as is Louise Penny’s Canada-set Inspector Armand Gamache. I love Jeffrey Deaver’s quadriplegic hero Lincoln Rhymes. (Deaver is brilliant at putting in twists.) But America’s Michael Connelly is my favourite – his L.A. based detective Harry Bosch is my kind of crime fighter – grim, gritty and utterly implacable in his mission. In terms of newer authors I’m a fan of Abir Mukherjee whose Sam Wyndham series takes us back to 1920s India. They are beautifully written books and evocative of the period.


Q6. I asked Amer Anwar this question so I’m going to ask you too – are you excited by the rise of Asian crime writers in Britain?

Diversity in the creative arts is very much on the agenda right now. I waited 23 years to be published and there were times during that long apprenticeship when I doubted that I ever would be. My experience since being published, however, has been wonderful.  I have had nothing but friendship and support from the crime fraternity – from publishers, writers, bloggers, bookshops and readers. I think one reason Asian writers are late to the party is that traditionally writing has not been considered a viable career option by Asian parents – so support and encouragement is lacking. Yes, I am excited by more Asian writers coming to the fore – but the bottom line is that readers are astute – they can spot a good crime novel from a mile away, and don’t care who wrote it.


Q7. Would you like to see your books made into a TV series/film?

The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra has been optioned for film. It would be great if it was actually made – so many readers have said the colour and vibrancy of the books would look great on screen. Personally, I’d love to sit in on the casting of the baby elephant!


Final Question!

Scenario – you’re due to be speaking at a big literary festival but you’re given VIP tickets to see England v India at The Oval. What are you going to do?

This one’s a no-brainer. Yes, I love all things cricket, but having waited two decades to be published, nothing is more important to me now than connecting with readers. I do a lot of talks and find it easy to engage with an audience. I love sharing stories – not just about my books, but about literature and life in general. Put it this way: no one leaves one of my talks without a smile on their face!


Thank you for answering my questions, Vaseem. And if you want to test Vaseem on his final sentence, then you can reserve your place at First Monday Crime here.


The author

Vaseem Khan

Vaseem Khan first saw an elephant lumbering down the middle of the road in 1997 when he arrived in India to work as a management consultant. It was the most unusual thing he had ever encountered and served as the inspiration for the Baby Ganesh Agency series.

He returned to the UK in 2006 and now works at University College London for the Department of Security and Crime Science where he is astonished on a daily basis by the way modern science is being employed to tackle crime. Elephants are third on his list of passions, first and second being great literature and cricket, and not always in that order.

You can took a look at Vaseem’s website, which, apart from telling you about the books and Vassem himself, also has some photos of some very cute baby elephants. Surely that’s got to be worth a look –





















Blog Tour – The Man Who Died by Antti Tuomainen

man who died blog poster 2017

Today, it’s my turn on the blog tour for The Man Who Died by Antti Tuomainen. I’m sharing the tour today with The Quiet Geordie so feel free to check out her post. I have an extract for you from the first chapter to whet your appetite. But first, the blurb.


The blurb

A successful entrepreneur in the mushroom industry, Jaakko Kaunismaa is a man in his prime. At just 37 years of age, he is shocked when his doctor tells him that he’s dying. What is more, the cause is discovered to be prolonged exposure to toxins; in other words, someone has slowly but surely been poisoning him. Determined to find out who wants him dead, Jaakko embarks on a suspenseful rollercoaster journey full of unusual characters, bizarre situations and unexpected twists.

With a nod to Fargo and the best elements of the Scandinavian noir tradition, The Man Who Died is a page-turning thriller brimming with the blackest comedy surrounding life and death, and love and betrayal, marking a stunning new departure for the King of Helsinki Noir.


The Man Who Died new front (1)

The extract

Chapter 1

‘It’s a good job you provided a urine sample too.’

The oval face of the doctor sitting behind the desk exudes seriousness and gravitas. The dark rims of his spectacles accentuate the blue, almost three-dimensional intensity of his gaze.

