December 3

The Exiled – Kati Hiekkapelto

the-exiledAnna Fekete returns to the Balkan village of her birth for a relaxing summer holiday. But when her purse is stolen and the thief is found dead on the banks of the river, Anna is pulled into a murder case. Her investigation leads straight to her own family, to closely guarded secrets concealing a horrendous travesty of justice that threatens them all. As layer after layer of corruption, deceit and guilt are revealed, Anna is caught up in the refugee crisis spreading like wildfire across Europe. How long will it take before everything explodes?

 

My thanks to Karen at Orenda for my review copy and the chance to join the blog tour.

The Exiled sees the return of Anna Fekete (first encountered in The Hummingbird and then The Defenceless). Ordinarily Anna is found in Finland where she is a member of the police force, however, in The Exiled Anna has returned to her homeland in the Balkans to enjoy a summer holiday in the company of her family.

Soon after her arrival, Anna is attending a party in the town square of her hometown and her purse and passport are stolen.  But Anna has realised something is amiss and gives chase.  Her pursuit takes her out of town where she loses sight of the thief (and the young girl who accompanied him). Anna finds herself at a Romany settlement where she asks if anyone has seen the suspected thief.  There are denials and Anna is uncomfortably aware that she is guilty of appearing to believe a stereotypical view that the Romany are thieves.

The Exiled is a wonderfully well timed story, released at a time where racial tensions are at a level higher than we have seen for many a long year but Kati Hiekkapelto is challenging these. Anna denounces the prejudices and the author also ensures she highlights the plight that refugees face, it is done with simple elegant prose and the story benefits from the compassion displayed.

Anna’s hunt for her thief takes an unexpected development when his body is found the next day. The local police do not seem keen to investigate and declare the death accidental.  Anna has doubts and begins her own investigation but someone is not happy with this decision and soon Anna will find herself in danger.

Despite being the third book in the series it can easily be read as a stand-alone novel and for new readers this is a great introduction to Kati Hiekkapelto’s books. I enjoyed The Exiled (as I did The Defenceless when I read it last year) and would encourage everyone to seek out these books.

 

The Exiled is published by Orenda Books and is available in paperback and digital format. You can order a copy by clicking HERE.

Category: Blog Tours | Comments Off on The Exiled – Kati Hiekkapelto
December 2

2016: My Top 5 Scottish Books

As a Scottish blogger I am always keen to read crime/thriller books set in my native land or tales written by fellow Scots. I love to read stories which are set in the towns and cities I know so well. I like when the characters talk like me and I enjoy knowing that I am being entertained by someone who knows what is meant by “getting the messages.”

Before I share my choices for my Top Ten Reads of 2016 I am taking this chance to highlight my Top 5 Scottish Books for 2016.

 

The Dead Don't Boogie5. The Dead Don’t Boogie – Douglas Skelton

A missing teenage girl should be an easy job for Dominic Queste – after all, finding lost souls is what he does best. But sometimes it’s better if those souls stay lost. Jenny Deavers is trouble, especially for an ex-cokehead like Queste. Some truly nasty characters are very keen indeed to get to Jenny, and will stop at nothing…including murder. As the bodies pile up, Queste has to use all his street smarts both to protect Jenny and to find out just who wants her dead. The trail leads him to a vicious world of brutal gangsters, merciless hitmen, dark family secrets and an insatiable lust for power in the highest echelons of politics.

There are not many authors that can inject massive doses of humour into a thriller and get the balance of laughs and thrills right. Douglas Skelton manages to hit that combination perfectly as he introduces us to Dominic Queste in The Dead Don’t Boogie.

Order a copy here.

 

 

Willow Walk4.  Willow Walk – SJI Holliday

When the past catches up, do you run and hide or stand and fight?

When a woman is brutally attacked on a lonely country road by an escaped inmate from a nearby psychiatric hospital, Sergeant Davie Gray must track him down before he strikes again. But Gray is already facing a series of deaths connected to legal highs and a local fairground, as well as dealing with his girlfriend Marie’s bizarre behaviour. As Gray investigates the crimes, he suspects a horrifying link between Marie and the man on the run but how can he confront her when she’s pushing him away?

 

SJI Holliday returns to Banktoun in the follow-up novel to 2015’s Black Wood.  I loved this story as it was deliciously dark and creepy with some nasty twists thrown in for good measure.  As an added bonus we get Susi Holliday’s fantastic characterisation – she creates the most believable people in her books, I swear that I have actually met half the people she writes about.

