January 8

Nightblind – Ragnar Jonasson

NightBlind BF AW 2Siglufjörður: an idyllically quiet fishing village on the northernmost tip of Iceland, accessible only via a small mountain tunnel. Ari Thór Arason: a local policeman, whose tumultuous past and uneasy relationships with the villagers continue to haunt him. The peace of this close-knit community is shattered by the murder of a policeman – shot at point-blank range in the dead of night in a deserted house.

With a killer on the loose and the dark arctic winter closing in, it falls to Ari Thór to piece together a puzzle that involves tangled local politics, a compromised new mayor, and a psychiatric ward in Reykjavik, where someone is being held against their will.

Then a mysterious young woman moves to the area, on the run from something she dare not reveal, and it becomes all too clear that tragic events from the past are weaving a sinister spell that may threaten them all.


Thanks to Karen at Orenda for my review copy and also the opportunity to join the blog tour.

Last year we met Ari Thór Arason in Snowblind and followed his move to Siglufjörður. He struggled to adapt to being the new cop (and a stranger) in a small town while also dealing with the added distraction of conducting a murder investigation. Snowblind was one of the reading highlights of 2015 and you can read my review here: http://grabthisbook.net/?p=854

Nightblind picks up with Ari Thór some five years after the events of Snowblind. The book opens with an explanatory note for the reader outlining the significant events in Ari Thór’s life and explains that his colleague Tomás has moved to Reykjavík. Ari Thór now has a new boss, Herjólfur, but the two do not appear to have bonded – perhaps as Ari Thór applied for promotion but was unsuccessful.

Trouble is not far away for Ari Thór: the murder of his colleague brings tragedy too close to home. He knows not why his colleague visited a deserted house in the middle of the night, why he may have been targeted or even if the killer has remained in town. Ari Thór’s investigations will become political as the local mayor joins the suspect pool and small town grapevine speculation threatens to spill into scandal. A local drug dealer may hold some vital information but their co-operation may come at too high a price for Ari Thór.

Jonasson builds a brilliant narrative as Ari Thór’s investigation progresses. We have a small circle of characters who will play an important part in the story, red herrings, side plots and subtle clues – all the hallmarks we have already come to expect from Ragnar Jonasson. The frequent comparisons of a writing style that is similar to Dame Agatha’s are well merited.

Nightblind is a murder story so to reveal too much about the actual story would require massive spoilers – nothing should be allowed to spoil your enjoyment of Nightblind, it’s magnificent. I felt it pitched slightly darker than Snowblind with one plot thread (not to the detriment of the story) but it was a book I didn’t want to end. I could read about life in Siglufjörður for days, Jonasson makes the town come to life around me as I curl up with his books.

Ragnar Jonasson (courtesy of the beautiful translation by Quentin Bates) has delivered another literary delight – I cannot heap enough praise upon Nightblind.


Nightblind is published by Orenda Books and is available now in digital format and in paperback from 15th January 2016.

The blog tour continues and I urge you to check out as many of the hosts as you can – the full schedule is included below.

Nightblind Blog tour




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December 8

Blue Wicked – Alan Jones – Blog Tour

Blue wicked 2Earlier this year I read the fantastic Blue Wicked by Alan Jones. Set in Glasgow it took readers to some of the less glamourous parts of the city and introduced us to some of the more ‘earthy’ types.  Words like ‘gritty’ and ‘nasty’ cropped up frequently when I talked about Blue Wicked but I absolutely loved it – a story which does not shirk away from the darker side of society.

When I heard that there would be a blog tour for Blue Wicked I knew I had to be involved. As my review had already been written (read it here) I asked Alan if he could possibly prepare a small guest post that would allow me to join in. As I live on the ‘wrong side’ of the city from where the action in Blue Wicked takes place I suggested that a walk around the locations would be fun – I am always keen to know what may inspire an author to use a particular setting.  Fortunately Alan seemed quite keen….


When Gordon suggested that I should write about some of the locations featured in Blue Wicked, I thought it was a great idea.

I spent most of my formative years on the north side of Glasgow, and I went to Glasgow University in the city’s West end so The Cabinetmaker, my first book, was set in those parts of the city that I knew so well.

But Blue Wicked is set mostly on the South side of Glasgow, so I had to do a bit more research to find suitable locations where the narrative of the book would be placed.

When I’m writing, I mostly choose a general area, then write large screeds of the book first, before finding specific suitable locations that fit in with the plot, but there are key areas where it helps to have an idea of where the action is happening before too much detail goes on to the page.