‘This…’ he stumbles. ‘This requires a little background. I’ve contacted my colleagues in Kotka and Helsinki. They said essentially the same as what we’ve been able to deduce here. Even if we’d picked this up the last time you visited, there’s nothing else we could have done. How are you feeling?’

I shrug my shoulders. I go through the same information I told the doctor the last time I was here and give an account of the latest symptoms. It all started with a sudden, powerful wave of nausea and vomiting that quite literally knocked me off my feet. After that my condition seemed to stabilise, but only for a while. Sometimes I feel so dizzy that I’m worried I might faint. I have coughing fits. Stress keeps me awake at night. When I finally fall asleep, I have nightmares. Sometimes my headaches are so intense it feels like someone is scraping a knife behind my eyeballs. My throat is constantly dry. The nausea has started again and it hits me without any warning.

And all this just when my business is getting ready for the most important time of the year, the greatest challenge we’ve ever faced in the short time we’ve existed.

‘Right,’ the doctor nods. ‘Right.’

I say nothing. He pauses before continuing. ‘This is not to do with prolonged, complicated flu symptoms, as we thought at first. Without a urine sample we might never have found out what was wrong. The sample told us a lot, and that’s what led us to conduct the MRI scan. With the results of the scan we’ve now got a fuller picture of what’s going on. You see, your kidneys, liver and pancreas – that is to say your most important internal organs – are extremely badly damaged. Given what you’ve told us, we can deduce that your central nervous system is severely compromised too. In addition to that, you may have experienced some amount of brain damage. All this is a direct result of the poisoning that showed up in your urine sample. The levels of toxicity – that is, the amount of poison in your system – would be enough to knock out a hippopotamus. The fact that you’re even sitting here in front of me and still going to work is, in my estimation, due to the fact that the poisoning has taken place over an extended period of time and in such a way that the poison has had time to accumulate in your body. In one way or another, you’ve become used to it.’

In my gut it feels as though I’m falling, as though something inside me tears free and hurtles down into the cold abyss beneath. The sensation lasts a few seconds. Then it stops. I’m sitting on a chair opposite the doctor, it’s a Tuesday morning and I’ll soon be on my way to work. I’ve read stories of how people act with great clarity in a fire or of how they don’t panic after they’ve been shot, though they’re bleeding profusely. I sit there and look the doctor in the eyes. I could be waiting for the bus.

‘You mentioned you work with mushrooms,’ the doctor says eventually.

‘But the matsutake isn’t poisonous,’ I answer. ‘And the harvest is just around the corner.’

‘The matsutake?’

I don’t know where to start.

I decide to tell the short version: back in Helsinki my wife worked in institutional catering, and I was a sales officer. Three and a half years ago the recession hit both our workplaces, and we were made redundant at around the same time. Meanwhile Hamina – like dozens of similar small Finnish towns – was desperately looking for new commercial activity to replace the empty harbour and recently decommissioned paper factory. We had a series of quick negotiations, secured a generous start-up grant, acquired premises that cost next to nothing and staff who were well acquainted with the local woods and terrain. We sold our one-bedroom apartment in suburban Helsinki, and for the same money bought a detached house in Hamina and a small fibreglass boat that we could tether to the jetty a mere seventy metres from our post box.

Our business idea was simple: the matsutake – the pine mushroom.

The Japanese were crazy about it, and Finnish forests were full of it.

The Japanese would pay up to a thousand euros per kilo of mushrooms in the early, sprouting phase. To the north and east of Hamina there were forests where picking pine mushrooms was as easy as plucking them from a plate in front of you. In Hamina we had treatment facilities, a dryer, a packing area, chilled spaces and employees. During the harvest season we sent a shipment to Tokyo once a week.

I have to catch my breath. The doctor seems to be thinking about something.

‘What about your lifestyle otherwise?’

‘My lifestyle?’

‘Your diet, how much you exercise, that sort of thing.’