Order a copy here.

 

 

In Place of Death3. In Place of Death – Craig Robertson

A young man enters the culverted remains of an ancient Glasgow stream, looking for thrills. Deep below the city, it is decaying and claustrophobic and gets more so with every step. As the ceiling lowers to no more than a couple of feet above the ground, the man finds his path blocked by another person. Someone with his throat cut.

As DS Rachel Narey leads the official investigation, photographer Tony Winter follows a lead of his own, through the shadowy world of urbexers, people who pursue a dangerous and illegal hobby, a world that Winter knows more about than he lets on. And it soon becomes clear that the murderer has killed before, and has no qualms about doing so again.

 

A brilliant murder mystery which makes the most incredible use of Glasgow and its landscape.  Craig Robertson brings back Narey and Winter and introduces us to urbexing. In Place of Death was a fabulous read but it also got me looking at Glasgow in a whole new light too. When a book educates as well as entertains then I am never going to be unhappy.

Order a copy here.

 

 

Killer Instincts2. Killer Instincts – Linden Chase

There’s darkness in the heart of Tranquility. Society has developed reliable tests to detect psychopathy in individuals. Those with the disorder are re-classified as victims rather than monsters. The question remains though, how does a liberal society deal with the inherently violent impulses of human predators who live among us. In response a government think tank is launching an experiment, Tranquility; an island where psychopaths will be isolated and left to form their own community.

Zane King, an investigative journalist, has been given a tip-off by a high-level government source that something big is happening on a remote island. After a heart-stopping journey Zane manages to infiltrate Tranquility by persuading the citizens that he’s a psychopath just like them. It doesn’t take Zane long to realise that something has gone very wrong with the experiment but by the time he fully understands what the island is really all about the community is already imploding in a wave of monstrous violence. “Not for the faint hearted…

 

If Lord of the Flies were a slasher movie then you have Killer Instincts.  Loved the idea of a sinister, shadowy agency that controlled Tranquility. Loved the idea of the Hunt. Loved the unpredictable characters.  It is dark read. Very, very dark. But it’s really, really good.

Order a copy here.

 

 

a-suitable-lie1 A Suitable Lie – Michael J Malone

Andy Boyd thinks he is the luckiest man alive. Widowed with a young child, after his wife dies in childbirth, he is certain that he will never again experience true love. Then he meets Anna. Feisty, fun and beautiful, she’s his perfect match… And she loves his son, too. When Andy ends up in the hospital on his wedding night, he receives his first clue that Anna is not all that she seems. He ignores it; a dangerous mistake that could cost him everything.

 

A “wow” book. Michael J Malone tells a harrowing story of domestic violence in a book which is chilling, memorable and incredibly important. I don’t think I could claim to have “enjoyed” reading A Suitable Lie but I couldn’t put it down, I HAD to find out what was going to happen next.

This is a book which will stick with me for a long time to come. It was frequently too realistic for this reader and it tackled a significantly under-reported subject in a sensitive yet compelling voice.

One of the stand-out books of 2016.

Order a copy here.

 

 

Category: From The Bookshelf | Comments Off on 2016: My Top 5 Scottish Books
November 28

One To Watch: The Girl Before – JP Delaney

the-girl-beforeJane stumbles on the rental opportunity of a lifetime: the chance to live in a beautiful ultra-minimalist house designed by an enigmatic architect, on condition she abides by a long list of exacting rules. After moving in, she discovers that a previous tenant, Emma, met a mysterious death there – and starts to wonder if her own story will be a re-run of the girl before. As twist after twist catches the reader off guard, Emma’s past and Jane’s present become inexorably entwined in this tense, page-turning portrayal of psychological obsession.

 

Sneak peak thanks to Quercus!

 

I had the opportunity to read a sampler of JP Delaney’s The Girl Before and I wish I hadn’t picked it up.  Not because what I read was bad…quite the opposite!  I reached the end of the sample chapters and found I was not ready for the story to end. 

 

The extract I read from the final novel introduced us to two couples who were flat hunting. Their stories do not run concurrently, a “then” and “now” timeline, but both couples are looking at leasing the same flat. The flat in question has been designed by an award winning architect and it is minimalist to the extreme, however, there are a LOT of very unusual conditions attached to the lease and prospective tenants must agree to them all before they can even be considered. Mysterious.