Blue Wicked Image 1In Blue Wicked, the two parts of the book where location really mattered to the writing process were James Prentice’s murder scene and the final chapters of the book. Both of these were set in Renfrew, an industrial town just west of Glasgow itself, but on the south side of the river.

Blue Wicked Image 2I had help from Ronnie, a friend of mine, who had lived in Renfrew all his life, and who took me on a grand tour of the town. I had already spotted the Babcock Factory loading bay on Google Earth, and seeing the area, with the Inchinnan bridge and the River Cart, I knew I’d found the ideal spot for wee Jamsie Prentice’s murder.

I’ve done a fair bit of sailing in the Clyde estuary, but never further up the Clyde than Gourock, so I had to do a bit of research, studying nautical charts of the area, and tidal flows, to make the journey he made down the Clyde on the makeshift raft as realistic as possible.

Blue Wicked Image 3For the final two or three chapters, I toured the housing estates and shopping areas of Renfrew, and found just what I was looking for. It made the writing so much easier when I could place myself, in my imagination, on the streets I was writing about. The row of shops in the main street exists, but the deserted butcher’s shop is long since gone.

Google Earth, especially with street-view, is an amazing tool when researching locations for a book but there’s no substitute for walking around a place to get a feel of it, and talking to the people who live and work there.  That’s when you can sometimes pick up little stories or hidden histories that add a bit of local colour to the narrative.

Blue Wicked Image 4It’s sometimes necessary to make changes to a location to fit in with the plot. The petrol Garage where Stevie had his drinking den and the derelict industrial estate it sat in were an amalgamations of two separate locations, and the arrangement of the streets around Spencey’s house is slightly different in the book. And aside from knocking people’s doors to ask to see inside their houses, the internal layout usually involves a bit of guesswork.

I find that Glasgow and the surrounding area, while not maybe quite as iconic or eye-catching as Edinburgh, is a fantastic place for a book setting, especially if the book taps in to the grittiness and friendly humour of the city and its people.



Blue Wicked is published by Ailsa Press and is available in paperback and on Kindle: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Blue-Wicked-Alan-Jones-ebook/dp/B00OM3UVCI/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8




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December 2

Winter Prey – John Sandford

Winter PreyThe Iceman crept into the house on the edge of the lake. He killed the father first. Then the mother and child. And when his work was done, he set the house on fire.

Lucas Davenport has tracked killers in cities across America. But the woods of rural Wisconsin are as dark and primal as evil itself. The winters are harsher and colder. And in the heart of every mother and father, there is fear . . .

Because tonight, the Iceman cometh.


I am delighted to have the chance to join The Booktrail Advent tour – many thanks for the opportunity to take everyone to snowy Wisconsin and meet up with one of my favourite characters: Lucas Davenport.

You can follow the full advent tour by clicking through on this link:  https://thebooktrail.wordpress.com/booktrailadvent



I know this is an Advent tour and that this should suggest Christmas themes but I read crime and thrillers and they tend not to lend themselves to the warm and happy glow that I feel Christmas should ideally bring. I did consider revisiting Agatha Christie’s The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding as I am a huge fan of the Hercule Poirot novels but I had another plan!

Let me do some mental mapping here – Christmas makes me think of White Christmas…snow…and cold dark nights…bleak winters (I grew up in the Scottish Highlands where they have bleak winters nailed down!)…whiteouts…a killer hiding in the snow…stalking his victims and escaping into the black night.  When I think killers in the snow the first book that comes to mind is Winter Prey by John Sandford.  I first read this back in the 1990’s and all these years later it remains one of my favourite books in the Davenport series (now totalling over 20 titles and boasting an established spin off series too).

Winter Prey is a cracking murder mystery.  Davenport is the focus, as you would expect, his investigation into the murder of a family in their remote rural Wisconsin cabin is hampered from the outset by the fact the murderer has set fire to the house in a bid to destroy the bodies. But we also get to view events unfolding through the eyes of the killer: The Iceman.  The identity of the killer remains shrouded in mystery throughout the book, but the reader can see that he/she is monitoring the investigation from afar. We see the paranoia and learn that there are risks threatening their exposure when a 3rd party makes an innocent comment leading the killer to realise that there is hidden incriminating evidence that must be found.  More deaths are bound to follow as the killer looks to cover their tracks.