I tell him I eat well and with a good, hearty appetite. I haven’t once cooked for myself since I met Taina, and that was over seven years ago. And Taina’s meals aren’t the kind in which a teaspoon of celery purée stares dejectedly across the plate at a solitary sprig of wheatgrass. Taina’s basic ingredients are cream, salt, butter, cheeses and plenty of pork. I like Taina’s food, always have done. And it shows around my waistline. I weigh twenty-four kilos more than when we first met. Taina hasn’t gained weight; it might be because she’s bigger-boned than I am and has always looked like a weightlifter in peak physical condition, ready for a competition. I mean that in the nicest possible way: her thighs are solid, round and strong. Her shoulders are broad and her arms powerful without being masculine; her stomach is flat. Whenever I see pictures of female bodybuilders who are not ripped and grotesque, I think of Taina. Besides, she exercises too: she goes to the gym, takes aerobics classes, and ever since we moved here she goes rowing out at sea. Sometimes I try to keep up with her, though that too is becoming a rare occurrence.

I don’t know why I’m speaking so quickly, so effusively, why I have to talk about Taina in such detail. The next thing we know, I’ll be giving the doctor her measurements down to the nearest centimetre.

Then, as it seems the doctor isn’t focussing his healing eyes in the right direction, I ask him what we’re going to do about it. The doctor looks at me as though he’s just realised I haven’t listened to a single word he’s been saying. I notice his eyes blinking behind his spectacles.

‘Nothing,’ he says. ‘There’s nothing we can do.’


Wow! What’s going to happen to Jaakko? You’ll have to read the rest of the book to find out. Thank you to Antti, Orenda Books and Anne Cater for letting me take part in the tour.

The Man Who Died can be bought here.


The author

Antti Tuomainen

Finnish Antti Tuomainen (b. 1971) was an award-winning copywriter when he made his literary debut in 2007 as a suspense author. The critically acclaimed My Brother’s Keeper was published two years later. In 2011 Tuomainen’s third novel, The Healer, was awarded the Clue Award for ‘Best Finnish Crime Novel of 2011’ and was shortlisted for the Glass Key Award. The Finnish press labelled The Healer – the story of a writer desperately searching for his missing wife in a post-apocalyptic Helsinki – ‘unputdownable’. Two years later in 2013 they crowned Tuomainen ‘The King of Helsinki Noir’ when Dark as My Heart was published. The Mine, published in 2016, was an international bestseller. All of his books have been optioned for TV/film. With his piercing and evocative style, Tuomainen is one of the first to challenge the Scandinavian crime genre formula, and The Man Who Died sees him at his literary best.


A Deadly Rejection by LM Milford

Very excited to welcome Lynne Milford to my blog. Lynne’s debut novel has just been published and I asked her to tell me a little bit about her writing and her background.

Write what you know

This is the first piece of advice given to writers who are starting out. There are several schools of thought on whether this is the way to go – it might restrict what people think they can write about when most things can be learned through research.

For me, setting out to write what I know was a bit of a no brainer because the idea that presented itself involved a lot of what I already knew.

As a local news reporter, I’ve had a lot of good experiences, whether that’s patrolling the streets with the police, attending court cases or being called out at 7am on a Sunday morning by the fire brigade to the scene of a house destroyed by a gas explosion. That one was a great story. The householder was rescued from the ruins by three of his neighbours who ran in to the house to get him out. The man recovered but I couldn’t say the same thing for his house, which had to be demolished.

Some of the jobs I’ve been on you wouldn’t believe – for example, like the time I dressed as a beekeeper for a story, and I’m going to gloss over that one. County shows and ballet competitions I could have quite happily left behind, but then, you can’t pick and choose as a lowly reporter.

From these experiences, I decided that my target would be the planning committee. I’d sat through enough meetings to know that by-and-large they’re deadly dull, but they can also be very emotive when people don’t get what they want. People didn’t want their neighbours to build an extension that would block the light from their garden. Whole housing estates could be refused or delayed due to a certain type of protected newt being found living on the site. In the case of a housing estate, there’s a lot of money at stake. What would happen if a developer was keen to get their application passed, at any cost? What would they do if someone stood in their way?

I hasten to add that although I used my experiences, the story itself is completely made up and I never saw the scenario of this book played out in any council meeting I ever went to. However, I was lucky to have the experiences that would give me that kind of idea.