 

Although it is couples who are flat hunting, the focus of the story appears to be on the women in each couple. Emma and Jane are both recovering from traumatic experiences and it is their vulnerability which looks to be a key element of the developing story. They are driving the house move and it is their determination to move into the peculiar (but gorgeous) house which we follow in the early stages of the book.

 

I seldom give an early warning of a book which I have not read in full, however, The Girl Before looks to be one to watch.  Out in January – more on this when I can read the full novel.

The Girl Before will be published by Quercus on 26 January 2017 and you can order a copy here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Girl-Before-JP-Delaney/dp/1786480298/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1480294447&sr=1-2&keywords=the+girl+before
Category: From The Bookshelf | Comments Off on One To Watch: The Girl Before – JP Delaney
November 27

Holding – Graham Norton

holdingThe remote Irish village of Duneen has known little drama; and yet its inhabitants are troubled. Sergeant PJ Collins hasn’t always been this overweight; mother-of-two Brid Riordan hasn’t always been an alcoholic; and elegant Evelyn Ross hasn’t always felt that her life was a total waste.

So when human remains are discovered on an old farm, suspected to be that of Tommy Burke – a former love of both Brid and Evelyn – the village’s dark past begins to unravel. As the frustrated PJ struggles to solve a genuine case for the first time in his life, he unearths a community’s worth of anger and resentments, secrets and regret.

 

My thanks to Hodder & Stoughton for my review copy which I received through Netgalley.

 

If you have never lived in a small village it is unlikely you will have experienced the sensation of your life being constantly observed, scrutinised and discussed. It sounds quite sinister (and more than a little creepy) but in remote communities your friends and neighbours will see everything you do when you leave your home and they will pass comment on it to their friends and neighbours.  Villages are not packed with an army of super-snoopers, there is just little variation in day-to-day life so EVERYTHING is noted and when neighbours chat they will comment on what (and who) they have seen. Your life becomes someone else’s distraction.

This is why stories set in in villages are always laced with secrets and when someone comes along and starts to unpick those secrets it can cause massive ripples through a small community.  This is why Graham Norton’s Holding was such a fun read – he has placed his tale in a small Irish village and one chance discovery is about to change half a dozen lives forever!

The key player in Holding is probably the local Guard – Sergeant PJ Collins.  He has had a quiet time of it thus far in the village of Duneen, however, a local work crew have uncovered some human bones as they excavated a field.  PJ is called for and quickly realises that he is totally out of his depth, he must call in the more experienced detectives from Cork and that is going to make him look inept in they eyes of his neighbours. I say the key player is “probably” PJ, however, there are a number of other strong characters in Holding who will have valid claim to be the main focus of the story…Brid Riordan is one such character.  Her marriage is on the rocks as she is a bit too keen on a glass of wine before breakfast – the discovery of the body in Duneen will have a dramatic impact on Brid but not in any way that she could have expected.

The discovery of a body is not something that will be kept quiet in Duneen and soon everyone is speculating over who the unfortunate victim may be.  We will learn of lost loves, jealousy, bitterness and friends and family will lie to the police to protect their loved ones.  It makes for fascinating reading, I love when an author starts to unpick the secrets in a village as you are never sure what may be uncovered – Graham Norton does it rather well brings a great deal of empathy to his writing as he sets about destroying the hopes and dreams of his cast.

I picked up Holding with no concept of what to expect, I had not read the description and avoided any reviews I was keen to take the story as I found it. I was very pleasantly surprised over how much I enjoyed it. I tend not to read what is commonly referred to as “cosy” crime and Holding is much lighter in tone than many of the more graphic and action packed books I have read recently. But it is absolutely perfectly pitched for the setting and the characters are all totally believable.

Good fun – Good Read.

 

Holding is published by Hodder & Stoughton and is available now in Hardback and Digital format.  You can order a copy through this link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Holding-Graham-Norton/dp/1444792008/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1479939562&sr=1-1&keywords=holding+graham+norton

 

Category: From The Bookshelf | Comments Off on Holding – Graham Norton
November 27

Zero – Matt Brolly

zeroNo crime will go unpunished

A zero tolerance policy results in the death penalty for all crimes, no matter how minor.

When a judge is kidnapped, and a ransom note demands the release of all prisoners awaiting execution, kleptomaniac Detective Inspector Kate Swanson is put on the case.

But soon her boss also disappears. Under increasing pressure from her superiors, and caught between the security services and the growing social unrest, Swanson must race to find a man whose murdered wife and daughter link the missing men.

Can she find him before it’s too late?

