February 28

Aye Write: Know the Authors – ES Thomson

We are now into March and Aye Write is drawing ever closer.  I am teaming up with my good friend (well, if pressed she will admit to knowing who I am) Liz from Liz Loves Books to introduce some of the authors you can see at this year’s Aye Write festival.

Today I am delighted to introduce ES Thomson, author of Beloved Poison, a finalist for the 2016 McIlvanney Prize at Bloody Scotland. The questions were set by Liz so there are no mentions of pineapple pizza or serial killers – themes which have dominated my recent Q&A’s.  However, I *was* delighted to learn that ES Thomson is a former employee of James Thin Bookshops (as was yours truly). I am in denial over how long ago that must have been.

Over to Liz :

Tell us a little about your current novel, what readers can expect from it..

My current novel, Dark Asylum, is the second novel I’ve written starring cross-dressing apothecary Jem Flockhart.  Its set in 1850s London in a place called Angel Meadow Asylum.  One of the doctors is brutally murdered with his own phrenological head-measuring callipers, and his eyes and mouth stitched closed.  Jem and her pal Will Quartermain have to discover who did this, and why – especially important as the wrong person has been accused.  The story moves from the asylum, to the slums, to the gallows and the convict transport ships.  There are some new faces – Dr Golspie who smokes enough hash to turn himself mad; Dr Mothersole, who favours singing and dancing as a method of treating madness; Dr Rutherford who has a collection of 200 human skulls.  There are also some familiar faces, such as Mrs Roseplucker and Mr Jobber, the brothel keepers, and Mrs Speedicut, the drunken matron.  Readers can expect to enter the dark world of the nineteenth century asylum, the prison, and the convict ship, and find a mystery that keeps them turning the pages (I hope!)

ESThomson17 - eoincarey_0081Where did you grow up and what was family life like?

I grew up in Ormskirk, a small market town outside Liverpool, in the 1870s and 1980s.  I read a lot of novels while waiting for something to happen.  I remember cycling around the block a lot too.  I have two sisters (I am the middle one).  We all left home as soon as possible.

 Academic or creative at school?

Probably not much of either.  Creativity was nowhere to be found in Ormskirk Grammar School, and I was pretty average at all my school work due to laziness and being a big day-dreamer.  Nothing much interested me – apart from English and History.  I really liked those! 

First job you *really* wanted to do?

When I was 6 years old I wanted to be a bus conductor. I had a ticket stamper, a whistle and a cap and I was ready to go…  Apart from wanting to be a writer, it’s only really the bus conductor idea that’s grabbed me.

Do you remember the moment you first wanted to write?

I used to write a lot at primary school, including the classic poem “I am an Orange” and the short story “The Mystery of the False Teeth”.  Then I went to secondary school and gave it up due to lack of opportunity and encouragement.  I worked in Waterstones and James Thin’s Bookshop (which shows how old I am!) when I was a student and I read loads… I always secretly still wanted to write.  Then I got a job teaching business and marketing ethics at university.  It became a matter of “write … or die…”

Who are your real life heroes?

Mary Elizabeth Braddon (1835-1915), who wrote Lady Audrey’s Secret.  She had 6 children, and looked after 5 step-children while their mother was in an asylum.  She wrote more than 80 novels, and was not afraid to do awful things to her characters – including having a bigamous female character kill her husband by pushing him down a well!  Go Mary!

Funniest or most embarrassing situation you’ve found yourself in?

I once almost gassed some dogs and blew up a guest house. Not sure whether that’s funny or embarrassing. It’s probably neither, but is just awful.

DIY expert or phone a friend?

I try anything!  My repairs have been described by admirers of my handiwork as “crude, but effective”.   Duct tape is my favourite medium.

Sun worshipper or night owl?

Both – if possible. I’m generally very tired.

A book that had you in tears.

The last book that had that sort of effect on me was the beginning of Doug Johnston’s The Jump, which I read last year.  It was about a woman who lost her son through suicide – the chapters of the book that addressed how she felt were cleverly done. I have two sons. I could imagine nothing worse than losing either of them.

A book that made you laugh out loud.

George MacDonald Fraser’s Flashman always made me laugh.

One piece of life advice you give everyone

I don’t give anyone advice unless they specifically ask.  Generally speaking though, I think “shut up and get on with it” might work well for many (including myself).