Most at risk is the local doctor and surgeon – Weather Karkinnen. She will know the identity of the killer if she gets to see the hidden evidence and the killer knows this.  Unfortunately for Weather she is unaware that she can identify a killer and as such she has no idea that her life is at risk. When her job requires her to travel alone through many remote locations on a daily basis you cannot help but fear for her safety.  Weather does have one thing in her favour, a certain police officer is more than a little fascinated by this unusually named surgeon. Any killer trying to get to Weather will have to go through Lucas Davenport first.

A deadly game of cat and mouse will unfold – pursuits will be hampered by snowstorms, tracks will be covered and evidence destroyed. Can a City Cop overcome the wilderness and hunt down an increasingly desperate murderer? Sandford captures the feel of the location and the bitter chill of the winter. After more than 20 years I still remember that initial feeling of being completely absorbed in the story and believing I was also chilled to the bone as I trekked through the Wisconsin woods with my fictional hero as he hunted down The Iceman.

It is atmospheric, it is compelling reading and it sets a scene which few crime novels that I have read since have rivalled.




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November 16

Blood Axe – Q&A with Leigh Russell

Today I am delighted to be able to welcome Leigh Russell to Grab This Book. I  was introduced to Leigh’s work last year when I read Race to Death a great murder mystery which featured DI Ian Peterson who also takes the lead in Leigh’s new book: Blood Axe.  I was thrilled to be offered the chance to join the Blood Axe blog tour and I was delighted that Leigh agreed to take time to answer a few of my questions.


Can you tell us a little about Blood Axe?

Blood Axe features perhaps one of my simplest and yet most mysterious killers so far. It’s difficult to say too much without risking spoilers, so I think all I can say is, please read the book and find out… In Blood Axe, Ian Peterson has his work cut out trying to trace a very elusive killer while, at the same time, coping with the threatened break down of his marriage.

Blood AxeBlood Axe is the third book to feature DI Ian Peterson as the lead character yet readers may still primarily associate you with the Geraldine Steel novels. Why did you decide to give Peterson a chance to run solo rather than create a new detective team from scratch?

When Geraldine Steel moves to London, leaving her sergeant behind, they keep in touch. Ian Peterson appears briefly in her following books. So when the Geraldine Steel series became popular, and my publisher was talking about my writing a second series, a spin off series for Ian Peterson seemed like a good idea.  It has been a challenge to develop the two characters and have them  interact across the two series, at the same time making sure each book also works as a stand alone for readers who chance upon any of them. After what happens to Ian Peterson in Blood Axe, there are plenty of interesting possibilities for his future, but I don’t want to include any spoilers here!

Do you begin a new book by deciding that you are going to write a Geraldine Steel or Ian Peterson story or does the plot idea come first and you work out which character is the ‘best fit’ for the lead?

The process starts with my schedule, and which series I need to write for next. If I have to deliver a manuscript for Geraldine Steel in six months’ time, I can’t become engrossed in a story set in York.  Recently I  signed a three book deal with Thomas and Mercer, as well as accepting another three book deal for No Exit Press. With the new Lucy Hall series to write, I have decided to focus on Geraldine Steel and the Ian Peterson series is going to lapse for a while. But he is not going to disappear as a character, so you can speculate about what is going to happen next, which is what I’m doing right now.

As Blood Axe draws upon on the history of York, and features one of the main tourist attractions in the city, I imagine that Blood Axe was always going to be a Peterson book?

Yes, the inspiration for Blood Axe came to me while I was on a visit to York. By chance the British Museum was hosting a major exhibition, with lectures, about the Vikings, giving me access to some of the world experts on Viking culture and civilisation. The exhibition and lectures were fascinating, and the experts were incredibly helpful, as I was keen to make sure my Viking’s thoughts and beliefs were as authentic as possible.

Why did you choose York for Peterson’s stories?

I wanted him to move to a town or city that was a long way from Kent, where his wife’s family live. He has connections with the area, as he was born there. But the most important reason was that I love York, and setting the Ian Peterson series there means I can go there regularly on research trips. I’ll be back there in November for book signings, and back again in March when I’ll be talking at York Literature Festival about why I set my series in York.

I always like to ask this:  Why do readers love serial killer stories given how horrific the concept is in reality?

True crime is a popular  genre, and I understand its appeal, but I don’t like reading about real crimes. I find it too upsetting. Yet somehow, in fiction, crime becomes a form of entertainment. I think there are several reasons for the appeal of serial killers. Crime fiction is, basically, goodies and baddies. The more evil the villain is, the more desperate readers are to see the killer brought to justice. So serial killers make for tense reading. They can also be interesting characters, and I am always fascinated by my killers. A review in Crime Time wrote that ‘Russell takes the reader into the darkest recesses of the human psyche’. I’m not sure how I get there, but it’s all fiction!