 

My thanks to Darran at Edpr for the chance to join the Zero Blog Tour

 

The Zero in the title is for the zero tolerance policy towards crime in this dystopian thriller from Matt Brolly. Society has moved to a stage where all crimes are punishable by death, those convicted of committing a crime are held in prison until they can be “podded”.  Those sentenced to death are  placed into a pod which then slowly travels through the land for a month so that everyone is able to see the fate that awaits law breakers. They are given no food, water is withdrawn after 5 days and the only way out is death.  Prisoners will die of dehydration, unless they elect to take their own life by the push of a button which will fill their pod with toxic gas.  If this option is selected then the pod fills with red gas (so those outside can see the prisoner elected to end their own life).  The pods continue to journey with the body inside until the month is over…it is a bleak concept!

As the pods are such a controversial punishment there are opposition groups who are campaigning to have the pods removed.  The judges will send most offenders to the pods, the police will place criminals in front of judges and this means many people will fear and distrust the judicial process.

At the opening of Zero a judge is kidnapped and the police are called in to investigate. We meet Detective Kate Swanson for the first time and soon come to realise how much of a role the politics of this society will play in police-work. There is a fine balance of investigating and keeping within the political constraints that are placed upon her for Swanson – to get things done she is going to have to reach beyond her authority and tread on a few toes.

Readers get to see who has kidnapped the judge and we learn that there is more than one target.  A bombing at a podding site will cause confusion for Swanson…are the events linked or is the bomb detonation just coincidence?

There is loads going on in Zero and it was not until I reached the end that I was able to fully to fully appreciate what a good job that Matt Brolly had done in balancing the different plot strands in the story.  I noticed that this was the first book in what appears to be a new series – while reading I did feel that some plot lines were being set up for future development (pleasing).

Swanson is an interesting lead character and I would love to read more about her. The society depicted in Zero is bleak and it will be interesting to see if (in future books) a political edge to the stories remains and the podding process is challenged or refined.

Zero is an intelligent and thought provoking thriller and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  The “no spoilers” rule is fully applied here but the kidnapper’s motivation and how he executes his plan (including a nasty end-game) is really well depicted – I must admit that in a book of unsettling ideas the end-game was particularly grim.

Really, really enjoyed this (though the podding idea is so very bleak).

 

Zero was published on 21st November by Canelo price £3.99 as an ebook: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Zero-Detective-Kate-Swanson-Mystery-ebook/dp/B01KTUS7KA/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1480246178&sr=1-1&keywords=zero+matt+brolly

Category: From The Bookshelf | Comments Off on Zero – Matt Brolly
November 22

The Girl Who Had No Fear – Marnie Riches

the-girl-who-had-no-fearAmsterdam: a city where sex sells and drugs come easy. Four dead bodies have been pulled from the canals – and that number’s rising fast. Is a serial killer on the loose? Or are young clubbers falling prey to a lethal batch of crystal meth?

Chief Inspector Van den Bergen calls on criminologist Georgina McKenzie to help him solve this mystery. George goes deep undercover among the violent gangs of Central America. Working for the vicious head of a Mexican cartel, she must risk her own life to find the truth. With murder everywhere she turns, can George get people to talk before she is silenced for good?

 

My thanks to Avon, Harper Collins for my review copy which I received through Netgalley.

 

After a cliff-hanger ending at the end of The Girl Who Walked in the Shadows, Marnie Riches returns with the 4th George McKenzie thriller: The Girl Who Had No Fear. I was more than ready to pick this book up and re-unite with my favourite criminologist.

The housekeeping first – it is the 4th in the series and The Girl Who Had No Fear does pick up on quite a few plot threads from the previous books (not least that cliff-hanger). However, the author does ensure that the reader is kept informed of the past events. So if you were to pick up the series for the first time on book 4 then you would not find it too tricky to keep up. That said, I would urge you to read the first three books – they are brilliant!

In The Girl Who Had No Fear we are back in Amsterdam with Chief Inspector Van den Bergen who has an unwelcome problem on his hands. Dead bodies are turning up in the canals with an alarming frequency. Initially investigations had been hampered by the length of time the bodies had been in the water, however, a newly discovered body reveals that a contaminated batch of crystal-meth may have found its way into Amsterdam.

Van den Bergen recruits George and his colleague “Elvis”  to work in the clubs of Amsterdam to see if either of them are able to identify the source of the drugs – one name keeps cropping up and it will take George and Van den Bergen across Europe and over to Central America.