ES Thomson alongside Diana Bretherick will be discussing Ripping Victorian Yarns at Glasgow’s Mitchell Library on 18th March at 3pm. Tickets HERE



Beloved PoisonThe object I drew out was dusty and mildewed, and blotched with dark rust-coloured stains. It smelt of time and decay, sour, like old books and parchments. The light from the chapel’s stained glass window blushed red upon it, and upon my hands, as if the thing itself radiated a bloody glow.

Ramshackle and crumbling, trapped in the past and resisting the future, St Saviour’s Infirmary awaits demolition. Within its stinking wards and cramped corridors the doctors bicker and fight. Ambition, jealousy and hatred seethe beneath the veneer of professional courtesy. Always an outsider, and with a secret of her own to hide, apothecary Jem Flockhart observes everything, but says nothing.

And then six tiny coffins are uncovered, inside each a handful of dried flowers and a bundle of mouldering rags. When Jem comes across these strange relics hidden inside the infirmary’s old chapel, her quest to understand their meaning prises open a long-forgotten past – with fatal consequences.

In a trail that leads from the bloody world of the operating theatre and the dissecting table to the notorious squalor of Newgate and the gallows, Jem’s adversary proves to be both powerful and ruthless. As St Saviour’s destruction draws near, the dead are unearthed from their graves whilst the living are forced to make impossible choices. And murder is the price to be paid for the secrets to be kept.

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February 22

Cursed – Thomas Enger

CursedWhen Hedda Hellberg fails to return from a retreat in Italy, where she has recently been grieving for her dead father, her husband discovers that her life is tangled in mystery.

Hedda never left Oslo, the retreat has no record of her and, what’s more, she appears to be connected to the murder of an old man, gunned down on the first day of the hunting season in the depths of the Swedish forests…


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

Housekeeping first – this is the 4th book in a series but the first that I have read. In no way did this prove problematic or impact upon my enjoyment of the story. Everything I needed to know was covered and (as I don’t know what I don’t know) I didn’t feel I was missing out on anything.

Journalist Nora Klemetsen is working on a story about a missing woman – Hedda Hellberg.  She was meant to be in Italy but failed to return from her trip, enquiries into where she may be cast doubt over whether Hedda actually left for Italy and suddenly there is suspicion over whether anyone really knew the truth about how Hedda was living her life.

Nora’s investigations will lead her to cross paths with her ex-husband (our main protagonist Henning Juul). They are both investigating the same case and it was fun to see how they had very contrasting approaches – an odd couple and their shared history made for a fascinating introduction to their characters for me.

Cursed was one of those books I just couldn’t put down. A gripping thriller, plenty of twists and great characters to follow on the adventure. Dark, emotive and wonderfully written to keep this reader on the edge of his seat.

I must also give a mention to Kari Dickson who worked on the translation of the original book – a fantastic job was done. Part of the appeal of Cursed for me was the skilled use of language in building up the suspense. The striking opening chapter which gripped me from the first page was so perfectly described I could almost feel myself drawn into that woodland walk.


Cursed is published by Orenda Books and can be ordered here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Cursed-Henning-Juul-Thomas-Enger/dp/191063364X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1487758737&sr=8-1&keywords=cursed+thomas+enger


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February 6

Corpus – Rory Clements

Corpus 2 1936.
Europe is in turmoil.
The Nazis have marched into the Rhineland.
In Russia, Stalin has unleashed his Great Terror.
Spain has erupted in civil war.

In Berlin, a young Englishwoman evades the Gestapo to deliver vital papers to a Jewish scientist. Within weeks, she is found dead in her Cambridge bedroom, a silver syringe clutched in her fingers.

In a London club, three senior members of the British establishment light the touch paper on a conspiracy that will threaten the very heart of government. Even the ancient colleges of Cambridge are not immune to political division. Dons and students must choose a side: right or left, where do you stand?

When a renowned member of the county set and his wife are found horribly murdered, a maverick history professor finds himself dragged into a world of espionage which, until now, he has only read about in books. But the deeper Thomas Wilde delves, the more he wonders whether the murders are linked to the death of the girl with the silver syringe – and, just as worryingly, to the scandal surrounding King Edward VIII and his mistress Wallis Simpson…


My thanks to Emily at Zaffre for my review copy

Historical fiction is always a tricky balance – can the author capture the time and setting? Are the events covered so well known that building a new story around famous characters seems implausible? Does the author challenge your perception or understanding of an historical event?  Having read Corpus I can report that Rory Clements does a fantastic job at ticking all those boxes.