On a more personal level, what do you enjoy reading? Who do you consider to be your favourite authors?

 My taste in reading is fairly eclectic. I was fortunate enough to spend four years studying English Literature at university, which meant that I basically spent four years reading. I really can’t pick out favourite authors, but a few I particularly like are Harper Lee, John Steinbeck, Mary Shelley, Dickens, Jeffery Deaver, Edith Wharton, Kazuo Ishiguru, Frances Fyfield, Lee Child, Simin Beckett… there are hundreds more… it’s a bit of a mixture!

leigh_russellWhen do you find time to write and do you have a writing habit or routine?

I am so busy at the moment, with a new book just out, that is quite difficult to find time to write. That said, I have no set routine, and am rarely free to spend a whole day at home focusing solely on writing. There is always something going on, meetings with my publishers, book signings, library talks, literary festivals, interviews, research, apart from everything else in life… When I can spend a day at home, I usually stay in bed until late morning, answering emails and planning my writing for the day… with a little procrastination on social media thrown in… After that, I move into my study and settle down to write. Truthfully, it doesn’t really matter to me where I am as I write in bed, at my desk, in the car (not when I’m driving!), on the train, in cafes. I never leave the house without my ipad. The final edited manuscript for the first book in my new Lucy Hall series, Journey to Death, was emailed from a beach in the Seychelles where I had gone on a research trip. With the Internet, you really can write anywhere in the world.

Are you a meticulous plotter, do you sit down and prepare exactly how the story will unfold before you start to write?

I try to plot my books carefully in advance, but my ideas don’t always work out. The overall shape of the book is in my head before I start, what Lee Child calls his “five second elevator pitch”, but writing books is an organic process for me. If is much more fun to write and see what happens. Sometimes it works out on the first attempt. With more books to write, I am having to work to tighter deadlines with less time for revising and reworking, so I might have to be more meticulous at the planning stage.

When not writing how do you enjoy spending your downtime?

I haven’t had any down time for about six years, but I enjoy what I do and think myself lucky to be able to write full time.

Finally, can you give us any clues as to what we can hope to see in your next book?

I’m just planning the ninth Geraldine Steel novel. There may be some surprising revelations about Geraldine’s family that lead her to question herself and the kind of person she is. Oh, and there’s a murder fairly early on…


My thanks to Leigh.

Blood Axe is published by No Exit Press and is available in paperback and digital formats here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Blood-Axe-Di-Ian-Peterson/dp/1843445433/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1447632586&sr=1-1&keywords=blood+axe

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November 16

Blood Axe (DI Ian Peterson 3) – Leigh Russell

Blood AxeSilently dipping his oars in the water he made his escape. It was a weary journey, with few spoils to show for it. Next time he would do better. He looked back over his shoulder. The bridge had disappeared, swallowed up by the darkness. From its walkway he too had become invisible. Only the bloody body of a woman showed he had been roaming the streets that night.

D.I. Ian Peterson investigates a series of gruesome and brutal axe murders in York. As the body count mounts, the case demands all Ian’s ingenuity, because this is a killer who leaves no clues.


My thanks to No Exit Press for my review copy.

DI Ian Peterson returns in Blood Axe, the new thriller from Leigh Russell. Having enjoyed his previous outing (Race to Death) where Peterson and his wife were put through serious trials as the hunt for a murderer unfolded I was keen to see what lay ahead. Suffice to say I was not prepared for an adversary like the ‘Hunter’ that appears in Blood Axe.

I am always keen to avoid spoilers but as the book description (above) refers to ‘a series of brutal axe murders’ I am on reasonably safe ground to discuss a little bit about the murders in Blood Axe. An axe wielding killer is stalking his prey around the city streets, his victims appear random and robbery does not appear to be a motive as money is not taken from a victim’s purse. But the nature of the killings gives the police some major cause for concern – axe attacks are brutal and bloody and this killer seems to have no qualms about unleashing murderous fury on his victims.

With no real leads or clues to pursue the pressure soon descends upon the investigative team, headed up by DI Ian Peterson. We see how Peterson handles working with a younger colleague who he feels is not as committed to the job as Peterson was himself. Added friction is raised when allegations made by a young witness seem unlikely to Peterson but his colleague is more inclined to take the allegations on good faith. Conflict within the investigative team and also for Peterson further problems are arising at home as his wife struggles to adapt to life in York and becomes increasingly frustrated by Peterson’s long working days.