And no, Dan isn’t based on me, despite what you might think. I have written about fuchsia shows and nursery school sponsored walks, but I never had his ambition to join the national newspapers. I’ll leave him to that ambition and see how he gets on.

Thank you for telling us about how your job inspired your book, A Deadly Rejection. Here’s the blurb to tells us more.


The blurb

How far would you go to get what you want?

Beneath the bustling, respectable exterior of the Kent town of Allensbury lies a world of corruption and greed.

When local news reporter Dan Sullivan scents a story in the local council, he begins to ask questions. But when his source dies in mysterious circumstances, Dan is implicated. He is quickly drawn into a world of lies, ambition and avarice as he fights to clear his name.

The more he digs, the more someone tries to stop the story from ever seeing the light of day.

Dan must decide what’s more important to him…the story, or his life.

If that’s intrigued you then you can buy the book here.

The author

LM Milford small

By day, I work in PR and communications; by night (and at weekends) I write crime fiction (as well as baking pies and chocolate brownies).

In a previous life I worked as a local newspaper reporter. This gave me the inspiration for the story that has become my first novel, A Deadly Rejection.

I live in Kent and spend far too much time on trains commuting into London for work, which does however give me time to work on plotting and writing my books.

You can keep tabs on what I’m up to by following me on Twitter @LMMilford or by checking out my blog  I write about what I’m working on, advice on what I’ve learned through my work and how to move forward with writing.




October – First Monday Crime

Oct17 FM1
A wonderful array of books, sold on the night by Big Green Bookshop


First Monday bounced back to life last night at City University. The panel was Ann Cleeves, Mark Edwards, Lilja Sigurdardóttir and Caz Frear, with Rod Reynolds moderating. Rod obviously did his job well as I have 22 (small) pages of notes. I’ll give you some of the highlights.

Firstly, the authors told us a bit about their books.

The Lucky Ones

Mark Edwards’ latest book is The Lucky Ones. This is a serial killer with a difference. He likes to make his victims happy before he kills them. He strikes at their happiest moment. Mark got the idea when he heard two women on a café slagging off someone else. He wondered what would happen if there was a twisted guardian angel who would help out. So he created a killer who looks to improve a victim’s life and then kills them with a smile on his/her face. It’s a comedy really.






Ann Cleeves admitted that she’s a pantser. She starts her books without knowing the ending. The Seagull is set in Whitley Bay and is a celebration of faded seaside towns. It’s a Vera novel and this book was triggered by a conversation too. Ann was talking with a former shipyard worker who worked nights. He mentioned how stuff would go ‘missing’. Also, Ann visited the elderly/disabled wing of a prison which provided inspiration. So the book starts with Vera giving a lecture in a prison and bumping into an old colleague who she helped to put away.





Lilja Sigurdardóttir’s book is Snare. Although it’s the third book she’s written, it’s the first to be published in English by Orenda books and is the start of a trilogy. Rather than looking at police procedural, Lilja has turned her attention to a Customs officer and a drug smuggler in a ‘cat and mouse’ story. The Icelandic financial crisis is the backdrop. Lilja knew that it was risky to have her hero as a criminal so she’s done her best to make her female protagonist sympathetic. She has a child and there is a reason for why she smuggles cocaine.




Sweet Little Lies


Sweet Little Lies is the debut novel for Caz Frear. It was the winner of The Richard & Judy Search for a Bestseller competition but more about that later. The book features DC Cat Kinsella who discovers that her father may be involved with the crime she’s investigating. Caz had the story in her head for years but kept changing it until she finally wrote it down. She wanted to turn a police procedural on its head. She wondered what dilemma she could give her police officer and thought that a father/daughter dynamic was more interesting.



Since all the books have some kind of police/authority voice to them, Rod asked how far the authors have gone with police details or do they just focus on the story?

Ann Cleeves knows a pathologist and a forensic soil specialist. Although she may ask for their help, they realise that it’s fiction she’s writing. Real police and forensic work takes time and isn’t fast paced enough for a novel or TV drama.