It is 1936 and the Nazi party are on the rise in Europe, there are powerful men in prominent positions in England that are keeping their support of Mr Hitler very quiet. There are also a significant number of communist party members to be found in London and Cambridge so political tensions run high. All this is not helped by the pressure on the King who is involved with an American divorcee, Wallis Simpson.

In the midst of all these forces is American History Professor Thomas Wilde. He provides a detached overview of the political manoeuvring and his approach to analyse and challenge events makes him a great lead character. Wilde is well respected but does not seem to fit in with the traditionalists around his college. He will provide guidance to a Times journalist (who may working for more than one master) who wants to consult Wilde on the brutal murder of a member of the aristocracy as there are political ramifications which need explored.

Corpus is a political thriller, there is a murderer running around too and there is a good dose of action adventure happening here too.  As I indicated above, Rory Clements does a brilliant job in setting the scene and keeping the fictional events relevant to the established historical facts that he is weaving his story around. There are some very unlikeable characters, yet Wilde is a joy to follow and reading this story was something of a treat.

Fans of Fatherland, cold war thrillers and political dramas – this is very much one for you.


Corpus is published by Zaffre and is available now in hardback and digital format.  Order a copy here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Corpus-gripping-thriller-rival-Fatherland/dp/1785762613/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1486343586&sr=8-1&keywords=Corpus



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January 22

TM Logan – Five Writing Commandments To Live By


Today I am delighted to be joined by TM Logan, author of LIES, who is sharing

Five writing commandments to live by

I’m going to start with a confession: I’m not sure I could name all Ten Commandments even if you held a gun to my head. I was a church choirboy for five years (including a stint as head boy) so you might assume I would have absorbed the details. And I would probably get six or seven. But ten? No chance. So after writing LIES I’ve created my very own five commandments for debut authors…

1. Thou shalt write every day.

When I’m into a first draft I will write every day, without fail, until it’s done. I believe it’s really important to maintain that momentum, to keep on top of the story and stay in touch with your characters. For me that means writing on buses, trains, planes, in hotel rooms, in car parks, in bed – wherever I can use the time. I’ll write anywhere. The flipside of this is that you should also read every day, challenging yourself with a variety of genres rather than always reading the same type of book.

2. Thou shalt observe, and listen, and pay attention to way people look and speak and move.

Honing your observation skills can help bring your characters to life. How does a particular individual walk into a room? Do they gesture when they talk? What does their expression tell you? Here’s a game you can play: the next time you are in a boring meeting, or sitting on the bus, or standing in a queue at the supermarket, pick someone out and think about how you’d describe them in a single sentence. If you had to paint a picture in the reader’s mind, how would you do it in 20 words or less?

3. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s plot.

Write the story that you want to write. Don’t follow the trend, don’t try to copy what was popular last week or last month. Don’t mimic the book that landed a big advance or a film deal. That doesn’t mean you can’t learn from other books, other writers – quite the opposite. But you should find a story that you want to tell, and do your best to tell it. Aim to write a book that you would like to read myself. If your heart’s not in it, it will quickly become obvious to the reader.

4. Thou shalt avoid distractions.

My desk at home faces the wall so there’s nothing to distract me, no window, no view, no music. Because basically there are a lot of things that are easier to do than writing: never has doing the washing up been more attractive than when you’re supposed to be writing. But you have to resist the siren call of chores and social media (or at least organise your time better so you can do both). There’s always going to be something easier to do than sitting in that chair and putting your hands on the keyboard. But you have to realise when you’re making excuses to yourself – and just get on with it.

5. Thou shalt seek out feedback

This is a tough one. Seeking out constructive feedback can be difficult step to take. For a long time I didn’t show my work to anyone (even my wife) but at some point you are going to have to bite the bullet and ask for opinions on your writing. But if you choose the right people, feedback can improve your work immensely. Writing groups can be good for this, as can organised courses that bring like-minded writers together.

Good luck!



LIES is currently available in digital format and you can order a copy here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Lies-gripping-psychological-thriller-breath-ebook/dp/B01M0R1Y1J/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1485118716&sr=1-1&keywords=tm+logan

You can read my review of LIES by clicking here.


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January 9

World War Hulk – Greg Pak

world-war-hulkAn epic story of anger unbound! Exiled by a group of Marvel “heroes” to the savage alien planet of Sakaar, the Hulk raged, bled and conquered through the pages of last year’s “Planet Hulk” epic, rising from slave to gladiator to king. Now the Hulk returns to Earth to wreak his terrible vengeance on Iron Man, Reed Richards, Dr. Strange and Black Bolt ? and anyone else who gets in the way. Stronger than ever, accompanied by his monstrous Warbound gladiator allies, and possessed by the fiercest and purest rage imaginable, the Hulk may just tear this stupid planet in half. Collects World War Hulk (2007) #1-5.