I believe that the success of an ongoing series depends upon a strong supporting cast to back-up the lead character and Leigh Russell is developing exactly that. The interplay between the police characters shows how they struggle to maintain morale when faced with an investigation which seems to be going nowhere. In Blood Axe we also get to ‘ride along’ with the killer as he stalks his next victim, we get an insight into the thought process of the hunt and it is a disturbing distorted reality we see.

I actually visited York a few weeks ago and this added an extra level of enjoyment to my reading of Blood Axe. I could clearly imagine the narrow York streets that the Hunter crept down as he stalked his prey, Leigh Russell captures the feeling of the city brilliantly and it let me immerse myself into the story.

Blood Axe is an entertaining murder mystery with a twist that few will see coming. Fans of Leigh’s previous books will be pleased with a cameo from Peterson’s old boss Geraldine Steel. New readers have an atmospheric read to enjoy and a cast of characters you will want to read more of.


Blood Axe is published by No Exit Press and is available in paperback and digital formats now.



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November 2

Talk of the Toun – Helen MacKinven

Talk of the Toun‘She was greetin’ again. But there’s no need for Lorraine to be feart, since the first day of primary school, Angela has always been there to mop up her tears and snotters.’ An uplifting black comedy of love, family life and friendship, Talk of the Toun is a bittersweet coming-of-age tale set in the summer of 1985, in working class, central belt Scotland. Lifelong friends Angela and Lorraine are two very different girls, with a growing divide in their aspirations and ambitions putting their friendship under increasing strain.

Artistically gifted Angela has her sights set on art school, but lassies like Angela, from a small town council scheme, are expected to settle for a nice wee secretarial job at the local factory. Her only ally is her gallus gran, Senga, the pet psychic, who firmly believes that her granddaughter can be whatever she wants. Though Lorraine’s ambitions are focused closer to home Angela has plans for her too, and a caravan holiday to Filey with Angela’s family tests the dynamics of their relationship and has lifelong consequences for them both.

Effortlessly capturing the religious and social intricacies of 1980s Scotland, Talk of the Toun is the perfect mix of pathos and humour as the two girls wrestle with the complications of growing up and exploring who they really are.


My thanks to Helen and Thunderpoint for my review copy and for inviting me to join the blog tour.


As Helen and I live in the same corner of the world I was able to attend the launch of Talk of the Toun. During the evening Helen read from the book and brought her characters to life for the room – everyone was captivated.  I closed my eyes and was transported to 1980’s Falkirk such was the brilliance of her reading. Naturally nobody wants to be transported back to Falkirk in the 80’s so I opened my eyes again pretty quickly!

Talk of the Toun is a fantastic coming of age story following Angela and her best friend Lorraine as they cope with their teenage years as they reach the end of their time at school. This is a story which will make you laugh then cry, characters can be very ‘un-pc’ and Helen MacKinven does not shy away from addressing awkward and sensitive issues.

For two teen girls there are a wealth of daily challenges to overcome, in a predominantly Protestant town attending the Catholic school means even walking down the street can bring trouble. Now factor in their quest to lose their virginity, Angela wanting to escape her life to follow her dream of attending Art School and Lorraine having to help look after her handicapped sister and you find two young women with a story you want to read.

A highlight of Talk of the Toun is the supporting cast: Angela’s parents, her Gran (a sometime pet psychic) and cover star Bimbo the dog all bring the extra dimension you want which will bring the depth to the story and add the realism that lets the reader buy into the tale. These are people you want to read about – once you start to learn about their lives you want to know more and see how they overcome the challenges which the author has placed in their way.

I would highlight that the book is written with plenty of local flavour. Language and phrases which are all very recognisable to me (as this is the world I grew up in) MAY cause some readers not accustomed to the Central Scotland dialect some mild confusion – this should not be something that puts you off reading Talk of the Toun. It is authentic, believable and lots of the humour relies upon the language being natural.

Talk of the Toun is a strong debut novel which deserves to be read. For those of us who experienced life in the 80’s it will strike many chords and bring back so many memories.  I wonder if Helen MacKinven could put me together a soundtrack to go along with the book too?


Talk of the Toun is published by Thunderpoint Publishing and is available in paperback and digital format.