Aside from this investigation we are in Central America where we follow the exploits of the big-bad of this story, a human trafficker and drug dealer known as el cocodrilo. He is a particularly nasty individual and brought a really dark edge to the story, always nice to have such a despicable villain in a story as you know that at some point your heroes are going to cross his path. If you have read the previous books you know that there is no guarantee Marnie Riches will allow all her key players to come through any such confrontation unscathed!

I found the pacing of The Girl Who Had No Fear to be perfectly judged, the story had me hooked and I found that I was reluctant to stop reading at the end of each chapter – I had to keep going to see what may happen next.  I particularly enjoyed the extra focus on Van den Bergen’s younger colleague, Elvis. With no spoilers allowed in my review, Elvis does not have the best of times in this story and in a book with many standout moments, his scenes were probably my favourites.

Just so I can be clear – reading The Girl Who Had No Fear was an absolute treat. It is dark, enthralling and delivers shocks a-plenty. Another belter from Marnie Riches who is going from strength to strength.

 

The Girl Who Had No Fear is released on 1st December 2016 and you can order a copy here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Girl-Fear-George-McKenzie-Book-ebook/dp/B01GNSR5M8/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1479755287&sr=8-1&keywords=the+girl+who+had+no+fear

Category: From The Bookshelf | Comments Off on The Girl Who Had No Fear – Marnie Riches
November 19

Night School – Lee Child

night-schoolIn the morning, they gave Reacher a medal. And in the afternoon, they sent him back to school.

It’s just a voice plucked from the air: ‘The American wants a hundred million dollars’.

For what? Who from? It’s 1996, and the Soviets are long gone. But now there’s a new enemy. In an apartment in Hamburg, a group of smartly-dressed young Saudis are planning something big.

Jack Reacher is fresh off a secret mission and a big win. The Army pats him on the back and gives him a medal. And then they send him back to school. It’s a school with only three students: Reacher, an FBI agent, and a CIA analyst. Their assignment? To find that American. And what he’s selling. And to whom. There is serious shit going on, signs of a world gone mad.

Night School takes Reacher back to his army days, but this time he’s not in uniform. With trusted sergeant Frances Neagley at his side, he must carry the fate of the world on his shoulders, in a wired, fiendishly clever new adventure that will make the cold sweat trickle down your spine.

 

My thanks to Patsy Irwin of Transworld for my review copy.
When we first met Jack Reacher in Killing Floor (20 books ago) he had served his country, left the army and was starting his nomadic lifestyle. As it became clear  that Reacher was a highly decorated officer, readers realised that they had missed many of his early adventures and had not had the chance to learn what made Reacher into the man he was. The Enemy was the first book to jump back to Reacher’s army days and now Night School is giving  another welcome return to “retro Reacher”

Plucked from his normal duties he is being sent to school to learn how the army can co-operate better with other agencies. Reacher is not happy, he has just been awarded a medal for successfully completing a rather unpleasant piece of “housekeeping” for his employers and now it seems he is being side-lined. But all may not be quite as it seems and it is not long before Reacher and (very pleasingly) Neagley are back doing what we love best – tracking down the bad guys.

Night School has a bit of a different feel than most of the previous books in the series. Reacher is very much working as part of a team this time around (not his tight group of Special Investigators) but a bigger entity which includes the army, the FBI and the CIA.  There are more factions to juggle and the lines of enquiry are much bigger than Reacher taking down the few bad seeds in small town America.

I enjoyed the change of pace and the bigger scale of the story. The threat that the investigators are chasing down is a big deal, an international crisis and large parts of the book is set in Germany – putting Reacher right into the heart of the action.

Returning readers will enjoy some unexpected cameo appearances and there are lots of classic “Reacher” moments – the analysis of how a fight may unfold, Neagley being the best at everything and Reacher doggedly playing reasoned hunches.  Night School is another great read from Lee Child and already I am looking forward to the next.

 

Night School is published by Transworld and is available in Hardback and digital formats. You can order a copy through this link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Night-School-Jack-Reacher-21/dp/0593073908/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1479573922&sr=1-1&keywords=night+school+lee+child

Category: From The Bookshelf | Comments Off on Night School – Lee Child
November 17

Book Chains – SJI Holliday (Fifth Link)

the-damselflyHaving placed the future of my Book Chains feature entirely into the hands of my guests, I am very grateful to Daniel Pembrey for nominating Susi Holliday to join me and keep my chain of Q&A’s going.