Hulk stories are hit or miss for me. I love the earth-bound stuff but stick him in space and I am less of a fan.

World War Hulk is an Earth story so I came at it with high hopes and it does deliver, unfortunately it was just a bit too “Hulk Smash” and quite story-lite. There is a need for all the fighting as Hulk is returning to Earth to seek revenge on Reed Richards, Iron Man, Black Bolt and Doctor Strange – they banished him to space for the safety of people on Earth.

What they could not have known is where Hulk may end up, the battles he would face and the loss that he would suffer. Hulk has never been more angry and he will let no hero stand in the way of his rage.

The high battle count in this 5 part adventure means much of the artwork depicts fight scenes and battered and bloody heroes, split over 5 months this may have been easier reading – as a single volume it needed more story to break up the punching.

A high profile EVENT in the Marvel universe but not on the scale of Secret Invasion or Civil War. Hulk Fans will love it but casual readers will find it a bit more tricky to embrace.



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December 5

Jackie Baldwin – Dead Man’s Prayer Q&A

dead-mans-prayerI am delighted to welcome Jackie Baldwin to Grab This Book. After successfully managing to hide from me for the full weekend at Bloody Scotland I was finally able to catch up with Jackie and we had a chat about her debut novel, Dead Man’s Prayer.


I always like to start by asking my guests to introduce themselves and to get an early plug in for their book – the floor is yours.

Hello, everyone,

My name is Jackie Baldwin. For most of my working life I have been a solicitor, specialising in family and criminal law. Latterly, I trained as a hypnotherapist and now work from home.  I live in Dumfries, SW Scotland. My novel, Dead Man’s Prayer was published by Killer Reads, Harper Collins on 2nd September this year. The Paperback was released on 1st December and can be ordered here.

For those that have not yet read Dead Man’s Prayer what can we expect?

It is a police procedural set in Dumfries and featuring DI Frank Farrell and DC Mhairi McLeod. It opens with the murder of an elderly priest which is soon followed by the abduction of toddler boys from nursery. In a small force with limited manpower these investigations put Farrell and his team under unprecedented pressure. He becomes concerned that his mental health may be unravelling but must push himself to the limit and beyond to bring the investigations to a conclusion before someone else winds up dead.

Tell me about Frank Farrell, I know he is a DI but it seems he has followed an unusual career path to get to where he is in Dead Man’s Prayer.

You could say that! He entered a seminary straight from school and became a Roman Catholic priest. He subsequently suffered a complete mental breakdown for reasons that become apparent and felt forced out of the priesthood. He fully recovered and applied to join the police.

I make no secret of the fact I love Scottish crime fiction but I will confess to not having read many books set in Dumfries. Did you feel a pressure to represent your hometown in a good light or do you know the area so well it made it easier to capture the locational feel?

Ijackie-baldwin did worry about that a bit so I took the decision to make up a few streets and names if I was implying something negative. I will have had the original in mind when writing but only someone who lives here would be able to guess exactly where I am referring to. I feel I portrayed Dumfries in a positive light overall. I have lived here for all but about seven years so I know the town and the wider region of Galloway like the back of my hand. It has everything you could possibly wish for and the terrain offers up lots of challenges as well as myriad places to dump a body.

Dead Man’s Prayer is your debut novel, how long had it been a work in progress before you were signed up by your publisher?

Eleven years! Isn’t that awful? I wrote the first draft in around two years, edited it for another year then sent it out to a few agents. A couple of really good ones asked to see the whole MS but ultimately didn’t take me on. I put it away for several years as life was busy with work and kids.  I then attended the first annual ‘Crime and Publishment’ weekend of masterclasses at Gretna which really ignited my passion for writing again. I came home, blew away the cobwebs and embarked on a massive rewrite which took the best part of two years. I was planning to send it out to agents again when someone posted on Facebook in March of this year that Killer Reads, Harper Collins was open for submissions. It had never occurred to me to submit to a publisher direct. I fired it off with zero expectations and was shocked to receive an offer of publication two weeks later. They have a really quick publishing model. My feet barely touched the ground.

There must be a long build up waiting for publication date to roll around. Now that Dead Man’s Prayer has been released and has been available for a few weeks how have you found the experience?