You can follow the rest of the blog tour at the sites below:

Blog Tour image


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October 31

Savage Lane – Jason Starr

Savage LaneWhen recently divorced Karen moves with her two kids into a nice suburb of New York she finds peace and joy for the first time in years. But unbeknown to Karen, her neighbour Mark, unhappy in his own marriage, has been living a fantasy life with her in the centre – a fantasy life that becomes a full-blown obsession.


My thanks to No Exit Press for my review copy

Savage Lane can almost be considered a peek behind the curtains into the lives of some of the families living in suburban New York. The focus is Karen, a divorcee with two kids – she is friendly with Mark but Mark is obsessed with Karen.  Mark mistakes Karen’s friendship for something more and seems to be under the impression that Karen is looking to begin a relationship with him, giving Mark the chance to be free from his often-drunk and unloving wife Debs.

Debs, meanwhile, is keeping her own secrets from Mark.  Yes she is drinking to excess – something causing her children concern (if not her husband), however Debs is having an affair of her own with a much younger man who will not take ‘no’ for an answer and is not happy when an increasingly guilty Debs suggests that their relationship should come to an end.

As you may guess, Savage Lane pitches these individuals together and focusses on their secrets and their fantasies and exploits the fragile nature of their relationships.  These are unhappy and vulnerable people and it is a compelling read seeing how their neurosis and naivety makes them act in the most unexpected of ways.  The supporting cast of characters are equally complex and unpredictable all of which makes for an entertaining read.  Without drawing on spoilers – one character’s obsessive nature leads to a shocking loss of control and the implications on the other families featured in Savage Lane is significant and life changing.  Jason Starr does a great job of making his dysfunctional families come to life and I genuinely felt that in some cases their irrational and obscure behaviours were leading to them getting the payback they deserved.

The strapline for the book is ‘Everyone has a secret’ in Savage Lane they certainly do and some are deadly.

I really enjoyed reading Savage Lane. It was quite dark in places and the characters all seem to be missing a degree of self control or the ability to rationalise their actions but this made for a great story so I was happy to accept they were all flawed.


When I was offered the opportunity to join the Savage Lane blog tour I was thrilled to be offered the chance to take part. Particularly as I knew Jason Starr is also a writer of comic books. Jason has worked on iconic titles such as Wolverine and Punisher. As I have been a fan of comic books for many years I was keen to ask Jason his thoughts on their place in the literary world – this is his response to my question:

Do comic books and Graphic Novels get the recognition they deserve?

Comics and graphic novels have a huge, growing audience around the world, so they certainly have the respect of readers. Some comics have crossed over and gained so-called “literary” respect, but I’m not sure if that has gone much beyond Maus, Watchmen, and Neil Gaiman’s work. I think there is a common misconception among readers who don’t read comics that comics are just for teenage boys. I think these people are missing out on sensational storytelling going on in comics right now–in mainstream superhero titles, and especially in indie comics. I think part of the challenge the comic industry has in reaching this readership is in how to overcome the “intimidation factor” of comics. If you’ve never read comics, or haven’t read them since you were kid, the comics section at bookstores can seem quite foreboding–I don’t think people know where to start. But I suggest asking for recommendations because there really is some great stuff out there.


My thanks to Jason and to Harriett at No Exit Press

Savage Lane is published by No Exit Press and is available in paperback and digital formats now.


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October 29

Depraved Heart – Patricia Cornwell

Depraved HeartDr. Kay Scarpetta is working a suspicious death scene in Cambridge, Massachusetts when an emergency alert sounds on her phone with a surveillance film of her genius niece Lucy taken almost twenty years ago. The film clip and then others sent soon after raise dangerous legal implications that increasingly isolate Scarpetta and leave her not knowing where to turn – not to her FBI husband Benton Wesley or her investigative partner Pete Marino. Not even Lucy.

Scarpetta is now launched into intensely psychological odyssey that includes the mysterious death of a Hollywood mogul’s daughter, aircraft wreckage on the bottom of the sea in the Bermuda Triangle, a grisly gift left in the back of a crime scene truck, and videos from the past that threaten to destroy Scarpetta’s entire world and everyone she loves.


My thanks to Hayley and the Harper Fiction team for my review copy and the chance to join the tour.


Depraved Heart is the 23rd Kay Scarpetta novel. I was there back in 1990 when the first book (Postmortem) was released and the first ever publishers ARC I received was for book 6 (From Potter’s Field). Doctor Scarpetta was one of my annual essential reads and I always made a point of picking up the latest release as soon as the hardback hit the shop shelves. But time moved on and for a period of time it became more important that I bought baby food and nappies rather than the books I wanted. My favourite reads suffered and as a result I fell behind on the lives of Dr Scarpetta, Lucas Davenport (from the wonderful John Sandford Prey series) and whichever oddity Mr Stephen King would serve up for our entertainment.