Susi, writing as SJI Holliday, is the author of the Banktoun series which began with Black Wood and Willow Walk and will continue in the forthcoming The Damselfly – which releases on 2nd February 2017.  Each book can be ordered by clicking on the title.  I will have a LOT more to say about The Damselfly in the near future, however, trust me when I say you *need* to read this book!

By sheer chance (before I discovered that Daniel had nominated her) Susi and I had been discussing a Q&A around ghost stories so there is a bit of a supernatural theme to my questions.

 

G – Will I start with the easy one… what, for you, makes a good horror story?

SH – It’s not any one specific thing. It’s something that scares you, but not just on the surface. Not just someone jumping out of your wardrobe in the dark and shouting BOO! in your face (although that works, obviously – did I give you a fright?) It’s something that stays with you afterwards. Something you can’t get out of your mind. Something that slithers under your skin and stays there, hiding in your subconscious, ready to reappear whenever you let your guard down.

G – What do you enjoy? Is it a ghost story or perhaps a haunted house?  Monsters? Psychopaths?

SH – Enjoy is an interesting word, isn’t it? Can you really enjoy horror? I don’t really know how to describe it. I do enjoy being scared, but only when I know that ultimately, I am safe. If the horror is behind a screen, or in the pages of a book, then it’s ok to enjoy it, I think. The Ring, though … when she climbs out of the TV? That’s too much. That’s breaking the fourth wall. Or those people who get paid to jump out at you on horror attractions. Sickos. I love ghost stories. Haunted houses. Psychopaths too. Monsters, not so much. Many a good psychological horror has been ruined by the appearance of a less than convincing monster.

G – Which stories have stood out for you? My personal favourites are Phantoms (Dean Koontz), The Magic Cottage (James Herbert) and always Stephen King’s IT.

SH – Excellent choices there, for multiple reasons. IT is a perfect example of my monster-hate. I loved that book (and the film) until the big reveal. Keep it in the shadows! That clown was good though. Creepy as hell. I took a photo of a storm drain when I was in the US last year. I half expected to see Pennywise’s face poking out when I downloaded it from my camera… They all float… The Woman in Black is a standout horror for me. It’s quite a short book, but written with such an air of menace that you can’t help but feel tense throughout. The Exorcist, too. They made a bit of a cheese-fest out of the film, but the book was genuinely terrifying. Religion is a great influence in horror. All that symbolism. Myths and legends. I also love Misery. Isolation. A deranged captor. A modern classic.

G – Could you recommend any stories/authors which you think more people should be reading?

SH – I don’t read enough contemporary horror. I get scared more easily these days. Alison Littlewood is brilliant. As is Joe Hill (Heart-Shaped Box, in particular). And Josh Malerman’s Bird Box is a terrific dystopian horror. That book should’ve had a lot more fanfare. Everyone should read it. EVERYONE.

Willow WalkG – I can remember scenes in both Black Wood and Willow Walk which were chilling and hinted the potential of a supernatural element (particularly in Black Wood). Could we see a ghostly tale from you one day?

SH – Absolutely! I scared myself quite a bit when writing certain parts of Black Wood (more about that later!) I have several horror ideas up my sleeve. Ghost stories, creepy critters… and more! I’ll get to them eventually.

G – Can you remember any of the early stories you read that made you think that you wanted to read more creepy tales? My local library had a collection of short stories: The Armada Book of Ghost Stories which I tried (and freaked my young self out) but I ordered in more books in the series.

SH – I remember that book! I read a lot of scary stuff when I was young – my mum had loads of really trashy 70s/80s horror. The ones with the scary covers! I don’t think I could read one of those now though. I seem to scare far too easily these days!

G – What scares you?

SH – I was going to go deep here, and say things like ‘something bad happening to someone I love’ and ‘the state of the world’ but I’m going to go more surface-level and say rollercoasters. I have no idea why anyone would want to put themselves through that. For fun! Madness. Pure madness. I’m also scared of seeing someone standing at the end of my bed in the middle of the night, hence why I will NEVER watch Paranormal Activity.

black-wood-72G – Have you had any supernatural experiences?

SH – When we lived in our old house (a VERY old house, c1900), we were getting loads of work done and one day when I was in there alone, writing scary bits in Black Wood, one of the workmen came round to tell me about what he was planning to do next, and he asked after my daughter. I laughed, in a slightly confused way, as I don’t have any children. I asked if he had maybe heard the neighbour’s grandchildren. Nope. He went quite pale then. Pointed into the dining room. ‘She was playing down there on the floor.’ He literally backed out of the house. I was then, of course, terrified. Attempting to dispel the unease, I jokily mentioned it on Facebook, without mentioning that it was a girl or that it was in the dining room. A friend who had visited a few months before sent me a message: ‘Was she in the dining room? Don’t worry, she’s happy.’