Thrilling and terrifying in equal measure! The fun side is hearing from readers who have loved your book. The scary part for me was having to promote the book and become more visible. I set up a Twitter account and, at first, would jump a foot in the air when my phone pinged but I’m really enjoying it now and have connected with lots of lovely people on there. I had no clue that this whole blogosphere even existed. It was like stepping through a portal into a parallel universe. A steep learning curve!

We were both at Bloody Scotland this year and, although we kept missing each other, I did see you on the main stage in the Albert Hall. Can I ask how your weekend went and can you explain what your official role was?

I had a great time! It’s such a friendly festival. I came up with a few friends from my crime writing group. I was one of twelve debut Spotlight authors which meant I had to appear before the panel, ‘Into The Dark,’ which featured authors, James Oswald, Craig Robertson and Malcolm Mackay, and read for three minutes from my debut novel. I also had my first experience of being miked up with what bore a passing resemblance to an endoscopy tube. My novel had only been out for a matter of days at the time so it was something of a baptism of fire but a wonderful opportunity!

Can I ask if there is a new project underway?

Yes, I am writing a second DI Farrell novel at the moment. I also have plans for an American serial killer novel and an American Sci-Fi crime novel.

Are you a bookworm? If I were to see your bookcases what sort of books could I expect to see?

Totally! I had to drastically prune my book collection when we decided to move to a smaller house once the kids were grown. I was ruthless and boy did I regret it. Afterwards, I felt quite bereft as if part of me was missing. Like a plant that has been savagely chopped, books are now creeping back into my house and making themselves at home. In fact, I need another new bookcase… I read quite widely, Crime, Sci-fi, Literary, Jane Austen. Whatever takes my fancy, really. I don’t do Romance or chick lit though. Too many years as a divorce lawyer!


Dead Man’s Prayer is published by Killer Reads and the paperback and digital book is available now:  https://www.amazon.co.uk/Dead-Mans-Prayer-gripping-detective-ebook/dp/B01DT37ZIE

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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.



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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
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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

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November 2

Cathi Unsworth – First Monday Crime (November)

Monday 7th November sees Goldsboro Books bring another First Monday Crime night to London’s Library Club. This month events are sponsored by Headline and there are rumours of goodie bags – and who doesn’t love a goodie bag?

The guests for the latest evening will be Belinda Bauer, Cathi Unsworth, Jenny Blackhurst and Adam Hamdy and the event will be chaired by Barry Forshaw.

Details on how to get your tickets are below but first: Cathi Unsworth steps into the Author Spotlight.


cathi-unsworthCathi Unsworth is a novelist, writer and editor who lives and works in London. She began her career on the legendary music weekly Sounds at the age of 19 and has worked as a writer and editor for many other music, film and arts magazines since, including Bizarre, Melody Maker, Mojo, Uncut, Volume and Deadline.

Her first novel THE NOT KNOWING was published in 2005, followed the next year with the award-winning short story compendium LONDON NOIR, which she edited, and in 2007 with the punk noir novel THE SINGER. Her third novel, BAD PENNY BLUES, inspired by the unsolved ‘Jack the Stripper’ murders of 1959-65 was published in 2010 to great critical acclaim. Her 2012 book WEIRDO, a tale of teenage trauma and female transgression set on the Norfolk coast was shortlisted in many ‘best of the year’ lists including the Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year and named Book of the Year 2012 by Loud and Quiet Magazine and crimesquad.com


Cathi’s new novel, Without The Moon, releases on 10th November


without-the-moonHush, hush, hush. Here comes the Bogeyman…

London during the long, dark days of the Blitz: a city outwardly in ruins, weakened by exhaustion and rationing. But behind the blackout, the old way of life continues: in the music halls, pubs and cafes, soldiers mix with petty crooks, stage magicians with lonely wives, scandal-hungry reporters with good-time girls – and DCI Edward Greenaway keeps a careful eye on everyone.

Out on the streets, something nastier is stirring: London’s prostitutes are being murdered, their bodies left mutilated to taunt the police. And in the shadows Greenaway’s old adversaries in organised crime are active again, lured in by rich pickings on the black market. As he follows a bloody trail through backstreets and boudoirs, Greenaway must use all his skill – and everything he knows about the city’s underworld – to stop the slaughter.



First Monday Crime is on 7th November at 6.30pm. The event is held at the Library, 112 St. Martin’s Lane, London, WC2N 4BD

Tickets are £5 per head and you can order tickets here: https://www.goldsborobooks.com/event/november-first-monday-crime/


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