The bodies that consumed the baby food and then filled the nappies have grown somewhat and I am now able to pick up the books I have missed over the last few years and I am catching up on my favourite characters. It seems that while I have been distracted Doctor Scarpetta has been busy!

Author photograph - Patrick Ecclesine 2015
Author photograph – Patrick Ecclesine 2015

To Depraved Heart: it is to be expected that by book 23 in a series there will be a requirement to know something of the backstory. Depraved Heart is very much a story which draws upon previous events. The author does bring through sufficient information to allow readers to understand something of what has passed before but this is not a book I would consider an easy jumping on point.  There is a vast backstory for Kay Scarpetta and the joy for the reader is in reading through these events in the earlier books, not to try to piece together what has gone before through some of the salient facts in the latest title.

The good news for returning readers is that some significant elements from Kay’s past are returning to haunt her and a fascinating game of cat and mouse is about to unfold. The book opens with Scarpetta at a murder scene but she becomes distracted by call she receives from her niece’s emergency phone. However, it is not her niece, Lucy, that has contacted Kay – instead Kay watches a video clip of Lucy which was recorded some 20 years earlier. Lucy was clearly unaware the video was being recorded but Kay is sufficiently worried about her niece that she leaves the crime scene and drives directly to Lucy’s home to check on her safety.

On arriving at Lucy’s home Kay is shocked to learn that the FBI are searching the property and it seems that Lucy may be a person of interest to them. Kay has her suspicions regarding the person responsible for sending the video and believes that they may also be engineering a ploy to implicate Lucy in a criminal activity. But with no evidence to support her theory and facing an apparent attempt to discredit her own recollections of recent events (which that endangered her own life) Kay finds she is fighting a battle on more than one front.

Depraved Heart is a rewarding read for fans of the series. Scarpetta, Benton and Moreno are in fine form, their interchanges and point-scoring discussions are a joy to read – particularly as this is a conversation heavy story which much supposition and discussion between the characters.

The mystery and unpredictability of the unseen opponent in Depraved Heart made for interesting twists along the way. As I was reading I felt the story dropped pace a little in the middle but then rushed into an explosive ending which seemed to be over all too quickly, the final set piece was quite nasty though so perhaps drawing it out would have been unpleasant for some?

In summary – if you have read the 22 books leading into Depraved Heart you will love this.  For those on catch up (as I was) pay attention and stick with it as all becomes clear but there are spoilers for earlier books.


Track the Depraved Heart blog tour at the sites listed below:

Depraved Heart Blog Banner



Fans of Patricia Cornwell may be keen to know that there will be two opportunities to meet her during November – links below will provide more details on the events which are being held in London and Manchester.

http://www.goodhousekeeping.co.uk/lifestyle/gh-events-and-whats-on/patricia-cornwell – event in LONDON

https://www.waterstones.com/events/an-evening-with-patricia-cornwell/manchester-deansgate -event in MANCHESTER

Depraved Heart is available now in Hardback and Digital format.

Patricia Cornwell is on Twitter: @1pcornwell



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October 10

Last Days of the Condor – James Grady

Last days of the condor


Set in the savage streets and Kafkaesque corridors of Washington, DC, shot through with sex and suspense, with secret agent tradecraft and full-speed action, with hunters and the hunted, Last Days of the Condor is the bullet-paced, ticking clock saga of America on the edge of the most startling spy world revolution since 9/11.

My thanks to the team at No Exit Press for my review copy.

The press release for Last Days of the Condor suggests that this is a story for fans of Harlan Coben, David Baldacci and Homeland. Of the three the Homeland comparison was the best fit for Last Days – this felt like a spy story or counter espionage drama with plenty of action and drama to keep me reading.

The story follows Vin (Condor) he is a former agent/operative who has been retired from action. He survives daily routine by ingesting a cocktail of drugs but his skills and training are hard wired into his very being and he is ever alert to the possibility of threat.  As we join Vin at the opening of Last Days of the Condor he is travelling home, we share his view of the street and understand how he assesses potential threats. He sees danger everywhere and is waiting to be killed – it is a very effective opening and sets the tone for the rest of the book.  Vin believes he is being followed. On returning home he is checking his house for intruders when there is a loud thumping at the door – the reader cannot help buy into Vin’s conviction that he is about to die.