Caz Frear bought a police training manual to help with details. But then she realised that she wasn’t training to be a detective! She found someone who could help though.

Mark Edwards just makes it all up!

Lilja Sigurdardóttir knows that she stretches details but the story can’t suffer for reality.

Sometimes, writing can be hard. Rod asked what keeps the authors going?

For Caz Frear, feedback is important. One of the reasons she entered the Richard & Judy competition was to get feedback. She was very excited to be shortlisted – possibly more so than when she actually won. Joining a class or a course is a good way to get feedback.

Ann Cleeves didn’t know any other writers when she started. Her motivation to keep on writing, is to find out how the book is going to end. As she doesn’t plot, there’s a wonderful scariness in writing.

Mark Edwards wrote for 15 years before he got a deal. He then got an agent but things didn’t work out as he had hoped. He then self-published his own work as well as co-authoring with Louise Voss. Writing with Louise was great as they could bounce ideas off of each other.

For Lilja, writing her first book was torture. It was important for her to find her own writing style (she saw an Icelandic publisher advertising for the next Dan Brown). You have to really love writing. As she writes multiple viewpoints, switching between characters is a good way of keeping the story moving.

Oct17 FM2
Apologies for product placement. Cutting it out would mean cutting out Rod Reynolds!


There were more questions from Rod and also from the audience. But I’m going to end on Rod’s final question – what’s coming up next?

Mark – The Retreat, due out next year, is set at a writers’ retreat in Wales.

Ann – Wild Fire, the last in the Shetland series, will be published next year.

Lilja – is writing a new political thriller series.

Caz – writing the second book in the DC Cat Kinsella series.


If you’d like to find out more about the authors and buy their books then

Ann Cleeves – click here.

Mark Edwards – click here.

Lilja Sigurdardóttir – click here.

Caz Frear – click here.

Rod Reynolds – click here.


First Monday will be back on Monday 6th November. Look out for more details soon.

Blog tour – Race To The Kill by Helen Cadbury

I am so honoured to be taking part in this blog tour, not just to focus on the book but to remember Helen as well.

Race to the Kill tour poster

The blurb

It is the middle of a long night shift for PC Sean Denton and his partner PC Gavin Wentworth when they are approached by a dishevelled-looking woman desperate that they follow her. She leads them to the old Chasebridge High School where they find the dead body of a Syrian refugee. The investigation which points to the neighbouring greyhound stadium, finds Denton caught up in the world of immigration, drugs and sexual abuse, and one in which his private life becomes increasingly entwined.


My review

I’ve said this before but I’ll say it again – I love Sean Denton. I say this more in a motherly rather than romantic way. He’s the kind of lad, that if I knew him, I’d be so proud. And clearly, Helen Cadbury felt the same. From the first book, To Catch A Rabbit, where Sean is a humble PCSO, this is a young man destined for more. Overcoming dyslexia, we find Sean as a PC in the second book, Bones In The Nest (see my review here). He has a knack for picking up on things that others don’t notice, something which doesn’t go unseen by a senior CID officer. And here, in Race To The Kill, Sean becomes a Detective Constable.

Even though he was the first response officer at the old Chasebridge school, Sean’s new boss, DI Khan, allows him to continue on the investigation of the murder of a Syrian refugee. There’s a strong sense of social justice in all three books. Not surprising really. Helen Cadbury was passionate about these things. But it’s never done in a ‘beat you over the head’ style. It’s always an integral part of the story – a thread that sews together the patchwork squares of the plot.

And this is something that I admire so much in Helen’s writing. She would take what seemed to be two or more disparate stories and slowly link them together. As the readers, we often get to find out the link before Sean does. And then, in true Columbo style, we get to watch as the truth dawns on him.

I don’t want to tell you too much about the story but we don’t just see Sean as an officer. His personal life is explored more fully in this book as well. I don’t think I’m giving away too much by saying that there is some sadness in the story near the end. But, Helen hasn’t left Sean in a desperate place. This is a book that ends with so much hope and possibility.