Reader, we moved out.

 

G – And I am now too freaked out to continue with that…let’s do some quickfire questions.

Greatest Album Ever? Can I have two? Nirvana’s Nevermind & Pearl Jam’s Ten.

Which is best: sushi or chilli? Chilli. Sushi gives me the boak.

What advice do you give your 15 yo self? ‘They’ll all stop talking about it eventually.’

What was the last book you read? Watch Her Disappear by the incredible Eva Dolan (out in Jan 2017)

Is Trainspotting correct to say “It’s Shite Being Scottish”? Only when people ask you about politics.

SJI HollidayWhich one concert would you have liked to attend (any place and time). I need two again. Queen with Freddie & Nirvana with Kurt. Both legends. Actually I need another one. Wham! Before I found out that George Michael didn’t like girls (a sad day).

Are you a cat or a dog person? I think cat. Theoretically. But I like some of those little terriers too. I’m not really a pet person.

Which one reality TV show would you like to appear on? I really hate it, but I’d quite like to be on The X-Factor, with the rest of The Slice Girls. I think Simon would love us.

 

Now the Book Chain question. Daniel asked you:

Maverick, Ice or Goose? The definitive, character-led answer, please. (I have no idea but I always liked Meg Ryan’s character – I’ve seen it once)

SH – SIGH. It’s Maverick, obviously. Brooding, arrogant but damaged and in need of the love of a good woman. Ultimately he would have loved to be Goose, but Goose was too nice and that’s why he had to die. I still cry at that scene. Funny story, actually. Craig Robertson flatly refused to believe that Meg Ryan played Goose’s wife. Not even sure he believed photographic evidence. This isn’t why Daniel asked me this though. He asked, because, well… there was talk of a new Top Gun with crime writers cast in the lead roles. It was possibly going to be X-rated. Daniel is obviously Maverick, so clearly this is the answer he wanted. I feel the need… the need for speed!

 

I’d like to nominate Mark Hill to go next. His debut The Two O’Clock Boy is fantastic. I’d like to ask him…<<REDACTED>>   

Susi – thank you!  Though I suspect I am going to have weird dreams about dining rooms…

 

The Damselfly is published in February 2017 by Black & White Publishing and you can pre-order your copy here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01M7RBU7W

 

 

Category: Guests | Comments Off on Book Chains – SJI Holliday (Fifth Link)
November 14

The Bone Collection – Kathy Reichs

the-bone-collectionA collection of chilling tales featuring forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan – including the untold story of her first case.

The No.1 Sunday Times bestselling author Kathy Reichs is renowned for suspense and fascinating forensic detail. Now she brings that same artistry to her first volume of collected short stories.

In First Bones, a prequel to Reichs’s very first novel, Déjà Dead, she at last reveals how Tempe became a forensic anthropologist. In this never-before-published story, Tempe recalls the case that lured her from a promising career in academia into the grim but addictive world of criminal investigation.

Three more stories take Tempe from the low country of the Florida Everglades, where she makes a grisly discovery in the stomach of an eighteen-foot Burmese python, to the heights of Mount Everest, where a frozen corpse is unearthed.

No matter where she goes, Tempe’s cases make for the most gripping reading.

 

My thanks to Kate at Penguin Random House for my review copy and the chance to join the blog tour.

The Bone Collection gathers four Tempe Brennan stories into a single volume. Of the four novellas gathered in this collection I believe that three have been published previously as stand-alone purchases, therefore, if you have been collecting the Kathy Reichs releases as they have come out then there is a chance you may already own 3 of the 4 stories in the collection.

So with that small public information announcement out of the way I can turn to the stories. First Bones is the “new” tale in the collection and we learn how Brennan made the decisions which forged her career. The jump from academia into criminal investigation is positioned brilliantly, a situation in which doing “the right thing” seems the only option. We meet a much younger Tempe than we are used to seeing and the author can play with some character flaws and insecurities that time and experience have smoothed over for the Brennan we know so well.

The opening novella in the collection is The Bones in Her Pocket – a great reminder of the skill of the author and the informative detail that Kathy Reichs can work into her writing. She writes with a precision and a clarity but never sacrifices the entertainment element of the story so you feel you can become absorbed into Brennan’s world and easily keep up with the discoveries she makes. In this particular story the discovery lies in a heavily wooded forest where a body which had been submerged in deep water makes an unexpected return to the surface – a complicated confusion of bones will tax Brennan’s skills.