James Grady has penned a thrilling adventure – action sequences come thick and fast and we find that Vin is a dangerous person to be seen with. Despite his paranoia and lack of resources Vin is a worthy opponent and when he finds himself cornered his old survival skills kick in.

Caught up in Vin’s bad day is Faye.  She is an active agent who had been sent to monitor Vin and ensure a once lethal force was adapting to civilian life. Faye can call upon her employers to assist when Vin comes under attack, however, can she be sure that she can trust those sent to help?

A slick thriller and a real page turner – after a run of more fantastical reads this was nicely grounded and all too realistic.


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October 3

Q&A Andrew Shantos – Dead Star Island

Dead Star Island CoverToday is the final leg of the Dead Star Island Blog Tour and I am delighted to welcome Andrew Shantos to Grab This Book. Andrew has kindly taken time to answer a few questions:

Which book has most influenced your writing and why?

If I had to pick just one it has to be the Cyberpunk classic, Cryptonomicon, by Neal Stephenson. One reviewer on Goodreads calls it “War and Peace for nerds”. It made me realise what is possible in a book: it’s brimming with ideas, both playful and deep; its real life characters get treated with affectionate irreverence; it’s sad and funny and clever. I’ve tried to do the same in Dead Star Island, though the nerdy aspect is more of the musical variety.


How long did it take you to find a publisher? What advice have you got for other debut novelists looking to get published?

It took about a year to find a publisher, after much trying (which I describe on another leg of my blog tour). There is much in the world of publishing that is beyond an author’s influence (particularly a debut author). But you can control the most important things: writing the best novel you possibly can; and giving absolutely everything you have. If you achieve those things, you learn to enjoy above all the process of writing, which is a deeper, more abiding love, rather than the short term lust you get from any kind of public “success”.

That said, most writers do want other people to read their musings on life, and it is lovely when someone says something nice about your book. So you have to keep trying, believe in yourself, and seek to become better at what you do.


Your central character is an alcoholic and there is certainly a good deal of substance abuse by the islanders too. How difficult or easy was it to write about?

I adored it! I always got a little excited when I knew one of these scenes was coming up, and I found them the easiest to write. They do say write what you know… Finally I found a constructive use for those wasted college years. There were a few substances missing from my collection though, so I took various mates out for a drink and got them to tell me stories from their bad old days.

I felt it was important to include these kind of experiences in the novel, because many of the real life characters who appear (Jim, Jimi, Joni etc) are defined as much by their hedonistic lifestyles as by their extraordinary musical talent. So Gunzabo (my detective, who simply cannot say no) ends up joining in (quite a lot). He has fun at first, but gets pretty messed up, which for me sums up why many people get into drug abuse, and why they stay into drug abuse.


Andrew ShantosWhen you were writing, did you set yourself deadlines or goals or did you just let it flow? How long did the book take from start to completion?

Dead Star Island took three years, from writing the first word to clicking Send on the final draft. I kept trying to set goals, but this never seemed to work: I found myself failing to reach them and doing even less as a result. What worked really well was keeping a record every time I finished a writing session. I noted the number of hours I spent and what I’d been working on (resulting in some nice stats for the nerds out there). This allowed me to give myself a pat on the back when I looked back and saw I’d done forty hours the previous month. Also I found myself competing with the me from a month ago to try to beat it.


Are there other genres you’d now like to explore?

As a reader I’ve never been one to stick to a particular genre. I’ll read anything, from thrillers to sci-fi to romance, so long as it’s full of ideas and it makes me feel part of someone else’s world. So I don’t know. Maybe a romantic sci-fi thriller?

For now though, I’m focussing on shorter fiction. I’ve got plenty of ideas and I want to turn some of them into short stories before committing to a few more years at the next full length novel.


You are a musician yourself. How did this influence your choice of subject/writing?

Music was the biggest influence of all on Dead Star Island. It helped me choose my characters, write many of the scenes (for example, the talent show where Jimi forms a super-group with some of the other residents and performs a cover of The Final Countdown). Music gave me the idea for the novel in the first place: all my favourite musicians, living in secrecy on an island together. It’s my ultimate fantasy. Of those I’m willing to share with the world, anyhow.



Dead Star Island, published by APP, can be ordered through Amazon priced £4.99 for Kindle and £8.99 paperback: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Dead-Star-Island-Andrew-Shantos/dp/0992811627
To get in touch visit him here….
w: andrewshantos.com
t: @andrewshantos
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