It was bittersweet to read this novel, knowing it was the last in the series. I loved it so much but I can’t tell Helen. I only met Helen once, very briefly. But we emailed a few times when I was writing a review for Bones In The Nest and she was incredibly generous to her readers. She will be sorely missed.


Thank you to Allison & Busby for the book and Anne Cater for allowing me to be part of the tour. A massive thank you to Helen’s family for allowing the publication to go ahead still. A collection of poetry is due for release in November.

You can find out more about Helen Cadbury and buy her books here.


The author


Helen Cadbury wrote fiction, poetry and plays. She worked as an actor before becoming a teacher and spent five years teaching in prisons. She grew up in Birmingham and Oldham, lived in London for many years, then went north and settled in York with her family. Her debut novel, To Catch A Rabbit, was the winner of the inaugural Northern Crime Competition. Helen passed away in 2017.


Blog Tour for Maria In The Moon by Louise Beech

Maria in the Moon - Blog Tour Poster

I’m thrilled to be taking part in the blog tour for Maria In The Moon. Be sure to check out the other stops on the tour, including my blog partner for the day – Ronnie Turner.

Thanks to Louise, Orenda Books and Anne Cater for letting me take part in the tour.

The blurb

‘Like a cold spider, the memory stirred in my head and spun an icy web about my brain. Someone else crawled in. I remembered.’

Thirty-one-year-old Catherine Hope has a great memory. But she can’t remember everything. She can’t remember her ninth year. She can’t remember when her insomnia started. And she can’t remember why everyone stopped calling her Catherine-Maria.

With a promiscuous past, and licking her wounds after a painful breakup, Catherine wonders why she resists anything approaching real love. But when she loses her home to the devastating deluge of 2007 and volunteers at Flood Crisis, a horrifying memory emerges… and changes everything.

Dark, poignant and deeply moving, Maria in the Moon is an examination of the nature of memory and truth, and the defences we build to protect ourselves, when we can no longer hide…


My review

Maria in the Moon cover

Set during the aftermath of the devastating flood of 2007, Maria In The Moon tells the story of Catherine. To say that Catherine is prickly is an understatement. We learn quickly that she holds relationships lightly, that she tends to lash out and hurt others before they can hurt her. Why does she keep everyone at a distance and inflict the most pain on herself? Why is she no longer called Catherine Maria? Any why can’t she remember anything from when she was 9?

This is a beautifully written book. As I’ve met Louise, I could almost hear her voice narrating the book to me in my head. As well as creating the wonderful character of Catherine who I grew to love, there is a great supporting cast in the form of Catherine’s mother, Christopher (who she meets at the Flood Crisis Line) and Fern, her flatmate. I felt that Fern could have a spin-off book of her own.

Thankfully, I’ve not been flooded although we are in a flood risk area. I know people who have been and the chaos that it’s caused. Maria In The Moon highlights the difficulties that people face not just with the practical side of things but the emotional side too. The crisis line in the book allows people to ring in and talk through all those issues. For Catherine, who becomes Katrina on the phone, listening to other people’s problems seems to exorcise her own demons. But some of those demons are proving elusive and that’s the main crux of the book. Although I could guess where the storyline was going, Catherine’s recall of the past was exceptionally moving and well written.

Although the floods and Catherine’s past are the main themes of the book, the power of forgiveness is woven in like a gold thread. Whether it’s with her friend Fern, or with the situation she faced at age 9, Catherine realises that forgiveness is the only thing that will bring her true peace. To hate is easy; to forgive is much harder. A glimmer of gold in the darkness of the flood waters.

This is the first Louise Beech book that I’ve read but I don’t think it will be my last. A truly wonderful book.

You can find out more about Louise Beech and order the Kindle version and pre-order the paperback here.