My favourite story in the collection was Swamp Bones – a story set in the Florida Everglades where Brennan will encounter alligators and examine a python which seems to have feasted on something or someone that should have kept out of its way.

The collection is rounded out with the engaging Bones on Ice – Brennan finds herself with a frozen corpse on Mount Everest.

Each of the stories are tightly scripted and highlight the undoubted talent of the author. For readers who may be finding the Brennan books after watching the tv show Bones then this collection of stories is a great introduction to the books.  Fans of the novels who may not have picked up the novellas in the past should leap at this chance to read more Kathy Reichs stories.

While I normally don’t enjoy short story collections I found I could not put The Bone Collection down.  It has been a couple of years since I last read a Kathy Reichs book and I was reminded just how much I enjoy her writing. But more importantly the stories are were a good length that kept me reading and the continuity of the lead character (Brennan) made the collection feel less like a random assortment of tales and more cohesive as a single volume.

Highly recommended for fans and a great “jumping on point” for new readers.

 

The Bone Collection is published by William Heinemann and is available in hardback and digital format.

You can order a copy through this link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/d/Books/Bone-Collection-Four-Novellas-Kathy-Reichs/1785150952/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1479160834&sr=8-1&keywords=the+bone+collection

blog-tour-poster

Category: Blog Tours, From The Bookshelf | Comments Off on The Bone Collection – Kathy Reichs
November 11

Crash Land – Doug Johnstone

crash-landSitting in the departure lounge of Kirkwall Airport, Finn Sullivan just wants to get off Orkney. But then he meets the mysterious and dangerous Maddie Pierce, stepping in to save her from some unwanted attention, and his life is changed forever.

Set against the brutal, unforgiving landscape of Orkney, CRASH LAND is a psychological thriller steeped in guilt, shame, lust, deception and murder.

 

My thanks to Laura at Faber & Faber for my review copy and the chance to join the blog tour.

 

I love reading books set in Scotland, mainly down to the fact that I have lived, or spent time, in virtually every corner of my homeland and the locations I know so well can really lift a story. But despite having heard so many wonderful things about the Orkney Isles I have not yet ventured that far North. Now that I have read Crash Land I really want to make that journey. Doug Johnstone has made the islands sound so remote, beautiful, secluded and packed full of historical intrigue that I need to experience the place for myself…

But it is not just the location which makes Crash Land such a wonderful read – the story of Finn Sullivan’s chance encounter with Maddie Pierce (and all the consequences thereafter) is a thumpingly good and surprisingly dark page-turner.

Finn is leaving Orkney to return to his home on the Scottish mainland. He is killing time in the bar of the airport departure lounge when he spots Maddie – she is hard to miss.  Maddie is travelling alone and attracting the unwanted attention of four boorish oil workers so she moves to join Finn who she perceives to be less of a threat. The typically inclement weather delays their flight so the two get chatting and we see that Finn has become quite enamoured with Ms Pierce. However, Finn has done most of the talking and soon realises that he knows very little about Maddie.

The two board their plane and set off on a journey which will change their lives forever. What follows is a delightfully tightly plotted story where you will never quite be sure where the truth lies. Trusts will be broken, many lies told and friendships (both new and old) will be tested to their limits.

Doug Johnstone has taken a very small cast of characters and built a gripping story around them. Finn is caught up in the centre of all the troubles and will need to decide where his loyalties lie. His mental and emotional limits will be tested and he will face predicaments from his worst nightmares. Reading Finn’s story and watching him try to continue to do what he believes is the right thing was a treat – though often I got frustrated with the decisions he was making!

Maddie, was a mystery. I was never quite sure where she was going or what was driving her…Doug Johnstone dripped her story out with expert pacing and I cheered for her and booed her in equal measure.

Crash Land is a cracking read – I thoroughly enjoyed it and have no hesitation in recommending that you read it too.

 

Crash Land is published by Faber & Faber and is available in paperback and digital  format. You can order a copy here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Crash-Land-Doug-Johnstone/dp/057133086X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1478817373&sr=8-1&keywords=crash+land+by+doug+johnstone

 

Catch the previous legs of the Tour:

crash-land_blog-tour-graphic_

Category: Blog Tours, From The Bookshelf | Comments Off on Crash Land – Doug Johnstone