The author

Louise Beech picture 2

Louise Beech has been writing since she could physically hold a pen. She regularly writes travel pieces for the Hull Daily Mail, where she was a columnist for ten years. Her short fiction has won the Glass Woman Prize, the Eric Hoffer Award for Prose, and the Aesthetica Creative Works competition, as well as shortlisting twice for the Bridport Prize. Louise lives with her husband and children on the outskirts of Hull – the UK’s 2017 City of Culture – and loves her job as Front of House Usher at Hull Truck Theatre, where her first play was performed in 2012. Her debut novel, How to be Brave, was a number one bestseller on Kindle in the UK and Australia, and a Guardian Readers’ Pick in 2015. The Mountain in my Shoe was longlisted for the Guardian Not The Booker Prize.









First Monday Crime is back!

The leaves are turning and there’s a definite nip in the air. Autumn is well and truly here. And after an extended summer break, First Monday Crime is back a week today on the 2nd October at 6.30pm. But there are some very important things that you need to know.

Firstly – venue. First Monday has moved back to its roots at City University, St John Street, London EC1R 0JD (nearest Tube station is Angel).

Secondly – it’s now free! Thanks to City, the event is now sponsored by them and so there’s nothing to pay. But this doesn’t mean that you can just turn up. It would really help the First Monday team if you sign up at and then they’ll know how many seats are needed for the event.

Thirdly – book sales will be done by Big Green Bookshop. Now, you may be thinking that name sounds familiar. Let’s just say Piers Morgan and Harry Potter. Enough said. You can check them out here.

Fourthly – I’m sure there’s something else I’m meant to tell you…. oh, yes, the authors! And what a selection!


Ann Cleeves

Ann Cleeves

Sunday Times Top Five bestseller, Ann Cleeves, is 2017’s recipient of the Crime Writer’s Association Diamond Dagger, the highest honour in British crime writing. The award recognises authors whose crime writing careers have been marked by sustained excellence, and who have made a significant contribution to the genre.

Cleeves has written 31 novels and is translated into as many languages. Before her writing career took off, Ann worked as a probation officer, bird observatory cook and auxiliary coastguard.

In 2015, Cleeves chaired the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival, during which Vera was voted the UK’s favourite fictional detective.

Also in 2015, Thin Air, was nominated for the Scottish Crime Novel of the Year and Cleeves was shortlisted for the prestigious Crime Writers Association Dagger in the Library award. In 2006, Cleeves’ novel, Raven Black, was awarded the Duncan Lawrie Dagger (CWA Gold Dagger) for Best Crime Novel, and in 2012, she was inducted into the CWA Crime Thriller Awards Hall of Fame.

As well as fiction Ann has written a non-fiction title about Shetland and, in November 2015, she hosted the inaugural Shetland Noir festival on the Shetland Islands.

Cleeves lives in Northumberland with her husband.

Her latest Vera book is The Seagull.


Cleeves’ bestselling and acclaimed Vera series is famously set in the wild and beautiful county of Northumberland – sweeping across the rural villages to the rugged coastline with its post-industrial backdrop.

 The Seagull, the eighth novel in the Vera Stanhope series, is partly set in Cleeves’ beloved home town of Whitley Bay and focuses on police corruption deep in the heart of a community, and on fragile, and fracturing family relationships.

A cold case takes Vera back in time and very close to home – forcing her to dig deeper into her late father, Hector’s, murky reputation. Vera must confront her prejudices and unwanted memories to dig out the truth, as the past begins to collide dangerously with the present . . .

A visit to her local prison brings DI Vera Stanhope face to face with an old enemy: former detective superintendent, and now inmate, John Brace. Brace was convicted of corruption and involvement in the death of a gamekeeper – and Vera played a part in his downfall.


Mark Edwards

Mark Edwards

Mark Edwards writes psychological thrillers in which terrifying things happen to ordinary people. He is inspired by writers such as Stephen King, Ira Levin, Ruth Rendell and Linwood Barclay.

His first solo novel, The Magpies (2013), reached the No.1 spot on the Amazon UK Kindle bestseller list, as did his third novel Because She Loves Me (2014), and Follow Me Home (2015). His last novel, The Devil’s Work (2016), was also published to great critical acclaim and commercial success. He has also co-written various crime novels with Louise Voss such as Killing Cupid (2011) and The Blissfully Dead (2015). His titles with Amazon Publishing have reached over a million readers.

Mark grew up on the south coast of England and started writing in his twenties while working in a number of dead-end jobs. He lived in Tokyo for a year before returning to the UK and starting a career in marketing, and is a great admirer of Japanese writers and horror films. Mark lives in the West Midlands, England, with his wife, their three children and a ginger cat.

His new novel is The Lucky Ones.

The Lucky Ones

When a woman’s body is found in the grounds of a ruined priory, Detective Imogen Evans realises she is dealing with a serial killer – a killer of both men and woman, whose victims appear to die in a state of bliss, eyes open, smiles forever frozen on their faces. Imogen is under intense pressure from all sides as she desperately tries to discern not only the killer’s identity but also their motive, before it’s too late.

A few miles away, single dad Ben Hofland is back living in the sleepy village where he grew up, his career and marriage in tatters. But Ben feels his fortunes might finally be on the up as he miraculously finds the job of his dreams. What’s more, the bullies who have been terrorising his son, Ollie, disappear overnight. For the first time in months, Ben feels lucky. But he is unware that someone is watching him and his family. Someone who wants nothing but happiness for Ben. Happiness… and death.

Set near the author’s home, in Shropshire – ‘the nearest earthly approach to paradise’ as PG Wodehouse described it – Mark Edwards’ new novel explores our ideas about sense of place, of dark events in idyllic locations, and touches on issues of online safety, grooming and bullying.


Caz Frear


Caz Frear grew up in Coventry and spent her teenage years dreaming of moving to London and writing a novel. After fulfilling her first dream, it wasn’t until she moved back to Coventry thirteen years later that the writing dream finally came true.

She has a first-class degree in History & Politics, which she’s put to enormous use over the years by working as a waitress, shop assistant, retail merchandiser and, for the past twelve years, a headhunter.

When she’s not agonising over snappy dialogue or incisive prose, she can be found shouting at the TV when Arsenal are playing or holding court in the pub on topics she knows nothing about.

Her book, Sweet Little Lies, was the winner of the Richard & Judy Search for a Bestseller competition.

Sweet Little Lies

In 1998, Maryanne Doyle disappeared and Dad knew something about it?
Maryanne Doyle was never seen again.

In 1998, Dad lied about knowing Maryanne Doyle.
Alice Lapaine has been found strangled near Dad’s pub.
Dad was in the local area for both Maryanne Doyle’s disappearance and Alice Lapaine’s murder – FACT

Trust cuts both ways . . . what do you do when it’s gone?


Lilja Sigurdardóttir


Icelandic crime-writer Lilja Sigurdardóttir was born in the town of Akranes in 1972 and raised in Mexico, Sweden, Spain and Iceland. An award-winning playwright, Lilja has written four crime novels, with Snare, the first in a new series, hitting bestseller lists worldwide. The film rights have been bought by Palomar Pictures in California. Lilja has a background in education and has worked in evaluation and quality control for preschools in recent years. She lives in Reykjavík with her partner.

Her book is Snare.


After a messy divorce, attractive young mother Sonia is struggling to provide for herself and keep custody of her son. With her back to the wall, she resorts to smuggling cocaine into Iceland, and finds herself caught up in a ruthless criminal world. As she desperately looks for a way out of trouble, she must pit her wits against her nemesis, Bragi, a customs officer, whose years of experience frustrate her new and evermore daring strategies.Things become even more complicated when Sonia embarks on a relationship with a woman, Agla. Once a high-level bank executive, Agla is currently being prosecuted in the aftermath the Icelandic financial crash.

Set in a Reykjavík still covered in the dust of the Eyjafjallajökull volcanic eruption, and with a dark, fast-paced and chilling plot and intriguing characters, Snare is an outstandingly original and sexy Nordic crime thriller, from one of the most exciting new names in crime fiction.

So that is the panel for October! Rod Reynolds will be attempting to keep some kind of order.

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If you like the sound of this, then don’t forget to sign up at

I’ll be there (please don’t let that put you off) and I may bring cookies… (can’t guarantee cookies for everyone though – sorry!)